Young Adult books, as a genre, has enjoyed a recent resurgence. It started with Harry Potter, survived a lean year or two, and then leapt back into the spotlight with Twilight.
But good Young Adult — or YA as it's known — is far, far more than just wizards and vampires. That's why I turned to the experts, more than a dozen Book Bloggers who focus on Yound Adult books, and asked them to name their pick for the Best Young Adult Book of 2009. Enjoy.
by Lisa Mantchev
Reading this book was like being dunked in a bath of classic literary characters, impish delight and roguish charm - it was delicious. The magical Theatre Illuminata is a world where the surprising is always creeping up behind you, the bizarre is whirling around and in its centre is the spunky Bertie. Mantchev mines great plays of the past for their more fascinating characters and makes them contemporary in a fantastical setting... it's miraculous. Eyes Like Stars has great heart and humor amidst the distracting glitter and that's what makes this title such a smashing read.
by Mitali Perkins
Secret Keeper is a tale of love and loss, of traditional family and of new ways and mores creeping into and disrupting the old conventions. It’s a story that bridges cultures and creates understanding and makes even WASPs like me feel a twinge of identification with the characters and their very human situations. The main character of the novel is sixteen year old Asha, the younger of two daughters in the Gupta family. As events unfold, Asha depends on her diary, nicknamed Secret Keeper, to hold her thoughts and dreams and to keep her sane in a tension-filled household.
by Laini Taylor
It's not a novel, but a collection of 3 short stories that all revolve around dangerous kisses. The first story, Goblin Fruit, was hands-down the best piece of writing I read in 2009. Its perfection is so intoxicating and amazing that I read the story several times in a row — once even out loud to savor the language. The story concerns Kizzy, an "urgent, unkissed, wishful girl" growing up somewhere slightly outside modern day suburbia with her large, odd family of gypsies. Although her grandmother has warned her about goblins — and never tasting fruit out of season — Kizzy is charmed by a gorgeous new boy, Jack Husk, bearing a picnic of likely unearthly delights. There are two other delightful (if more traditional) fantasy stories in this National Book Award Finalist.
by Patrick Ness
The sequel to Patrick Ness' The Knife of Never Letting Go is perhaps not quite as fast-paced as the first book, but it's just as intense. Todd and Viola's journey takes them — and the reader — to uncomfortable places, but great literature, after all, is often all about asking uncomfortable questions. Terrorism, violence, propaganda, sexism, control, fear, the dehumanizing effects of war — they're all carefully examined here. If this sounds dark, it's because it is. But it's also one hugely enjoyable book.
by Michael Northrop
Gentlemen, a hard-boiled noir story set in high school, doesn't offer the usual fast-paced action adventure, but instead, an utterly believable narrator who spins out a slow build of tension that will have patient readers white-knuckled and sweating by the final, climatic scene. It's easily my favorite book of 2009.
by Cinda Williams Chima
This story of The Demon King is set in world where magic is a powerful presence. There's clan magic — tied to the earth and used for healing. And then there's wizard magic — which is a magic that must be controlled and channeled with talismans. Over time, these magics were bound together in a complicated and dark history... and now there are those who would like nothing more than to once again break them apart.
by Sally M. Walker
In Written in Bone, author Sally Walker tags along with archaeologists excavating settlements from the earliest days of colonial Virginia and Maryland — settlements where human remains now offer some stories of the past. Walker tells the stories of colonists from all walks of life, from members of the governor's family to indentured servants and slaves. Although we'll never know all the details of these lives, the book shows how much we can learn through research and analysis.
by Julia Hoban
Willow is a real, honest, and emotional book. From the moment you pick it up, you're invested in Willow and her well-being. Not only is this story about grief and guilt, it is about love and never giving up... it's beautiful. I don't want to talk too much about the plot itself because I think this is one that's best discovered as you read, as you let it reveal itself to you. Reading Willow was definitely one of the most enjoyable reading experiences I've had in a long time. Every time I had to put the book down I daydreamed of picking it back up and re-joining Willow's world.
by Courtney Summers
Courtney Summers' straight-up prose in her debut novel is unlike anything else that's out there in YA. It doesn't deluge you with florid descriptions of setting or character, but rather drops you into a story where you're literally assaulted with some of the most frightening of raw emotions: horror, fear, disgust, suspense, and — just perhaps — redemption. I always say it's not the characters that matter, but the way in which the characters, good or bad, are presented to us. Parker and her "friends" are just like that group of popular, backstabbing social royalty students you knew/know in high school, and yet you will find yourself inevitably caught up in the story, breathlessly looking through Parker's eyes as you impatiently read to finally understand what's going on. Courtney's writing talent is the kind that sticks with you long after you've finished reading.
by Sherri L. Smith
This book is fabulous in its depth and character development. It features a strong female protagonist who walks a fine line between two worlds and ends up in over her head. It's historical fiction, set in World War II, that has contemporary appeal, and the author doesn't shy away from the racism that underlies so much of what happened during that era.
by Francisco Stork
One of my favorite handsells of 2009, Marcelo in the Real World is classified as Young Adult, but it's a lovely story for adults as well that shouldn't be ignored because of classification. I was initially drawn to this book by Dan McCarthy's beautiful and irresistible cover and the beauty continues inside: 17-year-old Marcelo has a mild form autism, classified has Asperger syndrome. Marcelo's father wants his son to work at his law firm for the summer and get a taste of the real world. Francisco X. Stork created an amazing and unforgettable character in Marcelo.
by A.S. King
This high concept, genre-bending mix of historical fiction, realistic fiction, and fantasy has a mind-numbingly brilliant premise: famous pirate Emer is cursed to live 100 dog lives before being born in the 20th century as a poor girl (Saffron) whose goal in life is to get to Jamaica to dig up her long buried treasure. Best of all, it delivers in its execution, with a rich story spanning four centuries and several continents with a focus on two very different (albeit mystically linked) heroines. It manages the spectacular feat of being epic and intimate at the same time. An absolute delight.
by Beth Kephart
This book is a lot of things: it's a mystery, but not an edge-of-your-toes compelling mystery. Like everything else in the book, it's reflective and poetic. It's a ghost story, but not a scary, supernatural one. And yes, there is a boy, so it does qualify as a romance, but it's not a swoon-worthy, heart-fluttery one. Across all of these genres, the one thing that stands out about this book is Beth Kephart's use of the English language. Haunting, beautiful in its simplicity, and effortlessly descriptive — her choice of words is what keeps you turning pages, what you remember, and what you savor when you finish this book.
by Jenny Valentine
Rowan is a girl dealing with grief and a depressed mother when a mysterious boy comes into her life. Sounds like a downer, but it's not. Rowan isn’t huddled in a corner, sobbing until dehydration sets in. She’s getting on with her life. I think about this book at least once a week. If I’m at home when it happens, I wander over to the bookshelf and crack it open to re-read whatever part I was remembering. And it gets better every time.
by Becca Fitzpatrick
What's not to like about Hush, Hush? If its amazing cover doesn't just make you grab for it, the loaded content within its pages surely will. I literally couldn't put it down. The characters are so intricately crafted, but in ways that you just wouldn't expect. Patch, at a first glance, seems like your everyday bad boy, but the layers of his character are just beautifully interlaced — I honestly felt he'd fly right out of the book. Hush, Hush isn't all rainbows and romance, though. It's dark, it's deep, and the mystery of the story is so rich, the whole "one more chapter before bed" thing isn't going to work. It's got action, it's got romance, it's got mystery, revenge, chases, true love, miracles. Point is, it has just a little bit of everything for everyone to enjoy.
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