more happy than not January 02


The 2015 Nerdies: Young Adult Fiction Announced by Nerdy Nation (Part One)

As we wrap up the final two Nerdy Book Club Awards’ posts (for Young Adult Fiction), we want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who actively participates in the community we’ve built here. To all of you who read the blog, write book reviews and posts, nominate books for the Nerdies list, submit pictures, answer polls, post comments, purchase Nerdy swag (profits donated to RIF), and work to connect children with positive reading experiences—Nerdy is your work. This community doesn’t exist without you.

Thanks to Teri Lesesne, Karen Terlecky, Alyson Beecher, Katherine Sokolowski, Mary Lee Hahn, and Colby Sharp for writing Nerdy Book Club Awards posts this year. We have heard a lot of positive feedback to the lists, and the unique quality of each post.

As we celebrate Nerdy Book Club posters and the 2015 Nerdies, it seemed fitting that our final two Award’s posts include many voices. Our 2015 Young Adult Fiction winners’ list honors 25 titles across genres and themes, reviewed by a diverse group of past Nerdy Book Club posters. These teachers, librarians, professors, and readers love young adult fiction and strive to engage middle school and high school readers with reading.

Congratulations to the 2015 Young Adult Fiction Nerdy Book Club Award winners. Thank you for revealing to teenagers that their stories have power. You’re doing great work for the world.

We will announce the second half of our Nerdy Book Club YA Fiction winners in tomorrow’s post.


court of thorns and roses


A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Not many books keep me up until past midnight on a school night, after all, with a 5:15 alarm set every day, I know my 7th graders deserve me well-rested. Yet, A Court of Thorns and Roses begs to be read in one setting, which meant that once I started it, the world faded away until the last page was read at 1:30 in the morning.   The very next day I handed the book to a student I knew would devour it as quickly as I did, simply so I had someone to speak to about it. And speak we did, particularly sharing our disappointment at how long we must wait for the sequel.

This book is now traveling from hand to hand, getting more worn with every reader as my students fall in love with this slightly demented fairy world that Sarah Maas has created. So if you are looking for a book with action, with magic, with love and courage. With a new fantasy world that will draw you in as you keep wondering how the heroine Feyre will pull through; this is the book for you. This is the book for your students. No wonder when the call for best YA nominations from the Nerdy Book Club, this was the very first book to come to my mind. But don’t take my word for it; read it yourself but with a warning; do not start it on a school night because this one will keep you reading long past your bedtime. –Pernille Ripp


all american boys


All American Boys by Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely

There hasn’t been a point this year that we have been able to talk about Reynolds and Kiely’s All American Boys that we haven’t framed our thoughts in the idea that the story is “ripped from today’s headlines.” Told in the two alternate voices of Rashad and Quinn, All American Boys explores the conflict that comes of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and the complications of saying something after one has seen something. All American Boys takes place over the course of a week wherein one boy heals from the beating at the hands of an authority figure and another boy must reconcile personal allegiances with his own emerging sense of what is just.

I’ll continue to frame the importance of All American Boys in the context of stories of young boys like Tamir Rice. Reynolds and Kiely have not only provided a volume for reviewer discourse; they provide a vehicle for student discussion. I go back to thinking about the power of books. In particular, the power of Reynolds and Kiely who may have been talking about any book which guides readers back to a universal truth in the final lines of a poem that concludes their book: “A NEW TOMORROW/ AN ARM’S LENGTH/AWAY.” Isn’t this what all good books we share with our readers are? All American Boys is a book ripped from today’s headlines that is a book ripe for teen readers’ hands. –Paul W. Hankins


carry on


Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Simon Snow has always known that his roommate, Baz, is up to no good, and he’s even more convinced when Baz doesn’t show up for their final year at Watford, their magickal boarding school. Simon is the Chosen One, the World of Mages’ only hope against the Insidious Humdrum, but Simon’s magic doesn’t always work (except when it works too well), and he doesn’t know what to do without his nemesis, Baz. In Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, main character Cath wrote fanfiction based on Gemma T. Leslie’s series of fantasy novels about Simon Snow. Simon was, as Rowell writes in her author’s note for Carry On, a fictional-fictional character in Fangirl. Rowell’s Carry On isn’t a canonical book by Leslie, or the fanfiction written by Cath (and featured in Fangirl). Instead, Rowell gives us her version of the story of Simon and Baz (and Agatha and the Mage and Penny and the Insidious Humdrum). Carry On is clever and romantic and fun, perfect for fans of fantasy series and of fanfiction. You don’t have to read Fangirl to appreciate Carry On, but you’ll definitely want to read it when you’re done. –Lea Kelley


challenger deep


Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Winner of the 2015 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman takes readers deep into the mind of its main character, Caden, whose tenuous hold on the real world of school and home and friends is more and more often supplanted with his paranoid fantasy as a crew member aboard a pirate ship headed for the deepest trench in the ocean: Challenger Deep. Shusterman based this novel that explores mental illness on his own son’s battle with schizoaffective disorder.

With a highly unreliable narrator who swings between reality and fantasy, this is a novel that will challenge readers. In the end, however, it will do two things: give readers a glimpse into the inner depths and despairs of the mentally ill and offer an empathetic point of view that should assist teens in being more compassionate toward those who struggle with this and other mental illnesses. –Teri Lesesne




Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

A good friend recommended Dumplin’ to me. I was skeptical. Small town Texas, a girl with a mom that was a former beauty queen, I wasn’t sure how this was a book I would enjoy. But man, was I wrong. From page one of this book following Willowdean, I was hooked. I loved so many things about it. How Will was comfortable in her own skin. How she knew she wasn’t thin like her friend Ellen, but didn’t see why that was a big deal. How Will really knew herself, then was shaken to the core with her reaction to her co-worker, Bo. (Oh, Bo…. Julie Murphy has written one of my favorite new book boyfriends.) There is so much to love about Dumplin’. My only downside was reaching the last page and desperately wanting more. I love the world of Clover City, Willowdean, Bo, and Ellen. I didn’t want to leave. –Katherine Sokolowski


everything everything


Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Madeline Whittier lives inside of a bubble. Now, if you are a child of the new era, you begin to think about living in an age of standardized testing and conformity. You begin to think, “Another dystopian tale of finding one’s self in a world of sameness.” But, if you are a child of the seventies, you have conjured up images of John Travolta portraying Tod Lubitch in the 1976, made-for-television film, The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. And this time, because of Yoon’s mega-popularity with my Room 407, it’s Travolta for the win by way of allusion. Yoon’s insulated Madeline spies the new boy-next-door Olly who quickly creates a means of communication with Madeline who cannot leave her diagnosis of Severe Combined Immunodeficiency. Her life has been limited to interactions with her mother, a doctor, and a trusted nurse-friend who handles most of Madeline’s daily needs. But when Madeline’s needs begin to include an overwhelming desire to bring Olly into her bubble, can anything be the same once the barrier has been compromised?

Everything, Everything is a coming-of-age romance that explores the idea of who protects whom when anyone anyone steps out of his or her everything everything, insulated lives to explore the possibility of intimacy outside of the airlock? And who is caught in the blowback of family loyalties and duties when the outside world comes rushing in? I took this book with me to northern Michigan for fall break and found myself getting up early to read and to finish Nicola Yoon’s tender delivery of all of the risk and ruin that can be one’s first love. –Paul W. Hankins


goodbye stranger


Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

Rebecca Stead is an author that I will preorder any book she writes without knowing a bit about the book. Such was the case with Goodbye Stranger. Upon receiving this book I was fascinated to see that there were three different storylines told in three different points of view. The main storyline is in third person. It follows the story of Bridge and her friends, Emily and Tabitha. They each are navigating the world of seventh grades and will need their friends more than ever this year. Then there is the second story line, in first person, as Bridge’s friend Sherm writes letters to his grandfather. The final storyline is in second person. It follows the story of an unnamed teenage girl who is struggling with a mistake she cannot take back. Man oh man, what a book. There is so much to read, connect, discuss. This is one I finished months ago, but is still fresh in my mind. –Katherine Sokolowski


more happy than not


More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

“Suffering from unwanted memories? Call the Leteo Institute at 1-800-I-FORGET to learn more about our cutting-edge memory-relief procedure!”

Aaron Soto seems like a guy who has some memories he’d rather not remember – first among them his father’s suicide. But he looks at what the Leteo Institute is selling as a sign of weakness, a troublesome entity for one’s family and friends to tiptoe around so as not to unravel the memory-relief that has been bought. Instead he focuses on the games he plays with his neighborhood friends, the time he spends with his girlfriend, and the thrill of becoming close with a new friend. It’s easy to fall into the narrative about his relationships and forget about everything else. Those relationships – the ones he makes, the ones he breaks, and the ones he wishes he could forget – are what make this book so incredible and heartbreaking and full of hope. –Cindy Minnich


none of the above


None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio

After winning Homecoming King and Queen, in a limo all alone, Kristin Lattimer and her boyfriend Sam are finally going to have sex. The perfect way to end a perfect night. But instead of pleasure, all Kristin feels is intense pain…a pain she knows can’t be normal. Kristin visits her OB after confiding in her best friend, Vee, where she finds out that she is intersex — as a baby her development encountered some “mixed signals” and “defective receptors” that resulted in Kristin lacking a uterus, having an underdeveloped vagina, and the beginnings of testicles, which look and feel like small hernias. After her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school (which Kristin believes to be the handy work of Vee), Kristin is bullied by peers and classmates and shunned by her boyfriend. She withdraws and turns to the comfort of the AIS support group as well as the acceptance of and old friend. As she comes to terms with who she is, Kristin encounters people who see her for her and others who view her with disgust and contempt, and along the way she realizes which group is most important.

This is a powerful book for “Others” (as Kristin calls herself), but even more important for those of us who need to have compassion and acceptance for the experiences of these “Others” that we will never encounter or truly understand. This is a book teachers and students need to read so they can examine themselves and their reactions to someone like Kristin. –Jennifer Fountain


Red Queen


Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

“Bad blood will out.” – Marge Dursley (Harry Potter by JK Rowling)

They have it all, the Silvers. All the money. All the power. The kingdom. They even have superpowers! Just because they bleed silver. Can the color of your blood determine your status in life? Should it? For Mare Barrow life is drudgery. Beyond her skills at thievery she has nothing to offer her family. Without the money brought in from her sister, Gisa, through her sewing apprenticeship in the Capital, the Barrows would be on the street. The only thing Mare has to look forward to is being conscripted into the war, where her three brothers are already fighting. But she will not go out without one last heist to save her and her best friend, Kilorn. And that’s when things get tricky. Aveyard takes the standard dystopian trope and mixes it up by making it more realistic. The belief of the silver-blooded privileged ones that the red-blooded unprivileged are where they should be and need to help themselves plays out in our society on many levels. The addition of their superpowers, the Queen can make you act against your will – makes them feel justified. When Mare’s red-blooded power erupts – all hell breaks loose. But will it change anything? –Kathy M. Burnette


alex crow


The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith

The Alex Crow may be the epitome of Andrew Smith’s work: This complex, brilliantly-written novel skillfully fuses multiple plot lines and narratives into a cohesive, satisfying story that by all rights should fail miserably but succeeds wildly. The main narrative belongs to Ariel, the survivor or a horrible war who has been adopted by a West Virginia family. The family ships him off to Camp Merrie-Seymour, a throw-back survivalist camp meant to teach boys the joys of life without technology and helicopter parents. Smith intercuts Ariel’s story with other narratives: the infamous Dumpling Man, who inhabits the woods around the camp; the nefarious secrets of the Merrie-Seymour Research program; a Unabomber type transnavigating the country in a U-Haul with a bomb of his own making; the travelogue of The Alex Crow, which didn’t survive an Arctic expedition; and finally, a cranky bionic crow. True to form, Smith never brings the multiple narratives together in a single thread, expecting the reader to make those connections and rewarding the ones that do. Smart, funny, deeply disturbing yet moral and sometimes gross, The Alex Crow is the most audacious work of one of YA’s most audacious writers. –David Macginnis Gill


x a novel


X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz & Kekla Magoon

Ilyasah Shabazz often listened to her father’s stories about his misspent youth. Her father was Malcolm X, a man who would become an important leader in the Civil Right Movement in the United States. Teaming up with award-winning author Kekla Magoon, Shabazz uses those memories of her father’s stories to craft biographical fiction about those early, dangerous years as Malcolm Little searches for excitement in all the wrong places. The result is X: A Novel. Like many teenaged boys then and now, Malcolm wanted love and money and adventure. His escapades landed him in a great deal of trouble, eventually leading to his imprisonment.

Shabazz and Magoon explore what life might have been like for Malcolm in the decadent world of the 1930s in Boston and later in Harlem. Music and women and liquor and crime lure young Malcolm into situations that is adolescent experience is ill-equipped to handle. Pair this National Book Award Longlist Finalist with Walter Dean Myer’s By An Means Necessary for an interesting comparison of how fact infuses the fiction of X: A Novel. –Teri Lesesne


Pernile Ripp is a 7th grade ELA teacher in Madison, WI. She is the creator of Global Read Aloud and author of several books for teachers, including Passionate Learners. You can find Pernille at her website and blog,, and follow her on Twitter: @pernilleripp

Paul W. Hankins is an English teacher in southern Indiana. You can friend him at Facebook and follow him at Twitter: @PaulWHankins.

David Macinnis Gill is the author of Soul Enchilada, Black Hole SunInvisible Sun, and Shadow on the Sun, all from Greenwillow Books. He is the Past President of ALAN (The Assembly on Literature for Adolescents) and an Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

Kathy M. Burnette (aka The Brain Lair) is a K-8 teacher-librarian at a small, independent school in South Bend, Indiana where she, along with her students, will help define the library’s next steps as they try to incorporate design thinking and tinkering into a renovated space. Find Kathy on twitter @thebrainlair and send lots of hugs and coffee. Kidding about the hugs, she just wants the coffee.

Katherine Sokolowski has taught for sixteen years and currently teaches fifth grade in Monticello, Illinois. She is passionate about reading both in her classroom and also with her two sons. You can find her online at and on Twitter as @katsok.

Lea Kelley recently left Chicago to return to her home town of Tacoma, Washington, where she has spent an educational semester teaching middle school science. She learned that you can dissolve an egg’s shell in vinegar and the egg will remain intact. She does not plan to add unshelled eggs to her lesson plans when she returns to teaching English and is okay with the fact that she probably won’t need her snow boots this winter.

Cindy Minnich is lucky enough to live the charmed life of a high school English teacher, mom to one future librarian, wife to a fellow reader, and daughter to David Walthour. She can be found on Twitter as @cbethm, on web at, and in real life on her princess chair enjoying a book and a cup of coffee.

Teri Lesesne (rhymes with insane) was one of the judges for this year’s National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. She has served on numerous other selection committees as well.   Teri teaches children’s and YA literature at Sam Houston State University in Texas. She is working on a book with fellow Nerdy Book Club member, Donalyn Miller.

Jennifer Fountain teaches English I and English IV in Pasadena, Texas, where she works to find that ONE book that will change a student’s life and begin a love of reading. She buys purses based on whether or not they’re big enough to carry a book (or two). You can find her on twitter at @jennann516.