THE 2016 NERDIES: YOUNG ADULT FICTION (PART TWO) ANNOUNCED BY A CONVENTION OF NERDS
This post includes the second half of the 2016 Nerdy Book Club Award winners for best young adult fiction. The first part of the list ran in yesterday’s post. Congratulations to all of the winners. Your books offer reader empowering stories celebrating the resilience, honesty, and integrity of young adults as they navigate the world and evolve into their best selves.
The Lie Tree
by Frances Hardinge
Harry N. Abrams
Frances Hardinge’s website: http://www.franceshardinge.com/
Frances Hardinge has written a splendid Victorian murder mystery in The Lie Tree. Faith Sunderly, a girl on the cusp of adulthood, struggles with the upheaval of her family from Kent to the small, isolated island of Vane. She has spent her life trying to prove her worth to her father, the Reverend Sunderly, a well-known natural scientist. Fueled by revenge and a desire for justice after her father’s untimely death, she discovers a mysterious tree that bears fruit only when lies are whispered to it. The fruit, if eaten, will provide a hidden truth. Faith’s plans put into place a series of events that keep the reader quickly turning pages until the very end.
The Lie Tree is filled with lush language and descriptive imagery that had me pausing to savor it often. Students who enjoy this title will also enjoy Rick Yancey’s Monstrumologist series, Libba Bray’s Diviners and Lair of Dreams, Kenneth Oppel’s Victor Frankenstein duology, This Dark Endeavor and Such Wicked Intent, and My Lady Jane by Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand and Jodi Meadows.—Kelly Vorhis
Outrun the Moon
by Stacey Lee
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Stacey Lee’s website: http://www.staceyhlee.com/outrun-the-moon/
Mercy Wong is a kick butt, entrepreneuring teen who knows that her best chance at wealth and success will come from gaining admittance to the exclusive St. Clare’s School for Girls. However, bribing her way into the school it means leaving behind her family in Chinatown. Fifteen-year old Mercy quickly learns that her classmates can be cruel and unkind and that it’s not easy to lie about where you come from. An empowering heroine, Mercy tackles racism and sexism daily. Set against the backdrop of the historic San Francisco earthquake, Outrun the Moon is my favorite historical novel of the year. And no worries- while I had tissues in hand at times I also found myself laughing out loud many times!—Sarah Mulhern Gross
Salt to the Sea
by Ruta Sepetys
Ruta Sepetys’s website: http://rutasepetys.com/books/
“Guilt is a hunter…” so begins one of the most riveting reads I had of 2016. Ruta Sepetys has enthralled me before with her deeply researched, highly poignant tales depicting forgotten slices of history, but in Salt to the Sea she has outdone herself. It is not just that we read every page knowing the terrible end that looms before us and yet continue to read, it is not just that we know that something big is bound to happen that will shatter the story as we know it, it is that we fall into the pages as Joana, Emelia, Florian, and Alfred all search for something better and we so hope they will find it with every word read, with every page turned. I book talked this book in September and have scarcely seen it since in our 7th grade classroom. It is a book to read, to share, and to contemplate; a tale told from a master storyteller. –Pernille Ripp
Still A Work in Progress
by Jo Knowles
Jo Knowles’s website: http://www.joknowles.com/books.html
Jo Knowles. At this point I will read anything she writes. My love for Jumping Off Swings and Living with Jackie Chan is well known. My complete obsession with See You at Harry’s is something my students joke about. In Still a Work in Progress she had me from the start. There are so many things I love about this book. I love the opening – some boys hanging out in the bathroom at school having a conversation that rings true to the middle school kids I know. I love the kid referred to as Small Tyler. I love the teacher they call Tank, but not to his face. I love our main character of Noah, how he is such a great kid. I love the school pet – Curly, the hairless cat. But mostly I love that Still a Work in Progress deals with the very difficult subject of eating disorders in completely realistic way. Noah is dealing with the side effects of someone he loves having battled this disorder, how it can overwhelm a family, and the real fear you live with on a daily basis that it will return. Words cannot express how grateful I am to Knowles for getting this right, sharing Noah’s family’s story, and how much I wish that no one ever had to go through this nightmare. Most of all, I love that while a heartbreaking story in some respects, Still a Work In Progress is, at times, joyful, hilarious, and full of hope. Read this one today. –Katherine Sokolowksi
Still Life with Tornado
by A.S. King
Dutton Books for Young Readers
- S. King’s website: http://www.as-king.com/
There are a handful of authors whose books I will pre-order no matter what. A.S. King is on that list. Yet I never know quite what I’m getting when I open to Page One (maybe a prologue). This book is everything I didn’t know I wanted: existential crises, art, a main character meeting other versions of herself, a treatise on the notion of originality, and the specter of a figurative tornado that somehow binds things together as it tears them apart. Teens need books like this to help them discover their truths matter in a world that doesn’t often care. –Brian Wyzlic
by Neal Shusterman
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Neal Shusterman’s website: http://www.storyman.com/books/
Neal Shusterman is world-building master, and his newest series, Arc of Scythe, creates a unique dystopian world that explores humanity’s relationship with death. The Internet cloud now known as the Thunderhead, a repository of all human knowledge, now runs the world and has eradicated wars, disease, famine and famine. Permanent death is almost impossible and human beings can potentially live forever. In a planet with finite resources, death is necessary to keep population growth in check, so a special guild of assassins known as Scythes have the sacred responsibility to “glean” a percentage of the Earth’s people each year. In this first book, two teenagers, Citra and Rowan, reluctantly become apprentices to a Scythe and must train and compete for one Scythe position. During their training, Citra and Rowan uncover dark secrets that threaten their lives and people’s uneasy relationship with the Scythes. Fast-paced and engaging, Scythe will leave readers clamoring for the next book.–Donalyn Miller
The Great American Whatever
by Tim Federle
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Tim Federle’s website: https://timfederle.com/
Well-regarded for his two middle grade books, Better Nate Than Ever and Fix, Six, Seven Nate, The Great American Whatever is Tim Federle’s first young adult novel. Sixteen-year-old Quinn Roberts dreams of being a filmmaker, and spends his time writing scripts and filming movies with his sister, Annabeth. When his sister is killed in a car accident, Quinn struggles with his grief and guilt, and loses hope that he will ever become a filmmaker without his sister’s collaboration. Tim Federle explores themes of identity and loss with a deft touch—balancing emotionally charged scenes with humor and classic Hollywood film references. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll read Federle’s next book and the next.–Donalyn Miller
The Memory of Light
by Francisco X. Stork
Arthur A. Levine Books
Francisco X. Stork’s website: http://www.franciscostork.com/
The Memory of Light, by Francisco Stork, radiates with philosophy, theology, and honesty as readers are plunged into the world of Vicky Cruz, a teen who has recently attempted suicide. When Vicky awakens in the hospital, her suicide thwarted by her childhood nanny, she begins a path to recovery that illuminates her previous struggles with depression and loss. The suicide attempt is the culmination of years of anguish, compounded by the academic expectations her father has for her, and the difficult relationship she has with her stepmother. Stork’s novel fuses poetry and prose, and his sentences are lush with detail and emotion. Vicky is a poet, and in one segment, she writes of her mother: “You hardly see me in the sun / My sparkle’s in the stars / When all is dark around you / I’m the memory of light.” Each character, especially Vicky, finds solace in memory, in commemoration, and when they revisit the pieces of the past that have debilitated them, they find healing. Memory and dissonance are woven together, creating a touchstone for readers who have healed from the trauma of heartache and depression. Every human being has cracked parts, and this novel gives readers gorgeous glimpses into the process that helps a struggling soul find redemption. Worthy of reading, this novel is a gift of a story, but more than that, it is a powerful voice of humanity.–Travis Crowder
The Memory of Things: A Novel
by Gae Polisner
St. Martin’s Griffin
Gae Polisner’s website: http://gaepolisner.com/
Gae Polisner’s novel The Memory of Things captures the searing sense of loss and helplessness and the deep but transient bonds that formed between New Yorkers on 9/11 and the days afterward. Sixteen-year-old Kyle waits to hear from his NYPD detective father, cares for his disabled uncle, and helps a lost girl remember who she is, allowing us to consider how we offer aid and comfort to those around us. This character-driven story unfolds through Polisner’s carefully researched details, helping readers understand how it felt. A touching story that stayed with me long after I finished the last page and a student favorite.—Jennifer Ansbach
The Raven King
by Maggie Stiefvater
Maggie Stiefvater’s website: http://www.maggiestiefvater.com/
Maggie Stiefvater is brilliant and while I love everything she writes; The Raven Cycle holds a special place in my heart. In Book Four of the series, Blue, Gansey, Ronan, and Adam are nearing graduation from high school, but so much more is happening. Here you have Blue still struggling with the prediction that she would cause her true love’s death, the teens search for Glendower, and so much more. There is magic, evil, love, and friendship that all intertwine to leave you with a conclusion that took my breath away.
The Raven Cycle is a series I have recommended to so many friends. This book worms its way into my brain and heart to the point where I dream about the characters. Upon finishing each book, I would text a friend my reactions, trying to read her replies through a veil of tears. If you haven’t read this series, please remedy immediately. Feel free to send your reactions my way; I am certain you will fall in love, too. –Katherine Sokolowksi
by Traci Chee
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Traci Chee’s website: http://tracichee.com/
In a world where reading and written language are outlawed, and local legend has it that young boys are being kidnapped to serve as child fighters in a secret army, Sefia sets out to rescue her Aunt Nin, who was beaten and kidnapped by the very people who may have also murdered her parents. Armed with only one clue: a strange rectangular object, filled with countless pieces of paper covered in strange symbols, Sefia vows to save Nin and avenge those she has lost. Along the way, she joins forces with a mysterious, mute boy, a band of time trapped pirates and discovers that the book she is carrying not only holds the answers she seeks, but that she must also do whatever it takes to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. As the symbol on the front of the book becomes her credo: “Two curves for her parents. A curve for Nin. The straight line for herself. The circle for what she had to do.” Sefia embarks on a journey in which she is the reader. Or has she been read?—Jennifer LaGarde
The Serpent King
by Jeff Zentner
Crown Books for Young Readers
Jeff Zentner’s website: http://www.jeffzentnerbooks.com/
If one book has been universally adored by our volunteer reviewers this year, it’s Jeff Zentner’s brilliant debut YA novel, The Serpent King. So many people signed up to review it, the only fair thing to do was invite everyone to contribute their reactions to the book in one or two sentence blurbs.
This #mirrorsandwindows book had the inner me reliving my desperate need to start anew and the guilt I associated with wanting to separate myself from my past. I may have shed tears.–Kathy M. Burnette
Jeff Zentner’s The Serpent King is a love letter to kids who are different, and who are made to feel ashamed, but who dare to dream anyway. –Jennifer LaGarde
This book will lure you in with its sweet story of high school friendship and then leave you bleeding tears as it rips your heart out. –Pernille Ripp
Dill, Travis, and Lydia will take hold of your heart and not let go.—Katherine Sokolowski
The Serpent King is a powerful coming-of-age story about three teens in a dead end town who dream of something more and fear they won’t find it. I read this book last spring in a hotel room in Nebraska and burned through the last 150 pages in one sitting–crying the entire time. Unforgettable.–Donalyn Miller
Zentner’s southern gothic novel, one that combines youthful hopes with religious legacy, brings to life a small town where characters are haunted by demons of the past, but find redemption through friendship and independence.—Travis Crowder
I threw my copy of the book across the room and cursed Zentner’s name before sobbing my way through the last few chapters of this riveting, gut-wrenching, powerful story of teens struggling to escape their small town.—Sarah Gross
Even if you have read a physical copy of the book, take time to listen to the audiobook where each narrator perfectly captures the haunting, emotional tone of the heart-breaking stories of Dill, Lydia, and Travis.—Jennifer Fountain
A moving, haunting story I recommended to everyone this year that deals with friendship, family, and poverty in rural Tennessee and tells kids who have little that their lives count and people care what happens to them, too (and I’m still crying over this book).—Jennifer Ansbach
The Star-Touched Queen
by Roshani Chokshi
St. Martin’s Griffin
Roshani Chokshi’s website: http://www.roshanichokshi.com/
The pages of this fantasy contained many of the story elements I look for when choosing a book: intrigue, suspense, mythological wonders, and a complicated, but fierce, female character. Chokshi’s writing drew me in with the vivid images and rich detail surrounding the tale of a cursed princess and her journey to discover the strength within herself in an unfamiliar world. Young readers will enjoy the mystery of the world of Akaran, the unfolding romance between Maya and Amar, and the weaving of Indian culture and Hindu folklore so seamlessly within the pages of this magical tale.—Robin Johnson
When Friendship Followed Me Home
by Paul Griffin
Paul Griffin’s website: http://paulgriffinstories.com/books-2/
Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer mixed with gold. When Friendship Follows Me Home is a kintsugi piece that will break your heart and rebuild it with beautiful threads of love and hope.
When Ben Coffin, a former foster child, finds a scruffy stray dog near the public library, he has no idea that his new pet, Flip, will change his life in remarkable ways. Flip’s engaging personality and antics help Ben overcome his shy nature, and leads him to befriend Halley, the librarian’s daughter, who has cancer. If foster kid, cancer fighter, and cute dog don’t communicate you need a box of tissues while reading this book, I don’t know what will. I cried continuously during the last 60 pages of this book. A beautiful book about love and the families we find. -–Donalyn Miller
When We Collided
by Emery Lord
Bloomsbury USA Children’s
Emery Lord’s website: http://www.emerylord.com/2015/09/home.html
Vivi may be the most lively character I remember reading since Stargirl. She charms everyone from the small town police chief to the small business owner her hires her on the spot on her first day in town. More importantly, she charms Jonah – a boy who is still grieving the loss of his father while caring for his mother and siblings. As the summer moves on, the reader and (slowly) Jonah begin to realize that Vivi doesn’t have everything as together as she seems. This is a powerful, beautiful novel about love, heartache, and mental illness – and an incredible conversation starter for readers.—Cindy Minnich
When the Moon Was Ours
by Anna-Marie McLemore
Thomas Dunne Books
Anna-Marie McLemore’s website: http://author.annamariemclemore.com/
Friendship. Love. Family. Although familiar themes in many YA books, McLemore develops characters who daringly uncover what each of these relationships means while embracing their natural origins. The author’s poetic storytelling, while mythical and surreal, authentically addresses the characters’ struggles with diversity issues teens may recognize in their own lives: gender identity, cultural identity, heartache, and feeling ostracized. The courage of the characters leaves the reader hopeful for a world where being different is celebrated. When the Moon Was Ours is a modern day fairy tale with twists and turns and strange secrets hidden within its magical pages.—Robin Johnson
Although four people run the blog on a daily basis, Nerdy has always extended an open invitation to anyone who wants to contribute to our ongoing celebrations of children’s and young adult literature, and our shared goal to engage as many young people with reading as possible. Thanks to everyone who has written a post for Nerdy, attended and presented at Nerdy events, and nominated books for the annual awards. Nerdy Book Club is strong and useful because of your contributions. If you have not written a post for us, (or have not written one in a long time), please consider writing a post in 2017. Click on the “Want to Be a Nerdy Blogger” link from our home page, read our submission guidelines, sign up for a post, and we will all have the pleasure of learning from you this year.
Jennifer Ansbach (@JenAnsbach), a high school English teacher in New Jersey and proud member of NCTE & ALAN, loves books and can usually be found reading books or talking about reading books.
Kathy M. Burnette is a teacher-librarian from Indiana pining to open her own bookstore. She loves discussing books and is proud to be on the 2018 Printz Committee.
Travis Crowder is a 7th grade language arts and social studies teacher in Taylorsville, North Carolina. He manages and publishes articles on teacherman2016.wordpress.com, sharing his personal philosophy and the teaching strategies that have made the largest impact on his teaching practices.
Jennifer Fountain is a high school teacher and lives with her family just outside of Houston, home of her poor, poor Houston Astros. She tweets at @jennann516 and blogs at http://fountainreflections.wordpress.com.
Jennifer LaGarde is a teacher, learner and rabble-rouser who lives, plays, reads and drinks lots of coffee in Wilmington, NC. Read more about Jennifer’s adventures at http://www.librarygirl.net or help fan the flames of her YA Lit obsession by joining #2jennsbookclub on twitter or by visiting bit.ly/2jennsbookclub.
Sarah Mulhern Gross is a National Board Certified English teacher who lives in New Jersey with her husband, two Australian Shepherds, and cat. She has been teaching Freshman World Literature and English IV at a STEM high school in NJ since 2010. She previously taught sixth grade Language Arts. Sarah blogs at http://www.thereadingzone.wordpress.com and can be found on Twitter @thereadingzone.
Professionally, Robin D. Johnson is an Assistant Professor in the department of Teacher Education at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi and President of the Texas Association of Literacy Education (TALE). Personally, Robin is a wife and mom who loves reading and writing with her preteen daughter and teenage son.
Donalyn Miller has taught fourth, fifth, and sixth grade English and Social Studies in Northeast Texas. She is the author of two books about encouraging students to read, The Book Whisperer (Jossey-Bass, 2009) and Reading in the Wild (Jossey-Bass, 2013). Donalyn co-hosts the monthly Twitter chat, #titletalk (with Nerdy Book Club co-founder, Colby Sharp), and she launched the annual Twitter summer and holiday reading initiative, #bookaday. You can find her on Twitter at @donalynbooks or under a pile of books somewhere, happily reading.
Cindy Minnich is a high school English teacher, co-facilitator of the Nerdy Book Club, proud ALAN board member, and hopeless lover of YA literature.
Pernille Ripp is a 7th grade ELA teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, an author of three books, and the founder of The Global Read Aloud. If she is not with her kids, she can be found in her favorite reading chair under a soft blanket.
Katherine Sokolowski has taught for twenty years and currently teaches seventh 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 http://readwriteandreflect.blogspot.com/ and on Twitter as @katsok.
Kelly D. Vorhis teaches English in Nappanee, Indiana, and loves learning alongside her students every day. She can be found on twitter and Instagram @kelvorhis. Most days she is never far from a cup of coffee and a book.
Brian Wyzlic teaches high school English and math in Marine City, Michigan. He can be found on Twitter at @brianwyzlic and in person if you yell his name loudly enough in his vicinity.