The 2017 Nerdies: Young Adult Fiction (Part Two) Announced by a Conference of Nerds*
Today we announce the second half of the 2017 Nerdies for Best Young Adult Fiction of the Year and close out our eighth year of the Nerdy Book Club Awards. Thank you to everyone who took the time to nominate books and volunteered to write reviews for our announcement posts. Nerdy remains a vibrant reading community because of all of you. Here’s to another great year of reading and learning together.
Congratulations to the winners of the 2017 Nerdies for Best Young Adult Fiction (Part Two). You can find the winners from Part One of our list here in yesterday’s announcement post.
The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline
Dancing Cat Books
In a post-apocalyptic future, climate change and pollution have irreparably damaged our world. Rising sea levels have destroyed the coastlines (flooding many of the world’s largest cities), and garbage and oil choke the Great Lakes rendering them unusable. Millions of people have died, and the traumatized survivors have lost their ability to dream—driving many people insane. Only North America’s Indigenous people still hold their dreams in the webbing of their bone marrow. When the government develops a procedure for harvesting this marrow, bands of Recruiters hunt down Indigenous people—holding them prisoner in factories modeled after government residential schools. Once stolen from their families, the victims are never seen again. Frenchie, a teen who lost his family to Recruiters, joins a family unit of other Indigenous survivors, led by Miigwans, who lost his husband in a Recruiter raid. Over the years, Frenchie develops the skills he needs to live on the run, forges deep bonds with the other group members, and learns from Miigwans’ regular Story sessions about the dark history of colonization, genocide, and erasure that Native people have long endured. Artfully constructed by Métis author Cherie Dimaline, The Marrow Thieves weaves commentary about environmental issues and social justice into a fast-moving survival story. While the plot is bleak and violent at times, the writing is lyrically beautiful, with lush descriptions of the wilderness and heartbreaking passages about loss, love, and the meaning of home and family. An outstanding addition to school and home bookshelves.—Donalyn Miller
The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord
Lucy is looking forward to summer. Summer means church camp. Summer means time at the camp around the lake with her family, whom she adores. This is what she knows, what she loves. But when her mother’s cancer comes back, everything crashes down. While dealing with an unknown diagnosis, her parents also change her plans. Lucy will be attending the “other” camp across the lake. The camp Lucy thinks of as the “hippie camp.” While Lucy is confused, scared, and angry, this experience opens to the door to so much more. In The Names They Gave Us Emery Lord gives us characters of strong faith, full of curiosity, love, and conflict. This book broke my heart, reduced me to tears, and filled me right back up. Highly recommend.–Katherine Sokolowski
The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
Balzer + Bray
Molly’s sister Cassie is always encouraging her to “woman up” and make a move on her crushes, but like many teens, Molly has a paralyzing fear of rejection that holds her back. When Molly introduces her to the girl Cassie will fall in love with, Molly suddenly feels even more alone as her sister takes a deep dive into the relationship. Full of quirky, lovable characters, The Upside of Unrequited is a sweet story that will resonate with many teens. Seventeen-year old Molly spends a lot of time wondering if she’s the only one her age who hasn’t: hasn’t held hands, hasn’t kissed, hasn’t been in love, hasn’t been in a serious relationship. Albertelli’s characters are realistic and made me nostalgic for high school. Readers will connect with the huge cast of characters and the vulnerabilities they all display; reading this book will help many teens realize they aren’t alone in their feelings.–Sarah Gross
They Both Die At the End by Adam Silvera
Rufus and Mateo both hear from Death-Cast in the early morning of September 5th. That means they are both going to die that day, but they both make the decision that they are going to make sure to live on the last day of their life. Through the Last Friend app, the boys find each other and live like there is no tomorrow. In the afterword, Adam Silvera describes the writing of They Both Die at the End like a game of Jenga: it is all fun and games until everything falls apart. While reading, even though you know that the end is coming, you become so invested in Rufus and Mateo’s story. And the book does end in tragedy, but a lot happens along the way in a brilliantly crafted narrative from different points of view that give a 360 view of the last day of these boys’ lives.–Kellee Moye
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
Dutton Books for Young Readers
Meticulously written, Turtles All the Way Down, by John Green, segues seamlessly from chapter to chapter. Sixteen-year-old Aza, at the request of her capricious friend, Daisy, begins a quest to find a missing billionaire for a monetary reward. Davis, the billionaire’s son and former friend of Aza’s, grants them entry to his home after a security guard finds them trying to access footage from a security camera in the woods near his house. Memories begin to surface, and Aza finds herself drawn to Davis, even in the midst of her personal issues and mental instability. She is trying to be a good daughter and friend, but finds herself a victim of her own spiraling thoughts, an homage to the mythological nature of the title. This book is mesmerizing, from the beautiful plot to the lyrical dialogue between characters, especially Aza and Davis. For anyone who loves a story that is both honest and real, Green’s novel will compel any reader.–Travis Crowder
Warcross by Marie Lu
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Bounty hunters. A secretive CEO. An immersive virtual/augmented reality so real it is used by seemingly everyone on the planet. A sport bigger than soccer, football, baseball, basketball, and hockey combined. A cautionary tale of our own near future. All of this and more come together in the brilliantly written Warcross by Marie Lu, published by Putnam/Penguin Random House. Fans of Lu will know her ability to build a world so inviting you never want to leave, yet also weave a plot so compelling the pages seem to turn themselves.
Our story follows Emika Chen, a bounty hunter and hacker who hacked into the biggest, most secure Warcross game of the year. She is immediately brought to corporate headquarters. Not to be punished, but to be given…a job offer? Teens and adults alike will find Warcross hard to put down as it pulls readers in from every angle.–Brian Wyzlic
We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
Dutton Books for Young Readers
When Nina LaCour’s We Are Okay opens, Marin Delaney is waiting for her best friend Mabell to arrive from San Francisco, where they both grew and up and where Marin lost the two most important people in her life: her mother, to a surfing accident, (when Marin was only three years old), and her grandfather, who raised her, under far more odious circumstances. Since leaving the West Coast, Marin has been running away from her past, from the days leading up to her grandfather’s death and from all the things she’s left unresolved with Mabel, whose three day visit threatens to expose the sadness Marin has tried so hard to outrun. Make no mistake, We Are Okay is a deeply affecting novel. Marin’s sorrow is a heavy weight that both she, and readers, may find difficult to carry. But, ultimately, this is a story of hope and of the enduring power of friendship and love in all its many forms. What’s more, LaCour’s spare, yet lyrical, prose are both potent and moving. This is a book both you and your students will carry with you long after you turn its last page.–Jennifer LaGarde
What Girls Are Made Of by Elana K. Arnold
When Nina was fourteen, her mother told her that there was no such thing as unconditional love. Now 16, Nina never forgot her mother’s words, accepting that the affection she receives from her parents, her friends, and her first boyfriend, Seth, hinge on the expectations they have for her. Lost in how others define her, Nina struggles to figure out what she wants and who she is. Obsessed with her relationship with Seth and afraid to lose him, Nina pays too high a cost to keep his attention. One of the things I most appreciate about this book is that Nina is not a perfect heroine. She makes irresponsible choices. She’s unkind and thoughtless at times. She pushes away people who care about her while seeking the approval of people who would abuse her. In other words, she is real. Unflinchingly honest, What Girls Are Made Of examines Society’s norms for “acceptable” behavior from girls and women, exploring female sexuality, bullying, physical and emotional safety, and body image. A wonderful touch point for launching discussions at school and home about the limiting, often dangerous messages our girls receive about who they “should” be. Finalist for 2017 National Book Award, Young People’s Literature.—Donalyn Miller
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Dimple has just graduated and is ready to make her mark on this world. She has a plan for college, if only she can convince her parents to send her to a summer program for web developers. However, her parents have strict beliefs about what girls should do. Dimple and her mom battle over this constantly, so she’s shocked that they agree so readily for her to go to the summer program. Little does Dimple realize that the boy they want to arrange for her to marry, Rishi, is headed to the same program. And when they meet? Sparks explode, opposites collide, and coffee flies. While a contemporary romance, When Dimple Met Rishi made me laugh out loud throughout the book. I loved the characters, learning more about their Indian culture, and seeing a strong female character stand up for herself and be funny while doing it. Fabulous book.–Katherine Sokolowski
You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Mitali Perkin’s newest title tells the unique stories of five women who each, in their own way, spend their lives searching for ways to express themselves and still stay true to their Bengali heritage. From Tara, who can transform herself into the latest trend and dreams of becoming an actress, to Sonia the activist who isn’t afraid to speak up for herself and others, to Anna who realizes that change can lead to new beginnings, to Chantal who strives to conquer the world, and finally Ranee, the glue that holds them all together.
Perkins works her magic in this novel by spinning an enchanting tale about several generations of a Bengali-American family and discusses racism, intersectionality, feminism, and most of all, identity.–Kelly Vorhis
*According to a Facebook poll Donalyn conducted last winter, “chapter” and “conference” were identified as a good collective nouns for a group of nerds.
Jennifer Ansbach is a lifelong reader and book lover. She loves introducing her students to new titles. You can often find her on the sofa curled up with tea and a book. Her book Take Charge of Your Teaching Evaluation: How to Grow Professionally and Get a Good Evaluation is out now from Heinemann.
Shanetia Clark is an associate professor of literacy at Salisbury University (Maryland). She teaches children’s and young adult literature and language arts methods courses.
Travis Crowder, M.Ed., is a middle school English/Language Arts teacher at East Alexander Middle School in Hiddenite, NC. He has taught for ten years and has experience in both middle and high school levels. He currently teaches 7th grade ELA and social studies, and works with the gifted and talented students in his school.
Sarah Gross is an English teacher who recently earned a graduate degree in biology. She loves spending time outside, reading, writing, and hanging out with her dogs. She can be found on Twitter @thereadingzone and she blogs about the intersection of nature and English class at WildDelight.
Paul W. Hankins lives in Floyds Knobs, Indiana (across the bridge from Louisville, KY) and teaches English 11 and AP English Language and Composition at Silver Creek High School. Paul advocates for reading with and to young people in the classroom. He believes that kids should have access to every type of book and that no reader ever graduates from picture books. He is a husband to Kristie, father of Noah and Madalyn, a wonderer, a reader, a teacher, a poet, a tinkerer, and an artist.
Jillian Heise, NBCT, is a former middle school teacher who now gets to recommend books to kids as a K-5 library media specialist. She also works with teachers through BALB Literacy Consulting and is Chair of the WSRA Children’s Literature Committee. Jillian is a passionate advocate for student choice & started #classroombookaday. Find Jillian at Heise Reads & Recommends, balblit.com, & @heisereads.
Jennifer LaGarde is a lifelong teacher and learner, with over 20 years in public education. She currently lives, works, reads and drinks lots of coffee in Olympia, Washington. Follow her adventures at http://www.librarygirl.net or on Twitter @jenniferlagarde.
Donalyn Miller has taught upper elementary and middle school English and Social Studies in Northeast Texas. She is the author of numerous books and articles about engaging children with reading, including 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.
Kellee Moye is a middle school reading coach and teacher in Orlando, FL. She is on the executive board of ALAN, presents yearly at the NCTE convention, and blogs at Unleashing Readers.
Katherine Sokolowski has taught for twenty-one 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, her journal, and a book.
Brian Wyzlic is an educator in Brandon, Manitoba. A firm believer in the power of books, he is honoured to be a part of the Nerdy Book Club Award announcements this year. He can be found on Twitter at @brianwyzlic and blogs as part of the classroomcommunities.com team.