The great-great-great-grandchildren of the infamous Baker Street detective duo, Holmes and Watson, continue the family legacy of unraveling mysteries by…let’s just say non-traditional means. In A Study in Charlotte, Cavallaro delivers a true mystery that offers a unique, twisty plot with elegant nods to Conan Doyle’s creation as well as modern iterations of the idiosyncratic pair. Full of suspense and broadly appealing, A Study in Charlotte stands out from the YA crowd as a genuine tale of mystery.
In the simplest terms, Beast is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. But there’s nothing simple about Brie Spangler’s wrenching, heartfelt novel. It deals with body images from a teen boy’s perspective–a rarity–and with transgender issues, but it never feels preachy. Dylan is nicknamed Beast due to his size and his rough features, and he lets that nickname (and his own self-loathing) affect his personality, too. When he is required to attend group therapy after falling off the roof–an incident which may not have been entirely accidental–he meets Jamie, a vibrant girl whose sharp wit wins Dylan’s affections. His problems with himself are soon compounded by his feelings about Jamie and her identity. The book shows a journey to self-acceptance without becoming saccharine or overwrought. These characters will break your heart and then fix it. Beast is the kind of novel you never forget.
Good girl Agnes has always followed her parents’ rules, knowing they are trying to protect their legally blind daughter in a dangerous world. Agnes has been warned to stay away from Bo, whose mother struggles with addiction and whose family has a reputation for causing trouble. Bo and Agnes become friends and decide to run away before Bo can be trapped in the foster system again. Bo’s bisexuality plays into the plot of the story, but this is not a coming out story or a lesson on bisexuality. Authentic, distinct voices tell each side of this story of a flawed escape plan and a less-than-perfect friendship. Teens and adults will be drawn into this story of an escape from a tough life into something possibly harder.
As the Nazi Reich collapses and the Soviet army sweeps across the East Prussian countryside in the winter of 1945, three young refugees find themselves thrown together among the crowds of desperate, uprooted travellers. The distinctive voices and histories of Joana (“the nurse”), Florian (“the knight”), and Emilia (“the Polish girl”)—each guarding painful secrets—create a harrowing picture of the lives thrown into tumult by the war. A fourth narrative voice, the self-aggrandizing declarations of a young Nazi soldier named Alfred, adds an unsettling counterpoint to the narrative. The fates of the four narrators will converge at the doomed MV Wilhelm Gustloff, a German ship targeted by Russian submarines. Ruta Sepetys brings authenticity and heart to this moving, gorgeously realized work of historical fiction.
Where we come from is part of who we are, but not all of who we can be—this is the hard truth that drew us to The Serpent King. With lambent prose, Jeff Zentner gives us the story of Dill, Travis, and Lydia, three friends looking for a way out of their small Tennessee town and into their true selves. A story of hope and possibility, as Lydia, destined for bigger and brighter things, seeks to help Dill and Travis find their own light. A story of grace and redemption, as Dill and Travis learn that not all the sins of the father are visited upon the son. We loved The Serpent King for its searing portrayal of friendship and its emotional reminder that growth is always loss.
Seventeen-year-old Catherine Pulaski knows it’s only a matter of time before she’s visited again by Zero, the depression part of her bipolar disorder. She knows there is no cure for her disorder and she doesn’t want to continue to be an outcast, so she prepares to take her own life the next time Zero returns. In the meantime, she makes a bucket list to help ease her sense of isolation. Fortunati nails the topic of bipolar disorder and gives a realistic portrayal of the depression side without falling back on stereotypes. An honest voice with a cast of memorable supportive characters make this story a stand-out, along with its overall message of hope.
This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp (2016-01-05)
by Marieke Nijkamp
Nominated by: Katharine Manning
The principal of a small-town high school dismisses students from a start-of-semester assembly, but the students find all the doors have been locked. A masked gunman appears and opens fire. Told through four alternating points of view over fifty-four riveting minutes, This is Where it Ends details the horrific emotional and physical trauma of every parent and student’s worse nightmare: a school shooting. Their stories are told in the present with flashbacks that slowly begin to explain their connection to the shooter, Tyler Browne. The four narrators find themselves in different parts of the school when the shooting commences, and each must decide if they should save themselves or attempt to help others. Authentic teen voices and compelling emotional reactions from the four narrators draw the reader into a scene of terror, loss, and heroism.