As a middle school English teacher, I read A LOT of young adult literature. And I absolutely love it. I love the worlds that are created, the characters that are developed, and the adventures that are had. Because I love reading YA lit so much, it was very difficult to pick out my favorites of the year. However, after much deliberation, here are my top picks.
Please note, that these are the books I read in 2016, regardless of when they were published. In no particular order:
My Favorite Young Adult Books of 2016
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
A recent Newbery Award winner, The Crossover combines sports and poetry. Kwame Alexander has written an engaging novel in verse–an increasingly popular genre. Twins Josh and Jordan are hardcore basketball players and best friends. That is, until a girl and family dynamics get in the way. This quick read will engage your teen while introducing them to poetry.
Queen Abigail the Wise by Grace Books
Queen Abigail the Wise tells the story of ten-year-old Abigail and a group of girls who are thrown together at church for no other reason than that they are all the same age. Soon the group decides to help others, and they begin by helping each other solve their own problems. The results are often hilarious, generally touching, and always interesting. The entire book is set during Lent and Holy Week, and those themes pervade the story without seeming moralistic. A very fun and engaging book for both boys and girls!
The Eighth Day by Dianne K. Salerni
I found a new YA series to love! I was completely pulled into The Eighth Day. On his thirteenth birthday, Jax discovers that he is one of the Transitioners–people who live in an extra (magic) day between Wednesday and Thursday. While that seems fun at first, he soon realizes that not all Transitioners are good, and that magic can be dangerous. I thought that the entire back story for The Eighth Day, the premise of the book, and the world created by the author were completely original and fascinating.
The Thickety: A Path Begins by J.A. White
I read all three books in this series within a week because I just couldn’t put them down! The first in a series that combines magic, an enchanted forest, brave and talented children, and a question–The Thickety has all of the elements of a classic fantasy with a modern twist. Though the book is written for children 8-12, I would recommend it for readers ages 11-15 because of some of the dark and unsettling content. The book begins with young Kara seeing her mother hanged for witchcraft and our realization that Kara is also a witch. Over the course of the book Kara has to find out if there is such a thing as a good witch–and if she wants to be one.
Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan
Echo is the hauntingly beautiful story of three different children growing up in three different places who are tied together by a love of music and a harmonica. The first story tells of a disfigured boy growing up in Nazi Germany who longs to become a conductor, the second of two orphan boys with a talent for the piano who search for a family during the Great Depression in the United States, and the third of a young Hispanic girl living in California amidst prejudice and fear of the unknown. I couldn’t put this book down and have been passing it out left and right to my seventh graders this school year.
Girls Like Us by Gail Giles
Biddy and Quincy become roommates after high school graduation. Both former wards of the state who went through their school’s special education program, the girls have to learn to live together and understand each other. I was literally sobbing as I read this poignant story about love, difficulty, discrimination, and hope. Told alternatively from each girl’s point of view, the book offers great insight into and opportunity for empathy with people with learning disabilities and those who have suffered abuse. Because of some disturbing scenes related to abuse, I would recommend this for high schoolers and adults.
How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon
I cannot stop thinking about this book. Seriously. It is messing with my mind in a good way. How It Went Down is the story of a young black man who is shot and the aftermath that follows. Magoon uses 18 different narrators (ranging from friends, family members, and community members to politicians) to tell the story. The end result is a poignant, honest, and beautifully told novel that should be on every teen and adult’s “must-read” list. Please, please, please. Go read it.
What is your favorite young adult book?
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