Monday, December 26, 2016

Best of 2016: Middle Grade and YA

YA, Middle Grade, Best of
Today, I'm naming my favorite Middle Grade and Young Adult reads of 2016. Of my 64 books this year, 23 were in this category. These are the best five in alphabetical order by author:

Ali Benjamin
The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
Suzy and Franny’s best-friendship suffers a painful, yet not atypical splintering in middle school. And then, Franny dies in a drowning accident before Suzy can try to repair it. Suzy, a lovable oddball with iffy social skills, grieves her former friend in a particular way – by investigating her death using the scientific method. The author is a science writer, and the book is filled with fascinating nature and wildlife facts. Heartfelt and convincing. One of my top five reads this year overall. Heads up: It's very sad. Hopeful, but sad.

Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Ten year-old Ada and six year-old Jamie are evacuated from London in 1939 in advance of the bombings. Ada has a club foot, an abusive mother, and no sense of her own worth. Enter Susan Smith, a grieving woman who lives in the channel-side village to which the kids evacuated. Susan doesn't want any children, but she has to take these. The rest is sad and magical. Ada's first-person narration is heartbreaking and convincing. 

Firoozeh Dumas
It Ain't So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas

I'm so glad we chose this as an all-class read for the sixth-graders at my school. In it, Iranian immigrant Zomorod Yousefzadeh (she re-names herself Cindy because it's "normal") and her family try to fit in in their Newport Beach community. It's 1980 and middle school is the usual kind of terrible until American hostages are taken in Iran, and everyone begins to  associate Cindy and her family with terrorism and danger. Dumas's autobiographical novel is about empathy, friendship, and global competence. Timely, right? And also really funny. 

Rainbow Rowell
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Cath is a first-year college student, and she and her sister are obsessed with the Simon Snow franchise. Simon is a fictional character - a wizard who goes to a wizarding school - and who stars in his own series of books and movies. Cath and her sister, Wren, have been popular and prolific writers of Simon Snow fan fiction for years. Now, in college, Cath holds on to Simon, while Wren seems to want to let go. Family drama and first love swirl around this sister story. I loved it a lot. As you might imagine, it's a Harry Potter nerd's paradise, and I am a Harry Potter nerd.  Rowell is also a great writer - she was on my faves list for Eleanor and Park in 2014.

Laura Amy Schlitz
The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
Schlitz writes with compassion and humor, bringing Joan, a housemaid with a love of literature and adventure, to life through her diary entries. Joan (“a real Joan,” says a key character, comparing her to Joan of Arc, “full of imagination and the spirit of revolt”) won a place in my heart with her charming naiveté and guileless wit.  Although I found this 2015 book in the children’s section of my local library, it’s got wide appeal: teens and adults, especially those with a penchant for 19th century British and American lit, will fall quickly in love. 

Here are the other books I read in this category this year. 
  • Booked by Kwame Alexander - I haven't recommended to a kid who doesn't like it.
  • Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson - This made my Best Of Audiobooks this year
  • The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate - Wonderfully, hopefully sad
  • Nine, Ten: A September Eleventh Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin - A well-plotted and deeply affecting portrait of one of the worst days.
  • The Selection Series by Kiera Cass - Un-put-downable. The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games.
  • One Crazy Summer - Rita Williams Garcia - An important story about three sisters and their Black Panther mother in Oakland, 1968
  • The Dumbest Idea Ever by Jimmy Gownley - Charming, honest, hilarious, satisfying
  • Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks - A nuanced read with ghosts and high school drama
  • One for the Murphys by Linda Mulally Hunt - A bittersweet tearjerker with relatable characters
  • Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson - A realistic, emotional portrait of the ups and downs of middle school friendship
  • The Great Green Heist by Varian Johnson - Caper-tastic! Fast-moving and featuring a quick-thinking, racially-diverse group of nerds.
  • Legend by Marie Lu - A dual-narrator tale of adventure and rebellion
  • The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney - A hopeful, moving story, but the poetry is ho-hum
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling - Of course, I love Harry, and I'm happy to see him as a dad. But...I'm sure I'd love this as a play
  • Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys - An excellent book that I wish I loved
  • Drama by Raina Telgemeier - Quick, fun, quirky, 3-dimensional GLBT characters

Looking for a Best Of list in another category? They're all linked HERE.
Next up on Wednesday: My last Best Of list this year - Adult Fiction. I'm excited.


mm said...

I really need to read The War that Saved my Life.

kc said...

I think you would really love it, mm!