Best Young Adult Books

I read a lot of young adult books each year. As the leader of Graham Public Library’s YA Book Club, I am constantly on the lookout for good books in the genre – and trust me, there are many really great reads out there!

One of the resources I turn to when I am seeking YA reading suggestions is the American Library Association’s “Best Fiction for Young Adults” list. This annual list highlights the best young adult titles published in the previous sixteen months. I’ve been reading my way through the 2013 list in the last few weeks, and I have discovered some fantastic new (or at least new to me) books and authors!

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys introduces readers to Josie Moraine, the daughter of a French Quarter prostitute in 1950s New Orleans. The clues in the murder of a wealthy tourist lead local police to Josie’s mother’s doorstep, and Josie must choose between her future and her loyalty to her mother. Septeys’ tale is rich in detail and filled with fascinating, memorable characters.

Jodi Lynn Anderson offers her readers a fresh take on the Peter Pan story in Tiger Lily. Tinkerbelle narrates the story of Tiger Lily, the Indian princess who makes an oh-so-brief appearance in J.M. Barrie’s original work.

Before Wendy, Peter Pan’s heart belonged to Tiger Lily, daughter of a shaman and the wild girl of Neverland. Anderson vividly reimagines Neverland, giving all of the familiar characters a new twist in this heartbreakingly beautiful story of love and loss.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick was a complete change of pace for me. The story opens on Leonard’s 18th birthday – the day he will kill Asher Beal and commit suicide. First, however, there are four gifts he needs to deliver.

The delivery of each gift reveals glimpses of Leonard’s life, and readers gradually come to understand his loneliness, pain and frustration. Author Quick has crafted a gripping page-turner.  The question of whether Leonard will follow through with his plans hangs over each page like Damocles’ sword.

Hannah Barnaby’s Wonder Show transports readers to life with a traveling carnival in 1939. Thirteen year old Portia Remini escapes McGreavey’s Home for Wayward Girls and sets off in search of her father, Max. Believing that Max left their gypsy encampment to follow the circus, Portia joins Mosco’s Traveling Wonder Show.

With her search for Max bearing no fruit and the specter of Mister, the owner of McGreavey’s Home, hanging over her head, Portia realizes that she must face the past in order to find her future. Barnaby has created a gritty and heartfelt look carnival life in the dust bowl era.

I couldn’t have picked four more diverse books, but each completely captivated me. I am looking forward to discussing them with Graham’s YA Book Club in the coming months. In the meantime, however, I have a stack of books on my bedside table, courtesy of ALA’s  list, just calling my name!

Graham Public Library’s YA Book Club meets on the first Tuesday evening of each month at 7:00. The March selection is Delirium by Lauren Oliver. Come join the discussion! 

Heather Holley-Hall is Alamance County Public Libraries’ Head of Branch Services. She may be reached at 336-570-6730 or hhhall@alamancelibraries.org