In case anyone actually looks at this besides me –
I am on an ALA Committee for Best Fiction Young Adult and am reading a book about every 2-3 days. In doing so I, along with 14 other members nationwide, will choose the best young adult fiction for this year. I am not allowed to publicly voice my opinion on books considered or books nominated. At the end of this term, I will have over 150 book reviews, but right now I can’t post them publicly.
If you are interested in what has been nominated so far by the committee members, visit the Young Adult Library Service’s (YALSA) webpage.
So while it looks like I’m on hiatus, I am not on a break from reading – I am just deep into secret award committee reading.
This are my top 15 books I read in 2016. Some were published in 2015, but read in 2016. It includes realistic fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, mystery, action, and even a graphic novel (which isn’t normally my genre of choice). Some are in a series while others are strong stand-alone novels. A few are not only 2016 favorites, but will probably be favorites for a long while. [click on titles to see full summaries and age recommendations].
- Daughter of Deep Silence (2015) – Carrie Ryan
- Such a mystery, such a conspiracy, and such intense revenge. A cruise ship is attacked and everyone murdered except for Frances, a senator, and the senator’s son. Year’s later, and with a new identity, Frances is out for the truth and vengeance after she learns the senator and his son lied about the ship.
- Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans (2015) – Don Brown
- A graphic novel if ever I saw one! This is an honest portrayal of Hurricane Katrina and the devastation in New Orleans from bodies bloated on the streets afterward to how FEMA handled the storm. Graphic for sure, but with respect.
- Everything, Everything (2015) – Nicola Yoon
- Maddy and Ollie are odd teens for different reasons, though Maddy’s certainly takes the cake with her illness and pretty much being a “bubble girl” who must stay in a super neat, germ free environment. She is smart, witty, and a great character. The witty banter is a gem in this story, but there’s a super shock at the end which makes you want to reread the book again. Yoon provides characters who are racially diverse as well as diverse in lifestyles.
- The Glass Sword (2016) – Victoria Aveyard (The Red Queen series: 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)
- One of the best series for strong female characters and some crazy Shakespearean plots and vengeance. Fantasy at its best with evil rulers, underdogs with growing power, star-crossed-lovers, and battles between the elite and those they have treated others poorly for generations. Now people rise together for the good of all.
- Holding Up the Universe (2016) – Jennifer Niven
- A beautiful story of struggle and acceptance of oneself. Almost as great as All the Bright Places for a lovely lesson (less heartbreaking), but the kick awesomeness of dancing “I know who I am” Libby makes this girl one of my favorites. A light romance, but the focus is more about loving who you are and being true to yourself.
- I Was Here (2015) – Gayle Forman
- Coping and trying to find answers to a friend’s suicide, Forman focuses on the depth of the grieving process and shows that it’s different for everyone. This truly shows the “tentacles of suicide”. As Cody tries to find the reason of her friend’s suicide she comes across something much darker in an online chat room. This is a dark plot for sure, but a great reminder that people are not as they appear and also that life is unpredictable and grief is an ongoing process.
- Inherit Midnight (2015) – Kate Kae Myers
- Think Amazing Race with spoiled rich relatives. Avery is either very lucky to be a VanDemere (very wealthy) or unlucky (she’s the black sheep of the family). She is on a quest, both geographically and personally, as she must trace her family’s history in order to receive letters from a mother who left her behind and whom Avery was told was dead. There’s some romance, action, and a twist.
- The Midnight Star (2016) – Marie Lu The Young Elites (2014, 2015, 2016)
- This is a great series of power hungry people with magical powers. The Malfettos were once abused by society for surviving an illness and now having magical powers. Soon they become the rulers as different magical people fight for power. Men and women alike both are powerful, fall victim to selfish goals, and show vulnerabilities. It offers great closure for our characters, but not after many, many battles and so many deaths we wonder which ruler will survive. A great focus is on the love between sisters.
- The Rest of Us Just Live Here (2015) – Patrick Ness
- A lighter, more humorous mix of realistic fiction and fantasy. Yes, it’s about a group of friends in high school who live in a town that seems to always have some supernatural occurrence every few years. As the indie kids begin disappearing, the quartet of friends are just trying to make it to graduation. A group of diverse teens for sure, even before the supernatural visits the town.
- The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly (2015) – Stephanie Oaks
- A blast to the past with cabins, horses, and all the inequality for a female growing up in a cult. The story is told in flashbacks and FBI interviews as Minnow is in juvenile detention after the cult’s camp burned down. She also has no hands after they were cut off as a punishment by the Prophet. At first glance, it seems an adult novel due to plot and violence, but Minnow is a very strong teenager who faces loss, love, and is super strong.
- Salt to the Sea (2016) – Ruta Sepetys
- I finished this book weeks ago and still feel it’s too recent that I may cry thinking about some of these characters – their kindness, their bravery, their sacrifices, and their lives. This book would be in my top 5 for 2016 for sure. Based on the true story of a former cruise ship with 10,000 refugees on board fleeing from East Prussia at the end of WWII. A ship with about 8,500 too many passengers and torpedoed by the Russians. Our group of strangers all have different beautiful and heartbreaking experiences. A story that stays with the reader, especially knowing it’s based on a true story.
- The School for Unusual Girls (2015) – Kathleen Baldwin Stranje House series (2015, 2016, 2017)
- In 1841, a feisty daughter who likes to study science is not necessarily a good thing. Gergiana is not obedient and she is sent off to a Miss. Stranje, whose boarding house is known for breaking the will of the strongest female and shaping her into the type of female respectable for high society….. or so it is believed. In a house full of smart, adventurous, females who don’t fit the normal roles in society, these young ladies are educated and personal skills encouraged. Did I mention they are spies assisting the British Army?
- Spontaneous (2016) – Aaron Starmer
- Back to seniors in high school just wanting to graduate, but suddenly they begin to suffer from spontaneous combustion. Oddly humorous, often poignant, and certainly odd, but an attention grabber. This is entertaining and also makes us think to live our lives focused on the here and now because – poof – (or Boom! most likely), we could be gone at any moment.
- Sweet (2015) – Emmy Laybourne
- One of the most crazy plots for sure (even more than her series Monument 14, one of my all time favorites), but the underline of addiction and corporate greed certainly is not so far fetched. To put it bluntly, a cruise ship full of celebrities, overweight non-celebrities, and plenty of cameras set out to sea with a hot new product on board. Solu is a sweetener that will help people lose weight. It seems too good to be true until the pounds begin falling off the people on board. Soon they are addicted, shrunken versions of themselves, and they behavior changes. For the few people not taking Solu it becomes a matter of survival trapped out at sea.
- The War That Saved My Life (2015) – Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
- Another historical fiction from WWII, but this one is about the British children sent from London to the country for safety. But the “rescue” has a second meaning for Ada, a 9 year old with a disability whose mother kept her locked in the one room apartment in London. Now in the countryside, Ada and her brother have found kindness from a reluctant caregiver and Ada finds both safety and love in a new family. It’s a beautiful story on how families can be created by love, not just DNA.