The best books of the year, as selected by Los Angeles Public Library staff. Perfect for holiday gift-giving! More books for young adults are at LAPL Teen Web.
The lives of two very different teens intersect on an Oakland, California bus in November, 2013 in this absorbing narrative non-fictional portrait that recounts their lives leading up to and following that fateful day, touching upon race, class, gender identity and the juvenile justice system. Told in short, engrossing chapters and incorporating original poetry that underscores identity issues, both racial and gender, as complex and fluid.
How do you move on when your first love betrays you in an epic fashion? Like, abandons you in a Planned Parenthood office while you’re getting an abortion? Devastating in the best way, yet ultimately hopeful, this debut novel is perfect for fans of Rainbow Rowell and Jandy Nelson.
Mary B. Addison killed a baby. Allegedly. She didn't say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: a white baby had died while under the care of a churchgoing black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? There wasn't a point to setting the record straight before, but now she's got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary's fate now lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But does anyone know the real Mary?
The only home he has ever known is a lighthouse on an island. A newcomer to the area, a boatman on the weekly supply boat asks a question that begs an answer. A graphic novel that will make every reader think about their own conventions and habits. What choices would each of us make in the same position?
A chunk of old memory, adrift in a pool of blood. Sebastian Cody did something horrible, something no one--not even Sebastian himself--can forgive. At the age of four, he accidentally shot and killed his infant sister with his father's gun. Now, ten years later, Sebastian has lived with the guilt and horror for his entire life. With his best friend away for the summer, Sebastian has only a new friend--Aneesa--to distract him from his darkest thoughts. But even this relationship cannot blunt the pain of his past. Because Sebastian knows exactly how to rectify his childhood crime and sanctify his past. It took a gun to get him into this. Now he needs a gun to get out. Unflinching and honest, Bang is as true and as relevant as tomorrow's headlines, the story of one boy and one moment in time that cannot be reclaimed.
Skylar Kergil gained a measure of fame for being one of the earliest vloggers to document his transition from female to male on his YouTube channel, for which he won the Trevor Project’s Youth Innovator Award. Now he reveals a fuller, even more personal chronicle of his life, from his very first inkling of feeling different from other girls, to his very first shot of testosterone and beyond.
High schooler Autumn Collins emerges from the town library’s restroom to find herself locked in. To make matters worse, the school weirdo Dax Miller is locked in with her. With the library telephone inaccessible and a snowstorm blanketing the town, the unlikely pair will have to rely on each other to make it through the long weekend.
When Scarlett enters the stunning and mysterious island world of Caraval, she isn’t sure if it’s a performance, a game or magic, but an irresistible force is drawing her to Legend, the organizer of all the activities. Will she find her sister at the conclusion of the illusory five days?
Danny Tozer is a transgender teenager who acquires the mantle and powers of the dying superhero, Dreadnought. The power transforms Danny’s body into the girl she always felt she was. Now she has to handle her own parents, who seem determined to get her male body back; Dreadnought’s murderer; and finding her own place as a new heroine.
Genie Lo wants to spend her last years of high school studying, keeping her head down and nailing her Harvard application essay. Enter Quentin, aka the mythical Monkey King Sun Wukong. As it turns out, evil demons are roaming the Bay Area and Genie is the key to stopping them in their tracks. Think Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Chinese mythology.
Three teens, who have the same biological mother, have always known that they were adopted, or were in foster care, but they did not know they had siblings. When Grace puts her own baby up for adoption, she searches out her biological family to ensure she made the right choice. Maya, the youngest sibling, has a great adopted family, with secrets. Joaquin, the oldest, who was never adopted, keeps to himself. Together the teens discover what family really means, and it’s not always conventional.
Sisters usually rely on each other, when their unreliable parents can’t or won’t take care of them. The bond between the girls becomes stronger, and trust is crucial. Adults have failed them in their school lives and at home, and Gem doesn’t want Dixie to suffer anymore. She has a plan!
Jule is a genuine fraud, reinventing herself as it suits her needs. A smart chameleon, she relies on her wits to befriend a young heiress, a passport to another lifestyle a world away from her own. Will she manage to maintain her disguise or will all those balls in the air eventually come down all around her?
A graphic novel about three friends in college, growing up together. Daisy is a sweet young woman who also happens to be a terrifying pool shark. Susan is a cynic who wants to be a doctor. And Esther is a flirty, cheerful goth who will, someday, go to class. Together they deal with heartbreak, creepy neighbors, and trying to throw your first dinner party. Giant Days is not only hilarious but also has fully developed and nuanced characters who evolve over time.
A creepy, horned, dark creature, who is referred to as Teacher, is caring for a human child named Shiva, in a forest called the outside. Shiva cannot touch the Teacher and longs for other human interaction. Reads like a John Bellairs book with Edward Gorey drawings and in manga form.
Needing to come to terms with the deaths of his best friends, Carver spends a day with each of their families, accomplishing tasks and carrying out what might be their last wishes. Be prepared to read this with a box of tissues.
After witnessing her friend's death at the hands of a police officer, Starr Carter's life is complicated when the police and a local drug lord try to intimidate her in an effort to learn what happened the night Kahlil died.
In a reality much like ours, people go about their daily business, except in this world one can make a deal with a demon. Dee Moreno trades her heart for a chance to escape her home life and continue school, but to do so, she must work with other teens in service of the demon. As feelings spark with another team member, Dee and her team start to wonder what’s truly in store for them.
This is a collection of short stories set in Bardugo’s bestselling Grishaverse series. Gorgeously told retellings of The Nutcracker, Beauty and the Beast, and Hansel and Gretel are also masterfully illustrated.
Juliet and Declan run in completely different circles, but after Declan finds one of Juliet’s letters to her deceased mother, he feels the need to anonymously respond. This sets a path of friendship and healing for both of them. Told in Juliet’s and Declan’s alternating points of view, this is a beautiful, absorbing novel.
There were a few graphic novels this year dealing with eating disorders. This one with its sparse line-drawing artwork is the most graphic and heart-wrenching. The autobiography starts out with a picky eater who develops an eating disorder and her treacherous road to recovering. Be prepared for many heart-wrenching twists and turns, and other forms of abuse. Recommended for older teens needing support for recovery.
Michael is content with basketball, his friends and letting his parents take him to their anti-immigrant meetings and rallies in Australia. This changes once he meets Mina, a Muslim refugee from Afghanistan, who is wonderful and becomes his classmate and friend. As tensions increase in the small town, Michael must figure out what his values are while Mina stays true to herself and her family.
The second volume of Cassandra Clare’s Dark Artifices series finds the Los Angeles Institute in tumult once again. The return of figures once believed gone, a risky deal with the Seelie Queen, and a visit to the Institute by a group of Centurions all conspire to produce far-reaching consequences for the Blackthorn family.
This unique take on teen spies brings the author into the world of Love Interests, categorized into Nice and Bad. Their job is to get close to important people, as they are pitted against each other in a fight for their lives. As we follow Caden and Dylan, will they be shackled to the company forever, or will they attain what they truly want?
A teenage boy leaves for Mars as a colonist with the Mars One space program and grapples with what he's leaving behind to do so.
Inspired by her mother’s collection of Riot Grrrl memorabilia, Texan teen Vivian starts publishing an anonymous ‘zine in response to her school’s sexist dress code. As her ‘zine gains a following and becomes bigger than just herself, she and her friends find themselves using it to address harassment and assault issues.
Yaichi lives a normal life in Tokyo with his daughter Natsuki, until the day a Canadian man shows up at his door, claiming to be his brother’s husband. In closeted Japan, this book opens up borders and boundaries. Yaichi learns to share his brother’s childhood with this stranger, and also learns to deal with a gay brother-in-law. A humorous book that shows how change can happen slowly.
Sometimes being the daughter of a popular wedding planner has its perks and downfalls. Louna’s pessimism and sarcasm regarding the wedding industry, and love in general, fails to crush the enthusiasm of her new suitor and coworker. A perfect romance!
An athlete, a princess, a brain, a basket case, and a criminal all get trapped in detention, which sounds like the start of a new reboot of The Breakfast Club, until one of the group drops dead. Now, the remaining students have two things in common: a motive for killing their classmate and a need to clear their names. But if all of them swear they didn’t do it...which of them is lying?
Patina is a star runner on her elite middle school team, the Defenders (alongside teammate Ghost, the protagonist of the first book in theTrack series). There have been many recent changes in her life: starting at a new private school; moving in with her godparents because her mother was suffering from the effects of diabetes. These changes, plus a second place finish in a race, cause Patty to have a bad attitude. Running, her love for her family, and learning how to be a part of a team, help her succeed.
Unfortunately for Sam, the gay male dating pool in his small-town high school consists of exactly two people: his ex-boyfriend and a gamer who’s already seeing someone. But his Wiccan best friend Meg has a solution: if he supplies her with a checklist of his 10 most desired qualities in a boy, she’ll cast a love spell. What could possibly go wrong?
Believing her options in life are limited, Ramona Blue’s assumptions are shaken when an old friend comes back to town and changes the way she looks at her life and future. She sees that she has alternatives and the potential to fulfill her deepest desires.
Three years ago an event destroyed the small city of Poughkeepsie, forever changing reality within its borders. Uncanny manifestations and lethal dangers now await anyone who enters the Spill Zone. The Spill claimed Addison's parents and scarred her little sister, Lexa, who hasn't spoken since. Addison provides for her sister by photographing the Zone's twisted attractions on illicit midnight rides. Art collectors pay top dollar for these bizarre images, but getting close enough for the perfect shot can mean death--or worse. When an eccentric collector makes a million-dollar offer, Addison breaks her own hard-learned rules of survival and ventures farther than she has ever dared. Within the Spill Zone, Hell awaits--and it seems to be calling Addison's name. The Spill Zone series, book 1.
For ten years skating was very important to Tillie Walden because the rink was a break from problems: bullies, school, and family pressures. Things change when her family moves to Texas because at her new school Tillie feeds her growing interest in art and starts a fledgling relationship with her first girlfriend. She struggles with how to reconcile to herself, her family and friends that it's time for her to move on.
Strange the Dreamer is the story of the aftermath of a war between gods and men, a mysterious city stripped of its name, a mythic hero with blood on his hands, a young librarian with a singular dream, a girl every bit as dangerous as she is in danger, alchemy and blood candy, nightmares and godspawn, moths and monsters, friendship and treachery, love and carnage. Welcome to Weep.
Every night after midnight, Death-Cast calls go out to everyone who will be dying that day. There’s no telling how or when you will die, just that it will happen by 11:59pm that day. Mateo and Rufus both find out that today is their day to die. Hoping to make one last personal connection and have an adventure on their last day, they find each other on the app, Last Friend.
This is a story about best friends, family responsibilities, being too young and too poor to tip your server, first loves, high school, mental illness, loss, economic inequality, underground art shows. Most importantly, in the Star Wars universe, is there anyone Chewbacca can have a fulfilling romantic relationship with? Can’t a Wookie get any love?
This graphic novel has puns, computer science (Grace Hopper), and supervillains controlling animals. Squirrel Girl gets a new suit from a mysterious benefactor that lets her fly! And a bear and chicken discover that they really, really care about each other.
This intensely gritty novel follows Domino Ray, a girl who is trying to survive in a hard world. A mysterious offering takes her to a home for girls that do various jobs, many terrible. No one knows that Domino has a secret of her own, and his name is Wilson.
In the near future, the world becomes obsessed with the game Warcross. Teenage bounty hunter and hacker Emika Chen is no different. After the death of her father and a run-in with the law, she spends more time worrying about money than the game. This changes after Emika hacks into the opening match of the Warcross championship series and finds herself at the center of the Warcross world. The ethical implications of the evolving technology in the book reflect our own current struggles with privacy and free will. Teens and adults alike will devour this action-packed first book of Marie Lu’s newest series.
For three years, all that Sam Walsh’s family has wanted is for him to come home. Now with his kidnapper safely behind bars, Sam is back with his loved ones, but it’s not the joyous occasion everyone has been expecting. Everyone has been changed by his disappearance. Is it even possible for them to get back to where they were?
The 5th volume of The Wicked + The Divine series follows super-powered, super-famous, and potentially divine teenagers, who find themselves forced to question the rules they’ve lived by. The story includes an epic magical battle, a centuries- spanning mystery, a group of teenagers behaving badly, and an examination of how celebrity power can destroy lives and reshape our world.
Winter's life path is to follow in her father's footsteps by guarding the Woods by their house. She must always follow the path, not fall, and not stay after darkness falls, for there are pockets into other times. When Winter's father disappears, she must come to terms with her loss, or fight to find out what exactly happened. A realistic novel with overtones of the supernatural, that will keep you up at night frantically turning the pages, until the end.