Better late than never, right? Here are my picks for the 10 best YA books that I read in 2014 (in alphabetical order by author’s last name):
The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson – Hayley and her father have been traveling as he looks for a place he can settle down in after returning from Iraq. As they try to settle in his hometown, Hayley attempts to balance a normal teenage life including school, friends, and a new boyfriend with constantly worrying about worst-case scenarios she and her dad could face.
Torn Away by Jennifer Brown – When a tornado strikes Jersey’s hometown in Missouri, her house and neighborhood are destroyed, but her losses cut much deeper: her mother and five-year-old sister are among the many killed in the storm.
Last Forever by Deb Caletti – Tessa, a high school junior, has been having a hard time since her mother died a few months ago. Her mother’s last gift to her is a one-of-a-kind heirloom plant that Tessa must protect. When her father decides they should go on an unplanned adventure to the Grand Canyon, Tessa brings her mother’s fragile plant along for the ride.
Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates: Terror of the Southlands by Caroline Carlson (more middle grade than YA, but wonderful just the same) – Fledgling pirate captain Hilary bravely engages in nonpiratical behavior to rescue kidnapped friends and expose chicanery in high places. Hey, don’t forget the gargoyle!!!!!
Returning to Shore by Corrine Demas – A thoughtful teen reconnects with her nature-loving father on Cape Cod. Fourteen year-old Clare is less than thrilled with her mother’s plan to have her spend three weeks on a remote island with her father, Richard. She hasn’t seen him in twelve years, and they only speak on Christmas. This coming of age story takes place on Cape Cod. What could be bad????
September Girls by Bennett Madison – Before the school year is over, Sam’s dad quits his job and takes the 17-year-old and his older brother, who’s home from college, to a sleepy Outer Banks beach town for the summer. Sam’s mom left abruptly months earlier and the three are still reeling from her sudden departure. Ensconced in a rundown rental, the boys spend the summer partying, swimming, and trying to get to know the beautiful, blond, ephemeral-looking girls who seem to be everywhere in town.
Positive: A Memoir by Paige Rawl – Rawl’s journey from secrecy to acceptance of her HIV-positive status, thanks to her friends and family, makes for a compelling memoir. As a child, Paige saw her daily doses of medicine as normal—not strange at all. It wasn’t until she was in sixth grade that her mother told Paige that she had been born with HIV. That revelation ends her idyllic life in Indianapolis forever
We are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt – Sisters Nell and Layla were once so close Nell thought of them as Nelllayla. But as they enter high school, the two siblings are drifting apart and Nell feels a tremendous sense of loss. At first, Nell is not sure why, but then she learns Layla’s secret. Nell is having her own struggles after she hooks up with a boy at a party.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson – A multiaward-winning author recalls her childhood and the joy of becoming a writer. Writing in free verse, Woodson starts with her 1963 birth in Ohio during the civil rights movement, when America is “a country caught between Black and White.” But while evoking names such as Malcolm, Martin, James, Rosa and Ruby, her story is also one of family: her father’s people in Ohio and her mother’s people in South Carolina.
Falling into Place by Amy Zhang – High school junior Liz Emerson hovers between life and death in the hospital after purposefully running her car off the road, while friends, teachers and curious classmates gather to stand watch and hope for the best. Strategically timed flashbacks to weeks, days and minutes before the crash, some voiced by Liz’s platitude-spouting childhood imaginary friend, reveal a wealthy, popular girl tortured by regret over her cruel actions against others. The amazing thing is that this was written by a teenager.
These are just the 5 star books. If I included the 4 1/2 star books, we’d be here until 2016.