The outstanding books on the Michigan Reading Association's Great Lakes Great Books list are chosen by a committee of teachers and librarians from throughout the state, and that committee meets right here at the Peter White Public Library. This year in particular, the Young Adult books on the GLGB list are wonderful choices for high school students as well as adults far beyond their teen years. Here are the books nominated for students in grades nine to 12 to read and evaluate before voting for their favorites.
All the Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry is a book full of mystery. Though it feels like historical fiction, Berry cleverly left her story's time and place undefined. Four years ago, Judith and her best friend disappeared from their small town. Two years later only Judith returned, mutilated, shunned by everyone in her puritanical town and unable to speak. Luckily for the reader Judith's narrative voice remains strong, clear and full of passion as she silently tells her story to the young man she has secretly loved since childhood. Touching on the power of language, the right to education and the horrors of war, Berry delivers a powerful and disturbing book.
Boy21 by Matthew Quick was my hands-down favorite YA book published in 2013. Its multi-layered story of redemption through basketball and friendships deep and true is beautifully told by Finley, a self-described "minimal talker." Finley's life is colored by past tragedy and the grim reality of life in his hardscrabble town where the Irish mob, drugs and racial violence rule; basketball is his escape. His position on the team is threatened when a very troubled but extremely talented basketball player who calls himself Boy21 arrives in town just before their senior year. At their coach's request, the eternally loyal and goodhearted Finley applies himself to helping Boy21 overcome his intergalactic obsession and return to the basketball court.
If you enjoy a fun story with plenty of food for thought, check out Every Day by David Levithan. Every morning "A" wakes up in a different person's body, living that person's life, with no warning or control over which body and life he'll assume. Even under the circumstances, "A" has developed a strong sense of self and a good moral compass. He has figured out the rules and come to accept this existence, until the day he assumes Justin's body and falls head over heels in love with Justin's girlfriend Rhiannon. Can Rhiannon love him back? Is it possible to truly love someone no matter what they look like on the outside?
The Living by Matt de la Pena is a heart-stopping action thriller that also succeeds as social class drama and global disaster warning. Shy Espinoza takes a cruise ship job because he needs the money, and he gets a crash course in discrimination, classism and romance before the "big one" hits California sending a tsunami to sink the ship. Shark-infested waters and blistering sun are not Shy's biggest problems, as he uncovers a diabolical conspiracy that threatens global health.
The title character in Rachel Hartman's complex fantasy novel Seraphina has a secret that puts her smack in middle of an uneasy peace between two rival factions. Humans are not allowed in dragon territory and the intelligent, cold-minded dragons must assume human shape when entering human lands. Seraphina has kept a low profile for the first sixteen years of her life, hiding her dangerous secret while living among humans, but that all changes when she finds herself investigating a plot that could shatter the already shaky peace.
Celeana, the heroine of Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, was the world's most feared assassin before she was captured and thrown into prison in the salt mines. When the prince offers to set her free if she can outfight and outsmart 23 men in a grueling competition, Celeana jumps at the chance, setting in motion an exciting story full of action, world-building and political intrigue.
Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller is the heart-wrenching story of a family torn apart by maternal mental illness and repaired through steadfast paternal love. Seventeen-year-old Callie has been on the run ever since her mother kidnapped her at age 5.
She has never attended school or stayed in one place long enough to make any friends, never worn anything but secondhand clothes. When her mother is arrested and Callie returns to live with her father's new family, her guilt over having so much while her mother has so little is almost too much for Callie to bear. Doller lightens the mood with a happy dose of Greek culture, sponge-diving, and romance with a red-hot guy.
Will and Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge is an upbeat graphic novel full of creativity and imagination in both story and art. Wilhelmina (Will) is afraid of the dark, so she creates light by designing fanciful lamps. With the help of her sister, Will is also dealing with a dark family tragedy and looking for escape through summer adventures with her friends.
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