Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Top Books 2017: Pamela's Picks: YA and Others!

2017 was an AWESOME year for YA fiction. It was stronger by far than last year. I saw a few trends in YA this year: the sibling relationship was strong in several books. Strong female protagonists abound--it was the year of "Wonder Woman" at the box office! Books with messages about what is going on in the news were strong this year. Books that will leave teens (and adults) thinking and talking were big.  What we saw on the news, we saw in our fiction this year. This year I was selected to sit on the YA Fiction panel for the Cybils Awards. Many of my picks are also being considered for Cybils.

Here are my top picks of the year for Graphic novel, non-fiction, preschool and ten for YA. The ten picks are in no specific order. They are all fantastic and I would hand them to any YA fan! Oh, but the BEST of the BEST because it was EVERYTHING a book should be and it surprised me for its crossover appeal: The Last Magician! This could easily be labeled as adult fiction. I would give this to any adult who loves to read. 

Ten Ten YA:


The Last Magician
by Lisa Maxwell

This one has EVERYTHING! A tough female protagonist, New York at the turn of the century (1900s), bad guys, a magical book, magicians who are imprisoned in New York, a love interest, second story guys, mobsters, ladies of questionable virtue, dens of inequity, street thugs, thievery, magic, you-name-it, it's here! The writing is SUBLIME. You can eat these words! Best book of the year! On the Cybils Awards list and a contender. 

A Short History of the Girl Next Door
by Jared Reck

OMGosh, this book! It's the BEST realistic fiction. It has all the feels. I laughed, I cried. You will need tissues. Tear-jerker appeal. You simply MUST read this book. I am happy to report this one is on the Cybils list and a possible contender. 

A Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue
by Mackenzi Lee

Wow! Historical fiction done right! This one follows a young British lord who is bi-sexual and promiscuous and what a rapscallion Percy is! I have never seen a bi-sexual teen in historical fiction before in YA. Percy, his friend and sometime love interest and sister travel to the Continent for a year before Percy is expected to come home to England and be a proper gentleman. Oh, but the fun and shenanigans doesn't stop. This one is hilarious in all the right ways. This one is on the Cybils list and a possible contender. 

The Reader 
by Traci Chee

This is first in a trilogy of Sea of Ink and Gold. The Reader is fantasy, it's magical with a strong female protagonist, pirates, stowaways, clues that are actually sprinkled throughout the book--a fun adventure on its own, a secret message if you are able to solve it, and Chee's masterful storytelling.

Moxie
by Jennifer Mathieu

Moxie is just as fun as its cover! Book love for this one! I received the ARC of this one and a button "Moxie Girls Fight Back" at Texas Library Association conference back in April. Little did I know how much "trouble" this book was about to stir up! The boys (and teachers) in this book are so awful it's nearly laughable, but I remember hearing their types of comments, as I'm sure girls do now, in high school. Well, moxie girls do fight back and create a movement. What's not to love? It is the Year of the Female Protagonists Take Over the World (at least in YA). Moxie is on the Cybils list and a possible contender. 

Piecing Me Together
by Renee Watson

What a beautiful book! Jade uses her art as an outlet for her feelings. She takes trash and makes collages. Elegant storytelling by Renee Watson make this one a winner! This is on the Cybils list and a possible contender! 

The Lake Effect
by Erin McCahan

This one is also on the Cybils list and a contender. 2017 saw a trend of a little bit older protagonist. Many of the YA books had teens who had just graduated high school and were getting ready for college. The Lake Effect is one. I consider this book a postcard from the Great Lakes. Having spent many summer on Lake Erie and having countless relatives who hail from there, it reminded me of all those summers on the lake. McCahan pays homage to the teens who have to work summers for college. Briggs arrives at the beautiful Victorian on the lake in time to take his new 84 year old boss to the first of many funerals he will have to attend. This one is sarcastic, funny and whip-smart. 

Orphan, Agent, Prima, Pawn
by Elizabeth Kiem

This book breaks boundaries in YA. We usually don't see a spy thriller set in 1958 Soviet Union. The writing and research is sublime. Kiem deserves mass praise for what must have been exhaustive hours researching the time period and political nuances. I loved this book. It is historical fiction with a BANG. 

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life 
by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Saenz triumphs again after success with Aristotle and Dante Discover the Universe. If you loved that one, you'll love Logic even more. Sal is a teen who questions his place. Sounds familiar, right? In Saenz's loving hands, each character seems like a real person. I am glad I live in the world where Benjamin Alire Saenz writes YA fiction. I have seen him speak a number of times (he is from El Paso) and he is one of the most sincere and sweet humans you will ever meet. I don't add this book to the list because Saenz is known to me. I add it because it's amazing and also on the list for the YA Cybils Fiction panel and a contender. If you missed Dante and Aristotle--buy it today! 

Non-fiction Pick:

Some Writer!
The Story of E. B. White
by Melissa Sweet

E.B. White. Melissa Sweet. It's genius! Highly readable and enjoyable. I am not a big fan of non-fiction, but this was GREAT!

Pre-School Pick:

Watersong
by Tim McCanna
Illustrations by Richard Smythe

The artwork is the most beautiful gift you can give to a child. A lovely treasure!

Graphic Pick:

Fish Girl
by Donna Jo Napoli
Illustrated by David Wiesner

There's a reason Wiesner is a Caldecott winner, this is it! No one can beat his artwork. I LOVE Fish Girl! 

That's it! My picks for the Best of the Best for 2017. Happy reading, everyone! I hope 2018 gives us many more literary gifts. Pamela 





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