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best books 15 ya

2015 was a banner year for young adult fiction! Not only did we see an exciting surge in titles featuring diverse protagonists or titles penned by people of color, thanks to the awareness raised by the We Need Diverse Books campaign; but if 2015’s any indication, YA has entered its “Golden Age” and the market continues to mature as an art form.

In 2015, titles like BONE GAP by Laura Ruby challenged the way we view our place in reality; Jennifer Niven’s ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES reaffirmed the importance of each human life; we saw art explode into being in Daniel Jose Older’s SHADOWSHAPER, and history transform in Laura Amy Schlitz’s THE HIRED GIRL. Finally, Sarah Crossan’s novel ONE made us do a double-take at the lives of conjoined twins.

Here are the YA novels published in 2015 you should absolutely not miss:

BoneBONE GAP
By Laura Ruby
A favorite of: Courtney Alameda  

Quite possibly one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read, Laura Ruby’s BONE GAP won the 2016 Printz Award and was nominated for the National Book Award with good reason. In a story that blends magical realism with dreamlike imagery, readers meet Finn, a denizen of the rural town called Bone Gap, who witnesses the supposed kidnapping of his older brother’s girlfriend, Roza. Unfortunately, Finn’s own vague descriptions of the man who kidnapped Roza—and his own slowly-emerging disabilities—make it difficult for the police to find her. And Roza herself seems lost in a dream world, one in which a nightmare preys off the very essence of beauty itself.    

 

hiredgirlTHE HIRED GIRL
By Laura Amy Schlitz
A favorite of: Anjanette Jones  

If you attend the event on February 3rd, you’ll get to hear Anjie speak as passionately about this book as I have! (And yes, you most certainly want to hear Anjie talk about this book!)   Growing up on a hardscrabble farm, Joan avoided her cruel father but adored her mother, who encouraged her to work hard, study her lessons, and earn her own way in the world. After Ma’s death, 14-year-old Joan clashes with her father and flees to Baltimore. Claiming to be 18, she’s taken into the household of a wealthy Jewish family as a hired girl. Joan works hard to please the Rosenbachs and their beloved, aging housekeeper, the testy Malka. Over the next few months, the girl makes her share of mistakes . . . and her overactive imagination, passions, and disregard for propriety often get her into trouble. Still, these qualities endear her to the Rosenbachs (and likely to readers everywhere, too!)        

ShadowSHADOWSHAPER  
By Daniel José Older
A favorite of: Courtney Alameda  

What else can I say about SHADOWSHAPER but this: READ IT. This book is unlike anything else I’ve read in YA, blending genres, cultures, and languages seamlessly and beautifully.   When Sierra Santiago’s grandfather warns her that the paintings in their Brooklyn neighborhood are “fading,” Sierra’s puzzled. Through her own wit and determination, Sierra discovers she’s descended from a long line of shadowshapers, men and women able to animate art with the spirit of a departed soul.   But now, Sierra’s community is under attack from an anthropologist seeking to appropriate Sierra’s family’s traditions and culture. In order to save it, Sierra must draw upon and amplify her ancestors’ spirits, before their art fades away for good.    

brightplacesALL THE BRIGHT PLACES
By Jennifer Niven
A favorite of: Anjanette Jones  

From what I’ve heard from readers, this is a beautiful book, a sad book, but a life-affirming book. When Theodore “the Freak” Finch and Violet Markey meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school—both considering suicide—it's the beginning of an unlikely relationship, and a journey to discover the "natural wonders" of the state of Indiana. Violet’s running from her sister’s death nine months earlier. Finch’s trying to deal with an undiagnosed case of manic depression. And as they fall into an oddball sort of love, both teens become desperate to save one another from the demons that plague them.  

 

oneONE
By Sarah Crossan
A favorite of: Breanne Gilroy  

Last but not least, we have one of Breanne’s favorite books of the last year: A novel-in-verse about two sisters suffering from one unique problem.   Attached at the hip—literally—conjoined 16-year-old twins Tippi and Grace have outlived every prognosis for their life span. Their younger, ballet-dancing sister, earnest Mom, drunk Dad, and free-spirited Grammie comprise their whole world until homeschooling funds run out, and Tippi and Grace enter a local New Jersey private school as scholarship students. Their first friends ever, the pink-haired, HIV-positive Yasmeen and sweet, humble Jon, dutifully introduce them to raucous teen fun while serving as vigilantes against bullying and ignorance. When separation surgery becomes a potential reality, crucial questions of how bodies shape identity, friendship, love, and commitment are explored. The pacing’s gentle here, but this isn’t a novel readers will soon forget.

 

Make sure to join Anjie, Breanne, and I on Tuesday, February 3rd for the YA portion of the Library’s Best Books of 2015 presentation! 

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