I usually post my best young adult fiction list in December, but this year I was moving between sabbaticals in Japan and in the UK with a brief stop at home in Maine for the holidays. I'm finally settled in Oxford with time to catch up on book reviews. Since I write contemporary YA fiction, that's primarily what I read. Although these books were all published in 2016, their themes are all the more relevant for 2017. Reading fiction is also a good escape from the dystopian real world of American politics right now.
Nicola Yoon was my favorite young adult novel of 2016. This emotionally resonant story of immigration, assimilation, and deportation is sadly all the more realistic today. We need books that foster empathy and compassion. The immigrant author won a Printz Honor for this perfect book.
Yoon's page-turner story hooked me immediately: On the day Natasha and her Jamaican family are due to be deported, she meets Daniel, a Korean American on his way to a Yale College interview in New York City. Daniel believes in poetry and soulmates but scientific Natasha is skeptical. Her focus is on fighting to stay in the USA. Natasha has no time for love, but what if Daniel is right?
Carrie Firestone was my favorite debut. The premise was original and poignant: a dying grandmother takes her family on a luxurious world cruise to say goodbye. Gallow humor, a comically dysfunctional family, and a sweet romance offset the sad realism of terminal cancer. Somehow this novel about dying with dignity was one of the most life-affirming books I've ever read.
The story now resonates with me personally as my mother-in-law fights cancer with the hope of traveling on the Trans-Siberian Railway with my son this summer. My teenage daughter is finding comfort in this book too. I'll post a more in depth analysis next week for Barrie Summy's Book Review Club.
Jennifer Longo had the best setting: Antarctica. I loved how this novel focused on failure and resilience, a theme lacking in most YA literature. American culture unrealistically claims that anyone can succeed if she/he tries hard enough. In a clever juxtaposition, the world of professional ballet is shown to be as challenging and crazy as reaching the South Pole. After failing her ballet auditions, Harper Scott follows her ancestor's snow tracks to Antarctica. Her heroes haunt her long winter hallucinations as she struggles to find a new path in life. This book is eloquent on science, climate change, and ballet. The only weakness was the ease of romance, but that element provided some light in the darkness. Also there were penguins!
Link to my full review of Wrecked.
On my Good Summer Books List too.
the rest of my review here.
Many teens will relate to the feeling of knowing what you want but lacking the self confidence to claim it. A buddy who supports and encourages you makes all the difference. Review continued here.
Amanda Knox inspired suspense-thriller had intriguing suspects, multiple red herrings, and more twists than the village roads of Tuscany. The unreliable narrator's testimony leaves the reader tossing and turning in bed, ruminating over conflicting versions of the truth. This cynical satire lampoons journalists, social media, lawyers, detectives, and the scandal-hungry public. With Malice is a fitting read for the age of "alternative facts."
My full length review with photos of Italy.
Reviewer's Disclosure: Maria Padian is a friend and Beth Kephart is a blog buddy. On my request, publishers sent me ARCs of Wrecked, This Is The Story of You, and With Malice. I purchased all other books myself without compensation. Authors Carrie Firestone and Nina LaCour are represented by my agent.