Monday, December 15, 2014

Counting Down til 2015: Pat's Top Ten of 2014

Pat kicks off our best of the year series. We've got tons of books to add to your wish lists and to-be-read lists, come back every day for a new list!

 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith (see all our posts)
If you like quirky, brilliant, thoughtful, hilarious novels that blow open your mind, look no further. Coming of age hasn't been this electric since, well, since I don't know when.  Finn Easton is pretty much my new favorite character and Andrew Smith is pretty much my new favorite author.  And take a look at the covers of his last three books--they're pretty much perfect.

Grasshopper Jungle: A History by Andrew Smith (see all our posts)
See above. Just add the apocalypse via genetically engineered giant sex-and food-crazed insects.  It's awesome.

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (see our full review)
We've waited a long time since the The Sky is Everywhere (2010) and Jandy Nelson delivers another searing, lyrical novel.  Twins Noah and Jude are inseparable until an act of betrayal tears them apart. Big serious themes including sexuality, grief, sibling relationships and the redemptive power of art permeate the story. Definitely worth the wait.

Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King (see our full review)
A.S. King is one of the most original YA writers around.You're never quite sure where she's going to take you, but you're always willing to go with her characters and Glory O'Brien is no exception.  Ostracized in high school because of  her strong feminist beliefs and quirky attitude, Glory has no plans after high school graduation.  Glory is still trying to make sense of her life  in the wake of her mother's suicide years earlier, often through the lens of her camera. When she and her best friend Ellie drink the mummified remains of a bat (kind of crazy, yes,) really weird things start happening.  In the hands of a less accomplished writer, this might not work.  But King brings it home.  Highly recommended.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (see our full review)
What really happened the summer the four of them--Cadence, Johnny, Mirren, and Gat--turned fifteen?  It's two years later and Cadence is back on the family's exclusive Cape Cod island, still trying to piece together the events of that fateful summer.  Where those pieces lead will leave you stunned. 

The Family Romanov:  Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming (see our full review)
I learned things I never knew or had long forgotten about this time and place in history.  Fleming delivers nonfiction at its best, meticulously researched and filled with real life characters living in very interesting times.  Despite knowing exactly what happens to this family, you find yourself
The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson (see our full review)
So many of us are insulated from the effects of our country's most recent wars. Halse Anderson peels back the curtain in this powerful story.  Her dad's PTSD has dramatically impacted 17-year-old Hayley's life, but after five years on the road she's hoping she finally will have a chance to settle down and find some measure of happiness in her grandmother's house in upstate New York. And now with Finn, she evens wonders about the tiniest possibility of a normal teen relationship.  Halse Anderson tackles this difficult material with a sure hand.  Older teens will relate to the large themes of forgiveness and redemption, but mostly will turn the pages to find out what happens to these characters.

The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin (see our full review)
Frankly I was shocked that I'd never heard about the Port Chicago 50.  How is that possible?  In July, 1944, over 300 African American sailors were killed in a horrific explosion while loading munitions onto a ship bound for battle in the Pacific.  When the survivors asked the obviously dangerous conditions to be addressed when ordered to return to the same duty, they were threatened with mutiny charges.  All but fifty of the men returned to duty and those fifty were charged and tried for mutiny.  Can you guess what the result was?  Steve Sheinkin is a master of nonfiction for young readers, but I would recommend his books for adults, too.  They are that good.

Revolution by Deborah Wiles
Continuing with the successful format of Countdown, which focused on the Cuban missile crisis, in Revolution Wiles again weaves primary documents, photos, and quotations into a compelling story, this time about the Freedom Summer in 1964.  Told in the alternating voices of two young people--Raymond, an African American boy  and Sunny, a  12-year-old white girl living in Greenwood, Mississippi--that tumultuous summer.  Revolution is a timely read for middle grade and middle school kids, giving historical context to the continuing struggle for equality that we see unfolding even today.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (see our full review)
Woodson's National Book award-winning memoir in verse recounts her childhood growing up between South Carolina and Brooklyn, N.Y. during the 1960s and 70s. Lyrical and moving, this tour de force should be required reading for everyone, adults included.  It's that good.

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