Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Top Tens in 2015: Teen Reviewer Neeka's Best

Our teen reviewer Neeka is an old hand at writing her best ofs for us, as usual we can't wait to read the books she's loved:

1: I don't quite know what I expected from Simon vs. The Homo-Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, but it wasn't what I got. The book was deeper than I could have imagined. Simon is being blackmailed because he's gay. He wrestles with accepting his identity, especially when the identity of his online pen pal, Blue, might be compromised. How far will he go to protect himself from his secret? How much of a difference would being openly gay make to others in his life? These are the questions we root for Simon to figure out so that he can be sure of himself (see all our posts).
2: In The Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez is historical fiction, a genre I've never really been into. But the story of the brave Mirabal sisters, who fought against the oppressive dictatorship in the Dominican Republic is told beautifully. From each sister's perspective, we see the resistance build under the surface until there is an active revolutionary force. Three of the four sisters died in a car crash, and the events and feelings that led up to their tragic deaths are told in a way that can be treasured. 
3: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira is written, unsurprisingly, in letter format. Laurel writes to famous dead people--at first for a school assignment, but later to help herself cope with a death in her family. She is going through her freshman year of high school feeling like somewhat of an outsider but we delight in seeing her complex relationships in depth, especially the one she's formed with Sky, to whom she is drawn. This book is genuinely moving. (see our full review here)
4: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart is probably my favorite book of the year. Cadence is heartbroken, and through her eyes we see why. On a private island with her cousins, she discovers herself. Written in a style unlike anything I've read before: prose filled with metaphors and poems within sentences, this book will engross you fully as good-natured relationships become destructive (see all our posts).
5: I don't typically reach for sci-fi books, but Panic by Lauren Oliver surprised me in how unlike other books it is. Though the idea of a deadly game called Panic may sound like the Hunger Games, it focuses more on the characters involved than the game at hand. Heather is an original character who wants nothing more than to get out of her tiny town. The game--and the people she gets to know while playing--just may change her perspective on life (see all our posts).
6: Also Known As by Robin Benway was a fun read for me, because I've searched for not-too-cheesy teen spy stories since the last Gallagher Girls novel. This did not disappoint. 

Maggie Silver is an international spy, working with her parents on all sorts of exciting missions. Now she is faced with the most daunting mission yet: going to a real high school. With her new friend, Roux, she tries to complete her most important assignment yet without any hitches. Of course, that's a little hard to do when she's beginning to have feelings for someone related to the assignment, and she finds out some very compromising information. Maggie's plucky personality paired with the exciting plotline make for one very great book (see our full review).
7: Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King is the story of Vera's life after her best friend, Charlie, dies. Many YA books about death have stale plots, but this book deserves a chance because it shines. Charlie and Vera are both uncovered as layered, complex characters for whom we want only the best. But we understand Vera's struggle in deciding whether she can bring herself to admit to everyone what really happened the night of Charlie's death (see our full review here)
8: We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach begins in the vein of The Breakfast Club: each high schooler is clearly defined by an overarching archetype. But what makes this book special is its exploration of life beyond those boundaries thanks to an incoming asteroid. Any teen can see this book's relevance to everyday life. 
9: Firecracker is a book from David Iserson, whose television writing credits assured me that this would be a funny read. Indeed, Astrid is a special girl. She comes from money and takes all of that for granted as she rebels in every way possible...until she's sent to public school. The exceptionally rude and lovably arrogant heroine of our story forges a plan for revenge on whomever set her up to get expelled from her private school. In the process, she evolves as a person, and that self-growth is the real force behind this story (see all our posts)
10: The Girl is Murder by Kathryn Miller Haines has an intriguing setup: the year is 1942, and Iris begins picking up some of her father's detective work after he returns from the war. Iris is a likable girl. While her family is faced with monetary challenges, she begins to investigate the mystery that will keep the pages of this engaging book turning (see our full review).

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