Best New Teen Fiction 2011
Printz Award Winner
Ship Breaker. Paolo Bacigalupi. New York: Little, Brown and Co., 2010. HC $17.99.
In the future, fossil fuels are depleted and seas have risen, engulfing whole coastal cities. Society has been split, and life for the lower class is brutal. Nailer, a skinny teen, lives a hand-to-mouth existence in a shanty with his violent drug-addicted father.
Getting paid starvation wages, every day Nailer shimmies through the duct work of the beached wrecks of ancient oil tankers, scavenging for steel, copper, and any residual oil, a dirty and dangerous job. He has to make his quota every day. If he fails, he and his team will be fired and forced to beg, steal, or sell their own body parts on the streets. He has to turn over everything he finds to his crew boss.
The day after a nasty hurricane, he and his friend Pima discover a beached modern high-tech schooner. Knowing that they have made a real find, they are intent on keeping the salvage for themselves. But once on board, Nailer finds a girl, Nita, trapped in the wreckage and barely clinging to life. If they help her, Nita promises them a privileged life, far more than they ever dreamed. Can they trust her? Or should he slit her throat and sell her for body parts? --2011-2012 Texas Lone Star Reading
Printz Honor Book
Nothing. Janne Teller. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2010. HC $16.99.
There was definitely something that mattered in spite of everything, even if that something was something you had to lose.
Or was there nothing?
When Pierre Anthon climbed a tree and declared that nothing matters, he touched a nerve in his classmates. At first, he was just weird. Then he was nothing short of annoying. Then he taunted his classmates about nothing until they were furious. Stubborn determination bound the group and drove them to prove something to Pierre Anthon. So they created a heap of meaning in an abandoned barn and began to pile their most precious possessions on it. Elise brought an old doll; Holy Karl threw a hymnbook on the pile; Ursula-Marie offered up an ivory comb missing a few teeth; Jon-Johan tossed an old Beatles tape on the heap. But then Gerda had to part with her hamster, Oscarlittle; lady William gave up his diary; and as Anna-Li turned over her adoption papers, she said, "It doesn't matter, or rather, it matters a lot." And so it went, each mate giving up what the others determined a fitting sacrifice. –King County Library System Book Talk
Printz Honor Book
Please Ignore Vera Dietz. A. S. King. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010. HC $16.99, PBK $9.99 (4/12).
“To say my friend died is one thing. To say my friend screwed me over and then died five months later is another.”
These are the first words we hear from Vera Dietz. Vera was best friends with her next door neighbor, Charlie, until the “Detentionheads” came between them during their junior year. Then Charlie blamed Vera for spreading rumors about how his father beat his mother, and in retaliation he revealed Vera’s secret: that her mother was a stripper before she abandoned Vera and ran away to Las Vegas.
Now Vera knows a secret about the night that Charlie died. It’s a secret that could clear his name, but she’s not sure how to tell it. So she stays busy with her full-time job delivering pizzas, flirting with her 23-year old co-worker, and trying to stay invisible at school.
And then there’s her complicated relationship with her father, who wants what’s best for Vera but doesn’t trust her to make any good decisions. All this, plus a ghostly Charlie, and a talking pagoda!
Don’t worry—it makes sense when you read it. –2011-2012 Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award
Printz Honor Book
Revolver. Marcus Sedgwick. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2010. HC $16.99, PBK $8.99.
“They say that dead men tell no tales, but they’re wrong. Even the dead tell stories.” (page 2)
And in this case the dead refers to Sig’s father, Einar, whom Sig found frozen to death after having pulled himself free of a hole in the ice on a slowly thawing lake. And so the questions begin. Why was Einar traveling across the lake when he always, always insisted that you should never cross the lake once the weather began warming up? Who is this man Wolff that claims to have known his father ten years ago in the Alaskan gold fields? And the most important question of all, one with life-or-death consequences. Where is the gold that Wolff is demanding his share of? But since Sig doesn’t know the answers to any of these questions, the only one he is really consumed by is whether or not he can retrieve his father’s ancient Colt revolver from the small storeroom and use it to even the odds between himself and Wolff? --Laura Kettering
Printz Honor Book
*Stolen. Lucy Christopher. New York: Chicken House, 2010. HC $17.99.
Gemma remembers thinking what nice eyes he had when she was sitting across from him in the airport café. Unfortunately for her, Gemma does not notice the drugs Ty slips into her coffee, and she becomes his captive in the deserted Australian outback. With no sign of any civilization for miles around and only one old truck for transportation with the key to it hanging around her captor’s neck, Gemma will need to use all her wits to escape from this intolerable situation. But as the days go by with many failed escape attempts and Gemma comes to understand the lengths that Ty has gone to in stalking her for over six years, she actually begins to feel sorry for her captor. But is she sorry enough to stay put, or will she continue to search for a way out? -–Laura Kettering
Annexed. Sharon Dogar. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010. HC $17.00, PBK $8.99 (1/12).
You’ve heard the old saying that every story has two sides. And in this case, you are probably already familiar with what Anne Frank had to say. Now you can see what it was like hiding in the Annex with Anne and her family through Peter’s eyes. The story he has to tell is the same, yet very different, than Anne’s. -–Laura Kettering
Wicked Girls: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials. Stephanie Hemphill. New York: Balzer + Bray, 2010. HC $16.99.
What starts out as girls playing games turns into the most famous of all witch hunts. When several individuals fall prey to illness, Ann, Margaret, and Mercy recognize and seize the opportunity to wield power in a world that largely ignores them. Knowingly faking their afflictions, the girls make their accusations. But once the game begins and the accusations begin mounting, the girls will need to decide if it’s too late to tell the truth. –-Laura Kettering
As Easy As Falling Off the Face of the Earth. Lynne Rae Perkins. New York: Greenwillow Books, 2010. HC $16.99, PBK $8.99 (4/12).
Ry just stepped off the train to make a quick phone call. And now he finds himself stuck in the middle of nowhere when the train suddenly leaves from its unplanned maintenance stop without him. The worst part is that he cannot actually reach anyone with his cell phone. The first call he makes is to his own house to try to speak with his grandfather who is dog-sitting while everyone is away this summer. But Ry has no luck reaching his grandfather, because while he was walking the dogs, he ended up falling into a 20-foot-deep sinkhole and giving himself a concussion which resulted in amnesia. The second call Ry tries to make with his one bar of signal and a dying battery is to his parents’ cell phone. But again, he is not successful in making contact. This time, the phone just rings and rings because a monkey in the Caribbean where Ry’s parents are vacationing has carried it off to show her family.
Obviously, Ry is not going to make it to his summer camp, but even with a car, a plane, a couple of boats, and his own two feet, Ry isn’t sure he will ever again make contact with anyone in his family again. -–Laura Kettering
*Beat the Band. Don Calame. Somerville, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2010. HC $16.99, PBK $7.99.
Cooper has plans for his sophomore year in high school. After a memorable summer where he and his two best friends, Matt and Sean, completed their goal of seeing a real naked woman, he thinks that it is now time for them to score with the ladies.
Unfortunately for Cooper, this is not going to be his year. On the very first day of classes, his health teacher assigns a semester-long project that will be presented to the class in teams of two. It wouldn’t be so bad if Cooper had actually gotten paired with one of the beauties in the class, but instead, his semester-long partner is Hot Dog Helen, the class outcast. Nothing could be worse! On his way out of class that day, the heckling begins as he, too, becomes a target just for being paired with Hot Dog Helen.
As he is slammed into the wall by one of his fellow students, Cooper notices a flier for a Battle of the Bands, and “Bingo!” Cooper is hit with inspiration. If he and his friends enter the competition and win, he will be able to counter the stigma of having to work with Hot Dog Helen and still score some action. Unfortunately, to be in a band that might win a competition, he and his friends will actually have to play musical instruments, not strangle them. -–Laura Kettering
Accomplice. Eireann Corrigan. New York: Scholastic Press, 2010. HC $17.99, PBK $9.99.
They had such a good plan. It was going to bring them so much attention that colleges couldn’t help but take notice of them. According to their guidance counselor, good grades are not enough to get into the best colleges. Perfect attendance is also not enough. Not even the hours and hours of community service that Finn and Chloe have logged will cause their applications to rise to the top of the piles on the admissions’ officers’ desks.
So they plan a fake abduction. No one would actually get hurt, and Chloe and Finn would be known all around the country. They would stage Chloe’s disappearance and once she had been missing long enough, Finn would miraculously find her and save her. It was the perfect plan until things started to go wrong. -–Laura Kettering
Blank Confession. Pete Hautman. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2010. HC $16.99, PBK $8.99 (11/11).
Shayne walks into the police station and confesses to murder. But Detective Rawls can’t quite believe that this quiet, new kid in town could kill someone. As the interview progresses though, Detective Rawls realizes that there’s more to Shayne than meets the eye. -–Laura Kettering
Prince of Mist. Carlos Ruiz Zafón. New York : Little, Brown, 2010. HC $17.99, PBK $8.99.
“A mysterious house harbors an unimaginable secret.” And that is the house that Max and his family have just moved into leaving the capital where they used to live and moving to a small coastal village to escape the war. Just after moving in, Max meets Roland, a boy just a couple of years older than him, and they make plans to spend the summer diving off the coast in search of treasure from a shipwreck that occurred there several years ago. But the Prince of Mist has been waiting in the shadows of this small village, biding his time and gathering his strength so that he can collect on an unpaid debt from the past—one affecting everyone Max cares for most. -–Laura Kettering
*Rot and Ruin. Jonathan Maberry. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2010. HC $17.99, PBK $9.99.
The zombie apocalypse, better known as First Night, occurred more than 14 years ago. Now the world is mostly “Rot and Ruin,” filled with zombies, with small pockets of humanity sandwiched within the wasteland. This is the only world that Benny can remember since he was a toddler on First Night when his much older step-brother rescued him and found them both a safe place to live in the town of Mountainside.
Now that Benny is turning fifteen years old, he needs to find a job or have his rations cut in half. After exploring several other options with his best friend, Chong, over the summer, Benny is down to the wire and finally accepts his brother’s offer to become his apprentice, an apprentice to a zombie bounty hunter.
You may be wondering why Benny didn’t just take this job first and skip exploring all those other options. But Benny’s opinion of his brother, Tom, is not very good. Benny is impressed by the other zombie bounty hunters in town, Charlie Matthias and the Motor City Hammer. Benny is always down at the general store listening to their exciting tales, but Benny thinks of Tom as a coward, and he never hears a word about Tom’s exploits out in the “Rot and Ruin.” But Benny might have his mind changed for him on his first trip outside the fences, since there is no law in the “Rot and Ruin.” --Laura Kettering
*Trash. Andy Mulligan. New York: David Fickling Books, 2010. HC $16.99, PBK $8.99 (10/11).
You probably don’t think that people can live in a garbage dump. But that is exactly what Raphael and Gardo do. In fact, they are completely surrounded by trash. Not only do they live in the dump, but all of their clothes and possessions are items which they have found among the trash bags. Their shelter is constructed from other discarded items. And they spend their days sorting through other people’s trash looking for things that can be recycled or stuff that never should have been thrown away in the first place. They usually find waste but look for plastic, paper and cardboard, tin cans, glass, and cloth or rags.
But then one day Raphael finds a bag. And inside that bag, he finds not only a map of the city, a key, and a wallet with lots of money, but also a whole lot of trouble. There are many, many people looking for that bag, what it contains, and where that can lead them. But Raphael and Gardo are determined to find whatever has been hidden before everyone else does. -–Laura Kettering
The Mockingbirds. Daisy Whitney. New York: Little, Brown, 2010. HC $16.99, PBK $8.99 (1/12).
“Three things I know this second: I have morning breath, I’m naked, and I’m waking up next to a boy I don’t know.” (page 1) Alex has been date-raped during her first week of junior year at Themis Academy. And of course, at Themis Academy, “The teachers, the headmistress, all the freaking administration, they never think we’re up to anything. They think we never skirt the rules here at perfect, progressive, prestigious Themis Academy.” So now Alex has two choices. She can choose to stay silent and hope that someone will help her. Or she can enlist the aid of the Mockingbirds, a secret society of students dedicated to righting wrongs committed by members of the student body. -–Laura Kettering
*Revolution. Jennifer Donnelly. New York: Delacorte Press, 2010. HC $18.99, PBK $9.99.
The revolution has ruined everything. Of course, I’m sure that’s what all those innocent people think, too, right before the guillotine chops off their heads. But for Alexandrine, it is worse to be alive, suffering as she is. Once an actress in the streets of France, she made little Louis-Charles, the prince, laugh and thereby garnered for herself a place among the palace staff and a friend in the little prince. Even after the royal family’s fortunes change, and they are imprisoned, Alexandrine is desperate to make contact with and continue as Louis-Charles’s companion and friend.
And Andi, reading Alexandrine’s diary 200 years later, becomes obsessed with the tragic story. She is so moved by the words written so long ago by one who cared so much that one night on a midnight journey through the catacombs of France, Andi is suddenly transported in time to this past she cannot stop thinking about. And that past has for now become her terrifyingly real present. -–Laura Kettering
Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour. Morgan Matson. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010. HC $16.99, PBK $9.99.
Amy tells herself that her life is better now. She finds that living alone in her family’s two-story house for the past month is easier than interacting with her mother and twin brother. Pushing her friends away until they no longer include her in their conversations and plans seems to be simpler too. In fact, Amy does everything she can not to call attention to herself at all.
But all that changes when Roger, the college-age son of one of her mom’s friends, shows up at the end of the school year to escort Amy cross-country to a new house in Connecticut. Of course, her mom has mapped out the quickest, most economical way to get from California to Connecticut, but when Amy and Roger decide to scrap those instructions and reservations and strike out on their own route, Amy changes her mind and a lot of other things in her life on their epic detour. -–Laura Kettering
Anna and the French Kiss. Stephanie Perkins. New York: Dutton Books, 2010. HC $16.99, PBK $9.99.
Anna’s senior year is ruined. Her plans for a great year included hanging out with her very best friend, continuing her employment at a job that is perfect for her, and maybe starting a relationship with that boy she’s been crushing on all summer.
But now her dad insists that she has to attend a boarding school. After all the yelling, begging, pleading, and crying she tries to get out of it, Anna still finds herself the newest senior at the School of America in Paris. It’s not that Anna isn’t grateful. It is Paris after all. It’s just that this isn’t what she wants; it’s what her father is demanding.
And so Anna arrives at the cafeteria her first morning there filled with unhappiness and trepidation. That is until she meets St. Clair and her heart flips over. -–Laura Kettering
Birthmarked. Caragh M. O'Brien. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2010. HC16.99, PBK $9.99 (10/11).
It's been three hundred years since changes in climate mutated society forever. Sixteen-year-old Gaia lives with her parents in the destitute town of Wharfton, outside the walls of the Enclave. Within the walls of the Enclave live the authoritarian elite.
Gaia, apprenticed to her mother as a midwife, joyfully delivers her first baby on her own and, as required, turns it over to the Enclave. The first three babies she delivers each month must go to the Enclave to be advanced. It is her duty, the best thing for society, the right thing to do.
When her mother delivers a baby and the baby's mother objects to turning it over to the Enclave, Gaia's parents are arrested and sentenced to be executed. Questioning the validity of the rules, Gaia finds her way into the Enclave, where she is also arrested and imprisoned.
The Enclave wants something Gaia has. Something that will change society.
Once she realizes what she holds, can she live with the decision she feels compelled to make? --2011-2012 – Rhode Island Teen Book Award
Brain Jack. Brian Falkner. New York: Random House, 2010. HC $17.99, PBK $9.99.
“On Friday, on his way to school, Sam Wilson brought the United States of America to its knees.
He didn’t mean to. He was actually just trying to score a new computer and some other cool stuff, and in any case, the words ‘to its knees’ were the New York Times’, not his—and were way over the top, in Sam’s view. Not as bad, though, as the Washington Post’s. Their headline writers must have been on a coffee binge, because they screamed
in size-40 type when their presses finally came back online.
Anyway, it was only for a few days, and it really wasn’t a disaster at all. At least not compared to what was still to come.” (page 7 – Brain Jack)
*For the Win. Cory Doctorow. New York: Tor, 2010. HC $17.99.
In a future so close to today’s world that it is hard to see the difference, teens play massive multiplayer online role-playing games. But not all of them are doing it because they enjoy it. Some teens in Third World countries actually “farm gold” for their ruthless, corrupt bosses in games like Coca-Cola’s Zombie Mecha or Nintendo’s Mushroom Kingdom. And then the bosses turn around and sell their game gold and treasure turning it into real-world currency. Of course, it goes without saying that the teens doing the work never see a penny of the profits their labor makes.
Into this picture steps Big Sister Nor and her Webblies. She has a plan to bring the game worlds and real world to their knees by bringing these young people together to form a union battling in game for real world rights. But as we all know, when money is involved, lots and lots of money, many, many people will want to maintain the status quo, maybe more than Big Sister Nor and the Webblies can handle. –Laura Kettering
*Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. Lish McBride. New York: Henry Holt, 2010. HC $16.99, PBK $9.99 (5/12).
Sam’s life is turned upside down after a game of potato hockey behind the hideous fast food joint where he works goes wrong. The potato takes out one of the lights on Douglas’s car parked not far away bringing Sam to Douglas’s notice. And this is a very bad thing. Douglas is the local necromancer, a very powerful, very evil necromancer. Douglas knows that Sam is also a necromancer and views him as a rival. There are two problems in this for Sam. One is that he didn’t even know he was a necromancer, whatever that is. And two, Douglas has given Sam an ultimatum. Sam has to work for Douglas, in reality becoming his slave, or he can forfeit his life. Before the week is out, Sam and his friends will be attacked by a super strong thug, receive a package containing a friend’s decapitated and reanimated head, and be locked in Douglas’s cellar with a pretty girl who just happens to be part werewolf and part fairy. -–Laura Kettering
The Line. Terri Hall. New York: Dial Books, 2010. HC $16.99, PBK 6.99.
Rachel's whole life is the Property and the Line. Ever since she can remember, Rachel has lived on the Property, which is outside of Bensen, the closest town. She and her mother live in a cottage on the Property which Ms. Moore owns and where she raises orchids in a greenhouse. Rachel's mother works for Ms. Moore in exchange for living at the cottage, so Rachel is on her own most of the time. And while Rachel doesn't mind her life so much on the Property, it is predictable, very predictable. Rachel often wishes that something would happen, anything to stave off the boredom.
So it really was inevitable that Rachel would become obsessed with Away, just on the other side of the Line. The Line is the local shorthand name for that portion of the National Border Defense System which enclosed the entire Unified States, keeping everyone in and everyone and everything else out. Away had been around forever even longer than old Ms. Moore, and it was taboo. So of course, Rachel is attracted to it like a moth to light. True facts about Away are hard to come by, so Rachel spends much of her free time reading all the questionable materials about Away that she can find on the net. But in the end, that is not enough. So Rachel tries to cross the Line into Away with disastrous results. –Laura Kettering
*Matched. Ally Condie. New York: Dutton Books, 2010. HC $17.99, PBK $9.99.
Cassia is living the perfect life. But so are many others too. That is what the Society is designed to do, plan and implement everything needed for everyone to lead the perfect life. Cassia’s food, housing, education, career training, recreation, even her spouse, is tabulated by studying statistical data and probable odds. In fact, when we meet Cassia, she is celebrating her sixteenth birthday and attending her Match Banquet where her future spouse will be revealed to her.
But then there is a glitch with Cassia’s microcard that she receives containing all of Xander, her spouse’s, data on it. The day after the Match Banquet, when Cassia views her microcard for the first time, she sees Xander’s face as expected, but then it is quickly replaced by Ky Markham’s, another boy in her neighborhood. Even before Cassia realizes it, she and Ky are falling in love, going against all of the Society’s mandates. And the Society, always watching, begins plotting and planning, leaving Cassia and Ky tangled in the Society’s web so thoroughly that there is only one escape route. Does Cassie have the courage it will take to stand against the Society, or will she cave in to the pressure and fall under the Society’s spell once again? --Laura Kettering