Please note that there has been absolutely no attempt to balance this list by age, gender or genre. These are just my “from-the-gut” favorites. You can find longer reviews for most of these titles by searching the site. Happy reading!
Anderson, M.T. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1: The Pox Party. (8th-12th grade)After a young man slowly realizes that he and his mother, an African queen, are the subjects of an extensive social science experiment in pre-Revolutionary America, he takes drastic steps to save them both from a life of slavery and servitude. Winner of the 2006 National Book Award for Young People.
Gantos, Jack. The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs. (9th-12th grade)
Sixteen-year-old Ivy learns some disturbing family secrets after she discovers a taxidermied body in the basement that could be her paternal grandmother.
Hautman, Pete. Rash. (7th-12th grade)
In an ultra-safe future, where contact sports and name-calling have been outlawed, teenaged Bo breaks the rules and ends up in a penal pizza-making factory, where he ironically learns the true meaning of freedom.
Jenkins, A.M. Beating Heart: A Ghost Story. (8th-12th grade)
Evan begins to realize that he’s not alone in his new room when he begins to have disturbing dreams of a girl from the past who’s in trouble.
Lawrence, Iain. Gemini Summer. (7th-10th grade)
This nostalgic historical fiction of a boy and his devoted dog who manage to stay together against overwhelming odds, will remind teen readers of Stephen King’s Stand By Me, or S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders.
Parkinson, Siobhan. Something Invisible. (6th-8th grade)
Eleven-year-old Jake only likes football and fish, until eccentric, outspoken Stella comes into his life and changes it forever.
Pfeffer, Susan Beth. Life As We Knew It. (7th-12th grade)
When an asteroid hits the moon, causing worldwide natural disasters, small-town girl Miranda must give up all the things she used to take for granted, like electricity, clean laundry, and chocolate. My personal favorite book of 2006.
Ruby, Laura. Good Girls. (9th-12th grade)
Good girl Audrey’s life goes into a downward spiral when a vindictive friend mass-emails a cell-phone photo of Audrey doing something not-so-nice with a boy at a party.
Vaughan, Brian K. and Niko Henrichon. Pride of Baghdad. (9th-12th grade)
This disturbing and sad graphic novel for grown-ups about a pride of lions that escaped from the Baghdad zoo during an American bombing raid of Iraq makes a powerful statement the meaning of freedom that will resonate with older teens.
Yang, Gene. American Born Chinese. (7th-12th grade)
This brightly colored, charismatic graphic novel, about a young middle school student’s struggle to become comfortable with his racial identity, is rich in wisdom and folklore, and ripe with humor and pop culture references. Nominated for the 2006 National Book Award for Young People. Winner of the 2006 Michael L. Printz award.