Top 10 Titles of the DECADE!

Though I have not posted nearly as much as I hoped to this year, I simply cannot miss the opportunity to wax poetic about what my RR Top Ten Titles from 2010-2019 are. For those of you keeping score at home, this is my SECOND decade post, I also posted my top ten books from 2000-2009. (THAT’S how long Reading Rants has been around–this blog is about a million in dog years.) Last time, I focused on what I thought were the most under appreciated titles, but this time I want to explore how these 10 books have earned their shelf space in the YA canon, are relevant to teens today and possess the staying power to stick around well into the next decade.

2010: Ship Breaker by Paulo Bacigalupi

With climate change reform at the top of our list of national and global priorities, Ship Breaker is more relevant than ever. Both a riveting adventure and a grim environmental warning, this story of a orphan scavenger trying to survive in a future world decimated by hurricane and flood has grit and hope in equal measure. A perfect companion to Greta Thunberg’s TED Talk.

2011: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Though it suffers from headless girl cover syndrome, Libba Bray’s outstanding satire of teenage pageant contestants stranded on a island after their plan crashes en route to the Miss Teen Dream contest, was way ahead of it’s time. As I wrote back in 2011: “…as the days go by and no plane or ship appears, the girls…start to ask each other questions like, why do girls always seem to say “sorry” whenever they happen to express a strong emotion or feeling? And what does “act like a lady” mean anyway? They begin to think, “Maybe girls need an island to find themselves. Maybe they need a place where no one’s watching them so they can be who they really are.” Beauty Queens brilliantly foreshadowed the current #MeToo movement that has all of us questioning long standing gender stereotypes, the male gaze and outmoded beauty norms.

2012: Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne

Monument 14 makes my list because it is simply my best, never-fail recommendation. I have never had a student return this story of 14 kids trapped in a Wal-mart store in Colorado while the apocalypse rages outside, without them raving about it and demanding the sequel (of which there are two more) It has fast-paced action, unrequited romance, non-stop suspense, and zombies of course. It’s just a perfect, all-around package for any one looking for an immersive, satisfying read about the collapse of modern civilization. I haven’t stopped hand selling and replacing worn out copies of it since I read it back in 2012, and I don’t think I ever will. How this has not been made into a Netflix our limited HBO series, I DON’T KNOW.

2013: Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang

Honestly, I can’t say it better now than I did in 2013: “While this exceptional work will no doubt help gazillions of readers understand the complexity behind religious wars and personal freedoms, it can also be appreciated as a swiftly paced adventure peopled with men, women and gods who bring this fascinating period of Chinese history to bloody life. I was blown away by both the richly illustrated package and the timeless message. Read them in the order the title suggests, (first Boxers, then Saints) and then pass them along to everyone you know.” Arguments over religious freedoms and differences are still tearing us apart in 2020, so we need Yang’s GN masterpiece now more than ever.

2014: I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

I’ll Give You the Sun still feels fresh as it is one of the only YA novels I’ve ever read that perfectly encapsulates what it means to be an artist, live an artistic life and what it feels like when that artistic passion is lost. Plus the writing is just so, so lovely. In 2014 I wrote: I’ll Give You the Sun is the most delicious, word-juicy tome I have ever read. I underlined so many gorgeous sentences and passages that the pages of my copy are practically phosphorescent with highlighter. You’ll want to squeeze it like an orange in order to get every golden effervescent drop into your brain.” and I still stand by that!

2015: All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

All American Boys is the powerful collaboration between authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely that provides profound perspective around a situation that has become terribly familiar to anyone reading current headlines: the beating (or shooting) of an African American man by a white police officer. Looking at the situation from all angles and taking into account many nuances that the news often fails to address, Reynolds and Kiely created a novel that has given schools, families and students a way to discuss and process America’s complicated racial issues. While we’re not much closer to solving the problem, this book continues to help us try.

2016: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

“This beautiful, devastating novel may have been published for an adult audience, but the powerful, precise prose reads like a timeless classic that should be experienced by everyone over the age of 14. I have no doubt that this book will find it’s way onto hundreds of high school reading lists and college syllabi by the end of next year, alongside the writings of Toni MorrisonFlannery O’Connor and Shirley Jackson.” (2016) Plus, Pulitzer Prize Winner. So, ’nuff said.

2017: Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

I said in 2017, “This innovative thriller that starts at the end, and ends at the beginning, is exquisitely executed. Each meticulously plotted detail leads the reader deeper and deeper into a dizzying labyrinth of truth, lies and shocking consequences.” Fraud scored 5 starred reviews, and I think it’s hire-wire plotting and complicated antiheroine will continue to find friends, especially when recommended to mystery and thriller fans. Plus it’s homage to the classic The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith doesn’t hurt! 

2018: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevado

Take a look at all the gold on that cover–that tells you that The Poet X is going to be in print for a long, long time. It is hands down one of the best books I’ve ever read, and pretty much everyone else in the world agrees. This “arresting portrait of a young poet coming into her own” won every major (and minor) award out there, including the Prinz Award, the National Book Award and the Carnegie Medal. And I’m pretty proud of the fact that one of it’s many starred professional reviews (for The Horn Book) was mine!

2019: Frankly in Love by David Yoon

Dear Frankly in Love, while I can’t predict the future, I’m pretty sure that your subtle, funny, compassionate portrayal of  “inter-generational race relations, privilege, and the deeply uncomfortable and often untenable situation of being stuck between two cultures” is going to speak to readers for years to come. While you are in some ways an of-the-moment book, being published during a #weneeddiversebooks period of growing representation of authors of color, you also have all the hallmarks of a classic. You are both popular and literary, are serious but don’t take yourself too seriously, and packed with fully rounded characters that embody universal themes that anyone can relate to. In short, you are the perfect book to round out this decade, and to set the bar high for the next one!

2019 Top Five

Dear Teen Peeps,

Did the fall get away from me or what? No post since September lets you know this has been my busiest school year ever. Non-stop lessons for my middle school students on digital literacy, news bias and trolling, plus my own writing projects have left me with precious little time to post about my favorite books. But I do have them! Like in 2018, I haven’t read nearly as much YA as I wanted to/should have, so here is a leaner, meaner list of my top five best YA reads of 2019. 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 of the books I read this year. Also, since I am lucky enough to get paid to review in publications other than this lovely blog, I reviewed some of my beloveds elsewhere, like the New York Times and The Horn Book Magazine, a professional publication for librarians and other people who still dig kids and YA lit. Click on the title to go right to the review and happy New Year!

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

Frankly in Love by David Yoon

Lovely War by Julie Berry

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevado

2018 Top Five

Dear Teen Peeps,

Like in 2017, I haven’t read nearly as much YA as I wanted to/should have, due to a number of tedious, adult-ing reasons. So in the category of better late than never, here is a leaner, meaner list of my top five best YA reads of 2018. I mean, I could have dragged the list out to ten, but that would have taken away from the absolute awesomeness of these five, utterly top-notch books. 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 of the books I read this year. Also, since I am lucky enough to get paid to review in publications other than this lovely blog, I reviewed some of my favorites elsewhere. In fact, I reviewed THE POET X, which was my hands down, favorite book of 2018 in every way, shape and form, for The Horn Book Magazine, a professional publication for librarians and other people who still dig kids and YA lit. Click on the title to go right to the review and happy New Year!

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Penelope Bagieu

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl

Speak the Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson and Emily Carroll

2017 Top Five


Dear Teen Peeps,

Like last year, I haven’t read nearly as much YA as I wanted to/should have, due to number of tedious, adult-ing reasons. So here is a leaner, meaner list of my top five best YA reads of 2017. I mean, I could have dragged the list out to ten, but that would have taken away from the absolute awesomeness of these five, utterly top-notch books. 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 of the books I read this year.  Click on the title to go right to the review.


American Street by Ibi Zoboi

Berserker by Emmy Laybourne

Be True to Me by Adele Griffin

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

Vincent & Theo by Deborah Heiligman

 

2016 Top Five



Dear Teen Peeps,

In years past, I have faithfully posted a Top Ten Books list. But this year, I haven’t read nearly as much YA as I wanted to/should have, due to number of tedious reasons, the main one being that I was was supes busy working on many other adult-ish writing/reviewing projects. (Adulting. So boring, yet so necessary. You’ll see what I mean soon enough.)  So here is a leaner, meaner list of my top five best YA reads of 2016. I mean, I could have dragged the list out to ten, but that would have taken away from the absolute awesomeness of these five, utterly top-notch books. 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 of the books I read this year. (Also, The Underground Railroad was not published as a YA book, but is a book that in my opinion, all YAs should read) Click on the title to go right to the review.
 

Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina

 
The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry
 

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
 

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
 

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

2015 Top Ten


Happy New Year, teen peeps! Here is my top ten list, delivered like a baby 2016  to your email, Twitter or Pinterest right on January 1. 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 of the books I read this year. (While I love all my Top Ten books the same, I just might love DIME a tiny bit more:) Click on the title to go right to the review.

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Dime by E.R. Frank

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schmitz

Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt

The Tightrope Walkers by David Almond

 

2014 Top Ten



Happy holidays, teen peeps! In the better late than never category, here is my top ten list, delivered like a present to your email, Twitter or Pinterest right on December 25th. 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 of the books I read this year. (While I love all my Top Ten books the same, I just might love I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN a tiny bit more:) Click on the title to go right to the review.

Carroll, Emily. Through the Woods.

Fleming, Candace. The Family Romanov.

King, A.S. Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future.

Lockhart, E. We Were Liars.

Nelson, Jandy. I’ll Give You the Sun.

Nelson, Marilyn. How I Discovered Poetry.

Perkins, Stephanie. Isla and the Happily Ever After.

Tamaki, Jillian and Mariko Tamaki. This One Summer.

Whaley, John Corey. Noggin.

Woodson, Jacqueline. Brown Girl Dreaming.

2013 Top Ten


It’s Top Ten time, teen reading peeps! 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 of the books I read this year. (While I love all my Top Ten books the same, I just might love BOXERS & SAINTS a tiny bit more:) Click on the title to go right to the review.

Black, Holly. Doll Bones.

Dahlquist, Gordon. The Different Girl.

Finneyfrock, Karen. The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door.

Forman, Gayle. Just One Day.

Forman, Gayle. Just One Year.

Kninsley, Lucy. Relish.

Rowell, Rainbow. Eleanor & Park.

Sedgwick, Marcus. Midwinter Blood.

Sepetys, Ruta. Out of the Easy.

Yang, Gene Luen. Boxers & Saints.

2012 Top Ten



Once again, dear teen readers, it’s Top Ten time! 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 of the books I read this year. (While I love all my Top Ten books the same, there just might be a slugfest going on in my heart between THE DIVINERS & SAILOR TWAIN:) Click on the title to go right to the review.

Bray, Libba. The Diviners.

Coats, J. Anderson. The Wicked and the Just.

Green, John. The Fault in Our Stars.

Griffin, Adele. All You Never Wanted

King, A.S. Ask the Passengers.

Lanagan, Margo. The Brides of Rollrock Island.

Laybourne, Emmy. Monument 14.

McCormick, Patricia. Never Fall Down.

Siegel, Mark. Sailor Twain or The Mermaid in the Hudson.

Strayed, Cheryl. Wild.

2011 Top Ten



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 of the books I read this year. (While I love all my Top Ten books the same, I just might love WHERE THINGS COME BACK a tiny bit more:) Click on the title to go right to the review.

Bray, Libba. Beauty Queens.

Griffin, Adele. Tighter.

King, A.S. Everybody Sees the Ants.

Oppel, Kenneth. This Dark Endeavor.

Reeve, Philip. A Web of Air.

Scieszka, Casey & Steven Weinberg. To Timbuktu: Nine Countries, Two People, One True Story.

Stiefvater, Maggie. The Scorpio Races.

Taylor, Laini. Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

Whaley, John Corey. Where Things Come Back.

Yancey, Rick. The Monstrumologist: Isle of Blood.

2010 Top Ten


before i fall

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 of the books I read this year. (While I love all my Top Ten books the same, I just might love BEFORE I FALL a tiny bit more:) Click on the title to go right to the review.

Anderson, Laurie Halse. FORGE.

Bacigalupi, Paolo. SHIP BREAKER.

Black, Holly & Justine Larbalestier, eds. ZOMBIES VS UNICORNS.

Emond, Stephen. HAPPYFACE.

Green, John & David Levithan. WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON.

Hemphill, Stephanie. WICKED GIRLS.

Oliver, Lauren. BEFORE I FALL.

Oppel, Kenneth. HALF BROTHER.

Yancey, Rick. THE MONSTRUMOLOGIST: CURSE OF THE WENDIGO.

Yovanoff, Brenna. THE REPLACEMENT.

2009 Top Ten


robot
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 of the books I read this year. (While I love all my Top Ten books the same, I just might love HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT a tiny bit more:) Click on the title to go right to the review.

Bray, Libba. Going Bovine.

Cullen, Dave. Columbine.

Katcher, Brian. Almost Perfect

Kelly, Jacqueline. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate.

Rapp, Adam. Punkzilla.

Small, David. Stitches.

Smith, Sherri L. Flygirl.

Standiford, Natalie. How to Say Goodbye in Robot.

Stork, Francisco X. Marcelo in the Real World.

Yancy, Rick. The Monstrumologist.

Jen’s 2008 Top Ten Books

frankieThe 2008 Top Ten list has been posted! You can find it under “Jen’s Yearly Top Ten Lists” on the right hand sidebar, towards the bottom of the RR homepage. Please check it out and let me know what you think. Am I right on the money? Or have I missed/dissed some of your favorites? Please leave a comment and let me know what would have made YOUR top ten of 2008! (Even though I try to love all my Top Ten Books the same, if I had to pick my very favorite, it would have to be E. Lockhart’s tender, smart, funny history of the disreputable Frankie, shown at right.)

2008 Top Ten

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. Just click on the title to go right to the review.

Abel, Jessica. Life Sucks.

Anderson, M.T. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. II: The Kingdom on the Waves.

Barlow, Toby. Sharp Teeth.

Johnson, Maureen. Suite Scarlett.

Lanagan, Margo. Tender Morsels.

Lockhart, E. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.

Meldrum, Christina. Madapple.

Myracle, Lauren. Bliss.

Rebeck, Theresa. Three Girls and Their Brother.

Reeve, Philip. Here Lies Arthur.

Jen’s 2007 Top Ten Books

someday this painThe 2007 Top Ten list has been posted! You can find it under “Jen’s Yearly Top Ten Lists” on the right hand sidebar, towards the bottom of the RR homepage. Please check it out and let me know what you think. Am I right on the money? Or have I missed/dissed some of your favorites? Please leave a comment and let me know what would have made YOUR top ten of 2007! (Even though I try to love all my Top Ten Books the same, if I had to pick my very favorite, it would have to be Peter Cameron’s angsty YA debut, shown at right.)