2004 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.

Braff, Joshua. The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green. (9-12th grade, adult)
13 year old Jacob Green tries to establish his identity within his seriously dysfunctional suburban Jewish family during the late 70’s/early 80’s.

Choldenko, Gennifer. Al Capone Does My Shirts. (6-8th)
12 year old Moose Flanagan is first terrified and then intrigued when his dad accepts a prison guard position at the infamous Alcatraz Island in 1935.

Curtis, Christopher Paul. Bucking the Sarge. (8-12th)
15 year old Luther Farrell turns the tables on his scam artist mother in this engaging story of a young man determined not to follow in the footsteps of his morally bankrupt parent.

Marchetta, Melina. Saving Francesca. (8-12th)
High school junior Francesca Spinelli is reluctant to admit how much she loves and needs her vivacious mother Mia until Mia suffers a nervous breakdown and refuses to leave her bed.

Meyer, L.A. Curse of the Blue Tattoo: being an account of the misadventures of Jacky Faber, midshipman and fine lady. (6-12th) Having blown her “Grand Deception,” Jacky Faber, former ship’s “boy,” has been unceremoniously dropped off in Boston to learn the art of becoming a fine lady. Sequel to Bloody Jack.

Nelson, Blake. Rock Star, Superstar. (8-12th)
Pete learns what it takes to make it in a garage band, while stumbling through his first real romantic relationship with Margaret.

Oppel, Kenneth. Airborn. (5-10th)
Young Matt Cruse defends his beloved airship against sky pirates and wild flying cats, while falling for the lovely Kate.

Pratchett, Terry. A Hat Full of Sky. (5-10th)
Tiffany Aching battles the evil Hiver, with the help of other witches and her trusty hat. Sequel to The Wee Free Men.

Provoost, Anne. In the Shadow of the Ark. (8-12th)
Re Jana and her family have doubts that the mighty flood Noach is predicting will really come.

Shepard, Jim. Project X. (9-12th, adult)
8th graders Edwin and Flake concoct a fatal plan to finally end the bullying at their school.

2003 Top Ten

Please note that there has been absolutely no attempt to balance this list by genre, gender, or age designation. These are just my from-the-gut favorites.

Donnelly, Jennifer. A Northern Light (7-12th)
In turn-of-the-century upstate New York, in the midst of a murder investigation, a young woman finds that she must make a choice between becoming a writer or beginning a family.

Frank. E.R.. Friction (8th+)
Alex tries to decide if the sordid tales told to her about her beloved teacher by a sophisticated new classmate, are true.

Jenkins, A.M.. Out of Order (8-12th)
High school sophomore Colt Trammel learns more about himself than he ever wanted to know as he negotiates relationships with three difficult women, one them his long-time girlfriend, who all have a valuable lesson to teach him.

Maynard, Joyce. The Usual Rules (8th+)
13 year old Wendy attempts to come to terms with her mother’s death on September 11, 2001, by moving to California to live with her biological father, whom she barely knows.

Parker, Jeff. The Interman (6-12th)
Van Meach, a globally built genetic “super spy” finds himself under attack when the governments that made him decide that it is too dangerous to allow him to live.

Reeve, Philip. Mortal Engines (7-12th)
In a frightening future where cities move on tracks like tanks and large towns “devour” small suburbs whole, third class history apprentice Tom and scarred orphan Hester try to unravel the mystery of the destructive weapon that is hidden in London’s core.

Rapp, Adam. 33 Snowfish (9-12th)
Three troubled teenagers with violent pasts are on the run from the law and from themselves.

Stroud, Jonathan. Bartimaeus Trilogy Book One: The Amulet of Samarkand (6-12th)
The wickedly funny and sage genie Bartimeaus is humiliated to be bound in service to scrawny, but powerful twelve year old magician-in-training Nathaniel.

Thompson, Craig. Blankets (9-12th)
The angst-ridden tale of one teen’s journey through the pitfalls of adolescence, which include his growing disillusionment with his religion and a passionate first love affair.

Vance, Susanna. Deep (8-12th)
13 year old Birdie Sidwell and 17 year old Morgan Bera become unlikely allies when they find themselves confronting a ruthless modern pirate.

2002 Top Ten (Actually Eleven)

Note that there has been absolutely no attempt to balance this list by genre, gender, or age designation. Just my from-the-heart, gut-reaction favorites.

Anderson, M.T.. Feed (gr. 8-12)
Chronicles the lives of teens in a warped future where corporations rule culture, and most newborn children are implanted with a “feed,” or mini-computer in their heads.

Barker, Clive. Abarat (gr. 7-12)
Teenaged Candy Quakenbush finds herself spirited away to the mystical land of Abarat, where each hour of the day is a different island, and the Lord of Midnight stalks her.

Frank, E.R.. America (gr. 9-12)
Troubled foster child America reveals the sad confusion of his short life to the sympathetic Dr. B., the one adult who might finally be able to help him.

Frank, Hillary. Better Than Running at Night (gr. 9-12)
Ellie Yelinsky’s freshman year at art school turns out to be an unexpectedly strange experience, as Ellie dances with the Devil and learns that painting is more about craft than angst.

Freymann-Weyr, Garrett. My Heartbeat (gr. 8-12)
Their three-way friendship is forever altered when 14 year old Ellen questions whether her older brother and his best friend are more than just locker buddies.

Gaiman, Neil. Coraline (gr. 5-9)
Young Coraline gets more than she bargained for when she discovers a secret passageway in her house that leads right back to her house…only different.

Gantos, Jack. Hole in My Life (gr. 8-10)
The infectiously funny author of the Joey Pigza books switches gears with this serious memoir about his mixed-up youth, and how the time he spent in prison as a young man influenced him as a writer.

Lawrence, Iain. The Lightkeeper’s Daughter (gr. 9-12)
A teenage mother tries to reconcile with her lighthouse-keeping parents, despite feeling that it was their remote and lonely lifestyle that led to her brother’s death.

Powell, Randy. Three Clams and an Oyster (gr. 9-12)
Three members of a flag football team search for a fourth teammate over a weekend in which they confront their attitudes about friendship, girls and their shared past.

Sebold, Alice. The Lovely Bones (gr. 9-12)
Susie Salmon narrates the story of her brutal murder and glowing afterlife as she watches her family and friends try to cope with the gaping hole her death has left in their lives.

Slade, Arthur. Tribes (gr. 8-12)
High school senior Percy Montmount copes with his anthropologist father’s death by keeping a detailed record of the strange and elusive tribe known as Grade Twelve, of which he is a lonely outsider.