New Year, Same old Reading Rants

Hi friends,

As you may have noticed, there hasn’t been all that much activity on this blog since my burst of energy last October. And that’s because I had many life changes that upended, well everything! My husband and I moved, I started a new job as a high school librarian (long time readers will know I was a middle school librarian for most of my career) and there have also been some medical issues in my family. Plus, you know, COVID! So my beloved blog fell down on my list of priorities, and while I read just as many books as ever, I didn’t always find the time to write about them all. I will go ahead and post my top five titles for 2021, but they may not have appeared on this page, or they may have been reviewed elsewhere. I appreciate the patience of everyone who still reads and enjoys Reading Rants, and I hope to be more productive for you in 2022! Peace and love to all as we head into this hopeful new year.

Peaceful Cliparts #205492

New York Times YA Debuts

Dear Teen Peeps, some of you may have noticed that I haven’t posted to RR AT ALL since, like, September. That’s because of a little thing called Hybrid Teaching in the Time of COVID (which I know you all know about, since you are on the other side of the screen) AND because I was working on this sick short list of outstanding YA debut novels. These first time authors have really brought it with these unique tales of identity, love, fame and heartbreak. Take a look and see what you think–it’s not too late to add these to your holiday wish lists!

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 Morrison, Flannery 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!

New York Times YA Crossover Fantasy

Dear Teen Peeps,

Some of you may have noticed that I did not post to RR AT ALL the whole month of January. No, it wasn’t because I was hibernating or binging Russian Doll while the slush piled up and the temperatures flip-flopped. It was because I was working on this tidy round up of some of the latest YA fantasy for the New York Times. Bickering gods, assassin nuns, passionate freedom fighters and aristocratic spies await within the pages of these epic alternate histories! We call it “crossover” because these books have appeal for both teen AND adult reader. So take a peek at the reviews and let me know–do you think these titles fit the bill? All four fantastical tales can be snatched up NOW at your local library or bookstore.

New York Times YA Roundup

Dear Teen peeps,

Some of you may have noticed that I did not post to RR AT ALL the whole month of February. No, it wasn’t because I was hibernating or binging Netflix shows while the snow flew and the temperatures dropped. It was because I was working on this super-sized round up of some of the latest YA books being written by women of color for the New York Times! Atia Abawi, Tomi Adeyemi, Dhonielle Clayton, Mary H.K. Choi and Sara Saedi have penned vibrant, diverse, thought provoking stories with something for every reader. Here you will find fighters, gods, immigrants, lovers, refugees, royalty, survivors and warriors, in settings both fantastical and utterly realistic, from backgrounds both global and right in your backyard. So take a look and then snag these not-to-missed titles from your library or bookstore soon!

Not Just Your Parents’ Summer Reading!

Dear teen peeps, I was recently given the opportunity to review some fabulous up and coming YA fiction titles for the New York Times that are considered “crossover” books–that is, books that both you AND the adults in your life might enjoy reading. The print review appeared in the May 31 issue of the NYT Sunday Book review, but you can read it online here. Any of these titles would make outstanding summer reading choices and maybe even give you and your parents something to talk about while sunning at the beach or grilling the ‘dogs. Want more suggestions for laid back vacation prose? Then check out the entire 2015 NYT super-sized Summer Reading Book Review!

Feeling All The Feels IF I STAY Movie/Book Post

The highly anticipated movie version of Gayle Forman’s heartbreaking novel IF I STAY opened this weekend and yours truly was there to feel all the feels and cry all the tears. I knew what to expect. I read and reviewed this tragically romantic tome back in 2008 and had no illusions about how much the movie was going to break my heart. But what I didn’t anticipate was just how hard I was going to crush on actor Jamie Blackely who played Adam. Oh my stars, talk about feeling all the feels–Jamie brought Gayle’s emotionally wounded rocker to nuanced and stunningly handsome life on the big screen in a way that felt entirely authentic. I’m still swooning over the way the tears gathered in his big brown eyes. That’s not to say that everyone else, including the talented Chloe Grace Moretz, aren’t also amazing, it’s just that I was distracted. So if you’re ready to swoon, weep, and swoon again, waste no time in securing a ticket to this sorrow-and-hope-filled film. Here are some additional IF I STAY vids & links to whip your tear ducts into shape.

“In a Balm of Space and Time, Healing” An NYT article where Gayle shares some of the real life inspirations for IF I STAY.

The NYT movie review of IF I STAY. review of IF I STAY.

TFiOS Super-Sized, Movie/Book Special DFTBA Post

It’s finally here! The long-awaited movie version of John Green’s bittersweet novel about life, love and cancer comes out this week–June 6 to be exact. Just like all the rest of you Nerdfighters and raving fans, my butt will be in the stadium seat of the closest theater that is playing TFiOS this weekend. I have been a John Green fan since WAAAAAYYY back and am thrilled to see some of his whip smart teen characters come to life on the big screen. To keep your excitement levels high (like you even need any help with that) check out the links below to all things John Green and TFiOS related.

“The Teen Whisperer” by Margaret Talbot, The New Yorker

“Intro to Nerdfighters 101: A John Green Primer” by Anna Fitzpatrick, Rolling Stone

“Reviving the Coming-of-Age Movie: The Screenwriting Team Behind ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ by Brooks Barnes, NYTimes

“The Fault in Our Stars by the Numbers: Just How Huge is this Movie Going to Be?” by Emily Yahr, Washington Post

‘The Fault in Our Stars’: John Green reveals the novel’s ‘epically terrible’ original ending” by Molly Driscoll, Christian Science Monitor

April Publishingpalooza 2014

Holy moly, is there anything more difficult than waiting for a new book to come out?! I don’t think so. So for those of you who hate to wait as much as I do, (especially for THIS ONE TO THE RIGHT) here are some good sites for cyber-stalking your favorite up and coming titles.

YALit: Young Adult Book Release Dates

2014 YA Fiction Preview from BookRiot

Most Anticipated Books of 2014 from Forever Young Adult

Coming Soon from Teenreads

10 YA Releases We Can’t Wait to Read in 2014 by Barnes & Noble

Taking a Long Winter’s Nap


Dear teen reading peeps,

Reading Rants will be giving up Marley’s ghost until January 15th so that I can enjoy the holidaze and work on some other pressing writing projects. Until then, enjoy my 2013 Top Ten list and check out some of these other great end of year booklists, which are in absolutely no particular order.



Amazon’s Best Teen and Young Adult Books of 2013

Goodreads Best Young Adult Fiction of 2013

Bookish Best Young Adult Books of 2013

PopCrush 10 Best Young Adult Books of 2013

Children’s Book Review Best Young Adult Novels of 2013

Novel Novice’s Best YA Books of 2013

Pink Me’s 16 Memorable Reads of 2013 (many of which are YA)

Nominate your favorite books of 2013 over at

Taking a Spring Break

off air

Dear Teen Peeps,

Reading Rants will be off the air for the month of May while I keep chipping away at my super sekrit writing project and work on some other big review assignments. When we return, I hope to have some fabulous suggestions of hot summer reads that will set your beach bags and e-readers on FIRE. (Only in the metaphorical sense. No one wants bag smelling of scorched canvas or a melted Kindle.) And maybe, just maybe a redesigned RR logo as well. Until then, check out these other great writing sites where you can share what you’re creating and let me know what fantastic titles you’re reading right now or looking forward to reading this summer in the comments. I’m always looking for the next good book, please feel free to steer me in the right direction!







April 2013 Publishingpalooza: Eleanor & Park

Dear teen peeps,

Just a reminder that the absolutely stunning Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell that I reviewed waaaay back in October of 2012 is NOW AVAILABLE and you should run, not walk to your nearest library, bookstore or e-reader and secure a copy ASAP. I am absolutely gaga (and I don’t mean Lady) over this book and I’m not the only one. While you’re standing in line waiting to check out or buy your copy, you can take a gander at all the other folks (like John Green) who are as nuts about this terrific contemporary teen relationship novel as I am.

Two Against the World: Eleanor & Park by John Green for the New York Times

Eleanor & Park in Stacked

Eleanor & Park in Reading Books Like a Boss

Interview with Rainbow Rowell about Eleanor & Park at Teen Lit Rocks

Book trailer for Eleanor & Park by the Arlington Public Library Teen Librarians

Hurricane Sandy Relief/NaNoWriMo

Greetings, teen peeps!

Here in waterlogged NYC, we are pumping, dumping and trying to towel off after Hurricane Sandy. I hope all my East Coast readers are warm, dry and with power. While my family was extremely lucky in that we weathered the storm unscathed, my heart goes out to those who lost loved ones or suffered damage to their homes or property. To find out more about how you can help those who were hit hard by Sandy, check out these websites:

The American Red Cross
Hurricane Sandy: How Your Family Can Help
GenerationON: Hurricane Sandy
Hurricane Sandy: How To Help and What You Need to Know (Huffington Post)

In other not-so-big-news, Reading Rants will be taking a break during the month of November so that I can give some much needed attention to a big writing project I’ve been trying to finish since the summer. And speaking of big writing projects, did you know that November is National Novel Writing Month? Maybe you have a long form story inside that you’re just dying to get on the page. Well, here’s your chance! For more information on how to kick start your novel, visit these websites for encouragement and inspiration:

NaNoWriMo Young Writer’s Program
National Novel Writing Month
15 Tips to Keep You Motivated During NaNoWriMo
Get Started on NaNoWriMo (Lawrence Public Library)

Finally, don’t forget to check back with me in December, where I will post some reviews of hot titles to look forward to in 2013 and my 2012 Top Ten Books List. Hang tight, stay safe and happy reading & writing until then, friends.

September 2012 Publishingpalooza

Dear teen peeps,

I haven’t done this before, but since I review many titles before they come out, sometimes I’m afraid that you will forget about them by the time they are actually published. So I just wanted to take a moment to remind you of two books that I reviewed waaaay back in February and May 2012 that I already know are going to be among my Top Ten of the year:The Brides of Rollrock Island by  Margo Lanagan and The Diviners by Libba Bray. Both books are available NOW and you should get them from your school or public library POST HASTE. (Tell them Reading Rants sent ya, and maybe, JUST maybe they’ll bump your name up on the hold list:) I promise that if you like magic, mayhem, ouiji boards or selkies (and seriously, who doesn’t love selkies for goodness sakes?), you will not want to miss these two lovelies. I can’t say enough grandiose good things about them, so I’ll stop there and only ask this: why are you still staring at this screen? Go forth, find these terrifyingly terrific tomes and GET LOST IN A GREAT BOOK!

Ten Most Underappreciated Teen Books of 2000-2009

Oh, I love lists! I love making my end of year book lists, and I love reading everyone else’s! But when a decade comes to a close, you have the opportunity of a lifetime to make an extra-special, super-significant (if only to me:) BIG book list. So I decided to compile a list of the 10 most under-the-radar, deserving-of-more-love-than-they-got YA books of the decade, IMHO.  (And if any of these look familiar, it’s because they were each plucked from the RR Top Ten list of their respective year.) I do hope this inspires you to go back and dig these lovelies up, and also to think about what books would end up not just on your end of year list, but on your fav books of the DECADE. Or even OF ALL TIME. (It’s just fun giving your list a name in ALL CAPS. That means it’s even MORE AWESOME:)

2000: Eight Seconds by Jean Ferris

2001: Every Time a Rainbow Diesby Rita Williams-Garcia

2002: Tribes by Arthur Slade

2003: Deep by Susanna Vance

2004: Rockstar, Superstar by Blake Nelson

2005: Lovesickby Jake Coburn

2006: The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs by Jack Gantos

2007: Bloodsong by Melvin Burgess

2008: Life Sucks by Jessica Abel

2009: Punkzilla by Adam Rapp