Monday, January 02, 2017

Best of 2016: Teen favorites

Reviewed by Melliott,
teen librarian

Since I am one of the teen librarians at BPL, many of the books I read this year were necessarily teen fiction (we do have three teen book clubs!), but I managed to fit in a few others every month, from nearly every category of fiction, so I'm giving myself license to choose a few of those categories to blog about. Here, first, though, are some favorites from the teen section:

For middle-schoolers (and everyone else):   

The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict,
by Trenton Lee Stewart

Nine-year-old Nicholas Benedict is a physically frail orphan with narcolepsy. Could life get any worse? Well, yes. He's being sent to a new orphanage, where he will have to negotiate his tendency to fall asleep at the most inconvenient times with a whole new cast of characters, including some vicious bullies; he will have to overcome his troubled legacy with the suspicious (and in some cases also not very nice) adults who are newly in charge of his care; and he will be challenged to solve a mystery that someone else very much wants to solve first. The one and only thing in Nicholas's favor is that he is a genius. But that will probably be enough...  

This was such a well done, engaging, literary book, a newish prequel to the series of books that begins with The Mysterious Benedict Society. When our 6+7 Book Club picked it to read, I was worried that it wouldn't be mature enough for them, given that the protagonist is nine years old (the "wisdom" in reading for children and teens is that most kids like to read about people who are at least a year or two older than they are), but given the vocabulary, the descriptions, the scene-setting and world-building, and the wonderful dialogue, I think this book would appeal to almost anyone who likes this sort of thing.

Also, there's just something about the boarding school/orphanage trope that is immediately engaging, isn't there?

I sort of hate how much I loved this book, because now I'm going to have to read all the others. And while that is a delightful prospect, it's also a daunting one, given that there are three of them, each of which is 400+ pages, and I have many other things in life to do besides read! Perhaps as a summer-time reward?

For high school age teens (and maybe some appreciative others):

Highly Illogical Behavior,
by John Corey Whaley   

While I greatly enjoyed his other books--Where Things Come Back, his debut novel for which he won the prestigious Michael L. Printz Award, and Noggin, his book about the annoying Travis Coates, whose head gets transplanted onto a different body--I think this one is my favorite book from Corey Whaley.

Solomon, 16, has suffered from acute anxiety all his life. One day in middle school, he had a major meltdown that he was able to fix only by climbing into the school fountain and lying down in the water, and he hasn't been seen or heard from since. Solomon has decided that agoraphobia is the perfect solution to all his problems--he simply won't leave his house ever again. It's now been three years and counting.

Lisa, desperate to get out of her small town in Southern California's Inland Empire, has decided that Solomon is the answer. She is applying for a full scholarship at the college with the second-best psychology program (let's be realistic) in the country, and she figures that if she can "fix" Solomon, she's guaranteed to get in. So she, along with her charming boyfriend Clark (roped in mostly against his will, but amiable enough to go along), makes Sol her summer project. But she can't just come out and say "Hi, I'm here to fix you," she has to be his friend in order to gain his confidence. She doesn't stop to think what difficulties this may present later. Big mistake.

I loved this book. The characters are so individual and so beguiling, with beautifully written relationships, and the handling of Solomon's anxiety disorder is fascinating. I'm definitely suggesting this for book club as soon as it comes out in paperback...but the rest of you, check it out now!

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