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February 1, 2016 BOOKLIST
Find more Top 10 First Novels for Youth
The settings and situations range across time and geography in these stand-out debut novels, all reviewed in Booklist during the past year, but readers will find lots of similarities, too: young characters who face their parents’ failings and unusually strong voices from writers to watch.
All the Broken Pieces. By Ann Burg. 2009. Scholastic, $16.99 (9780545080927). Gr. 6–10.
Adopted by a loving American family after being airlifted from Vietnam at the end of the war, Matt Pin, 12, describes in haunting free verse what he left behind, even as he bonds with his new little brother and becomes a star on the school baseball team.
Back Home. By Julia Keller. 2009. Egmont, $15.99 (9781606840054). Gr. 6–9.
Drawing from her series of articles about traumatic brain injuries, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Keller captures the complex heartbreak of living with a disabled loved one in this debut about a 13-year-old girl whose father sustains severe wounds in Iraq.
The Carbon Diaries 2015. By Saci Lloyd. 2009. Holiday, $17.95 (9780823421909). Gr. 9–12.
In her pitch-perfect, disaffected voice filled with original slang, Laura, a 16-year-old London punk rocker, narrates this cautionary tale, set in the very near future, about global warming’s devastating possibilities.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. By Jacqueline Kelly. 2009. Holt, $16.95 (9780805088410). Gr. 4–7.
In rural Texas at the turn of the last century, 12-year-old Callie, a passionate observer of nature, discovers both a growing desire to be a scientist and the societal roles that challenge her ambitions. A wry, engaging debut.
Prophecy of the Sisters. By Michelle Zink. 2009. Little, Brown, $17.99 (9780316027427). Gr. 7–10.
Newcomer Zink shows seasoned skill in this atmospheric, suspenseful fantasy, set in early-nineteenth-century upstate New York, about a prophecy that pits twin sisters against each other in a battle over the fate of lost souls.
The Rock and the River. By Kekla Magoon. 2009. Aladdin, $15.99 (9781416975823). Gr. 6–10.
Set in Chicago during 1968, this powerful debut deftly folds politics into a family drama about 14-year-old Sam, who is torn between his rebellious older brother, a Black Panther, and their pacifist father, a civil rights leader.
Rosie and Skate. By Beth Ann Bauman. 2009. Random/Wendy Lamb, $15.99 (9780385737357). Gr. 9–12.
In vivid, alternating voices, two very different teen sisters describe their summer spent on the Jersey shore after their father is jailed for petty theft.
The Vast Fields of Ordinary. By Nick Burd. 2009. Dial, $16.99 (9780803733404). Gr. 9–12.
Burd expands the coming-out-while-coming-of-age story in this memorable debut about a gay teen who faces the disintegration of his parents’ marriage as he searches for his own satisfying, true romance.
Why I Fight. By J. Adams Oaks. 2009. Atheneum, $16.99 (9781416911777). Gr. 8–12.
Unusually tall and strong for a 12-year-old, Wyatt, the unforgettable protagonist in Oaks’ poignant novel, is pushed into bare-knuckle fighting by his uncle as the two crisscross the country.
The Year the Swallows Came Early. By Kathryn Fitzmaurice. 2009. HarperCollins, $16.99 (9780061624971). Gr. 4–6.
Ten-year-old Groovy is devastated after her father steals her cooking-school tuition fund and her mother turns him in, but the forgiveness she discovers forms the heart of this quiet, emotionally attuned story.
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