Our Favorite Books of All Time

In celebration of the 200th post on RightBook, Nicole and Jen are thrilled to present something you  might have wondered about – and that we are often asked about – our personal favorite teen books ever. Here are two lists (because we can’t stop at five picks each!) that are not ranked, but sort of grouped into our “all-time, can’t live without favorites” and our “but we really, really love these ones too!” lists. Enjoy, and feel free to share your own favorites in the comments.

*Please note: Some books may have mature themes and content*

 Nicole and Jen’s Top Ten

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Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd (2008) – Fergus must decide whether to leave Northern Ireland for medical school in Scotland, or stay to support his family while his brother is imprisoned and on hunger strike. The history of the IRA is not familiar to many in the US, but this tale brings ‘The Troubles’ to vivid, terrible life. Ms. Dowd only published a few books before her death in 2007. Each is, in their own way, pitch-perfect. This one, mysterious and romantic, is the very best. – Nicole

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2006) – It took a lot of prodding from other librarians before I picked this up but it remains an indispensable part of my reading history. Narrated by Death, it’s the story of an orphan who learns how to be a good person while the world is falling apart around her in WWII-era Germany. This story radiates with life and joy. Don’t wait as long as I did to read it! – Nicole

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (2012) This is my ‘trapped on a deserted island and can only bring one book’ book. It’s historical fiction at its very best, taking a war we all learned about, weaving in historical tidbits we never knew, and gifting us with characters that define courage, loyalty, and true friendship. – Jen

Graceling by Kristin Cashore (2008) – This was released around the same time as The Hunger Games. While many would say that series feature an iconic female heroine, I would like to introduce you to Katsa. In this start to an essential fantasy series, Ms. Cashore has created an intricate world where people with extraordinary abilities must decide whether to use their talents for good or for evil. Always hurling its characters forward into the unknown, many recent young adult series owe a debt here. – Nicole

Harry Potter and Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (1998) – You may debate whether the first few in this series are Children’s or Young Adult, but there can be no debating the fact that this series changed the landscape for fantasy books and how the world views Young Adult literature. – Jen

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (2008) – Yes, there was dystopian YA before Hunger Games. And, Lois Lowry’s The Giver and Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series deserve huge praise for paving the way, but The Hunger Games is really the book that launched this widely popular genre. – Jen

Paper Towns by John Green (2008) – Oh, this book…After a night of pranks and petty crime, Margo disappears and Q is convinced that she wants him to find her. As sharply witty as all of Mr. Green’s books, this is about what it means to be ‘real,’ to live and love authentically. I read this cover to cover in one night and actually gasped out loud when I turned the last page and saw the words rushing to the end. – Nicole

The Princess Bride by William Goldman (1973) – “Hello, My name is Inigo Montoya; you killed my father; prepare to die.” Often quoted and much loved this 1973 tale was presented as an abridgment to The Princess Bride by S. Morgenstern, a book that doesn’t actually exist. With that as a starting point, how can you not love a story that’s a comedy, an adventure, a fantasy, a romance, and a fairy tale all in one? – Jen

Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas (1996) – Every loser has a story. When we meet Steve, living in California, he is a stoner burnout in jeopardy of failing out of school. This is the story of who he was before, when he lived in Texas – smart, earnest, and deeply in love. I return to this book every few years and I am always profoundly moved by it. The cover makes sense once you finish it, I promise!  – Nicole

Unwind by Neal Shusterman (2007) – Abortion, adoption, euthanasia, organ donation taken to the extreme…oh Neil Shusterman thank you for not underestimating the intelligence of the young adult population. Thank you for understanding that these are issues teens are ready to examine, understand, and debate. And, thank you for conceiving of this thought-provoking and utterly unique sci-fi thriller – Jen

 

More Favorites (we can’t help it!)

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Ask the Passengers by A.S. King (2012) – A girl sends her love into the sky because she feels she has no use for it on the ground where she lives. This book is about finding your truth and fighting for it. I can’t think of another author I am as excited to watch in the coming years as Ms. King. – Nicole

Graceling by Kristin Cashore (2008) – Hands-down the best YA female protagonist in fantasy fiction. To even try to describe her awesomeness would be a mistake because one could never do her character justice. You simply must experience the book first hand, she’s just that great. – Jen (Nicole agrees…see above)

Inexcusable by Chris Lynch – I’m a fool for unreliable narrators, and rarely do you find one as fearsome as Keir. Of course, he’d tell you he’s a good guy. This should be required reading, paired with another, much more famous book I’ve selected for this list. – Nicole

Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer (2006) – This is one of those rare books that never fails you when you recommend it to someone. The draw of it is that it takes a major worldwide catastrophic event and explores it from the point of view of one teen girl and her family. She’s not trying to save the world, but rather just survive and maintain a shred of hope. It’s a sci-fi book with a dose of reality that makes the reader wonder what he/she would do in this situation.  – Jen

The Perks of Being Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (1999) It’s been on the top 10 challenged books of the 21st century five times, but it’s also required reading in many high schools. There’s nothing like a controversial, yet extremely well-written book. It’s a book for anyone who has every felt like they just don’t fit in, which is probably just about everyone. – Jen

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (2010) – It seems like there are dystopian adventure stories being written for young people left and right these days. This environmentally-themed adventure is the best. That’s all. – Nicole

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (1999) – Before I knew I was going to be a Teen Librarian I worked as a bookseller and stumbled upon this book. The story of a young girl who chooses to mute herself rather than reveal her trauma, this book is simply essential, now more than ever. – Nicole

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (2005) – This was one of the first assigned readings I had in my YA lit class when I was getting my library science degree. I’d never read anything quite like Uglies. The combination of original storytelling, action, and interesting characters drew me into the YA section and I have never left. Westerfeld is a prime example of the fact that some of the most inventive storytelling is now being found in the YA section. – Jen

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley (2011) – The book I hand to adults who question the literary merit of young adult fiction. I wish I could read it again for the first time, the story was so powerful and its characters so indelibly real. I might have whooped aloud in my office when it won the Printz. – Nicole

OKAY! We just thought of some more favorites, looking at past things we’ve blogged, books we can’t bear to not see on this list, but we have to stop somewhere (for now!) Everything we’ve posted over the past several years is something we really liked so take a look. And always feel free to come see us at the Main or Woods Branch and we’ll be happy to share even more of our all-time books with you.

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LIE

Title:  LIE

Author: Caroline Bock

Summary: Jimmy saved Skylar’s life. Or at least, that what she would say. After her mother died and her dad drifted away to work in the city, it was handsome and funny Jimmy, the new boy in town, who drew her back into the world. But now Skylar is in an impossible position. You see, the girls don’t tag along when the boys go out ‘beaner hopping’ on Friday nights, jumping Latinos to scare them away from town. Usually it’s nothing serious, just some stupid fun. But when Skylar’s boyfriend Jimmy takes it too far and picks up a baseball bat, a Salvadoran man is left dead on the street and a small town on Long Island spirals into disbelief. And as the police begin to ask questions, the words of her best friend echo in Skylar’s ear: “Everybody knows. Nobody’s talking.” If Skylar shares what she knows about what really happened, her whole world will fall apart.

As this breathtaking debut novel alternates points of view between Skylar, her friends, her father, and other members of the community, including the victim’s younger brother, a clearer picture begins to emerge of what exactly happened that night but the question remains: How could such smart kids participate in such a senseless, violent acts. This is realistic fiction at it’s finest, a gripping page-turner with gut-wrenching twists and turns that will leave you stunned.

Who will like this book?: Readers who like intense stories that don’t shy away from difficult topics. People who like books that have multiple characters telling the story.

If you like this, read this: Shine by Lauren Myracle. Response by Paul Volponi.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

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Title: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Author: Benjamin Alire Saenz

Summary: Aristotle and Dante meet for the first time at a public pool in El Paso, where Dante offers to teach Ari how to swim. Over the long summer of 1987, the two boys, both loners, become best friends. Dante is confident and free-spirited. Ari, with an older brother in jail and a father emotionally scarred by his time in Vietnam, is more guarded and unsure of his place in the world. Over the course of the next year and a half, the extraordinary relationship between Ari and Dante is tested, first by an accident, then by a separation, and finally by a revelation: Ari is into guys.

After they reunite for another summer, Ari must come to terms with how he has changed in the past year, the secrets about his family’s history and his own uncertainty about his feelings for his best friend. This is a lovely story about what it means to be a friend and what it means to become a man. Ari and Dante will live on in your heart long after you’ve finished turning the pages of this book.

Who will like this book?: Readers who like beautiful, poetic language. Romance fans. Teens who are questioning their place in the world.

If you like this, try this: Ask the Passengers by A.S. King.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Zom-B

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Title: Zom-B

Author: Darren Shan

Summary: It begins in a remote village in Ireland.   Footage of vicious zombie attacks and brutal military responses goes viral.  B’s London-based gang of friends and family see the clips, but everyone seems to think it is some kind of hoax.  Some think it is a promo for an upcoming film, others theorize that it is a terrorist plot, or even the ultimate practical joke.  Life goes on for everyone in the rest of the world.

And, life for B means dealing with an abusive and racist father, protecting a battered mother, hanging tough in front of friends, and going to school.   Potential zombies aside, the biggest issue in B’s life is dealing with the urge to go against Dad’s bigotry.  Sometimes it is just easier to agree with him because an unhappy Dad is a violent one.  Unfortunately, it’s becoming evident that  B’s decision to just pretend to go along with Dad’s views is beginning to influence how B behaves towards kids from other racial backgrounds.  Even at school, B is receiving mixed messages about tolerance and B’s finding it hard to separate right from wrong.

However, that internal struggle is momentarily sidelined the day B’s school is attacked by zombies.  The attack is sudden, and B and a group of diverse students  must get over their shock and disbelief immediately if they are to escape the carnage.

Who will like this book?:  This incredibly fast-paced book is great for fans of action and, of course, zombies.  There are some graphic novel-type illustrations that further enhance Darren Shan’s creepy vision of the zombie apocalypse.   This addictive first of a proposed 12 book series already has the next three books in print and subsequent ones are scheduled to be released approximately three months apart.

If you like this, try this:  Of course continue on with the series!  But while you wait, get hooked on Jonathan Maberry’s Rot and Ruin series, Robert Kirkman’s graphic novel series The Walking Dead, and Charlie Higson’s The Dead.

Recommended by: Jen, Fairfield Woods Branch Teen Librarian

The Name of the Wind

Title: The Name of the Wind

Author:  Patrick Rothfuss

Summary: In the quiet village of Newarre, the townspeople sense that darkness and danger are gathering. One night, a traveling scribe known as Chronicler is saved from wicked, spider-creatures called Scrael by a local innkeeper named Kote. The scribe soon realizes that this humble man is really the legendary hero Kvothe, made famous in story and song. After much prodding from Chronicler, Kvothe agrees to tell his story and reveal the reasons why he has retreated from the world that seems to need heroes more than ever.

The Name of the Wind is the first book in a planned triology called the Kingkiller Chronicles. In these pages, we learn of Kvothe’s early years as a traveling performer and musician with his family. When his father angers the Chandrian, an ancient, evil force, it brings about an unspeakable tragedy that sets young Kvothe on his life’s mission: revenge. He enrolls at the University to learn, among other things, ‘sympathy,’ a magical skill that allows users to manipulate objects and bend them to their will. Kvothe  makes friends and enemies and even has a sweetly shy romance along the way, but his focus always remains on his goal of discovering how to find and defeat the Chandrian.

Who will like this book?: This book is a great choice for fantasy readers who have read ‘everythingor are looking for another series to begin. Mature readers who like stories set in magical schools and were fans of Harry Potter or Percy Jackson when they were younger.

If you like this, read this: The sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear, which continues Kvothe’s story. The Magicians by Lev Grossman.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Our Favorites – 2012

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We read…a lot. So we know the good stuff. Here are the best books that we read in  2012, and there’s something for everyone. Looking for more? Just ask us!

And be sure to add your own favorites in the comments below…

*Please note: Some books may contain mature language or content*

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony

Cinder by Melissa Mayer

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

Lies, Knives and Girls in Red Dresses by Ron Koertge

A Million Suns by Beth Revis

Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun by Joshua Glenn

Unwholly by Neal Shusterman

The Warrior’s Heart by Eric Greitens

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wonder

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Title: Wonder

Author: R.J. Palacio

Summary: August Pullman loves Star Wars, his family and his dog Daisy. He is about to start a new school – his first one, really, since he’s been homeschooled. And while that is stressful for just about anybody, it will be even harder for Auggie. He was born with a genetic anomaly that has warped and twisted the features of his face. He has spent his life watching people stare, point, and even get frightened by how he looks. All Auggie wants is to be seen as just another kid, but he knows that it’s never going to be easy for him. You can probably figure out what life will be like for Auggie  in his first year of middle school, but you’ll be surprised by how he responds to it.

Told in the honest and heartfelt voices of Auggie, his sister Via and other people who get to know them, Wonder does a great job of telling what might be a familiar story in a new and exciting way. This isn’t a just story about the negative effects of bullying. Wonder is about how each of us have our differences and the ways we might choose to be kind instead of cruel and worry a little less about what ‘everyone’ else is thinking. Auggie is one of those great characters that you wish existed in the real world so you could hang out together.

Who will like this book?: It’s hard to think of anyone who wouldn’t enjoy this story. It’s something to be shared with everyone in the family.

If you like this, try this: My Life in Black and White by Natasha Friend.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian