Tag Archives: top 20 – 21st century

Top 20 Teen Books of the 21st Century: Also Rans: Fantasy

While there were a ton of fantasy novels for teens in the last ten years, none made the Top 20, unless you count The Princess Diaries. We don’t count that fluffy series, since the fantasy isn’t magic and monsters, but just unbelievable circumstance (and yes, it was unbelievable fun). Here are a few titles that could have been in the Top 20, but maybe only if Meg Cabot had never written The Princess Diaries. Continue reading

Top 20 Teen Books of the 21st Century: Also Rans: Historical Fiction

Historical fiction for teens is kind of a hard sell. Unless teachers are assigning some reading, teens generally don’t make their way to these novels. The Book Thief was the only historical novel that was voted a Top 20 title, but there were a few more that made our preliminary list.
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Top 20 Teen Books of the 21st Century: Also Rans: Realistic Fiction

While we had some really stand-out realistic fiction titles in our Top 20 list, there were a lot of really good novels for teens that don’t involve vampires, dystopian futures, or magic that didn’t make the cut. Ordinary life is sometimes interesting enough, and a good writer can make a story as compelling as anything in the fantasy/science fiction/supernatural section. Today they have their spotlight.

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Top 20 Teen Books of the 21st Century: Also Rans: Graphic Novels

OK, by now you have seen all of our Top 20 Teen Novels of the 21st Century, as voted on by a ragtag group of well-read, but highly opinionated teen librarians here at The Seattle Public Library. But don’t you want to know what we voted out?
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Top 20 Teen Books of the 21st Century: Week 20: Markus Zusak

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

Liesel steals books while growing up in Nazi Germany and shares them with her foster parents and the Jewish man they keep hidden in the basement.

Why we liked this book: 

This is the only historical fiction title on our list, and what makes it so great is the narrator: Death.  Death usually takes no interest in his job, and even at the beginning of World War Two, he is plenty busy, but young Liesel, the book thief, piques his interest. Death tells her story dispassionately, and yet it’s clear that her thieving fascinates him, even as her ability to read ends up saving her life.

We loved Liesel’s strength and her foolhardiness, her desire to help others mingling with her desire to have fun and be a kid, even during wartime.

If you liked this book, you might also enjoy his other teen novels, including I Am the Messenger and Getting the Girl.

If you enjoy teen novels that take place during World War 2, you might like Daniel Half Human, by David Chotjewitz, or T4 by Charlotte LeZotte, or The Boy Who Dared, by Susan Campbell Bartoletti.

Top 20 Teen Books of the 21st Century: Week 19: Scott Westerfeld

Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld

In a future where everyone gets plastic surgery at age 16, Tally is disturbed by her new friend’s belief that there is a better society where no one gets the surgery that turns everyone pretty. MS = middle school readers Continue reading

Top 20 Teen Books of the 21st Century: Week 18: Francisco X. Stork

Marcelo in the Real World, by Francisco X. Stork

Marcelo Sandoval, a seventeen-year-old boy on the high-functioning end of the autistic spectrum, faces new challenges, including romance and injustice, when he goes to work for his father in the mailroom of a corporate law firm. MS = middle school readers

Why we liked this book: 

This decade has seen a number of books about kids with various disabilities, but Marcelo’s voice as a teen with an unspecified disorder on the Autism spectrum is unique and memorable.  Marcelo is comfortable in his specialized school and with his routine, but his father decides that he needs to experience the “real world” and gives Marcelo an ultimatum: work at his law firm over the summer or he can’t go to his school in the fall.  Marcelo starts working at the law firm in the mailroom and must try to navigate a world where not everything is black and white.  He is forced to make decisions that break him out of his circular thought and inner world.  These decisions are even harder because Marcelo at times can’t recognize the emotions and motives of others.  During the summer Marcelo makes a friend, uncovers an injustice, and learns something out about his father that shakes him to his core.  We loved this book because it stays away from stereotypes, the author not even specifying whether Marcelo has Asperger’s Syndrome or not.  We love that Marcelo’s obsessed with questions of faith and ethics, and how his theoretical knowledge must now be exercised in the real world.  We love the description of his inner world and his peculiarities such as referring to himself in the third person, sleeping in a tree house, and his inner music.

If you enjoy Francisco X. Stork’s strong characters, you might like his other teen novels, including Behind the Eyes, and The Last Summer of the Death Warriors.

If you’d like more stories with characters facing the challenges of Autism-spectrum disorders, try Sorta Like a Rock Star, by Matthew Quick, or Harmonic Feedback, by Tara Kelly, or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon.

Top 20 Teen Books of the 21st Century: Week 17: Jerry Spinelli

Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli

Which will win out: Leo’s love for nonconformist Stargirl, or the forces of conformity at their high school? MS = middle school readers

Why we liked this book:
Jerry Spinelli has been writing books for children for years, but this one spoke more to teens as he tells the story of high school student Leo, whose boring life in a boring desert town with a boring school is turned around by his (and everyone’s) encounter with the new girl. Stargirl is a free spirit whose odd but caring behavior endears her to Leo and many of their classmates, until peer pressure makes him rethink their friendship. The story of her rise and fall in popularity, and how Leo feels about her and himself, is the heart of this sweet, sad book.

If you like Stargirl, you might enjoy the sequel, Love, Stargirl.

If you enjoy stories with eccentric characters, you might like The 10 p.m. Question, by Kate de Goldi, or I’m Being Stalked by a Moonshadow, by Doug MacLeod, or The Spell Book of Listen Taylor, by Jaclyn Moriarty.

Top 20 Teen Books of the 21st Century: Week 16: Meg Rosoff

How I Live Now, by Meg Rosoff

Sent to England to live with relatives, Daisy finds herself alone with her cousins and no adults to help them when war breaks out across the continent.

Why we liked this book:
This was an interesting pick for us, since it’s rather a quiet story, even though it takes place during wartime. Daisy is an American girl who goes to live with some relatives in England, but when war breaks out on the continent, she is stranded with her cousins and no adults to help or guide them. The youth are in charge of themselves and must figure out not only how to survive on meager rations, but how to grow up.

If you liked this book, you might like Meg Rosoff’s only other book for teens, Just In Case, which deals with a boy who will try anything to avoid his fate.

How I Live Now was the second book in our series to deal with young people living during wartime.  You can read about the first one here. Other good books dealing with teens during wartime include A Time of Miracles, by Anne-Laure Bondoux, or Bloodline, by Katy Moran, or Daughter of War, by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch.

Top 20 Teen Books of the 21st Century: Week 15: Terry Pratchett

Nation, by Terry Pratchett

Mau returns from a quest to find his village destroyed by a tsunami. Along with Daphne, the sole survivor of an English shipwreck, he must try and rebuild his village and civilization.

Why we liked this book:
Terry Pratchett has been writing fantasy novels about his imaginary place, Discworld, for decades, but here he makes a singular departure from the wizards and witches, cops and assassin-kings of Ankh-Morpork, and spins a yarn about Mau, an islander boy who loses everything and everyone he knows when a tsunami hits his village. When an English girl and heir to the throne, Daphne, is shipwrecked by the same tsunami, she and Mau must help each other rescue survivors and build a new society. It’s a great story about friendship and coming of age, interlaced with a lot of good humor.

If you liked this book and want to start in on the Discworld series, try The Color of Magic, or Equal Rites, or Guards, guards!, or The Wee Free Men, each of which introduces a group of characters that you will want to follow to the end.  If you like books about survival try Outback by Robin Stevenson, The White Darkness by Geraldean McCaughrean, or