There were so many amazing teen books published in 2018 that narrowing it down to only ten titles was not an easy task. Overall, though, I think that the committee came up with a list of nominees that is diverse in characters, plots, settings, and genres. I think that there is really something that every reader will enjoy.
Without further ado, here (in no particular order) are the ten nominees for the 2019 Thumbs Award:
1. Sadie by Courtney Summers
Sadie is one of those books that even months after finishing I still keep thinking about. Part of what makes Sadie stand out is its unique format. The story has a dual narrative. The first being by a investigative reporter doing a podcast about a girl, Sadie, who went missing soon after that the violent murder of her younger sister. In between podcasts and the reflections of the reporter are flashbacks written from Sadie's point of view.
We have all watched true crime shows like 48 Hours or Forensic Files that go behind the scenes, so to speak, of a major crime. Sadie takes the premise of these shows and turns them upside down by transforming the silent victim into a courageous and compelling heroine.
I read Sadie, but I have been told that the audiobook version is amazing. In fact Sadie was the recipient of the 2019 Odyssey Award, which is given to the most outstanding audiobook for children and teens each year.
Whatever format you choose, Sadie is not a book to miss. You will cry, rage, and, most importantly, hope for a future in which Sadie, and all indomitable young women like her, find peace and happiness.
2. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Tonight Show Summer Read. First, let me get out of my system how awesome it was that a popular late night show promoted reading and chose a young adult fantasy written by a Nigerian-American woman. Honestly though, I do not think that Children of Blood and Bone even needed the extra publicity, because Adeyemi's writing, world building, and characters in this first book of the Legacy of Orishi trilogy are phenomenal.
Years ago the king of Orisha attempted to eradicate magic from the land by slaughtering the majority of adult magi (wielders of magic). Those left behind, easily identified by their white hair, have lost all connection to magic and are despised and disenfranchised. It is up to Zelie, who witnessed the brutal murder of her mother, to restore not only magic but peace and balance to Orisha.
Not only is Children of Blood and Bone fresh and exciting with a kickass heroine, I cannot express how important I think it is to see African mythology and characters in fantasy literature. Let's be honest, there are not very many black characters in fantasy, let alone main characters. I understand that as a white woman I can never truly understand the importance of representation, but I believe that there should be more diversity in all genres of books. I remember once having a conversation with a good friend and her telling me that just because she is black doesn't mean she only wants to read about the Underground Railroad or the Civil Rights Movement. Don't get me wrong, those are incredibly important stories to tell, but there needs to be more horror, more mysteries, more fantasies, more stories of every genre featuring all kinds of people.
3. Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake
Girl Made of Stars is an important story of sexual assault and the courage it takes for victims to come forward. Blake examines the scrutiny, harassment, and skepticism that sexual assault victims frequently encounter from peers, law enforcement, community members, and even family.
4. I Am Still Alive by Kate Alice Marshall
After losing her mother and suffering severe injuries in a car crash Jess is sent to the Canadian wilderness to live with the father she has not seen in a decade. Embittered and grieving Jess has no interest in adapting to her new home. However, when her father is murdered and their cabin burned Jess must learn to survive on her own and quickly before the arrival of the harsh northern winter.
Even though it made me cry like a baby for days, I Am Still Alive was one of the best books that I read last year. Marshall made me feel like I was right beside Jess in a snow covered forest, alone, desperate, and unsure if I could endure another day.
5. The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
If you are not familiar with Jen Wang, I hope that you will pick up The Prince and the Dressmaker or check out some of her other work. If you are a gamer, In Real Life, which was written by Cory Doctorow and illustrated by Wang is awesome! Wang's artwork is unique and fun and sure to appeal to teens. The Prince and the Dressmaker uses her engaging and lively artwork and storytelling to deliver a message that is relevant to today's teen readers.
6.The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
post about novels in verse hoping that more kids and teens would check them out. I do talk a lot about The Poet X in that previous post so I do not want to repeat myself too much here. Let me just say that I read The Poet X in less than a day and the majority of that was on my phone which I was holding in one hand while I pushed my toddler on a swing with the other. That is one of the great things about novels in verse (especially good ones); they do not take very long to read.
If you do not want to take time to read The Poet X, the audiobook is read by the author and since she is famous for performing at poetry slams I cannot imagine that it is anything less than fantastic.
7. I Have the Right To: A High School Survivor's of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope by Chessy Prout and Jenn Abelson
This book is all about addressing the culture that says girls need to be constantly vigilant because boys will be boys. And that is a major discrepancy that needs to be addressed and changed (at least in my opinion ). I cannot express the admiration I feel for Chessy who because she was only fifteen could have remained anonymous. She chose to tell her side and bring into the light how society has enabled this behavior from our young men. We can and should expect more.
8. Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson
9. Dread Nation by Jessica Ireland
In the midst of the civil war the dead, both gray and blue, begin to walk and they do not care who they kill. In this new world racism only strengthens its grip on America when it is deemed that negroes remain little more than slaves, expendable soldiers that can protect whites from the zombie plague.
As a young, black woman the best Jane can hope for is to become a companion, a trained fighter paired with a white lady of society to protect her from zombies. Jane's penchant for breaking rules and questioning authority already makes becoming a companion a near impossibility but when she begins investigating missing families she is entrenched in a conspiracy that will have her struggling just to stay alive.
Action packed and weird yet still a dramatic and poignant commentary on racism in America Dread Nation will have you on the edge of your seat.
10. A Heart in a Body of the World by Deb Caletti
What do we teach our daughters? To be polite and friendly, but not too friendly. What is the difference between being polite and flirting? Are we afraid of being labeled a tease or a bitch? A Heart in a Body in the World made me think of all these questions. Unfortunately, I still don't have the answers, but I hope that this novel at least starts the conversation.
Well that is the 2019 Thumbs Up top ten. I hope that you will read at least a couple of them and if you do please vote at tinyurl.com/thumbsupvote. Happy reading:)