Scythe by Neal Shusterman
I read this way back in January and it still tops the list as one of the best books I read this year. And I’m not the only one who has love for this book. It won a Printz Honor, we included it on the Young Hoosier Book Award Middle Grade list, and when I booktalked it at a middle school the students were clamoring to get their hands on it. Shusterman has imagined a future world where there is no death. To manage population control, society has come up with a system. There are people called Scythes who must arbitrarily decide whose time it is to be gleaned (i.e. killed). Two teens are chosen to be Scythes-in-training and what follows is story that manages to be thrilling and action backed AND extremely thought-provoking. Everyone I know who has read this liked it. As long as you can handle some violence, I say get your hands on this one immediately. Also, I just discovered book number two comes out January 9!
A Perfect Day by Lane Smith
As soon as I read this one I said to myself, “This right here is a perfect picture book.” This book surprised me, delighted me, and made me want to read it to everyone I know. The illustrations alone are masterful and I will be shocked if it does not win some Caldecott love. I’m not even going to say anything about what it is about but you should read it based on the fact alone that it made me laugh out loud in the best possible way.
Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
I listened to this one on audiobook which is the best way to go with a story like this. It is told mostly through interviews with the various characters involved in the style of World War Z. There is a full cast of narrators and they do a really great job. I was sucked in right away to this world where a mysterious giant sculpture of a hand is discovered followed by various body parts around the world that are eventually assembled to put together something inexplicable and impossible. This one is a fast read and once you start it you won’t be able to put it down.
I’m Just No Good at Rhyming: and Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-ups by Chris Harris
This is a book of poetry for kids that feels like Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends for a new generation, but I would argue is even better. The poems and wordplay are so clever. I was laughing at nearly every page. This book is not only funny, however. There are a lot of poems that are thoughtful and bittersweet and made me contemplate childhood and growing up in new ways. I highly recommend this one for readers of all ages.
Train I Ride by Paul Mosier
There were A LOT of adult books I read this year that I really loved; not as many YA and Middle Grade for some reason. It might have something to do with reading for an award committee – probably over half the YA/MG books I read this year were assigned committee reading. BUT, Train I Ride by Paul Mosier rises to the top of the list for me. I completely related to the main character Rydr. My heart went out to her from the first page. This story is told in just three days and is completely contained on an Amtrak train from California to Chicago. The characters on the train really came to life for me and there were so many funny moments, but also sweet and sad ones too. I know I’ll be recommending this one to all the young readers I come across this year. A fabulous book.