ALA Top 10

2016 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults

The Young Adult Library Services Association recently released the 2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults list. This year’s list features a diverse ranges of topics and genres published for young adults in the past 16 months. I enjoy looking at the BFYA lists every year because I know the selection committee spends countless hours reading through hundreds of YA novels to formulate a list that celebrates the diversity of young adult fiction. I especially look forward to the Top Ten BFYA each year, as many of the books would not be my first pick off of a shelf. It has helped to expose me to some extremely talented YA authors.

My three favorite books from last year’s Top Ten list were I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, The Story of Owen the Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E.K. Johnston, and The Carnival of Bray by Jessie Ann Foley. I eagerly anticipate to read more works from each of these great authors.

Since I haven’t read any of the novels on this year’s Top Ten list, I am excited to see which ones will be my favorite. Be sure to cast your vote at the end of the post on which one of the books I should read first. 

  1. Audacity 


Author: Melanie Crowder 

# of pages 400

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Awards: 2105 National Jewish Book Award finalist

Quick Synopsis: This novel-in-verse fictionalizes the teen years of Clara Lemlich Shavelson, the leader of the New York shirtwaist strike of 1909. Fleeing from anti-Semitic Russia, the teen and her family struggle to adapt to their new home.

What Reviewers are Saying

“It’s thrilling to watch this young woman grow from questioning her role as an untutored Jewish daughter to a firebrand.” –The Washington Post
“This book stands alone….an impactful addition to any historical fiction collection.”–School Library Journal, starred review

2. Bone Gap

Bone Gap Cover.jpg

Author: Laura Ruby

# of pages 368

Publisher: Harper Collins/Balzer + Bray

Awards: Michael L. Printz Award and National Book Award Finalist

Quick Synopsis: In a small town full of strange happenings, Finn is determined to uncover the mystery of Roza’s disappearance.

What Reviewers are Saying

"Told from the viewpoints of multiple Bone Gap citizens, this inventive modern fable combines elements of folklore, mythology, romance and feminism....Both Roza and Finn's love interest, Priscilla, develop over the course of the magically real journey into strong women to be reckoned with.... Cleverly conceived and lusciously written."   —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Ruby's enigmatic novel weaves together the brutal realism of small-town cruelties and sexual violence with the best kind of dreamlike folk magic, inflecting the hard parts with fairy tale softness...and shimmering, hopeful mysticism. With rich characters, captivating world building, and a stunning secret at its heart, Bone Gap is utterly bewitching." —Booklist, starred review 

3. Challenger Deep


Author: Neal Shusterman

# of pages 320

Publisher: HarperTeen

Awards: National Book Award Winner and Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honor Book

Quick Synopsis: As Caden descends into mental illness, his visions of descent into the deep waters of a trench takes over.


"A brilliant journey across the dark sea of mental illness; frightening, sensitive, and powerful. Simply extraordinary.” — Laurie Halse Anderson, award-winning author of Spea

“Clearly written with love, the novel is moving; but it’s also funny, with dry, insightful humor. Illustrations by the author’s son Brendan, drawn during his own time in the depths of mental illness, haunt the story with scrambling, rambling lines, tremulousness, and intensity.” — Horn Book, starred review

4. More Happy Than Not


Author: Adam Silvera

# of pages 304

Publisher: Soho Teen

Quick Synopsis: After enduring his father’s suicide, his own suicide attempt, broken friendships, and more in the Bronx projects, Aaron Soto, 15, is already considering the Leteo Institute’s memory-altercation procedure when his new friendship with Thomas turns to unrequited love.


"A beautiful debut novel [that] manages a delicate knitting of class politics through an ambitious narrative about sexual identity and connection that considers the heavy weight and constructive value of traumatic memory... Aaron's Bronx universe [is captured] with a precision that feels at once dreamy and casually reportorial... mandatory reading." —The New York Times Book Review

“Every now and again I read a book that requires me to drink several glasses of water afterward, because I’ve cried myself dehydrated. This is one of those books.” –BOOKRIOT

5. Shadowshaper

Author: Daniel Jose Older

#of pages 304

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books

Quick Synopsis: Sierra Santiago was amped on her summer of painting murals and having fun with friends, before noticing the murals were fading faster than normal. Another street artist named Robbie is the only one who can help her to unlock this mystery.


“Poetic and magnetic, Daniel José Older’s prose integrates authentic street dialogue, Spanish phrases, and vivid descriptions of the setting and its multicultural inhabitants as the action unfurls with scintillating suspense and a salsa beat.”- School Library Journal, starred review

“Even if readers don’t recognize Older’s crafty commentary, they will find plenty to like in the unique fantasy elements, entertainingly well-wrought characters, and cinematic pacing. Smart writing with a powerful message that never overwhelms the terrific storytelling.” -ALA Booklist, starred review

6. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda


Author: Becky Albertalli

# of pages: 320

Publisher: Harper/Balzer and Bray

Awards: William C. Morris Award Finalist and National Book Award Longlist

Quick Synopsis: Simon is falling in love for the first time. Over email, if that’s even possible.


"Delightfully funny and at times heart-wrenching. Readers will ache for Simon’s awkwardness, cheer his small triumphs, but, most of all, fall in love with this kid and with this remarkable gift of a novel. -Andrew Smith, author of Grasshopper Jungle

I have a massive crush on Simon Spier, Becky Albertalli’s vividly real hero of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. Sadly, I’m not his type and he’s in love with someone else. But I love you, Simon. I love you! And I love this fresh, funny, live-out-loud book. -Jennifer Niven, New York Times bestselling author of All the Bright Places

7. Six of Crows

Six of Crows Cover.jpg

Author Leigh Bardugo

# of pages: 480

Publisher: Holt

Awards: A #1 New York Times bestseller

Quick Synopsis: Presented an offer too lucrative to refuse, gang leader Kaz Bekker and his team of convicts, runaways, and thieves set out to smuggle an imprisoned scientist from an impenetrable Fjerdan fortress, only to face treachery and betrayal along the way.


“Taking what could have been stock characters of young adult fiction—the loner, the rebel, the outcast, and the con artist, the author has fashioned fully fleshed out, dynamic protagonists who will engage and enchant readers. What a thrill it is to return to the world she created with her popular “Grisha Trilogy” (Holt).” – School Library Journal, starred review

“This has all the right elements to keep readers enthralled: a cunning leader with a plan for every occasion, nigh-impossible odds, an entertainingly combative team of skilled misfits, a twisty plot, and a nerve-wracking cliffhanger.” – Publishers Weekly, starred review

8. The Boy in the Black Suit

Author Jason Reynolds

# of pages 272

Publisher:  Atheneum

Awards: Coretta Scott King Author Honor book

Quick Synopsis: To deal with his mother’s passing, Matt accepts a job at the local funeral home. Maat meets Lovey at her grandmother’s funeral. The two of them share a bond that will help them both to move past their own respective losses.


"A vivid, satisfying and ultimately upbeat tale of grief, redemption and grace. Kirkus Review

"Matt is a wonderfully sympathetic, multidimensional character whose voice is a perfect match for the material and whose relationships with Love and Mr. Ray—also a fascinating character—are beautifully realized. This quiet story is clearly a winner." -Booklist

9. The Bunker Diary

Author: Kevin Brooks

# of pages 264

Publisher: Lerner/Carolrhoda Lab

Quick Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Linus Weems is kidnapped and transported to an underground bunker, where he is joined by five other kidnapping victims. Where are they? Why have they been taken? And can they survive?


“Brooks' latest is not an easy novel, but it's one that begs for rereading to suss the intricacies of its construction of plot, character development and insight into the human condition." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Relentlessly bleak, this recent Carnegie Medal–winner fascinates, provokes, and horrifies as Brooks (iBoy) stays true to his nihilistic aims, pushing readers toward an inexorable conclusion." —Publishers Weekly

10. X: A Novel 


Authors: Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon

# of pages 384

Publisher: Candlewick

Awards: A 2016 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book

Quick Synopsis: This is a fictionalized account of Malcolm X’s teen years poignantly presents the young man’s struggles with identity, racism, and crime.


"An eye-opening look at an important historical figure. The author’s honesty about his early troubles serves to convey that it is possible to rise through adversity to make a positive difference in this world. A worthwhile addition to any collection. -School Library Journal, starred review

“Malcolm inspired me with his eloquence, his wisdom, and his thirst for truth and righteousness. This powerful, page-turning story tells us how he discovered these qualities within himself.—Muhammad Ali

Which 2016 Top Ten BFYA book should I read first?
Audacity by Melanie Crowder
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
Challenger Deep by Neil Shusterman
More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertli
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds
The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks
X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon
Do Quizzes

Noggin Book Review

“Listen- I was alive once and then I wasn’t. Simple as that. Now I’m alive again. The in-between part is still a little fuzzy, but I can tell you that, at some point or another, my head got chopped off and shoved into a freezer in Denver, Colorado.” These are the opening sentences to John Corey Whaley’s book Noggin. This book was next on my list from the ALA 2015 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults. 

The premise of this book was very intriguing.  The main character, Travis Coates, agrees to have his head severed and cryogenically frozen. Every part of Travis’s body, except his head, was sick with cancer. No amount of chemo, radiation, or blood marrow transplants could save his life. The only hope he has is sometime in the way distant future science will evolve so that his head can be reattached to a healthy body and give him another chance at life. It took a bit of convincing, but in the end, both Travis and parents agree to procedure.

Few people believed it would be possible, Travis being one of them. When he awakes to find his head attached to Jeremy Pratt’s body, it feels like no time has passed. In reality, it’s been five years since his friends and family said good-bye to him. Everyone and everything around him has changed. His best friend Kyle is now in college, and his girlfriend Cate is engaged. Travis must navigate through this new life of being alive in the present while still being stuck in the past.

Often times when tragedy strikes we are stuck with how to navigate uncharted waters. We want life to be the way it’s always been and struggle with how to live under new circumstances. It’s easier to fall back on what’s known to us than to venture out into the scary unknown. We have a hard time letting go of the past. While Travis’s situation is quite a bit different than any tragedy we might face, the struggle of being stuck living in the present while wanting the past is all to familiar.

Overall I found Noggin to be an interesting concept. We’re talking about head transplants! The idea about being frozen in time and waking up like no time has past at all kind of blows my mind. It’s like a modern day Frankenstein’s monster type of thing, but without the electricity and a bit more humanoid. I had a difficult time staying forced with this read. It didn’t truly grab my attention until I was a little over halfway through. It wasn’t until things got a bit more action-packed that I started to appreciate what was happening in the story. I couldn’t really feel sorry for him because he chose to do the experiment. He has to live with the consequences of his decision.  The end will tug at your heart and cause you to shed a few tears, though.

I did enjoy the way the chapters were named. The last few words from the previous chapter then become the chapter title for the next one. Chapter thirty-three ends with “I don’t know. We’re just meandering.” And chapter thirty-four is, “Just Me and a Ring.” I found it to be rather creative of the author.

The book was okay. I don’t see myself ever reading it again, but I appreciate the way Whaley explores the concept of letting go of the past and finding a way to still hold on to the things we love after they change. 

Would you ever choose to have your head cryogenically frozen if it meant that you might be able to live longer?  

The Carnival at Bray Book Review

Each year the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), reads through hundreds of YA novels to formulate a list of the Best Fiction for Young Adults (BFYA) of the year. The committee spends countless hours reading a wide selection of genres and topics pertinent to teens. Out of the 113 books officially nominated for this year's list only 58 books made the cut. The 58 titles were further classified into a list of the 2015 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults

I made it a personal goal at the beginning of summer to read the Top 10 titles before September 8, the start date for the new school year. I believe the BFYA committee does a much better job than Times and NPR at creating YA best book lists. I find that the BFYA lists capture the diversity of both authors and topics represented in young adult literature. The committee selects well-written and interesting books that are sure to leave an impact on the reader. I appreciate the time and effort these individuals spend each year to read, review, and select some of the best YA books out there. 

Over the next few weeks I will share my thoughts on each of the books from the Top Ten list. Feel free to read along with me and discover some great pieces of YA literature. The first book on the list is The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley.  

Whispering Words Design

Set in 1993, this is a story of Maggie Lynch, a sixteen-year-old uprooted from her big-city Chicago life to the small-town life in Bray, Ireland to live with her new stepfather. Faced with the difficulties of navigating a new culture, her broken relationship with her mother, and family tragedy, Maggie makes it her goal to see Nirvana perform in Rome. 

As if moving across the world wasn’t tough enough, Maggie must navigate the rocky shores of this new life without the assistance of modern social media that many of us are accustomed to. She has to make friends the old fashioned way through face-to-face interactions. I really appreciated this aspect of the novel. It brought me back to the days when I would communicate with my friends through hand written letters and calls from a landline.    

Foley’s writing is brilliant. She is a master of poise and character development. Each word, each sentence, each paragraph was precisely chosen to tell the story.  You will find your self hanging on every word. Don't be surprised if you slow your pace to reread sections of the novel because of how profound they speak to you.

“Everything that ever happens to you only happens once, so you better never stop paying attention
— Jessie Ann Foley

Besides making the AIA 2015 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults, The Carnival at Bray also has received the following awards and honors: 

  • Chicago Weekly Best Books of 2014
  • A Michael L. Printz Honor Award Winner
  • Winner, 2014 Helen Sheehan YA Book Prize
  • Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2014
  • Finalist, William C. Morris Award

Foley's debut novel is an honest coming of age story filled with first love, tragic loss, and the power of music. Teens and adults alike will fall in love with this novel. The Carnival at Bray is a must read! I'm looking forward to reading what Foley writes next.

Don't forget to follow along with Whispering Words and be the first to hear what else is in store! 

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