2017 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults
The 2017 list, which is composed of 70 titles drawn from 126 official nominations, is arranged by the following four topics:
- This selection of biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs highlights the struggles young adults face in forming their identities and deciding what kinds of people they want to be.
- The committee's update of the 2011 Chillers and Thrillers list showcases the abundance of horror books for young adults.
- This list of young adults living in foreign countries and attempting to navigate new languages supports YALSA's 2016 Teen Read Week's multilingual Read for the Fun of It theme.
- According to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, 1 in 5 teens have or will develop a serious mental illness. This list takes a look at how mental health and mental illness is portrayed in books for young adults.
Members of the Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults Committee are: Kathleen Breitenbach, chair, Hamilton Township Public Library, Hamilton, NJ; Keri Adams, Johnson Public Library, Hackensack, NJ; Dena Gould, Los Angeles Public Library, Los Angeles, CA; Rebekka Hanson, Madison Library District, Rexburg, Idaho; Dana Hutchins, Jackson Middle School, San Antonio, TX; Elise Martinez, Zion-Benton Public Library, Zion, IL; Ivy Mason, Seattle, WA; Natalie McCall, Albany Library, Albany, CA; Veronica McKay, Wylie, TX; Deborah Johns Parrott, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tennessee; Patty Ramirez, Dallas Public Library, Dallas, Texas; Edwin Rodarte, Los Angeles Public Library, Los Angeles, CA; Annie Snell, Hayward Public Library, CA; Allie Stevens, Calhoun County Library, Hampton, AR; Craig Varley, Alice M. Ward Public Library, Canaan VT; Alana Phelan, administrative assistant, Gloucester City Public Library, Gloucester City, NJ.
* denotes the title was selected as a top ten.
Subcommittee Chair: Dena Gould
Deborah Johns Parrott
Alifirenka, Caitlin; Ganda, Martin; Welch, Liz. I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives. Hachette/Little, Brown. 2016. 402pp. ISBN: 978-0316241335. Caitlin and Martin couldn’t have been farther apart – she in Pennsylvania, he in Zimbabwe. As pen pals, the mail became magic, and enabled a miracle to happen to them both.
*Copeland, Misty. Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina. Simon and Schuster/Touchstone. 2014. 278pp. ISBN: 978-1476737997. Life in Motion is a memoir from the first African American principal ballerina at the American Ballet Theater.
Crowder, Melanie. Audacity. Penguin/Speak. 2016. 390pp. ISBN: 978-0147512499. Clara Lemlich struggles to overcome the second-rate working conditions in the factories in Manhattan during the turn of the twentieth century. Based on the true story of a determined young woman, Clara paves the way for equal rights for women in the work force.
*Grande, Reyna. The Distance Between Us: A Memoir. Simon and Schuster/Pocket Books/Washington Square Press. 2013. 325pp. ISBN: 978-1451661781. Reyna longs for her family to be reunited after her mother and father leave Mexico for the United States, but when she is finally able to join them, it is not the happy reunion she expects.
Greitens, Eric. The Warrior’s Heart: Becoming a Man of Compassion and Courage. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2015. 266pp. ISBN: 978-0544104815. Eric is a first-generation college student grappling with his future prospects.
Leyson, Leon. The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible… on Schindler’s List. Simon and Schuster/Atheneum. 2015. 231pp. ISBN: 978-1442497825. Ten-year-old Leon watched as the Nazis took over his hometown of Krakow. Forced with his family to move to the ghetto, they were ultimately saved – on Schindler’s List.
Moore, Wes. Discovering Wes Moore. Random House/Ember. 2013. 160pp. ISBN: 978-0385741682. Wes Moore grew up in poverty, but through his supportive family and discipline learned in military school was able to graduate college and become a Rhodes Scholar. As an adult, he learns of another Wes Moore whose childhood resembled his, but who ended up serving a life sentence in prison.
Reef, Catherine. The Brontë Sisters: The Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2015. 231pp. ISBN: 978-0544455900. Most widely known for their classic 19th century novels Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, sisters Charlotte and Emily Bronte helped to pioneer the literary industry for women. Reading like a fascinating novel, this biography highlights the romance and turbulence of these beloved writers.
*Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood. Random House/Pantheon Books. 2004. 153pp. ISBN: 978-0375714573. This is a beautiful, inspirational memoir of a young girl growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. She is lucky in that she has parents that support her independence and education; many others are not so lucky.
Van Wagenen, Maya. Popular: How a Geek in Pearls Discovered the Secret to Confidence. Penguin Books/Speak. 2015. 259pp. ISBN: 978-0147512543. An 8th grade girl uses a 1950’s popularity guide in a modern quest to become more popular.
Subcommittee Chair: Dana Hutchins
Deborah Johns Parrott
Alameda, Courtney. Shutter. Macmillan/Square Fish. 2016. 384pp. ISBN: 978-1250079961. A modern day retelling of the Van Helsing story. The Van Helsing bloodline has survived centuries and defeated Dracula, building an enterprise in hunting the things of nightmares. Now that a new nightmare is on the loose, will the Van Helsing team defeat this new threat or die trying?
Barraclough, Lindsey. Long Lankin. Candlewick. 2014. 455pp. ISBN: 978-0763669379. Cora and her sister Mimi are sent to live with their eccentric Aunt in a town harboring an unspeakable secret. As the girls begin to unravel the mystery, they discover a creature of nightmares that takes away small children. Will the children find a way to defeat Long Lankin before it is too late?
Blake, Kendare. Anna Dressed in Blood. Macmillan/Tor Teen. 2012. 316pp. ISBN: 978-0765328670. Teenaged ghost hunter Cas is investigating a local legend that tells of a vengeful, deadly spirit called Anna Dressed in Blood. Cas believes this hunt will be like any other, until he learns about the circumstances of Anna's death and haunting.
*Bray, Libba. The Diviners. Hachette/Little, Brown and Co. 2013. 578pp. ISBN: 978-0316126106. Evie O'Neill can tell your secrets simply by holding an object dear to you and concentrating on it. When the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol, Evie's Uncle Will, an occult specialist, is called to the scene. Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.
Chupeco, Rin. The Girl from the Well. Sourcebooks/Sourcebooks Fire. 2015. 258pp. ISBN: 978-1492608684. Okiku was murdered three hundred years ago. She is the girl from the well. She has spent her afterlife hunting child murderers. She is on the trail of another murderer when she meets Turk, a boy covered in tattoos and an aura of evil.
Garcia, Kami. Unbreakable. Hachette/Little, Brown and Co. 2014. 305pp. ISBN: 978-0316210188. Kennedy discovers she is a member of an ancient society of hunters who protect the world from demons.
Higson, Charlie. The Enemy. Disney/Hyperion. 2014. 440pp. ISBN: 978-1484721469. A disease has killed everyone over the age of sixteen and turned them into the living dead. One group of kids decides to cross London to Buckingham Palace to find safety, but the streets are full of hungry zombies.
Hill, Joe, and Gabriel Rodriguez. Locke and Key Volume 1: Welcome to Lovecraft. 2009. 158pp. ISBN: 978-1600103841. After their husband/father is murdered, a family moves back to the family estate in Maine. The children quickly learn that the house isn't what it seems and that keys don't always open doors.
Ishida, Sui. Tokyo Ghoul Volume 1. Viz Media. 2015. 213pp. ISBN: 978-1421580364. Ken Kaneki is just an average guy until a date with the beautiful Rize ends with Ken's transformation into a half-ghoul, half-human hybrid.
Kagawa, Julie. The Immortal Rules. Harlequin/Harlequin Teen. 2013. 457pp. ISBN: 978-0373210800. Vampires rule the world and humans are considered nothing more than "blood bags." Allie, a human, is bitten by a rabid vampire and left for dead. The vampire Kanin finds her and as an act of mercy turns her into one of his kind. Now Allie is struggling to hold on to the humanity she has left all while trying to survive this new world.
Kurtagich, Dawn. The Dead House. Little, Brown. 2016. 407pp. ISBN: 978-0316298674. Two decades ago, a fire destroyed Elmbridge High, killing three students. Another student, Carly, disappears. All that is left is a diary of a girl named Kaitlyn, video footage, psychiatric reports, and police reports. What really happened that fateful night?
Malerman, Josh. Bird Box. HarperCollins/Ecco. 2015. 262pp. ISBN: 978-0062259660. Something is out there, one look at it and people become homicidal, suicidal. Malorie, alone and pregnant, joins a band of survivors hoping to make a life in this new reality, but what lengths is she willing to go to not see.
McKay, Kirsty. Undead. Scholastic/Chicken House. 2013. 263pp. ISBN: 978-0545381895. New girl Bobby decides to remain on the bus when the other students go into a cafe while on a school ski trip. Bobby and troublemaker, Smitty realize that something is very wrong when classmate Alice runs out of the cafe screaming that everyone is dead. Unfortunately, they don't remain that way.
McNeil, Gretchen. Ten. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. 2013. 294pp. ISBN: 978-0062118790. When Meg and Minnie plan a party (including boys) out on Henry Island, they don't plan on the presence of a killer. Inspired by Agatha's Christie's And Then There Were None. This story will leave readers guessing the killer's identity.
Oppel, Kenneth. The Nest. Simon and Schuster. 2016. 244pp. ISBN: 978-1481432337. Steve wants nothing more than to save his sick newborn baby brother and see his parents happy once again. So when the "angels" start to visit him in his dreams, promising to fix the baby, he thinks all his prayers have been answered. All he has to do is say yes.
Ryan, Carrie. The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Random House/Ember. 2010. 310pp. ISBN: 978-0385736824. You must always mind the fence that surrounds the village. The fence protects the village from the unconsecrated, the undead, in the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Mary has spent her life in the village, but dreams of seeing her mother's favorite place, the ocean. When the fence is breached and the village is turned to chaos, Mary must find her way through the forest.
Shan, Darren. Lord Loss. Hachette/Little, Brown and Co. 2006. 233pp. ISBN: 978-0316012331. Grubbs Grady's life is changed when his family is murdered by demons. He finds himself in a game of life and death with the demon Lord Loss.
Shepherd, Megan. The Madman’s Daughter. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. 2013. 420pp. ISBN: 978-0062128034. Juliet Moreau rebuilt her life after the scandalous rumors of her father's gruesome experiments came to light. No one could prove anything, and now her father is dead. Or so she thinks. She soon discovers that he has set up his laboratory on a secluded island and his experimentation on animal/human hybrids continues.
Stolarz, Laurie Faria. Welcome to the Dark House. Disney Press. 2015. 357pp. ISBN: 978-1423194729. When seven teens are chosen as winners in a contest, it leads them to a creepy house and a decrepit, abandoned amusement park. When the contest begins to hit a little too close to home, exploiting and preying on their worst fears, they begin to realize that not everything is what it seems.
Stratton, Allan. The Dogs. Sourcebooks/Sourcebooks Fire. 2015. 258pp. ISBN: 978-142621010. Cameron and his mom have been running from his psychotic father for years. When they move into a farmhouse in rural Illinois, Cameron starts seeing ghosts, often accompanied by the braying of dogs. As he digs deeper into the mystery surrounding the farmhouse, Cameron starts questioning the truth and his own sanity.
Summers, Courtney. This is not a Test. Macmillan/Griffin. 2012. 326pp. ISBN: 978-0312656744. When the zombie apocalypse happens, Sloane Price seeks shelter with five other teens she barely knows in her high school. As the days pass, the paranoia of being trapped with people you can't trust begins to wear her down.
Tucholke, April Genevieve, ed. Slasher Girls and Monster Boys. Penguin/Speak. 2016. 384pp. ISBN: 978-0147514080. A collection of horrifying tales and psychological thrillers by some of today's most popular young adult authors.
Vega, Danielle. The Merciless. Penguin Books/Razorbill. 2015. 279pp. ISBN: 978-1595147233. Sofia Flores knows she shouldn’t have befriended good-girls Riley, Grace, and Alexis on the first day of school. When Sofia finds herself helping the perfect trio "save" Brooklyn, the goth outcast girl in their school, she didn’t realize their idea of salvation would involve exorcism.
*Yancey, Rick. The Monstrumologist. Simon and Schuster/Saga Press. 2015. 434pp. ISBN: 978-1481425445. In 1888, twelve-year-old Will Henry, apprentice-assistant to the Monstrumologist, Dr. Warthrop, recounts his bizarre and horrific encounters with the mythic creatures known as, Anthropophagi, a brutal species that feed on human prey.
Young, Suzanne. Hotel for the Lost. Simon and Schuster/Simon Pulse. 2016. 281pp. ISBN: 978-1481423014. On the long drive to their grandmother's house, Audrey and her family stop for the night at the beautiful and mysterious Hotel Ruby. They were only supposed to stay for one night, but at the Hotel Ruby, checking out is harder than you think.
Subcommittee Chair: Edwin Rodarte
Berry, Nina. The Notorious Pagan Jones. Harlequin/Harlequin Teen. 2016. 400pp. ISBN: 978-0373211906. A fateful car accident turns film star Pagan Jones from America's Sweetheart into a notorious bad girl. She gets a chance to leave juvie and restart her career with a new film--with the catch that she has to go to West Berlin to film it.
Carter, Ally. All Fall Down. Scholastic. 2015. 310pp. ISBN: 9780545654807. Grace witnessed a horrific event and now is being shipped off overseas to live with her grandfather in the hopes of making Grace forget about the past.
Creech, Sharon. Bloomability. HarperCollins/HarperCollins Children’s Books. 2012. 273pp. ISBN: 978-0064408233. Twelve-year-old Dinnie is “kidnapped” by her aunt and uncle and taken to Switzerland to attend boarding school. Dinnie is finding it difficult to acclimate to her new life, but eventually she is surrounded by friends, family and stability in a place where she can bloom.
*Farish, Terry. The Good Braider. Amazon Children’s Publishing/Skyscape. 2014. 221pp. ISBN: 978-1477816288. When the trauma of civil war in South Sudan becomes unbearable for Viola and her family, they travel across Africa to become refugees and flee to America. Once in the United States, Viola struggles to reconcile her life in America to the life she left behind.
Foley, Jessie Ann. The Carnival at Bray. Elephant Rock Productions. 2014. 254pp. ISBN: 978-0989515597. Moving from Chicago to Ireland hasn’t been easy. Maggie particularly misses Uncle Kevin, who shares her love of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. When tragedy falls, will Maggie’s new life help her to survive?
*Forman, Gayle. Just One Day. Penguin Group/Speak. 2013. 369pp. ISBN: 978-0142422953. Allyson Healey never acts on impulse. Yet, on the last day of her three-week European trip, she meets Willem, who inspires her to be spontaneous. When he asks her to go to Paris with him, this one daring decision transforms Allyson’s life.
Gier, Kerstin. Dream a Little Dream. Macmillan/Square Fish. 2016. 336pp. ISBN: 978-1250073662. Liv and her sister Mia are uprooted and whisked away to London where they meet their soon to be new step family. Liv attends school with her step brother, Grayson, and meets his friends Arthur, Jasper, and Henry. Things get strange when Liv starts to dream of the boys and finds herself in a dream world that may not be of her own making.
Honeyman, Kay. The Fire Horse Girl. Scholastic. 2016. 321pp. ISBN: 978-0545403115. Jade Moon knows she doesn’t fit in as a Chinese girl in 1923 America. However, her zodiac sign is the Fire Horse, which makes her stubborn and creative enough to invent a new life.
Hubbard, Kirsten. Wanderlove. Random House/Ember. 2013. 338pp. ISBN: 978-0385739382. Bria Sandoval is an unlikely person to travel across the world solo until one day she decides to prove everyone wrong, and goes backpacking through Mayan villages and remote islands in Belize.
Lindner, April. Love, Lucy. Little, Brown/Poppy. 2016. 290pp. ISBN: 978-0316400688. If Lucy gives up her dream of acting and agrees to major in business, her father will pay for a summer trip to Italy. When she meets a street musician and falls in love, her promise becomes harder and harder to keep.
Mead, Richelle. Soundless. Penguin Books/Razorbill. 2016. 272pp. ISBN: 978-1595147646. Fei lives in a world of poverty and fear. One night, she is shocked by a sharp noise, becoming the first of her people to be able to hear. Armed with this new skill, and the help of a handsome revolutionary, she sets off on a quest.
Resau, Laura. Indigo Notebook. Random House/Ember. 2010. 324pp. ISBN: 978-0375845246. In Ecuador, jet-setting Zeeta meets Wendell, a young man in search of his family roots. Zeeta’s desire to settle down and find her own father compels her to help Wendell. While uncovering the mystery surrounding Wendell’s family, Zeeta realizes that she must confront her own past to seize the future she desires.
Saeed, Aisha. Written in the Stars. Penguin Books/Speak. 2016. 304pp. ISBN: 978-0147513939. Naila is the American daughter of Pakistani immigrants, and when they catch her breaking their rules, it’s off on a family trip to Pakistan to turn Naila back to her parents’ idea of a good Pakistani girl (and suitable bride).
Senzai, N. H. Ticket to India. Simon and Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books. 2016. 304pp. ISBN: 978-1481422598. Sisters May and Zara travel from California to Pakistan to bring their grandmother back to California, but their grandmother refuses until they take a detour to India to collect family treasures.
Swank, Denise Grover. One Paris Summer. HarperCollins/Blink. 2016. 272pp. ISBN: 978-0310755166. Sophie planned to spend the summer chasing her dreams of being a pianist, but is forced to live with her estranged father and new step-family in Paris. Despite the circumstances, and the schemes of her step sister, she finds herself drawn to the charm and romance of Paris.
Williams, Michael. Now is the Time for Running. Hachette/Little, Brown. 2013. 233pp. ISBN: 978-0316077880. Deo and his brother are forced to flee their village in Zimbabwe after soldiers gun down their family and friends. When they arrive in South Africa, they face new challenges in a hostile environment where refugees are not welcome.
Wright, David, and Luc Bouchard. Away Running. 2016. 297pp. ISBN: 978-1459810464. Matt, a privileged, white Canadian, and Free, an African-American high school student from Texas, travel to Paris and end up playing American football for the poor, immigrant suburb of Villeneuve.
Subcommittee Chair: Ivy Mason
Blount, Patty. Nothing Left to Burn. Sourcebooks/Sourcebooks Fire. 2015. 357pp. ISBN: 978-1492613299. After his brother Matt’s tragic death, Reece joins the Lakeshore Volunteer Fire Department. Will following in his brother’s footsteps as a Junior Cadet finally earn him some recognition from his father, or will firefighting be one more thing Reece can’t do to Lieutenant Logan’s satisfaction?
Colbert, Brandy. Pointe. Penguin/Speak. 2016. 333pp. ISBN: 978-0147514417. Tell the truth, or don’t tell the truth? Theo really doesn’t want to think about it, but when her best friend Donovan finally returns home after being kidnapped for four years, she doesn’t have a choice. Can she do the right thing without having to give up on her dream of becoming a professional ballerina?
Conaghan, Brian. When Mr. Dog Bites. Bloomsbury USA. 2016. 359pp. ISBN: 978-1681190181. A teenage boy with Tourette’s overhears a conversation between his mother and his doctor, discovers that he’s dying, and makes a list of things to do with his last days.
De La Pena, Matt. I Will Save You. Random House/Ember. 2011. 310pp, ISBN: 978-0385738286. After Kidd leaves a group therapy home, he attempts to find his niche working at a campground with a beloved mentor, but his past is never far behind.
Dunkle, Elena and Claire. Elena Vanishing. Chronicle Books. 2016. 292pp. ISBN: 978-1452152141. Well-written and compelling, this title focuses on several mental illnesses including OCD, in addition to Anorexia. As a memoir, there is a depth and grit only found in personal accounts and does not gloss over how difficult it is to treat this illness.
Hand, Cynthia. The Last Time We Say Goodbye. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. 2016. 390pp. ISBN: 978-0062318480. Many times, the wounds we cannot see are those left after a traumatizing incident, accident, or loss. Showcasing grief at its grittiest, this book explores loss, grief and guilt as an extension of invisible wounds.
Kinsella, Sophie. Finding Audrey. Random House/Ember. 2016. 286pp. ISBN: 978-0553536539. After an incident at school, Audrey avoids human contact by hiding behind dark sunglasses and staying in her house, but therapy, her loving and hilarious family and a boy named Linus help draw her out of hiding.
Kuehn, Stephanie. Complicit. 2016. 250pp. ISBN: 978-1250044600. Two years ago, Jamie and Cate Henry's mother was murdered. As the only suspects they were questioned and Jamie's sister taken away to juvenile facility. Now she is out, and Henry fears for his life.
Ness, Patrick. The Rest of Us Just Live Here. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. 2016. 317pp. ISBN: 9780062403179. While the indie kids fight evil forces in town, Mikey and his friends are just waiting for graduation, but even they are drawn into the mysterious happenings in their town.
*Niven, Jennifer. All the Bright Places. Random House/Ember. 2016. 416pp. ISBN: 978-0385755917. When Finch and Violet met, they were both on the edge. Of a bell tower, that is. Though neither jumps, Finch has to try harder and harder to fight his bipolar disorder, as Violet begins to learn how to live in the present moment.
*Oliver, Lauren. Vanishing Girls. HarperCollins/HarperCollins Childrens Books. 2016. 384pp. ISBN: 978-0062224118. After a tragic car accident, Nick longs to reconnect with her sister who was formerly her best friend.
*Patel, Sonia. Rani Patel in Full Effect. Cinco Puntos Press. 2016. 314pp. ISBN: 978-1941026502. Aspiring rapper Rani copes with her father's betrayal and history of abuse in this book full of beats, rhymes and the will to overcome every kind of external and internal threat.
Roskos, Evan. Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2015. 310pp. ISBN: 978-0544439535. James Whitman has a serious affinity for the poet Walt Whitman, and uses poetry to cope with depression (along with help from his imaginary giant therapist-pigeon), all while trying to solve the mystery of why his father kicked his sister out of the house.
Shusterman, Neal and Brendan Shusterman. Challenger Deep. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. 2016. 320pp. ISBN: 978-0061134142. As his alternate reality becomes more and more difficult to distinguish from real life, Caden Bosch is vaguely aware that he is losing his grip. A National Book Award winner based on the true story of Brendan Shusterman and filled with his drawings, Challenger Deep is a harrowing, beautiful story about one boy’s fight to cut through the static of schizophrenia.
Silvera, Adam. More Happy Than Not. Soho/Soho Teen. 2016. 304pp. ISBN: 978-1616956776. A closeted gay teen who previously attempted suicide contemplates having his memory erased after he is rejected by his new best friend.
Smith, Hilary T. Wild Awake. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books. 2015. 375pp. ISBN: 978-0062184696. Alone for the summer, teenage Kiri discovers that her older sister had been murdered and throws herself headfirst into finding out the truth.
Vizzini, Ned. It’s Kind of a Funny Story. Disney/Miramax. 2007. 444pp. ISBN: 978-0786851973. A teenage boy contemplates suicide but instead checks himself into a psychiatric hospital to learn how to cope with his depression. The title is slightly older and there was a movie version but it still stands out as an excellent representation of what depression is like for a teenager with great writing and characters.
Wolitzer, Meg. Belzhar. Penguin/Speak. 2015. 266pp. ISBN: 978-0142426296. Jam Gallahue doesn’t see herself ever moving forward after the death of her boyfriend, Reeve. Not knowing what else to do, her parents send her to a boarding school for traumatized teens. Can a journal assignment with a magical twist help her get her life back together, or will she end up spiraling even further downward?