2009 Best Books for Young Adults

The list of 86 books, drawn from 224 official nominations, is presented annually at the ALA Midwinter Meeting. The books, recommended for those ages 12-18, meet the criteria of both good quality literature and appealing reading for teens. The list comprises a wide range of genres and styles, including contemporary realistic fiction that reflects the diversity of the teen experience, nonfiction that brings to teens an awareness of the world they live in and its history, and fantastical stories told in both narrative and graphic formats. The committee also selected a Top 10 list.

The members of the Best Books for Young Adults Committee are: Rollie Welch, chair, Cleveland (Ohio) Public Library; Jeana Actkinson, Bridgeport (Texas) High School; Martha Baden, Central Rappahannock Regional Library, Porter Branch, Stafford, Va.; Jerene Battisti, King County Library System, Issaquah, Wash.; Teresa Brantley, Salem Middle School, Apex, N.C.; Louise Brueggeman, Morton West High School, Forest Park, Ill.; Summer Hayes, King County Library System, Foster Library, Tukwila, Wash.; Connie Mitchell, Carmel (Ind.) High School; Christy Mulligan, Hennepin County Public Library, Minneapolis, Minn.; Ann Pechacek, Worthington (Ohio) Public Library; Diane Roberts, St. Thomas High School Library, Houston, Texas; Elsworth Rockefeller, Martin Luther King Library, Washington, D.C.; Terri S. Snethen, Blue Valley North High School, Overland Park, Kans.; Cassie Wilson, Rowlett (Texas) Public Library; Brooke Young, Salt Lake City (Utah) Public Library; Gillian Engberg, consultant, Booklist, Chicago, Ill.; and Linda Uhler, administrative assistant, Westerville (Ohio) Public Library.


Almond, David. The Savage. Candlewick. 2008. 978-0-7636-3932-7 $17.99
Blue Baker is writing a story about a wild savage living in the woods…at least he thinks it’s a story. When realities shift, the reader must discern what really happened.

Anderson, Laurie Halse. Chains. Simon & Schuster. 2008. 978-1-4169-0585-1 $16.99
Slaves Isabel and younger sister Ruthie are sold to harsh Loyalists at the beginning of the Revolutionary War. Isabel must decide to be loyal or spy for the American patriots.

Anderson, M.T. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: Vol. II: The Kingdom on the Waves. Candlewick. 2008. 978-0-7636-2950-2 $22.99 Having escaped from his captors, Octavian joins the Royal Ethiopian Regiment of the British Army in 1775 Boston when they promise freedom to any slave who fights the rebel forces.

Bartoletti , Susan Campbell. The Boy Who Dared . Scholastic. 2008. 978-0-439-68013-4 $16.99
Told through flashbacks, this is a fictionalized biography of German teenager Helmuth Hubener, who was imprisoned and executed in 1942 for openly resisting the Nazis.

Bell , Hilari. The Last Knight. HarperTeen/HarperCollins. 2007. 978-0-06-082503-4 $16.99
An anachronistic knight errant takes a criminal as squire, mistakenly frees a woman charged with murdering her husband (brother to his father's liege), and becomes captive in her keep.

Benway , Robin. Audrey, Wait! Penguin/Razorbill. 2008. 978-1-59514-191-0 $16.99
Audrey's ex-boyfriend records a hit song about their breakup, and suddenly all eyes (and cameras) are on Audrey. Fans, Facebook, and tabloids - it's all too much for Audrey.

Blundell, Judy. What I Saw and How I Lied. Scholastic. 2008. 978-0-439-90346-2 $16.99
When Evie’s father returns from the war, she expects life to return to normal but a mysterious trip to Florida, secrets, deceptions, and a first forbidden love complicates things.

Booth, Coe. Kendra. Scholastic/Push. 2008. 978-0-439-92536-5 $16.99
Kendra is thrilled her mom, Renee, has completed her Ph.D. program—now they can finally be a real family. But is Renee excited for their future together, too?

Bradbury, Jennifer. Shift. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum. 2008. 978-1-4169-4732-5 $16.99
Chris and Win take a bicycle trip across America after graduation, but only one returns and that person is pressured to reveal what happened.

Brothers, Meagan. Debbie Harry Sings in French. Henry Holt. 2008. 978-0-8050-8080-3 $16.95
After Johnny’s dad dies in a car accident and an unintentional drug overdose lands him in the hospital, he moves in with an uncle, gets a girlfriend, and starts to explore his interest in cross-dressing.

Bunce , Elizabeth. A Curse Dark as Gold . Scholastic. 2008. 978-0-439-89576-7 $17.99
When young Charlotte Miller takes over the family's woolen mill after her father's death, she is faced with unexpected debts, catastrophes, and a hidden curse that threatens her family's future.

Caletti , Deb. The Fortunes of Indigo Skye. Simon & Schuster. 2008. 978-1-1469-1007-7
At 18, Indigo wants no more out of life than to be a waitress and give people food, until a customer gives her $2,500,000. Can she stand the changes?

Cashore , Kristin. Graceling . Harcourt. 2008. 978-0-15-206396-2 $17.00
Katsa was born with ability to kill men with her bare hands but can she find moral courage to stand up to evil rulers and fight for what is right?

Colfer , Eoin. Airman. Hyperion . 2008. 978-1-4231-0750-7 $17.99
Conor Broekhart spends his days dreaming of flying hot air balloons and inventing flying machines until murder and court intrigue sends him to prison and labor in the diamond mines.

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. Scholastic. 2008. 978-0-439-02348-1 $17.99
Katniss has been providing for her family since her father died, but is she strong enough to win the Hunger Games, a deadly competition that can have only one winner?

Conner, Leslie. Waiting for Normal. Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins. 2008. 978-0-06-089088-9 $16.99
Left to live in an old trailer under the overhead train track with Mommers, Addie is the child that has to learn to take care of herself. She almost succeeds.

de la Pena, Matt. Mexican WhiteBoy. Delacorte. 2008. 978-0-385-73310-6 $15.00
Half white, half Mexican and 100% confused, Danny struggles with baseball, his absent father and first love while spending the summer with his familia in San Diego.

Doctorow, Cory. Little Brother. Tom Doherty. 2008. 978-0-7653-1985-2 $17.95
There's been another major terrorist attack and the Department of Homeland Security has clamped down big time. It's up to Marcus, computer geek, to save everyone from this police state.

Dowd, Siobhan . Bog Child. Random House/David Fickling Books. 2008. 978-0-385-75169-8
When Fergus and his uncle find the body of a girl buried in the peat bog near their home, all sorts of troubles comes to light.

Dowd, Siobhan. The London Eye Mystery . David Fickling/Random House. 2008. 978-0-375-84976-3 $15.99
When their cousin Salim disappears into thin air during a ride on the London Eye ferris wheel, Ted and his sister Kat try to solve.

Fleischman, Sid. The Entertainer and the Dybbuk. HarperTeen/HarperCollins. 2007. 978-0-06-134445-9 $16.99
The Great Freddie, a second-rate ventriloquist, is inhabited by the spirit of a 12-year-old Jewish boy killed in the Holocaust.

Fletcher, Christine. Ten Cents a Dance. Bloomsbury. 2008. 978-1-59990-164-0 $16.95
Ruby wants to support her family, but when her taxi dancing causes problems she could not have anticipated, it will take all of her strength to come out on top.

Gaiman , Neil. The Graveyard Book. HarperCollins. 2008. 978-0-06-053092-1 $17.99
This often chilling story describes the life of a boy growing up in a graveyard as he is looked after by ghosts and a mysterious guardian.

Gardner, Sally. The Red Necklace: A Story of the French Revolution. Penguin/Dial. 2008. 978-0-8037-3100-4 $16.99
During the French Revolution, Yann a 14-year-old magician's assistant, witnesses the death of his employer and the evil that ensues.

Geerling , Marjetta. Fancy White Trash. Penguin/Viking. 2008. 978-0-670-01082-0 $16.99
Abby Savage is determined not to be like her mother and sisters-each became pregnant as teens-but her only confidant is Cody who has his own sexual issues.

George, Jessica Day. Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow. Bloomsbury. 2008. 978-1-59990-109-1 $16.95
A woodcutter's daughter agrees to live with a great white bear after he promises her impoverished family fabulous wealth. When he disappears, she begins an arduous quest for him.

George, Madeleine. Looks. Viking. 2008. 978-0-670-06167-9 $16.99
Meghan, the invisible fat girl, and Aimee, overlooked and anorexic, form an uneasy alliance to get revenge on a mutual enemy.

Green, John. Paper Towns. Penguin/Dutton. 2008. 978-0-25-47818-8 $17.99
Quentin idolizes next door neighbor, Margo Roth Spiegelman. When she includes him in a wild night of revenge and then disappears, Q must follow the clues to find her.

Harmon, Michael. The Last Exit to Normal. Alfred A. Knopf. 2008. 978-0-375-94098-9 $18.99
To get him on the right track, Ben Campbell's dad and stepdad accompany him to Montana, where he encounters small town life, homophobia, an abused boy, and a special girl.

Hernandez, David. Suckerpunch . HarpterTeen/HarperCollins. 2008. 978-0-06-117330-1 $16.99
The guilt that Marcus feels because he couldn't keep his father from beating his brother Enrique compels him to go along when Enrique seeks answers - and maybe revenge.

Hijuelos , Oscar. Dark Dude. Simon & Schuster. 2008. 978-1-4169-4804-9 $16.99
Tired of taking abuse for being a light-skinned Cuban in his drug-infested Harlem neighborhood, Rico follows a friend to rural Wisconsin, where he struggles with his Latino identity.

Jenkins, A.M. Night Road. Bowen Press/HarperCollins. 2008. 978-0-06-054604-5 $16.99
Eighteen-year-old Gordon, a heme or blood feeder, must learn the rules of his new life while on a road trip with Cole and Sandor.

Johnson, Maureen. Suite Scarlett. Scholastic/Point. 2008. 978-0-439-89927-7 $16.99
The keys to a hotel suite and the responsibility to care for the room and its occupant—the wealthy and eccentric Amy Amberson—turn Scarlett's summer into a major challenge.

Juby , Susan. Another Kind of Cowboy . HarperTeen/HarperCollins. 2007. 978-0-06-076518-7 $16.99
When horse-crazy Alex finally gets a chance to switch from western pleasure to dressage, he feels more in tune with both his riding and his overall identity.

Katcher , Brian . Playing With Matches. Random House/Delacorte. 2008. 978-0-385-73544-5 $15.99
Leon Sanders is a loser until an extremely disfigured girl makes him feel special. Should he stay with her or be lured away by the girl of his dreams?

Kibuishi , Kazu. Amulet: Book 1: The Stone Keeper. Scholastic/Graphix. 2008. 978-0-439-84680-6 $21.99 Emily and her brother Navin descend into a dark and dangerous world below their great grandfather's mansion hoping to save their mother, who's been kidnapped by a large creature with tentacles.

Lanagan , Margo. Tender Morsels. Random House/Alfred A. Knopf. 2008.
978-0-375-84811-7 $16.99
Liga has suffered unspeakable assaults and creates a magic, safe haven for herself and her two daughters, but the real world intrudes and they cope with beauty mixed with brutality.

Lester, Julius. Guardian. HarperCollins/HarperTeen/Amistad. 2008. 978-0-06-155890-0 $16.99
Ansel’s world set in the 1946 deep South disintegrates from the hatred and injustice consuming his family and community following a brutal murder and an innocent man being lynched.

Link, Kelly . Pretty Monsters. Viking. 2008. 978-0-670-01090-5 $19.99
From straight fantasy to magic realism to horror, this collection includes tales of magic libraries, wizards,and dead girls getting tattoos.

Lockhart, E. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. Hyperion. 2008.
978-0-7868-3818-9 $16.99
Frankie Landau-Banks has a chip on her shoulder and is determined to bring down the all-male Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds of Alabaster Preparatory Academy.

Marchetta, Melina. Jellicoe Road . HarperTeen/HarperCollins. 2008. 978-0-06-143183-8 $17.99
Taylor Markham was abandoned by her mother when she was eleven and is finally ready to discover the reason why.

Marillier, Juliet. Cybele's Secret. Random House/Alfred A. Knopf. 2008. 978-0-375-83365-6
Paula travels with her merchant father to Istanbul and discovers a world filled with eunuchs, pirates, dervishes, and an entrance into the Other Kingdom.

Mazer, Norma Fox. The Missing Girl. HarperTeen/HarperCollins. 2008. 978-0-06-623777-0 $16.99
The five Herbert sisters find their innocent lives exploding in emotional turmoil when one of the sisters is abducted and held captive by a truly creepy child predator.

McMullan, Margaret. When I Crossed No-Bob. Houghton Mifflin. 2007. 978-0-618-71715-6 $16.00
Twelve-year-old Addy McDonnell struggles to come to terms with her family's unpleasant legacy and the events happening around her in post-Civil War Mississippi.

McNamee, Graham. Bonechiller. Wendy Lamb /Random House. 2008. 978-0-385-74658-8 $15.99
An ancient demon, intent on satisfying its hunger for human flesh, stalks Danny and his three friends in the brutal cold of backwoods Canada.

Meldrum, Christina. Madapple. Random House Children's Books / Alfred A. Knopf. 2008. 978-0-375-95176-3 $16.99
After growing up in almost total isolation believing she is was immaculately conceived, 15-year-old Aslaug's world begins to crumble when her mother dies.

Meyer, Stephenie. The Host. Little, Brown. 2008. 978-0-316-06804-8 $25.99
Set in a believable futuristic time when Earth and other worlds have been taken over by the "souls”, this is a story of love, betrayal and compassion.

Monninger, Joseph. Baby. Front Street/Boyd Mills Press. 2007. 978-1-59078-502-7 $16.95
Fifteen-year-old Baby leaves the middle-aged Potters, her last chance at foster care, to be with her old boyfriend while she figures out her own needs and wants.

Murphy, Pat. The Wild Girls. Viking/Penguin. 2007. 978-0-670-06226-3 $16.99
Twelve year old Joan hates her new life in California until she meets the Queen of the Foxes and becomes one of the Wild Girls.

Napoli , Donna Jo. Hush: An Irish Princess' Tale. Simon Pulse. 2007. 978-0-689-86176-5 $16.99
Melkorka, a 10th century Irish princess, must adapt to a harsh new life after she is stolen from her home by Russian slavers.

Ness, Patrick. The Knife of Never Letting Go. Chaos Walking. Book One. Candlewick. 2008. $18.99
Todd Hewitt is the last boy in a town of all men. In a town where everyone can hear each other’s thoughts what kind of secrets can be kept?

Padian, Maria. Brett McCarthy: Work in Progress. Alfred A. Knopf. 2008.
978-0-375-94675-2 $15.99
Eighth-grader Brett McCarthy--once good student and best-friend-to-Diane, now suspended and friendless--faces school and family troubles as she grapples with her redefined life.

Pearson, Mary E. The Adoration of Jenna Fox. Henry Holt. 2008. 978-0-8050-7668-4 $16.95
Jenna Fox wakes from a year-long coma. As her memory begins to return, she has more questions than answers about who she was, and who she is now.

Pratchett, Terry. Nation. HarperCollins. 2008. 978-0-06-143302-3 $17.89
Mau is caught in the tidal wave that destroyed his island and Daphne is the only survivor from her ship. Together on the devastated island they form a new Nation.

Reeve, Philip. Here Lies Arthur. Scholastic. 2008. 978-0-545-09334-1 $17.99
A fresh look at the Arthur legend told through the eyes of a young girl who pretends to be a boy to survive.

Reinhardt, Dana. How to Build a House. Random House/Wendy Lamb. 2008. 978-0-375-84453-9 $15.99
Devastated by her parent's divorce Harper Evans spends the summer with 11 other students building a house for a family in Tennessee and finds herself healing while making new friends.

Schmidt, Gary D. Trouble. Clarion. 2008. 978-0-618-92766-1 $16.00
Henry’s father said Trouble would not find this family. But it did one horrific night, setting off tensions in Blythbury-by-the-Sea. Maybe it had it been there always, just waiting.

Schumacher, Julie. Black Box. Random House / Delacorte. 2008. 978-0-385-73542-1 $15.99
Fourteen-year-old Elena struggles to hold steady ground and help her sister Dora, who has been admitted to a psychiatric ward after swallowing an entire bottle of antidepressants.

Scott, Elizabeth. Living Dead Girl. Simon and Schuster/Simon Pulse. 2008.
978-1-4169-6059-1 $16.99
Abducted at the age of ten, Alice has lived as a live-in rape victim for Ray for 5 years until he informs her that she’s "too old" for his love.

Scott, Elizabeth. Stealing Heaven. HarperTeen/HarperCollins. 2008. 978-0-06-112280-4 $16.99
Living by burglarizing expensive homes with her mother, Dani’s friendship with another girl stalls when it becomes clear she lives in the house they are planning to rob next.

Sheth, Kashmira. Keeping Corner. Hyperion. 2007. 978-0-7868-3859-2 $15.99
In India during World War I, twelve-year-old Leela's husband dies, and she is forced to shave her head and keep corner, staying inside her family's house for a year.

Shusterman, Neal. Antsy Does Time. Penguin/Dutton. 2008. 978-0-525-47825-6 $16.99
One simple act – offering dying classmate Gunnar Umlaut a month of his life – takes hold with the entire student body and turns Anthony “Antsy” Bonano’s life upside down.

Smith, Andrew. Ghost Medicine. Feiwel & Friends. 2008. 978-0-312-37557-7 $17.95
The summer that cowboy Troy Stotts turns 17, he and his two best friends band together to fight the trouble that surrounds them by creating a medicine all their own.

Smith, Roland. Elephant Run. Hyperion. 2007. 978-1-4231-0402-5 $15.99
Thirteen-year-old Nick is trapped on his father's teak plantation during the Japanese invasion of Burma during 1941 and must find a way to save his father as well as himself.

Tamaki, Mariko and Jillian Tamaki. Skim. House of Anansi Press / Groundwood Books. 2008. 978-0-88899-753-1 $18.95
Friendship, love, identity, and a general feeling of isolation in an all-girls private school contribute to Kim Cameron (Skim)'s growing depression.

Tharp, Tim . The Spectacular Now. Random House / Alfred A. Knopf. 2008. 978-0-375-95179-4 $16.99
Sutter Keely glides through his senior year’s final days soaked with heavy amounts of booze but his joy ride is detracted by love issues and an unclear future.

Valentine, Jenny. Me, the Missing, and the Dead. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. 2008. 978-0-06-085068-5 $16.99
Five years after his dad’s disappearance, Lucas senses that a dead woman is trying to communicate with him and he is driven to listen and respond.

Venkatraman, Padma. Climbing the Stairs. Penguin. 2008. 978-0-399-24746-0 $16.99
When Vidya’s father is seriously injured, her family moves from their progressive home to the household of her conservative relatives, where she must adjust to a new set of expectations.

Voorhees, Coert. The Brothers Torres. Hyperion. 2008. 978-1-4231-0304-2 $16.99
Frankie Torres (or Towers depending which side his heritage is viewed) narrates his coming-of-age story of falling for a girl as his idolized brother runs with a group of cholos.

Werlin, Nancy. Impossible. Penguin/Dial. 2008. 978-0-8037-3002-1 $17.99
Lucy, 17, discovers the women of her family have been cursed with madness unless they complete three impossible tasks. All have failed. Will Zach's help and her resolve save her?

Wood, Don . Into the Volcano. Scholastic. 2008. 978-0-439-72671-9 $18.99
Duffy and Sumo set off on an adventure into the belly of an ancient volcano without knowing exactly what they’re looking for. Their discoveries shock and then nearly kill them.

Woodson, Jacqueline. After Tupac and D Foster. G.P. Putnam’s Sons. 2008.
978-0-399-24654-8 $15.99
The friendship of three girls from very different families fills the emptiness of uncertainty as they struggle with Tupac Shakur's troubles as well as their own.

Zarr, Sara. Sweethearts. Little, Brown. 2008. 978-0-316-01455-7 $16.99
High school senior Jenna has successfully remade her life, but has to confront long-suppressed memories of a traumatic childhood when her only friend from childhood, Cameron, suddenly reappears.


Aronson, Marc and Campbell, Patty. War Is...Soldiers, Survivors, and Storytellers Talk About War. Candlewick. 2008. 978-0-7636-3625-8 $17.99
A balanced collection of contemporary and historical writings including interviews, stories, memoirs, and a miliblog addresses the experience of enlisting, serving, and surviving war from a variety of perspectives.

Barry, Lynda. What It Is. Drawn and Quarterly. 2008. 978-1-897299-35-7 $24.95
Questions, images, story, comic illustrations and workbook pages guide and push readers to break down barriers, experiment and grow through writing or drawing.

Bowman, Robin. It's Complicated: The American Teenager. Umbrage Editions. 2007. 978-1-884167-69-0 $40.00 This random collection of black and white photographs of teenagers from across the country includes short testimonials about their lives.

Engle, Margarita. The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom. Henry Holt. 2008. 978-0-8050-8674-4 $16.95
Caves and hidden huts serve as secret hospitals for Rosa as she risks her life nursing the sick and wounded during three wars for Cuba’s independence from 1850-1899.

Fleischman, Sid. The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West. Greenwillow Press/HarperCollins. 2008. $18.99
Meet the young Samuel Clemens and the coast-to-coast experiences that molded America's most famed humorist and social commentator.

Kuklin, Susan. No Choirboy: Murder, Violence, and Teenagers on Death Row. Henry Holt. 2008. 978-0-8050-7950-0 $17.95
Inmates sentenced to death as teenagers give firsthand accounts of life on Death Row and relatives of both victims and prisoners share their experiences in this collection of interviews.

Menzel, Peter and D’Aluisio, Faith. What the World Eats. Ten Speed Press. 2008. 978-1-58246-246-2 $22.99
This book examines the meals of 25 different families from all around the world using lush photographs and health statistics.

Nelson, Scott Reynolds. Ain't Nothing But a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry. National Geographic Society. 2207. 978-1-4263-0000-4 $18.95
Historian Scott Reynolds Nelson chronicles his journeys, both on land and in historical records, to find the truth about the man behind the myth of "John Henry."

Parker, David L. Before Their Time: The World of Child Labor. Quantuck Lane Press. 2007.
978-0-618-23378-6 $35.00
Presented are portraits of the world’s children who labor under harsh and dangerous conditions in factories and on farms as miners, garbage pickers, sex workers and brick haulers.

Porcellino, John. Thoreau at Walden. Hyperion. 2008. 978-1-4231-0038-6 $16.99
Simply but beautifully illustrated, this adaptation of "Walden" introduces new readers to Thoreau's work while providing a fresh perspective for those already familiar with the text.

Shields, Charles J. I Am Scout: The Biography of Harper Lee. Henry Holt. 2008. 978-0-8050-8334-7 $18.95
Curious about Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird? Finally her story is told; her childhood, success, seclusion and rejection of fame.

Weatherford, Carole Boston. Becoming Billie Holiday. Wordsong. 2008. 978-1-59078-507-2. $19.95

Wendel, Tim and Villegas, Jose Luis. Far From Home: Latino Baseball Players in America. National Geographic. 2008. 978-1-4262-0216-2 $28.00
The rich history of Latino baseball players is presented along with a feel of growing up in Latino communities passionate for the game.