Best Books for Young Adults


Draft January 2003

From a conference room in Philadelphia, just blocks from the Liberty Bell, seventy-two books that honor the past, celebrate our freedom, and look to the future have been selected by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA) for the 2003 Best Books for Young Adults list.

The fifteen member committee narrowed the list from over 900 submissions to 203 official nominations meeting the criteria of both good literary quality and popular reading appeal for teens, ages 12-18. Over ninety teens attended a special session to share their opinions with the committee. The winning titles include many multicultural books, adult books, and books from small and foreign presses. Two titles with graphic novel components and a fiction title with significant color artwork add visual appeal to the list.

Eleven books received a unanimous vote from the committee: Feed by M. T. Anderson, a cautionary tale about an overly-commercial future; Overboard by Elizabeth Fama, a fictionalized survival story of shipwreck victims off the coast of Sumatra; The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer, in which Matt, a clone of 142-year-old drug lord El Patron, wonders what the future holds for him; Out of the Fire by Deborah Froese, in which an accident at a bonfire party results in the disfigurement of a teen girl; The Hunting of the Last Dragon by Sherryl Jordan, where two unlikely allies set off on a quest; Son of the Mob by Gordon Korman, where a mafia son falls in love with the daughter of an FBI agent; The Kite Rider by Geraldine McCaughrean, an adventure in which Haoyou joins a 13th century traveling circus in a most dangerous role; Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore, which answers the question of WWJD as a teenager; Left for Dead: A Young Man’s Search for Justice for the USS Indianapolis by Peter Nelson, a school history project that changes history; 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East by Naomi Shihab Nye, a strong collection from a Palestinian-American poet; and Lucy the Giant by Sherri L. Smith, which chronicles the adventures of a teen working on a commercial crabbing boat.

Members of the 2003 Best Books for Young Adults Committee were Cynthia K. Dobrez, Chair, Harbor Lights Middle School, Holland, MI; Angelina M. Benedetti, King County Library System, Issaquah, WA; Margaret L. Butzler, Steel Center AVTS, Jefferson Hills, PA; Betsy J. Fraser, Calgary Public Library, Calgary, CANADA; Diana Tixier Herald, The Center for Adolescent Reading, Grand Junction, CO; Andy Howe, Simms Library, Albuquerque Academy, Albuquerque, NM; Jennifer Hubert, Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School, New York, NY; Kathleen T. Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC; Betsy J. Levine, San Francisco Public Library, San Francisco, CA; Cindy Lombardo, Orrville Public Library, Orrville, OH; Kimberly L. Paone, Free Public Library of Elizabeth, Elizabeth, NJ; Richie Partington, Richie’s Picks, Sebastopol, CA; Erin Lynn Pierce, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA; Victor Lynn Schill, Harris County Public Library, Houston, TX; Rochelle Sides–Renda, Birmingham Public Library, Birmingham, AL; Stephanie Zvirin, Consultant, Booklist, Chicago, IL; Peter Butts, Administrative Assistant, East Middle School, Holland, MI.


Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. 2001. illus. Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-1850. Houghton Mifflin, $18.00 (0-618-00271-5)

Fleischman, John. Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science. illus. Houghton Mifflin, $16.00 (0-618-05252-6)

Gantos, Jack. Hole in My Life. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $16.00 (0-374-39988-3)

Hampton, Wilborn. Meltdown: A Race Against Nuclear Disaster at Three Mile Island: A Reporter's Story. 2001. Candlewick Press, $16.99 (0-7636-0715-0)

McPherson, James M. Fields of Fury: The American Civil War. illus. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, $22.95 (0-689-84833-1)

Nelson, Peter. Left for Dead: A Young Man's Search for Justice for the USS Indianapolis. illus. Random House/Delacorte Press, $15.95 (0-385-72959-6); lib. ed., $17.99 (0-385-90033-3)

Nye, Naomi Shihab. 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East. HarperCollins/Greenwillow, $16.95 (0-06-009765-5); lib. ed., $16.89 (0-06-009766-3)

Partridge, Elizabeth. This Land Was Made For You and Me: The Life & Songs of Woody Guthrie. illus. Penguin Putnam/Viking, $21.99 (0-670-03535-1)

Philbrick, Nathaniel. Revenge of the Whale: The True Story of the Whaleship Essex. illus. Penguin Putam/G. P. Putnam's Sons, $16.99 (0-399-23795-X)

Rall, Ted. To Afghanistan and Back: A Graphic Travelogue. illus. Nantier Beall Minoustchine, $15.95 (1-56163-325-9)

Steinberg, Jacques. The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College. Penguin Putnam/Viking, $25.95 (0-670-03135-6)


Alvarez, Julia. Before We Were Free. Random House/Alfred A. Knopf, $15.95 (0-375-81544-9); lib. ed., $17.99 (0-375-91544-3)

Anderson, Laurie Halse. Catalyst. Penguin Putnam/Viking, $17.99 (0-670-03566-1)

Anderson, M. T. Feed. Candlewick Press, $16.99 (0-7636-1726-1)

Auch, Mary Jane. Ashes of Roses. Henry Holt & Company, $16.95 (0-8050-6686-1)

Bardi, Abby. The Book of Fred: A Novel. 2001 Pocket Books/Washington Square Press, $24.00 (0-7434-1193-5); lib. ed., $13.00 (0-7434-1194-3)

Barker, Clive. Abarat. illus. HarperCollins/Joanna Cotler Books, $24.89 (0-06-028092-1); lib. ed. (0-06-051084-6)

Bechard, Margaret. Hanging on to Max. Millbrook/Roaring Brook Press, $15.95 (0-7613-1579-9); lib.ed., $22.90 (0-7613-2574-3)

Black, Holly. Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale. Simon & Schuster, $16.95 (0-689-84924-9)

Blackwood, Gary L. Year of the Hangman. Penguin Putnam/Dutton, $16.99 (0-525-46921-4)

Breslin, Theresa. Remembrance. Random House/Delacorte Press, $16.95 (0-385-73015-2); lib. ed., $18.99 (0-385-90067-8)

Chambers, Aidan. Postcards from No Man's Land. Penguin Putnam/Dutton, $19.99 (0-525-46863-3)

Clements, Andrew. Things Not Seen. Penguin Putnam/Philomel Books, $15.95 (0-399-23626-0)

Cohn, Rachel. Gingerbread. Simon & Schuster, $15.95 (0-689-84337-2)

Crowe, Chris. Mississippi Trial, 1955. Penguin Putnam/Phyllis Fogelman Books, $17.99 (0-8037-2745-3)

de Lint, Charles. Seven Wild Sisters. Illustrated by Charles Vess. Subterranean Press, $35.00 (1-931081-33-6)

Desai Hidier, Tanuja. Born Confused. Scholastic, $16.95 (0-439-35762-4)

Dessen, Sarah. This Lullaby. Penguin Putnam/Viking, $16.99 (0-670-03530-0)

Ellis, Deborah. Parvana’s Journey. Groundwood/Douglas & McIntyre, $15.95 (0-88899-514-8)

Etchemendy, Nancy. Cat in Glass and Other Tales of the Unnatural. Illustrated by David Ouimet. Carus Publishing/Cricket Books, $15.95 (0-8126-2674-5)

Fama, Elizabeth. Overboard. Carus Publishing/Cricket Books, $15.95 (0-8126-2652-4)

Farmer, Nancy. The House of the Scorpion. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum/A Richard Jackson Book, $17.95 (0-689-85222-3)

Ferris, Jean. Once Upon a Marigold. Harcourt, $17.00 (0-15-216791-9)

Frank, E. R. America. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum/A Richard Jackson Book, $18.00 (0-689-84729-7)

Frank, Hillary. Better Than Running at Night. Houghton Mifflin, $17.00 (0-618-10439-9); lib. ed. (0-618-25073-5)

Freymann-Weyr, Garret. My Heartbeat. Houghton Mifflin, $15.00 (0-618-14181-2)

Froese, Deborah. Out of the Fire. Sumach Press, $7.95 (1-894549-09-0)

Gaiman, Neil. Coraline. Illustrated byDave McKean. HarperCollins, $15.99 (0-380-97778-8); lib. ed., $17.89 (0-06-623744-0)

Giff, Patricia Reilly. Pictures of Hollis Woods. Random House/Wendy Lamb Books, $15.95 (0-385-32655-6); lib. ed., $17.99 (0-385-90070-8)

Giles, Gail. Shattering Glass. Millbrook Press/Roaring Brook Press, $15.95 (0-7613-1581-0); lib. ed., $17.99 (0-7613-2601-4)

Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest. Edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling; Illustrated by Charles Vess. Penguin Putnam/Viking, $18.99 (0-670-03526-2)

Grimes, Nikki. Bronx Masquerade. Penguin Putnam/Dial Books, $16.99 (0-8037-2569-8)

Halam, Ann. Dr. Franklin's Island. Random House/Wendy Lamb Books, $14.95 (0-385-73008-X); lib. ed., $16.99 (0-385-90056-2)

Hiaasen, Carl. Hoot. Random House/Alfred A. Knopf, $15.99 (0-375-82181-3); lib. ed., $17.99 (0-375-92181-8)

Holeman, Linda. Search of the Moon King's Daughter. Tundra Books, $17.95 (0-88776-592-0)

Jordan, Sherryl. The Hunting of the Last Dragon. HarperCollins, $15.95 (0-06-028902-3); lib.ed., $15.89 (0-06-028903-1)

Kidd, Sue Monk. The Secret Life of Bees. Penguin Putnam/Viking, $24.95 (0-670-89460-5)

Koertge, Ron. Stoner & Spaz. Candlewick Press, $15.99 (0-7636-1608-7)

Korman, Gordon. Son of the Mob. Hyperion Books for Children, $15.99 (0-7868-0769-5); lib. ed., $15.95 (0-7868-2616-9)

Lawrence, Iain. The Lightkeeper's Daughter. Random House/Delacorte Press, $16.95 (0-385-72925-1); lib. ed., $18.99 (0-385-90062-7)

Leavitt, Martine. The Dollmage. 2001. Red Deer Press, $8.95 (0-88995-233-7)

McCaughrean, Geraldine. The Kite Rider. HarperCollins, $15.95 (0-06-623874-9); lib.ed., $15.89 (0-06-623875-7)

Miller, Mary Beth. Aimee. Penguin Putnam/Dutton, $16.99 (0-525-46894-3)

Moore, Christopher. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal. HarperCollins/William Morrow, $25.95 (0-380-97840-7)

Oates, Joyce Carol. Big Mouth & Ugly Girl. HarperCollins, $16.95 (0-06-623756-4); lib. ed., $16.89 (0-06-623758-0)

Park, Linda Sue. When My Name Was Keoko: A Novel of Korea in World War II. Houghton Mifflin/Clarion Books, $15.00 (0-618-13335-6)

Placide, Jaira. Fresh Girl. Random House/Wendy Lamb Books, $15.95 (0-385-32753-6)

Plum-Ucci, Carol. What Happened to Lani Garver. Harcourt, $17.00 (0-15-216813-3)

Powell, Randy. Three Clams and an Oyster. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $16.00 (0-374-37526-7)

Rottman, S. L. Stetson. Penguin Putnam/Viking, $16.99 (0-670-03542-4)

Santana, Patricia. Motorcycle Ride on the Sea of Tranquility. University of New Mexico Press, $19.95 (0-8263-2435-5)

Savage, Deborah. Kotuku. Houghton Mifflin, $16.00 (0-618-04756-5)

Sebold, Alice. The Lovely Bones: A Novel. Little, Brown & Co., $21.95 (0-316-66634-3)

Shattered: Stories of Children and War. Edited by Jennifer Armstrong. Random House/Alfred A. Knopf, $15.95 (0-375-81112-5); lib. ed., $17.99 (0-375-91112-X)

Sheppard, Mary C. Seven for a Secret. 2001. Groundwood Books, $15.95 (0-88899-437-0)

Smith, Kevin and Phil Hester. Green Arrow: Quiver. Illustrated by Ande Parks and Guy Major. Warner Books/DC Comics, $24.95 (1-56389-802-0); paperback, $17.95 (1-56389-887-X)

Smith, Sherri L. Lucy the Giant. Random House/Delacorte Press, $15.95 (0-385-72940-5); lib. ed., $17.99 (0-385-90031-7 lib)

Tolan, Stephanie. Surviving the Applewhites. HarperCollins, $15.99 (0-06-623602-9); lib. ed., $17.89 (0-06-623603-7)

Toten, Teresa. The Game. 2001. Red Deer Press, $7.99 (0-88995-232-9)

Van Pelt, James. Strangers and Beggars: Stories. Fairwood Press, paperback, $17.99 (0-9668184-5-8)

Woodson, Jacqueline. Hush. Penguin Putnam/G.P. Putnam's Sons, $15.99 (0-399-23114-5)

Yolen, Jane and Robert J. Harris. Girl in a Cage. Penguin Putnam/Philomel Books, $18.99 (0-399-23627-9)