Go straight to the list or view the 2002 Best Books for Young Adults Top Ten List
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)
A detailed account of the rapid onset of the Great Irish Famine of 1845-1850 and its devastating, long-lasting effect on the Irish people.
Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science. illus. Houghton Mifflin, $16.00 (0-618-05252-6)
In 1848 a tamping iron accidently blasted through the head of Phineas Gage, foreman on a railroad construction gang, leaving him physically recovered but mentally and emotionally changed and providing new insights into the workings of the human brain.
Hole in My Life. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $16.00 (0-374-39988-3)
Compelling story by the prizewinning author, Jack Gantos, of how as a youth he helped smuggle hash on a yacht, was arrested by the FBI, convicted, sent to prison, how he did his prison time, and went to college to study writing.
Meltdown: A Race Against Nuclear Disaster at Three Mile Island: A Reporter's Story. 2001. Candlewick Press, $16.99 (0-7636-0715-0)
An eye–witness account of escalating disaster of the Tree Mile Island nuclear power plant accident of 1979, told by a U.P.I. reporter, set within the context of the Hiroshima atomic bombing and Chernobyl power plant explosion.
McPherson, James M.
Fields of Fury: The American Civil War. illus. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, $22.95 (0-689-84833-1)
Event by event, a noted Civil War historian chronicles for younger readers the deadliest conflict the United States ever fought, providing battle descriptions, personal anecdotes from participants, biographies of the most important players, illustrations from paintings, photographs, other historical documents and clear maps.
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)
The USS Indianapolis was sunk by a Japanese submarine in the last days of World War II. Over fifty years later, a teen works with the survivors of the disaster to clear the name of the Indianapolis’s captain, who was wrongly court martialed for the tragedy.
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)
Nye's father is Palestinian and her mother is German-American, so she grew up in St. Louis, San Antonio, and Jerusalem. Her poetry includes stories of the Middle East through the eyes of an American child, as well as of America through the eyes of Middle Easterners.
This Land Was Made For You and Me: The Life & Songs of Woody Guthrie. illus. Penguin Putnam/Viking, $21.99 (0-670-03535-1)
The tragic life story of the rambling folk singer Woody Guthrie, author of “This Land is Your Land.”
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)
A detailed account of the 1820 voyage of the whaleship Essex which was attacked and sunk by a sperm whale.
To Afghanistan and Back: A Graphic Travelogue. illus. Nantier Beall Minoustchine, $15.95 (1-56163-325-9)
Syndicated cartoonist and columnist Ted Rall shares the details of his fascinating and dangerous fall 2001 trip to Afghanistan along with his liberal political views in this graphic travelogue.
The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College. Penguin Putnam/Viking, $25.95 (0-670-03135-6)
A behind–the–scenes look at the college admissions process by the national education correspondent for the New York Times who shadows an admissions officer at Wesleyan through a year’s work.
Before We Were Free. Random House/Alfred A. Knopf, $15.95 (0-375-81544-9); lib. ed., $17.99 (0-375-91544-3)
Twelve–year–old Anita de le Torres’ increasing physical maturation is matched by an increasing social awareness, not only of the boys around her but also of the mounting danger to her family, active opponents of the Dominican dictator, Trujillo.
Anderson, Laurie Halse.
Catalyst. Penguin Putnam/Viking, $17.99 (0-670-03566-1)
Kate Malone, the preacher’s daughter, learns there is more to life than her obsession about getting into MIT when she becomes involved with her tragedy–stricken neighbors.
Anderson, M. T. Feed. Candlewick Press, $16.99 (0-7636-1726-1)
Titus and Violet are teenagers living in a future society where corporations define the lives and lifestyles of Americans, and where it has become common for prosperous parents to endow their newborn children with Feed: mini–computers with wireless Internet connections that are implanted in their heads.
Auch, Mary Jane.
Ashes of Roses. Henry Holt & Company, $16.95 (0-8050-6686-1)
Sixteen–year–old Irish immigrant Rose Nolan survives the breakup of her family on Ellis Island, an uncomfortable stay with resentful relatives, and a sweatshop owner’s roving hands before finally landing a choice job in New York City’s Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.
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)
How do the lives of fifteen-year-old Heather, her mother and uncle change when fifteen-year-old Mary Fred Anderson, raised in a fundamentalist commune, is placed in their home as a foster child?
Abarat. illus. HarperCollins/Joanna Cotler Books, $24.89 (0-06-028092-1); lib. ed. (0-06-051084-6)
Candy Quackenbush leaves her home in Chickentown, Minnesota and enters the magical world of Abarat, where she is pursued by the wicked Lord Carrion.
Hanging on to Max. Millbrook/Roaring Brook Press, $15.95 (0-7613-1579-9); lib.ed., $22.90 (0-7613-2574-3)
Seventeen–year–old teen father Sam juggles the care of his eleven–month–old son, Max, and his desire for both of their futures.
Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale. Simon & Schuster, $16.95 (0-689-84924-9)
Kaye never imagined that saving the life of the impossibly gorgeous Roiben would bring her to the attention of the unseelie court, as the intended sacrifice for the tithe. Or does it?
Blackwood, Gary L.
Year of the Hangman. Penguin Putnam/Dutton, $16.99 (0-525-46921-4)
In an alternate “what–if” history, set in 1777, a rowdy English teen encounters the remnants of the unsuccessful American Revolution when he is exiled to the Colonies.
Breslin, Theresa. Remembrance. Random House/Delacorte Press, $16.95 (0-385-73015-2); lib. ed., $18.99 (0-385-90067-8)
The chaos and waste on the battlefields of World War I cause a comparable upheaval to traditional ways of life in the tiny Scots village that was home for Charlotte Armstrong Barnes and her brother Francis, from the big house, and Maggie Dundas and her brother John Malcolm, from the shop in this tender love–and–war story.
Postcards from No Man's Land. Penguin Putnam/Dutton, $19.99 (0-525-46863-3)
Jacob’s visit to the seductive city of Amsterdam reveals family secrets and new ideas about sexuality and death, as he learns of a passionate love story from his family’s past and perhaps begins to create one of his own.
Things Not Seen. Penguin Putnam/Philomel Books, $15.95 (0-399-23626-0)
Fifteen-year old Bobby Phillips wakes one morning to find that he is invisible.
Gingerbread. Simon & Schuster, $15.95 (0-689-84337-2)
When sixteen–year–old Cyd Charisse is sent to New York to stay with her bio dad she gets to know not only her older brother and the sister who calls her “Daddy’s little indiscretion” but also herself.
Mississippi Trial, 1955. Penguin Putnam/Phyllis Fogelman Books, $17.99 (0-8037-2745-3)
A gripping novel based on the true story of fourteen–year–old Emett Till, whose brutal lynching for whistling at a white woman helped to launch the Civil Rights movement.
de Lint, Charles.
Seven Wild Sisters. Illustrated by Charles Vess. Subterranean Press, $35.00 (1-931081-33-6)
When one of seven red–haired sisters befriends a backwoods wisewoman, she unwittlingly draws all of them into a centuries old feud between the bee fairies and ‘sangmen in this modern fairy tale.
Desai Hidier, Tanuja.
Born Confused. Scholastic, $16.95 (0-439-35762-4)
In the summer before her senior year, seventeen–year–old Dimple is confused about her relationships with her family, her heritage, and her beautiful best friend.
This Lullaby. Penguin Putnam/Viking, $16.99 (0-670-03530-0)
Made cynical by her romance novelist mother's five failed marriages, Remy Starr is stunned to discover that her heart may not be made of stone, when she reluctantly falls for quirky-cute Dexter the summer before she leaves for college.
Parvana’s Journey. Groundwood/Douglas & McIntyre, $15.95 (0-88899-514-8)
After her father died of the sickness that had dogged him since they had left Kabul, thirteen-year-old Parvana, disguised as a boy, wanders alone through war-torn Afghanistan looking for her mother and siblings who had disappeared in the tumult of the Taliban takeover of Mazer-e-Sharif, and forming a new family of abandoned children she has met along the way.
Cat in Glass and Other Tales of the Unnatural. Illustrated by David Ouimet. Carus Publishing/Cricket Books, $15.95 (0-8126-2674-5)
These eight tales range from the supernatural to the unknown to the horrific.
Overboard. Carus Publishing/Cricket Books, $15.95 (0-8126-2652-4)
While on a trip to visit her uncle, Emily escapes the sinking ferry and finds herself—and a young, courageous Muslim boy—adrift in the waters off the islands of Sumatra.
The House of the Scorpion. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum/A Richard Jackson Book, $17.95 (0-689-85222-3)
Matt is a clone. Livestock. No better than an animal. Generally, human clones have their brains destroyed at birth, but for some reason, Matt’s patron has left his mind in tact. What could he want from him?
Ferris, Jean. Once Upon a Marigold. Harcourt, $17.00 (0-15-216791-9) fiction Christian decides to leave his foster father, Ed the Troll, and his life in the forest in order to meet the princess he has observed through his telescope.
Frank, E. R.
America. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum/A Richard Jackson Book, $18.00 (0-689-84729-7)
A young man named America gets "lost" in the social welfare system and after a series of foster homes, hospitals, and suicide attempts, he meets a caring psychiatrist who refuses to give up on him.
Better Than Running at Night. Houghton Mifflin, $17.00 (0-618-10439-9); lib. ed. (0-618-25073-5)
Native New Yorker Ellie Yelinsky’s freshman year at art school turns into an unexpectedly strange and wonderful experience, as Ellie dances with the Devil and learns that painting is more about craft than it is about angst.
My Heartbeat. Houghton Mifflin, $15.00 (0-618-14181-2)
Ellen’s question about her brother’s relationship with his best friend James changes everything in this tight three–way friendship.
Out of the Fire. Sumach Press, $7.95 (1-894549-09-0)
A careless moment at a teen bonfire party forces Dayle to re-evaluate her values and her relationships with her friends and family.
Coraline. Illustrated byDave McKean. HarperCollins, $15.99 (0-380-97778-8); lib. ed., $17.89 (0-06-623744-0)
One day, while exploring her family’s new home, Coraline wanders down the wrong corridor.
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)
An artistic foster child who has bounced from place to place seeks a real home and recalls the tragedy of the previous summer.
Shattering Glass. Millbrook Press/Roaring Brook Press, $15.95 (0-7613-1581-0); lib. ed., $17.99 (0-7613-2601-4)
Rob is very popular, and Rob is used to getting his own way. When he decides to make Simon Glass, class geek, popular, it surprises everyone. Especially Simon. What Rob doesn’t count on is the iron will beneath Simon’s push–over exterior.
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)
Eighteen stories and poems that celebrate the pagan myth of the Green Man and other friendly or frightening fairy folk.
Bronx Masquerade. Penguin Putnam/Dial Books, $16.99 (0-8037-2569-8)
Eighteen inner city teens in Mr. Ward's English class tell about their lives through text and poetry as they participate in weekly "Open Mike Fridays." This exercise brings them together, opens them up to one another, and forces them to learn about themselves and the people around them.
Dr. Franklin's Island. Random House/Wendy Lamb Books, $14.95 (0-385-73008-X); lib. ed., $16.99 (0-385-90056-2)
While on their way to a special science camp in Ecuador, Arnie, Semi and Miranda find themselves the sole survivors of a plane wreck, and become castaways on a deserted island. Or so they think. Little do they know that the island is home to a mad genetic scientist who is just waiting for fresh teenage flesh to inject with animal genes.
Hoot. Random House/Alfred A. Knopf, $15.99 (0-375-82181-3); lib. ed., $17.99 (0-375-92181-8)
New to Florida and Trace Middle School, Ray Eberhardt is at the mercy of the local bully but intrigued by a strange unschooled kid whose passion for the local wildlife leads them both into a crusade against a new pancake shop that will displace a colony of burrowing owls.
Search of the Moon King's Daughter. Tundra Books, $17.95 (0-88776-592-0)
When Emmeline’s mother sells her little brother to a master sweep to get money for drams of opiate to take away her pain, Emmeline must leave everything to try and find him before it is too late.
The Hunting of the Last Dragon. HarperCollins, $15.95 (0-06-028902-3); lib.ed., $15.89 (0-06-028903-1)
After Jude becomes the sole survivor from his village after a dragon attack, he finds himself becoming friends and unlikely allies with Jing-Wei, the "freak" in a sideshow in a quest that could kill them both.
Kidd, Sue Monk.
The Secret Life of Bees. Penguin Putnam/Viking, $24.95 (0-670-89460-5)
In the summer of 1964, just after Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law, fourteen-year-old motherless Lily Owens breaks her black caretaker, Rosaleen, out of jail after a failed attempt to register to vote and they run off, finding a home with the beekeeping Calendar Sisters of Tiburon, S. Carolina
Stoner & Spaz. Candlewick Press, $15.99 (0-7636-1608-7)
What happens when a sixteen-year-old guy with C.P. and a caustic wit fall in love with a drugged-out girl with tattoos? Well...it isn't Romeo and Juliet!
Son of the Mob. Hyperion Books for Children, $15.99 (0-7868-0769-5); lib. ed., $15.95 (0-7868-2616-9)
The ultimate Romeo and Juliet tale. The son of the mob falls in love with the daughter of the FBI. Even communications are a problem when your girlfriend’s dad is the agent in charge of bugging your house.
The Lightkeeper's Daughter. Random House/Delacorte Press, $16.95 (0-385-72925-1); lib. ed., $18.99 (0-385-90062-7)
A teenage mother tries to reconcile with her lightouse–keeping parents, despite feeling that it was their remote and lonely lifestyle that led to her brother’s death.
The Dollmage. 2001. Red Deer Press, $8.95 (0-88995-233-7)
The Dollmage is the wise woman of Seekvalley. On the day she predicts to be the birthday of her successor, two girls are born, leading the dollmage to make a decision that will affect all of the lives in the valley.
The Kite Rider. HarperCollins, $15.95 (0-06-623874-9); lib.ed., $15.89 (0-06-623875-7)
Danger lurks everywhere in thirteenth century China as Haoyou rescues his grieving mother from an evil potential second husband, an action which forces him to join a traveling circus in the perilous role of the Kite Rider.
Miller, Mary Beth. Aimee. Penguin Putnam/Dutton, $16.99 (0-525-46894-3) How well do you think you’d cope if your best friend made sure you were the only witness to her suicide, you weren’t allowed contact with any of the rest of your tight–knit group of friends, and everyone believed that you must have helped Aimee kill herself or perhaps, even murdered her?
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal. HarperCollins/William Morrow, $25.95 (0-380-97840-7)
WWJD? At age six? Thirteen? Eighteen? Restoring lizards to life and hanging out with Biff and Maggie are only a couple of His activities.
Oates, Joyce Carol.
Big Mouth & Ugly Girl. HarperCollins, $16.95 (0-06-623756-4); lib. ed., $16.89 (0-06-623758-0)
What are the consequences when high school junior Matt Donaghy jokingly threatens to blow up the school during lunch one day?
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)
In 1940, when the Japanese rulers of Korea decreed that all Koreans must take Japanese names, Kim Sun-hee's official name changed, but she did not lose her Korean identity or her patriotism which grew as the war came far too close to home, food and clothing became difficult to get, her uncle who had been working for the underground fled, and her brother joined the Japanese army to become a kamikaze pilot.
Fresh Girl. Random House/Wendy Lamb Books, $15.95 (0-385-32753-6)
Mardi's sunlit childhood in Haiti disappeared in the violence that forced President Aristide and thousands of other Haitians including members of her own family into exile ten years ago, but it took a long time for fourteen-year-old Mardi to admit to her family in Brooklyn just how traumatic her escape had been, to put violence behind her and begin to make her way in her new world.
What Happened to Lani Garver. Harcourt, $17.00 (0-15-216813-3)
Claire McKenzie is haunted by her brief relationship with Lani Garver, a newcomer to her close island community who changed her life.
Powell, Randy. Three Clams and an Oyster. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $16.00 (0-374-37526-7)
Three members of a flag football team search for a fourth teammate over a weekend in which they confront their attitudes about friendship, girls, and their shared past.
Rottman, S. L.
Stetson. Penguin Putnam/Viking, $16.99 (0-670-03542-4)
Stetson has learned to survive a drunken negligent father by fending for himself, working at the salvage yard, and devoting his free time to rebuilding his car until a mystery younger sister turns up and turns his life upside down.
Motorcycle Ride on the Sea of Tranquility. University of New Mexico Press, $19.95 (0-8263-2435-5)
When fourteen–year–old Yolanda Sahagun’s favorite brother returns from Vietnam in the spring of 1969, everything changes and everything is changing.
Kotuku. Houghton Mifflin, $16.00 (0-618-04756-5)
Seventeen–year–old Wim Thorpe resists caring after the loss of her best friend, but the attractive New Zealand historian investigating Maori connections to her home town looks exactly like a benevolent tattooed apparition who may be showing her they way to her own truth.
The Lovely Bones: A Novel. Little, Brown & Co., $21.95 (0-316-66634-3)
With wisdom and compassion, fourteen–year–old Susie Salmon narrates the story of her brutal murder and glowing afterlife as she watches her family and friends grapple with the hole her death has left in their lives.
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)
The shattering effects of war on children are described in twelve short stories by authors well known and new to the young adult field.
Sheppard, Mary C.
Seven for a Secret. 2001. Groundwood Books, $15.95 (0-88899-437-0)
Fifteen-year-old cousins Melinda, Kate and Rebecca face the decisions that will determine their futures in a remote Newfoundland outport community in the 1960s.
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)
Oliver Queen, a.k.a. The Green Arrow, comes back to life, reunites with his old superhero pals, and unravels the mystery of his resurrection.
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)
Lucy escapes her life with a drunken father by posing as an adult and gaining work on a commercial crabbing boat on the Bering Sea, where she finds a family of a different sort.
Surviving the Applewhites. HarperCollins, $15.99 (0-06-623602-9); lib. ed., $17.89 (0-06-623603-7)
Jake Semple, a smartass troublemaker, is sent to live with his grandfather after being kicked out of several schools. Once there, it is no problem getting put out of Traybridge Middle School, but the Applewhite’s Creative Academy is another story.
The Game. 2001. Red Deer Press, $7.99 (0-88995-232-9)
When Dani wakes up in a psychiatric hospital she doesn't remember the events leading up to her attempted suicide. She only remembers the game that she and her sister played, and must come to terms with a terrifying reality.
Van Pelt, James.
Strangers and Beggars: Stories. Fairwood Press, paperback, $17.99 (0-9668184-5-8)
A giant spider that encapsulates a student and a teacher in its web, a kid who has always felt he was an alien and really is, and an endless trip in awful traffic that even death can’t stop are just a few of the stories in this collection.
Hush. Penguin Putnam/G.P. Putnam's Sons, $15.99 (0-399-23114-5)
Toswiah Green struggles toward a new identity as Evie Thomas when her family joins the Witness Protection Program and everything she has known before is lost to her.
Yolen, Jane and Robert J. Harris.
Girl in a Cage. Penguin Putnam/Philomel Books, $18.99 (0-399-23627-9)
Imprisoned in a cage by King Edward Longshanks, Princess Marjorie wages her own small war on him while her father, the newly crowned King of Scotland, defends his country from the ruthless King of England.