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The Peculiar

Stefan Bachmann (Greenwillow)

Novels by teenage authors have become more common in recent years, but ones as dazzling as Bachmann's alternate history are rare. Fairies, steampunk mechanisms, and political subterfuge are the order of the day in Bachmann's version of Victorian England, which he describes in beguiling, detailed prose that establishes him as an author to be reckoned with—or at least thoroughly enjoyed.


The Diviners

Libba Bray (Little, Brown)

It's generally impossible to know what Bray has up her sleeve—few writers are as daring and varied in their output. One thing's for sure, though: it's always a blast. That definitely describes this electric combination of Jazz Age New York City, the occult and the psychic, and some truly gruesome murders.



Kristin Cashore (Dial)

Set in the same world as Graceling and Fire, this sprawling epic allows Cashore to contemplate the burden of leadership and the sins of the father (and in the case of Bitterblue's father, King Leck, those sins are both literal and horrific). Cashore is entirely at home in the world she's created, and it's a world readers will gladly lose themselves in.


The Mighty Miss Malone

Christopher Paul Curtis (Random/Lamb)

A minor character in Curtis's Newbery-winning Bud, Not Buddy, 12-year-old Deza Malone shines in the spotlight in this companion novel that follows Deza's family's efforts to subsist during the Great Depression. Curtis effortlessly weaves historical tidbits into his tale, while maintaining his focus on the resolve and faith that drive Deza and her family forward.


Will Sparrow's Road

Karen Cushman (Clarion)

The sights, sounds, smells, and difficulties of Elizabethan England are almost tangible in Newbery Medalist Cushman's rollicking story of a 13-year-old runaway and thief. Will himself is perhaps the best part of this story: Cushman does a marvelous job of capturing the combined bravado, naïveté, and (sometimes misplaced) confidence of a boy determined to make it on his own.


The Second Life of Abigail Walker

Frances O'Roark Dowell (S&S/Atheneum)

Dowell is startlingly good at portraying the insidiousness of bullying among girls—the hurt that sixth-grader Abby suffers is painfully real. But Dowell doesn't leave readers without hope (neither does she patronize them with a pat happily-ever-after); instead, she takes them through Abby's gradual growth, while leaving room for a thread of magical realism and commentary on the problems facing modern-day soldiers.


In a Glass Grimmly

Adam Gidwitz (Dutton)

The imagination, cleverness, and (let's be honest) goriness that made Gidwitz's debut, A Tale Dark and Grimm, a PW Best Book in 2010 is on full display in this companion, an interwoven series of fairy tale–inspired stories starring Jack, Jill, and a certain frog who'd been promised a kiss. Scary, funny, and thought-provoking in just the right doses.


The Fault in Our Stars

John Green (Dutton)

Green's devotees are legion, and putting aside his massive online presence, it's books like this that make it clear why. A romance between two teenagers with cancer is a premise that could slip so easily into the maudlin or the manipulative. In Green's hands, it's intelligent, funny, and honest. And, yes, heartbreaking.


Ask the Passengers

A.S. King (Little, Brown)

The philosophical searching, multifaceted narratives, and sense of humor of King's earlier books are evident in this profound (in every sense of the word) account of a girl's contemplation of her sexuality and what it means to give and receive love. The love Astrid sends out because she can't bear to hold onto it? Readers will feel it.


Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses

Ron Koertge, illus. by Andrea Dezsö (Candlewick)

Koertge wreaks bloody havoc through fairy tales from Rumpelstiltskin to Rapunzel, finding often unpleasant truths where no one thought to look. Dezsö's cut-paper illustrations are no less sharp-edged, and these 23 giddy, grisly, and unexpected retellings take some very old stories in very new directions.


Grave Mercy

Robin LaFevers (Houghton Mifflin)

History, romance, politics, faith, magic—LaFevers offers all that and a secret order of assassin nuns in a spellbinding novel set in 15th-century Brittany. The historical detail and mythology woven into the story will leave readers eagerly awaiting more from Ismae and her sisters.


The Brides of Rollrock Island

Margo Lanagan (Knopf)

Lanagan brings dark, wonderful depth to the legend of the selkies, creatures whose limitations pale beside the weaknesses of men. While other writers revel in the novelty of supernatural romance, Lanagan exposes the true costs of such arrangements—financial, emotional, and otherwise—in stories that span generations.


Starry River of the Sky

Grace Lin (Little, Brown)

This companion to Lin's Newbery Honor book, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, shares all of the elements that made its predecessor so beloved: rich use of Chinese folklore, vibrant writing, a strong sense of adventure and mystery (surrounding the moon's absence, in this case), gorgeous illustrations, and an elegant design. The combination is nothing short of magic.



Lois Lowry (Houghton Mifflin)

Lowry's Newbery Medal–winning The Giver is, by all accounts, a landmark piece of literature. Three books and almost 20 years later, Jonas's tale comes full circle in a deeply meaningful and satisfying way. Watching the pieces fall into place is thrilling—this is how you bring a story to a close.



Marissa Meyer (Feiwel and Friends)

Debut author Meyer skillfully fuses the classic with the futuristic (Cinderella? she's a cyborg mechanic, now) in a novel set on a fully imagined future Earth. Fans of science fiction and of fairy tales—as well as those who just love a good, action-packed romance—will be equally at home and impatient to find out what's next for Cinder.


No Crystal Stair

Vaunda Micheaux Nelson (Carolrhoda Lab)

This remarkable fictionalized account of the life of Nelson's great-uncle, Harlem bookseller Lewis Michaux, offers powerful evidence of the change that one person can bring about in ways small and large. The voices of Harlem residents, bookstore visitors, and others form a chorus in tribute to Michaux and his influence, joined by abundant artwork, photography, and research.


The False Prince

Jennifer A. Nielsen (Scholastic Press)

What's better than a great hero? A great antihero. And sharp-tongued, contentious Sage—one of three boys hoping to impersonate the heir to the throne of Carthya in the wake of a royal mass murder—is just that. First in a trilogy, Nielsen's story has more than just a personable lead going for it, including a rich supporting cast, intrigue aplenty, and some killer twists.



R.J. Palacio (Knopf)

Palacio's debut novel has attracted much attention this past year, and with good reason. The story of middle school student Auggie Pullman, who was born with a facial deformity but wants nothing more than to be treated like a regular kid, is as heartbreaking (and hopeful) as they come. The crucial conversations about acceptance and kindness that this book has started should continue for years to come.


Summer of the Gypsy Moths

Sara Pennypacker (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray)

Let's not ignore the elephant in the room: 11-year-old Stella buries her late great-aunt in the garden of her Cape Cod home and keeps it a secret. It's an audacious move on Pennypacker's part, but it pays off; this story of family, friendship, and resilience in the face of impossible circumstances is hard to forget.


Liar & Spy

Rebecca Stead (Random/Lamb)

In her first book since her Newbery Medal–winning When You Reach Me, Stead proves she doesn't need a science fiction twist to capture the pain and uncertainty of adolescence. The author tackles bullying, economic troubles, and shifting friendships while deploying mysteries and secrets with aplomb.


The Raven Boys

Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic Press)

Readers tend to fall in love with Stiefvater's characters (it's easy to do), and Blue, Gansey, and his prep school buddies are the type to linger in the mind and imagination. The same is true of the mystery that Stiefvater slowly builds as she establishes her new series, one in which the ancient and legendary bleed into the modern and the ordinary.


Three Times Lucky

Sheila Turnage (Dial)

The warmth and humor built into nearly every sentence of Turnage's sparkling middle-grade novel makes her invented town of Tupelo Landing, N.C., as memorable as her 11-year-old heroine, Mo LoBeau. Of course, for readers who need more, there's always murder, mystery, kidnapping, and the occasional hurricane.


Code Name Verity

Elizabeth Wein (Hyperion)

The less revealed about Wein's WWII novel of a teenage spy caught by the Gestapo the better; such is the nature of her twisty story, which unfolds as a written confession to her captors. Suffice it to say that this is a thrilling, one-of-a-kind work of historical fiction, and Wein handles her story's complexities with enviable skill.



Raina Telgemeier (Scholastic/Graphix)

The title of Eisner-winner Telgemeier's middle school story neatly encapsulates the turmoil inherent in a musical theater production as crushes, flirtations, and breakups spice things up backstage and heroine Callie tackles her role as set designer. Telgemeier captures the emotional whirlwind of adolescence—and the theater—with humor, insight, and warmth.


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