I read 112 books in 2015, a lot of them children’s books. The order of this list is chronological: the order that I read them. I’m mixing children’s books (MG), young adult books (YA), and adult (A) books. Don’t limit yourself. They are all worth reading!
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander (MG/YA)
This won the 2014 Newbery Award and deservedly so. My first response to the book is here. The Crossover is a novel-in-verse about two African American teen brothers who play basketball and have to get through some tough times.
The Septimus Heap series by Angie Sage (MG)
I wish Sage got as much attention for Septimus Heap as Rowling does for Harry Potter. This series in a magical world stars a lot of female characters and stays appropriate for elementary-aged readers. Exciting stories, good characters, impressive world-building, fun POV changes. I blogged about it earlier.
The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (A)
A Christian missionary to a distant planet copes with the strange new world and with the difficulty of maintaining a relationship with his despairing wife back home.
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (A)
A crew leaves earth to make contact with inhabitants on another planet. The story unfolds in two time periods: as the exploration unfolds, and later, as the only surviving member stands trial on earth.
Here is a longer blog entry about both of these science-fiction novels.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (A)
An Australian geneticist decides to get married and creates a survey to help him winnow out unsuitable partners. In the process, he meets Rosie (completely unsuitable) and agrees to help her find the identity of her father. The way Don sees and interacts with the world is hysterical. Especially funny if you work with or are married to or are a male scientist/mathematician/engineer.
One Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley (A)
This is about a farming family. The patriarch has three daughters and is getting older, so decisions must be made about the family farm. Smiley is an incredible writer. Her characters are layered and real, and their development unfolds in ways totally unexpected. A captivating and painful read. Smiley won a well-deserved Pulitzer for this novel.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green (YA)
David and John wrote this story in alternating chapters about two teenage boys named Will Grayson. As I understand it, before they started writing, they picked the name the two characters would share (Will Grayson), David picked a time of year (February/March) and John picked a location where they would meet (Frenchy’s in Chicago). Other than that, nothing in the novel was planned. One would write a chapter, send it to the other, who would write the next chapter, send it to the other, and so on. How fun! I’d love to do something like this. Strangely, the starring role in the novel is neither Will Grayson, but a gay teen character named Tiny Cooper. He’s the best friend of the straight Will Grayson and eventually falls in love with the gay Will Grayson (not really a spoiler: Tiny Cooper is always falling in love). This book is funny and insightful and well worth the read.
The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth (A)
The Brothers Grimm did not travel the German countryside collecting fairy tales. Most of their fairy tales came from Dortchen Wild, a girl who lived next door to them and would eventually marry one of the brothers. As a lover of fairy tales and historical fiction, I wanted to read this novel from the moment I heard of it, but Forsyth is Australian, and the novel wasn’t immediately released in the US. I got it as soon as it was and wasn’t disappointed. Forsyth does a great job of bringing to life her characters, mixing in the themes and details of the fairy tales, while keeping true to history. Loved it!
The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz (MG/YA)
After the death of her mother, Joan works the farm with her father and brothers, feeling uncared for and unappreciated, with her intelligence wasted, and her dream of becoming a teacher dwindling. When her father burns her books, she runs away and is hired as a servant by a wealthy Jewish family in Baltimore. The story is told by Joan who keeps a journal. She is a delightful character, naïve and caring, adventurous and hard-working, and above all curious and smart. Her mix of intelligence and innocence is beautiful drawn.
The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (MG)
Ada was born with a clubfoot, and her mother has never allowed her out of their one-room London flat. When she learns from her little brother that children are being evacuated to the countryside, she makes her escape. She and her brother are placed with a depressed woman who does not really want them. A beautiful story about love and death, acceptance and family, set amid World War II. A Newbery contender.
The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin (MG)
Suzy can’t believe her former best friend could have drowned because Franny was such a strong swimmer–but she could have been stung by a jellyfish. Suzy copes with Franny’s death by learning about jellyfish and no longer talking. Although never stated, Suzy appears to be mildly autistic. Franny and Suzy had stopped being friends, something Suzy also struggles with. Painful, beautiful, insightful, and I learned so much about jellyfish! My vote for the Newbery Award. (Note: I don’t actually have a vote.)
Winter by Marissa Meyer (YA)
The Lunar Chronicles conclusion! When I first started reading this, I was a little embarrassed by the sappy teen romances, and I thought to myself: Why am I so into this series? Then, the plot kicked in and I remembered why. Fast-paced action, fun characters, (sappy romance) and fairy tale tropes. Not only are Meyer’s characters racially diverse, but this title character, Winter, struggles with mental illness. A fine conclusion to a wonderful series.
Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton (A)
I got this for Christmas. If you don’t follow Brandon on Facebook or read his blog, you should. It doesn’t take much time, and it will connect you to humanity. Brandon is a photographer who began by taking pictures of people in New York City. Sometimes he included a quote or two from his subjects. Then he began interviewing them and including their stories with their photographs. Then he expanded beyond New York City. This book is just NYC. The photographs and stories are beautiful, painful, joyful, surprising, but most of all, they uncover the diversity of the human experience.
So, there it is. A year of good books. I hope you have found some new titles to add to your reading list.
Happy New Year!