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Best International Teen Books of 2015

An accomplished wordsmith, Wynne-Jones achieves an extraordinary feat: he illuminates the hidden depths of personalities and...

THE EMPEROR OF ANY PLACE

After the shock of his father’s sudden death and the arrival of a grandfather he was taught to hate but never met, Evan must unravel a family mystery.

His father, Clifford, had been reading a peculiar, leather-bound memoir of a Japanese soldier who was marooned on an island during World War II. An accompanying letter suggests that it’s somehow connected to Evan’s grandfather Griff, a military man with “steel in [his] backbone.” Evan knows that his father never got along with Griff, whose very presence irritates Evan as well, especially when he calls him “soldier.” Not wanting to reveal anything to Griff, Evan starts to read Isamu Oshiro’s memoir and finds himself mesmerized by the haunting, sad journal addressed to Isamu’s fiancee. This book within a book, with its monsters, ghost children, and mysterious glimpses of the future, is as tightly written as Evan’s modern-day story. Evan’s resistance to his grandfather, colored by his father’s poor relationship with him, slowly adjusts the deeper he gets into Isamu’s memoir. Dual stories of strength and resilience illuminate the effects that war has on individuals and on father-son relationships, effects that stretch in unexpected ways across generations as Evan and Griff make their ways toward a truce.

An accomplished wordsmith, Wynne-Jones achieves an extraordinary feat: he illuminates the hidden depths of personalities and families through a mesmerizing blend of realism and magic. (Fiction. 13-17)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6973-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

Teen and adult readers who like their mysteries gritty and literary, with a touch of magic: seek this one out.

THE ASTROLOGER'S DAUGHTER

A fiercely realized teen uses astrological skills to solve a heartbreaking mystery.

Joanne Crowe, an astrologer so accurate and empathetic that clients became obsessed with her, knew her days were numbered. She’d always insisted on the truth of her impending “eventuality” to her daughter, Avicenna, but when Joanne goes missing, it’s still a shock. As Avicenna embraces her own ability to read destinies in the stars and planets to unravel the mystery of her beloved mother’s disappearance, her skills introduce her to both unlikely allies and revolting, violent foes across Melbourne’s most luxurious and down-at-the-heels neighborhoods. Avicenna is a revelation: prickly and brilliant—she’s the first student in years to ace the entrance exam at a highly competitive magnet high school—she pursues the truth doggedly even as the likelihood of her mother’s death forces her to re-experience the physical and emotional trauma of the fire that took her father’s life 10 years prior. Lim throws class differences into high relief and highlights the casual, cruel racism multiracial people still face in modern Australia. Her taut, assured thriller weaves together astrology and mythology, poetry and poverty, and several generations of mothers whose love can’t protect their children from humanity’s ugliest tendencies.

Teen and adult readers who like their mysteries gritty and literary, with a touch of magic: seek this one out. (Mystery. 15 & up)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-922182-00-5

Page Count: 330

Publisher: Text

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

Powerful and deeply resonant.

I DON'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE

A girl tries to cope with her parents’ divorce and her own developing friendships and romance.

This award-winner from Austria focuses on Charlotte, who has become enraged by her parents’ divorce. First, her mother moves the children out of their home and into Charlotte’s grandmother’s small row house. Then Charlotte spots her father with his new wife, a blonde bombshell. As her rage grows, she neglects her schoolwork and keeps returning to her old home, sold to new owners, who begin to shoo her away. Now 15, she meets new friends at school, including handsome, Italian Carlo, who’s trying to cope with the death of his father. But then her mother abruptly moves them again, into a home in their old neighborhood, as she begins a relationship with another man. Just when things begin to settle down, more turmoil occurs. At last Charlotte begins to see life through the same lenses as her parents and makes her own decisions. Kreslehner develops a multilayered characterization of Charlotte, convincingly getting under the skin of a girl whose life becomes disrupted by divorce. It’s an immersive, believable portrait of how adolescents cope, or not, with divorce, drawn from an inside view.

Powerful and deeply resonant. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-55498-803-7

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

A powerful novel from an exciting new talent. (Fiction. 14 & up)

THE ACCIDENT SEASON

Ghosts, secrets, and magic collide in this Irish author's astonishing debut.

For as long as she can remember, 17-year-old Cara, her mother, and her 18-year-old sister, Alice, have dreaded the accident season. For a few weeks every autumn, horrible things happen in their family. "Bones break, skin tears, bruises bloom." And sometimes people die, including Cara's father nine years ago. Since then she's gained a new ex-stepbrother, Sam (he stayed with them when his own father disappeared), and a new best friend, mystical Bea, somewhat callously, or so she thinks, abandoning Elsie, the friend who supported her during her childhood grief. Elsie still attends their school but has mysteriously gone missing. Only when they throw a Halloween party in a haunted house, inviting everyone they know to come as the people they are behind their everyday masks, do the secrets start to ignite. Elsie is worn out from trying to protect them all—and some of the accidents weren't accidental. Written in Cara’s voice, Fowley-Doyle's unflinching first-person narration conveys the impossible in prosaic, ordinary language that nonetheless sings: "I think of all the things our brains deny, all the memories they hide from us, all the secrets they keep." What emerges from the smokescreen is a moving portrait of a fractured family, knitting itself back together with courage and love.

A powerful novel from an exciting new talent. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-525-42948-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Kathy Dawson/Penguin

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

Hilarious, deliciously provocative and slyly thought-provoking, Juby’s welcome return is bound to ignite debate

THE TRUTH COMMISSION

When curiosity leads three students at a Nanaimo, British Columbia, art school (“Serving oddballs in grades ten through twelve since 2007”) to ask a classmate why she had “renovations done,” her surprisingly positive response prompts the trio to form the Truth Commission, an experiment in bringing hidden truths to light.

Unlike fellow commissioners Dusk and Neil, Normandy has understandable misgivings about the endeavor even after an inquiry into a school administrator’s legendary crabbiness turns out well (ostriches are involved). For years, Normandy and her parents have served as source material for her prodigy sister Keira’s wildly successful graphic-novel series. While Normandy acknowledges fragile Keira’s extraordinary gifts, knowing she owes her own school scholarship to Keira’s status, she hasn’t bought into the family myth that Keira’s vicious ridicule is OK. Now Keira’s returned home from college without explanation, ending the family’s brief respite from meeting her many needs. The more lives the Truth Commission touches, the more ambivalent Normandy feels about its mission, which threatens her own passive acceptance of her family’s status quo. In a tell-all, socially networked world, balancing the right to know (and use) “the truth” against the right to privacy is both confusing and challenging. Readers will root for these engaging characters to chart a successful course through these murky waters.

Hilarious, deliciously provocative and slyly thought-provoking, Juby’s welcome return is bound to ignite debate . (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-451-46877-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

An outstanding tragicomedy that gently explores mental illness, the lasting effects of bullying, and the power of friends...

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FINDING AUDREY

Audrey, 14, is on a long, slow upswing from disabling anxiety disorders that resulted from the vicious abuse of bullies at school.

Under the guidance of thoughtful Dr. Sarah, Audrey begins to deal with her inability to make eye contact—or even to leave the house—by crafting videos of her quirky, near-farcical family, a nifty narrative device that especially shows off her “twitchy” mom. Audrey's brother Frank is determined to win an online gaming championship with his team, in spite of their mom's frenetic attempts to remake the family based on newspaper advice—which, sadly for Frank, includes giving up computers. Complicating this is the fact that Frank's team includes sensitive Linus, who delicately, tenderly navigates Audrey's vividly portrayed roadblocks. As their relationship blossoms, Audrey gains both strength and courage. The counterpoint of absurd humor against Audrey's uncertain progress toward healing, graphically depicted in her appealing and slightly ironic first-person voice, is compelling. Since the nature of the bullying is never fully revealed, it can readily represent the experiences of other victims. It's only as the narrative approaches its conclusion that the true source of the dysfunction in Audrey's family is revealed: all of them have become victims in myriad ways.

An outstanding tragicomedy that gently explores mental illness, the lasting effects of bullying, and the power of friends and loving family to help in the healing. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-553-53651-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

Wacky characters, a farcical plot and a fledgling romance are all part of the fun in this novel that will appeal to fans of...

BOYS DON'T KNIT

An unwilling accomplice to petty theft organized by his dim friends, English teen Ben Fletcher is annoyed that he was the one busted when he collided with a crossing guard.

Probation requires him to keep a journal using a template, which he considers beneath him, as he’s been keeping a diary for years. But he soldiers on, hilariously recounting the details of the “Great Martini Heist” and its aftermath. He’s also required to take a community college class. The pathetic choices include car maintenance, taught by his father, a mechanic who’s always trying to get Ben (not a sports fan) to go with him to soccer matches. Ben opts for knitting because he has a crush on the teacher. When it turns out she’s actually teaching pottery, he’s stuck with knitting and stuck in a lie, unable to admit to his father and friends what he’s up to. It turns out that he’s a natural at knitting, able to appreciate the mathematical precision of the patterns and create his own. When Ben’s coerced into entering a knitting contest, the jig is up. Despite some unnecessary Americanization of the text, this wonderfully funny novel is infused with British slang, including dozens of terms easily understood in context.

Wacky characters, a farcical plot and a fledgling romance are all part of the fun in this novel that will appeal to fans of Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging . (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05331-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

A first-rate adventure with a powerful message.

CUT OFF

A teen classical guitar prodigy finds new fame as an Internet blogger until cyberaddiction nearly kills him in this coming-of-age novel.

Indio McCracken, half Canadian, half Mayan, leads what appears to be a privileged life as the son of the owner of a gold mine. But behind the 10-foot wall and armed guards of his family’s Guatemalan home, Indio leads a lonely, isolated life dominated by hours of guitar practice dictated by his overbearing father. When Indio discovers the computer lab at school and begins blogging about his guitar playing, he quickly develops a following—and a dependence on the attention. The gold mine’s exploitation of the indigenous Mayans brings trouble and forces the family back to Canada—a place Indio knows nothing about. He stops playing guitar and falls into a depression that is only cured by his mother’s gift of an iPhone. He invents a new persona, Ian—a true blue Canadian—and begins another blog. Soon, blogging takes over his life. Indio’s narration is completely believable throughout as he wrestles with identity and belonging. Bastedo gives readers who may be inclined to scoff at the addictive-cyberdevice premise the space to assess Indio’s actions and reasoning and reach their own conclusions, all the while keeping the tension and pace high.

A first-rate adventure with a powerful message.   (author Q&A) (Fiction. 12-17)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-88995-511-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Red Deer Press

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

This savvy, insightful take on the modern family makes for nearly nonstop laughs.

WE ARE ALL MADE OF MOLECULES

A nerdy boy and a queen-bee girl become stepbrother and -sister in this comedy/drama.

Hilarity ensues when 13-year-old Stewart learns that he and his dad are moving in with Caroline and her 14-year-old daughter, Ashley. Stewart copes well enough, thanks to his outstanding intelligence, precocious emotional maturity, math skills, and the calm outlook with which he assesses his successes and failures. He’s excited to have a sister. Ashley, on the other hand, couldn’t care less about school and wants nothing to do with her new almost-stepbrother—who, to her mortification, has been bumped up a year and is now in her class. She’s also terrified that people will learn her estranged dad is gay. Ashley scores big when she lands the handsome Jared as a boyfriend, but Stewart knows Jared is a bully because he’s trapped in physical education class with him. The psychodrama is narrated by the two kids in alternating chapters, leavened with constant, wry humor that should keep readers chuckling even as the story grapples with serious emotional issues. Stewart comes across as absolutely adorable. He knows he’s a complete geek with imperfect social skills. His disarming honesty about his intelligence and especially about his weaknesses holds the entire book together, allowing readers to take self-absorbed Ashley with a grain of salt as she goes through what her mother terms the “demon seed” stage.

This savvy, insightful take on the modern family makes for nearly nonstop laughs. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-553-49686-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

Readers be warned: like Augustus Waters before him, Adam Spencer Ross will renew your faith in real-life superheroes and...

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  • Schneider Family Book Award Winner

THE UNLIKELY HERO OF ROOM 13B

What would it feel like to wake up normal? It’s a question most people would never have cause to ask—and the one 14-year-old Adam Spencer Ross longs to have answered.

Life is already complicated enough for Adam, but when Robyn Plummer joins the Young Adult OCD Support Group in room 13B, Adam falls fast and hard. Having long assumed the role of protector to those he loves, Adam immediately knows that he must do everything he can to save her. The trouble is, Robyn isn’t the one who needs saving. Adam’s desperate need to protect everyone he loves—his broken mother, a younger half brother with OCD tendencies, and the entire motley crew of Room 13B—nearly costs him everything. Adam’s first-person account of his struggle to cope with the debilitating symptoms of OCD while navigating the complexities of everyday teen life is achingly authentic. Much like Adam, readers will have to remind themselves to breathe as he performs his ever worsening OCD rituals. Yet Toten does a masterful job bringing Adam to life without ever allowing him to become a one-dimensional poster boy for a teen suffering from mental illness.

Readers be warned: like Augustus Waters before him, Adam Spencer Ross will renew your faith in real-life superheroes and shatter your heart in equal measure. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-553-50786-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

The award-winning Almond poetically plumbs the depths of his 1950s and ’60s childhood to explore themes of violence, war,...

THE TIGHTROPE WALKERS

Dominic Hall is “a caulker’s son, a tank cleaner’s grandson” in the river town of Tyneside in northern England…but the boy dreams of writing.

It’s in Dom’s blood to work in and “breathe the bliddy fumes” of the hellish shipyards. Is it pure snobbery, then, to aspire to the exalted, creative life his artist friend, Holly Stroud, lives with her fancy, wine-drinking father? Dom is torn. Maybe he wants to be more like Vincent McAlinden, the black-souled bully who initiates him into “scary ecstatic afternoons” of killing helpless creatures for fun, thieving and brutal fighting that ends in kissing. Is Dom a “tender innocent” or a “brute”? Is God a sentimental comfort, as he is to the silent tramp, Jack Law, or is he a cruel joke, a “creamy shining bloody body” suspended lifelessly by thin cords at the local Catholic church? As they grow up from bairns, Dom and Holly are tightrope walkers, literally and figuratively, trying to find their balance, hoping the inevitable falls aren’t too painful.

The award-winning Almond poetically plumbs the depths of his 1950s and ’60s childhood to explore themes of violence, war, God, creativity, beauty, death, art, the soul, our animal selves, whether we ever grow up or can really know each other…in short, life. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: March 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7310-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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