Best Teen Books of 2012


Vicky Smith, Editor

When a significant part of your job is surrounding yourself with the best books of the year and picking the 100 top titles, you know you’ve got it good. Not easy, but good. I start to narrow my choices down right after Labor Day in a weekslong process that involved input from my corps of reviewers and lots of reading. (Oh, darn.)

The variety I found in sifting the year’s best books was heartening. I found nail-biting thrillers of both the post-apocalyptic and techno kinds, gritty tales of contemporary kids confronting big problems, soaring fantasies that immersed me in unforgettable worlds, sharply intelligent science fiction, provocative nonfiction, inventive and fresh paranormal adventures, transporting historical fiction and laugh-out-loud comedy. Some books that did not receive stars in the initial review process turned out to have a long-lasting impact, and I am pleased to include many of these on my final list. There’s more than just a little something for everyone here; explore and enjoy.

JASMINE by Winston Aarons
ROMANCE
Released: Nov. 14, 2011

"A well-crafted tale of passion, loss and the dangers of obsession."
Trace the curved line between love and obsession in this steamy novel. Read full book review >
STELLA ADLER ON AMERICA'S MASTER PLAYWRIGHTS by Stella Adler
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Aug. 16, 2012

"An exciting, inspiring and essential book for anyone interested in American theater."
Brilliant lectures on the American masters from the late, legendary acting teacher. Read full book review >

THE TOWN MOUSE AND THE COUNTRY MOUSE by Aesop
Released: Sept. 11, 2012

"A visual stunner. (Picture book. 4-7)"
In this splendid retelling of Aesop's familiar fable, a country mouse leaves his bucolic existence to sample the glitz and glam of the city, only to discover there's absolutely no place like home. Read full book review >
MR. SANDMAN by Manon  Aidan
IPAD BOOK APPS
Released: Aug. 4, 2012

"Though the story is simple, even obvious, it takes flight because of the ambitious design work, the kind of thing that can only be pulled off as an app like this. (iPad storybook app. 3-7)"
A moody, beautifully rendered dreamscape, this app about conquering a fear of the dark takes full advantage of the iPad's capabilities. Read full book review >
THE HOUSE THAT WENT ON STRIKE by Rania  Ajami
IPAD BOOK APPS
Released: July 24, 2012

"A lesson to be sure, but delivered in a lighthearted blend of equally lively art, sound and animation. (iPad storybook app. 4-8)"
In an episode both funny and pointed, a family of slobs receives an ultimatum from their filthy house and its disgusted appliances. Read full book review >

AMERICAN DERVISH by Ayad Akhtar
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Jan. 9, 2012

"Engaging and accessible, thoughtful without being daunting: This may be the novel that brings Muslim-American fiction into the commercial mainstream."
Actor/playwright/filmmaker Akhtar makes a compelling debut with a family drama centered on questions of religious and ethnic identity. Read full book review >
BLASPHEMY by Sherman Alexie
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 2, 2012

"Whether recent or from his earliest period, these pieces show Alexie at his best: as an interpreter and observer, always funny if sometimes angry, and someone, as a cop says of one of his characters, who doesn't "fit the profile of the neighborhood.""
Sterling collection of short stories by Alexie (Ten Little Indians, 2003, etc.), a master of the form. Read full book review >
PETRA by Subhi Alghussain
NATURE & TRAVEL
Released: May 25, 2012

"Highly recommended for anyone interested in architecture, classical history or travel photography."
Stunning panoramic views of Petra, one of the world's archaeological treasures, adorn this beautifully designed coffee table book. Read full book review >