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.

HACKED by J. D. Allison
Released: Feb. 19, 2012

"An original voice that's initially disorienting, but given time, Allison lyrically creates an intriguing world."
In a realm of virtual reality, "subscribers" hone in on the lives of others. Read full book review >
ONE BLOOD by Qwantu Amaru
Released: Nov. 29, 2011

"A gutsy book that blazes trails, plotted at a breakneck speed that won't let up."
A governor and his sordid past are at the heart of a tale of retribution in Amaru's stunning debut novel. Read full book review >

TIGER LILY by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Released: July 3, 2012

"Working with the darker threads of Barrie's bittersweet classic, Anderson weaves an enchanting tale. (Fantasy. 14 & up)"
It's no paradise—white-sand beaches and spectacular sunsets come with mud, mosquitoes and croc-infested swamps—but guided by fragile, insect-size faerie Tink, readers are drawn into this richly re-imagined Neverland anyway. Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2012

"Though this novel begs inevitable thematic comparisons to John Green's The Fault in Our Stars (2012), it stands on its own in inventiveness, humor and heart. (Fiction. 14 & up)"
A frequently hysterical confessional from a teen narrator who won't be able to convince readers he's as unlikable as he wants them to believe. Read full book review >
IRON CURTAIN by Anne Applebaum
Released: Nov. 27, 2012

"A dark but hopeful chronicle that shows how even humanity's worst can fracture and fall."
A Pulitzer Prize–winning author returns with the story of those dark decades in Eastern Europe when the Soviet Union slammed the prison doors on people, cultures and countries. Read full book review >

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN by Katherine Applegate
Released: Jan. 17, 2012

"Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author's note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new generation of advocates. (author's note) (Fiction. 8-12)"
How Ivan confronts his harrowing past yet stays true to his nature exemplifies everything youngsters need to know about courage. Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 2012

"Written with the authority of a fine writer with an inquiring mind, this dramatic story is history writing at its best. (Nonfiction. 14 & up)"
In fascinating detail, Aronson tells the story of America during J. Edgar Hoover's reign as head of the FBI and "the nearly fifty years of criminal activity that was his legacy." Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 4, 2012

"An outstanding achievement and a life worthy of note. (additional facts, author's note, illustrator's note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 4-8)"
A former slave fulfills his quest for an education and much more in this superbly designed tribute to an oft-maligned African-American educator and author. Read full book review >