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.

I2 by James Bannon
SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY
Released: Nov. 27, 2011

"In a word: mind-blowing."
Bannon's cutting-edge science-fiction and psychological thriller revolves around a terminally ill biosoftware scientist's attempt to upload his mind into the consciousness of an unborn baby to once again be with the woman he loves. Read full book review >
WONDER SHOW by Hannah Barnaby
Released: March 20, 2012

"Infused with nostalgia and affection, this celebration of the deliberately constructed self will hold readers in its spell from beginning to end. (Historical fiction. 13 & up)"
Fourteen-year-old Portia joins a circus freak show looking for the father who abandoned her, but she finds much more. Read full book review >

EXTRA YARN by Mac Barnett
Released: Jan. 17, 2012

"A quiet story of sharing with no strings attached. (Picture book. 4-7)"
A little girl in a town of white snow and soot-blackened chimneys opens a small box and discovers a never-ending gift of colorful yarn. Read full book review >
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: July 24, 2012

"A courageous, insightful book that offers no cause for optimism."
A former watchdog in the federal government attacks the officials who perpetuated the financial meltdown by kowtowing to behemoth banks and Wall Street firms while abandoning the public interest. Read full book review >
Released: March 23, 2012

"Part memoir, part journal, part plan-in-progress, Bates has no time for self-pity, preferring instead to celebrate all that she is grateful for."
Labeled with Multiple Personality and Dissociative Identity disorders, author Bates writes about the 18 personalities living in her head. Read full book review >

RANGE OF GHOSTS by Elizabeth Bear
SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY
Released: March 27, 2012

"Gripping, perfectly balanced and highly recommended."
Beginning of a new historical-fantasy trilogy, set in the same Mongol Khanate-style universe as the short novel Bone and Jewel Creatures (2010). Read full book review >
LAZARUS IS DEAD by Richard Beard
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 25, 2012

"Beard's take on Lazarus is nothing less than astonishing—and he respects the reader by taking religion and religious questions seriously.   "
In this alternative theological novel Jesus does more than weep...and Lazarus does more than die. Read full book review >
ARE YOU MY MOTHER? by Alison Bechdel
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: May 1, 2012

"Subtitled "A Comic Drama," the narrative provides even fewer laughs than its predecessor but deeper introspection."
A psychologically complex, ambitious, illuminating successor to the author's graphic-memoir masterpiece. Read full book review >