The titles on the SLJ YA list I've read are:
The Impossible Knife of Memory, by Laurie Halse Anderson:
She's a throwback to Melinda from Speak in some ways, in that she's funny and furious and hurting and slow to trust. The situation at home is at the forefront, but that doesn't stop her from thinking about friendship and romance and love and sex and jerks at school and history and what she wants out of life. Her perspective—entering a traditional high school for the first time as a senior—gives her an unusual view, rather like Cady in Mean Girls, except waaaaaaaaaay less inclined to make allowances for, well, anything.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, by Jenny Han:
It made me laugh out loud more than once—the scene in which Golden Boy Peter Kavinsky confronts Lara Jean about the letter she wrote accusing him of being “an egotistical guy who goes around giving girls STDs” so much so that I got the hiccups—but there were moments that got me all choked up, too. While the end was a bit of a letdown—I sooo wanted another scene, and another, and another, and while the book works perfectly well as a stand-alone, I WANTED MORE MORE MORE—I read the whole book in one sitting, pausing only to hug it occasionally.
We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart:
Despite the dark storyline and the undercurrents of (and sometimes outright) ugliness on the part of various characters—as well as that always-uncomfortable experience of recognizing not-fun situations that you've seen play out in real life—it's a very PRETTY book. It's got a great rhythm, nice imagery, example after example of lovely phrases and sentences.
I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson:
Even better—which is saying something—is the depiction of the two of them as a unit. The sibling rivalry, the desire to throttle AND the need to protect, wanting to establish independence but also feeling the pain of emotional distance. Listed like that, those elements seem contradictory, but Nelson makes them not only work, but feel real and true and almost inevitable. Likewise, the twins’ relationship with their parents—again, as a unit and as individuals—is fabulously well-drawn.
Gabi: A Girl in Pieces, by Isabel Quintero:
Every so often, I read a book I love so much that I feel like it could cure all of the ills of the world.
Which is only half hyperbole: I really, truly believe that Isabel Quintero’s Gabi: A Girl in Pieces isn’t just a GOOD BOOK, an ENTERTAINING BOOK, a MOVING and SMART and EMPATHETIC BOOK, but that it’s an IMPORTANT BOOK. For one reader, it will be the first time she’s seen herself reflected in fiction; for another, it will shake and rock and broaden her worldview; for yet another, it will be her inspiration to pick up her own pen and start writing.
It’s that special; it’s that capable of influence and change.
Books from the Middle Grade list that I've read:
The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander:
...there's tons of rhythm and wordplay in the poetry; Alexander switches up his form regularly, which makes an already-interesting story even more so; the emotions, characters, and relationships are realistic, complex, and believable.
West of the Moon, by Margi Preus:
She is, as I've said, perfectly willing to lie, to cheat, and to steal. She's also not just willing, but UNFLINCHING, when it comes to using violence to protect not just herself, but HER STUFF. She's wonderfully contradictory: On one hand, she's a loving girl with empathy for others, but on the other, she doesn't allow that empathy to override her practicality. After months with Svaalberd, most people would have ended up submissive or even with a serious case of Stockholm Syndrome, but not Astri.
Previously: Publishers Weekly.
Related: 31 best YA books of the year (so far).
Related: Banks Street's 2014 lists.