Best Adult Books 4 Teens 2016

Nineteen excellent adult books perfect for teen readers, selected by the Adult Books 4 Teens columnists and reviewers.


Many thanks to our reviewers who helped develop the list:

Hope Baugh, Marlyn Beebe, Amy Cheney, Georgia Christgau, Diane Colson, Gretchen Crowley, Rebecca Denham, Sarah Flowers, Cary Frostick, Suzanne Gordon, Tara Kehoe, Krystina Kelley, Sherry Mills, Ryan Paulsen, Jake Pettit, Ashley Prior, Lynn M. Rashid, Jane Ritter, Jennifer Rothschild, Erinn Salge, Tamara Saarinen, April Sanders, Pamela Schembri, Carrie Shaurette, Karlan Sick, Jamie Watson, and Connie Williams.

EH150430_AB4T-110pixIt’s that time of year again. Recently the Adult Books 4 Teens reviewers nominated titles for our annual best list and read tirelessly to narrow it down. The following 19 amazing titles are the result. There is something for everyone—nonfiction, historical fiction, contemporary fiction, short stories, time travel, and, yes, pirates. Thanks to an increase in the number of AB4T reviewers, more than 260 books published in 2016 were read, and 109 of those titles were reviewed. This year’s list reflects our fatigue with dystopian novels; there are fewer titles from that genre included. But gut-wrenching contemporary problems and historical atrocities are well represented. We’re disappointed that we don’t have a graphic novel on the list but are pleased to see small press titles and debut authors.


BAKER, Mishell. Borderline. (The Arcadia Project: Bk. 1). Saga. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9781481453066.

Twentysomething rookie director Millie, who has borderline personality, tried to end her life with a jump from a roof, only to find herself with prosthetic legs in a psychiatric center. A mysterious organization, working in tandem with Hollywood power players and fey creatures from a parallel world, plucks her into its off-kilter ranks to employ her unique skill set. Funny and fierce, this debut is a deft urban fantasy. (–Suzanne Gordon, Lanier HS, Gwinnett County, GA

BEVERLY, Bill. Dodgers. Crown. Tr $26. ISBN 9781101903735.

Fifteen-year-old East is pulled from his job as gang lookout at a drug site to join three other young black men on a road trip from California to Wisconsin, where they will carry out an assassination. Rich characterization and profound cultural insights make this debut novel an unforgettable journey for teen readers. (–Diane Colson, Gainesville City College, FL

CRATE, Joan. Black Apple. S. & S. Tr $24. ISBN 9781476795164.

Rose, a young Blackfoot child living during World War II, is torn from her happy home in rural Canada and required to attend the St. Mark’s Residential School for Girls, where the seedy side of the forced Canadian indigenous boarding school program is brought to life. Crate’s passion for the subject and setting comes through in this gorgeously written work that’s sure to inspire in readers an interest in social justice. (–Sarah Hill, Lake Land College, Mattoon, IL

GYASI, Yaa. Homegoing. Knopf. Tr $26.95. ISBN 9781101947135.

In this sweeping family saga that begins in 18th-century Ghana, two half sisters and their families lead drastically different lives: one marries well, and the other is sold into slavery. An ambitious lyrical debut about the ramifications of slavery and our entangled histories. (–Sarah Hill, Lake Land College, Mattoon, IL

GREENIDGE, Kaitlyn. We Love You, Charlie Freeman. Algonquin. Tr $25.95. ISBN 9781616204679.

The African American Freeman family arrive at the Toneybee Institute to live with and teach sign language to a chimpanzee, Charlie. Teenage Charlotte soon discovers the Toneybee’s dark history of racial experimentation and begins to realize the ultimate wrongness of what her family is doing. Profound yet accessible, this debut work will push teens to contemplate the nuanced history of race in America. (–Sarah Flowers, formerly at Santa Clara County Public Library, CA

1612-bestab4t_fic2HOUGH, Robert. The Man Who Saved Henry Morgan. Anansi. pap. $19.95. ISBN 9781770899452.

Twenty-year-old Benny Wand stands before the judge with 10 seconds to decide: Newgate prison or deportment to Jamaica. Jamaica it is. Chess, history, and the art of the con mingle to create a top-notch tale with pirates! (–Connie Williams, Petaluma High School, CA

John, Elnathan. Born on a Tuesday. Grove/Black Cat. pap. $16. ISBN 9780802124821.

Nigerian teen Dantala’s world erupts in violence, and an imam offers him shelter as well as education and the emotional and physical support needed to become a man. The terrors of contemporary warfare are real, and strong teen readers will appreciate this literary coming-of-age debut. (–Sarah Hill, Lake Land College, Mattoon, IL

JOHNSON, Julia Claiborne. Be Frank with Me. William Morrow. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9780062413710; pap. $18.99. ISBN 9780062459060.

Alice, a New York publishing house assistant, arrives in Bel-Air thinking she’s going to help a famous novelist with her new book. Instead, she becomes the companion to the novelist’s nine-year-old son, Frank, who not only loves old movies but dresses like their stars. Clever, thoughtful, touching, and at times hilarious. (–Sarah Flowers, formerly at Santa Clara County Public Library, CA

OATES, Joyce Carol. The Doll-Master: And Other Tales of Terror. Grove/Atlantic/Mysterious. Tr $24. ISBN 9780802124883.

This collection of disturbing stories will send chills up readers’ spines and have them looking over their shoulders. Each of the tales has its own style, but all shine a light into the dark corners of humanity. (–Mark Flowers, Rio Vista Library, CA

RIVERA, Gabby. Juliet Takes a Breath. Riverdale Avenue. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781626012516.

This humorous and heartbreaking summer story about an older teen’s confrontations with privilege, sexuality, race, and microaggressions in Portland, OR, is ideal for teens reflecting on the political and social climate of the United States this past year. (–Sarah Hill, Lake Land College, Mattoon, IL

TAYLOR, Jodi. Just One Damned Thing After Another. (The Chronicles of St. Mary’s: Bk. 1). Night Shade. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781597808682.

Time-traveling historians: just pop in, have a look at, say, the Battle of the Somme, and pop back home. What could possibly go wrong? Taylor presents a compelling, astute take on time travel in this first of an eight-volume series. (–Sarah Flowers, formerly at Santa Clara County Public Library, CA

TEMPEST, Kate. The Bricks That Built the Houses. Bloomsbury USA. Tr $26. ISBN 9781620409015.

Two pairs of twentysomethings in modern London—Harry, a drug dealer, and her best friend, “tough” Leon; Becky, an erotic masseuse and dancer, and her overprotective boyfriend, Pete—try to find their place in the gritty underbelly of London. Tempest builds on the stories first outlined in her hip-hop album Everybody Down to create a dark tale of coming-of-age in an unforgiving world (–Mark Flowers, Rio Vista, Library, CA

WOODSON, Jacqueline. Another Brooklyn. Harper/Amistad. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9780062359988.

When August and her family (minus her mother) move from the quiet of the country to the fast pace and clamor of 1970s Brooklyn, she is accepted by a tight group of friends from the neighborhood. From an adult vantage point, August narrates this memoirlike novel of those years in which school, sex, talent, and family prove to widen or narrow the paths of the young women’s futures. Imbued with bittersweet nostalgia and realism. (–Suzanne Gordon, Lanier HS, Gwinnett County, GA


1612-bestab4t_nfBATES, Laura. Everyday Sexism. Thomas Dunne Bks. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9781250067937; pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781250100184.

Using hundreds of tales from women (and men) about sexual abuse, catcalling, and sexism, Bates draws from her social media project, Everyday Sexism, to create a must-have title about social justice, feminism, and microaggressions. (–Sarah Hill, Lake Land College, Mattoon, IL

HOLLANDSWORTH, Skip. The Midnight Assassin: Panic, Scandal, and the Hunt for America’s First Serial Killer. Holt. Tr $30. ISBN 9780805097672.

In the mid-1880s, an ax murderer targeted the women of Austin, TX. Fans of history and true crime won’t be disappointed by this fascinating and intricately researched account of a serial killer who predated England’s Jack the Ripper. (–Krystina Kelley, Belle Valley School, Belleville, IL

HOLT, Nathalia. Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars. Little, Brown. Tr $27. ISBN 9780316338929.

This absorbing offering sheds light on the women involved in the international space race in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s at California’s Jet Propulsion Lab. An inspiring, stirring work that will appeal to teens interested in history, science, and feminism. (–Hope Baugh, Carmel Clay Public Library, Carmel, IN

MIRANDA, Lin-Manuel & Jeremy McCarter. Hamilton: The Revolution. Grand Central. Tr $45. ISBN 9781455539741.

This glorious, oversize testament to the uplifting, gorgeous, diverse, multiple Tony Award–winning musical Hamilton is a must-have for initiated and new listeners alike. (–Sarah Hill, Lake Land College, Mattoon, IL

ROACH, Mary. Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War. Norton. Tr $26.95. ISBN 9780393245448.

Roach does it again. Amid all the debates about the military-industrial complex in our country, its impact on medicine, invention, and other scientific pursuits is often overlooked. Roach interviews those in science-related military careers, employing her cockeyed sense of humor and awing readers with what she uncovers. (–Jamie Watson, Baltimore County Public Library

SMITH, Mychal Denzel. Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A Young Black Man’s Education. Perseus/Nation. Tr $24. ISBN 9781568585284.

Spurred by the pain surrounding recent shootings of young black males, Smith dissects white supremacy, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, class-based elitism, self-hatred, violence, and untreated mental illness in a commanding read that deserves a place in all libraries. (–Pamela Schembri, Horace Greeley High School, Chappaqua, NY

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