Fallen Stars' Best Books of the Year, part two

The teen and YA books can be difficult to chose. But here are some of my choices for these books from the enormous number of great books for older readers (and by 'older readers, I'm referring to 11years+) this year.
(Okay, there is a lot of discussion about what constitutes YA fiction and where you draw that line. Let's not discuss that at this time. I'm just going to say that, for our purposes here, YA books begin at age 14...depending on the reader.)
One of the best additions to this group came later this year with Sheena Wilkinsons' wonderful historical novel, Star By Star. Taking place in 1918, this book covers the end of World War 1, the flu pandemic sweeping the world and, most significantly the moment when women first had been given the right to vote. Though not lengthy, it has a great impact on the reader and is fascinating and inspirational.
Another high impact novel for 12+ is A Dangerous Crossing by Jane Mitchell. This is the extremely realistic and heart-rending story of one boys' flight from Syria. Mitchells' research into her subject was impeccable and it paid off in a story that shows great compassion and understanding of the lives and dangers young refugees face every day. The story-telling is amazing. This is a very important book that must be read!
Jess Butterworth burst on to the scene this year with an incredible tale of Tibet. Another story of fleeing oppression, Running On The Roof of the World tells the story of two children literally running for their lives across the Himalayas to India. Gripping and insightful, it is also very unusual in its' subject, with strong characters showing great courage and determination when facing (what seem to be) insurmountable odds. And what a journey!
Frances Hardinge is undeniably one of the best authors for young people working today. Her latest book, A Skinful of Shadows shows the extent of her skill at creating a unique world-view, keeping the reader glued to the page and, frankly, sending a chill up the spine that lasts for a long, long time. Taking place during the English Civil War, young Makepeace is fleeing a strange and unwanted inheritance while finding herself possessed of numerous spirits. Eerie, otherworldly and magnificent!
Dad's Red Dress by LJ Sedgewick is quirky, entertaining and funny. But it also takes the reader right to the heart of what it means to grow up. Filled with vivid characters and complex family drama, it is joyous, loving and unique among coming-of-age stories.It is simply wonderful.
Diving into those books that I would consider well-and-truly YA, I have nothing but praise for After the Fire by Will Hill. It grabs hold of the reader from page one and refuses to let go. With a vast number of themes running through the plot, This is an inquiry into faith, society, corruption, humanity and survival. The action is explosive. A sophisticated and tense read, this book is simply extraordinary. Speaking of simply extraordinary, I must insist you read Moonrise by Sarah Crossan. The beautiful lyrical verse novel is filled with genuine, tangible emotion, empathy and unanswered questions. Moonrise is powerful.
Release by Patrick Ness is an incredibly personal look at the uncertainties of coming-of-age. Beautifully and sometimes brutally honest, it examines family life and social constructs with N Exacting and often shocking eye without once dipping into sensationalism. There is a subtle background story that uses the supernatural/mythological to offer a possibility as to why things are they way they are and how life is played out; the things we feel, but cannot prove. And all the while, Release gives us a story that is genuine, emotional and all too familiar. (16+....but just, please read it.)
I want to finish with what is, ultimately, my book of the year 2017.
Tangleweed and Brine by Deirdre Sullivan/ illustrated by Karen Vaughn is a purely enchanting book retelling our most familiar fairy tales with a contemporary view, delving into the hearts and minds of the heroines. Beautiful to hold and to look at, it reminds the reader of what a collection of fairy tales is supposed be; of those volumes of old,calling to mind such books as those illustrated by Rackham or of Andrew Langs' collections. It promises much, and does not disappoint. Filled with intrigue, horror, strength and resilience, gentleness and love, it is not for the very young or the faint-hearted. It is for the bold, or those who want to be. Tangleweed and Brine takes us back to what fairy tales were always meant to do; to change with time and place and to lead us into deeper consideration of ourselves and the world around us. This book is a gift.


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