As a high school librarian and member of the Florida Teens Read Committee, I have been doing a lot of reading over the past year. Matter of fact, if it seems my blog has been a bit abandoned, it has! Between serving as EMA President, being a high school librarian without a clerk, teaching two intensive reading classes, and trying to have a personal life, I have spent almost every spare moment with my nose stuck in a book (or with earbuds in listening to an audiobook or with the light of an iPad illuminating my face) and not a lot of time worried about my blog. But I’m not complaining. I have never loved my job more, nor have I ever been more inspired to share books with my students or talk to people about how books change lives. How books changed my life. But I digress. That is another post for another day.
A week from today, the Florida Teens Read list will become public. Although I love the list chosen by my colleagues (I really, really love it and think all of you will, too), I thought I would put together a list of my own. My list isn’t limited by any of the rules or bylaws FTR must follow. This is simply the best 5 books I’ve read over the last year. They can be Children’s, YA, Adult, anything…if I’ve read it, it’s eligible. So, with no further ado, here is my list:
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Adult, Mystery, Thriller)
Okay, I know, I know. It’s been a movie (insert flashbacks of inappropriate scenes here). It’s had a ton of press. I’m a follower, a drone, an unoriginal zombie walking stiffly behind the masses. But I can’t help it. There was something so engaging about this book. I was hooked on the story and the characters and I remember where I was sitting and how my jaw hit the ground when I realized the truth behind what happened to Amy Dunne. So, overplayed or not, if a book sticks with me like that, I have to mention it.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (YA, Contemporary)
We Were Liars has hit high school libraries like a storm, and for good reason. Honestly, I was expecting a laid back read about some privileged kids and their privileged lives and their over-dramatized sob stories…blah, blah, blah. So, imagine my surprise when I found myself quite attached to the characters. I was invested in the storyline, for sure, when I had truly expected to be bored! By the time of the big reveal, I was shocked and almost angry. At myself for not realizing what was going on. At the author for doing this to us, the beloved readers. At my husband, for breathing too loud while I tried to comprehend what the heck just happened (okay, maybe that last part is an embellishment). But really, again, just like in Gone Girl, I found myself slapped in the face with a reality I was not ready to accept. When you think you will have to read the book again just to see what you missed, you’ve got a winner in my opinion. So, it had to be on the list.
If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch (YA, Contemporary)
This book was released in 2013, so please forgive me for being late to the party. However, late or not, it was worth mentioning. This is one of the best books I have read – ever. It’s absolutely heartbreaking in so many ways, but the strength of the main character keeps hope alive. The story itself would’ve been enough to make it a meaningful read, but there is even an added twist near the end that adds another layer to the already complicated situation. In the end, it’s about love being able to truly conquer evil- the love of siblings, old and new friends, and parents. It’s a beautifully crafted book and I am so glad that I found it and can include it on this list.
Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein (Children’s, Middle Grade, Adventure)
Two confessions about this book. 1) As a librarian, I probably have some kind of bias towards a book that turns going to the library into an adventure. 2) I have had the pleasure of working with Chris Grabenstein at April is for Authors over the last two years and met up with him at FAME, so…I’m once again probably a bit biased towards this book! BUT – it doesn’t mean it’s not magnificent. The creativity and imagination that Chris poured onto every page was better than any other adventure book I read this year. This was like going into another world. It may be a middle grades book but I think everyone should read it, especially if you are a librarian, go to the library, have ever been to the library, are breathing…. so that’s pretty much all of you. My dream is for Disney to buy the rights to this book and create a movie…and maybe a theme park attraction! Do you hear me, Bob Iger?
Coincidentally, this book was just awarded the SSYRA Award for Grades 3-5. Congratulations, Chris! Thank you for sharing this work of art with the world.
Chris Grabenstein & I at AIFA in 2015
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby (YA, Contemporary, Magical Realism)
This book. THIS BOOK. Unlike the books above which have already been widely critically acclaimed, I went into Bone Gap with no clue what to expect. I had seen it on a YA Release list and marked it as “To Read” so when the FTR committee wrapped things up last Saturday, I decided to give this book a shot. And boy am I glad I did. There are books you like, books you love, books that shock you, books that stick with you, but this book ENRAPTURED me. I don’t even know why. The writing is beautiful, the characters are interesting, and there’s something magical about it! It’s less like a book and more like an experience. A journey. An enchantment. A mystery. I loved it so much that I’m sad it’s over. I loved it so much that I tweeted the author 3 times in 2 days (stalker much?). I haven’t read a book this interesting and beautiful in a long time. I will be interested to see what others think of it but, for me, it is my #1 read of the last year. Someone tell Laura Ruby to release another book soon! Oh, and one more thing, I listened to this on Audible. I don’t know if that could’ve played a role in why I loved the book so much, but it was certainly well-performed.