Colleen Conway is the Young Readers Sales Rep covering the Pacific Northwest and part of Northern California. She has worked for Penguin for 15 years and is a coffee fanatic and obsessive jam maker and baker who would rather be at the beach than anywhere else.
These are some of my favorite YA and middle grade novels from 2014:
My favorite book this year, this is a tale of twins who’ve grown apart and need to find their way back to one another. In gorgeous prose, it deals with family secrets, the joys of first love, the pain of growing up and growing apart, the vital importance of art and creativity in our lives and the importance of learning to forgive and move on. You won’t soon forget Jude and Noah’s story; I’ve read it twice already and think it’s a masterpiece. And if you haven’t read it, you should also get Nelson’s first novel, The Sky is Everywhere, which is equally beautiful.
Meg Wolitzer has the same deft, delicate touch in her first YA novel as she has in her previous novels for adults. Wholly original and unputdownable, this smart, raw look at overcoming trauma and learning to trust again is one teens – and adults- will love, and has an ending you’ll want to talk about with everyone you know. This is a book that should promote many conversations about love, loss and the power of acceptance and would be a perfect book group selection.
To say this isn’t your usual princess and dragon story is an understatement! Evie leaves home when she finds a postcard advertising the Pennyroyal Academy, and soon finds herself being trained by fairy drill sergeants, immersing herself in princess history, learning to fight dragons and making friends for the first time in her life. This is a book about finding yourself and standing up for what it right. I love this line from the end, which I think sums it up well: “You get to decide who you want to be. No one else.”
I haven’t met a narrator quite as tenacious and full of moxie as Theo since I think since I first read Turtle’s story in The Westing Game when I was 10! When her grandfather dies, he whispers to Theo that there is “a letter, and a treasure, under the egg”. While looking under the large egg painting left in their apartment, Theo finds clues that set her off on an adventure and mystery across New York and through generations of history. This is perfect book about art, friendship and not just the families you are born with but those you make, and I think will be a modern classic.
Maps. Time Travel. Trains. Danger- what’s not to love? I adore fantasy, especially an epic fantasy that takes you to a place you’ve never even dreamt of before, and The Glass Sentence delivers in every way. After ‘The Great Disruption’, time splits itself apart, leaving countries and time periods mixed together. Young Sophia is growing up a century later with her uncle Shaddock, the world’s best known mapmaker, and when he is kidnapped and their secret map room destroyed she wonders if he has found a way to fix the disruption and decides to go after those who took him. First in a trilogy, The Glass Sentence has incredible world building, a tightly woven and continually surprising plot, and a main character that could have come out of a Frances Hodgson Burnett classic with her pluckiness and resolve. I can’t wait for the rest of the series.
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