Lexicon by Max Barry
Emily’s life is completely transformed when she is selected to attend an elite school for “poets,” masters of word strings that powerfully affect the human mind. Smart, madcap, and tragic, the plot thickens and twists in this ingenious story about a misguided group of wordsmiths who kill easily and frequently in their quest to retrieve an elusive magical word.
The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan
Based on known fact, this novel of familial love and redemption follows two sisters who are part of the Paris Opera Ballet. In the late 1870s, Antoinette, 17, and Marie, 13, live in abject poverty until they work their way up the ranks, catching the eye of Edgar Degas. Unfortunately, they also attract the notice of a hustler and of a wealthy patron who use them for their own ends.
The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton Disclafani
For 15-year-old Thea Atwell, exiled from her family’s Florida home after a tragedy, being sent to an exclusive riding camp/boarding school in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, is a punishment rather than a privilege. The book’s Depression-era setting prompts thoughts about class and the ephemeral nature of wealth and social standing. (ow.ly/qAWmA)
The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence
Being struck by a meteorite when he was 10 has made Alex a celebrity as well as a target for bullies. When he befriends the curmudgeonly Mr. Peterson, who introduces him to the work of Kurt Vonnegut, Alex finds that life’s meaning is less about survival than how you live and love.
The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan
Awaiting charges related to an assault that left a police officer in a coma, Anais is placed in a group home called The Panopticon, the latest in a string of group and foster homes for her. Though filled with sex, violence, and drugs, this novel is at its heart about teens trying to find their place in a world that has already given up on them.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
Rosemary, the witty heroine of this suspenseful coming-of-age novel, is a 22-year-old college student who is still deeply affected by the events of her childhood. Gradually, readers learn her secret—she was raised alongside a chimpanzee that she knew as her sister. Based on experiments conducted in the 1970s, this book provides a unique window into behavioral psychology and the ethics of animal experimentation.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
A seven-year-old boy is at the center of a conflict between an ancient evil trying to access our world and the three generations of women who are determined to protect us against it. In this magical, scary tale, Gaiman escorts readers just past the borderline of darkness and then returns them to this world, not unchanged.
Morrow by Joe Hill
Vic McQueen has the power to find lost things: First as a child on her Raleigh Tough Burner bike, later as a young adult on a motorcycle. Charlie Manx drives a 1938 black Rolls-Royce Wraith, license plate NOS4A2, kidnapping children and delivering them to Christmasland, from which they never return. Vic can find them, but will that power erode her sanity before she can save the children?
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
Frank Drum, and his younger brother, Jake, consider the neighborhood of New Bremen, Minnesota, an extension of their own backyard. But in the summer of 1961, death visits their community in the form of murder and suicide. Small-town characters struggle with incomprehensible tragedy in this page-turning mystery.
Long Division by Kiese Laymon
How about a book set in 2013 Mississippi that includes another book set in 1985 with time travel to 1964? It sure baffles 14-year-old City Coldson, an outspoken, slightly chubby, African American boy featured in each of the three stories, and he’ll be happy to tell you all about it.
Little Wolves by Thomas Maltman
When troubled teen Seth Fallon murders his local sheriff and then kills himself, he sets in motion an unraveling of secrets that reveals the lengths to which a town will go in order to preserve the illusion of normalcy. A dark, brooding novel that is accessible and beautifully written.
The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay
Nastya was a piano prodigy until the day her hand was destroyed. Josh has lost his entire family. He’s living alone in the empty house and finishing high school. Out for a run one night, Nastya is drawn to his garage light. Alternating narratives allow readers to see into the minds of these two damaged young people as they begin to fall in love.
Help for the Haunted by John Searles
Sisters Sylvie and Rose try to unravel the mystery of the brutal murder of their parents, who had billed themselves as counselors, offering “help for the haunted.” A creepy coming-of-age mystery full of family secrets.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Don Tillman manages his autism through a heavily regimented schedule, including such marvels as the Standardized Meal System. His newest life plan is The Wife Project, an attempt to locate the perfect life partner, using a questionnaire. But everything seems to fall apart when he meets Rosie, a young bartender who is seemingly the opposite of everything Don is looking for in a spouse.
Brewster by Mark Slouka
Teenagers Jon and Ray dream of escaping from their dysfunctional and even dangerous parents in their rural New York town in this novel set in 1969. Themes of friendship and violence reflect the tensions of the Vietnam War.
Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin
Attractive, charismatic Max is intersex, born with both male and female organs. He’s able to keep it a non-issue until he hits puberty. But after suffering a violent rape, the young man realizes that he must be the one to claim his own sexuality. Teens will love kindhearted Max, whose journey through adolescence is a nightmare few will experience.
Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente
“Snow White” set in the mythic Wild West, with a protagonist who is the daughter of a corrupt miner and an American Indian woman. Fans of Valente’s teen novels should be more than familiar with her playfulness, and all fans of fairy-tale adaptations will find something powerful and intriguing here.
The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls
Twelve-year-old Bean and 15-year-old Liz are sadly familiar with their mentally unstable mother disappearing for days at a time. But when she vanishes for two weeks, they decide to travel across the country to stay with their uncle in a Virginia mill town where they learn about both sides of their family and run into trouble.
Lotería by Mario Alberto Zambrano
After an unnamed incident leaves Luz’s father in jail, her sister in the hospital, and Luz herself in a care home, the young girl refuses to speak. But she agrees to write out her life story, which she does by cuing each chapter to a card from the Latin American game lotería. A thought-provoking coming-of-age tale.