Best Books of 2018 (part 1)

It is that time of year when lots of folks share their “best of” posts for the 2017-2018 school year. I love looking at the best books lists just to see what others are reading and enjoying. I thought I would take a crack at sharing the books I find myself putting into kids’ hands often throughout this school year. I plan on doing multiple posts on this topic but wanted to start with five solid books my students loved this year. 

The Truth As Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor

This was one of those books that tugged at my heartstrings throughout and made me hate and love humanity by the end of it. I am a big fan of Connor and she did it again with this novel that is rarely on the shelf in our library.

From Harper Collins – Mason Buttle is the biggest, sweatiest kid in his grade, and everyone knows he can barely read or write. Mason’s learning disabilities are compounded by grief. Fifteen months ago, Mason’s best friend, Benny Kilmartin, turned up dead in the Buttle family’s orchard. An investigation drags on, and Mason, honest as the day is long, can’t understand why Lieutenant Baird won’t believe the story Mason has told about that day.

Both Mason and his new friend, tiny Calvin Chumsky, are relentlessly bullied by the other boys in their neighborhood, so they create an underground club space for themselves. When Calvin goes missing, Mason finds himself in trouble again. He’s desperate to figure out what happened to Calvin, and eventually, Benny.

But will anyone believe him?

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

 I am a big fan of alternate history and this was the best one I read this school year. It is full of Nazis, a globe tracking race, shapeshifters and more twists and turns than I could predict. It truly is a page-turning must-read. You will only put it down when you finish and need to pick up the sequel. 🙂 

From Ryan Graudin website – The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule the world. To commemorate their Great Victory over Britain and Russia, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s Ball.

Yael, who escaped from a death camp, has one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skin shift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female victor, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele’s twin brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move. But as Yael begins to get closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?

Love Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

 For starters, this book takes place in a suburb near where I live so it instantly had a connection for me. As a librarian, I am always on the hunt for what I consider authentic voices in authors and characters. Honestly, I think authors and characters of Middle Eastern descent are far too underrepresented in high-quality literature. I don’t want to put a book in a kid’s hand simply because the characters or the topics are “diverse”. I want high quality and this book delivers on every single level.

From Penguin Random House – In this unforgettable debut novel, an Indian-American Muslim teen copes with Islamophobia, cultural divides among peers and parents, and a reality she can neither explain nor escape.
American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.

There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.

Speak – Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson, Emily Carroll

 Many readers have already encountered the classic novel of Speak but this graphic novel blew me away. I was concerned with how the artwork would turn out, especially given the graphic (no pun intended) nature of the subject matter. It is hands down one of the best graphic novels I have read.

From  Macmillen Publishers – “Speak up for yourself—we want to know what you have to say.” From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless—an outcast—because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. Through her work on an art project, she is finally able to face what really happened that night: She was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. With powerful illustrations by Emily Carroll, Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak: The Graphic Novel comes alive for new audiences and fans of the classic novel.

Wild Bird by Wendelin Van Draanen

 I have been a big fan of Van Draanen ever since I first read her novel, Flipped. This is a great book that I have found powerful to put into my “troublesome” students’ hands. All kids need a character to connect with and Wren in a loveable and “real’ character that many readers will connect with on a deep level.

From Penguin Random House – 3:47 a.m. That’s when they come for Wren Clemmens. She’s hustled out of her house and into a waiting car, then a plane, and then taken on a forced march into the desert. This is what happens to kids who’ve gone so far off the rails, their parents don’t know what to do with them anymore. This is wilderness therapy camp. Eight weeks of survivalist camping in the desert. Eight weeks to turn your life around. Yeah, right.

The Wren who arrives in the Utah desert is angry and bitter and blaming everyone but herself. But angry can’t put up a tent. And bitter won’t start a fire. Wren’s going to have to admit she needs help if she’s going to survive.


*Stay tuned for a part two where I will highlight another group of books that have been a hit with my students.*


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