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Some of the Year's Best Young Adult Books, 2011

<img src=" align=right hspace=5 />These recommendations from our staff were published in our <a href="">2011 Winter Newsletter</a>.

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

When his blowhard dad loses his job, Doug Swieteck’s family moves to tiny Marysville, a blue-collar town in upstate New York, far from his beloved Yankee Stadium. Doug is a smart, smart-ass 13-year-old. A new friend, Lil (Doug’s a delivery boy for her father’s grocery), refers to him as a “skinny thug.” Although Doug is secure in his mother’s quiet love, dodging his father’s blows (“He has quick hands,” Doug observed.), and his older brother’s rough bullying has made him careful. (It’s 1968. An older brother is in Vietnam. His gym coach has just returned. A man will soon walk on the moon.) Doug is used to navigating and observing. He’s very funny (he uses the language of baseball stats to chronicle life’s events). Slowly acclimating to the small town, Doug’s defensive humor gives way and he becomes complicit in his own learning. He learns to read in Miss Cowper’s detention class. (Schmidt barely reveals that Doug can’t read.) He learns to draw. Once a week Doug visits the library where Mr. Powell, the town librarian, teaches Doug to paint—really, how to see—using John James Audubon’s bird portraits as models. (An Audubon bird portrait introduces each chapter.) In fact, this costly portfolio is the key metaphor of the novel, a model for life as well as art. And this is also the key to Doug’s salvation, which is the point of this complex novel. This book, Okay for Now, unabashedly tackles very large ideas and several complicated plots. I’ve not mentioned most of them. The writing is unusually solid. There are a few plot contrivances; but I honestly don’t care. This story is among the most beautiful I’ve read and Doug’s voice sticks in my head like the voices of Salinger’s characters’ stuck so many years ago. Okay for Now is my selection for the 2012 Newbery Award. Grades 6–9.
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Okay For Now By Gary D. Schmidt Cover Image
ISBN: 9780547152608
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Clarion Books - April 5th, 2011

The Queen of Water by Laura Resau & Maria Virginia Farinango

Based on the true story of coauthor Farinango, this collaborative novel provides a nuanced look at race and class in late 20th-century Ecuador. Born in an impoverished Andean village but sent to work for a well-to-do family at the age of 7, Virginia finds herself at the nexus of two cultures as she enters her teens—that of her indígina heritage and that of her mestizo employers. The narrative voice overlaps, deepening our understanding of Virginia as she speaks in the present moment as well as retrospectively. The result is a fully fleshed-out coming-of-age/identity story. Ages 13 and up.

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Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

In a not too distant future, 17-year old Nailer lives and works on the Gulf Coast salvaging scrap from defunct oil tankers with his crew of “ship breakers.” Like many works of science fiction, the premise of Bacigalupi’s Printz Award–winning YA debut is frighteningly plausible—dare I say imminent?—but what sets Ship Breaker apart is the vividness of Bacigalupi’s prose, and his thoroughly developed, diverse cast of characters. Ages 13 and up.

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Ship Breaker By Paolo Bacigalupi Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316056199
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers - October 3rd, 2011

Chime by Franny Billingsley

Briony believes she is a witch. In her backwater English village, a place that is reluctantly experiencing the Industrial Revolution and all of its change, this is an offense punished by hanging. Briony also believes that she is responsible for the death of her stepmother and the disabling of her sister, and as penance she forbids herself from visiting her beloved bog, where she once communicated with the Old Ones. The Old Ones, various witches, spirits, brownies, and other creatures, are none to happy about the dawning of the 20th century or the railroad that comes with it. When they place a curse on the town that sickens her sister, Briony knows that she is the only one who can intervene, but to do so would risk exposing her many secrets. With a viscerally earthy setting and a wry, passionate, and intelligent protagonist, Chime has the dark allure of an old English ballad, and the language is oddly new and beautiful. Ages 13 and up. —Kat & Ga

Blink and Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones

You are “Blink”—runaway, scavenger, survivalist, whose precarious existence is overtaken and transformed by witnessing a (fake?) kidnapping of a high-profile CEO. You are not “Caution”—also a runaway, whose self-destructing life serves as a penance for the crimes of her past. While running from an abusive (ex)boyfriend, Caution’s path intersects with Blink’s mystery, from there entwining the two lives and stories into one incredible journey. Just try to catch your breath. Grades 9–12

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Blink & Caution By Tim Wynne-Jones Cover Image
ISBN: 9780763639839
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Candlewick - March 8th, 2011

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