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Best young adult books of 2012


Like many adults who are responsible for turning “The Hunger Games,” “Twilight,” “The Book Thief,” and other young-adult titles into multigenerational bestsellers, we find that the stories and characters in YA literature are as compelling (sometimes more so) than novels written for our own demographic. By our conservative estimate, we probably read a bazillion young-adult books in 2012. Here are 10, some by award-winning veterans, others by debut authors, that made our lists of best reads. These are the ones we’re still thinking about. Meredith Goldstein

and Chelsey Philpot

The Diviners

By Libba Bray (Little Brown)

This is a stunning thriller set in New York City in 1926. Fresh from Ohio, 17-year-old flapper Evie O’Neill becomes embroiled in solving a series of gruesome murders, discovering along the way that there are others like her who have supernatural abilities. A numbers runner in Harlem, a Ziegfeld girl with a secret, and a museum assistant who is much more than he seems are just a few of the other extraordinary characters. “Pos-i-tute-ly” fantastic. CP

The Fault in Our Stars

By John Green (Dutton)


Green proved why he’s a literary phenomenon and pop culture hero with this story of two teenage cancer patients who meet in a support group. Hazel and Augustus are a brilliant fictional pair, but I also loved Green’s adults in this one. Unlike his previous novel “Looking for Alaska” (another beautiful YA heart-breaker), “Stars” gives grown-ups real voices, making this a true family story. MG

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

By Emily M. Danforth (Balzer & Bray)

Cameron Post may be a teenager in early 1990s Miles City, Mont., struggling to come to terms with her sexuality and parents’ deaths, but her coming-of-age story is one for any teen who has felt like an outsider or stopped and started her way toward an authentic self. Evocative and stunningly written, “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” has been named a finalist for the William C. Morris YA Debut Award for many good reasons. CP

Tiger Lily

By Jodi Lynn Anderson (Harper)

I never thought much about Tiger Lily, the young, Native American woman who falls into Peter Pan’s rowdy pack. But in July, I cried for her. I honestly wept. Because if you have Tiger Lily and Tinkerbell in your life, why would you ever need Wendy? Anderson’s summer release, “Tiger Lily,” turns the tale of “Peter Pan” into a character study of the women in his world, from the oft-ignored fairy Tinkerbell, who battles over-sized emotional demons, to the book’s heroine, who falls for the wrong man. “Tiger Lily” is not some cute retelling of an old story; it’s a meaningful look at race, gender, and the truth about the men who don’t grow up. MG



By Lois Lowry (Houghton Mifflin)

In October, Lowry published the final book in what has become the “Giver Quartet.” “Son” returns to the dystopian community of “The Giver,” following the story of Claire, a young mother who will sacrifice anything to find her son, Gabe. This masterful novel connects threads from the previous three and combines, as only Lowry can, horrific evil, love, and wonder into a mesmerizing conclusion. CP

The Disenchantments

By Nina LaCour (Dutton)

A high school grad named Colby sets out on a road trip with his too-cool female friends who have set up a mini-tour for their not-so-great rock band, The Disenchantments. They’re wanna-be Runaways without musical talent, fronted by Bev, Colby’s great love, who makes out with everyone but him. We hate Bev because she has wronged Colby, and then we hate Colby for putting up with it. And then we cry because high school is over, and we have to leave our new friends behind. I downloaded Sleater-Kinney after this one. It’s a book that calls for a soundtrack. MG


There Is No Dog

By Meg Rosoff (Putnam)

What if God were a teenage boy named Bob? Messy. Now what if God were a teenage boy in love? Disaster. Rosoff’s hilarious and cheeky novel is built on just that premise. When lazy, moody, charming Bob falls for Lucy,a lovely zookeeper, the world goes topsy-turvy. It takes all the skills of Mr. B, Bob’s much put-upon assistant, to set it right again — but along the way, oh, what a brilliant and beautiful trip is it. CP

The Mortal Instruments: City of Lost Souls

By Cassandra Clare (Margaret K. McElderry)

After reading Clare’s third “Mortal Instruments” book a few years ago, it was clear that it could have been a trilogy. But then it just kept going and going and going. This year, Clare released “City of Lost Souls,” the fifth book in her paranormal series following Clary Fray and a pack of young Shadowhunters who live (and fight evil) in a supernatural world, some of which exists in New York City. This book makes my list because every time I think Clare’s story is played out, she expands the narrative and I care all over again. This installment took me to Paris and Prague, and into the mind of Clary’s best friend, Simon, who must figure out how he can be Jewish and a vampire at the same time. It just doesn’t get old. MG


Code Name Verity

By Elizabeth Wein (Hyperion)

I wish I could read “Code Name Verity” over and over again for the first time in perpetuity. It’s an absolute thrill to encounter this World War II story about a friendship between two female members of the British war effort, a pilot named Maddie and a spy who has been captured by the Gestapo and goes by the name “Verity.” Espionage, suspense, and heart-wrenching ending, this moving page-turner has it all. CP


By Megan Miranda (Walker)

Miranda is a scientist who took up writing. Her MIT degree is probably what makes her debut novel — the story of a teenager who dies and then comes back to life — so convincing. Her main character, Delaney, falls under icy waters in Maine for 11 minutes before she is saved. She’s alive again, but her brain has been altered. The story explores survivor’s guilt and how a glimpse of death can make you rethink life, but the cool part is the science, how Miranda makes us believe about the power of the mind and human perception. MG

Chelsey Philpot is a book reviews editor at School Library Journal and can be reached at Meredith Goldstein can be reached at