Yeah, most people put out their top books at the end of the calendar year, but we all know that's not how a teacher works! We do everything in terms of the school year, and we are now reaching the end of it here with 6 more "get-ups" before that glorious first day of summer break when I don't have to set my alarm for 5:15 AM! (Don't worry. I have a build in alarm of an 11 month old to get me up instead!)
This school year, I read 20 books total, which is something I'm pretty proud of considering I was on maternity leave from August to the end of October and just finished my first year as a working mother! I had actually set a goal to read 20 books in total for 2016, so I'm on a good track!
I made a few challenges to myself this year as I combed through the shelves of my library wondering what I should read next. One of those challenges was to read more fantasy books. It is no secret that I am not a fantasy fan. Especially not a YA fantasy fan. Every time a student would approach me and wanted a fantasy book, I found I could not wholeheartedly recommend a good book to them. Therefore, I set out on a quest to read more fantasy. To be able to put a book into a student's hands that I actually enjoyed in the fantasy genre.
And part of this lead me to at least one of my top books of this year! So without further ado, here are my top three books of this school year. . . . .
#3: An Ember in the Ashes
by Sabaa Tahir
My two cents:
The writing in this book was absolutely fabulous! It's action packed and will keep readers turning the page. I loved her world building as well. I've read a lot of YA books, and this world was unique and interesting. I've been able to hand this book over to quite a few students, and they all have read it in a weekend, coming back begging for the next book. The next is the series, A Torch Against the Night, will be released on August 30th. Just in time for back to school! We joke all the time about how we have "victims" of this book, as students just seem to be falling all over themselves after reading it! I'm proud to push it as a fantasy book I thoroughly enjoyed.
The book does have a book trailer, which you can watch below, but it's only 30 seconds long and not the strongest book trailer int he world. Take it or leave it, but I don't use it to promote the book. This book does take some promoting through book talks though as it is a bit on the longer side. The word of mouth from the students though has been awesome about it. Students are definitely handing it over to their friends to read after finishing it.
#2: Salt to the Sea
by Ruta Sepetys
My Two Cents:
After I read this book, I believe my review was "I haven't read a YA book that was this good in a long while." Ruta Sepetys' mark in YA literature is to take moments in history that not very many people know about and to create historical fiction for young adults about those moments. She has strong family connections to Lithuania during WWII, and her first novel, Between Shades of Grey, has a similar feel as it also takes place during WWII. Like her first novel, I poured myself into Salt to the Sea, reading it in under a week. Each point of view was unique and interesting. I especially enjoyed the point of view of Alfred, the young German soldier. It was a different take on your typical "Nazi officer," and I found it, in a strange way, refreshing.
This book does take some promotion as well. I have always found historical fiction to be a hard sell to teenagers, but with some promotion, I have found students checking it out frequently. The book trailer also does it justice. I have used it to promote the book, and I feel it is well done, short and sweet, and gives a good feel for what the book is like without being hokey at all. (Sometimes those book trailers have THE WORST actors in them! Not this one.)
by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
My two cents:
Wow. Just wow. This book was absolutely incredible. It might be on my top 5 YA books of all time. It is action packed and will draw you in from beginning to end. As I was a little over halfway through with this book, I locked myself in the back room of the library and said, "No one bother me while I finish this book!!" There were at points where I was super creeped out as well by the story line, not wanting to walk back downstairs to turn off the lights. The most amazing part of this book is how it is told. Take a look at a few pictures from inside the book below.
It is told in multiple formats from e-mails to IMs to audio transcripts to word clouds to diagrams. . . . .the list goes on and on. Lots of YA books out there use this kind of format or multiple "media" forms to tell the story, but none do it as well as Illuminae. No other YA books have as strong of a story behind it. It may seem kind of "gimmicky" at first, but the strong story validates the form.
This book does take some book talking as well because it looks very lengthy. At 599 pages, it's not going to immediately fly off the shelf, but there's a lot of white space in this book because of the format. Lots of pages you don't have to spend a ton of time on if you don't want to.
It's an absolute roller coaster of a ride, and I'm excited to promote it. Random House did a lot of promotion for this book, including creating four separate book trailers, which I have included below. My favorite has been the AIDEN trailer. The Kady trailer and the "Emergency" trailer are fine as well. My least favorite is the Ezra trailer. I think it has a bit of that "hokey: acting that doesn't serve the book well. Take it or leave it.
Those are my top books of this year! Some honorable mentions go to the following YA (and contemporary fiction) books as well that I read this school year:
Where'd You Go Bernadette by Marie Semple
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
The Rose Society by Marie Lu
Happy summer reading everyone!
Jennifer Zimny has been a teacher librarian at Ponderosa High School for the past three years and previous to that, she was the drama teacher for 9 years. She holds a BA in Theatre from CSUS, a teaching credential in English, and a teaching credential in Library Media Services from Azusa Pacific University
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