Cindy & Lynn's Top Fiction Books for Older Readers 2009

33604959Today’s Bookends Best of the Year list features books published for older readers – upper middle school and high school. We’ll lead off with titles we both have at the top of our lists and then will each add a few individual favorites. Want more information? Titles are linked to our prior Bookends blog posts or Booklist reviews. Tomorrow we’ll get tough and post each of our overall, no-categories-allowed Top Ten. – Hmm, maybe we can stretch to a top eleven or twelve.

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness. Candlewick, 2009.

Lynn: Ness steps up with the second volume in this breathless series, adding fascinating new issues and intriguing depth to the characters. I CANNOT wait for the next volume!

Cindy: Todd and Viola survived their journey and have arrived to the safety of Haven as this sequel opens. Or have they? Who are the good guys and the bad guys here? Hard to tell, as the shades of gray are creeping in, even with our young hero and heroine. I miss the dog from volume one, but everything else is even better in this admirable sequel. No one can accuse this middle book of simply being a placeholder for book three.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. Scholastic, 2009.

Lynn: Did I say I CANNOT wait for the next volume? Well, I CANNOT wait for this one either! Collins’ suspenseful story has me totally captivated. I thought I knew what would happen next and I couldn’t have been more wrong. Great storytelling.

Cindy: Most popular book in my middle school this year. I was greeted this morning by a student telling me the release date of book three (8-24-10) and we have half a dozen students (and staff) who demanded I start a waiting list…last MAY…after they read our advanced copy four months before publication. I was wrong in my predictions for book two, like Lynn, but I’m POSITIVE I know what will happen in book three. HA!

Crossing Stones by Helen Frost. Farrar/Frances Foster, 2009.

Lynn: If all verse novels were this brilliant, I’d be a convert. Beautifully crafted, wondrous poetry and an absorbing story.

Cindy: I don’t need to be converted to verse novels. This is an excellent example of challenging form, quality poetry, and moving story of life on the US home front during the Great War.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. S&S/Simon Pulse, 2009.

Lynn: This is SO my kind of book and I loved everything about it from the steam punk machinery to the Darwinian ecosystems to the clever alternate history. The book design adds such pleasure to the process of reading the physical book too.

Cindy: Speaking of Darwin…Lynn’s friends either adapt to become sci-fi fans or perish! At least, the encouragement is strong in that direction and I have become a believer over the years. Leviathan is funny, clever, and exciting–alternate histories are popular with my history-fan students who enjoy “catching” the diversion from facts they know. And, beautiful book making here from a stunning cover to gorgeous maps and rich paper.

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork. Scholastic, 2009.

Lynn: Marcelo’s unique voice and his exploration of how to navigate the real world stands out for me almost a year since I first read it. I’m hoping for a sticker on this one.

Cindy: Marcelo’s father forces his autistic son to step outside his comfort zone and work in his law firm to teach him about the real world, but we, as readers, learn a lot as well. Watching the friendship grow between Marcelo and his co-worker is also a real treat.

Swim the Fly by Don Calame. Candlewick, 2009.

Lynn: It is so hard to write humor well and this has to be the funniest book of 2009! Just thinking about the boys’ summer goal makes me laugh.

Cindy: This laugh-out-loud book became a favorite with our teens, girls as well as guys. Even our high school swim team had fun with it (in the pool–check out the title link to our blog post for the photos). Loved the boys and their antics, but gotta admit, it was gramps trying to hit on the widow next door that won my heart.

Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan. Scholastic, 2009.

Lynn: What a gem this book is! Tan’s agile imagination soars from one astonishing story to the next into territory that is at once alien and familiar.

Cindy: Hard to pick a favorite story here, they are so wonderful and unique, but I have a very favorite illustration. Won’t someone PLEASE produce a poster of the Tuesday Afternoon Reading Group art? I’d buy a few!

Lynn’s Extras

Carbon Diaries 2015 by Saci Lloyd. Holiday House, 2009.

Lynn: This quite a year for apocalyptic-future novels but this one stands out. Not only are the issues and situation terrifyingly plausible but 2015 is just around the corner which heightened my interest. I loved Laura’s authentic voice too as she yearns to be a normal teen in the midst of the escalating ecological disaster.

Fire by Kristin Cashore. Penguin/Dial, 2009.

Lynn: I really admire how Cashore took a different tact with this prequel and gave us a whole new place and set of characters. Richly imagined with a gripping suspenseful plot, Fire adds a new intriguing layer to the series.

When the Whistle Blows by Fran Cannon Slayton. Penguin/Philomel, 2009.

Lynn: This little masterpiece has been in my top five since I first read it. I adore the construction of this book – seven complete short stories that build upon each other, adding layer upon layer of understanding of the characters, the setting and the relationships that bind them all together. This book made me laugh and cry and feel as if I too grew up in that small West Virginia town.

Winter’s End by Jean-Claude Mourlevat, translated by Anthea Bell. Candlewick, 2009.

Lynn: I read this book during the holiday break and it has been firmly lodged in my brain ever since. Part dystopian sf, part survival, with a fierce urgency to the pacing and a sense of such intense immediacy to the characters that I felt I knew them. There is a subtle difference to the writing style that worked brilliantly with the themes and the story. It is a late Nov. publication – don’t miss it!

Cindy’s Extras

Soul Enchilada by David Macinnes Gill. HarperCollins/Greenwillow, 2009.

Lynn loves her science fiction, but this is my ideal book: a sassy but smart heroine, lots of laughs including bad puns, a chance to shed a tear or two, a good vs. evil struggle, and a basketball showdown. What more does a girl need? Oh, yeah….a 1958 Cadillac Biarritz. Go, girl.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. Penguin/Viking, 2009.

Cindy: A haunting look at anorexia that is as unflinching and honest as anything the author has penned yet. One after another my middle school girls read and return it saying, “It’s so sad, but soooo good.” And then they hand it off to a friend. It’s a book that I hope gets girls to start speaking out and seeking help for this prevalent disorder.



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

12 Comments on "Cindy & Lynn's Top Fiction Books for Older Readers 2009"

Trackback | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Angela says:

    So by my count, there’s 7 months & 16 days until the conclusion of Hunger Games? (Do we have a title for it yet?) I can’t wait!!!

  2. No title announcement yet that I’ve heard. Sorry, Angela. What do you think it should be?

  3. Helen says:

    Carbon Diaries 2015 was one of my favorites as well. Most of the others are still on my TBR list!

  4. Brenda Kahn says:

    Great list, and I actually read half of them! Most of the other half are tbr. I adored When the Whistle Blows as well. Soul Enchilada was such a hoot! It was a great year.


  5. Sherry says:

    Three of those made my Top YA of 2009 list, too. I loved Marcelo, and of course FIre and Catching Fire were both great sequels.

  6. Angela says:

    Ugh, I’m so bad at naming my own stuff, now you want me to start suggesting names for someone else’s work?! However, I really liked how the theme of flames of played throughout the first two books, so I’m hoping the third’s title continues the fire-y trend. Maybe something referencing sparks, as Katniss was seen to be a spark for the revolution?

  7. LaurieA-B says:

    The Hunger Games books have been reasonably popular in my middle school, but the most popular book this year, far and away, is Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days.

    I have not read/purchased Swim the Fly yet, and am always looking for funny books. Thanks!

  8. Shirley Duke says:

    I love your taste in books and know if you like a book, it will be good. I’ve read your blog for a while, but I haven’t commented. Marcelo in the Real World is one of my top favorites.

  9. Angela–I like the idea of Spark in the title. Sparks Fly? It will most likely be a two word title to keep with the others: Hunger Games and Catching Fire.

    Laurie–You’re right. The new Wimpy Kid may have been the most popular in my middle schools too. Swim the Fly is reviewed mostly for high school, but I think it’s great for 8th grade. Your mileage may vary so you might want to read before purchasing for your middle school. The laughs are guaranteed, though.

  10. Shirley–thanks for the nice comments. Glad you are enjoying our recommendations.

  11. Maureen says:

    Great list! I cut Crossing Stones from my list awhile back, but maybe I’ll restore it based on your rec.

    Swim the Fly was extra-awesome for me because the author so clearly had been involved in swimming and knew how it all worked, in and out of the water. I swam for years and get frustrated when the author obviously has never strapped on a pair of goggles.

Post a Comment