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10 best teen books of 2010

October 20, 2010

Published by The Christian Science Monitor

More than 8,000 teens voted for their favorite book of last year in a contest sponsored by the Young Adult Library Services Association. What made the list?

1. “Catching Fire,” by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire,” Suzanne Collins’s second book in the “The Hunger Games” series takes the No. 1 spot on the teen list. Though John Green’s “Paper Towns” came out on top last year, the honor typically goes to a book that is part of a series. Stephanie Meyer’s “Eclipse” won in 2008, as did “New Moon” in 2007. In 2006, it was J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” and in 2005, Ann Brashares’s “Girls In Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood.” Will “Mockingjay,” Collins’s third book in the “Hunger Games” series, top the list next year? Though we’ll have to wait to find out, history shows that teens are loyal to their favorite series, and they particularly love this postapocalyptic adventure story.

2. “City of Glass,” by Cassandra Clare

The third in Cassandra Clare’s “Mortal Instruments” series, “City of Glass,” follows both of its predecessors in making the Teens Top 10 list. Readers can’t help but draw parallels between this science fiction series and fellow teen favorite “The Hunger Games.” Both feature a boy-girl team of brave teenagers (the girl gets the protagonist role), a little romance, and a lot of fighting for survival in an alternate world. Whereas in “The Hunger Games” the characters combat fellow humans and the government, in “Mortal Instruments” enemies are mythical: demons, monsters, and other magical creatures.

3. “Heist Society,” by Ally Carter

Author of the bestselling spy series “Gallagher Girls,” Ally Carter has another hit with “Heist Society.” Main character Katarina Bishop, like many fictional teen protagonists, is away at boarding school and trying to have a normal life. Fortunately for readers, there’s a twist: She comes from a family of professional thieves. When her father is accused of stealing five paintings, a crime he didn’t actually commit, the gutsy teen decides to embrace her past. Katarina ditches school (she was kicked out, anyway), plots an “Ocean’s Eleven”-like plan, and jets off to Europe to save her family.

4. “Shiver,” by Maggie Stiefvater

Shiver” has all the ingredients for success in the teen market: forbidden first love, werewolves, and sequels. The book centers around 17-year-old Grace, a girl fascinated with the wolves that haunt the woods behind her house, and Sam, the wolf who saved her years ago. When he appears on her doorstep in human form – only for the summer – the two fall in “Romeo and Juliet”-type serious love. Maggie Stiefvater poetically tells their story in seamlessly alternating points of view, realistically weaving the wolf world into the human. Fans of “Twilight” no doubt flocked to this new take on supernatural romance.

5. “Hush, Hush,” by Becca Fitzpatrick

Though the book’s protagonist doesn’t know that Patch, her mysterious and handsome new biology partner, is a fallen angel, readers do. He’s inexplicably dangerous and actually quite mean to good girl Nora. She’s infatuated. But does Patch want to woo her – or kill her? As Nora finds herself in one life-threatening situation after another, she realizes that she’s at the center of an ancient battle between the fallen and the immortal. Critics note unrealistic plot elements and racy content in “Hush, Hush,” but Becca Fitzpatrick’s debut novel makes the Teens Top 10 list regardless.

6. “Beautiful Creatures,” by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

What makes “Beautiful Creatures” stand out among a plethora of intense teenage romance-meets-supernatural-being/power/world novels is its lead character, a boy, and its setting – Gatlin, S.C., a small town that still has Confederate leanings. Ethan has grown weary of his life – that is, until he meets Lena, a gothic beauty with, you guessed it, special powers. While the small-minded town shuns Lena for being different, Ethan befriends her. In a way markedly different from Edward and Bella’s intense and immediate attraction in “Twilight,” Ethan and Lena’s relationship develops into more over time. Love, danger, and a fight to change fate ensue in this, the authors’ first novel.

7. “Along for the Ride,” by Sarah Dessen

Teenagers can undoubtedly relate to Sarah Dessen’s characters. They sound real, as do their friends, family problems, and questions. In “Along for the Ride,” Auden, a studious insomniac, escapes her control-freak mother by going to visit her father, his young wife, and their new baby for the summer. Though she’s terrified of letting her guard down and making mistakes, the summer becomes one of self-discovery for Auden, with new experiences, second chances, and a love interest. Though most of Dessen’s novels follow a similar formula, teen readers don’t seem to mind. Dessen’s “Just Listen” occupied the No. 2 slot on the 2007 list of top teen choices.

8. “If I Stay,” by Gayle Forman

Though the plotline of “If I Stay” revolves around a terrible tragedy, its fans insist that the novel is not depressing. One minute Mia is in the car with her family. In the next, she is standing outside her body watching paramedics take it away. Her parents have died and her body is in a coma. Mia must decide: should she fight to live, or go on with her family? Much like in Alice Sebold’s “The Lovely Bones,” former journalist Gayle Forman’s young protagonist narrates the novel from afar. She reflects on her past through flashbacks and watches the people in her life – even reading their thoughts – as she makes the bittersweet decision.

9. “Fire,” by Kristin Cashore

The title character in Kristin Cashore’s fantasy “Fire” is an outcast human monster – the last of her kind – who is so beautiful that she must hide her hair to avoid attack. Fire lives in the Dells, a war-ravished land readers know from Cashore’s first novel “Graceling,” a top book on last year’s list. In a plot considered more complex and adult than that of “Graceling,” Fire grapples with her father’s fearsome legacy, complicated relationships, and a fateful wartime role. Fire is a strong female character readers admire for her courage in a violent, cruel world.

10. “Wintergirls,” by Laurie Halse Anderson

Eight years after publishing the emotionally intense “Speak,” Laurie Halse Anderson comes out with “Wintergirls.” There have been books in between, but these two have the most striking similarities: intense, even haunting, subject matter; poetic narration; and realistic teen turmoil. Two former best friends struggle with eating disorders. Even after Cassie dies, Lia cannot stop obsessing over her weight, calorie counting, excessive exercising, and later, cutting. As guilt and a need for self-control overtake her life, Lia struggles to keep her thoughts tangible. Despite the heavy subject matter, young adults voted this glimpse into a horrifyingly realistic mind set onto the Top 10 list of 2010.

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