- Rebecca Purdy
Area seventh and eighth grade teens have created the ultimate summer reading list, the Cafe Book Top Teen Picks. Every school year, students from 14 area middle schools read from among 16 recently published young adult books and vote on their favorites. The titles they choose the most frequently are stickered and displayed in library branches, and we can’t keep them on the shelves! This year, five titles were chosen by at least nine schools.
Two books made the list for every participating school, The Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard, and The Body in the Woods, by April Henry. These titles are great examples of the wide variety of reading interests held by Cafe Book participants.
In the sophisticated fantasy The Red Queen, blood comes in two different colors—red or silver. The silvers, as they are called, possess magical powers and rule the world while reds are treated abysmally. Mare is a red blood with an unusual secret. She has powers of her own. When she’s discovered, her skills keep the silvers from killing her but don’t lessen the danger, especially when they force her to live among them. Political intrigue, spy craft and non-stop action made this book one of the most popular of the year.
Though fantasy titles are tremendously popular, so is pretty much any book written by April Henry. She writes a new one every year, and, while the librarians choosing the titles might sometimes wish for a different author, the teens never mind! The Body in the Woods is a mystery that begins in Portland, Oregon, when three teenage search and rescue volunteers work the case of a missing man and instead find the body of a girl. They’re unable to let it go, especially since they believe they have clues and information that the police are ignoring. The result is the type of page-turning mystery with a just a tinge of horror that many teens love.
Fans of Harry Potter will enjoy The Iron Trial, by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. Call’s father has warned him about the dangers of magic for his entire life, so when he’s forced to take the entrance exam to the Magisterium, he does the only sensible thing and intentionally fails. Unfortunately, the mages aren’t fooled, and, before he knows it, Call is at the school. He’s committed to escaping, though, and that thought is foremost, whether he’s sorting piles of sand or fighting magical creatures. At least in the beginning. As time passes, questions build: about his mother’s death, his father’s motives, and whether magic is as dangerous as he has always been warned or really the most amazing gift ever. Readers will love the surprising twist and beg for the next book, The Copper Gauntlet.
The remaining Top Teen Picks titles are Famous Last Words, by Katie Alender, and I Am Princess X, by Cherie Priest, but there is another title I’d like to mention. One book was only chosen as a favorite at two schools. While that’s disappointing, it’s actually not completely unexpected. Each year, we try to pick at least one title that we feel is strong but needs the kind of exposure that Cafe Book provides. This year, The Boy in the Black Suit, by Jason Reynolds, was that title. Matt’s mother has died, and his father has resorted to drinking and not working much, so Matt gets a job at the local funeral home to help out. It pays well; he has a great boss and mentor; there’s no greasy fast food to contend with; and he finds that watching others say goodbye to their loved ones is somehow therapeutic. One mourner particularly catches his attention, not just because she’s his age and cute, but because she doesn’t cry and has a wisdom and pragmatism that he envies. Matt is an extremely likable, sympathetic character whom readers will empathize with in this thought-provoking, beautifully written story.
Originally published in the Free Lance-Star newspaper.