Sunday, December 21, 2014

YA Guy Lists... His 2014 Top 14!

As we near the end of 2014, YA Guy thought it would be fun to list (in no particular order) the 14 best books I've read this year. All of these books were published in 2014, and many are debuts--which means some really good books I read this year that weren't published in 2014 (Paolo Bacigalupi's The Drowned Cities, Lyn Miller-Lachmann's Gringolandia, Meg Medina's Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass) aren't on the list. Me being YA Guy, most of the books on the list are YA, though a few are middle grade and one is actually (gasp!) adult science fiction. But everything on the list gets my highest, highest recommendation. These books rock!

SURVIVAL COLONY 9. Oh, come on, how could I resist putting my own book on the list? I think it's a pretty darn good book, too--but don't take my word for it. Read it yourself!

PHOENIX ISLAND by John Dixon. Great action, great characters, great plot. Plus the author's a boxer, and he's from Philadelphia--so he's kinda like Rocky!

WHISPER by Chris Struyk-Bonn. A quietly magical novel about deformity and conformity. I haven't read anything else like it, ever.

THE ISLANDS AT THE END OF THE WORLD by Austin Aslan. The apocalypse hits Hawaii, and a teenager with epilepsy may be the only one who can save the world. This has been on lots of year-end "best of" lists, and it deserves to be.

BEING HENRY DAVID by Cal Armistead. How could you go wrong with a novel that integrates Thoreau into a teen's quest for self-discovery? Actually, I suppose you could, but Armistead definitely doesn't.

NIL by Lynne Matson. This Maze Runner-y story about teens who have to survive being mysteriously transported to an unknown island is scary, intense, smart, and sexy. I hear the sequel will be out soon!

THE STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL SORROWS OF AVA LAVENDER by Leslye Walton. Part historical fiction, part magical realism, and all awesome. A completely strange and beautiful reading experience.

THREATENED by Eliot Schrefer. I would have read this book simply because it's about great apes (chimpanzees, specifically). But add to that the fact that it's lyrical, heartbreaking, and wise, and it makes my "best-of" list.

THE EIGHTH DAY by Dianne Salerni. Ordinarily (being YA Guy) I don't read a lot of middle grade fiction, but lately I've been checking out the books my 11-year-old son reads, and this one--about an eighth day of the week accessible only by certain people--really caught my fancy. He and I are both eagerly awaiting the sequel, due out early in 2015.

THE RIFT by Chris Howard. Sequel to Howard's ROOTLESS, about a world without trees. Vivid and imaginative, and told in one of the most distinctive voices you'll find in YA.

IN A HANDFUL OF DUST by Mindy McGinnis. I loved McGinnis's debut, NOT A DROP TO DRINK, about a future earth with practically no drinkable water. I didn't think she could outdo that book--but in the sequel, she did.

THE NIGHT GARDENER by Jonathan Auxier. Another middle grade novel, this one about an Irish brother and sister in the nineteenth century who become entangled in their employers' dark and terrifying secret. A modern-day fairy tale that's also an ode to the power of storytelling, written by an author from my hometown of Pittsburgh.

JUST A DROP OF WATER by Kerry O'Malley Cerra. One more middle grade book (I told you I've been reading it lately!), set around the events of September 11. Beautifully written and powerfully told.

TOMORROW AND TOMORROW by Thomas Sweterlitsch. This wild science fiction mystery, set largely in a digital Pittsburgh after the real city has been demolished in a nuclear attack, will keep you up nights reading--then keep you up nights freaking out after you're done. Yet more proof that Pittsburgh is home to many amazing authors!

So there you have it, folks. I wonder what 2015 will bring?


  1. Yay! Thanks for the shout-out AND the reading list. I needed some new titles to look at. And although I've heard people praise The Night Gardener before, your pitch is the first one that actually piqued my interest in reading it!

    1. The Night Gardener is truly magical--like your book! I'm sure you'll love it.