Popular Paperbacks is four themed lists. Those themes this year: Boarding Schools to Summer Camps: “Leaving home to find”; Gowns, Greasepaint and Guitars: “Not the same old song and dance,” I’m New Here Myself: “A generation, caught between nations” and More Books that Won’t Make You Blush: “All of the excitement, none of the naughty.”
These lists are great for displays, book discussions, and booklists. I have to be honest, I’m not a fan of the title of these lists because yes, they look for popular books, and yes, they are out in paperback, but it’s not like it’s things that are just out in paperback now.
Some older titles can appear; it’s not all new, new, new. As a matter of fact, there are books on these lists I’ve read, but it was either before I started my blog or before I began reviewing everything I finished, so, my list below is a bit incomplete.
And popular includes bringing could-be-popular books to readers’ attention. I really don’t think “popular paperbacks” does an accurate job of conveying how valuable these lists are, and I wonder how many people don’t use them because they don’t understand.
I won’t include every single book on every single list; that would just be way too long a post. So, I’ll highlight some of the included books I’ve read and loved:
From Boarding Schools: How to Ruin a Summer Vacation by Simone Elkeles. From my review: “What could be worse than your father deciding to spend time with you? What, that doesn’t sound like a bad thing? Did I mention he’s a deadbeat, barely remembering to call on birthdays? Or that he’s now decided that you’re going to spend the entire summer with him, and for some reason, your Mom has agreed? Meaning you cannot spend the summer with your best friend and your boyfriend? OK, maybe this will convince you — the sudden reason he’s all Daddy dearest is he wants to introduce you to his sick mother. Talk about playing the sympathy card! Oh, and another thing, not only have you never met this Grandmother, guess where his mother lives. Israel!! I know!! It gets worse, if you can believe it. Mom and Dad never having been married; and it’s not until you’re in Israel, outside the house, that Dad lets you know his family knows nothing about you.”
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. From my review: “Miri lives on Mount Eskel; her family, like the entire village, works in the quarry. All Miri wants to do is take her place as an adult and work in the quarry, but her father has forbidden it. Miri’s world is turned upside down when representatives from the king of Danland announce that the priests have decided that the Prince’s wife will come from Mount Eskel. How to prepare all these village girls for life as a Princess? A Princess Academy! But this is more than a “make over”, more than learning how to use the correct knife and fork. It’s hard work, and the girls are isolated from their families and well aware of the stakes; becoming Princess means they can leave their poverty stricken lives.”
Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey. From my review: “Ellie’s world at her Christchurch, New Zealand boarding school and had been safe and predictable: studying, hanging out with her best friend Kevin, neglecting her tae kwan do. It’s not safe anymore. There is Mark Nolan, with his cryptic words and unexpected appearances; there is the beautiful and strange woman who takes an almost proprietary interest in Kevin; there is the Eyelasher murderer. Most dangers of all is Ellie’s growing suspicion that myth and magic are real — and deadly.”
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart. From the Printz Award and Honor Book Announcement: “Can the old-boy network at her elite boarding school survive the mal-doings of Frankie Landau-Banks?”
The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney. From my review: “Themis Academy is a boarding school that believes its students are so good that they never do anything wrong. No, really. They have an honor code, a student code! Themis students are so wonderful they always live up to the honor code! The students know better. A few years ago they started the Mockingbirds. It’s a secret society dedicated to addressing what happens when students don’t follow the rules and end up hurting other people.”
Much as I love this list, I am sad it doesn’t include Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, so I’m including it now along with what was said at the time it got the Printz Award: “Haunted by the past, Taylor Markham reluctantly leads the students of the Jellicoe School in their secret territory wars against the Townies and the Cadets. Marchetta’s lyrical writing evokes the Australian landscape in a suspenseful tale of raw emotion, romance, humor and tragedy.”
From Gowns: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly. From my review: “Andi’s grief over her younger brother’s death seeps through every page, every sentence, every act: “…and then I play. For hours. I play until my fingertips are raw. Until I rip a nail and bleed on the strings. Until my hands hurt so bad I forget my heart does.” Her grief is fueled by guilt for her role in her brother’s death as well as the breaking down of her family.”
From I’m New Here Myself: American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. From my review: “Three stories are being told: of the Monkey King, who strives to be something he is not; and is then mocked and excluded and humiliated for being who he is. Of Jin Wang, from San Francisco, who is always introduced as being “from China”, with his name mangled, despite being born in America. He wants to fit in. Then there is Danny and his cousin, with his cousin the embodiment of every negative stereotype in the world, from how he pronounces his words to his clothes to what he does.”
From Not Blushing: Heist Society by Ally Carter. From my review: “Katarina Bishop, 15, ran away to boarding school with the hopes of leaving her family and her past life behind her. Alas, just when she thinks she is out, they pull her back in. The family business? Stealing. Long and short cons, pick a pocket or two. A powerful criminal believes that Kat’s father, Bobby Bishop, stole his art collection. The only way to save her father? Find the real thief and steal back the collection. Kat is rusty from being out of the game; and it’s more than a one person job. She’s going to need all the help she can get to pull off this heist.”
Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown. From my review: “Jennie Lovell’s loved ones left to fight in the Civil War: her twin brother, Tobias; her fiance and cousin, Will Pritchett; and her other cousin, Quinn, Will’s brother. She knew the moment Toby died: could feel it. She never suspected Will’s death, not until a wounded Quinn came home and told them his brother Will had died. Jennie wishes she could feel Will’s presence the way she does Toby’s.”
The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt. From my review: “On Wednesday afternoons at 1:45, everyone in Holling Hoodhood’s seventh-grade class at Camillo Junior High either goes to Hebrew school or Catechism. Everyone, that is, except Holling, who is Presbyterian. On Wednesday afternoons Holling receives Shakespeare lessons from the toughest teacher in school, Mrs. Baker, who is out to get Holling (or so he says). Despite his better efforts Holling finds himself falling in love with Shakespeare’s language. As Holling’s seventh-grade year progresses a series of events including yellow-toothed rats, yellow tights with feathers on the butt, running like Jesse Owens, and cream puffs combine with Shakespeare to change the way Holling views his family, his friends, and himself.”
I combined this with highlighting the Great Graphic Novels list for a simple reason: I’ve read no graphic novels this year, so knew I wouldn’t have read any of the titles on the 2013 list. Until I read the list and realized I hadn’t been quite as bad as I thought. I read The Silence of Our Friends by Mark Long and Jim Demonakos, art by Nate Powell. From my review: “Houston, 1968. Two stories are intertwined; the story of a white family and a black family. Jack Long is the race reporter for the evening news. Larry Thompson is a local activist and college professor. They reach out and develop a friendship, based in part because both realize that “men of conscience have got to get together . . . , or nothing is going to change.”
For full lists, go to the YALSA website.