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Best books to give (and get): Young adult picks

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Top young adult picks for 2015
Grief, magic and cross-country road trips delivered a must-read crop of young adult titles in 2015.
Courtesy of publishers

This week, The Thread is looking back at some of our favorite books of the year. If you're on the hunt for a great read — or a good gift — don't miss these must-reads.

Young adult

"The Walls Around Us" by Nova Ren Suma

Magical realism mixes with the supernatural in this psychological thriller about three teenage girls and a juvenile detention facility. Amber is locked on the inside; Vee is out the outside. Orianna connects them, and she holds all the secrets. 

The timeline shifts. The narrators change. No one can be trusted. "The Walls Around Us" may keep you up at night — and not just because you can't stop reading.

"Mosquitoland" by David Arnold

"I am a collection of oddities, a circus of neurons and electrons: My heart is the ringmaster, my soul is the trapeze artist, and the world is my audience. It sounds strange because it is, and it is, because I am strange."

Arnold delivers an entirely original protagonist in Mim Malone, a teenager who hops a Greyhound bus to visiting her ailing mother in Ohio. On the road, Mim narrates her adventures in bright, lively prose and personal letters, dwelling on the little details of her fellow passengers. It's a new American odyssey, but with more rest stops.

"Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda" by Becky Albertalli

This a 21st century coming-of-age — and coming out — story. Sixteen-year-old not-so-openly-gay Simon is pushed out of his comfort zone when an email falls into the wrong hands. 

Albertalli earned a spot on the National Book Award longlist for this modern teenage romance.

"More Happy Than Not" by Adam Silvera

Imagine a teenage spin on "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." 

Silvera delivers. When 16-year-old Aaron can't shake his memories and feelings from a charged summer encounter,  he turns to the Leteo Institute's revolutionary memory-alteration procedure. Forgetting, however, comes with a price.

"An Ember in the Ashes" by Sabaa Tahir

Put "The Hunger Games," "Harry Potter" and "Game of Thrones" in a literary blender and you might get something like this.

Tahir winds a fantastical tale of love and defiance in an imaginary world, with shades of ancient Rome. A young slave girl fights to save her family; a soldier longs for his freedom. For series lovers, a sequel is already in the works.

"The Truth Commission" by Susan Juby

Imagine high school with everybody's secrets in the open. Thrilling, hilarious, embarrassing and cringe-inducing, right? "The Truth Commission" is all those things. A group of friends decides to go secret-hunting at school — but that means their own secrets will come out too. 

Juby's whip-smart high school tale toys with truth, romance and witty footnotes. 

"Carry On" by Rainbow Rowell

In "Fangirl," Rowell created a fantasy series that could rival "Harry Potter" — all so her main character could have something to write fan fiction about. Then, Rowell realized, she liked it too much to leave it behind. 

In "Carry On," Rowell dives right into that magical world: It's Simon Snow's last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and between his vampire roommate and the magic-eating monster roaming about, he has a few things on his mind.

"Dare to Disappoint: Growing up in Turkey" by Ozge Samanci

In the vein of "Persepolis," Samanci illustrates her childhood in Turkey with wit and melancholy in this graphic novel memoir. She has big dreams — to become the next Jacques Cousteau — that put her at odds with her father's wishes and the country's conservative politics. 

"Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad" by M.T. Anderson

Young readers with a love for history will fall deep into Anderson's story of the Siege of Leningrad during World War II, one of the longest and most destructive sieges in Western history. Anderson reveals how Russian composer Shostakovich and the Leningrad symphony played an unlikely role in this historical moment.

"Wolf By Wolf" by Ryan Graudin

Graudin toys with history in this alternate retelling of the aftermath of World War II. In this reality, the Axis won: Germany and Japan rule. To celebrate the victory, the reigning powers hold a cross-continental motorcycle race, the winner of which will receive a private audience with Adolf Hitler in Tokyo. 

Yael, who survived the concentration camps, sets out to win the race as part of a resistance plot to kill Hitler. She takes the place of leading female motorcycle racer, and quickly finds she will have to be ruthless on the road.

Books covered by The Thread are available for sale through the Public Radio Market. Your purchase supports our work.