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Best books of 2016 to give -- and receive: Young adult favorites

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The Thread's 2016 young adult picks
The Thread's 2016 young adult picks
Book covers courtesy of publishers

This week, The Thread is sharing some of our favorite books of the year. Below are our favorites from the "Young Adult" shelf — but remember, a label's just a label. These are thrilling read for teenagers and anyone who has ever been a teenager.

"Salt to the Sea" by Ruta Sepetys

Historical fiction for the win: Ruta Sepetys raises the wreck of the Wilhelm Gustloff to walk readers through one of the worst shipwrecks in known history. We're full up on Titanic tales, but this is a story few know. The Wilhelm Gustloff was packed with civilians fleeing World War II when it was sunk by a Soviet submarine in 1945. Thousands died.

Sepetys' finely crafted and emotional spin on this maritime tragedy follows three refugees and a young officer whose lives collide on the ship.

Salt to the Sea  Salt to the Sea

"The Mystery of Hollow Places" by Rebecca Podos

Rebecca Podos' mesmerizing mystery will gobble up an afternoon. The novel follows 17-year-old Imogene, who has grown up reading her father's mystery novels. He's a forensic-pathologist-turned-writer, so there isn't much about dead bodies that Imogene doesn't know.

When her father vanishes, Imogene is convinced that he's gone to find her mother — a woman she's never met — and that only she can solve his disappearance. "The Mystery of Hollow Places" mashes together a detective story with a family drama, creating a page-turner with high emotional stakes.

The Mystery of Hollow Places  The Mystery of Hollow Places

"The Great American Whatever" by Tim Federle

Tim Federle's wildly clever dispatch from teenagedom simultaneously charms and breaks your heart. The book follows 16-year-old Quinn, who harbors big dreams of life as a Hollywood screenwriter. He writes home movies starring his sister, until a car accident shakes his whole world. 

After retreating into his grief, Quinn is dragged back into life by his best friend — and by the boy he meets at a party. He begins to imagine his future again — in the form of a screenplay, naturally. Fans of "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" will find echoes of that classic here.

The Great American Whatever  The Great American Whatever

"The Reader" by Traci Chee

Traci Chee has unleashed a new series that will suck readers in: Think of it as "Fahrenheit 451" — but this time with magic and pirates and a teenage girl determined to avenge her father's death at the hands of an assassin.

Books have been forgotten in this world — only the most powerful still read. Sefia has inherited a book that may hold the secrets to her father's murder, but she must figure out how to use it to wield its powers.

The Reader  The Reader

"The Sun is Also a Star" by Nicola Yoon

Nicola Yoon has packed a timeless love story into a single day. "The Sun is Also a Star" follows Natasha, whose family is about to be deported to Jamaica, as she crosses paths with Daniel, who is on his way to interview for a slot at Yale. Can two strangers fall in love in a single day? Yoon's perspective-hopping novel is a beautiful look at what happens when careful planning runs smack into fate.

The Sun is Also a Star  The Sun is Also a Star

"Scythe" by Neal Shusterman

Sci-fi master Neal Shusterman has created a new, twisted world that's surprisingly perfect. There's no hunger. No war. No disease. Humanity has cracked the secret to perfection: Population control. Scythes kill to keep others alive, so the rules go, and Citra and Rowan have just been chosen as apprentice scythes. They must learn to kill, and to understand the role they play in the world's uncomfortable balance. This is just the start of a series, with shades of "The Hunger Games" and "Divergent," but with more chilling moral questions.

Scythe  Scythe

"The Serpent King" by Jeff Zentner

The New York Public Library said it best when it issued this warning in April: "Move over, John Green; Zentner is coming for you." Could anyone unseat the reigning king of teen fiction? Jeff Zentner has the warmth and insight to make a play.

 "The Serpent King" drops readers into the life of Dill, the son of a disgraced Pentecostal preacher. He's borne the brunt of his father's reputation his whole life, and as high school graduation nears, he has to reckon with what's coming next.

The novel jumps between Dill and two of his friends, Lydia and Travis, as they face life as outsiders in the rural south. Zentner taps that high school ache of not knowing when to hold on and when to let go.

The Serpent King  The Serpent King

"A Study in Charlotte" by Brittany Cavallaro

Meet the teenage descendants of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson. The great-great-great-granddaughters of the storied sleuths meet at a Connecticut boarding school — and nothing good ever happens at a boarding school. The book is a playful twist on the mystery classics that shows the only thing darker than a London alley is the life of a modern teenager.

A Study in Charlotte  A Study in Charlotte