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Stuff for the Teen Age, Biblio File

Introducing the Best Books for Teens 2016


It’s the mooooost wonderful tiiiiime of the year: time for our annual NYPL Best Books for Teens list!

bbft top 10

A committee of 20 dedicated librarians read (and read and read) all the young-adult books published in 2016 that we could get our hands on. Then we debated, voted, and came up with our 50 favorite books of the year—fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, comic books, fantasy, history, sports, and more.

We’ve got Brooklyn brujas and old-school witches from Salem; surfers and basketball players; gamers and activists; samurais and monsters and fairies and detectives.

We’ve got true stories that transport you to unexplored places and superheroes you already know and love.

We’ve got feminists, undocumented immigrants, transgender teens, and homeless youths looking for a new start.

We’ve got Alaska in the 1970s, France in the 12th century, riding stables in Philadelphia, a Tokyo boarding school, and the coolest magical summer camp in the universe.

And we’re hoping that every reader finds something to love on this list.

Out of these 50 books our committee loved, we also plucked our absolute top 10 favorites. After nearly a year of reading, these are the titles we just can’t stop talking about.  

Don't forget to check out the full list online! Let us know what you think in the comments below, or on social media with the hashtag #BestBooks. And vote for your own favorites on SurveyMonkey!

Top Ten Favorites (in alphabetical order)

Being Jazz by Jazz Jennings


Jazz speaks openly and authentically about what it means to grow up transgender.

Jazz writes in a truly authentic voice. She’s overcome so much at such a young age and managed to stay positive through most of her journey.” —Chelsey Masterson, Belmont

“A surprisingly uplifting story. Jazz is really lucky to have parents who are willing to support her choices and fight for her rights, and their support has given her a voice that she can use to help the transgender community.” —Andrea Lipinski, Kingsbridge


Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina

burn baby burn

Nora's just trying to survive the sweltering Queens summer of 1977. But it's tough with a violent brother, a city-wide blackout, and a serial killer on the loose.

“Great read! It felt so real and believable. I was almost transported to 1977.” —Shyiesha Watson, 125th Street

“1977 doesn't quite count as historical fiction but the details of this book are so immersive it is easy to feel transported to another, darker city.” —Caitlyn Colman-McGaw, Young Adult Programming

“Best book I read all year!!!” —Shauntee Burns, MyLibraryNYC


The Call by Peadar O'Guilin

the call

Three minutes and four seconds. Three minutes and four seconds to stay alive. Three minutes and four seconds to escape the Sídhe, a race of ancient Irish fairies out for blood.

“A dystopian version of Ireland where teenagers are taught to worship physical perfection, and anything less is considered a death sentence (because of The Call, when they'll be killed by fairies). Nessa, the main character, is physically disabled, which makes the book incredibly suspenseful. An engaging and original concept, and I'm interested to see where the series goes.” —Ben Sapadin, Morris Park

“The creepiness level in this is a 20. The Grey Land is fantastically described, the terror of the teenagers is palpable, and I really like the Irish folklore that the novel takes inspiration from.” —Susen Shi, Mid-Manhattan

“I secretly started training, just in case I ever get THE CALL.” —Katie Fernandez, Bronx Library Center

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

exit pursued by a bear

Hermione is strong, confident, and ready to take on the world. But after she's raped, her life turns upside down.

“One of the most powerful realistic fiction stories I’ve read in a while, and my top contender for tearjerker of the year so far.” —Andrea Lipinski, Kingsbridge

“We all know how difficult a topic abortion can be, but the way Johnston lays it out there —talking about the different women in the recovery room and how they were all one for that moment —was really touching. And it was refreshing to read about Hermione being empowered rather than having to be defensive for the decisions she makes. Excellent read.” —Katrina Ortega, Hamilton Grange


Lumberjanes, Vols. 3 (A Terrible Plan) & 4 (Out of Time) by Shannon Watters, Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Brooke Allen


Best Books for Teens or THE BEST BOOKS EVER?! Our all-time favorite campers embark on new adventures with yetis, blizzards, and so much more.

“I want to go back in time so I could give these to my 12-year-old self to read. These volumes were even better than the first two, with cohesive one-shot plots, and they show new fun sides of my favorite girls.” —Gwen Glazer, Readers Services

 “Volume 4 might just be the best of the bunch — introduces a trans character, more queer love popping up in unexpected places, and beautiful friendships abound.” —Lyndsie Guy, Chatham Square


Ms. Marvel, Vol 5: Super Famous by G. Willow Wilson and Takeshi Miyazawa

ms marvel

Fighting bad guys, attending family weddings, doing homework... Kamala tries to do it all, with the help of some clones.

“Kamala deals with how difficult it is to balance being a normal girl in high school, as well as being an Avenger and saving Jersey City from one calamity after another. I also liked the side storylines between Bruno's new girlfriend and her brother getting married to a girl who is not Muslim. Good read!” —Joe Pascullo, Grand Central

I love the introduction of new characters Mike and Tyesha (and the other Hillman family). Not only are they reflective of the diversity of our teens, they're eminently relatable with likable, well-developed personalities written with intent rather than afterthought.” —Crystal Chen, Muhlenberg

Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

outrun the moon

Nothing will stand in the way of Mercy Wong's dreams, except maybe the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

“A strong, badass, funny female protagonist who accurately portrays how it feels to be marginalized due to gender, race, age, ethnicity, or anything else. Mercy may be a Chinese-American girl from the early 20th century, but the struggles she faced will resound with today’s teens. I also enjoyed the world of Chinatown and all its traditions. It brings forth memories of my childhood and grandparents.” —Susen Shi, Mid-Manhattan

“Mercy is completely indomitable. She's never met an obstacle she couldn't navigate or bulldoze and she doesn't let bullying or racism slow her down. She is a role model for the ages! The historical details are just the cherry on top of a great book.” —Anne Rouyer, Mulberry Street

Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune by Pamela S. Turner and Gareth Hines


Violence, action, revenge... the epic history of a samurai legend.

Political intrigue, murder, love, and severed heads on sticks make this biography feel like a thriller.” —Karen Ginman, BookOps

“This book has everything: intrigue, backstabbing, and wavering loyalties. This almost reads like a 12th-century Japanese soap opera. This book is good for those who may be reluctant to read biographies and/or history. Very fascinating look into a dangerous, alluring, ancient world.” —Lauren Besignano, St. George’s

“This book is a captivating and approachable history of Yoshitsune and the Minamoto family, the tradition of sepukku, and 12th-century Japan.” —Thomas Knowlton, MyLibraryNYC

The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock


Ruth, Dora, Alyce, and Hank navigate the wilds of 1970s Alaska, and their interweaving stories reveal the meaning of home.

“A lovely, sharp exploration of what love looks like across families. The teens in the book all face difficult, painful realities but approach their lives and their peers with a kindness that is admirable. The feeling of the cover is the feeling of the book: beautiful, vivid, breathtaking, and very Alaskan.” —Caitlyn Colman-McGaw, Young Adult Programming

“All the feels. The way the stories intertwine is so ridiculously satisfying in the end. This book gives you hope and makes you want to see the world in an optimistic light like Jack. Two thumbs up; I’ll be trying to get it into the hands of anyone and everyone I know.” —Morgan O’Reilly, Aguilar

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

three down crowns

Three queens, three powers, one crown. The showdown of a generation.

“Deliciously dark, surprisingly sexy and diabolically good. It's a smart, well written fantasy that plays with fantasy tropes and then twists them all around. It has it all: magic, mayhem, romance with strong female characters. This fantasy just zoomed to the top of my personal best books list.” —Anne Rouyer, Mulberry Street

 “That last sentence?! Brilliant. I didn’t see it coming at all. When can I get my hands on the second book?” —Morgan O’Reilly, Aguilar

“I couldn't put this book down. It was well developed, the characters are not your average ‘pretty princesses,’ the plot is unique, and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.” —Chantalle Uzan, Francis Martin


Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.


Patron-generated content represents the views and interpretations of the patron, not necessarily those of The New York Public Library. For more information see NYPL's Website Terms and Conditions.

Review of books

Do the dedicated librarians consider self-published books? Do they accept recommendations for consideration? I have a book in mind written by a teen about teen angst.

Happy New Year

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