mrs. winter's favorites

My list of all time favorite YA books!

Punkzilla by Adam Rapp.

Traveling to visit his brother who's dying of cancer, fourteen-year-old Jamie writes letters. These are interspersed with earlier missives written to Jamie, and gradually his troubled history emerges: time on the streets, punctuated by drugs, sex, and crime. With his quirky idiomatic expressions, striking word choices, and stream-of-consciousness prose, nobody writes about disposable, marginalized youth quite like Adam Rapp. (Horn Book starred (July, 2009))

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself? (from the Publisher)

Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos

"We didn't so much arrive at our destinations as aim and crash into them like kamikaze yachtsmen." So Gantos describes himself as a 20-year-old about to be arrested and imprisoned for smuggling two thousand pounds of hashish from St. Croix to New York City. Young Jack seems to share with his fictional characters-Joey Pigza and Jack Henry-a blithe disregard for the consequences of wild behavior. Readers follow him from a seedy motel run by the great-great-granddaughter of Davy Crockett to a Keystone Kops adventure on the sea, from a madcap escape from FBI and Treasury agents to his arrest and trial, represented by his lawyer, Al E. Newman. This true tale of the worst year in the author's life will be a big surprise for his many fans. (Kirkus Reviews starred (February 15, 2002))

Stitches: a memoir by David Small.

The prize-winning children's author depicts a childhood from hell in this searing yet redemptive graphic memoir. One day David Small awoke from a supposedly harmless operation to discover that he had been transformed into a virtual mute. A vocal cord removed, his throat slashed and stitched together like a bloody boot, the fourteen-year-old boy had not been told that he had throat cancer and was expected to die. Small, a prize-winning children's author, re-creates a life story that might have been imagined by Kafka. Readers will be riveted by his journey from speechless victim, subjected to X-rays by his radiologist father and scolded by his withholding and tormented mother, to his decision to flee his home at sixteen with nothing more than dreams of becoming an artist. (From the Publisher)

Extreme Measures by Vince Flynn.

In Extreme Measures, Mitch Rapp and his CIA colleague, Mike Nash, may have met their match. The CIA has detected two terrorist cells, but a third is feared to be on the loose. Led by a dangerous mastermind obsessed with becoming the leader of al-Qaeda, this determined and terrifying group is about to descend on America. Rapp needs the best on this assignment, and former marine officer Nash is his choice. Together, they have made careers out of meeting violence with extreme violence and have never wavered in the fight against the jihadists and their culture of death. But the one thing he never saw coming was that his own government was about to turn on him. Using his insider knowledge of intelligence agencies and the military, Flynn once again delivers a smart, devastatingly intense, and jaw-droppingly realistic political thriller that will have fans on the edge of their seats until the last riveting page.(excerpt from the Publisher)

The Yellow Birds: A Novel by Kevin Powers.

"The war tried to kill us in the spring." So begins this powerful account of friendship and loss. In Al Tafar, Iraq, twenty-one-year old Private Bartle and eighteen-year-old Private Murphy cling to life as their platoon launches a bloody battle for the city. Bound together since basic training when Bartle makes a promise to bring Murphy safely home, the two have been dropped into a war neither is prepared for.

In the endless days that follow, the two young soldiers do everything to protect each other from the forces that press in on every side: the insurgents, physical fatigue, and the mental stress that comes from constant danger. As reality begins to blur into a hazy nightmare, Murphy becomes increasingly unmoored from the world around him and Bartle takes actions he could never have imagined.

With profound emotional insight, especially into the effects of a hidden war on mothers and families at home,The Yellow Birds is a groundbreaking novel that is destined to become a classic. (from the Publisher)

The Night Circus: A Novel by Erin Morgenstern.

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Reves, and it is only open at night. But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway-a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love-a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead. Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart. (from the Publisher)

The Innocent by Harlan Coben.

You never meant to kill him….

One night, Matt Hunter innocently tried to break up a fight—and ended up a killer. Now, nine years later, he’s an ex-con who takes nothing for granted. His wife, Olivia, is pregnant, and the two of them are closing on their dream house. But all it will take is one shocking, inexplicable call from Olivia’s phone to shatter Matt’s life a second time….


An electrifying thrill ride of a novel that peeks behind the white picket fences of suburbia, The Innocent is at once a twisting, turning, emotionally charged story and a compelling tale of the choices we make and the repercussions that never leave.(from the Publisher)

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Fourteen-year-old Junior is a cartoonist and bookworm with a violent but protective best friend Rowdy. Soon after they start freshman year, Junior boldly transfers from a school on the Spokane reservation to one in a tiny white town 22 miles away. Despite his parents' frequent lack of gas money (they're a "poor-ass family"), racism at school and many crushing deaths at home, he manages the year. Rowdy rejects him, feeling betrayed, and their competing basketball teams take on mammoth symbolic proportions. The reservation's poverty and desolate alcoholism offer early mortality and broken dreams, but Junior's knowledge that he must leave is rooted in love and respect for his family and the Spokane tribe. He also realizes how many other tribes he has, from "the tribe of boys who really miss . . . their best friends" to "the tribe of tortilla chips-and-salsa lovers." Junior's keen cartoons sprinkle the pages as his fluid narration deftly mingles raw feeling with funny, sardonic insight. (excerpt from

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2007))