most recommended books: 2015

This year marked a major career change for me. I moved from the bustling, chilly metropolis that is Chicago to the balmy, humid region of Southwest Florida in order to begin teaching. I teach history to 7th and 8th graders, and it really wasn't long at all before I had a student ask me for a book recommendation.

I was THRILLED. And it took me about .5 seconds before I recommended The Scorpio Races. The student in question adored it, and moved on to some of Maggie Stiefvater's other books, and every once in a while she checks in with me about her recent reading adventures. A few seventh graders talk to me about the historical fiction and dystopian books they read, and of course I found there were a few books I was recommending over and over again.

1. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. Not only does this book feature an event that is little-known to most of the general public, but it captures the immense sadness in a poignant and memorable way. Students of mine who snapped up Diary of Anne Frank usually enjoy this one particularly.

2. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. This book is whimsical, captivating, and felt to me like a fantastic blend of Diana Wynne Jones meets Marguerite Henry. I recommend this to fantasy readers who want something a little different.

3. Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin. Thrilling, fast-paced alternate history with an amazing narrative style. In class, I challenge my students to think about the 'what-ifs' and why certain historical events came to pass. I'd love to see more alternate histories like this on bookstore shelves!

So, there you have it. Three of the YA books I recommended the most to my students the first semester of my teaching career. I'm looking forward to pushing even more books in 2016!