There’s no formula for choosing the books of the year. Some break ground, some tackle familiar themes with new energy. Some represent the best work from established authors, some introduce us to important new voices. And some are simply in-house favourites we feel deserve a little more attention. Here are the Books for Young People that made the most impact in 2010.
JonArno Lawson; Julie Morstad, illus. (Kids Can Press)
As parents know all too well, there is a point at which even the sunniest and most gregarious child will develop an interest in black clothes, depressing music, and seclusion. Think Again captures that phase perfectly. In it, two-time Lion and the Unicorn Award“winner JonArno Lawson’s resonant verse and Julie Morstad’s poignant, occasionally surreal pencil drawings combine to perfectly capture the emo-inducing confusion of teen love “ all without a trace of adolescent mope. Easily the most invigorating sad book of the year: Sit still said her father “ / Quiet said her mom: / So she sat still and quiet / As an unexploded bomb (Sit Still).
For the Win
Cory Doctorow (Tor/H.B. Fenn and Company)
The Toronto-born, U.K.-dwelling Cory Doctorow has received gobs of praise and attention for his adult fiction, as well as for his copyright activism and his work co-editing the nerdgasm that is BoingBoing.net. Of late, however, Doctorow has been getting just as much love for his YA fiction. His 2008 novel, Little Brother, a tale of teens, torture, and terrorism, was a critical and commercial hit. For the Win, about a group of teens engaged in global battles both real and virtual, is perhaps even more ambitious. Writing in July/August’s Q&Q, reviewer Robert J. Wiersema said that For the Win is packed not only with violence and peril, but with complex economic and psychosocial concepts as well. Just in case this sounds too highbrow for teens, Wiersema also notes the book is a crackling read.
I Know Here
Laurel Croza; Matt James, illus. (Groundwood Books)
A young girl living in northern Saskatchewan discovers her whole family is relocating to Toronto, a city she’s never seen and which seems utterly alien to her current life. About to lose the place she calls home, she sets about cataloguing everything she is familiar with, from her neighbours’ trailers to the animals in the woods nearby.
Great books discover the universal in the specific and personal; I Know Here pulls off that trick with grace and aplomb. Most of us have never lived in northern Saskatchewan, wrote reviewer Chelsea Donaldson in June’s Q&Q, but we all know what home is, and what it feels like to have to leave it.