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Oh, To Be Young: The Year's Best Teen Reads

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Oh, To Be Young: The Year's Best Teen Reads

Best Books Of 2010

Oh, To Be Young: The Year's Best Teen Reads

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AUDIE CORNISH, host:

For the past month, NPR Books has been compiling a best-of list for 2010. Gayle Forman is the author of several young adult novels, including the most recent "If I Stay."

Here are her picks for the best young adult books this year.

Ms. GAYLE FORMAN (Author, "If I Stay"): I read a lot of young-adult novels. I also read a lot of adult-adult novels. But whether I'm reading Philip Roth or Philip Pullman, I'm looking for the same thing: A book that sucks me in from chapter one, makes me think and, above all, makes me feel. Here are five of the year's best.

Jandy Nelson's "The Sky is Everywhere" left me breathless. After the death of her older sister, Bailey, Lennie is bereft. It's as if someone vacuumed up the horizon, she says - one of several lines about grieving that cut right to my heart. But the sexy romance has also got my pulse racing. There's the confusing attraction to Bailey's heartbroken fiance and a swoony romance with Joe, the ebullient new boy in town who lift Lennie's veil of sadness. Nelson's language is poetic and, at times, also hilarious.

In Lauren Oliver's "Before I Fall," high school senior and uber mean girl Samantha Kingston is killed in a car accident and must relive the last day of her life over and over. Now, that might sound like "Groundhog Day" meets "After School Special," but it's actually profoundly ethical and addictively readable. With each passing day, Sam makes changes, large and small, that allow her and the reader to understand not only the butterfly effects of kindness but also the cumulative effects of cruelty.

One of the most affecting books about the cost of war, Dana Reinhardt's "The Things A Brother Knows" isn't about the battlefield. Sixteen-year-old Levi has spent his life playing slacker underachiever to older brother Boaz, now a Marine home from the Middle East. Bo is a total mess. He hardly speaks, won't drive and spends his days devising a secret mission to Washington, D.C. Levi eventually infiltrates the mission, and the brothers travel on foot to the capital. This small miracle of a book is steadfastly compassionate, gripping, funny and profoundly moving.

At the start of Daisy Whitney's "Mockingbirds," high school junior Alex wakes up in a strange boy's bed with no recollection of how she got there. Alex takes her case to the Mockingbirds, the school's underground judicial system, less vigilante than it is "Law & Order." With their help, she brings her rapist to justice and reclaims not just her place in the school but also her sexuality and her sense of power. As she falls in love with a new boy, she boldly tells him that she wants to kiss him and feel something a bit like bliss about getting a say in the matter.

Rape, grieving, war, redemption, let's move on to the perfect romance, shall we? And that would be Stephanie Perkins' delectable novel, "Anna and the French Kiss." Against her will, Anna Oliphant is dropped at boarding school in Paris. Her initial misery starts to give way as she makes friends, in particular with the quirkily gorgeous Etienne St. Clair. What makes this book so dreamy is that Anna and Etienne's friendship provides the foundation of their romance. This may be teen love, but it's true love, hard won, richly emotional and deeply felt.

I recommend any of these books, whether you're a young adult or a not-so-young adult, because really, at the end of the day, don't we all have a 17-year-old lurking somewhere inside of us?

CORNISH: Gayle Forman is the author of several novels including "If I Stay." To participate in our online book community and share what you're reading, like NPR books on Facebook.

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