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100 Best Books for Teens


At the Best of the Best pre-conference, held during Annual ALA Conference, librarians selected the one hundred titles they consider to be the best books for young adults from the last half of the twentieth century. Titles were chosen from the Best Books for Young Adults Booklists published from 1966 to 2000. The following titles are those selected as the top 100. 


Farmer, Nancy, 1995, The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm

When General Matsika’s three children are kidnapped after they leave the safety of their armed compound, their mother hires the best detective team available in 2194 Zimbabwe–the appropriately named mutant partners–the Ear, the Eye, and the Arm.


Fleischman, Paul, 1994, Bull Run

Sixteen individuals voice their hopes and fears in this interwoven collage of “snapshots” set during the first battle of the Civil War.


Fleischman, Paul, 1999, Whirlygig

After killing a girl when driving drunk, Brent Bishop learns a lot about himself and life when he’s forced to pay for his crime by traveling to the four corners of the U.S. to build whirligigs in her memory.


Gallo, Donald (ed.), 1984, Sixteen: Short Stories by Outstanding Writers for Young Adults

School, friendship, family, and love are all found within this unusual collection of humorous and serious short stories.


Garden, Nancy, 1982, Annie on My Mind

Lisa and Annie meet at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, fall in love, and then find that a public declaration is too threatening to their friends and relatives.


Gurney, James, 1993, Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time

A newly discovered, illustrated journal reveals life on the lost island of Dinotopia, where shipwrecked human survivors work and play in harmony with dinosaurs.


Guy, Rosa, 1979, Disappearance

Released from jail in the custody of the Aimsley Family, Imamu Jones immediately becomes a prime suspect when Perk, their youngest daughter, disappears.


Guy, Rosa, 1973, The Friends

Rejected by her classmates because she “talks funny,” Phyllisia Cathy, a young West Indian girl, is forced to become friends with poor, frazzled Edith, the only one who will

accept her.


Hesser, Terry Spencer, 1999, Kissing Doorknobs

Tara struggles to live with her obsessive-compulsive behavior, but before her condition is diagnosed, her relationships with family and friends begin to crumble.


Hobbs, Will, 1992, Downriver

Fifteen-year-old Jesse and other rebellious teenage members of a wilderness survival team abandon their adult leader, steal his van and rafts, and run the dangerous whitewaters of the Grand Canyon.


Hobbs, Will, 1997, Far North

Stranded in the Canadian wilderness, two boys endure a brutal sub arctic winter of bear, wolf, and moose attacks while they repeatedly struggle to escape.


Hurwin, Davida Wills, 1996, A Time for Dancing

Seventeen-year-old best friends Juliana and Samantha share a passion for dance, for life, and for each other–then Jules is diagnosed with cancer and must travel a path Sam cannot follow.



Kindl, Patrice, 1995, Owl in Love

Girl by day, owl by night, 14-year-old Owl Tycho finds life is complicated–not only by a crush on her science teacher, but also by the presence of a deranged boy in the woods.


Klause, Annette Curtis, 1991, The Silver Kiss

Feeling alienated from everyone during her mother’s terminal illness, Zoe comes under the spell of Simon, a vampire doomed to live until he avenges the death of his mother 300 years earlier.


Koertge, Ron, 1988, The Arizona Kid

Working one summer at a racetrack, living with his gay uncle, and falling madly in love make wimpy, short, tenth-grader Billy Kennedy more self-confident and wiser in the ways of the world.


Laird, Elizabeth, 1993, Kiss the Dust

It’s Iraq, and Tara’s family are Kurds. “He” has put out the word, and they must flee for their lives.


Lowry, Lois, 1994, The Giver

When he turns 12, Jonas is given his life assignment from the committee of elders–to become the receiver of memories from far-past times–and discovers the horrible secret that his society has hidden for the “safety and happiness” of its citizens.


Magorian, Michelle, 1982, Good Night, Mr. Tom

A badly battered and frightened young boy evacuated from London during World War II fills an empty void in the heart of a dour old man.


Mahy, Margaret, 1984, The Changeover: A Supernatural Romance

With the help of an older boy who loves her, Laura “changes over” into a witch to fight the evil forces that are attacking her little brother.


Marsden, John, 1996, Tomorrow, When the War Began

When they return from a wilderness camping trip, Ellie and her friends are shocked to discover Australia has been invaded and soon find fighting and surviving have become their way of life.


McCaffrey, Anne, 1977, Dragonsinger

With the help of Master-harper, Menolly and her fire lizards overcome the prejudice against a woman’s becoming a harper the planet Pern.


McDonald, Joyce,1998, Swallowing Stones

Depression, guilt, and fear plague Michael’s dreams after a stray bullet from his rifle kills a man.


McKinley, Robin, 1978, Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast

Fantasy and romance are beautifully blended in an evocative, much-expanded version of the classic fairy tale.


McKinley, Robin, 1982, Blue Sword

Harry Crewe, bored with her dull and sheltered life, finds new magic, love, and her destiny as a woman warrior when kidnapped by a handsome king who has mysterious powers.


Plath, Sylvia, 1971, The Bell Jar

During a queer, sultry summer in New York, Esther Greenwood works as a junior editor on MADEMOISELLE, quarrels with her mother and boy friend, and is gradually aware of her descent into madness.


Potok, Chaim, 1967, The Chosen

Two Jewish boys growing to manhood in Brooklyn discover that differences can strengthen friendship and understanding.


Pullman, Philip, 1997, The Golden Compass

With the aid of friends, witches, and armored polar bears, 12-year-old Lyra fights the evil that is stealing children and conducting horrible experiments on them.


Pullman, Philip, 1987, The Ruby in the Smoke

Sally, 16 and an orphan, must find her way through a maze of 19th-century villains to claim her inheritance and her independence.


Rowling, J.K.,1999, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

With only a lightning-bolt scar on his forehead as a clue to his true identity, Harry Potter, by a twist of fate, leaves his unloving foster family for a life of wizardry and celebrity.


Sachar, Louis, 1999, Holes

Stanley Yelnats is sentenced to Camp Green Lake, where he finds a treasure and puts an end to a long-running curse on his family.


Sleator, William, 1974, House of Stairs

Five 16-year-old orphans find themselves alone in an experimental nightmare where stairs and landings stretch as far as the eye can see and a weird red light trains them to dance for their food.


Spiegelman, Art, 1992, Maus: A Survivor’s Tale II: And Here My Troubles Began

This graphic novel, the sequel to MAUS, recreates Vladek and Anja’s agonizing struggles to survive in the concentration camp.


Staples, Suzanne Fisher, 1990, Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind

Torn between allegiance to her family and her growing independence and strength, Shabanu tells the story of her life as a member of a nomadic tribe in the Pakistani desert.


Stewart, Mary, 1970, The Crystal Cave

Merlin, the base-born son of royalty in 5th-century Britain, uses magic to outwit his enemies until he sets the stage for the birth of Arthur, the future king.


Tan, Amy, 1990, The Joy Luck Club

Chinese American daughters find conflict, love and connection with their mothers, who are haunted by their early lives in China.


Voigt, Cynthia, 1985, Runner

Bullet, a 17-year-old cross country runner, finds that compromise is sometimes necessary if an athlete is going to be the best.


White, Robb, 1972, Deathwatch

Ben’s hunting expedition for bighorn sheep becomes a deathwatch in the desert — with hope of survival 45 minutes away.


Wolff, Virginia Euwer, 1994, Make Lemonade

High-school student LaVaughn, determined to earn money for college, baby-sits for Jolly, an unwed teenage mother of two, and matures in the process.


Woodson, Jacqueline, 1999, If You Come Softly

Jeremiah, who is white, and Ellie, who is African American, feel an immediate connection and then must cope with the reactions to their relationship by the people

around them.


Wrede, Patricia C, 1991, Dealing with Dragons

Unconventional Cimorene, fed up with her dull life as a princess, runs away to join the dragons in this fun book that turns fairy tales upside down.


Yolen, Jane, 1993, Briar Rose

Grandmother Gemma always told the story of Briar Rose, and after she dies, her granddaughter discovers that Gemma was a real-life Sleeping Beauty–a Holocaust survivor.




Angelou, Maya, 1970, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

This remarkable, poetic and frank autobiography of a black girl who grew up in Arkansas, St. Louis and San Francisco is for mature readers.


Ashabranner, Brent, 1988, Always to Remember: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The story of Vietnam veteran Jan C. Scruggs’s struggle to build a national monument honoring Americans who died or are missing in the Vietnam War.


Boas, Jacob, 1996, We Are Witnesses: The Diaries of Five Teenagers Who Died in the Holocaust

The compelling and poignant diaries of five teenagers who died during the Holocaust tell their tragic, courageous stories.


Bodanis, David, 1986, Secret House: 24 Hours in the Strange and Unexpected World in Which We Spend Our Nights and Days

The microbiological drama found within a house is explored from early-morning to late- evening.


Brooks, Polly Schoyer, 1991, Beyond the Myth: The Story of Joan of Arc

Condemned as a witch but later canonized as a saint, young Joan, inspired by her love of France, leads her countrymen in their battle against the English.


Cleary, Beverly, 1988, Girl from Yamhill: A Memoir

An honest and humorous account of the Depression-era childhood and adolescence of Beverly Cleary in Oregon, where she encountered many of the same situations that teens do today.


Edelman, Bernard, 1985, Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam

In their personal letters, soldiers and civilians reveal the pain, frustration, confusion, and anger that were part of their daily lives in Vietnam.


Freedman, Russell, 1994, Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery

A compelling photo-biography of Eleanor Roosevelt relates the remarkable story of a shy, lonely girl who grows up to be a powerful force in the fight for world peace and equality and an inspiration to millions of people.


Freedman, Russell, 1988, Lincoln: A Photobiography

This skillfully written, appealing overview of Lincoln’s life from boyhood to death, is accompanied by carefully chosen photographs and prints.


Freedman, Russell, 1992, Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane

Freedman tells the fascinating story of how two self-taught bicycle mechanics solve the problems that had baffled generations of scientists and engineers.


Janeczko, Paul B, 1991, Place My Words Are Looking For: What Poets Say About and Through Their Work

Writers share their poems and give insights into their craft and life.


McCall, Nathan, 1995, Makes Me Wanna Holler: A Young Black Man in America

McCall remembers his journey from a working-class African American neighborhood to prison to a prestigious position on the WASHINGTON POST.


McKissack, Patricia C. and McKissack, Fredrick L.,1997, Rebels against Slavery: American Slave Revolts

Exciting profiles of heroic men and women tell accounts of those who rebelled against slavery in North America.


Paulsen, Gary, 1991, Woodsong

Through his dogsledding adventures in the Minnesota wilderness where there are wolves, deep snow, and minus-30-degree temperatures, the author comes to understand nature’s ways and harrowing surprises.


Spiegelman, Art, 1986, Maus: A Survivor’s Tale

In a comic book of revolutionary graphic design, a cartoonist juxtaposes his frustration with his father’s insensitivity today and his father’s desperate struggle to stay alive 40 years earlier during the Holocaust.


Stoll, Cliff, 1991, The Cuckoo’s Egg: Tracking a Spy through the Maze of Computer Espionage

A young astrophysicist turns detective as he embarks on the trail of an elusive computer hacker who has managed to break into top-secret government and military data banks.


Zindel, Paul, 1993, Pigman and Me

Zindel recounts his bizarre adventures growing up on Staten Island, when his neighbor’s father becomes his personal “pigman” and teaches him to cope with his rootless family.


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