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Booklist’s Top 10 First Novels for Youth: 2017

By Ilene Cooper

This crop of best first novels showcases diversity in characters, genre, and time periods are perfect for young adult book clubs.

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Almost Paradise

by Corabel Shofner

Life takes a tumble for sassy, sage Ruby when her mother winds up in jail. Forced to live with her aunt, an Episcopalian nun, Ruby wrestles with heartfelt beliefs in a story featuring unique characters and strong voices.

FSG Books for Young Readers, 2017.

Click to Read an Excerpt.

StarA Booklist Starred Review.

American Street

by Ibi Zoboi

Zoboi pulls no punches telling the story of Fabiola, an immigrant from Haiti trying to forge a new life in Detroit, where the streets are just as mean. Mysticism and love intertwine here with grit and violence.

Balzer + Bray, 2017.

Click to Read an Excerpt.

StarA Booklist Starred Review.

Dear Martin

by Nic Stone

On his way to an Ivy League college career, Justyce is shocked when a police officer gets away with mistreating him. He turns to the writings of Dr. King for clarity in this vivid and powerful debut.

Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017.

Click to Read an Excerpt.

Watch Nic Stone Share What She's Reading.

StarA Booklist Starred Review.

Cilla Lee Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire

by Susan Tan, Illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte

This exuberant pretend-memoir is also reflective, as eight-year-old Cilla Lee realizes that she is a biracial child in a society that likes to label. Told in a joyful, first-person narration.

Roaring Brook Press, 2017.

Click to Read an Excerpt.

StarA Booklist Starred Review.

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns

by Julie C. Dao

Set in an Asian-inspired fantasy realm, this is a masterful reimagining of the early life of Snow White’s evil queen. Xifeng is both vulnerable and complicit, and her pursuit of power is a welcome contrast to princesses past.

Philomel Books, 2017.

Click to Read an Excerpt.

StarA Booklist Starred Review.

Even the Darkest Stars

by Heather Fawcett

A detailed setting, a lurking villain, and buckets of danger add to the allure of Kamzin’s story, as she heads off on a perilous journey to retrieve a talisman from a fearsome mountain peak.

Balzer + Bray, 2017.

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StarA Booklist Starred Review.

Goldeline

by Jimmy Cajoleas

Goldeline lives in the woods since her mother was killed by an evil preacher for practicing witchcraft. Then Goldy lands in the preacher’s sights. Cajoleas conjures a compelling, atmospheric setting that hums with menace.

HarperCollins, 2017.

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StarA Booklist Starred Review.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass

by Melissa Bashardoust

Drawing from both Snow White and the Snow Queen, this offers plenty of fairy-tale wonder but is at its strongest as a story wherein women save each other with their own ingenuity, bravery, and love.

Flatiron Books, 2017.

Click to Read an Excerpt.

StarA Booklist Starred Review.

Soldier Boy

by Keely Hutton

The story of Ugandan boys kidnapped by the Lord’s Resistance Army is a visceral indictment of man’s inhumanity to man while also celebrating people’s ability to empathize and rescue those who desperately need saving.

FSG Books for Young Readers, 2017.

Click to Read an Excerpt.

StarA Booklist Starred Review.

The Hate U Give

by Angie Thomas

The worlds of 16-year-old Starr, who lives in an urban neighborhood but goes to a tony school, collide when she’s the only witness to a police shooting. This is both a searing indictment of injustice and a clear-eyed examination of the complexities of race in America.

Balzer + Bray, 2017.

Click to Read an Excerpt.

Click for a Reading Guide.

Listen to an Interview with Angie Thomas.

StarA Booklist Starred Review.

Ilene Cooper spends most of her day looking at, assigning, and reviewing (some) of the 7,000 children's books that are published each year in her role as contributing editor at Booklist. Follow her on Twitter at @Booklist_Ilene.

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