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Updated by Jen Blair on Dec 01, 2018
Headline for Holiday 2018 Blair Best Books - Best of 2018
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Holiday 2018 Blair Best Books - Best of 2018

My top twenty... Okay twenty-three. Don’t make me choose.

These are the best books that I read all year. The ones that I’m still thinking about, whose characters I consider my new friends… Choose to spend your Winter Break with one of these beauties. You can’t go wrong with any of them.

Baby Monkey, Private Eye by Brian Selznick

Baby Monkey Private Eye - Brian Selznick and David Serlin

Probably the best book ever written. Ever. A delight from start to finish.
Yes, technically it’s an early reader, but let’s face it: “pants’ is always funny.

Broken Things by Lauren Oliver

Broken Things - Lauren Oliver

From the very first page you will be sucked in by this ripped-from-the-headlines thriller. Follow the twists and turns as two girls, suspected of killing their best friend, return to their childhood haunts to find out the truth. This novel has one of the best first chapters of any book that I’ve read in a looong time.

The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas

The Cheerleaders - Kara Thomas

Five years ago, five cheerleaders from the same squad all died: two in a car accident, two murdered, and Melanie’s sister, Jen, committed suicide. Melanie and her family never talk about what happened. But as Melanie starts to uncover some family secrets, she begins to wonder if any of these deaths were really accidental and maybe she has figured out who might be responsible, or at least involved. A twisty-turny thriller whose ending you will never see coming.

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha, #1) by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Blood and Bone - Tomi Adeyemi

I have been raving about how great this book is to anyone who would listen for almost a year now. I’ve even read it twice. Which I never do. But this fantasy blew me away. Magic, romance, unjust rulers, adventure, this book has it all. Just. Read. It.

Dance of Thieves (Dance of Thieves, #1) by Mary E. Pearson

Dance of Thieves - Mary E. Pearson

A page-turning, perfectly paced fantasy. Kazi, a former thief, is now an emissary/guard for the queen who becomes entangled - sometimes literally - with the leader of the Ballenger Empire. Honestly, just a perfect read.

Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

Darius the Great is Not Okay - Adib Khorram

You will fall in love with Darius, a young man from Portland who is visiting his grandparents in Iran for the first time. Darius feels like he is never enough: not a good enough son, not a good enough American, not a good enough Iranian, not someone who would ever be considered a good friend. But after spending the summer in Iran, Darius becomes close to Sohrab and their relationship makes him think that he might be okay after all.

Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich

Dear Evan Hansen - Val Emmich

You know and love the musical, now here is your chance to REALLY understand the motivations of Evan Hansen and all the people in his life. How often do you get to read a novel and pause to sing the corresponding song? Never. Which is why you need this book in your life. Join me. I haven’t stopped singing these songs since I read the book.

Dry by Neal Shusterman

Dry - Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman

You will never be the same after reading this book. It was so intense, it is still giving me nightmares months later. Dry is the story of what happens when Californians are without water. Any water. Now it’s every man for himself. Four teens are trying to survive one of the greatest environmental disasters… and one that could conceivably happen. You will never take running water for granted again.

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Ghost Boys - Jewell Parker Rhodes

Jerome is a twelve-year-old boy playing with a toy gun after school who is shot and killed by police. His ghost is the narrator of this story as his family tries to deal with the senseless death of their child. Jerome’s perspective is widened as his ghost travels beyond his neighborhood and tries to make sense of the world. He is helped by another ghost, Emmett Till, who provides historical context in Jerome’s understanding of the ramifications of his death and the continuing violence in his community.

Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson

Harbor Me - Jacqueline Woodson

ARTT - A Room To Talk. No grown ups. Just kids. Six kids are given time and space every Friday afternoon to talk about their lives: parents in prison, parents who have been deported, bullies. The more they open up to each other, the more they are able to come together to heal and help each other with their troubles. This book is so timely and beautifully written. One of my top five for the year. We all need this book.

The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood, #1) by Melissa Albert

The Hazel Wood - Melissa Albert

Alice and her mother are a team. They are constantly on the move, trying to stay ahead of the “bad luck” that plagues them. After the death of Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive writer known for her dark fairy tales, Alice’s mother disappears. Even though she was warned to stay away from the Hazel Wood, Alice knows that venturing into the wood might be the only way to get her mother back.

I Am Still Alive by Kate Alice Marshall

I Am Still Alive - Kate Alice Marshall

Jess hasn’t seen her father in over ten years. He lives in the woods in the middle of nowhere in a tiny cabin with no running water or electricity. Living with him would be hard in any circumstances but Jess is still recovering from the car accident that killed her mother and her severe injuries. But things just got a lot tougher. Jess’ father is dead, winter is coming, and the person who killed her father might be coming back for Jess. For fans of Hatchet and Touching Spirit Bear, this is survival fiction at its finest.

Lifel1k3 (Lifelike, #1) by Jay Kristoff

LifeL1k3 - Jay Kristoff

A mixture of Mad Max, the Family Romanov, plus a touch of the Borg. I loved this book so much. I can’t stop talking about it. This novel actually left me physically breathless.

In a post-apocalyptic world, Eve is just trying to earn enough money in a “robot wars” competition to keep her grandfather alive. But everything in her life gets turned upside down when she realizes that she has the power to destroy machines with her mind.

Warning: the cliffhanger ending is a doozy. You might want to wait to read this one closer to the release of the second book (DEV1AT3) on May 28th… not that I’m counting the days or anything…

Mirage (Mirage, #1) by Somaiya Daud

Mirage - Somaiya Daud

Amani is a poet who wants to see the world. But she is kidnapped from her small town life by the ruling regime so that she can act as the body double for the evil Princess Maram. The two young women look almost exactly alike, even though their personalities are completely opposite. What makes a true princess? This sci-fi trilogy helps define the true meaning of princess.

Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

Monday’s Not Coming - Tiffany D. Jackson

How is it that Claudia is the only person who notices that Monday is missing? Monday and Claudia have been attached at the hip - best friends who do everything together - so of course Claudia notices when Monday doesn’t come to school. But when Claudia starts asking questions about Monday, nobody seems to know or care. Not other students, the teachers, or Monday’s family. As Claudia pushes for answers, she starts to really question how well she knew Monday after all.

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

One of Us Is Lying - Karen McManus

This book has been on the bestseller lists for over a year. I kept meaning to read it but didn’t until just a month ago. Dudes. This book is all the things. A mystery that was hard to unravel. Flawed, but loveable characters that grow and change. Lots of witty dialogue and swoony romance. I didn’t want to leave these kids. And I REALLY didn’t want any of them to be a murderer. But one of them is.

Sadie by Courtney Summers

Sadie - Courtney Summers

Sadie and her sister Maddie have a hard life. Their mother has disappeared and left them to be raised by a neighbor. They are barely getting by, but they do have each other. Sadie is fiercely protective of her sister. But then Maddie is found murdered and no one can solve the mystery. Sadie leaves town, determined to find the killer that the police can’t, or won’t, find. A radio personality/podcaster stumbles into their story and is now determined to find Sadie before it’s too late. A thriller with a heart, this intelligent ripped-from-the-headlines story will stay with you long after you read the last page.

Book podcast:

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand

Sawkill Girls - Claire Legrand

I don’t know what I expected when I picked this book up, but certainly not the horror story it turned out to be. I literally had to put it away one night and finish it in the daylight because I was so scared! Sawkill girls have been disappearing for years. It seems that this small, wealthy town has been haunted by a monster who is growing more and more powerful. And now the only ones who have the power and are willing to fight back are three teenage girls. A story of empowerment and love, this is a novel that will haunt you in more ways than one.

The Smoke Thieves (The Smoke Thieves, #1) by Sally Green

The Smoke Thieves - Sally Green

Dude. This book. Sooooo good. It has been called a YA version of Game of Thrones. I will just tell you that it is probably the best fantasy I have read since Graceling. Which is high praise, let me tell you. The stories of five young people who seemingly have nothing in common, come together in this story of monsters (both demon and human), kingdoms, loyalty, war, bravery and courage. I finished this last March and I am still breathless just thinking about it…

The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik by David Arnold

The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik - David Arnold

Noah notices things. Tiny details that no one else seems to notice. He obsesses about them. But after he has been hypnotized by another teen, these tiny things, these “fascinations” have all changed. What does this mean? Can he go back to the way things were? Is he losing his mind? Witty, real, and, dare I say, fascinating, this is still one of the best books that I have read this year.

Tradition by Brendan Kiely

Tradition - Brendan Kiely

An important book about privilege and justice. Tradition is the story of a private boarding school and two kids who are fed up and ready to fight the system: Jamie, a scholarship student who has been given a second chance and Jules, a legacy who once hung out with the “in-crowd.” But after a sexual assault these two decide that it is high time for the traditions of their school to be turned on their ear. Told from both Jamie’s and Jules’ perspectives, this makes a perfect companion to Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak. And if you ever get a chance to hear Brendan Kiely speak? Do it.

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

A Very Large Expanse of Sea - Tahereh Mafi

Shirin has good reason to put up walls. It’s 2002, the year after the 9/11 attacks and Shirin is the only Muslim girl in her school wearing hijab. Tired of the bullying and the questions, she is trying to just get through high school without making waves. The only things that she is passionate about are music and breakdancing with her brother. Enter Ocean James. And now the walls that Shirin has so carefully built start to crumble.

You Don't Know Everything, Jilly P! by Alex Gino

You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P! - Alex Gino

She may not know everything, but it’s not for lack of trying. Jilly P asks hard questions about the world and isn’t afraid to speak her mind. Sometimes this gets her in trouble, but she makes sure she understands the why of the trouble. She is honestly just trying to make the world a better place. It’s hard to NOT fall in love with Jilly P as she takes on racism, homophobia, and trying to understand Deaf Culture. I wish everyone could have a Jilly P in their lives.