Tracey’s Favorite Fiction of 2014
Finally, here are my 2014 fiction favorites, the most difficult list of all. I am so impressed with people who can narrow their favorites down to ten…or even a dozen. I’ve actually given up—I refuse to narrow this list down any further!
And it wasn’t until I had pared this list all the way down that I was shocked to realize that over half of my high school and adult titles are NOT speculative!
As with the nonfiction list, I have added a section on adult fiction that would be of interest to older teens. And again, these are my personal favorites, but I would love to hear about yours in the comments.
ELEMENTARY FICTION – PRIMARY
Leroy Ninker Saddles Up (Tales from Deckawoo Drive, Book 1) by Kate DiCamillo. 9780763663391. 2014. Gr 1-3.
Leroy has a hat, a lasso, and cowboy boots, but he lacks a horse…and then he meets Maybelline. They become great friends until Leroy forgets one of the rules of caring for her—and she disappears. Can he find her? Maybe some old acquaintances from DiCamillo’s Mercy Watson series can help.
The Miniature World of Marvin & James (Masterpiece Adventures, Book 1) by Elise Broach. 9780805091908. 2014. Gr 1-4.
When his best friend James, a human boy , goes away on vacation, Marvin the beetle worries that their friendship may end. This first title of a new early chapter book series stars the characters from Broach’s Masterpiece.
The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale. 9780763665104. 2014. Gr K-3.
Princess Magnolia is a typical princess, dainty and regal and always wearing pink. That is, until a monster attacks from Monster Land. Then she becomes the Princess in Black and, with her pony Blacky, heads off to fight the monsters.
Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny by John Himmelman. 9780805099706. 2014. Gr 1-3.
A little rabbit named Isabel is the best martial artist at her Bunjitsu school. In each of these twelve tales, Isabel faces challenges and must decide whether she should use her skills (kicking, hitting, throwing) or if it is better to back off.
ELEMENTARY FICTION – INTERMEDIATE
Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff. 9780399164057. 2014. Gr 4-6.
Ten-year-old Albie knows he is not the smartest, tallest, best at gym, greatest artist, or most musical in his class. Even his parents keep reminding him of that. But maybe his new nanny Calista can help him discover his strengths and take pride in himself.
The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm. 9780375870644. 2014. Gr 4-6.
Except for the fact that her grandfather found out how to reverse aging and is now stuck as a teenager, I would call this book realistic fiction. I love that Holm’s protagonist is a girl finding her own passion, and enjoy the many dollops of science history.
The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw (Hero’s Guide, Book 3) by Christopher Healy. 9780062118486. 2014. Gr 3-6.
I don’t normally choose the last book of a series in my favorites, but this series ender is exciting and funny—and left me wanting just one more book. Click here to read my full review of this wonderful fractured fairy tale trilogy.
The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier. 9781419711442. 2014. Gr 4-7.
Two young orphans arrive at a ramshackle manor house, hoping to find work. They have not been there long before they realize that something is terribly wrong with the house and its inhabitants. What is making the manor family look so sick and worn-down? Who is leaving dirty footprints throughout the house each night? And why are they warned not to touch the tree that leans against the house?
Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin. 9780312643003. 2014. Gr 4-7.
Rose struggles with her autism; she is obsessed with homophones and prime numbers, and uses routines to help her feel some control over her life. She loves the dog her father brought home during a storm and names it “Rain” (homonym of “reign”). But when Rain disappears during a superstorm, Rose must leave the anchor of home and find her dog.
A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd. 9780545552707. 2014. Gr 4-7.
Felicity Pickle is tired of roaming here and there with her mom and little sister, so when they roll into Midnight Gulch, she hopes they have found a place to stay for good. Felicity collects words, and the word she most wants to find is “home.” Mama grew up in the little town, and Felicity discovers that Midnight Gulch has its share of quirkiness—and maybe even some magic.
The Witch’s Boy by Kelly Barnhill. 9781616203511. 2014. Gr 4-7.
After Ned and his twin fall into a dangerous river and only Ned survives, the villagers think that the wrong boy is living. But when the Bandit King tries to steal the land’s magic, Ned tries to protect his community. “The wrong boy will save your life and you will save his,” are the last words Aine’s mother said to her. Can Aine, daughter of the Bandit King, and Ned prevent war between the two kingdoms?
MIDDLE SCHOOL FICTION
Boundless by Kenneth Oppel. 9781442472884. 2014. Gr 5-8.
Combine Canadian history, murder and treasure, avalanches and sasquatches, and a seven-mile long train—and you’ll have just a few of the elements that make Boundless such an exciting adventure. Click here to read my full review.
The Glass Sentence (Mapmakers Trilogy, Book 1) by S.E. Grove. 9780670785025. 2014. Gr 5-9.
In the Great Disruption of 1799, the world’s continents and countries were thrown into different time periods. Now 1891, a famous cartologist is kidnapped and his mystical maps ruined or stolen, but not before he was able to write a secret note to his niece Sophie. As she runs from the same criminals that captured her uncle, she tries to figure out why they wanted him. Did he find a map that will help him heal the time rift? Or does he know the secret of preventing a future rift?
The Iron Trial (Magisterium, Book 1) by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare. 9780545522250. 2014. Gr 5-8.
Lonely and disabled, Callum knows he has an ability for magic, but he fears his father’s warnings about the danger that will come if he tries to use it. So when he is selected to be trained at the Magisterium, he does everything he can to resist learning and to fail his lessons. But then he finds out why his father really hates magic and the Magisterium—that his father is afraid of who Callum might be.
The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney. 9780316247801. 2014. Gr 5-8.
Amira lives with her parents and sister and friends in village in Sudan. She loves telling stories and drawing with a stick in the sand. But her peaceful life is torn apart when the Janjaweed attack. With her family no longer whole, they trek to a refugee camp where daily life feels hopeless, until an aide worker gives her a pad of paper—and a red pencil.
The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry. 9781596439566. 2014. Gr 6-8.
The girls at St. Ethelreda’s School for Girls have a problem—their severe headmistress and her churlish brother have died of poison! Well, the girls are glad to be rid of them, but they don’t want to be sent home. So they bury the bodies and try to convince the neighbors and the police that nothing is wrong in this very funny Victorian mystery.
The Thickety : A Path Begins (Thickety, Book 1) by J.A. White. 9780062257246. 2014. Gr 5-8.
When Kara was six years old, her mother was convicted of the most heinous of crimes—witchcraft—and executed as Kara watched. Since then, Kara and her little brother Taff have been shunned by the village. One day Kara follows a strange bird into the mysterious forest known as the Thickety and finds a powerful book that may have belonged to her mother, and she begins to realize that her mother’s powers were more wondrous than she ever dreamed.
The Twyning by Terence Blacker. 9780763669027. 2014. Gr 7-10.
Efren, an orphaned ratling, lives underground in a kingdom going through great changes as the peaceful old king leaves and a warlike group takes over. Aboveground, Dogboy, also an orphan, tries to support himself and his friend by working for the local ratcatcher and for a scientist intent on exterminating every rat. The lives and homes of both orphans are doomed unless they can find a way to understand each other and work together.
HIGH SCHOOL FICTION
100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith. 9781442444959. 2014. Gr 10-12.
Finn considers himself an oddball. His mother was killed by a dead horse falling off a bridge, and his author father featured Finn (using his real name) in a popular science fiction novel. He lives in the shadow of his charismatic best friend. He has epilepsy. But new girl Julia thinks he is charming, and Finn for once sees himself in a positive light—until Julia moves back to her old home.
Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn. 9781250044594. 2014. Gr 9-12.
Jamie’s troubled life has caused panic attacks that paralyze his arms and he sometimes loses big chunks of time. His mother was murdered when he was six, and two years ago his sister Cate was incarcerated for burning down a neighbor’s barn. His attacks were getting better until Jamie, now fifteen, learns that Cate has been released and is coming back for him. She wants to tell him the truth about their past. He doesn’t want to hear it, but that won’t stop Cate.
Death Coming Up the Hill by Chris Crowe. 9780544302150. 2014. Gr 9-12.
Douglas keeps a weekly record of historical and personal events in 1968, the year he turns 17. There is a lot going on in his life: his parents’ failing marriage, his first girlfriend, and a growing comprehension of bigger issues such as the war in Vietnam, political assassinations, and civil rights rioting. The novel is written entirely in haiku, and is composed of 16,592 syllables—which is the total number of American soldiers killed in Vietnam.
Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King. 9780316222723. 2014. Gr 9-12.
Trying to decide what to do after high school graduation, Glory and her friend swig a concoction of beer and mummified bat ashes—and start seeing both the past and the future. Glory is afraid that she will follow the path of her mother (who committed suicide a dozen years earlier), and sees a future for women similar to The Handmaid’s Tale.
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. 9780803734968. 2014. Gr 9-12.
Twins Jude and Noah were best friends, until a tragic event during their adolescence drove them apart. Three years later, they are both struggling with their grief and their guilt, their art, and their growing sexuality. Noah narrates the years before their separation, and Jude narrates their later years, neither realizing that they each have only half of the story.
The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson. 9780670012091. 2014. Gr 8-12.
Hayley feels abandoned. Her mom is dead, and her dad, Andy, a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, has PTSD. Life is a constant tightrope walk between stopping her dad from hurting others or harming himself. After dragging her all over the country, they finally settle in his home town. While Andy tries to find stability, a boy named Finn helps Hayley explore what it is like to live a normal teen life.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. 9780385741262. 2014. Gr 9-12.
In her fifteenth summer at her family’s island house, Cadence suffers a head injury that leaves her with migraines and memory loss. After a two-year separation from her cousins and a close family friend, the four try to piece together her memories from the last two years in order to solve a family mystery dealing with the Sinclair family fortune. But the secret is more shocking than she could imagine.
The Young Elites (Book 1) by Marie Lu. 9780399167836. 2014. Gr 9-12.
Adelina is a malfetto, a survivor of a plague that killed every adult who caught it, as well as most of the children who did. The plague marked her, and now she is beginning to manifest special powers—powers that people fear and hate. Rescued from a fiery death sentence, she meets others who might help her to control and develop her new abilities. Click here to read my full review.
Blood of My Blood (Jasper Dent, Book 3) by Barry Lyga. 9780316198707. 2014. Gr 10-12.
Seventeen-year-old Jazz learned all about being a serial killer from his notorious “Dear Old Dad,” but believes he has a conscience that will help fight his own urges and right some of his father’s wrongs. The elder Dent has escaped from prison, so Jasper has been helping the police find his father. But he may end up sacrificing his life—as well as his friends’—before the case is solved.
Cress (Lunar Chronicles, Book 3) by Marissa Meyer. 9780312642976. 2014. Gr 8-12.
While trying to overthrow Queen Levana, Cinder and her friends turn to Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite, for help. However, Cress, an excellent hacker, has been ordered by Levana to track down Cinder. As the clock ticks down to Queen Levana’s marriage to Emperor Kai, Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress must join together to stop the wedding and save the world. Click here to read my full series review.
The Infinite Sea (5th Wave, Book 2) by Rick Yancey. 9780399162428. 2014. Gr 9-12.
Cassie has struggled to survive the first four waves of the alien attack in Yancey’s first book of the 5th Wave series. Now they are initiating the fifth wave, the goal of which is the extermination of the entire human race, and Cassie and her friends will discover the extremes to which the Others will go.
ADULT FICTION FOR YA
Fives and Twenty-fives by Michael Pitre
This debut novel follows three men, all working in the same Marine unit in Iraq, as they cope with the tedium, stress, and horrors of their time in the Middle East, as well as their struggles to fit back into civilian life when they return to their homes.
Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith. 9780525426035. 2014. Gr 11-Adult.
Austin and his best friend Robbie unwittingly release a contagion that threatens to bring about the end of the world in the form of six-foot ravenous praying mantises. At the same time, Austin struggles with his sexual identity in this fascinating book for mature teens. (I read the book twice in four days.)
The Martian by Andy Weir. 9780804139021. 2014. Gr 10-Adult.
Six days after their ship landed on Mars, the astronauts race to evacuate during a freak dust storm. Mark is left behind when his crew thinks he died in the storm. When he comes to, Mark realizes he will have to use whatever equipment and supplies he has left—as well as his own luck and resourcefulness and humor—to try to survive on his own. He is he only living being on Mars, and no one knows he is still alive.
Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King. 9781476754451. 2014. Gr 11-Adult.
Stephen King’s antagonist is not a horrific supernatural creature as in many of his books, but the suspense is almost worse when the evil is in the form of an ordinary man, someone you might see anywhere. Even in your own neighborhood—maybe even driving the ice cream truck your children beg to hang around. Last year he drove a stolen Mercedes into a crowd of people at a job fair, killing eight. Now he taunts retired cop Bill Hodges—Mr. Mercedes will strike again.
Rooms by Lauren Oliver. 9780062223197. 2014. Gr 11-Adult.
Following the death of Richard Walker, his ex-wife and estranged daughter and son arrive at his country house to claim their inheritance. As each of them works through their own personal and domestic issues, they don’t realize they are being watched by the ghosts of two former residents. The ghosts have been trapped in the house for a long time, and both are eager to free themselves from the house—and from their own sorrowful pasts.
Now it’s a new year, and I’m looking forward to the many new books on my TBR list!
P.S. I get to use my favorite word one more time. Click here to find out all the books on my penultimate favorite fiction list.