We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchison
About: Abducted by aliens periodically throughout his youth, Henry Denton is informed by his erstwhile captors that they will end the world in 144 days unless he stops them by deciding that humanity is worth saving.
Why I Recommend It: This book has some heartbreaking moments, but it deals with truth. It seems strange to say that when the book is about a guy who believes he is consistently abducted by aliens, but that’s just one reason why this story is so good. Hutchison’s writing is masterful and I love how genuine Henry is about everything. He is a perfect main character because you feel for him and you want him to figure it all out, but you know as well as he does that life doesn’t work that way. Although the narrative is filled with doomsday scenarios, it is ultimately an uplifting story about how life can be difficult, but worth it.
The Killing Jar by Jennifer Bosworth
About: When she was ten years old, Kenna discovered that she had the ability to drain the life from another human being, and ever since she’s been afraid to touch anyone–but when she uses that power to save her mother and twin sister from an attacker, her mother finally reveals the secret origin of her power, and she’s forced to choose between the Kalyptra and a human life.
Why I Recommend It: This is a strange supernatural story that grips you from the beginning and makes you think. Bosworth is the type of author that doesn’t explain everything, which I really like. You are free to make your own conclusions. I also enjoyed the way she interweaves familial loyalties, self-worth and consequences in a really unique way.
If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
About: Amanda Hardy only wants to fit in at her new school, but she is keeping a big secret, so when she falls for Grant, guarded Amanda finds herself yearning to share with him everything about herself, including her previous life as Andrew.
Why I Recommend It: Out of everything I read this year, this book stuck with me. I think about Amanda all the time and wonder how she is getting along. This is such a timely topic that I read a few different books that deal with gender this year, but none rang as true as this one. Russo tackles the difficulties head on and describes the horrors that Amanda endures just for being different. While I still feel it ended too tidily, the overall story deserves to be on this list.