Tomoko’s Top 5 Books of 2015

This post comes from our gifts inventory assistant and artist Tomoko.

tomoko top 5

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

(I am so stoked that one of my favorites won the National Book Award for Young Adults 😍)

I love this book because it’s incredibly and beautifully written. It tells the story of a young man who is starting to experience a mental health disorder and how his perception of reality changes as he learns how to navigate this new facet of his life that is completely out of his control. It opens a dialogue with the reader about what mental illness is, and gives us a way to understand a little better what so many people go through. 1 in 17 adults in America lives with serious mental illness, but so many times we disregard the sickness that we can’t see. Understanding more about these invisible diseases can make us more supportive and caring individuals. I really appreciate Neal Shusterman and his son Brandon, who created the illustrations for the novel, for their dedication in sharing this soul-striking narrative.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Uprooted is everything I love about stories – characters I grow to love and laugh with, magic, good versus evil. The language is so lovely, I found myself re-reading sentences and paragraphs simply because I liked the way it sounded. The Wood is this creeping and terrifying evil that corrupts everything it touches – it lurks, but life goes on outside of it. The Dragon, a powerful wizard, keeps the Wood at bay, and at the heart of everything is Agnieszka (Ag-nyesh-ka), a budding witch with so much love for her home. It’s allegorical, transformative, and ultimately satisfying – the perfect book to curl up with in an overstuffed chair and lose yourself to the story.

The Marvels by Brian Selznick

I say beautiful a lot when it comes to books I love – I can’t help it, they really are incredibly lovely when they reach through those black and white marks on the page and prod at your heartstrings. The Marvels is no exception – the first half of the book is told in a series of illustrations – cross-hatched and soft, like a dream where the edges are a bit blurry. Then the text starts, decades later and seemingly unrelated. As the stories intertwine, we learn the meanings of determination, family, loss, home, and especially love. If the cover alone weren’t enough to catapult this book to my favorites list, the imagination, heartbreak and hope within the pages certainly did it.

Junction by Nathan Jurevicius

This slender graphic novel/picture book is surprising. It’s unusual and were the story not so brightly colored and sincerely narrated, it could have been really sinister and creepy – instead the recitation feels like the earnest excitement of a child, coming of age, entrusted with a very important journey that benefits the entire village. It feels very much like tribal oral storytelling, but in technicolor. It’s mythology in motion: something fantastic and incredible, treated as something normal, if something to be celebrated.
I love the bright and richly saturated colors, the sheer imaginative force that’s present throughout, and the sense of expectant possibility!

The Fog Diver by Joel Ross

The end of the world has happened, brought about by our attempt to combat it with nano-technology. The nanobots have cleansed the earth of everything that could harm it, including people, who now live in floating cities above the fog of nanobots. Fog Diver is about a young boy who dives into the fog, searching for the scraps of a bygone era to sell so he and his crew–his family can make it through another day.
The story is so much fun, littered with mixed-up pop culture references, it’s also pretty serious, dealing with children who are living on the brink of society. The examination of  the politics and attitudes of a classist system are subtle but there, also exciting is character diversity and how well-rounded the “side” characters are. I especially love that even though the main character is male, the girls are no damsels in distress; all are smart, strong, and incredibly capable – it’s the best! This is a tops debut novel!
My final choice was so difficult!  I had so many great reads this year…my other picks were Ratscalibur by Josh Lieb, an incredibly funny riff on the story of King Arthur with a rat and a spork, referencing dozens of medeival fantasies and legends along the way, and Nimona by Noelle Stevenson, a gorgeously illustrated graphic novel about a bad guy who may not really be so evil, a good guy who’s really not that great, and a shape-changing girl who’s not a girl, but a shark!

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