From my new reads in 2012 (just over 60 new books read in 2012, and lots of rereads), these are the books I would recommend. This is in no particular order, mostly as I’m thinking of them and reading through my Read list from the last year. Also, this is semi obligatory if you have a reading/writing blog, isn’t it?
- BROOKLYN, BURNING by Steve Brezenoff — YA lit. No gender pronouns used for two main teen characters (reminded me of Toni Morrison’s Recitif in that way, very challenging of our stereotypes about genders). Kid and Scout are two of my favorite characters in all of the books I read. I found them emotionally raw, very honest, and the story is compelling (and, upsettingly, there are too many kids in the world who will know exactly what Kid and Scout go through)
- SILVER by Rhiannon Held — paranormal. I don’t normally do werewolves (ask me in person how I feel about Things With Fangs) but this debut novel is beautifully written, exquisite, character driven, with very strong world building to support a paranormal center. I look forward to the sequel!
- SERAPHINA by Rachel Hartman — YA lit, but very very close to being crossover. The narrator/main character, Seraphina, is old beyond her years and is a reliable, beautiful, honest girl struggling in a world where dragons are second class citizens. This is one of the BEST reimaginings of dragons I’ve ever seen (Dragons can get…repetitive, and old, and people tend to stick with dragon canon for better or for worse). There’s mystery, court intrigue, and fantasy. I loved it.
- THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green — YA lit but TIME named it the Best Novel of 2012, so you know that it’s not just YA lit. In some ways, I found both characters a little unrealistic, a little overblown on the highly intellectual nerdiness, but I think that their characterization was made to be their coping mechanism, an offset for how painfully normal they were in a hundred other ways (look at their relationship with their parents) and how utterly frustrating, painful, and real it is that normal teenagers are dying of cancers and they will never get to grow up, marry, have kids, go to college, etc, etc, etc. The book is a love story, between Hazel and Augustus, between Hazel and her cancer, between Hazel and life handing her nothing but pain and disappointment. It’s clever, witty, smart, and aching.
- WHERE SHE WENT by Gayle Forman — YA lit, a sequel to IF I STAY, but I haven’t read IF I STAY. I really liked it. I liked the male main character POV, which we don’t get enough of, I think. I liked the anger. I liked the angst. I liked the romance. I liked them coming to terms with each other and how they changed. I loved the imagery. I loved the rhythm. I loved the use of romance. It was enjoyable, it was fun, and it was totally 100% worth the second read I gave it too. Also, I am a huge fan of sequels that stand alone without a bunch of info dumping about what happened in the first book.
- LITTLE BROTHER by Cory Doctorow — it’s shelved as YA lit and I guess, technically, it is. It’s also an incredibly interesting fictional account of what could happen in this country when it comes to privacy, security, and liberty given up in the name of things that keep us safe from Things That Go Bump in the Night (what we fear is often farther away from us than what we *should* fear). I learned a LOT about computer security, hacking, cracking, etc, and I enjoyed myself while learning.
- THE TIGER’S WIFE by Tea Obrecht — literary fiction. this came out in 2011 to a lot of fanfare. It’s a debut novel by a young woman born in the former Yugoslavia, now living in the United States. I found it hard to buy into the narrator as a separate person than Ms Obrecht, but I loved the story which flips between several different time periods, including the narrator’s grandfather’s childhood, the narrator’s childhood with her grandfather, and the narrator as a medical student after the war in the fragmented society that the Balkans became. As someone who studied and traveled to the Balkans, I found it deeply familiar and I wonder if it translates as well to someone who hasn’t been over there. That being said, the strongest parts of the story are the magical realism/folklore stories that spring from the narrator’s grandfather’s childhood which give the book its name.
- BEAUTIFUL SOULS by Eyal Press — nonfiction. I would make this required reading for everyone in the United States if I could. Mr. Press’s biases are well known and very obvious, he doesn’t try to hide them in the book, but despite that, he tells four incredibly powerful stories about ordinary people who were extraordinary in exceptional times, like a Swiss border guard who forges papers to allow Jewish families entrance to Switzerland, an ethnically Serb man who saves many Croatian men’s lives during an act of genocide, an American woman who uncovers the unraveling of the 2008 financial crisis and major securities frauds and whistleblows despite the end of her career and way of life, an elite Israeli soldier who stands up to the state and refuses to participate in military action in the Occupied Territories. He explores their childhoods, philosophies, the moments leading up to their actions, and their thoughts afterwards. These people are not the most educated, the most philosophical, and they were not attached to political movements trying to make a statement. Instead, an overarching theme is that they all believe so much in their national identity, that they acted impulsively, without thinking twice, without believing they were extraordinary, and they all, without fail, say they would do it again, despite the consequences they all felt.
- THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO by Patrick Ness — YA lit, possibly crossover. I think Patrick Ness wakes up every morning and thinks, “How can I write a book that smashes everyone’s feelings into very small pieces, puts them together, and then destroys them?”. Either that, or he thought, “Who said I couldn’t end a book like this? I am. So there.” This is a strange mix of dystopia or sci fi, I’m not really sure, where everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts, until the main character, Todd, stumbles upon someone whose thoughts are private to him. This person becomes a threat to Todd’s society, but then, Todd is too. Cue adventure, discovering a world outside of one’s small town, and then putting two wonderfully built characters through the ringer too many times. I haven’t read the second two books in the series yet but they’re on my list!
- FEED by Mira Grant — Sci fi fiction. Zombies. Again, I am not really a huge fan of things that go bump in the night being in my books. But if you’re looking for a zombie book that breaks the boundaries of all sciene fiction, roots you to your seat, keeps you turning the page, and you love strong, smart characters and good science, then this is your book. Brother and sister duo Georgia and Shaun Mason are bloggers twenty seven years into the world with zombies in it after the aerolized cure for the common cold has the unfortunate side effect of making people reanimate and eat humans when they die. The world is in zones, everyone lives in fear, and there are strict security protocols. When Georgia and Shaun join a political campaign to cover it as members of the media, they find out that there’s a lot more going on in their world than they expected. The author audited virology classes to write the book and her science is SPOT ON, making this one of the most believable zombie books. And it’s not about the zombies, really, and Georgia likes to make sure you know that this is not a zombie APOCALYPSE, it’s just a World That Keeps Spinning Plus A Few Living Dead Creatures. It’s a story about freedom of speech, freedom of press, and how the United States may deal with something like a catastrophically large reanimation of dead or dying mammals over 40lbs for decades. Please read. Kthx. I’m going to go ahead and start the sequel. I’ll get back to you.
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo — I didn’t think I was going to like this book mostly because when I read the cover blurb, I was not wholly impressed. In retrospect, dear whoever wrote that blurb, it was inadequate. (Point of interest, I finally picked it up because the cover art BLEW ME OUT OF THE WATER). This book is everything you want in a fresh YA fantasy. It’s sharp, full of magic, incredibly complex friendships and relationships, strong characters (both when together and independently), and shades of betrayal. I finished it in two hours because I couldn’t put it down. I felt breathless at the end. SO GO READ IT.
2. The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare — I read The Infernal Devices (or the first two anyways) and really disliked them, to be quite honest. I felt they were weak, full of cliches, and not particularly compelling. But I picked up City of Bones figuring it to be a quick read while I was on a train somewhere. Let me tell you how fast I blew through it, and then proceeded to buy the rest of the series. Yeah. So. TMI is a new acronym that does not describe my bathroom habits but my new favorite fandom. The characters were witty and modern and real and smart and sassy. The plot was believable. I absolutely LOVED the forbidden nature of Jace/Clary’s love (at least for a little bit but I can’t explain because SPOILERS). Simon and Izzy grew on me and I have serious Malek feels. So, Cassie Clare, you’ve won over one of your cynics and someone who rolled their eyes at you a few years ago when Shit Was Going Down On the Internet. Well done, madame, well done. Please. Please. More. And Malek! (Also, the movie. Winning. So excited. I can’t even form sentences anymore because of this series)
3. GONE GONE GONE by Hannah Moskowitz — she’s one of my good friends so she’s probably going to kill me dead that she’s a runner up 😉 GONE GONE GONE should be required reading in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy. If you want to know how kids process and think of major gun violence tragedy, you should look to Craig and Lio, two kids falling in love under the threat of the DC sniper shootings. The book was partially Moskowitz’s response to her own experience being young and vulnerable during the sniper shootings, and partially a defiant flag to those who say that LGBTQ lit should have coming out stories and hardship and so on. Craig and Lio never struggle with their sexuality. They have bigger fish to fry. Will Craig’s lost animals come home? Will Lio stop thinking he experienced something worse? Will Craig get over his ex boyfriend? Will they die today walking to school or getting out of the car at a gas station or walking out of the Metro station? Go read it. (I think Hannah’s masterpiece thusfar was Invincible Summer which will punch you in the feels so many times you will be sobbing and breathless and angry and want to hug everyone you know and love. That being said, I haven’t read TEETH yet which came out on the 1st. Happy Release Week, darling!)
4. The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg — This is a fluffy, fun, YA chick lit book. I read a bunch of that in an effort to help me write my own. And you know what? I LIKED IT. I liked it. I liked reading something that was quiet and gentle and not over the top. I liked reading something in which a girl found herself but also got the guy (hello, my life). I liked the friendships. I liked girls being catty. I liked girls being kind. I LOVED the positive portrayals of parents. I liked it, and so will you.
5. Blood Red Road by Moira Young — Bring on the dystopia! All the YA dystopia! All the hot stuff! Oh wait, this one is written in first person DIALECT? Oh god. Yes. please. Saba is hot headed, impulsive, sassy, stubborn, impossible. She reminds me of myself other than she thinks the sun rises and falls with her brother. Jack is what everyone wants in a dark, mysterious bad boy counterpart, but he’s ultimately completely utterly respectful of Saba. He never pushes her, never asks her to be ANYTHING than what she is, even when she’s a totally effing pain in the ass. It’s an adventure, it’s about family, it’s about falling in love with someone you were sure you wouldn’t fall in love with, and it’s awesome. Go read it.