I read SO MANY amazing YA books in 2011! Here they are:
Crossed, The Future of Us, Hushed, Want to Go Private?, The Scorpio Races, The Pledge, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Chain Reaction, Forgotten, Notes From the Blender, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, Ripple, Hourglass, A Need So Beautiful, Chime, The Day Before, Forever, Moonglass, Beauty Queens, Boyfriends With Girlfriends, Forbidden, Wither, Divergent, Invincible Summer, Trapped, Where She Went, We’ll Always Have Summer, Cryer’s Cross, Across the Universe, Desires of the Dead, Lola and the Boy Next Door, Imaginary Girls,and The Liar Society
Here were my selections for the Class of 2011: YA Superlative Blogfest…
DAY ONE: Head of the Class
Favorite Dystopian: Veronica Roth’s Divergent came to mind immediately. Still, I made myself scan back through all the dystopians I’ve read this year–there were several–and… yep. Divergent was my absolute favorite. The world-building is fascinating, Tris and Four are compelling, and the pace is gripping and swift. Cannot wait for the follow-up, Insurgent. Honorable Mention: Crossed, a quiet mid-trilogy book with stunning writing and fantastic character development.
Favorite Science Fiction: I’m not usually sci-fi reader, and I know this one is fairly light, but I’m a big fan of Across the Universe by Beth Revis. The first chapter was absolutely riveting. With each page I turned, I marveled at the detail of the Godspeed and the compassion I felt for Amy, Elder, and everyone else cooped up on that ship. The twists and layered mystery unfold masterfully.
Favorite Fantasy: I honestly didn’t think I’d enjoy Franny Billingsley’s Chime (it’s sort of confusing, initially, and VERY fantastical), but I heeded the reviews of some taste-making friends and oh-my-goodness I adored this book. It features some of the most gorgeous writing I’ve encountered, and heroine Briony is absolutely lovable. Plus, Eldric… Yes, please!
Favorite Contemporary: Where She Went was the follow-up I was most looking forward to this year, and also the book I was most terrified to read. I loved If I Stay so much that the thought of a sequel tainting its perfection made me anxious. Turns out my fears were unfounded. Gayle Forman is brilliant. She took Adam and Mia’s story exactly where I wanted it to go, and she threw in a few surprises too. Plus, the end… Oh, the end!
Favorite Action/Adventure: Jus Accardo’s Touch could fit into the paranormal romance or mystery categories too, but one of the things I love most about this book is its exhilarating pace and constant sense of impending doom. Main character Dez is tough and hilarious, and love interest Kale is all kinds of tortured and adorable.
Favorite Historical Fiction: Eek… Cheater Alert! I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t read a historical fiction published in 2011 during 2011. I did read Jennifer Donnelly’s Revolution (pubbed in 2010), though, and while not strictly historical, it is AMAZING. That’s why I’m breaking the rules to recommend it.
Favorite Comedy: I usually like my books serious, dark, and, um, turn-your-heart-inside-out depressing. But Notes from the Blender by Brendan Halpin and Trish Cook was a pleasant change of pace. It literally made me laugh out loud. Death-metal fan Declan should have been off-putting, but he was so freaking funny I couldn’t help but find him endearing. He has some of the best one-liners I’ve read. Honorable Mention: Beauty Queens. Obviously.
Favorite Mystery: Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann was a mystery with a dash of horror and a sprinkle of romance, and it was excellent. I actually had to stop reading more than once because I was home alone at night and totally spooked. There’s something very atmospheric about this book, something that leaves you feeling isolated and at risk. I still get chills thinking about the end. Honorable Mentions: Imaginary Girls, because for a good chunk of the book, I didn’t know what the heck was going on with Chloe and Ruby, but I sure was desperate to find out, and The Liar Society because it was chock full of suspense.
Favorite Romance: Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins has everything a fantastic romance should, times ten! A girl you can’t help but root for? Check. A boy who’s flawed but irresistible? Check. Countless obstacles standing in the way of our dream couple? Check. A setting that makes you want to hop on a plane? Check. That longing, hopeful, can’t-live-without-him vibe? Check, check, check! Honorable Mention: Desires of the Dead. I ♥ Jay and Violet.
Favorite Paranormal Romance: I’m not entirely sure how to classify Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races, but I do know that it most definitely belongs on my Best of 2011 list. The magical water horses fit into the paranormal realm, and while the romance is light, it’s definitely a factor, so… Favorite Paranormal Romance it is. This book was beautiful and intense and threatened to shred my heart more than once. I was completely and utterly romanced by Thisby and Sean and Corr and Puck and The Scorpio Races.
Favorite Family Drama: Jessi Kirby’s debut, Moonglass, is lovely. It’s set on the beach, protagonist Anna is vibrant and likable, and the issues she faces concerning her family are relatable yet heart-wrenching. Plus, love interest Tyler is, in a word: HOT. Moonglass‘s ending is one of those that comes together in a way that’s surprising but entirely perfect.
Favorite Genre Bender: Daughter of Smoke and Bone completely blew me away. It’s part urban fantasy, part romance, and part paranormal, and it’s one of my newest all-time-favorite books. Laini Taylor’s writing is absolutely gorgeous, and the way she crafted her world and her characters… enviable. The ending is a little abrupt, but honestly, it just made me crave the sequel even more!
DAY TWO: Popularity Contest
Class Clown – I could have gone with any of the lovelies from Beauty Queens, or Declan from Notes from the Blender, but I’m choosing a more nuanced clown: Josh, from Jay Asher and Carolyn Macker’s The Future of Us. While he wasn’t particularly outgoing or boisterous, that kid had me laughing out loud on several occasions. Loved his subtle sarcasm and witty inner monologue!
Most Likely to Become a Rock Star – Sam Roth from Maggie Stiefvater’s Forever. He’s knows what an uncertain future feels like, so I think he’d do everything in his power to reach his musical goals. Plus, Grace thinks he’s really talented.
Mostly Likely to Start a Riot – Luis Fuentes from Simone Elkeles’s Chain Reaction. He’s not afraid of anything, and he’ll do whatever it takes to prove a point, dangerous or not. In fact, Luis’s reckless behavior had my heart going double-time for the last quarter of this book!
Biggest Flirt – Brooklyn, from Kimberly Derting’s The Pledge. She’s all about strutting her stuff for the guys, but there’s more to Brook than meets the eye–which is why I loved her so much!
Fashion King and/or Queen – Cricket Bell and Lola Nolan from Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins. For him: narrow, pinstriped pants and an arm full of rubber bands. For her: themed outfits, colorful wigs, and amazing make-up. They’re a match made in fashion heaven. ♥
Girl You’d Most Want For Your BFF – This one was hard… I almost went with Karou from Daughter of Smoke and Bone. She’s awesome, but she’s not exactly present all the time, so I’m going with Briony Larkin from Franny Billingsley’s Chime. I love her for all the reasons I love Karou (brave, clever, and loyal), plus, Briony is someone who can be counted on to drop by with a pint of ice cream (or a bottle of wine?) after a rough day.
Boy You Wish You’d Dated in High School - Adam Wilde from Gayle Forman’s Where She Went. He’s devoted and brooding and musical and he loves deeply, with everything in him. And that scene from If I Stay where he cries… Good grief! Gets me every time!
Quirkiest Character – Harley from Across the Universe by Beth Revis. I could never quite put my finger on what it was about Harley that I appreciated, but I suppose that was part of his charm. He was eccentric and unpredictable and artistic and never played by the rules. Love that!
Villain You Love to Hate – Facebook, from The Future of Us . One of the most inimitable antagonists I’ve encountered.
Favorite Parental Figure – This might be an unconventional choice, but I pick Brimstone from Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Strange and distant as he is, there’s an obvious and fierce love between Brimstone and Karou that feels boundless.
Coolest Nerd – Cricket Bell from Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins. Yes, friends, Cricket is a nerd. But it’s that bumbling awkwardness and observable intelligence that makes him so adorably charming. What girl wouldn’t find a guy like Cricket irresistible?
(Illustration by Simini Blocker)
DAY THREE: Elements of Fiction
Most Envy-Inducing Plot (Or, the plot you wish you’d thought of yourself.) – Easy. The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler. The idea of using Facebook as a way to “travel” to the future is brilliant. There’s also the addition of the numerous nineties mentions that brought nostalgia to a whole new level.
Most Wonderful World-Building – I have to go with Laini Taylor’s The Daughter of Smoke and Bone. There are so many worlds in this story: Prague, Marrakesh, the backwoods of Idaho, and the world beyond the portal doors. While submerged in Smoke and Bone, it was as if I was an active participant in all these worlds. I’ve even added Prague on my Must-Visit list! Honorable Mention: The Scorpio Races because by the end of the story, I felt Thisby.
Most Formidable World (Or, the setting I most definitely would NOT want to travel to) – While Lauren DeStefano wrote about Wither‘s world beautifully, there’s no way I’d ever want to visit it. Plural marraige and a painful awareness of the (early!) age at which I’ll die? No thank you!
Most Wanderlust-Inducing (Or, the setting I’d happily travel to) – Jenny Han’s We’ll Always Have Summer. I’ve been romanced by its quaint little beach town setting, Cousins, since I read The Summer I Turned Pretty, the first book in this series. Honorable Mentions: Moonglass by Jessi Kirby and Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz. Can you tell I love the beach?
Loveliest Prose – This was a difficult choice, but I have to go with The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater because it was so incredibly emotive, yet never overdone. I imagine dual narration is quite a challenge to pull off, but Scorpio‘s Sean and Puck were unique and vibrant, as was their world. Honorable Mention: Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma and Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. Every sentence = Enviable.
Best First Line – Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone: “Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.” Says it all.
Most Dynamic Main Character – Briony Larkin from Franny Billingley’s Chime. Oh, how I adore this girl! She’s so feisty and loyal and clever and intense. Her inner monologue was a joy to read, sometimes heartbreaking and sometimes hilarious. I want to know her! Honorable Mentions: Sean Kendrick from The Scorpio Races, Tris from Divergent, and Karou from Daughter of Smoke and Bone. All were SO memorable.
Best Performance in a Supporting Role – Ruby, from Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma. This girl was so colorful, so full of life, such a force to be reckoned with, I loved her and hated her with equal intensity. Entirely fleshed out and incredibly well written.
Best Use of Theme – I’m choosing two here, because they both did what’s nearly impossible: Taught an important lesson in an entertaining way. I’m not going to give those lesson away, of course. If you haven’t read these books, I recommend them both! First, The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder:
And second, A Need So Beautiful by Suzanne Young:
DAY FOUR: Best in Show
Favorite Cover – I think the cover for Hourglass by Myra McIntyre is beautiful. I love the movement, the graceful point of the model’s foot, and her unusual hair color. I also love the title font. Honorable Mentions: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children because it’s eerily intriguing, and Beauty Queens because it’s graphic and cheeky.
Cutest Couple – Luke and London from Cat Patrick’s Forgotten are so freaking sweet. Their relationship boasts mutual adoration, tons of respect, and a big dose of fun. While Forgotten‘s plot is engaging, it was Luke and London’s interactions that snagged my attention and kept me reading for the duration of this novel.
Most Likely to Succeed (Or, pick a Printz Winner) – Are you guys getting tired of hearing about Chime yet? Clearly Franny Billingsley’s novel had a huge impact on me. Of every book on my 2011 list, Chime is the one that, in my humble opinion, most exemplified literary excellence in young adult literature. Honorable Mentions: Divergent, The Scorpio Races, and Daughter of Smoke and Bone for their unbelievably thorough world-building and beautiful writing.
Most Likely to Make You Miss Your Bedtime – Veronica Roth’s Divergent is everything a page-turner should be. I was so connected to Tris and Four’s story, and so drawn in by their world, I could NOT put this book down. I still recommend it to anyone who asks for a great YA book or a fantastic dystopian.
Best Repeat Performance (Favorite sequel or follow-up.) – An easy choice: Gayle Forman’s Where She Went, or My Most Anticipated Sequel EVER. Love the emotional intensity of this book, and I love how Adam and Mia’s story evolved and concluded.Honorable Mention: We’ll Always Have Summer. Belly totally ended up with who I wanted her to end up with!
Romance Most Worthy of an Ice Bath – Harlin and Charlotte from Suzanne Young’s A Need So Beautiful. These two are adorable, and they have chemistry that seeps through the page. Then there was that scene… you know, the one with the fancy dress and the–ahem–wall. Honorable Mention: Violet and Jay from Kimberly Derting’s Desires of the Dead. They’re hot too.
Pair Most Likely to Stay Best Friends Till They’re 80 – Josh and Emma from The Future of Us. We’ve seen the future (thank you, Facebook!). We KNOW they’ll stay friends!
Breakout Novel (Favorite Book by a Debut Author) – Yep, Divergent again. This book rocks. Obviously. Honorable Mentions: Moonglass and Across the Universe. I honestly had a hard time believing Jessi Kirby and Beth Revis were debut novelists after reading their first books!
Best Old-Timer (Favorite read of the year, published BEFORE 2011) – Another easy choice. I read Jellicoe Road this year and it broke me. Never have I envied another writer’s storytelling skills the way I envy Melina Marchetta’s, and never have I fallen so fully and completely for two characters as I did for Taylor and Jonah. Such an amazing book–a definite favorite!
Most Likely to Make a Grown Man Cry – I have it on good authority that “animal books” make men emotional. Take Where the Red Fern Grows, for example, or Stone Fox (okay, Stone Fox made ME cry!). That’s why I have to go with The Scorpio Races. The bond between Sean and his horse Corr is enough to make any man (anybody) weepy.
Most Pleasant Surprise (Book you didn’t think you’d like, but totally did.) – Laini Taylor’s The Daughter of Smoke and Bone, for sure. As a rule, I don’t care for fantasy, and I definitely don’t like “angel” books. Plus, the mention of teeth in the back cover synopsis totally skeeved me out. I was wrong, of course. I ADORE this book.
Most Creative Use of a Love Triangle – The “triangle” in Ally Condie’s Crossed is pretty lopsided (Cassia’s not really wavering in who she wants), but there’s an element of loyalty and romance between both she and Ky, and she and Xander. What I love about this triangle is how it’s used in plot twists and in the bigger picture of what’s going on within the Society. Win.
Sleeper Hit (Book I found so awesome I wish it had been hyped more) – Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma. This book was a trip. I wasn’t quite sure what was real and what wasn’t, and I didn’t know what to think about Ruby (or Chloe or London, for that matter) until the very end. Plus, the writing was, as I’ve mentioned, gorgeous.