Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best of 2011: Katie's Super Year-End Superlatives

YA Class of 2011 Superlatives

I’ve decided to give you my end of the year picks in superlative form once again. In part, because it’s fun for me. And in part because I hate calling this a Best of List because I never get to all the books I want to read, and there may be something best-ier out there that I just haven’t picked up yet. So here are some of my favorite books and why from the 2011 YA Class:

Most Likely to Succeed: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Lina is an ordinary 15 year old girl, until circumstances take her from her home, over the vast Siberian wilderness, and across the Arctic Circle to one of Stalin’s labor camps in the 1940s. Suddenly, being ordinary is not enough, and Lina must look deep within herself to find the extraordinary if she is to survive--and keep her family healthy and find her father and fall in love. Lina’s story is based on real events and is so vividly retold that Lina’s success and survival seems almost vital to our own.

Most Likely to Get Married: Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins (see our full review/fan girl episode here)
Lola and Cricket. If these two crazy kids don’t get (fictionally) married, then I’ll never write another superlative. Capturing love and romance in a way that seems both completely real and very much like a fairy tale is no easy feat, and yet Stephanie Perkins proves once again that it can be done and doesn’t even require a Parisian backdrop to make it work. A book to read and then read again.

Favorite Exchange Student: Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey
This Aussie import only popped up on my radar when I was hunting down historical fiction books with male leads. How has this book flown so far under the radar? It’s completely brilliant--filled with mystery and suspense, racial and socioeconomic tension, hilarious dialogue, heartbreaking revelations, and more smarts than almost any other book I picked up this year.

Most Creative: Delirium by Lauren Oliver (see full review here)
Dystopian trilogies are popular right now. And as it was with wizards and vampires, trendy concepts often begin to quickly feel overdone. Enter Lauren Oliver. Delirium is the first book in a dystopian trilogy, and while many of the usual suspects are there (repressive government, restricted travel), it sets itself apart by also creating a world where love (and heartbreak) have been removed from the equation. The human experience has been completely altered and somehow Oliver manages to imagine the unimaginable and take us along for the ride.

Most Magical: The Apothecary by Maile Meloy (see full review)
No matter how old I get, books oozing with magic and imagination will always pull me in. That includes middle grade titles set in 1950s London. In fact, this book may be one of the best combinations of magic, history, and science that I’ve ever come across. And did I mention the Russian spies? I feel like I should. Because some of you may be sort of “eh” about magic but have a soft spot for spy books, so it’s important you know that they’re there too. Or maybe you just love compelling characters, and Janie Scott and Benjamin Burrows definitely fit into that category. In sum, this book is lovely, with a little bit of everything, and just writing about it makes me want to curl up on my couch with a mug of hot chocolate on a rainy day and disappear into its pages.

Biggest Surprise: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson (see full review here)
Perhaps you’ve heard my rant... I mean Reading Rules: “No suicide books, no vampires, and no Jack the Ripper stories.” All three of these topics give me the heebie jeebies, and I’m not the type of reader who enjoys the heebie jeebies. But I really enjoyed this book. Jack the Ripper story line and all. Maybe because it surprised me with its endearing characters or clever premise or impressive historical research. I haven’t been able to pinpoint the exact Cause of Like thus far (although good sense says its a combination of all three), but I think the lesson we can all take away from this is that it’s always a good idea to listen to your librarian and push the boundaries of what you think you might like. Thanks, Nico.

Most Likely to be (In)Famous: All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin (see full review here)

I used this category last year from Ally Carter’s Heist Society (and Uncommon Criminals was this year’s very worthy follow-up, which you should also read), but I didn’t expect it to be an annual thing. Until I met Anya Balachine, daughter of mafia boss who has all the makings of a great leader herself. Except she doesn’t want to see it. The problem is, she may not be given a choice if she is to protect the people she loves. This is a mob story wrapped up in a dystopian novel wrapped up in a love story. And it turns out that’s a pretty awesome combination.

Most Artistic: Okay For Now by Gary Schmidt
(see full review here)
Every once in a while as a reader, you come across one of those books that has all the trappings of a classic coming-of-age story, the sort of story that we’ve all been reading since Mark Twain first introduced us to Huck Finn. That’s how I felt when I met Doug Swieteck and watched him fall in love with Audubon’s Birds of America, learn to draw, make new friends, battle his father, and adapt to his brother’s return from Vietnam. So much happens in this book, that calling it a book about art is really not doing it justice. It’s a book about growing up and learning that life isn’t always easy or fair. And it’s a book about learning to smile and connect with people in spite of that. In other words, it’s one of the best sort of books.

Best Sense of Humor: Past Perfect by Leila Sales (See our review here)
Has anyone ever told you that history can be funny? Like laugh out loud on the metro funny? Because it can, as Leila Sales proves in Past Perfect. This contemporary tale is set against the backdrop of two historical reenactment parks and a war that has been waging every year between high school summer employees of the two staffs. Chelsea has her own problems with the past--namely a coworker and ex-boyfriend--but she also has a hilarious best friend and a wit all of her own, that take this quirky premise and make it a must read.

Most Attractive: Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick (see full review here)
I’m not advocating that we all start judging books by their covers, but it’s hard to resist a bit of drooling over Brian Selznick’s Wonderstruck. What’s really fabulous, though, is how much substance there is underneath this book’s good looks and gorgeous illustrations. Bringing together museums and deaf history and a cross-generational mystery, Selznick has once again outdone himself with a stunning story filled with words and pictures unlike anything else on the shelves.

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