Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Best of 2011: Lisa’s Thoughtful and Terrific Top Ten

My themes of the year seem to be “Death, disability and despair, with a little humor for good luck.”

1.    The Piper’s Son, Melina Marchetta (see full reviews here and here):
Although it takes work to get into this book about a family in freefall, it’s work well-worth doing. Marchetta weaves a sublime story of humor and hope that intricately interlaces death, love, betrayal, deep friendship and family loyalty.

2.    The Running Dream, Wendelin Van Draanen:
A must-read for all runners! Jessica’s running career is interrupted when she loses part of her leg. Her grief, rage, and grit along with the support of family and friends, enable her to recreate her life.

3.    Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Septys :
This raw story of a Lithuanian family’s endurance of displacement by the Soviets will open your eyes to events in history not often portrayed in YA fiction. An important book.

4.    A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness:
Conor grapples with a monster as he rages and grieves over his mother’s impending death. An honest look at loss and guilt.

5.    12 Things to Do before You Crash and Burn, (see our full review here) James Proimos: 
After his father dies Hercules is given 12 tasks to do during his visit in Baltimore. Finally, a book featuring death that’s laugh-out-loud funny!

6.    Dead End in Norvelt, Jack Gantos:
In 1962 Jack’s summer is life-changing when he helps his elderly neighbor write obituaries for the rash of dying old ladies in town. Full of humor and history and a bit of a mystery.

7.    Okay for Now , Gary D. Schmidt (see our full review here):
Doug’s abusive dad moves the family to upstate NY. Copies of the bird portraits by John James Audubon in the local library change Doug’s life. An unusual blend of art, abuse and humor make this a special book.

8.    Sparrow Road, Sheila O’Connor:
When Raine’s mother suddenly moves them away from their familiar Milwaukee home to a former orphanage turned art colony, Raine encounters mysteries, eccentric artists, and secrets revealed. Interesting characters and a haunting setting make this a lovely story.

9.    The Apothecary, Maile Meloy (see our full review here):
Mix historical fiction set in the Cold War with romance, adventure and magic to dispense this unique and engaging fantasy.

10.    Chime, Franny Billingsley:
It was slow to engage me, but beautiful lyrical language kept me reading this tale of 17-year-old Briony who is convinced she’s a witch and the cause of both her stepmother’s death and her sister’s disability.  The swampy setting is so vividly brought to life you’ll want to wear your Wellingtons while reading this romantic fantasy.

**Bonus Books of the Year**
11.    Beauty Queens, Libba Bray (see our full review here)
12.    Jersey Tomatoes are the Best, Maria Padin
13.    Ten Miles Past Normal, Frances O’Roark Dowell

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