Thursday, December 29, 2011

Best Of 2011: Nico Turns It Up to 11

This was a strange year, at half time when I made my top 5 so far, it felt like I was on top of what was new and awesome. But by December I had been buried in so many great titles, I couldn't keep my head above water- it's a very happy problem to have, but left me with an intense top 10 guilt. I never got to Blink and Caution, I have yet to read The Running Dream or Winter Town or Everybody Sees the Ants, so none of those can possibly make it on my list- but I'm still going to read them! Take that guilt! Take that Book Lists!


Okay on with the list of what I loved that I read this year. And there are eleven titles, because that's how I roll... with a lot of love for books.

Past Perfect by Leila Sales (See our review here)
Leila Sales is hilarious. She and Louise Rennison are the queens of comedy writing for teen girls (not that this book wouldn't be hysterical if you were a boy, because it would be). How many YA books take on the hilarious subject of historical re-enactments? Not enough! And this book takes on historical re-enactments from two different time periods and puts them across the street from each other. You do not understand how funny this can be until you read about the great cell phone prank and also the amazingness of the Fourth of July when you are dressed up as a colonist.

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins (see our full review/fan girl episode here). It seems like everyone I talk to wants to send a big pile of Valentines to Ms. Perkins and I am no exception. Lola is a spunky heroine with great style and sense of self and I was so happy to immerse myself in her world. Ms. Perkins' heroines are girls that would make good friends. Lola's journey to figure out what she wants from her life is charming, funny and totally all-consumable. This is the type of book you're going to want to set aside a big chunk of time to read all in one goal. 


Bunheads by Sophie Flack (see our full review here)
Hannah's story is a down and dirty look behind the scenes at life in a ballet company. It's an insider's look because the author, Ms. Flack is a pretty famous former ballet dancer and that's what gives this book such a feeling of authenticity. But besides all the details, this book makes my list because it's got a great plot and characters that you care about. I also think it makes a fantastic gift book.



Every You, Every Me by David Levithan (see our full review)
Mr. Levithan is a pretty singular talent in YA. Every time he has something new out I am anxious to check it out. This thriller really grabbed me and would not let me go. I was so worried about the main character, Evan, who has been finding pictures of himself on his walk home. I stayed up WAY late on a work night to find out how everything played out. It's a book that is finely crafted, the photographs and the crossed out words all add to the sense of claustrophobia and time running out. It's a stand-alone with a satisfying ending and it was one of the most unique books I read this year.
Au Revoir Crazy European Chick  by Joe Schreiber (see our review)
This book is the Die Hard of YA lit. It is an action movie shoved into a YA novel and it is just awesome. It may not win a high literary prize, but it was seriously one of the most fun novels I put my hands on this year. A prom date turns international assassin caper paired with a bunch of college application essays. It is fast moving, funny, exciting and way cinematic. The movie rights have been picked up and there's a sequel coming- can't wait for both!

Misfit by Jon Skovron (see reviews here and here and author interview)
Jael is one kick-butt heroine. Misfit is the type of book I want to pass on to freshmen girls and remind them that they do not have to wait for their sparkly heroes to arrive and rescue them. Jael is trying to balance her normal life at a pretty strict Catholic school with the fact that she's JUST found out that she's half-demon and her very straight-laced dad used to be a world class demon fighting monk. But if anyone is up to the task, it's Jael- she's brave, funny and tough. If I'm pulling together a world-saving team, I want her on mine.

Red Glove by Holly Black (see our review here)
I had never read a Holly Black book before this year, fantasy tends to be my YA blind spot and I'm sorry to admit that if it wasn't for a conference that said I had to read White Cat, I might have totally missed one of my favorite reads of the year. In the world where Cassel Sharpe lives, a certain portion of the population has been born with the ability to deliver curses with the touch of their hand. This is, of course, illegal and the government would like to think that they have a handle on the "problem." But they don't. Mob families make the most of the situation and use curse workers as enforcers. Cassel Sharpe happens to be the youngest son of a family who has long made their money working as just this type of muscle. Anything more and I'll be spoiling it for you. But man, is this a gritty world where things are not what they seem. Cassel Sharpe is THE PERFECT narrator for this series (read my review for more on that) and I am beyond happy that Ms. Black allows us to have him as our guide through the entire series and does not switch to one of Cassel's brothers or the love interest.

Basically I want Cassel to narrate my life, I feel he would make a lot more sense out of it than I do.

Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson (see full review here)
I don't know why I thought I had trepidations about this book. I've loved everything my Maureen Johnson that I've read. Maybe I was worried that it was going to be too scary for me. It was scary, that's true- but the frightening parts are so well folded into the story that it's never a cheap, gotcha kind of scary. Rory's semester in England during a Jack-the-Ripper copy cat killer hysteria was the perfect mystery with atmosphere. I also loved that the chapters were almost like CSI or Castle episodes, you got to spend a few moments at the crime scenes before heading back to the main characters. Really interesting, really inventive and really shouldn't be missed.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (see reviews here & here)
This is the big book of the year and I wanted to not like it. I wanted to be cooler than all the cool kids. "I don't read books about angels", I tried to tell people. "What does Entertainment Weekly even know about YA?" I thought to myself. Clearly I was a fool. This book is huge for a reason and that reason is that it's amazing. Karou's world is so detailed and intricate that I just want to stop and read about every little piece of it again and again.
Where She Went by Gayle Forman (see our review and author interview) Sometimes you just feel "gotten" by a book. This is my book. If I Stay is a pretty unforgettable book and it contains the kind of gut wrenching sadness that normally comes from real life incidents, not written ones. With Where She Went , Ms. Forman created a companion novel that really gave us readers something we didn't know we wanted. It answers the "what happens next" question in a way that is SO satisfying that it completely stands up to book one.

Then there's the fact that this is an up all night book, with a narrator who is charismatic as all get out (and also broken and broody, if you're into that). And it's a rock and roll book- (can something be a headphones book? 'cause I want to declare this a headphones book). It's just pretty much fantastic.

Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (see our full review here)
This is the book that I'm giving to everyone who has yet to try YA. To everyone who might have been turned off from the whole thing by certain articles that painted the entire genre as being dark and disturbing.


"Wait Nico," you're going to say, "a book about ferocious horses who are born in the water and the riders who try and tame them? That's your pick for the questioning?" Yes. Unequivocally yes. Maggie Stiefvater has created a finely crafted novel that has real and deep characters that you care for and also one of the best senses of place in any novel I've read recently. Which is saying something because she's created this island of cliffs and yet it completely seems like a place you should be able to find on a map. It reads like a classic and there is so much care taken on each page, you can tell that this was a passion project for Stievfater. It's the type of book that you want to own a really nice edition and then also a paperback that you can PUSH on all your friends. Friends of Nico, consider yourself warned.




Other Books that deserve some love:
Saving June by Hannah Harrington (see full review here)
Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore (see bigger review here)
Trapped by Micheal Northrop (see full review here)
Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez (see full review here)
My Beating Teenage Heart
by C.K. Kelly Martin (see full review here)
 

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