Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Best of 2011: The Real 10 Best (from Pat)

Just saying...

Flip by Martyn Bedford
Fourteen-year-old Alex wakes up one morning and comes to the extremely strange realization that he's not in his own bed, or even in his own house.  And the person calling him down to breakfast? Well that is not his mother.  Whose mother is it then?  And who is this Flip person that she keeps calling to?  Alex  remembers crashing his bike and hitting his head on the way home from David's the night before.  That must explain everything.  Or does it?  If you've ever asked questions about the mysteries of life and identity, like "what makes you who you are?" or "what is the soul? or "who am I, really?" then read this amazing book.  You'll be hooked on the first page, guaranteed.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray (see our full review here)
I read this early in 2011 and it's still my favorite YA book of the year.  Here's from my previous review and I stand by it: "What can I say?  A bevy of beauty queens falls from the sky.  Onto a deserted (or is it?) tropical island.  There is mystery, terror, irony, self-realization, pirates—very hot pirates, romance (see pirates), a pinch or so of politics, and mostly hilarity.  Read it and weep. From laughter, mostly." 

If you enjoy audio books, listen to this one, just to hear Libba Bray do Miss Texas.  She totally nails it, being from Texas and all, y'all.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson (see full review here)
On the very day that Rory Deveaux arrives at the London boarding school where she will spend the year, the first in a series of grisly murders occurs--murders that mimic exactly those of  Jack the Ripper. As the gruesome events unfold, the police have no leads. That is until Rory sees a strange man near the scene of one of the murders.  Even stranger, Rory's roommate who is right there with her doesn't see the man. What's that about? Is the strange man the murderer? Is he after Rory?
I'm not sure how she does it, but Maureen Johnson weaves together a murder mystery with romance, humor, and the supernatural and somehow it works--brilliantly.  Once you start, you will be turning the pages compulsively.

This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein by Kenneth Oppel
This book was born when Kenneth Oppel reread Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and began wondering what a teenaged Victor Frankenstein would have been like.  In this gripping, Gothic imagining, Victor Frankenstein and his twin brother Conrad are inseparable.  They, along with the beautiful Elizabeth, grow up in an enlightened, well-off  household, their lives filled with adventure. One day they discover a strange library filled with books about dark arts, to which their father forbids them to return.  But when Conrad falls ill, Victor believes the only way to save him is to obtain the three ingredients for  the Elixir of Life, something he saw in one of the dark books.  I will leave it to you to see where this dark trail leads.  It may indeed keep you up at night, turning one page after another.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs 
The strange photograph on the cover is only one of many scattered throughout this wonderfully odd, evocative book.  Jacob's grandfather used to tell him stories about the orphan children in the photos and how he grew up on a faraway island safe from the monsters chasing him.  As he got older, Jacob, of course,  began doubting those stories.  But when his grandfather's dying words send Jacob on a quest to an island off the coast of Wales, all bets are off.  What he encounters will creep you out, scare you, and totally engage you.  But don't take my word for it--read it yourself!



Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt
Doug Swietick is starting eighth grade in a new school in a new town (stupid Maryville, to be precise).  He wants it to be different, but when you've got an abusive, alcoholic father, one abusive older brother who is a major jerk, another brother fighting in Vietnam, and a mother who is overwhelmed by it all, well, things are pretty stacked against you going in. He's accused of just about everything that goes wrong in stupid Maryville.  Here's the thing, though--you will be rooting for this kid.  You get the sense that he just needs a small break, maybe a couple of allies, to find out what he's made of. And luckily, he finds them, and much more.  This book blew me away.  If you like exquisite writing, captivating characters, and a fabulous story, Gary Schmidt is an author you'll want to check out.

 To Timbuktu  by Casey Scieszka (words) and  Steven Weinberg (art) (see full review here)
The subtitle of this book is "Nine Countries, Two People, One True Story" and it is indeed the true story Casey and Steven and their travels from China through southeast Asia and on to Africa.  They met studying abroad in Morocco during their junior year in college, maintained a long-distance relationship, and then set off together on their post-graduate pursuits--travel, art, and being together.  The result is this wonderfully unique travelogue.  If you're a teen who has an itch to see the world, this will scratch it til you can get out there yourself!



 The Misfit by Jon Skovron (see reviews here and here and author interview)
So this (half) demon girl walks into a Catholic school and...what else do you need to know?  OK, maybe just a little more--Jael is a 16-year-old girl in Seattle just trying to blend into her super strict school while learning the extent of her newly discovered powers.  She's got a big time scary demon seeking revenge against her family.  But she's also got a super cute skater boyfriend. The Misfit mixes mythology and religion, the underworld and the ordinary world--all the hallmarks of an epic tale.  All that and a kick-butt awesome heroine who, in the end, only really wants what we all want--to find her place in the world where she can just be herself.


The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (see our full review here)
A girl has never, ever competed in the Scorpio Races. Kate Connelly, known as Puck,  not only plans to race, but to ride Dove, her beloved island horse against the wild, dangerous water horses.The same kinds of horses responsible for her parents' deaths.   And riders will die in the race. But Puck has no choice as she needs the prize money to save her small home.  She must win.  But she'll have to beat four-time winner Sean Kendrick, who is this amazing water horse whisperer guy.  This book just pulled me in and held me--I didn't want to do anything but read it once I started.  Action, danger, romance, intrigue, but mostly characters who I fell in love with and needed to accompany to the riveting, exciting, amazing end. 


Blink & Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones
Blink gets by on the streets of Toronto by stealing food from trays left outside fancy hotel rooms.  Caution is on the run from her abusive, drug-dealing boyfriend with a big wad of cash she stole from him to get away. Their paths cross after Blink witnesses what seems to be a staged kidnapping of a wealthy businessman. Trying to solve a mystery that puts them in real danger also presents an opportunity for redemption for two kids that both have a lot of rough past between them.  This hard-hitting, gritty novel stayed with me for a long time because I cared so much about both Blink & Caution.  I think you will, too.

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