Monday, December 23, 2013

Top 10 for 2013: Pat's Picks (Plus 3 Honorable Mentions)

Pat has some of the coolest taste around, which is why we are always happy when they stop by with some recommendations. Take a look and get your wish lists ready: 

Crash and Burn by Michael Hassan
Crash is Steven "Crash" Crashinsky.  Burn is David Burnett, the classmate whom Crash stopped from taking the whole school--a thousand students-- hostage and blowing it up with assault rifles and explosives.The author pulls no punches in describing the life of these older teenagers and I'd therefore only recommend it to mature teen readers.  It is a powerful, provocative story that will carry you along to the final page. And then some.

Reality Boy by A.S. King
Another thought-provoking and engaging novel by  A.S. King.  As a 5-year-old, Gerald was saddled with unasked-for fame and an extremely unfortunate nickname  when his already dysfunctional family was part of a reality TV show.  How would you deal with forever being known as "Crapper?" Suffice to say that Gerald has some anger issues. King is again masterful in taking you inside a complicated character's head and revealing the vulnerabilities and ultimately the growth that can lead to transformation.
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley (see our full review)
Lucy Knisley comes by her love of food pretty organically (pun definitely intended). Her mom was a professional chef and her dad was a gourmet so she grew up trying and eating all sorts of interesting foods and her memories are all tied together with food.  The drawings are a perfect accompaniment to the text and the mouth-watering recipes at the ends of each chapter.  I picked this one for my Top 5 in June and it made the final cut.

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal (see our full review)
This is not the sort of book that usually appeals to me.  The ghost of Jacob Grimm whispering in some kid's head?  Uh uh.  But wow!  I started the first page and got immediately sucked into this dark and gripping story.  So many twists and turns it boggled my brain.  All that and Ginger Boultinghouse--my new favorite female character and one I'll wager you won't soon forget either. In my top 3 for the year.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
Yet another book about an angry, lonely, hurt boy who intends to take down the prson who hurt him before he kills himself.  Sounds bleak, but listen to author Matthew Quick talk about his book and you will hear more about hope.  A powerful book by the author of The Silver Linings Playbook.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (see our posts)
There are so many things to love about this book. Two misfits--Eleanor, with her wild outfits, flaming red hair and complicated family and Park, half-Korean, obsessed with music and comic books and with his own family issues--slowly, bravely find their way into each others hearts. I listened to the audio book the second time around and that was also awesome.  Read this book and you'll be going around telling all of your friends they have to read it, too.  And it's not just me saying it--even John Green says to read this book. And he wouldn't steer you to anything but awesomeness.

Gorgeous by Paul Rudnick (see our full review)
After the death of her 400-pound mother, 18-year-old Becky is presented with an offer she can't refuse--one that takes her from a trailer park to the cover of Vogue.  And beyond.  A wickedly funny take on our cultural obsession with body image, beauty, brand names, status, and fame. Fans of  Libba Bray's Beauty Queens should grab this one.

 Winger by Andrew Smith
Despite a sucker punch of an ending that I'm still questioning (consider yourself warned and I won't say any more about that,) the trials and travails of 14-year-old smart guy and rugby player, Ryan Dean West rang so true, so honest, so compelling that I couldn't leave this one off my list.  I felt like I was a hitching a ride inside the mind of a mostly normal guy and what I learned was startling, hilarious, sobering, and enlightening. Sometimes all at once. This one stayed with me.

 OCD, the Dude, and Me: A Novel by Lauren Vaughn (see our full review)
 Meet high school senior Danielle Levine, an outcast even at her alternative school full of outcasts and outsiders.  Danielle's challenges with an obsessive compulsive disorder and her reservations in making friends are revealed through a series of essays, journal entries, letters, and emails.  When she is recommended to a social skills workshop by her hippie-like guidance counselor, Danielle is more than a little skeptical.  Can she really learn to abide like the Dude?

Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang
Have you ever heard about the Boxer Rebellion?  It happened  in China roughly between 1899 and 1901.  Colonialism, religion and religious conversion? Sound like a boring history lesson?  How about if you add some wicked masterful kung fu?   Believe me, you've never read a history book quite like these two companion graphic novels before. 
Better yet, listen to author Gene Yang talk about and read from these amazing books at the National Book Awards, for which Boxers & Saints was nominated.  

And finally, three bonus books.
The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gaven Extence This was my absolute favorite book of the year! It's an adult novel, but could just have easily been placed in the YA collection.  It is the story of an unlikely friendship between the precocious and quirky 17-year-old Alex Woods, who was struck by a meteor when he was ten, and Mr. Peterson, a grizzled Vietnam vet . What transpires will take you from laughter to tears and back again, and you will want this book to never end.

More Than This by Patrick Ness.  OK, this one is strange, and creepy, and makes you think.  Is there "more than this?"  Did I say it was creepy?

Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff.  Yet another quirky protagonist, 12-year-old Mila is a preternaturally perceptive girl with an ability to read emotions in a way few people can.  When her father's lifelong friend, Matthew, goes missing, Mila and her dad travel from England to upstate New York to try to solve the mystery.  

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