Sunday, January 1, 2012

50 YA Novels in 2011

Here are the 50 Books I read in 2011 (and the morning of January 1, 2012. Yes, I'm a cheater.) I'm going to get live links to the sites of the authors I'd recommend, but I'm out of time to do it today.

1. Private-Kate Brian: I was at least excited to find a MC I hate more than Bella Cullen. Still don't get what the fuss is about here...much less how this skank has over a dozen published books and I don't.

2. Perfect Chemistry-Simone Elkeles: Wasn't crazy about it in terms of authenticity and thought the ending was a little too idyllic, but this is my genre so I'm hyper-critical.

3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows-JK Rowling: Just wanted to check and make sure I was still disappointed in the ending. (I am.)

4. Across the Universe-Beth Revis: I really liked this, and didn't agree with the critique on Absolute Write that the twist at the end came out of left field. I usually hate sci-fi, so the fact that I actually finished this one speaks to it's merit, at least IMHO.

5. The Forest of Hands and Teeth-Carrie Ryan: I finished the book on Sunday and I'm STILL having nightmares. Zombie books are scary in an entirely different way than vampire books. And this one is SO sad. But if you like Zombies and dystopias? Total win.

6. The Hunger Games-Suzanne Collins: Best praise I can give it is I started reading the second book as soon as I could get my paws on it. It really is as good as everyone says it is, and generally speaking I'm not one to give that sort of compliment.

7. Catching Fire-Suzanne Collins: couldn't put it down and picked up the third one right away.

8. Mockingjay-Suzanne Collins: I'm not crazy about the ending but I don't hate it the way a lot of people seem to. She's a best selling author and a brilliant writer, but were I on the level of someone worthy of critiquing her I'd say she doesn't really do a great job with dénouement. For all three of her books the post climax wrap up seems a little rushed for me. But I was sad when I turned the final page and there was no more Katniss left to read. Probably my favorite female character since Scout Finch.

9. 13 Reasons Why-Jay Asher: If you have teens, love teens, work with teens, admire teens, are inspired by teens, write for teens, or are a teen: do not pass go. do not collect $200. Go read this book NOW. A-Maze-Ing. This one may warrant its own blog.

10. Before I Fall-Lauren OliverI absolutely LOVE the voice in this book. The MC? Not so much. But the story sucked me in from page one, just for the voice. I love books that SHOW me how to be a better writer. :) And the primary message is a good one for teens. Some of the lesser ones-particularly those involving ATOD and bullying make my inner counselor want to strangle the author. But looking beyond that (as much as I can) this one's going in the win column.

11. Shiver-Maggie StiefvaterI should probably start by saying I have 2 good reasons to dislike this book. (1) I don't generally like fantasy (with a few solid exceptions like Harry Potter) and (2) I REALLY really despise Twilight. This book is about shape-shifting werewolves that are a little reminiscent of that bodybuilding fifteen year old who turned all my girlfriends into Pumas. And while I am a fan of dual, first-person narration, I wasn't crazy about the voice of either of these narrators. They didn't stand out and at times I couldn't tell whose head I was in (which is a problem since one of them is male and one of them is female.) On the plus side, some of the minor characters were standouts, the sex scene was handled extremely tastefully (and YA appropriate, IMHO) and it was a page turner. I read the whole thing in about four hours and I'm not a fast reader, generally speaking. All that to say, it was an enjoyable story, and after the last few books I REALLY wanted to read something with a happy ending. Shiver didn't disappoint.

12. Before I Die-Jenny Downham: The author's name should be Jenny Downer. Okay, so I get that there are some topics that are, by their nature, depressing. And there's no argument that childhood leukemia is one of them. But shit, if you're going to write a novel about the things we want to enjoy about our life before we die and why life is beautiful, at least make some parts of the story joyful. This story just made me cry, and if that was the author's goal, mission accomplished. But it wasn't my goal as a reader. Depressing, all around. This one was recommended because of the way sexual taboos are handled, and they are handled well, but other than that, this one would be near the bottom if I were to rank the YA books I've read so far. But it still beats Twilight :)

13. Nightlight; A Parody-Harvard Lampoon: Anything that makes fun of Twilight is humorous in my books. This is brainy and humorous, so it's a double win. I have to admit, though, I mostly skimmed it. 75 pages on PDF is a lot of parody.

14. Gamer Girl-Mari Mancusi: I LOVE this story. It's completely predictable and totally cheesy, the characters border on stereotypical, and the ending completely idyllic. But it's frickin' fun to read. It's the kind of book I would have clung to and read over and over again when I was a teen,, and I think the kind of girls who are avid readers must really identify with the MC. If you're looking for a lighthearted, fun, girly book, pick this one up for sure.

15. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow-Washington Irving: Hello, my name is DC, and although I adamantly call myself a writer, I would rather watch a Disney cartoon than read this work of classic literature again. I'm going to go hang my head in shame now.

16. Hate List-Jennifer Brown: Not an easy read emotionally, but a well done, tasteful, and unique perspective on a Columbine-esque tale. There wasn't much to dislike about this book. I'm pretty character-driven when I write, so I guess if I were the author I may have gone into some of the victims characters in a little more detail. But I liked the MC and the anti-hero very much.  This is another on my list of books that anyone who works with teens should read and one that will definitely go on my office bookshelf for my students to borrow.

17. Liar-Justine Larbalestier: At the risk of sounding like a snarky critic, the most interesting thing about this book is the cover art. None of the characters are redeeming, although if you're looking for an example of an unreliable narrator in YA, this gives you one. The book takes A LONG TIME to get going, and there isn't much payoff in the end. It took me forever to get through it, mostly just so I could say I gave it a shot, since a lot of my writer peeps were going on about it. Now where's that cookie I promised myself for finishing it?

18. Matched-Ally Condie: A-MAZE-ING. The story grabbed me right from the start, the characters were vivid and complicated, and the writing was fantastic. I'll be keeping this one on my bookshelf to read over and over again. I can't wait to get my paws on the sequel!

19. Sisters in Sanity-Gayle Forman: Ever read one of those books that's disturbingly similar to something you've written and begin to question your own originality? On the surface, Forman's book did that for me, except the themes and characters were pretty different. A couple of surface bubbles were eery but once I boiled it down I felt a lot better about it. That aside, it was an enjoyable read, not the most original characters and some stereotypical/superficial villains, but a fun read that I got through in just a few hours. Had to put my counselor side on the shelf to really enjoy it, but most YAers won't have that problem. :)

20. Anna and the French Kiss-Stephanie Perkins: The most girlie book I've enjoyed in a long while. It's straight up contemporary romance, but the writing moves quickly and the characters are just interesting enough to grab my attention. It's not one I'll read over and over again, but it was definitely worth reading at least once.

21. Something Borrowed-Emily Giffin: Okay, so after reading it, I'm pretty sure this does NOT qualify as a YA novel. Blame Borders' bankruptcy because I totes found it in the YA section. Putting aside that it is the pinkest of pink Chick Lit I've read in a loooooong time, it was a quick, fun read that held my interest. It also reminded me that formulaic characterization that works in movies totally works in books, too. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about that.

22. Goodnight Tweetheart-Teresa Medeiros: How can you go wrong with a book about Twitter? It was a fun, quick read but not as character-driven as I like my books. Don't think I'd read it a second time, but it wasn't bad, just not my thing, which I guess *is* sort of bad given that Twitter? TOTALLY is my thing. Hmm...

23. Commencement-J. Courtney Sullivan: Meh. There was a lot wrong with this one. One? The pace. It took FOREVER to get moving. Two? The ending was waaaaaay too happy. Three? (And this is my big pet peeve) if you're going to create 4 MCs who are supposed to represent different types of women, you might want to throw a conservative into the mix. We do exist, and we ARE worthy. Just friggin' saying.

24. Bumped-Megan McCafferty: I've never been so boggled by a book in my life. On one hand I think it's COMPLETELY inappropriate for teenagers. On the other hand, it might scare the shit out of those who are smart enough to realize their own mortality. Unfortunately that group is pretty darn small. The characters and voice were beyond annoying, bordering on satire in a way that, again, makes me question why this book was filed in YA. Despite how annoyed and appalled I was, I finished the book anyway. So there ya go.

25. Not That Kind of Girl-Siobhan Vivian: Fun read, realistic, multidimensional characters. The protagonist was a little annoying at times, but I think the author intended her to be. It was also, for the most part, a nice, clean read...if you don't like the F-word as much as I do. ;) I'd definitely pick up another book by this author if I saw it.

26. Rules of Attraction-Simone Elkeles: I liked it better than its predecessor, (Perfect Chemistry--see above) and really enjoyed it overall...until the Epilogue. Talk about switching POV and voice-ick! It was a completely unnecessary Happily-Ever-After moment that didn't, IMO, add much to the story. That said, it was a good story and more than that it taught me that some things I'd held back on in one of my books are actually okay for YA. Yay for that!

27. Pants on Fire-Meg Cabot: This one grew on me at the very end. The voice was completely annoying and the protagonist, not terribly likeable at first. A smart move, because it gave a lot of opportunity for character development. It had some nice twists and turns, although somewhat predictable at times. A fun read and a book I'll probably hang on to.

28. When the Stars Go Blue-Caridad Ferrer: As a reader, although it took me a while to get into it, once I was hooked, I couldn't put it down. As a writer engaging in the sadomasochistic process of attempting to get published, I'm boggled. This book breaks A LOT of rules in terms of the actual writing. As much as it ticks me off, it also gives me hope. Amusing, really, because this is a book I wouldn't have picked up if Borders wasn't going out of business.

29. Angus, Thongs, & Full-Frontal Snogging-Louise Rennison: First, I was shocked to learn today that this book was also a movie. And it's older than I thought it was. I picked it up during my vulture days at the Borders nearest my house because it had a funny picture of a cat in a tutu and a tiara on the cover. Just more proof that sometimes a weird title and great cover art are all you need to sell a book. It was the funniest YA I've read in a while, but it seemed to me a little mocking of the teenage spirit. I'd be curious to know what young readers who have read this book think about it.

30. The Sweetest Thing-Christina MandelskiHad the privilege of meeting the author at SCBWI-Carolinas this weekend and picked up her book at the bookstore. I started reading on Sunday and reluctantly put it down to work, eat, and acknowledge my family. It's incredible PINK, as my crit partner would say (translation=total chick lit), and which totally isn't my typical read (I usually consider the book a total loss if some character isn't murdering, being murdered or ODing) but I really really enjoyed it. It's funny, cute, with just the right twists and turns. I LOL'ed and even got a little teary at times. Definitely going on my keep shelf! But it should come with a warning--creates serious cravings for buttercream frosting!

31. Rhymes with Cupid-Anna HumphreyAnother cute, pink read. This one was a simple romance, so it didn't tug at my emotions the way Mandelski's book did. But it was a fun, fast read. If you want a lighthearted romance, pick this one up. On a side note, it seems I'm on some kind of baking theme and now I want to bake. This is not good for my weight-loss goals.

32. Boys, Girls, and Other Hazardous Materials-Rosalind Wiseman: This author must be some kind of teen counselor, just from the way she writes and thinks about teens. It wasn't as funny as the review quotations on the back cover lead you to believe, but I guess that's the purpose of those sort of things, isn't it? I think it makes some decent points, and I read it in less than a day, so it couldn't be too bad, eh?

33. Doing it-Melvin Burgess: I don't say this often, primarily because I know I would want people to give my book a chance despite the touchy content, but in all seriousness as a counselor who works with young people DO NOT LET YOUR TEENAGER READ THIS BOOK. This was the anthem screaming in my head from the dedication page where the author dedicated the book to his genitalia. (It was wittier, more appropriate, and original when Mark Wahlberg did it in 1992--in a book, I might add, you had to be over the age of 18 to purchase.) The content and message of this book is totally inappropriate for teenagers. I'm actually not sure what the purpose of it was other than to be scandalous. I'm not even sure that most teens would get the "jokes" at all. Maybe a funny read for grown ups, but I'm looking forward to getting it out of my house as soon as possible. Ugh.

34. Wicked Lovely-Melissa Marr: Hello, my name is Dannie, and I actually read a book about faeries (not fairies) from cover to cover, and I liked it. I completely blame the author for this because I wanted to hate this book. What's even worse? I'm more determined than ever to write a fantasy novel now-something I had convinced myself I wasn't cut out for. Not my favorite book this year, but much, much better than I expected going in, and there's something to be said for that.

35. Eragon-Christopher Paolini: Taken in a vacuum, this is a damn impressive feat--an epic high fantasy written and self-published by a teenager? Damn impressive. As a a work of YA fiction, it's decent. Now, I'm not a big fan of high fantasy or made up languages so this really isn't my type of read. But still, where the hell was my motivation and this sort of technology when I was this guy's age? And why the hell did I have to be so interested in boys?

36. Eldest-Christopher Paolini: I feel like putting this one on the list is sorta cheating, because I didn't quiiiiiiite finish it. It's soooooooo....epic high fantasy. Meh. That aside, I learned a lot of important stuff  about how I want to write fantasy, and just in time for NaNoWriMo. :)

37. Evermore-Alyson NoelI got surprisingly into this book. It's another of those I picked up at Borders because it was dirt cheap, but maybe not a book I would I have read otherwise. I'm now working my way through the whole series.

38. Blue Moon-Alyson Noel: Likes-good plot, somewhat interesting characters, natural dialogue, entertaining premise. Dislikes-some stuff is getting suspiciously Twilight-esque, and beyond that it's beginning to feel like she wanted to write a book about vampires that don't drink blood. That said, I'm planning to keep reading.

39. Shadowland-Alyson Noel: I said it on the last book, but seriously, this is the second book in the Twilight series without blood sucking and teenage werewolves, and with a little bit of Twilight Book 3 mixed in. (I can never remember which was 2 and which was 3, not that I try terribly hard.) Quick read, intriguing plot, and well written enough that if I'd read it before Twilight 2 and 3 it'd probably be in my top 20 so far this year. As it stands, Twilight came first, so it's a tough call, though in terms of protagonists, Ever kicks Bella's ass any day of the week and twice on Monday.

40. Dark Flame-Alyson Noel: I knew there was a reason I hated Haven. That is all. No really, she redeemed herself in this, far departed from Twilight chapter in the Immortal series. I didn't want to read this one because between the love triangle and the weak pathetic MC at the beginning, it did still feel a little too similar. But she departed from that, kept my attention, and made her characters all the more interesting. On to Book 5!

41. Night Star-Alyson Noel: With one book left in the series, this is my favorite so far. Good pace, good characters, interesting twists, and as happy an ending as one could hope for...with one book left in the series. Now granted, the last book in a series is usually what kills it for me, but I've gotten through 5 books in a little over a week, so that tells you this is a good one. Though for advanced YA readers, I would say. Which means don't let your ten year old pick it up (or any of its predecessors, unless you want her to sleep in your bed for a week.

42. Everlasting-Alyson Noel: Unlike most of the YA series I've read lately, I actually like the way this one ends! It was well written with just enough twists and it didn't feel rushed or painfully slow. Beyond that, her story arc throughout the series was spot on. Glad I read this series.

43. Saving Zoe-Alyson Noel: Since I was on a roll, I stuck with the same author. This was a good read, dealing with some hot teen topics in a productive way. If I were to try to be critical, I think she could do better with word choice sometimes, but her stories are always well paced (I would bet money she's a plotter, not a pantser) and they're fun, quick reads that I think on the whole send good messages to teens.

44. Vixen-Jillian Larkin: This book had a lot more potential than it executed. I'm probably hypercritical because I love me some roaring twenties and gangsters. Well, not actual gangsters...nevermind. A lot of the timely dialect and slang felt forced and if she said something was the cat's pajamas one more time I might have screamed. The plot was REALLY slow to start, and only got interesting in the last fifty pages or so. I don't think she did a great job building up to the last plot twist and it's a personal pet peeve of mine to add a new narrator at the last minute. I also think she could have done with fewer narrators in general. Short story long, good idea, poor execution. But my biggest issue with this book? I felt like a writer when I read it. I was unable to get swept up enough in the story to forget. And that? makes me sad in my pants.

45. Linger-Maggie Stiefvater: I still think if you're going to have different first person narrators, they need to *sound* different. This was my main issue with Book 1 in this series and it stayed true in Book 2. Only this time, she added more narrators which I'm not sure made it better. I liked the introduction of the character Cole, but I think the author fell into the trap of having a "minor" character more interesting than the MC. That said, I read the whole thing in less than 24 hours so it can't be that bad.

46. Forever-Maggie Stiefvater: Boo to ambiguous endings!! Give me a happy ending at the end of a three book series I committed to reading all the way through. Don't leave me with a cliffhanger. Either give me my happy ending or don't, but don't leave me hanging. Sheesh. Plot wise though? Pretty interesting. And I also liked the author's note at the end because it was more than the typical thanking the academy nonsense.

47. Delirium-Lauren Oliver2nd book I've read from her this year and total win. Interesting concept, fast pace, good dialogue, interesting characters. And even though it wasn't idyllic, I really did love the ending. This author is good like that. I'll pretty much read anything she writes from here on out.

48. The Princess Diaries-Meg Cabot: I had a great deal of respect for Meg Cabot, even before reading this, but it really is as good as everyone says. It's cute and funny and quirky, although the ADD-stream-of-consciousness thing can be a little exhausting at times. But it's a good read for teens (young teens, probably, it feels more MG than YA to me.) I'm probably going to end up reading the whole series, which is all an author needs to know to be able to say they're doing it right.

49. The Princess Diaries II-Princess in the Spotlight--Meg Cabot: Not as good as the first one, and the ADD narrator is really exhausting after reading two of these in a row but I didn't get tired enough of it to quit reading. So there ya go.

50. Crossed-Ally CondieI've been waiting for this book to come out since I read the first one and it didn't disappoint. The characters are compelling, the plot moves quickly, and the voice screams "teen" in a way a lot of authors miss the mark, at least I.M.O. I'm ready to see where she takes this next.

And that's it!! In fairness, I didn't really finish Crossed until this morning, but I've had a raging sinus infection since the day after Christmas which rendered me physically incapable of recognizing words. Oh, and the morning sickness persists. Because when in doubt, you should always blame your unborn child for holding you back from your accomplishments. :)

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