Monday, December 31, 2012 Novels in 2012

In 2011, I barely scraped by the accomplishment of reading 50 YA Novels. It was an awesome journey, and as a writer I learned a lot about writing for teens. This year, I gave birth to my first child (yeah, that's right, I'm blaming the kid), so while I was originally planning to try for 100 novels, I kept my goal at 50, and hoping I could get to 40 before I gave birth. Then the princess decided to arrive 2 months early! So I only made it to 45. Here they are!

1. The Princess Diaries: Third Time Lucky--Meg Cabot--the voice is wearing on me a little, but I'm not sure it would on a teen. I'm glad the whole Kenny subplot is over, because it did not make Mia a terribly likable protagonist to me. I think a surefire sign that this is Middle Grade and not YA (SPOILER ALERT) is that it takes three whole books to get to her first kiss with the love interest. 

2. The Princess Diaries: Mia Goes Fourth--Meg Cabot--Plot wise this is my favorite in the series because we actually get to see true growth in the protagonist. Honestly, it's about time. The voice has been wearing me out, and it's nice to see her grow a pair. Even if they're princess-y. That said, I'm not sure I can continue with this series right now. I'm putting it away for a while but may come back to it later. 

3. Ink Exchange--Melissa Marr--I started this series last year in preparation for the YA Fantasy I was planning for NaNoWriMo but I never picked up the second book because it's not really my thing. I decided to give book 2 a shot, but I'm really not sure. I dislike when author's change MCs or POVs mid-series. The characters I invested in during Book 1 are "extras" in Book 2. Pretty disappointing. I'm reading a series but not at all invested in the MC during this book. Hard to keep reading. 

4. Fragile Eternity--Melissa Marr--the interesting thing about this book is that I feel like I could have written this story, but it would have "looked" very different. Maybe that's just a sign I'm getting too big for my proverbial britches. (Or at least that I'm gaining confidence in my own abilities?) I liked it better than the previous one because at least we're back with the characters the author made us care about in Book 1. 

5. Radiant Shadows--Melissa Marr--waaaaaaay too many POVs for me in this one. It's different if POVs switch in an organized way, one where you know who is talking. I'd be a filthy hypocrite if I said otherwise, being that my novel, Finding Eve, has six narrators. But there were times while reading this I had to go back and figure out who was "talking" which can be frustrating for an adult, much less a teen. I also felt like some "rules of the world" stuff could have been better explained, for those of us who are not avid fans of I did like the sort of new MC Devlin, though. Kinda wish we'd gotten to know him earlier in the series. 

6. Darkest Mercy--Melissa Marr--I guess there were so many POVs in Radiant Shadows was to prepare the reader for even more POVs in the finale of this series. Marr does a good job of tying everything together in terms of all the characters and plots that she started. Most everyone she introduced throughout the series plays some sort of role in the end, but I still prefer to feel like I want one side or the other, one character or the other, to win, and I'm not sure she fully accomplishes that. 

7. That Summer--Sarah Dessen--I should preface this with saying that I have a decent amount of bias against this author. I read one of her books previously, and it was what motivated me to write characters that were absolutely nothing like her protagonist. I'm not a big fan of teen chick-lit, and Dessen's work definitely falls into that category. All that said, there's not much about this book that surprised me. The characters fit more stereotypes than they shatter and the plot was pretty predictable. And, not for nothing, I don't think hitting someone in the forehead with a shoe is ever acceptable, especially not in a YA  MC. 

8. Dreamland--Sarah Dessen--Plot-wise there's a lot more to this than the previous books I've read by this author, so that's a plus. The down side is that the MC is"rescued" rather than saving herself in the end. It's hard to completely fault her for that, or at least it's well justified during the course of the novel, but I still don't like it. I also am beginning to really dislike the way Dessen handles substance abuse in her books, but that's a whole blog in itself. Short story long, for a Dessen book, this one was decent but I wouldn't put it on my "keep" shelf.

9. The Truth About Forever--Sarah Dessen--allow me a little rant, dear readers. I know it must be difficult to have an amazing agent and a fabulous publishing contract. I know that when authors develop a formula that works, there is no requirement to fix that which isn't broken. That said, can we please get a little originality up in here?? This is the second Dessen book I've read with a primary character with the last name "Queen." I'm pretty sure she's had three or four douchebag guy characters named Jason. And can we please move beyond the "my mom's a deadbeat or self-centered divorcee who only cares about herself" subplot? The secondary characters Monica and Kristy are the only unique and interesting part of this work, and while I firmly believe that EVERY character is important, it would be nice if the main characters were what made the story matter. 

10. Just Listen--Sarah Dessen--I think at some point the author most have wanted these books to be a series, and someone along the way told her that YA Contemporary Romances don't sell as series. And I'm not just saying that because I recently received the same feedback from an agent. So many characters, bands, locales, etc are reused by Dessen in her books, you'd think they were a series. But the storylines don't continue from one book to the next. Of course, if it did, she wouldn't be able to use the formula that's helped her sell so many books. I think I've read nearly enough of her stuff now to learn what I can and move on. 

11. Along for the Ride--Sarah Dessen--Meh. There's not a lot to say here I haven't said above. 

12. A Million Suns--Beth Revis--I was a very good and patient fan of Beth's work and did not illegally download this novel as soon as it hit the interwebz. I waited. I bought. I read. And now? I'm kicking myself for breaking my rule of never beginning a trilogy before the last book is published. I read this book in a day, unable to put it down, gasping at all the twists and turns, all the while remembering fondly the teen girl I was who swore up and down that there would never ever be a science fiction novel I could enjoy. So now I wait, until January 2013 to see how all of this gets wrapped up. But seriously, read this novel. It's a quick, entertaining read that makes you forget completely that you're not nerdy enough to like science fiction. 

13. Divergent--Veronica Roth--Every once and a while I'll stumble upon a book that makes me want to read slowly. A novel so well written--not only in terms of the writing itself, but originality of plot, interesting environment, and unique characters--that it makes me want to slow down and savor each word, like a piece of Rock Bottom Brewery's Chocolate Ecstasy. This is one of those novels. I will pick up anything this debut author sends to the shelves. 

14. Ender's Game-Orson Scott Card--After nearly two years of requests (read: harping, nagging) I caved to hub's request I read this book. It was ok...I think some themes could have been better developed/followed through. I predicted the ending about half-way through which is no fun. I think it probably opened the door for some of the current trends in YA, even though I'm not sure the Young Adult section of the bookstore even existed back then. I'd say it's worth giving it a shot. 

15. 10 Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn't Have)--Sarah Mylnowski--The whole time I was reading this I kept asking myself, "why is it that every time teens are left to their own devices in fiction the purpose of their autonomy is binge drinking?" This is definitely going on my list to critique on my Sex, Drugs, & YA Fiction blog. That rant aside, it was a humorous, quick read.

16. Perfect Chemistry--Simone Elkeles--This was a re-read in preparation for a review post on my other blog. I think I've read it four times now and I still love it. It's real without being gratuitous and it gave me the green light to include some things in my WOP that I thought were going to be too graphic for YA. Yay for taking calculated writing risks! 

17. Chain Reaction--Simone Elkeles--This novel perpetuates my belief that I am impossible to please with the last novel in any series. Where I felt Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction were very gritty and real, this one felt forced. A lot of the gang and drug content seemed unrealistic to me. I think authors face a pressure to finish the remaining books in a series once the first book is published and there's demand for more, and so they rush to publication without savoring the process the way you can before you publish book one. I don't have any proof of this, but this to me felt more rushed than the previous two. 

18. Leaving Paradise--Simone Elkeles--A little more predictable and less convincingly real than the Perfect Chemistry trilogy, but I think this series came first so that makes sense. Still a pretty good read, but not sure it's one I'd want to read over and over again.

19. Return to Paradise--Simone Elkeles--Better than book 1 in this series, but still doesn't compare with her more recent stuff. Still better than some other stuff that's out there. 

20. The Hunger Games--Suzanne Collins--A re-read in preparation for the movie premiere next week. OMG I can't wait!! [ /fangirl ] Seriously this book is so well written. It's the kind of book that pushes me to be a more thought-provoking writer. I like my gritty romance niche just fine, but it would be awesome to write something that makes people think, too. 

21. Forever...--Judy Blume--Holy graphically detailed sex scenes, batman! I no longer feel any guilt whatsoever about the somewhat steamy makeout scenes I write, and I have a new book to blog about!

22. Boy21--Matthew Quick--Not what I was expecting, but not in a bad way. I expected it to be more of a 'boy book', which is why I picked it up for research purposes. I think a girl could enjoy it just as easily. I know I did. Quick read and well worth the time. 

23. Oh My Gods--Tera Lynn Childs--This book is just as campy and predictable as you'd imagine it to be from the back cover blurb, but still amusing enough to keep my attention and make me contemplate actually picking up the sequel. Contemplate being the key word. 

24. Like Mandarin--Kirsten Hubbard--Probably the most well-written, literary YA novel I've read in a while. Unfortunately, that also made it feel like one of those books you read for school, rather than for pleasure. It took me a long time to get through it. I think the author may have intentionally moved slowly through the plot, not only because the book was so character-driven, but also because that's kind of one of the characterizations she gives the setting--slow and uneventful. Not sure I'll read it a second time, but after all I'd heard about it last year, I knew I wanted to read it once. Glad I took the time to get all the way through it. 

25. Pandemonium--Lauren Oliver--I said it last year, and it's still true: I will read anything this author writes. Her stories are compelling and thought provoking. I was a little disappointed I predicted the ending this time though. And I'm even more disappointed in myself for picking up book 2 in this series before the whole series is published. Adding this to the list of sequels of which I'm pacing the proverbial floor in anticipation!

26. The Beginning of After--Jennifer Castle--A nice look into the teenage handling of grief. It feels pretty authentic and rings true with the experiences of some teens I've counseled. A good book for any teen who's unexpectedly lost someone they love, or loves another teen who's had such an experience. Well written, fast paced, and sincere. Can't really ask for much more. I will say as critique, however, and I'm finding this a lot with first person YA, it feels like a lot of authors who write YA don't take the time to craft a unique MC. I think, though, that this time having the MC feel like "every girl" makes her someone any reader can relate to, which may be the intent. 

27. Beauty Queens--Libba Bray--I wanted to like this. I really did. Especially after all the awesome things I've heard about Going Bovine (Still on my list, I just haven't gotten to it yet.) But, meh. To steal from Randy, "it was just alright for me, dude." It was funny, but not LOL funny. KWIM?

28. Sloppy Firsts--Megan McCafferty--The theme this week appears to be Books that Are Talked Up So Much They Can't Help But Let Me Down. Funnier than Beauty Queens but only because I'm fluent in snarky. Some of the language seemed inappropriate for teens (things most teen girls wouldn't know enough to say) but it was humorous enough I picked up the second book in the series. It took me a while to get through it, though. Not a fan of diary-style YA books. #irony

29. Insurgent--Veronica Roth--I did a dance of joy when this book came out last month because I've been itching to read it since I finished Divergent. Like her debut, I couldn't put this book down and I read it in less than a day. But I'm not sure how I feel about it. There were parts I loved but other parts I thought I could have been better explained, though maybe it was the my attempt at speed-reading that caused that. Guess I'll just have to read it again. Darn. ;)

30. Second Helpings--Megan McCafferty--I'm still not sure why everyone on Goodreads joygasms over this series so much, but I *think* I liked this better than the first installment. Although, the narrative voice still seems unrealistic for a teenager. Even a smartypants teenager. Curiosity as to where she's taking this is the only thing keeping me reading. 

31. Charmed Thirds--Megan McCafferty--So I'm guessing the narrative style is so ADD because that's supposed to be in keeping with the MC in this series. It's also in keeping with making me stabby. I'm not really sure why I keep reading, but I do. So there ya go. 

32. Fourth Comings--Megan McCafferty--It took me FOREVER to finish the fourth installment in this series. Not only could I not keep up with ADD narrative, the MC just keeps getting less and less sympathetic. What kept me reading this time around was that I wanted to find out how this relationship I've been reading about for four books ends (or doesn't end. I won't ruin it for you.) there wasn't a whole lot of payoff. If I read book 5, it will only be because I need to get to 50 books to meet my goal for the year, and I've already got it on my Nook. 

33. Perfect Fifths--Megan McCafferty--I feel like I deserve a medal of honor for finishing this series. This installment's Socratic method made my brain hurt. It rambled and twisted and turned and the payoff? Wasn't terribly lucrative. That said, it was better than the third and fourth books, and I'm patting myself on the back for finishing the series because I said I would. 

34. Split--Swati Avasthi--The best YA Contemporary I've read in a while. It was a fast, gripping read and I liked the ending, too. Good stuff, tough stuff, and true to reality. I'd pick up other books by this author, too.

35. Suicide Notes--Michael Thomas Ford--This book was not what I expected it to be, but not necessarily in a bad way. It was a fast read and I enjoyed it, though it did feel a little preachy at times. A good 'issue' book but felt a little outdated to me, even for 2008.

36. The Fault in Our Stars--John Green--Over the past few years since I've endeavored to read as many YA books as I can get my hands on, I've read I think four Cancer kid books. This is the only one I would (and probably will) read again. Brilliant, brilliant writing. So glad I forced myself to read through to the end, even when I knew by the end of the first chapter that it would wreck me into a sobbing, crying, girly mess. 

37. Fracture--Megan Miranda--So I wanted to hate this book because she 'stole' my title for my WIP. But I can't. It's awesome. It's fun. It's a quick read with some pretty good twists. Go read it. 

38. Stay--Deb Caletti--Liked but didn't love. I wasn't one hundred percent happy with the ending. 

39. The List--Siobhan Vivian--I was actually pretty disappointed with this because I adored her debut. Too many POVs, and this is coming from a chick who's self-published work has six first-person narrators. 

40. Bittersweet--Sarah Ocklar--I liked it better the first time I read it when it was called The Sweetest Thing. Despite this, I enjoyed the read. It kept me turning pages and entertained and you can't ask for a lot more than that. 

41. Coincidence--Alan May--I couldn't get past chapter four, but I need to give it more of a chance when I'm not drowning in revisions and therefore am in a better mood. The voice was irritating the snot out of me. On the flip, really consistent, distinctive voice!

42. Paper Towns--John Green--Just confirmed I'll read pretty much anything this guy writes. Started with a great hook, kept the pace throughout and ended well, too. This one had me laughing instead of crying which earned it even more bonus points at the end of a hectic week. 

43. An Abundance of Katherines--John Green--I've made it my goal to read everything he's published before the end of 2012. This is not on my list of favorites so far. I'm surprised so many writers I know who are fans of his list this one as their fave. Oh well, more for us to discuss and debate on the Scribophile forums. Darn!

44. Reached--Ally Condie--I can't lie and I'm too disappointed to really even be diplomatic about it. I was super disappointed in this book. It was one I was looking forward to all year after reading Matched and Crossed last year. For me, Reached was super telly and because the three MCs were so isolated, there wasn't a lot of dialogue until the very end. And the ending? Blah. Snoozefest. Sad in my pants after this read. 

45. Looking for Alaska--John Green--AMAZING! This is the John Green I love. Couldn't put it down, didn't want to. Good, good stuff. I love that he's not only a Nerdfighter but that his characters are, too. Authentic nerdiness not just *I like to read a lot and don't have friends* type nerd stereotypes you see in a lot of YA (written by former popular kids.) Nerds unite!!!

Well, I'm ending the year 5 books short of my goal of 50. I have a good reason. She's sorta worth it. ;)

Happy New Year Everyone!! Wishing you happy writing and endless possibilities in 2013!

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