Here's my Top Ten YA Titles of 2011, copied almost exactly from another blog I contribute to. I haven't gotten into my New Year's Resolutions yet, but suffice it to say one of them will deal with reading more middle grade and early elementary titles next year. It'd be nice to do more lists like these, for the books meant for the customers I actually work with on a daily basis, with some authority.
2011 was a weird year. I didn't like almost ANYTHING that came out in the first half, but the second half was loaded with awesome picks. Even now, at the very very end of the year I feel bad about this list because my library account is full of books on hold that I just know will be life changing.
10. 10 Miles Past Normal, Frances O'Roark Dowell
Things I love: Farms (check plus), Awkward Ugly Ducklings Who Don't Realize They're Already Swans (check), Civil Rights Movement Knowledge Bomb (check), Music, specifically bass guitar (check), and Hootenannys (check plus). This book is just a bunch of checks and check pluses in my ledger.
9. Paradise, Jill S. Alexander
I'm a big fan of cowboys and I can't wait for YA authors to catch on and make them the new vampires. I certainly would not mind reading about more cowboys like Paradise. He's cocky and attractive and he plays the accordion with swagger. Throw in mom issues, sisterly bonding, unrequited love (just a little bit and from an unlikely and totally awesome source), crop duster planes and a drum kit and I was sold on Paradise.
8. All These Things I've Done, Gabrielle Zevin
This was a slow burn but a long linger. I didn't initially love it like I loved Zevin's first YA novel Elsewhere, but in a year filled with teenage heroine's in a dystopic future (I blame Suzanne Collins 100%) this is the book that kept creeping back into my mind. It's even set in a recognizable world, which I really appreciated. Sure, chocolate being illegal is a bit of a stretch, but the parallels drawn between this future world and the past world of prohibition, gangsters, dames and gritty New York noir places it firmly in the realm of enjoyable escapism.
7. Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have), Sarah Mlynowsi
Is this book pure fluff? YES. Is it a completely unrealistic teenage fantasy? TOTALLY. Is it worth every single second you spend reading it? OH MOST DEFINITELY. And hidden in between the living without parents, hot tub renting, awesome party throwing escapades are some great insights into relationships (between friends, between boys and girls, between parents and children) that I wish I had been privy to at 16. When I was living with my best friend completely unsupervised by adults. That's a lie, I was very supervised.
6. The Probability of Miracles, Wendy Wunder
I'm a crier. This has been known about me since my junior year of high school when I straight up bawled through an amateur production of Children of Eden and terrified the stuffing out of the poor kid I was babysitting. It's not something I'm proud of, or something I like to do too often, so I normally avoid books about things like incurable cancer at all costs. But man am I glad that I picked up this book. I cried, and it was an ugly cry, but I laughed a lot too and I got totally sucked into this story about a Disney hula dancer and her family who escape to a tiny town in Maine as they prepare to say goodbye and learn to let go.
5. Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor
This book is going to show up on a lot of other top ten lists and I'm not going to be able to add a lot new to the discussion. Yeah, it's fantastical in the best sense of the word. Yeah, that thing with wishes as beads on a bracelet are cool and yeah, I like the market scenes and all the crazy traders Karou outwits in her dealings. But here's all you really need to know: A street performance with an actual ballerina pretending to be controlled by a giant reverse marionette puppeteer. Never have I wanted to go to art school in Prague so badly.
4. Past Perfect, Leila Sales
Dan Malkin is the single swooniest boy I read about all year.* That alone would have earned Past Perfect a place on my top ten list- swoon is very important to me- but it got there in other ways too. Like with rival historical reenactment villages, the search for ice cream perfection, territory wars and did I mention HISTORICAL REENACTMENT VILLAGES?
3. Five Flavors of Dumb, Antony John
Fine, this one came out in 2010. But LATE 2010. And in the middle of exams. So I couldn't possibly have been expected to read it then. I read it in January. And again in September. And it was just as good the second time around. This book about the deaf manager of a high school rock band reached the finals of Nerds Heart YA and it makes me really want to dive back into the Nirvana (and Jimi Hendrix) catalog. Oh, and learn sign language. Anyone else with me?
There was a pretty big gap for me between my top 2 favorite books of the year and the other 8 I've already talked about. It's not that the first 8 aren't worthy (they made my top ten list and I am very, very picky) but the top two are books I have a feeling I'll be buying soon. And y'all, I work in a library. I do not, as a rule, buy books. Without further ado:
2.The Scorpio Races, Maggie Stiefvater
A complete and absolute 100% stand out from 2011. And I don't even care about the horse races. It's a world I want to live in, or at least visit, since I think the people of Thisby would probably chew me up and spit me out. I want to be stoic like Sean, I want to be tough like Puck, I want a love that doesn't need flashy declarations or overwrought pining, just a simple loaf of bread. And I get to have all that when I read and reread and eventually fall asleep with my head on a copy of Scorpio Races.
1. The Piper's Son, Melina Marchetta
I don't know what else to say about this book; it's just so freaking beautiful. I've heard Melina Marchetta is hard to get into (I don't get that personally) but I swear, if you give it 50 pages you'll be in an entirely new world that you'll never want to leave. Luckily, The Piper's Son features characters from two of her other, also amazing books Saving Francescaand Jellicoe Road. So you can keep hanging out with your new friends for a little longer. Froi of the Exiles, the second in Marchetta's fantasy series, is coming out next year and I'm already calling it for my best of 2013 list.
*In an I-actually-want-to-be-the-object-of-his-affection-and-in-his-story kind of way. Sean Kendrick had some intensely swoony moments as well, but man he's dealing with some heavy stuff.