Holy cow, I read a lot of books this year. So many that I’ve created TWO Favorites of 2012 YA lists: the one you’re currently reading, which focuses on books I wrote about here at Kirkus, and one at Bookshelves of Doom, which focuses on the books I wrote about there. Like last year, it’s not so much a Be-All-End-All Comprehensive Best of the Year list, but more a list of highlights. Let’s just jump right in, shall we?
Book most deserving of the tremendous hype: Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein.
Truth and lies; friendship, family and flying; the power and necessity of storytelling; honor and conviction and courage. Seven months later, and I’m still unable to talk about this book without incoherently gushing and/or crying. Everything about it—voice, story, structure, character development, emotional impact—is outstanding, and it’s one of those special books that becomes more impressive every time you re-read it.
Book most deserving of MORE attention: Amelia Anne Is Dead and Gone, by Kat Rosenfield.
I’m so happy that crime fiction seems to be on the rise in the YA realm, and Amelia Anne is my top pick on the lyrical, atmospheric end of the continuum. As I said in my review, Rosenfield’s writing combines two seemingly disparate qualities: it reads both Capital-L Literary and Small-Town Frank. More than anything else, it reminded me of Richard Dreyfuss’ voiceovers in Stand By Me (which was based on Stephen King’s The Body).
These two books, meanwhile, are on the more hilarity-inducing end of the crime spectrum. Both gumshoes are rambunctious and super-witty, and both have fabulously funny best-friend sidekicks. And, impressively, both books deal surprisingly sensitively with complex, heavy issues while still being laugh-out-loud hilarious. Bonus points to Brennan for showcasing the squicky (and annoying) aspects of telepathy.
The Blood Keeper is dark, beautiful, rich and, at moments, completely gutting. It was also a hugely pleasant surprise, as its predecessor, Blood Magic, was enjoyable and well-written, but not so amazing that it had me singing from the rooftops. As The Girl of Fire and Thorns was one of my fave-ity faves of the year, Crown of Embers had a much higher bar to hit. But hit it it did, and the ending left me dying for Book Three.
Character who most deserves a year off: Jane Eyre.
Last year, I said that I could happily go a year without yet another Jane Austen re-write. (Though it should be noted that Diana Peterfreund’s For Darkness Shows the Stars totally made me eat my words.) In 2013, I’m hoping that Jane Eyre & Co. will get a break. I love me some Charlotte Brontë, but girl needs a vacation.
Most badass female assassin: Ismae Rienne, from Robin LeFevers’ Grave Mercy.
No one has wielded a crossbow with such aplomb since Buffy Summers. And it’s set in 15th century Brittany! There are political machinations! And romance! And a cool magic system that’s entwined with religion! And a pretty, pretty cover!
Most welcome comeback: Patrice Kindl, with Keeping the Castle.
Absolutely delightful Regency romp with moments of bonus Wodehousian fun: Ten years between books is far, far, far too long.
So, let’s hear it: what were your favorites this year?
Let's be honest. If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or doing her librarian thing, Leila Roy is most likely being tragically unproductive due to the shiny lure of Pinterest.