Although we’ve still got all of December before 2012—another whole month of book releases and reading said book releases—the Best of 2011 Season is in full swing. What with that extra month, I’m hesitant to create my own comprehensive Best of List yet, but here are a few of my Favorites of 2011:
Read the last Bookshelves of Doom on the modern Gothic appeal of 'Frost.'
Most Welcome Comeback:
Franny Billingsley, with Chime: Twelve years after The Folk Keeper, Billingsley burst back onto the scene with a vibrantly original, gorgeously frightening, darkly hilarious and romantic read starring a narrator whose voice is somewhat reminiscent of Merricat Blackwood from Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle.
Like the rest of this year’s National Book Award finalists, it lost out on some much-deserved attention due to the Shine/Chime mix-up. The coverage of the awards—and even the announcement of the winner at the NBA ceremony itself—largely focused on the mistake, rather than on the honored books. While the ever-lovely YA community understandably rallied around Shine and Lauren Myracle—who was put through an emotional wringer few of us could imagine—it’s time to give Chime its due. It was easily, easily, one of the best books I read this year, and I predict that in a decade, it will have deservedly achieved status as a modern fantasy classic.
Most Welcome New Trend (or, at least, I hope it’s a trend):
Gothics. The popularity of the paranormal genre seems to have led to a resurgence in Gothic titles. At first, with titles like 2009’s Splendor Falls and last year’s Beautiful Creatures, the Gothics appeared to be just a cog in the paranormal machine, but this year, they’ve come into their own with stories that feature narrators with questionable sanity spending lots of sleepless nights listening to creaky floors in drafty old houses haunted by unspeakable evil.
Highlights include: Kate Cann’s Morton’s Keep duology, Possessed and Consumed (a cross between Barbara Michaels and The Dark is Rising); Marianna Baer’s Frost (shades of du Maurier’s Rebecca!); and Tighter, Adele Griffin’s outstandingly excellent reimagining of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw.
Speaking of retellings...
Author Who Most Deserves a Year Off:
Jane Austen. Over the past few years, her stories have been zombified and vampirized, modernized, rehashed and retold. To be fair, some have been truly creative and some have been hugely fun, but this year, after reading one too many tepid modernizations of Sense and Sensibility, I’m demanding a moratorium on Austen retreads for AT LEAST a year.
Authors, please. I beg you. She needs a break, and so do I.
Best Series that Continues to Fly Under the Radar:
Elizabeth C. Bunce’s Thief Errant. In it, a female street rat/thief is dragged into complex political intrigue and a war between religion and magic, solves mysteries, regularly ignores the protestations of her better judgment and instincts for survival and finds romance in more than a few corners.
In Liar’s Moon, Bunce continues her chronicle of Digger’s exploits, but rather than settling into anything remotely predictable, she switches up the setting, the genre, the tone AND finishes the book on a whopper of a cliffhanger/twist. We’ve got at least a year to wait for Book Three, and that’s plenty of time for me to continue nagging everyone I know (and some I don’t) to give these books a try.
Finally, while we’re all experiencing genre/trope exhaustion in one realm or another, it’s always impressive when certain titles are able overcome that fatigue by being supremely enjoyable.
Proof that Paranormal Can Still Be Fun:
Blessed (and the rest of the series), by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Divergent, by Veronica Roth
Ditto Fairy Tale Rewrites:
Entwined, by Heather Dixon
What about you? When you think of outstanding 2011 titles, which ones immediately spring to mind?
If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or doing her librarian thing, Leila Roy is probably maniacally organizing all of her music into far-too-specific Spotify playlists.