Now that I’ve squeezed every possible full reading day out of 2014, I finally feel comfortable making a list of favorites. Here it is:
Most Favorite Book: Gabi: A Girl in Pieces, by Isabel Quintero
This is usually a difficult call for me: I waffle and dither, and some years, I’m not able to settle on just one. Not this year. This year, Gabi claimed the crown the moment we met, hands down, number one with a bullet. Gabi herself is smart and funny and warm, entirely herself but easily recognizable as a kindred spirit; her journey is eye-opening without being didactic, and she’s going to be in my heart and in my mind for a long, long time.
Favorite Noir: High and Dry, by Sarah Skilton
Last year, it was Mojo. This year, it is High and Dry. Charlie is a classic noir detective—his love life is a disaster; he’s got a problem with alcohol; he’s surrounded by shady characters, peers and adults alike; he’s self-deprecating and quick with a quip—faced with a classic noir problem: A femme fatale has blackmailed him into doing her bidding. Like Sean Beaudoin’s You Killed Wesley Payne, High and Dry does a bang-up job of skewering clique culture—but it also has what the Beaudoin book was missing: heart.
Favorite Fantasy: The Kiss of Deception, by Mary E. Pearson
I tried to avoid including any crossover between this list and my Giving Thanks list, but this book made that impossible. The worldbuilding, the trust and friendship between the two girls, the multiple perspectives, the fact that the descriptions of daily life were just as compelling and lovingly detailed as the action and romance, the character development and personal growth of the main character…if I still worked at a bookstore, we’d be selling this one by the case.
It was a good year for stories about people—actually, in these three cases, specifically girls—working through events in their past: grieving, healing, understanding and, eventually, beginning to move forward. Beyond that commonality—and the fact that they are uniformly excellent—the three are entirely different: one is about an extremely angry girl who’s dealing with chronic pain and an addiction to painkillers WHILE trying to prove that she wasn’t the reason that her best friend was murdered; one is about a girl slowly working on entering the world after 15 years of abuse and neglect; one is about a ballerina coming to terms with the events leading up to her best friend’s abduction (among many, many other things). WOOF. So many issues, but not an Issue Book to be seen. (Note: Holy cow, the Kirkus reviewer and I really disagreed about Pointe!)
Most Improved: Heir of Fire, by Sarah J. Maas
The first book in this series was straight-up B-movie: lots of fun, but filled with stock characters and cliches galore, and book two was more of the same. In book three, though, Maas really upped her game. The characters are more fully realized, with more complex motivations and meaty emotional arcs; while the world is still pretty Generic Fantasy, it’s gotten bigger and more interesting; and the politics and intrigue have moved from a black-and-white realm to a more nebulous grey.
Funniest: The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy, by Kate Hattemer
“Stewing in the Crock-Pot of betrayal.” All these months later, it still makes me laugh.
Made Me Turn the Stereo Up the Loudest: Girl Defective, by Simmone Howell
A lot of books TALK about music, but very few capture the way that music makes me FEEL. This one did.
Font Family Most In Need of a Break: Handwritten Block Letters
I blame The Fault in Our Stars for the fact that every fourth book I’ve picked up this year—examples: Anatomy of a Misfit, Fan Art, The Promise of Amazing—has had this treatment. They are all starting to blur together, MAKE IT STOP.
If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or running the show at her local library, Leila Roy might be making stuff for her Etsy shop while rewatching Veronica Mars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, Black Books or Twin Peaks. Well, that or she’s hanging out on Twitter. Or both.