It’s that time of the year, time to think about what we’ve read during the last 12 months and start looking forward to the publishers’ spring lists. In this last year, we’ve witnessed the conclusion of several popular series, the emergence of several more, seen some solid hardback offerings that were, in many cases, both profitable and critically successful, pondered “steampunk” and wondered if the supernatural romance trend would ever die.
I, like everyone else, spent much of 2010 in a state of anticipation, waiting not only for the final book in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay, but also for the final novels in Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Last Survivors series and Patrick Ness’ awesome Knife of Never Letting Go trilogy. I was equally eager to get my hands on The Dead-Tossed Waves, the second book in Carrie Ryan’s Forest of Hands and Teeth series, and am still waiting for my copy of James Dashner’s The Scorch Trials, the second novel in his Maze Runner trilogy. Sadly, I am probably one of few adults lamenting the conclusion of Lauren Conrad’s (that’s right, the star of MTV’s The Hills) L.A. Candy series with Sugar and Spice, which—seriously, guys—was a fun read.
I was excited to discover that Margaret Peterson Haddix had produced a new Missing series and book two, Sabotaged, was out this year. Its premise—36 infants are found on an airplane that seems to appear out of nowhere at a Midwestern airport and, 13 years later, are embroiled in a conspiracy involving the FBI, a private human-trafficking company and time travel—is definitely compelling. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it doesn’t become an interminable drag the way her initially awesome Among the Hidden series did.
I’m also pretty into Dan Wells’ first two novels for young adults, I Am Not a Serial Killer and Mr. Monster, the first of a series about 15-year-old John Wayne Cleaver, a diagnosed sociopath who is obessed with serial killers. I realize that these novels, which owe a debt to Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter novels for adults, might not sit well with a lot of grown-up readers, but this works for two reasons. Wells refuses to fetishize violence and includes a distinct supernatural element that prompts its main character to consider the ethics of killing, which makes it friendlier for a younger audience.
In the wake of his award-winning Marcelo in the Real World (2009), Francisco X. Stork’s The Last Summer of the Death Warriors seems to have gotten somewhat short shrift. One of the best stand-alone novels I read all year, Stork’s reserved book describes the friendship that grows between 17-year-old Pancho Sanchez, an orphan determined to reconstruct his recently departed sister’s last days, and D.Q., the terminally ill son of a wealthy family who is determined to die on his own terms.
Catherine Fisher’s bestselling steampunk fantasy Incarceron proved a surprise favorite for me. Not a fan of high fantasy and wary of the trendy “steampunk” label, I nonetheless found myself swept up in the bestselling story of two parallel and created worlds, each of which incorporated elements of the 19th century and imagined future technology.
Marina Budhos’ Tell Us We’re Home was another 2010 sleeper. In the tradition of Ask Me No Questions (2006), Budhos once again grants voice to often-unheard new immigrants to America, interweaving the stories of three daughters of immigrant service workers and describing the rift in their friendship that emerges when one of their mothers is accused of theft.
When my husband pointed out that one of the leading bookstores had created a “Supernatural Romance” subsection in its teen fiction collection, I wondered if this sounded the death knell for the blended genre or was a sign of more to come. Unfortunately, the number of long-winded and tepid supernatural romance trilogies I’ve been given recently seem to point to the genre’s establishment.
At any rate, the influx of such popular fiction caused me to wonder where some of the paperback series I had enjoyed of late had gone. Denene Millner and Mitzi Miller’s Hotlanta series, three volumes of which were published by Point, has apparently and sadly ceased publication. And I’m still waiting for the next Babygirl Daniels’ novel from Urban Renaissance. Daniels released four young adult urban novels with this independent press in 2009, one of which—Sister, Sister—was absolutely off the hook! Meanwhile, I’m in the middle of reading Cecily von Ziegesar’s post-Gossip Girl novel, Cum Laude, and counting the days until the March release of Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley Confidential. What can I say? I appreciate the good stuff, but I love that popular fiction!
Amy Pattee is an associate professor of library and information science at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College in Boston. She documents her reading on her blog, YA or STFU, at alanis.simmons.edu/blogs/yaorstfu/.