One of my favorite things about this time of year is all of the end-of-year “Best Of” lists. I always do a list of my favorite albums of each year over at my personal blog on my website, but usually I read way too many eclectic books that aren’t necessarily new each year to make a list of my favorites from that year specifically. This year, however, because of my own progress with my Young Adult novel, The Muses, I made a point to try to read a lot of current Young Adult books that were coming out this year. Here were my favorites:
Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block
A stunning reimagining of Homer’s Odyssey set in post-Apocalyptic Los Angeles, written by A master storyteller. Her life by the sea in ruins, Pen has lost everything in the Earth Shaker that all but destroyed the city of Los Angeles. She sets out into the wasteland to search for her family, her journey guided by a tattered copy of Homer’s Odyssey. Soon she begins to realize her own abilities and strength as she faces false promises of safety, the cloned giants who feast on humans, and a madman who wishes her dead. On her voyage, Pen learns to tell stories that reflect her strange visions, while she and her fellow survivors navigate the dangers that lie in wait. In her signature style, Francesca Lia Block has created a world that is beautiful in its destruction and as frightening as it is lovely. At the helm is Pen, a strong heroine who holds hope and love in her hands and refuses to be defeated.
Why I Loved It: Francesca Lia Block’s riff on The Odyssey as a post-apocalyptic tale of teenage self-discovery was inspired. This book was full of beautiful imagery, and it featured thought-provoking characters that stuck with me. It almost reminded me of an LGBT version of The Wizard of Oz… at the end of the world. The characters were well drawn, the plot was imaginative and interesting, and Francesca Lia Block’s skillful prose are full of colorful images and unique metaphors. This one is for the fan of surrealist dystopia… if that’s a thing.
Requiem by Lauren Oliver (Book #3 in the Delerium series)
A New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestseller, this exciting finale to Lauren Oliver’s acclaimed Delirium trilogy is a riveting blend of nonstop action and forbidden romance in a dystopian United States. With lyrical writing, Lauren Oliver seamlessly interweaves the peril that Lena faces with the inner tumult she experiences after the reappearance of her first love, Alex, the boy she thought was dead. Named an Amazon Best Book of the Year, this sophisticated and wide-ranging novel brings the New York Times bestselling Delirium trilogy to a thrilling conclusion.
Why I Loved It: I read the entire Delirium series this year, and Requiem was the last book in the series. While I did have some issues with the way Lauren Oliver wrapped everything up in this series, it was definitely the favorite dystopian series that I read this year. Her use of point of view in Requiem and the way the story unfolds was particularly clever, and Oliver’s writing is so poetic and beautiful. I really, really enjoyed Lena’s character arc from the first page of Delirium to the third installment.
Twinmaker by Sean Williams
When a coded note promises improvement—the chance to change your body any way you want, making it stronger, taller, more beautiful—Clair thinks it’s too good to be true, but her best friend, Libby, falls into a deadly trap.
With the help of the school freak and a mysterious stranger, Clair races against the clock and around the world to save Libby, even as every step draws her deeper into a deadly world of cover-ups and conspiracies.
Action and danger fuel this near-future tale of technology, identity, and the lengths one girl will go to save her best friend.
Why I Loved It: The technology in this book was just plain cool. And all of the technological advancements in this book’s world already exist today in much more basic forms. (Like the contacts everyone wears to keep them all connected to the global network. Google Glass anyone?) I think the thing I liked most about this book though is that it examined some questions regarding the morality involved with technology. Should we be able to improve ourselves? Should we be able to essentially copy organic matter? Are we more than just patterns of codes? Williams examines all of these questions in a skillful way in this page-turning novel that left me wanting to pressure him to hurry up with that sequel already.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love—and just how hard it pulled you under.
Why I Loved It: There’s a reason I’m seeing this book at the top of everyone’s best teen books of 2013 list. It was so good. Rowell captures the teenage outcast relationship and first love perfectly. This book deals with a lot of heavy stuff in a realistic way, and all of the characters and relationships are incredibly well defined and three dimensional. Plus, any book that mentions The Smiths multiple times is pretty much guaranteed to be one of my favorites. (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, anyone?)
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
In Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath, being a fan is her life–and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.
Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.
Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.
Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.
For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?
Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?
And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?
Why I Loved It: In case I didn’t cover it enough in my Fangirling About Fangirl post or my tale of standing in line for hours to get Rainbow Rowell to sign my copy at YALLFest, if you haven’t guessed, Fangirl is definitely my favorite YA book of 2013–probably my favorite book of 2013 period. This book is showing up on a lot of “Best of” lists, too, usually under Eleanor & Park, because basically Rainbow Rowell is a prolific badass and I want to drink tea and listen to Morrissey and be a writer geek with her. (She has to like Morrissey.) She is definitely my favorite YA writer out there right now. Fangirl really hit home for me, though, because she really captured what it is like to be obsessed with stories and storytelling.
So those were my favorite YA books of 2013. Hopefully in a few years, some geeky girl out there will include my book on her favorite YA books of the year blog. 🙂
What were your favorite books this year?