It’s that time of year when we take a look back at the best YA of 2011. But we here at Novel Novice have a hard time narrowing things down to a numbered top ten list. So instead, below you’ll find — in NO particular order — my picks for Best YA of 2011:
I would never expect anything but stellar work from the fabulous and award-winning Patrick Ness, but his latest novel — based on a concept by the late Siobhan Dowd — is nothing short of breathtaking. If a perfect piece of literature exists, A Monster Calls would definitely qualify. It’s hard to even find the right words to convey how moving and beautiful this book is. It brought me to tears (a feat that is not easily accomplished) and has stayed with me weeks after finishing it.
There are not enough words to convey how much I love this book. Where Things Come Back is one of those rare books that come along only once every so often and stun you with its brilliancy. Whaley’s debut novel is of a caliber you rarely find in literature (any literature, not just YA) — and has rightly earned all of the many accolades it’s received to date, including a Morris Award nomination. Whaley cleverly weaves together two seemingly unconnected stories into one stunning conclusion, giving you a story of loss and love, growing up, and — most importantly — hope.
There is an overload of dystopian lit hitting the YA shelves these days, but Blood Red Road really stands out from the crowd. In a guest blog on MTV’s Hollywood Crush, I even called this book “better than The Hunger Games.” Yeah, cue the hate mail. But that’s how strongly I feel about this book. It has lots of action, a flawed but kick-ass heroine, and a no-holds-barred approach to violence and thrills that only propels the story forward. It’s also written in a stunning, stark prose style reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy.
Full disclosure: I’d recommend her book A Need So Beautiful even if she was my sworn enemy.
This book is all sorts of spectacular. As the title would suggest, it is a beautiful story with realistic characters and a heart-tugging dilemma. I’d say it’s Suzanne’s best work ever, except I’ve read a very early version of the sequel, coming in Summer 2012 — and, well, Suzanne outdoes herself. So do yourself a favor and read A Need So Beautiful now to be fully prepared for A Want So Wicked.
I can’t say enough good things about Holly Black’s Curse Workers series, and the second book, Red Glove only increased my love. Holly’s brilliant mix of magic and mobsters continues with new layers of plot and character development, with all sorts of twists and turns along the way. Much like another book on this list, Holly avoids the pitfall of “middle book syndrome” to deliver the second book in a trilogy that stands strongly all on its own. I fell in love with this series when I read White Cat, but with Red Glove I became obsessed. (In a totally normal, healthy, non-stalker-y way. I swear.)
This book is sick and twisted, and I mean that in the best way possible. Slice of Cherry is unlike anything else I’ve ever read in YA. It has some morbid and disturbing themes, but conveys them in a way that is simply captivating and — yes — magical. Dia Reeves has concocted something truly original with this book. She takes magic realism to a whole new level with her story of murderous sisters, and the journey they take as characters. In some ways thematically, it’s reminiscent of Stephen King. But on the whole, there’s really nothing to compare this book to. It simply exists on its own merits.
I’ve been keeping a list of my “Best of 2011” books all year, because it’s easier than trying to remember what I read at the end of 12 months. And my original list included City of Fallen Angels by Cassie Clare … until I read Clockwork Prince. And in an effort to include only one of Cassie’s books, I had to go with the latter. Clockwork Prince is, in my opinion, Cassie’s best book to date. It’s the second book in her Infernal Devices trilogy, but never once suffers from so-called “middle book syndrome.” Clockwork Prince stands alone as a brilliant book, with developments and twists that let it stand on its own — while still setting the stage for what will undoubtedly be a stunning conclusion in book 3.
It’s hard to come to terms with the feelings this book stir up inside of me, but I can readily admit that Forbidden was one of the most stunning, gorgeous, and heartbreaking books I read this year. The story of a star-crossed romance between brother and sister makes you feel uncomfortable — all the more so because the way Suzuma writes, you are rooting for this romance to succeed. Your brain tells you it’s so wrong, but your emotions tell you something else altogether. Forbidden is not an easy read, but it is one that is well worth the effort.
I’m not normally a big fan of high fantasy, but there is something really special about Daughter of Smoke & Bone that just sucked me in. It helps that the book starts out in modern-day Europe before bringing you into a magical, alternative realm where mystical creatures are reincarnated in new bodies. But the book is about more than that. It’s about a romance, between a girl with teal hair and an angel sworn to defeat the mystical creatures who raised her. Daughter of Smoke & Bone is simply a breath of fresh air in a world where cookie-cutter paranormal stories are littering the YA shelves. I can’t wait to see where Laini takes us in the next book in her brand-new series.
I already loved Kimberly Derting’s Body Finder series, but The Pledge takes her work to a whole new level. In this book, the first of a new trilogy, Derting creates a genre all her own. She combines elements of dystopian, fantasy, and romance — weaving in the building blocks of the traditional fairy tale. But nothing about The Pledge is traditional or predictable. It will, however, keep you up late at night reading to find out what happens next — and linger with you after the very last page. As a bonus, this first book stands solidly alone all by itself — while still setting the stage for the sequel.
Honorable Mention: The Chronicles of Harris Burdick
This anthology of short stories features some of today’s best writers from YA and elsewhere — and each story is based on an original illustration by the fabulous Chris Van Allsburg. Do yourself a favor and pick up this book now, if you haven’t already! It not only provides great reading entertainment, but it’s also pretty to look at.
For the comments: What were YOUR favorite YA books of 2011? (PLUS, check out Steph’s list later this week!)