Monday, 21 January 2013
YA Yeah Yeah Year-Ends Part 4: The Rest
This is part 4 of my 2012 awards, covering pre-2012 books I read last year, self-published books, MG and adult books.
Best MG book
Life According To Alice B Lovely by Karen McCombie - The exceptionally consistent McCombie comes up with her finest book yet, about a thirteen-year-old girl and her six-year-old brother who scare off every nanny who's hired to look after them - until a teenager called Alice B Lovely gets the job. Watching central character Evie gradually warm to Alice is wonderful, while Stan, in particular, is a wonderful supporting character.
A Reckless Magic by Kat Stephenson - The final book in the magical (in every way!) Kat Stephenson series is the best yet. Stephanie Burgis's tales of witchcraft in Georgian England are stunning, and if she changes her mind and writes a fourth book about Kat I'll be hammering down a bookshop door to get to it.
Billie Templar's War by Ellie Irving - Irving follows up the wonderful debut For The Record with an even better story in this tale of a bratty 11-year-old girl who puts on a military tattoo in the hope of getting the queen to visit her village so Her Majesty can write a note excusing her father from the fighting in Afghanistan. In turns heartbreaking, funny, sweet and constantly wonderfully unpredictable, this is staggeringly good.
Pea’s Book of Best Friends by Susie Day – Noel Streatfeild fans, don’t miss this one! Susie Day’s new series is a modern classic in the making with an outstanding portrayal of family life, a wonderful central character, a sweet plot and some fabulous twists. A massive, massive must-buy. (The sequel, published at the start of this year, is ineligible for these awards due to being a 2013 release but also rather fabulous - to say the least!)
Wonder by RJ Palacio - Lived up to all of the hype - and there was a LOT of hype! Tender and moving story of a boy with a facial deformity struggling to fit in at his first school after being homeschooled, and the effect he has on people around him. Told by a myriad of narrators, this is great.
And the winners are...
A Reckless Magic by Kat Stephenson
Pea’s Book of Best Friends by Susie Day (no way I could choose just one!)
Best self-published book
The Boo Hag by David Morgan - A (gasp!) original idea for a paranormal story, which features a scary creature taken from South Carolina’s Gullah culture, the skin-stealing boo hag. An awesome central trio of heroine Lenny, who the creature is chasing, her best friend Anna, and Brian, the hot guy who’s trying to help protect them as Anna tries to get to know him better, make this a really strong recommendation.
Harper Madigan: Junior High Private Eye by Chelsea M Campbell - Fabulous juxtaposition of a junior high setting with a film noir plot – the PTA are the villains, a 7th grader is the maverick hero, and instead of a long-suffering senior officer we get a long-suffering vice principal. Really funny and with one of the strongest voices I’ve read for ages.
Night of the Purple Moon by Scott Cramer - Unsurprising, as everyone knows how much I loved this one. Incredibly strong debut YA novel by Cramer which was one of the few sci-fi books I enjoyed last year, due to the riveting story and great characters.
None of the Regular Rules by Erin Downing - Hot YA contemporary with a fantastic central pairing who practically set the page alight with the chemistry between them. (This is particularly impressive as it's an e-book exclusive!) Established author Erin Downing decided to publish this one herself and her confidence in it certainly isn't misplaced.
(Capping it at 4 as they stood out by far and away as the best of the self-published books I read)
And the winner is...
Night of the Purple Moon by Scott Cramer
Best pre-2012 book I only read this year.
Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander – I always thought I read these about 20 years ago, but I clearly didn’t get the entire series – I think reading it all at that age would have left me heartbroken for years. Just about beats out The Dark Is Rising, Jenny Nimmo’s Magician Trilogy, and the Harry Potter series to get my vote for the best children’s fantasy sequence ever. Stunning character development, hugely emotional, and not a weak book – the first and third are good, the second and fourth are great, and the concluding volume is an absolute classic.
Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan - Super-snarky, slightly twee, and altogether wonderful. The perfect Christmas read!
Della Says OMG! by Keris Stainton - Really entertaining YA contemporary with excellent dialogue, a strong central character, and a great love interest. Incredibly, Keris Stainton's 2012 release Emma Hearts LA was even better than this one, but Della is still a fabulous book which raises interesting questions about trust, loyalty, relationships and honesty.
Kat Stephenson series (books 1 and 2) by Stephanie Burgis – My new favourite heroine! Kat, a 12-year-old girl in Georgian England whose mother was a witch and has magic powers of her own, is a stunning character, and the supporting cast are worthy of Jane Austen at her finest. The third book, published last year, is also wonderful, of course (you can read more about it above, if you skipped the MG category!)
Paper Towns by John Green - Prior to this year, I'd somehow not actually read anything by John Green. Looking For Alaska blew me away, but Paper Towns - with a stunning road trip and a wonderful cast - was even better.
And the winner is...
The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander
Best adult book
Better Than Great by Arthur Plotnik - Bravura, fifty-carat, supremely fascinating, Dickensian, this thesaurus of praise and acclaim is the kipper's knickers. (For those of you who aren't Scottish, that's a good thing!)
The Heresy of Dr Dee by Phil Rickman - Rickman follows up the excellent Bones of Avalon with a similarly superb second novel in the Dr Dee series. Packed full of memorable characters, vivid descriptions of Tudor life, and more twists and turns than you could ever imagine, this is stunning.
The King's Blood by Daniel Abraham - Abraham follows up his staggeringly great first novel in the Dagger and the Coin series, The Dragon's Path, by somehow improving on it with this second part. The best adult fantasy book I've read for many years.
One Blood by Graeme Kent - Police procedural set on the Soloman Islands in the sixties, starring Sergeant Kella - policeman and aoifa, traditional law-bringer of the islands - and nun Sister Conchita. A little bit far-fetched at times, but incredibly unpredictable and always gripping. One of my very favourite crime series out there at the moment.
People Who Eat Darkness: Love, Grief and a Journey into Japan's Shadows by Richard Lloyd Parry - Incredibly hard to read, but impossible to put down, Parry's moving account of the Lucie Blackman murder made me cry three times - a feat no other non-fiction has come close to. Outstanding.
And the winner is...
People Who Eat Darkness: Love, Grief and a Journey into Japan's Shadows by Richard Lloyd Parry