Best pre-2013 book I only read this year
Paul is gay, and confident in his sexuality. With a loving, supportive family, he doesn't have to hide his feelings. Life seems pretty good to him - but falling in love can change everything.
This was the first solo effort from Levithan that I've read - I've come to his work shamefully late. I was somewhat surprised to find that the setting was a rather idealised one - ten years ago, when this book was first released, a town where there was so little prejudice against LGBT people must have seemed even more far off than it does today. However, the contrast between Paul's town and his friend Tony's town, where attitudes are less enlightened, works really well, and overall this is hugely heartwarming.
The City's Son by Tom Pollock
Set in a version of London with supernatural elements added, The City's Son sees Beth Bradley stumble into a secret city where the ghosts of trains rush around, and glass-skinned dancers light the streets.
I've read lots of good fantasy recently, but this stands out as one of the best at melding the protagonist's 'normal' problems to the fantasy world she finds herself involved in. It's notable for exceptionally strong character arcs for several characters - Beth herself, her father and her best friend all develop brilliantly. If anything, my one issue with this one is that I think I would probably have enjoyed it even more if I'd read it fifteen years ago when I was younger and had more of an imagination
On December 8th, 1980, a quartet of musicians record an album in the ruins of a haunted abbey. Tragedy strikes, and they split up, deciding never to work together again. Fourteen years later, they're persuaded to return to confront the evil they discovered - but can they find a way to stop it?
I wasn't planning on including adult novels in this line-up, but Rickman's super-creepy horror is far too good to leave out. I reviewed it for the Bookbag as it was reissued in December. It took me about two weeks to read and another week to review because I didn't want to a) read it after 9 o'clock at night or b) think about it after 9 o'clock at night. It is by some way the most terrifying reading experience I've had in many, many years, but it's brilliantly written and has fantastic characters. Read at your own risk though, and don't blame me for nightmares!
Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher
Zoe has a terrible secret that she can't bring herself to confess to anyone. She comes up with an ingenious way of sharing it with somebody... but will it help her ease her guilt?
Having avoided this as I wasn't a big fan of My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece, I was blown away when I finally read it. Narrator Zoe, who feels responsible for the death of a boy, is an outstanding character, while the central concept here as 15-year-old Zoe unburdens herself of her guilty secret by writing to a convicted murderer on Texas's Death Row is riveting. As she tells both her story and his, her voice is superb.
Sparks: The Epic, Completely True Blue, (Almost) Holy Quest of Debbie by SJ Adams
Debbie has a crush on Lisa, her best friend. She can't bring herself to tell her this - but then the school's most boring guy takes a shine to Lisa, and Debbie realises that if she can't confess her feelings, she might lose all hope of a relationship with her friend.
I have a real soft spot for books set completely or mostly in the course of one day, and this one is a new favourite of mine. Debbie's support for her journey, Emma and Tim - founder members of the Church of Blue - are engaging characters and the relationships at the heart of the book are really believable. This deserves to be much better known than it is (at least in the UK - not sure if it's more popular over in the States.) The constant references to TV show Full House probably work better if you've seen it, or have some idea of what it is, but as someone who just vaguely recognised the title, I managed to fill in the gaps as much as needed. Definitely worth checking out!
Best Supporting Character (Female)
One of my favourite types of character is the 'nice' stepmother and lawyer Annabel is absolutely wonderful in both GG books - particularly the first, where she has a bigger part to play. One of the scenes between her and main character Harriet nearly made me cry at just how lovely she was.
Breeze (LIGHT by Michael Grant)
The ultra-speedy, ultra-cocky young girl is perhaps my favourite character in a series jam-packed with wonderful ones. I really love the way that despite her powers, she's recognisable as a pre-teen girl forced to grow up far too fast due to the horrific situation she's been plunged into.
Katie, the autistic sister of lead character Holly - who's forced to move into a witness protection scheme with her family after seeing a crime take place - is a stunning creation. Jarratt portrays a young child struggling to cope with several moves across the country - difficult for anyone her age, but a nightmare for someone with autism - superbly.
As mentioned yesterday, Westy is an utterly wonderful character in this book. Lily is even better. Truly loyal, fabulously friendly, and completely lacking in anything approaching common sense, she's steals the scene every time she's on the page. (And stealing the scene from a narrator as brilliant as Faith should be difficult!) Plus, there's some surprisingly deep insights from her at times - when you think about it, it IS weird that all the water in the sea doesn't wash away their fishy smell...
While I think Carriger's male characters tend to be better-written than the female ones in the Finishing School series, the two exceptions are lead Sophronia and her 10-year-old tomboy friend Vieve. Vieve - niece of a school teacher but far more interested in machines and adventures than she's meant to be - is an absolutely glorious character.
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