Friday, 26 December 2014

YA Yeah Yeah Year-Ends: Shortlists, Day 1 - Best Speculative YA/Best Cast/Best Supporting Character

I love doing year-end awards, and tend to vary things slightly every year depending on what I've been reading a lot of. Over the next three days, I'll be presenting shortlists in ten categories, before announcing the winners on December 30th! Apart from the 'best 2015 release I've already read' category, books HAVE to be published in 2014 to be eligible here. (This is causing me huge issues because The Art Of Being Normal seems to be in shops already but TECHNICALLY has a January 2015 release date, which is the only reason it's not featuring extremely heavily here. Shortlists are 5, 10 or 12, depending how much I've read in a particular category.

Best YA Contemporary shortlist was done as part of Top Ten Tuesday a week or so ago over on, check it out here.

Previous year-end/mid-year awards are linked to at this page.

Schedule for next week or so:
December 26th - Best Speculative YA/Best Cast/Best Supporting Character
December 27th - Best Main Character/Best Pairings/Best Artwork
December 28th - Best Adult/Best 2015 Release/Best MG/Best Bookshop
December 29th - D'Evil Diaries Cover Reveal! (Thanks Tatum Flynn for letting me run this; thrilled to be on board!)
December 30th - Winners announced in all categories, plus 1-3 runners-up depending on size of shortlist.
December 31st - End of Year Book Survey (if you're not on board for this, check it out! Questions at The Perpetual Page Turner.)

Best speculative YA


I haven't read all that much YA speculative fiction this year, but what I have read has been amazingly strong - all five of these would be in my overall top fifteen of the year.

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo 
STURMHOND. I should probably also mention that Bardugo's plotting is great, her characterisation in general is brilliant, and the bittersweet ending to this is an incredible series finale. But the most superb part of this series for me has been the magnificence of Sturmhond, basically.

I have apparently tweeted about this book 168 times in the 10 months or so since I read it. Most people following me, if asked to guess, would probably have gone higher. This is an absolutely stunning book; it's incredible to think that a debut novelist could have produced something this wonderful. I love the way Sara Crowe ties in thoroughly modern problems -like foot and mouth and PTSD - and the supernatural elements.

I was expecting this to be amazingly good after loving the first three in the series, and wasn't disappointed.  As ever, Hill has created a complex, twisting plot, going back and forth between numerous protagonists, and juggles the action and pacing perfectly here. Similarly, his characterisation is uniformly strong. This is one of the best series around!

Love or hate for many people, I was firmly in the 'love' camp here; this breathtakingly imaginative story of a bisexual boy struggling with his feelings for girlfriend Shann and best friend Robby, plus the army of preying mantises which may be about to bring about the end of the world, is stunning.

Gorgeously written and featuring superb characterisation, both of Blue and of the Raven Boys, this is the best yet in an incredible series.

Special mention/heartfelt apology - 
Shadowplay by Laura Lam
I messed up last year and didn't realise this was released in 2013 so left it out (although I had Pantomime, first book in the series, in.) This is even better than that book was; it's a magical book which has me highly anticipating Masquerade, third in the Micah Grey trilogy. (This has been delayed by Strange Chemistry's closure, but I'm hoping we have news about it soon.) Overall, this series is outstanding, in the way it tackles so many big themes with wonderful characters

Best overall cast

This was more action-focused than the first book but it still had really good characterisation, and it was great to see Maggie's friend Roux get a love interest!
As ever in this wonderful series, Pea and her sisters are fantastic characters, while I thought the sensitive treatment of new friend Ryan's hemiplegia, giving young  readers information about a condition they're likely to be unaware of, was excellent.

The central quartet in Gregory's Order of Darkness series have been four of my favourite characters of the last few years, but I thought the characterisation of their companion Brother Peter was excellent here as well, and liked the addition of new characters like gambler Jacinta and her father.

As mentioned above, the characterisation is sensationally good here, with a dozen or more fabulous characters. (I won' t list them, to avoid spoilers for those of you yet to get to this series, but so many fantastic ones!)

It feels a bit like cheating to have an anthology in here because naturally it has so many more characters than most of the other books I've read this year. However it's brilliant to see such a diverse set of people represented here, and when reading this dozen short stories I'm sure everyone will find at least a couple of new favourite characters. Personally, I particularly loved Sophie and Russell in What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth? by Gayle Forman, and Maria and Ben in Kiersten White's Welcome To Christmas, CA.

I love dual narratives with strong voices and Hannah and Aaron are an outstanding pair of narrators here, while there are a host of other very memorable characters - notably their families and Neville, the dirty old man whose gruff exterior hides a warm heart who Aaron befriends when working at an old people's home.
A superb central pairing in main characters Fin and Merrill here - the boy who's become a master thief as no-one ever remembers him, and the girl from our world who somehow CAN recall him. However there's much more to this one than just these two; the Naysayer is a brilliant supporting character and I loved the crew of the ship they sailed on (especially the pirats!)

Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens
I really liked central pairing Hazel and Daisy here, but for any mystery to work then as well as good detectives you also need to have a range of believable suspects, and Robin Stevens more than delivers here - it kept me guessing right the way throughout.

I'm a huge fan of Blue herself, who's developed wonderfully as a character over the first three books in this series, while the Raven Boys are also fantastically well-written, and the other characters - especially the villains - are all portrayed very well.

Superb chemistry between the two girls falling for each other despite knowing that their friends and families would find the attraction between them doubly hard to accept as they're the same sex but different races. However, while it's Linda and Sarah who the book focuses on, there's also a rich supporting cast, especially Sarah's little sister Ruth and Linda's friend Judy.

Best Supporting Characters

Sturmhond (Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo)
My love for Sturmhond is extremely well-known; he becomes even more brilliant in this fantastic finale to Bardugo's wonderful trilogy.

In turns infuriating, sympathetic, pitiable and surprisingly likeable despite the constant poor judgments he makes throughout the book, Little Pea is an outstanding character.

This was one of my favourites of the year for pure fun - it's a rollicking adventure story. Lots of memorable characters here but best of all was Miss Greyson, Hilary's governess, who ends up joining the pirate crew.

I'm firmly Team Soap in the love triangle between the sooty, heroine Sophronia, and Lord Mersey. He may be looked down on by many because he's black but his friendship with Sophronia is wonderful and he shows that he has more heart and courage than most of those who consider themselves superior to him.

My love for Bone Jack is rather well known by this point, I think! Mark, former best friend of lead character Ash is a stunning creation. I felt his pain as he mourned his father and turned his fury on Ash.

Apple's mum, who returns to her life after a long absence, was a character who I really disliked because she was so unthinkingly hurtful towards Apple - but it's an exquisitely believable portrayal of a careless but well-meaning parent from Sarah Crossan here.

Zeke's Nanna (Blue by Lisa Glass)
I thought the strongest part of Lisa Glass's debut was the relationship between Zeke and his family, particularly his Nanna, who'd always loved surfing. Scenes with her were both comic - despite her ill-health - and nearly unbearably touching at many points - because of it.

Described in the brilliant blurb to this book as 'exciting, fearless... and the most dangerous girl in London', Robin definitely lives up to that billing. She's not immediately likeable - with an abrasive personality and a seriously murky past - but she's someone it's easy to sympathise with.

Total (Timmy Failure series by Stephen Pastis)
The polar bear business partner of Timmy Failure is an outstanding character, brilliantly portrayed both in Pastis's humorous prose and the fantastic pictures of him.

Lots of great characters in Non Pratt's debut, but dirty old man Neville, who befriends Aaron and proves to have a warm heart well hidden beneath his gruff exterior, is one of my absolute favourites.


  1. Nice Post :D

    Was looking for your business email but I couldn't find it, wanted to include you in a blog collaboration/tag thingy I am doing in 2015 so give me a shout on twitter ( @IamRachA201 ) or on my blog so I can let you know more about it!

    Rachel @

  2. Blue Lily, Lily Blue is next on my TBR pile. Such an amazing series!

    Happy New Year. :)