2014 was an AMAZING reading year for me. So incredible that I have trouble shutting up about it sometimes. Honestly, the only bad thing about my reading year has been knowing how hard these year-end reading posts will be to write. Because how can I choose between all these amazing books I read this year?
So yeah, this might be kind of long. And I might also not mention some books that would normally make the cut.
First, a few stats because I geek out about these things. So far in 2014, I’ve read 57 books. (Of course, there are still three weeks of the year to go, so I suspect the final count will be higher.) 22 of the 57 were YA or MG (although I only read two MGs this year), or about 39%. 20 were adult science fiction or fantasy, or about 35%. 41 were written by women, about 72%. And thanks to my POC reading challenge, 14 were written by people of color, at not quite 25%.
Today I’m going to be talking about the YA novels I’ve read this year that have stuck with me. Most of the titles are contemporary YA (I read a lot of it this year).
Interesting Enough to Mention:
Shatter Me, Unravel Me, Ignite Me trilogy by Tahereh Mafi (dystopia)
I was torn as to whether to include this trilogy on my list, and I’m still a bit torn. It certainly isn’t going to be for everyone, to put it mildly. It is overwrought (which I actually like but your mileage will vary), it is melodramatic, there are plot holes, the world building is … not the most convincing thing ever. But. (You knew there was going to be a but.) If the overwrought prose style doesn’t drive you bonkers, it is actually a fascinating reflection of the character’s precarious mental state, and it changes over the course of the three books as she changes, and that’s just cool. And I love the protagonist’s character arc across the three books. Also, Tahereh Mafi knows how to write a romance. But there are some troubling indications of gaslighting etc. here too. So, I don’t know. Definitely memorable enough to talk about, that’s for sure.
The Testing, Independent Study, Graduation Day trilogy by Joelle Charbonneau (dystopia)
An easy-to-go-down, suspenseful dystopia trilogy. The main criticism I’ve heard about it is that the main character is a Mary Sue. Yeah, whatever, it was nice to watch a female character be so competent. (And I’ll mention that so often when the female main character is not a Mary Sue, instead she’s “unlikeable.” Oh, what a fine line we draw for our fictional women.)
My Favorite YA Reads of the Year:
Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman (Fantasy)
I feel like this book has a disadvantage because I read it waaaay back at the beginning of January, which means I don’t remember its details super well. What I do remember is that it is a creative dragon fantasy that didn’t irritate the hell out of me, which is noteworthy in and of itself. Also it featured music, hooray! And a plot that (from what I remember) held together for me AND was exciting.
Reality Boy, by A.S. King
Yay, a dysfunctional family story told from the victimized and traumatized viewpoint of the “Crapper,” as he became known in his family’s reality TV days. (I realize that might have come across as sarcastic, but I am actually completely serious in my love for dysfunctional family narratives. Their potential for conflict and depth is verra attractive.)
We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart
You either love this book or you hate this book, apparently based on whether one twist towards the end works for you or not. It worked for me, and therefore I loved the book. That being said, I also liked the structure, the interstitial “fairy tales,” and our troubled protagonist. Yes, she is privileged, and that privilege is worked into how messed up everything in her life is, which I appreciated.
Since You Asked, by Maurene Goo
To be honest, I don’t remember much of the plot of this one. What I do remember is that it was FUNNY. The protagonist Holly is hilarious and snarky and full of attitude and I could read her voice all day. Also she gets into trouble by writing a newspaper column, and I love novels that feature high school students working on newspapers, so this is my jam.
Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, by Gabrielle Zevin
Stories featuring amnesiacs are also my jam, and this one is less silly and more serious than most of them. I’m fascinated by memory, and the way this book played with that theme was thought-provoking as our heroine got to see her life and the people in it from a different perspective. I also liked its realistic handling of romance.
Some Girls Are, by Courtney Summers
My friend recommended this, and as you know, I am always leery of books that have been recommended to me. But I gave it a try, and then I felt like my friend knows me! Because this was such a good Amy book! Dark and gritty with a not-very-likeable protagonist whom I adore to pieces. It’s about rape culture and bullying and going to a dark place for self-preservation, and it all felt very, very real.
The Truth About Alice, by Jennifer Mathieu
And then I found this book soon afterwards, and it explores some similar themes, but the structure is oh! so brilliant. There are several different point of view characters, all of whom give the reader different pieces of the puzzle to understand the swirl of rumors surrounding the central character Alice. And we don’t hear from Alice herself until the very end.
I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson
This was probably my favorite YA read of the year. I love the prose, I love the contrasting POV characters of brother and sister. I love the structure of how there was a gap in time between the alternating chapters: in the brother’s chapters they are 13, and in the sister’s chapters they are 16. I love the sibling relationship with so much love. I love the characters and their passion and their dark broken places. I love the truths that come to light as the story unwinds itself. The only thing I didn’t love about this book was the ending, which was a bit too pat for me. But even so, wow, what a book.
What I Want to Read in YA Next Year:
I’d love to read a YA dystopia that really holds together plot-wise for an entire three books! Or else isn’t three books long. That would be cool. Also unlikely since dystopia is not the it genre any more.
Now That You’re Here, by Amy K. Nichols. This is my friend’s YA science fiction novel that COMES OUT TODAY! I am very excited about it!
All the Rage, by Courtney Summers, who wrote Some Girls Are above (out in April 2015)
Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, by A.S. King
Belzhar, by Meg Wolitzer
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, by Jenny Han
The Winner’s Curse, by Marie Rutkoski
The Spectacular Now, by Tim Tharp
Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell
The Young Elites, by Marie Lu
I Was Here, by Gayle Forman (out in January 2015)
Shadow Scale, by Rachel Hartman, a companion novel to Seraphina above (out in March 2015)
Rhiannon, by David Levithan, a follow-up to Every Day, may be coming out; if so, I’m all over that! I still think about Every Day sometimes.
Okay, okay, obviously I could go on forever here, so I’m cutting myself off. What YA novels did you read and like this year? Which ones are you looking forward to reading next year?