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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Best Reads of 2010

I read a lot of Young Adult books this year because: 1) I’m trying to get inspired to write the next book in my YA Gothic Revival trilogy; and 2) I’ve been enjoying YA more than adult literature lately. Only two of my favorite titles this year were adult fiction. The YA books I’ve loved have been plot-driven, romantic, emotional, and extremely well written. The line between adult and young adult literature has been blurring of late, and in my opinion, that’s a good thing! Here are my top 8 picks for 2010:

1. Matched by Allie Condie—great dystopian novel about a society in which adolescents are matched with their future spouses, and all life decisions are strictly controlled by “The Society” until one girl decides to question the life that’s been chosen for her. Beautifully written and compelling. The first in a trilogy.
2. Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron—quiet, introspective novel about a disaffected teen coming to terms with his depression; reminiscent of The Catcher in the Rye with wonderful writing and a smart, ironic sense of humor.
3. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver—YA novel about a young girl who gets into a car accident and must relive her last day over and over again until she figures out where she went wrong—the book was plugged as Mean Girls meets Groundhog Day, but that doesn’t do it justice. The writing is beautiful, and the storyline is an emotional roller coaster. The protagonist is unlikable at first, but she goes on a journey of self-discovery and takes the reader with her.
4. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins—I was hesitant to select this as one of my top reads in 2010, only because I was disappointed with some of the ways Collins wraps up the loose ends of this amazing series. While reading the book, I couldn’t do anything else; it has the same level of tension and suspense as the previous books, but I felt the characters regressed a bit in this one, and some rushed scenes toward the climax made me feel even more disconnected from the characters. Even though my emotional response wasn’t what I’d hoped it would be, the book was still a brilliant feat of storytelling.
5. The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen—escapist women’s fiction about some broken souls in a small town who use a bit of magic to heal each other. Magical realism with a dash of romance. Sweet and ethereal, like cotton candy. (And isn't that cover gorgeous?)
6. Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey—a smart spoof on the vampire novel, but one that actually has strong writing and characterizations; Jessica is a sympathetic and plucky narrator, and the vampire hero, Lucius, is extremely funny and sexy. There is a free sequel of sorts on the author’s website: http://www.bethfantaskey.com/.
7. Unearthly by Cynthia Hand—an unexpected YA find about a girl who is part angel and must discover her purpose on earth, which puts her between two very appealing but different love interests. Beautiful descriptions of Wyoming scenery, a likeable heroine, and a fast-paced and romantic plot. The first in a trilogy. (I read this on NetGalley, but it officially comes out January 4. I think you’ll be hearing a lot more about this book in the near future.)
8. Little Bee by Chris Cleave—the most serious and literary of my choices; told in the dual perspectives of a young African refugee named Little Bee and the middle class woman whose life is forever changed by a chance encounter with Little Bee and her sister; a very surprising, disturbing, and emotional book. Great book club selection.

Happy New Year, everyone, and happy reading in 2011!