This post is coming later than planned — are we really two weeks into the new year? As promised, here are my favourite reads of 2014 (youngest age category to oldest):
Savvy by Ingrid Law: Savvy was the stand-out MG read for me last year. It traipsed between real-world and magical, dropping the odd marvelous word such as Kansaska-Nebransas. But the main reason why I loved it, was because of it’s heart. Savvy digs deep into the souls of all the characters: the smart-mouthed Bobbi isn’t really so sure of herself; the seemingly spineless Lester just needs someone to believe in him. This odd bunch of misfits pull together in a manner that left me grinning like a goon. You should read it, if only for the cafe scene. Five stars from me.
Doll Bones by Holly Black: I discovered Holly Black at the beginning of 2014 (more about that later) and was eager to get my hands on some dark, sinister MG. Doll Bones didn’t disappoint. Like Savvy, it’s essentially a road-trip story: in this case featuring a threesome of imaginative kids who are on the brink of leaving kid-stuff behind. Since watching Poltergeist as a youngster, I’ve found clowns and porcelain dolls really creepy, so this story gave me shivers — in a good way. 4.5 stars.
Wonder by R J Palacio: “My name is August. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.” I loved this story about a boy trying to negotiate everyday school life for the first time. I don’t usually enjoy as many POV changes as this book had, but the emotional journey of the characters was strong enough to overcome any problems I may have had. 4.5 stars.
The Wig in the Window by Kristen Kittscher: My childhood reading years were filled with stories about kids running around in the dark, solving mysteries. I may be a sentimental old fool, but I wish there were more of these. I appreciated how friendship and diversity issues were tackled without getting preachy or overtaking the story. My only nitpick: the ending felt a little too like an action movie, but this was a little thing. 4.5 stars.
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black:When I opened this book I was surrounded by children and the winter olympics was on the television. Despite all the distractions, I was instantly drawn into the most terrifying, breath-holding beginning of a book I’ve ever read (and most likely will read). My anxiety levels during that first scene were off the scale. When I finally remembered to exhale, my first thought was: Wow. My second thought was: I hope the rest of the book doesn’t let me down. It didn’t. TCGiC was the most unpredictable, fun, and imaginative vampire book I’ve read since The Darkangel. Five stars.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein: “It’s like being in love, discovering your best friend.” Let me count the ways… I loved that the love story at the centre of this book was one of friendship. I loved that it was a historical (WWII) spy story with female protagonists. I love that every time I read the quote: “KISS ME, HARDY! Kiss me, QUICK!” tears spring to my eyes. Five stars.
Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis: I discovered Kat through my freelance editor, Taryn Albright. I was particularly drawn to Kat’s blog because her journey sounded similar to mine, only she was a few years ahead of me (hopefully!) in terms of making her publishing dreams a reality. When her book was released mid-2014, I rushed to buy it. Partly because I was curious to read Kat’s work; partly because I wanted to support her as a debut author. I was impressed. Kat’s lyrical style of writing suits me down to the ground, and the world she’s built in Blackfin is filled with quirks and mystery. Four stars.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman: Although this is an adult book, it reminded me of a couple of favourite YA authors from my teenage years: Lois Duncan and Margaret Mahy. I loved the infinite scope of the world Neil Gaiman built, and how tuned in I felt to the child protagonist’s helplessness as he struggled against an ancient and all-powerful entity. Five stars.
Now for the special awards:
The “I wish I had a time machine so I could have read you when I was young” award I have a small confession: I read A Wrinkle in Time for the first time this year, and although I enjoyed it very much, the Camazotz scenes felt dated to me. The Ocean at the End of the Lane felt like the book I wish A Wrinkle in Time was. I know this is really unfair, and if I’d read the book when I was a teenager, I’m certain I would have loved it.
The Shirley Bassey award for The Book Thief. I’m only a short way into this book but it’s such a big, bold story. How many books could get away with appointing Death as the narrator? I know I’m going to enjoy this epic journey.[Post-read note: Having now finished The Book Thief, I feel as though the earlier description is too flippant for the material and themes addressed by the book. Once I grew accustomed to the unusual narrative style, I was swept away with the emotion of the story, and it was one of the most moving books I’ve read. I feel as though I better understand the fear and actions of the people caught up in Germany during WWII. The question I’ve often asked about the Holocaust: How could this have ever happened? finally has an answer; and although it makes me uneasy to acknowledge that good people can do terrible things when they’re scared, it’s not something the current generation should allow themselves to forget.]
The WTF just happened? award for All The Birds Singing by Evie Wyld. While I really enjoyed the read (the writing was glorious) and the clever way the chapters read, I still don’t know what happened in the end.
The “I just can’t let you go” award goes to When You Reach Me, Chime, The Darkangel, The 11pm Question, and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for being so fabulous, I just had to read them again.