Now that I have posted about some of my favorite picture books and chapter books of 2012, it's time to look at the wild and wonderful world of young adult literature! There is an award for young adult books, akin to the Newbery (but administered by a different ALA division, the Young Adult Library Services Association) -- the Printz award. I always look forward to the announcement of the Printz winner with some trepidation: will the books they recognize be ones I have read? Will I have even heard of them? Sometimes the Printz winners are books that I actively dislike (for instance, I was not particularly enthralled with last year's winner.) Often, the book I love the best is completely passed over -- I'm thinking here of the year that The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie won absolutely nothing. So, while I would be quite pleased if any of my picks below were to win a Printz medal or honor, I'm not even calling this a list of predictions, because while all award committees are unpredictable, the Printz committee is, to me, doubly so. Here are my five favorites, and then a few more that are worth mentioning:
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (my review)
I love a rich, intelligently-written fantasy, and this one does not disappoint. There's so much depth to this book -- the characters, the setting, the plot -- and it's so satisfying. While some books are obviously series-starters, this is a self-contained story that I hope will be the beginning of a series, not because of dangling plot threads, but because I so much enjoyed living, for a little while, in the world of the book. I'm sure already that this will be one of my personal favorites that I will return to many times in the future.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (my review)
Remember how much everyone loved The Book Thief? Code Name Verity is the best WWII book I've read since The Book Thief. I don't want to draw too many comparisons between the two, though, because they are very different in tone and content. Code Name Verity has all of the wonderful stuff going on that I have mentioned in my reviews of other favorites (plot, setting, characters, blah, blah, blah) but there are two things that really set it apart. The first is the way the plot twists -- there were so many things that were, to me, completely unexpected, but if I had, perhaps, paid closer attention to the clues, I would have seen them coming -- and the friendship between the two main characters. And I would hate to give anything away, so I'll just say that this is a book that engages the mind and the emotions in equal parts, and I definitely recommend it.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (my review)
When is a cancer book not a cancer book? When it's written by the incomparable John Green, of course. Though the narrative does focus on two teenage cancer patients, this book manages to transcend the soppiness of all of those dying-teenager books I read in my adolescence. There's definitely tragedy here, but also humor and romance and friendship.
Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl (my review)
After all of that depth and seriousness and tragedy, it's nice to be mentioning a title that's on the lighter side. While Keeping the Castle may not be quite as high on my list as the others I've mentioned, it's a thoroughly enjoyable read -- and there's definitely something to be said for that.
The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab (my review)
I was fairly impressed by this book when I read it, and it has stuck with me since then. It does a great job of handling some weighty issues. The main character is flawed, but sympathetic, and secondary characters are equally complex.
Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan (my review) -- I picked up this book expecting a fluffy parody, but instead got great characters and a cool plot, with the expected level of humor to boot. Will this win any awards? Probably not, but it sure is a fun book.
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith (my review) -- This book is sweet, but not cloyingly so. I really liked the main character's complicated relationships with her family. The romance is nice, but the book is about more than the romance, which elevates it a tad from the common herd.
The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima (my review), and
Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore (my review), and
The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson (my review) --
I'm lumping these three together because they are all books in fantasy series that I have really enjoyed. They don't stand on their own, nor should they; they build on the excellent earlier volumes that their authors have created. I think they're definitely worth mentioning as some of the best books I've read this year.
That's all, folks! In just a few short hours (8am Pacific, 11am Eastern), the Youth Media Awards will be announced -- if you're so inclined, you can watch the live press conference here. I'll post again soon with my thoughts and reactions!