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A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy
Inside A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy

2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults, Part II

The full list of YALSA’s 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults list is at its website, including the BFYA Top Ten.

Below are the books on the list that I’ve read, with links to my reviews. Please go to the YALSA website for the full list and YALSA’s own annotations. Because of how many books on the list, I’ve broken this into two posts, for today and yesterday.

For the counters: I read 7 of the 10 Top Ten; and 32 of the 113 BFYA books.

Which ones have you read?

Which ones do you plan on reading?

Lo, Malinda. Huntress. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2011. My review. “If Ash was about recovering from grief (via a Cinderella retelling), Huntress is about love and what people will and won’t do for love and how those actions and non-actions impact people and their world. Love can be nurturing but it can also be destructive.” One of my Favorite Books Read in 2011.

. . . .

Marchetta, Melina. The Piper’s Son. Candlewick Press, 2011. My review. “The Piper’s Son left me breathless with heart pounding — it is a beautifully written love song about the flaws and strengths of family and the long journey of grief, about the love and laughter and disappointments that tie people together.” My audiobook review. “While, for me, Tom’s emotional journey of putting his life back together, still broken but together, is what resonates with me. For others who, say, may want more action? Here’s the pitch: Two years ago Tom had a one and a half  night stand with a girl he loved and after, treated her so badly that not only won’t she talk to him, she has left the country. When you’ve treated someone horribly, is it possible to fix it.” In either format, one of my Favorite Books Read in 2011.

. . . .

*McCall, Guadalupe Garcia. Under the Mesquite. Lee & Low Books, 2011. My review: “Under the Mesquite is a window into a family dealing with cancer; but it is also more than that. It’s the look at an immigrant family, balancing traditions and cultures. It’s parents saving money for their children’s future until medical bills eat up the savings. It’s a family whose life is full. It’s the story of Lupita, as she balances her roles of sister and daughter, of caretaker and child.”  

. . . .

*Myracle, Lauren. Shine. Abrams/Amulet Books, 2011. My review. “Myracle does a beautiful job of depicting this rural area and its inhabitants with both compassion and honesty. It’s not entirely hopeless, but neither is it romanticized. Here is Cat: “My heart, as I closed the cabinet and rose to my feet, was a small dead creature. If I could bury it in the woods, I would.”

. . . .

*Ness, Patrick.  A Monster Calls. Illus. by Jim Kay. Candlewick Press, 2011. My review. “This is a heartbreaking look at how one teenager copies with the terminal illness of his mother. The monster yew tree who visits Conor nightly tells him stories. Stories without happy endings, stories with uncomfortable truths. “There is not always a good guy. Nor is there always a bad guy. Most people are somewhere in between.” Stories pushing Conor to admit to the truth he hides even from himself. It’s not the truth you’d think. Conor’s alienation, his anger, his hurt, crushed me. I’d be just another adult in his life saying, “poor Conor.” A Monster Calls doesn’t hide the anger and ugliness of a parent dying.”

. . . .

Ockler, Sarah. Fixing Delilah. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2010. My review. “Family secrets? Including an almost decade-long feud? And a summer spent cleaning out the dead grandmother’s house? It’s easy to tell why I moved this book to the top of my to-be-read pile. What moved it to my “favorite books read in 2010” list? Fixing Delilah  is not “oh noes, this thing happened eight years ago, here it is eight years later, sorry, all better now.” Oh, the book begins eight years later and yes, something happened, and yes, the three women work towards reconciliation. The family argument splintered the family, with Delilah’s mother and aunt barely speaking, but it splintered a family that already was broken.  As we find out from Delilah, she, her mother, and her aunt are not unscarred or untouched by the eight years and what came before. Delilah and her mother have issues that link back to before the fight. The fight is not “the event”; it’s one event in family dynamics and dysfunction.” One of my Favorite Books Read in 2010.

. . . .

Oppel, Kenneth.  This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2011. My review. “Because Victor’s voice is compelling. Because his choices took me on a breathless adventure. Because This Dark Endeavor was both an extended game and a literary wonder. Because its made me want to read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. This is a Favorite Book Read in 2011.”

. . . .

Resau, Laura & Maria Virginia Farinango.  The Queen of Water. Random House Children’s Books/Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2011. My review. “It would be easy to say that The Queen of Water breaks your heart; when a seven year old is taken from a family and shown a dirty rug to sleep on. When she realizes her parents aren’t going to bring her home. The first time she is hit. The second time. When her desire to learn to read is mocked. When the person she trusts betrays her. When she realizes that she is caught between two cultures, without a home.” One of my Favorite Books Read in 2011.

 . . . .

Roth, Veronica. Divergent. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books, 2011. My review. “For terrific, nuanced world building; for an amazingly mature romance; for a strong main character that is just the perfect mix of confidence and doubt; for leaving some conclusions for the reader to make; and for being a book I just gobbled up; Divergent is one of my Favorite Books Read in 2011.”

. . . .

Schmidt, Gary. Okay for Now. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Clarion Books, 2011. My review. “The voice! Doug’s voice! I adored it, was swept away by it, not just in how Schmidt captures a thirteen year old with a chip on his shoulder trying not to be “that person” who strikes out in anger, but also how Doug reveals information. Look at that simple quote, above — “I hate that we had to come here” — and how in those few words we find out so much about Doug. It’s not the town he hates, but the fact that his father lost a job, that they had no options, that it’s a step down, that they “had” to do this. Again and again, Doug reveals information he doesn’t realize he’s revealing. It’s a thing of beauty, actually, to go through the book and find instance after instance of this.”

Sedgwick, Marcus. White Crow. Roaring Brook Press, 2011. My review. “White Crow scared the hell out of me. But why? Not because of the horrors of the past. Rather, it’s because Ferelith so smoothly manipulates Rebecca, putting her in danger that is physical, emotional, and mental, playing on Rebecca’s trust and need and loneliness. It’s because the rector is so willing to rationalize events and actions, including manipulation and betraying trust. Because White Crow scared me for all the right reasons. Because the image of Winterfold disappearing a foot at time haunts me. Because the triple narration showed just exactly how to use different voices and different perspectives. This is a Favorite Book Read in 2011.”

. . . .

*Sepetys, Ruta. Between Shades of Gray. Penguin Group/Philomel Books, 2011. My review. “The first chapters have some stunning sentences that, in a handful of words, shows the horrors that Lina will be living through: “They took me in my nightgown.” “It was the last time I would look into a real mirror for more than a decade.” “Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother’s was worth a pocket watch.”  

. . . .

Stiefvater, Maggie. The Scorpio Races. Scholastic Incorporated/Scholastic Press, 2011. My review. “Killer horses. There are some reader who just need to know “killer horses.” I am not one of those people. Sorry, but I was never one of those girls who went through a horse phase. So, in other words, for me, Stiefvater had to work for it to make me fall for The Scorpio Races, and fall I did. What made me fall: the setting of Thisby. A small, isolated island except for the tourists who come for the Scorpio races and come to buy horses. The world where capaill uisce are real, and iron and bells and salt and circles can help tame them. A world where water horses kill and people view it as tragic and sad, but not unexpected. Thisby and the capaill uisce are from Stiefvater’s imagination (though based on the myths and stories of man-eating water horses), and so, too, is the time. It’s a world of cars but no Internet. It’s familiar, but slanted. Thisby is so real that midway through I began to wonder, half seriously, if I could visit.” A Favorite Book Read in 2011.

. . . .

*Taylor, Laini. Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Little, Brown, Books for Young Readers, 2011. My review. “Daughter of Smoke and Bone is stunning — I’ve never read anything quite like it. Taylor tells us, up front, “once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.” Talk about your spoilers! And this illustrates why spoilers don’t matter — yes, there will be an angel. There will be a devil. They will fall in love; the reader even knows how it will end. The entire plot is given away before the story even begins. Yet, still, the reader turns the pages, wondering, who is the angel? Who is the devil? How do they even meet to fall in love? What does this have to do with Karou, who lives in Prague and meets her best friend for coffee and picks the wrong boyfriend, yet also knocks on a normal-looking door and enters the mysterious workshop of Brimstone, a world where wishes come true for a price, and the price is teeth. Oh, what does Brimstone do with all those teeth . . . .” One of my Favorite Books Read in 2011.  

. . . .

Valente, Catherynne M. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. Feiwel & Friends, 2011. My review. “How lovely, just how quickly September accepts the invitation of the Green Wind and how easily and deeply she believes in it, the Green Wind and his flying leopard, Fairyland and witches and dragons. September makes friends and accepts challenges and jumps into adventures. It’s not risk free. There are real dangers, both to herself and her new friends, and important decisions have to be made. September’s seamless acceptance of the magical makes this a read for both those young enough themselves to believe that Fairyland may exist in the back of wardrobes, but also those old enough to no longer care what others think of their reading choices. This a delightful, rich, inventive book for both children and adults, readers understood by another writer whose magical world just happened, without explanation.”

. . . .

Whaley, John Corey. Where Things Come Back. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing/Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011. My review. “Because of how much I enjoyed this book; because of the complexity of Cullen’s loss and grieving; because I’ve reread the ending a half dozen times; and because I’ve been searching for other reviews, looking for insights and analysis; this is a Favorite Book Read in 2011.” 

. . . .

Wynne-Jones, Tim. Blink and Caution. Candlewick Press, 2011. My review. “Because I found myself caring so deeply about what happened to Blink and Caution. Because it hurt, knowing how deeply Caution was hurt by what she’d done. Because I wanted these two teens to connect, and once they connected, I wanted to see what they would do. Because this was one of the best audiobooks I’ve ever listened to. This is one of my Favorite Books Read in 2011.”

. . . .

A big thank you for the hard work of the BFYA committee, who read a lot of books to create this list. The Best Fiction for Young Adults Committee are: Patti Tjomsland, Chair, Mark Morris High School, Longview, Wash.; Jennifer Barnes, Malden (Mass.) Public Library; Carol A. Edwards, Denver Public Library; Debbie Fisher, Central Falls (R.I.) High School; Michael L. Fleming, Pacific Cascade Middle School Library, Issaquah, Wash.; Clio Hathaway, Hayward (Calif.) Public Library; Diana Tixier Herald,, Glade Park, Colo.; Janet Hilbun, University of North Texas Department of Library and Information Science, Denton; Alissa Lauzon, Haverhill (Mass.) Public Library; Shelly McNerney, Blue Valley West High School, Overland Park, Kan.; Stacey McCracken, W.F. West High School, Chehalis, Wash.; Shilo Pearson, Chicago Public Library; Judith E. Rodgers, Wayzata Central Middle School, Plymouth, Minn.; Ted Schelvan, Chief Umtuch Middle School, Battle Ground, Wash.; Gillian Engberg, Booklist consultant, Chicago; and Carol Steen, administrative assistant, Columbia Valley Gardens, Longview, Wash.

About Elizabeth Burns

Looking for a place to talk about young adult books? Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, and let's chat. I am a New Jersey librarian. My opinions do not reflect those of my employer, SLJ, YALSA, or anyone else. On Twitter I'm @LizB; my email is


  1. Sondy says:

    Yikes! I’ve only read 4 of the Top Ten. On the bright side, I was already planning to read most of the others. So many books, so little time!

  2. Sondy says:

    Oops! I misunderstood and actually have read 5 of the Top Ten, which makes me feel a little better. However, I’ve only read 16 of the larger list, which doesn’t look so good.

  3. Genevieve says:

    I’ve read 21 of the larger list, but only one of the Top Ten (due to a preference for lighter books).

  4. Genevieve says:

    And I should’ve said, I was so happy to see the ones I’d read on there — some wonderful books that are getting some recognition.

  5. Angela Carstensen Liz B says:

    Sondy, yay for 5!

    Genevieve, I love seeing good books recognized. I have to do this same sort of bean counting for the Quick Picks.

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