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My Favorite Books of 2011, Part II
Because my favorites are too much for one post to hold!
The Lucky Kind by Alyssa B. Sheinmel. Knopf, an imprint of Random House. 2011. Review copy from publisher. My review. “Nick’s struggles with the change in his family, or, rather, with his having to adjust to new information about his family, impact those around him. Part of the joy of The Lucky Kind is that because Nick has family and friends who are loving and supportive, they are able to give him what he needs during these months. No, they aren’t perfect; it is better than that, in that they are understanding and forgiving. Nick’s growth and coming of age is about how he, too, becomes understanding and forgiving. How he, too, earns the right to be one of “the lucky kind,” and learns that being “the lucky kind” isn’t about what one is given but rather what happens because of the choices one makes.”
The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan. Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House. 2011. Review copy from publisher. My review. “Annah and Abigail are identical twins: Annah looks at Abigail — now Gabry — and sees what she, Annah, would have looked like and been like if she wasn’t scarred from barbed wire, if she had been loved by a mother and raised in a close, caring community. Readers of The Dead Tossed Waves know that Gabry’s life was not perfect. Annah does not want to be jealous of Gabry, especially since Annah believes it was her fault that the three children were initially lost in the forest. That Gabry ended up having a pretty good life is part of what Annah has to work through; Annah also has to work through Elias and Gabry’s relationship. Does Elias love Gabry because she is the unmarked Annah? This matters to Annah because of her bundle of emotions about Elias: Elias, the only person in her life for years. All her emotional life has been about Elias and now Elias loves another — not just any other, but Gabry. . . . . Just in case you’re thinking this is just an emotional merry go round, let me remind you: Living Dead. Zombies.”
Blink & Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones. Candlewick. 2011. BrillianceAudio. Narrated by MacLeod Andrews. 2011. Review copy from publisher. My review. “Blink and Caution are two teens who fate has not treated well. Both deserve better than what life has given them. Caution, especially, has almost been broken by what she did. Almost . . . because while she ran away, while she hooked up with a drug dealer, while she is now on the run for her life, she is on the run. She does want to live. Blink & Caution is about two broken people coming together and being made whole, but it’s two broken people who are ready to be made whole. Had their paths crossed earlier, it would not have been the right time in either of their lives. Together, they are stronger; together, they may be able to figure a way out of the mess Blink is in. Together, they may become strong enough to survive on their own.”
The Isle of Blood by Rick Yancey. Book 3 in the Monstrumologist Series. Simon & Schuster. 2011. Reviewed from ARC from publisher. My review. “If you enjoy horror, especially horror told in a literary manner, and haven’t read any of the Monstrumologist series yet, stop now and go read The Monstrumologist and The Curse of the Wendigo. This is the horror of Stephen King, including the deep examination of people and their psyches, a look into what makes people love — or people kill. It is told in the rich language of days past, as if polysyllabic words and classical language makes blood and violence easier to read about and to think about. To think – yes, horror demands you to think, not just about “what is that sound outside my window” but the deeper philosophical questions, such as – what is a monster? What is a man? What is the difference? Instead of Uncle Stevie making the reader think about the darker aspects of ourselves, it is Uncle Ricky, taking our hand as we search for monsters, known and unknown, inside and outside our homes and hearts.”
The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson. Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins. 2011. Reviewed from ARC from publisher. One of my top 5. My review. “Elisa’s adventure is about to begin, and part of the joy of The Girl of Fire and Thorns is how she triumphs, despite the hardships and challenges she faces: everything from kidnapping to sand storms. I loved Elisa; loved how a person can be a hero who spent their life in books and comfort. Elisa had no reason to learn sword fighting, to ride a horse, to be athletic, so she wasn’t. She doesn’t become some slim fighting machine; but she does transform herself into a person of action. At its heart, The Girl of Fire and Thorns is about a girl becoming a woman because she realizes her actions have consequences, that life is more than sitting back waiting for things to happen, and that she has choices.”
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. Little, Brown. 2011. Reviewed from ARC from publisher. 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 . . .”
Uncommon Criminals: a Heist Society Novel by Ally Carter. Disney-Hyperion Books. 2011. Personal copy. Sequel to Heist Society. My review. “I honestly believe there are two types of people in the world: those who love Ally Carter books, and those who haven’t read them yet. Those who do love them because they are “a good read”: fun, engaging, lively, smart. When certain critics moan over the dark state of YA literature, and where are the fun, lighthearted books, we turn to each other and say, “wait, what? There were no Ally Carter books on the shelves?””
Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma. Dutton Books, a member of Penguin. Reviewed from ARC from publisher. One of my top 5. My review. “How to explain the spell of Ruby, the web she weaves around all who know her. To know her is to love her. And as I write this, trying to both explain the magic and wonder of this book without revealing too much, I find that all I can write about is Ruby. All I want to write about is Ruby. Ruby is a magical older sister, almost mythical to her younger sister, Chloe. Zoey Deschanel would play Ruby in a movie, with her sundresses and boots, her big old Buick with the gas gage that always reads E yet always has a few extra miles left in her, ex-boyfriends ready to do any favor she asks, because, well, it’s Ruby. Some people are like that; charismatic, magnetic. Everyone loves Ruby. Best of all, Ruby loves Chloe. She includes Chloe in her circle, makes her part of it, whether its a circle of friends or of family (Ruby has practically raised Chloe). When Ruby says something is possible, it is. When Ruby says Chloe is capable of something, she is. For two years, Chloe has missed having someone believe in her so deeply, support her so completely: “Ruby could turn me from an ordinary girl you wouldn’t look at twice into someone worth watching, someone special, mythical even.” Who wouldn’t want a bond like Ruby and Chloe’s? But now, two years later, something is off, with Ruby, with that bond. Ruby has a secret, a secret she’s keeping from Chloe. Even when Chloe thinks she knows what it is, she isn’t even close to the truth.”
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 email@example.com.
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