I spent my year navigating other people’s heartbreak, falling in love for the first time, discovering new worlds, figuring out superpowers, but mostly I spent it with my face in a book, sitting on the sofa with a cup of coffee and a cozy blanket. Saying that 2014 was a great reading year would be an understatement, finishing the year with 128 books read it has been my best reading year to date and included a varied mix of Adult Fiction, Children’s Literature, Comedy Memoirs, Graphic Novels and the staple in my reading list Young Adult Fiction. The most important thing I took away from my grand reading adventure was this: Happiness for me is directly related to how much time I make for reading. Before we ring in the New Year I wanted to share my Top 10 Young Adult reads of the year (plus a few honorable mentions). These are not necessarily books published in 2014 just read. Let me know your thoughts on my top 10 YA reads and what your favorites are. All the below books are appropriate for teens ages 13-17.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Martin Selznick : A magical adventure told through stunningly simple drawings and minimal words, The Invention of Hugo Cabret takes you on a journey of discovery. I was unsure what to expect from this one, and I was absolutely enchanted by the illustrations and simplicity of this “mystery” as it is unwound before your eyes. It was made into a movie a while back and I have heard wonderful things about it. I am really curious to see how the movie will compare to this imaginative book.
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll : Haunting, disturbing and downright creepy; the biggest compliment I can give to this stunning graphic novel is it reminded me of reading Edgar Allen Poe’s short stories. I picked this one up on a whim at the bookstore and was immediately drawn in by the stark swaths of color and dramatic illustrations. A slow build of scary with every turn of the page, it also makes a beautiful addition to your library.
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black : This is technically a cheat, as this was the last book I read in 2013, but I couldn’t leave it out when I was compiling my list. This book breathed new life into a genre that I had completely abandoned: Vampire Fiction. Holly Black turns the traditional story of vampires on its head by infusing it with a zombie apocalypse vibe and stripping it down to a gritty story of survival. No glitter, no werewolves, just an old-fashioned vampire story. This was the book I recommended and loaned out the most in 2014 and I received rave reviews from everyone who read it.
Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge : Full disclosure: I love retellings. I especially love Beauty and the Beast retellings. But, it’s rare that the author does something new with the story. Rosamund Hodge managed to create the most unique version of the Beauty and the Beast story I have ever encountered. Reminiscent of Greek Mythology but with a twist of Shakespearean Tragedy, Cruel Beauty was a stunning blend of the familiar and the new.
Shatter Me Series by Tahereh Mafi : I had been hearing about this series for years. How could I not? It was all over Goodreads and I recall seeing the cover image of Juliette in her white dress surrounded by shattered glass and thinking…”that just looks dumb.” I am the poster child for judging a book by its cover, despite that; I managed to pick up Shatter Me in the spring. At first, I thought all my preconceived ideas of the book were right. I hated the main character Juliette, as a matter of fact; I have never hated a main character as much as I did Juliette. But, the writing was so stunningly haunting, beautiful, and poetic that I could not stop reading. Tahereh Mafi is a gifted author; an author who manages to create an utterly loathsome heroine, but who has such a way with words that the reader looks past it. Once I did I couldn’t get enough. The Shatter Me Series is completely stolen by Warner and Kenji and that’s perfectly fine by me (and I would guess most readers). Through three novels and two novellas Taherah Mafi takes the reader on a fun dystopian journey of self-discovery for her heroine and heroes and someone manages to do the unthinkable by the end of book three, Ignite Me: she teaches the reader to appreciate and like Juliette and understand her choices.
Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins : Stephanie Perkins is the uncrowned queen of YA Contemporary Fiction. She manages to infuse all her stories and characters with a sweetness and warmth that makes for the best kind of escapist literature. I read all three of her books this year and while they all made me smile I couldn’t help but feel a special attachment to Lola and Cricket. I know Anna and the French Kiss started it all, and while many swoon for St. Clair’s French charm it was Cricket’s nerdy idiosyncrasies that really hooked me. Her ability to consistently provide her readers with an uncomplicated and enjoyable story every time is an incredibly special ability, and will keep this reader loyal.
The Giver by Lois Lowry : I don’t know why it took me so long to pick up The Giver. It is teeny tiny, generally considered a modern classic, and beloved the world over. Somehow, none of that information persuaded me over the past 20+ years of reading to actually crack it open and see what all the fuss was about. I can’t tell you what inspired me to do so this year, but I can tell you, I regret that I didn’t do it 20 years ago. It is a brilliant little bit of Young Adult literature masquerading as a Utopian cautionary tale. Jonas, the hero, is the narrator and the readers guide into this perfect world. Somehow, Lois Lowry does in 179 pages what many authors fail to do in 400. She makes you associate with Jonas in a way that makes you feel like he is your proxy living for you and struggling but surviving in this idyllic world. By the time the story ends in its non-committal infuriating way you can’t believe how much story was told in so few words.
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell : This was the year I read everything of Rainbow Rowell’s I could get my hands on. Attachments, Fangirl and Landline, each a great book with relateable characters and a great story, but Fangirl stood out. With her heroine Cath, Rainbow Rowell introduces a fan girl to idolize to a generation of fan-girls (myself included). Her obsession with Simon Snow the Harry Potter like character and the slash fan fiction she spends hours writing reminded me of the year I spent plunged into the abyss of Twilight and Harry Potter fanfic and what sweet torture it was waiting for the next chapter to go live. It may just be that the story brought back so many enjoyable memories for me, but I absolutely fell in love with Cath, Levi and their awkward stumbles into falling in love.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz : I never expected a coming of age story about to friends in their early teens to be so hauntingly beautiful. Every sentence felt like a love letter from the author to the reader. Simple, emotive and beautiful, reading Aristotle and Dante felt like reading a book length poem. No superfluous words, every line counted and made its intended impact on the reader. It may be cliché to say it but, I laughed, I cried and felt completely satisfied with this gem of a book.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline : There is something so special about books like Ready Player One. Ernest Cline has lovingly crafted a completely unique story while making it entirely relatable to the reader by utilizing 80’s pop culture. This book was an absolute joy to read from the first page. The narrator, a teenage boy, is your guide through this marvelous world filled with pop culture and video game references. From the first chapter you are completely transported and you don’t want to put down this cyber-punk adventure until you know how it will end. For those of you so inclined, I recommend doing an audiobook – traditional book combo read. The audiobook is narrated by Wil Wheaton (of Stark Trek, Wesley Crusher fame) brilliantly, he infuses it with such nerdy glee you can’t help but get sucked in. If you love video games, 80’s nostalgia, pop culture, or just an amazingly fun and well told story Ready Player One is a must read.
Georgia Nicholson Series by Louise Rennison : A funny and realistic look into the mind of a teenage girls life and loves.
Alienated by Melissa Landers : A romantic star crossed lovers story between a human and an alien.
Invisibility by David Levithan and Andrea Cremer : A completely unique take on super powers.
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mass : A kick butt heroine who lives life raging against the machine.