I've been wanting to do a top 10 books of the year post, but I wanted to wait until the year was really over, so as not to miss anything. If you look below, you will notice that there are, in fact, twelve books in my top ten list. What can I say? I'm indecisive. And I read a lot of wonderful books that aren't on the list at all. These are just the ones that really held onto me and didn't let me go. You may also notice that there are some older books on the list. These are just books I read (and put in my reading log) in 2008, not books that were necessarily published in 2008. Because it's my list and I get to make the rules :) (I did leave off Anne of Green Gables
, the one "classic" I read - well, listened to - this year, which I found completely delightful, but which everyone and their dog has already heard of and very likely read. Everything else was fair game).
Here they are, in roughly the order in which I read them:
by Wendelin Van Draanen
Writing a middle school romance is tricky, because romances largely rely on a happily-ever-after-ending, and when the protagonists are, like, 12, that seems, at best, kind of far-fetched. But Van Draanen pulls it off - she does an awesome job of telling an emotionally satisfying story without tying things up too neatly at the end. She made me all teary-eyed more than once over the course of the book.
2. Al Capone Does My Shirts
by Gennifer Choldenko
Moose’s dad is a guard at Alcatraz in the 1930s, so Moose and his family live on the island, right next to the infamous prisoners. The premise is pretty great in and of itself, but Moose’s unique story is winning as well, whether he’s dealing with the warden’s rather tempestuous daughter or his sister, who modern readers can recognize as being autistic, but whose family just finds her confusing and volatile, even as they love and try to do the best they can for her. I thought this was a warm, funny, all-around awesome book.
3. The Hero and the Crown
by Robin McKinley
I'd read and enjoyed other stuff of McKinley's before, but it was just this year that I read her big award winners (this and The Blue Sword
, which I liked but didn't love). I think The Hero and the Crown
is my favorite of the lot. I mean, there's dragons, and a mysterious mage guy who's kind of hot, and a kick-ass redheaded heroine - need I say more? :)
4. A Curse Dark as Gold
by Elizabeth C. Bunce
I am normally a big chicken when it comes to anything remotely scary, but I really enjoyed the spooky sense of unease that permeates this retelling of Rumpelstiltskin. Throw in a strong, fully-realized heroine and a bit of romance, and you've got a winner.
by Neal Shusterman
The premise - that abortion has been outlawed, but parents can choose to have their kids "unwound" and used for spare parts at any time between the ages of 13 and 18 - is unsettling to say the least, but it definitely made the story compelling. The POV shifts between three characters who are set to be unwound, all of whom are draw you in and get you invested in the story, and the suspense never lets up. I couldn't put this down.
6. The Wednesday Wars
by Gary D. Schmidt
This was one of last year's Newbery Honor books, and I can totally see why. I'll admit that I had a hard time buying into the story at first, but by the end, I was in tears (in a good way). This may be one of those kids' books that appeals more to adults than to kids, but I really did find it very appealing.
7. Daughter of the Forest
by Juliet Marillier
I'd been meaning to read this for a while, and I wasn't disappointed. It's a wonderful, engaging historical fantasy with a steadfast, determined heroine and, it must be said, a rather dreamy love interest. It's also the first in a series so there's more story for me to look forward to. Yay!
8. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Everyone who loves books needs to read this one. Period, the end.
9. Thirteen Reasons Why
by Jay Asher
When it comes to YA, I’m not so much into the “edgy” stuff (#s
5 and 12 on this list notwithstanding). I mean, I’m not actively opposed to it; it’s just not what I gravitate towards. I tend to go for funny and/or sweetly poignant, and if it has vampires in it, so much the better. But this just knocked me out. I loved the main character, Clay, and I thought Asher did a great job with Hannah. Like Clay, I ached to fix her, but I was also angry at her for what she did to herself and those she left behind. It was a fine line to walk, and it totally worked. And I was impressed that Asher managed to pull of an ending that didn’t feel falsely happy but still kept the book from being a total downer.
10. We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball
by Kadir Nelson
This has been getting a lot of buzz as a Newbery contender this year, and I think it has a good shot. It goes a long way on the illustrations alone, which are jaw-droppingly gorgeous (you can see some of them on Nelson’s website - http://www.kadirnelson.com/we-are-the-ship-store.html
- but I don’t think a computer monitor really does them justice). But I also found the text, which has a great voice, fascinating. Did you know that one of the prominent team owners in the leagues was a woman, who is now in the Baseball Hall of Fame? Or that, in the years leading up to the integration of the major leagues, the Negro-league all-star game outdrew the major-league equivalent? I didn’t either, but I do now.
11. The Secret History of the Pink Carnation
by Lauren Willig
I found this book, the first in a series, completely charming. It’s a near-perfect melding of Regency romance, chick lit, and mystery – hilarious, sexy, and a ton of fun. I told halfpricejunkie
about it, and she went and blazed her way ahead of me through the other books in the series. I’ve now read the second - The Masque of the Black Tulip
- and have the third on my to-be-read list. Good stuff.
12. The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins
I was hesitant to read this book, because adventure/survival stories really aren’t my bag. But I read so many raves about it that I finally caved. I was up until 3 in the morning finishing it. So. Good. I have a few minor quibbles with certain plot points, but I think the characterization is masterful, and once the story grabs you, it doesn’t let up. Ever. There are a few truly chilling scenes that aren’t for the faint-hearted, but they were totally worth it. I can’t wait for the sequel.