Happy holidays, everyone! Now that we’ve reached the end of 2011, we at Teen Writers Bloc have come together with our favorite kid lit and YA books of the year. Here they are, in alphabetical order by author:
Bronxwood by Coe Booth
Caela says: Bronxwood is a must-read for any kid who has ever had a parent in prison. Tyrell’s struggles to love, obey, and still disagree with his father when he returns from incarceration are poignant and heart wrenching.
Crossed by Ally Condie
Jess says: Though it’s not quite as gripping as its predecessor, Matched (read the review here!), Crossed, the second book in Ally Condie’s series, is a solid “middle book,” filled with beautiful language and a compelling story — complete with a giant mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end. It is also told from Ky’s, as well as Cassia’s, point of view, so those of you who didn’t get nearly enough of Ky in the first book will be super happy to be inside his head in this one.
Circle Nine by Anne Heltzel
Jane says: I went to one of David Levithan’s book readings at the NYPL and heard an excerpt read by Circle Nine’s author Anne Heltzel. Abby wakes up outside a burning building and is pulled away by Sam, a boy she doesn’t recognize but somehow feels a connection to. She has no memories of who she is or where she came from. Abby is happy to start a new life with Sam, but events and memories bring up the need to figure out who she is and what happened the night of the fire. Read the TWB interview with Anne Heltzel here!
The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch
Jane says: I chose to read this one because I don’t know of a lot of YA books that have a male narrator. It’s about 16 year old Stephen who’s living in a post-apocalyptic future with his dad and grandfather. The family wanders the land, looking for a place to live and where they can avoid being found by gangs that find people to enslave them. Grandpa dies and Dad has an accident that results in a coma, so when Stephen looks for help, he finds Settlers Landing, a town that’s rebuilt by a group of people trying to regain civilization. Stephen becomes involved in a prank that puts Settlers Landing and lives in danger, and he has to figure out how to deal with the aftermath.
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Jess says: The book starts off with our narrator and heroine, Mara, telling us that Mara Dyer is actually not her real name. Her lawyer insisted that if she is to tell her story to the world—the story of how she committed several murders—she must choose a nom de plume. So, right off the bat, we know this is not going to be a story for the faint of heart. Mara is going to kill people, and she is going to get caught. But how it all goes down is anything but predictable. If you are a sucker for dark, paranormal teen romances, trust me when I say you will love this book. Read the TWB review here!
Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby
Mary says: Full of well-drawn characters and emotional pull, the story builds slowly and grows on you until you are right there in the frozen, claustrophobic fortress. Each person has their own motivations, feelings, and strengths. No one is idealized, and no one is simple. Kirby has done a masterful job of creating tension, intrigue, and action—even though the characters have limited space in which to move. Solveig especially is many-faceted and manages to be both relatable and awesome. Readers will enjoy exploring this world with her. Read the TWB review here!
Bumped by Megan McCafferty
Jess says: Bumped is one of the most fascinating books I’ve read in… maybe ever. Though it has a sort-of “popcorn” feel to it, filled to the brim with cheesy references, corny names, and teen celebrity lust, underneath all that, there is an extremely edgy, daring story. What would happen if everyone over the age of 18 became infertile and it was up to teenagers to continue the human species? In this day and age of Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant, it’s a question that, amazingly, doesn’t seem so far-fetched. This book is a fun, quick read, and yet, I guarantee it will really make you think.
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Mary says: A Monster Calls is a great illustration of how fantasy can depict reality better than so-called “realism.” What, after all, is more real than our greatest fear? For younger children, that fear might be a monster under the bed or in the closet, but as we get older, we begin to realize that real life contains monsters that can’t be scared away by a bright light. The author’s writing is sparse but lyrical. With few characters and not a single gimmick, Ness brings us into a world of nightmares. Whether the nightmares will end depends on Conor. How will he face the monster that stalks him? Ness’s poignant answers make this book required reading for anyone, young or old, who appreciates the power of a story to reveal truth. Read the TWB review here!
Lisel & Po by Lauren Oliver
Dhonielle says: Liesl & Po has the best blend and balance of both magic and mystery, danger and safety. The tale reminds me of the books I used to stay up late to read as a kid — both classic and modern. Each character has layers and secrets, and Oliver’s flowery prose brings them alive. This book will stand up for multiple readings.
Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan
Jess says: Part Lord of the Flies, part Bumped, and part Battlestar Galactica, Glow is filled with murder, deception, and nonstop action. The characters are layered and complicated, to the point where you never entirely know who to trust. Sometimes that can be frustrating, but Ryan pulls it off quite well. Read the TWB review here!
And Then Things Fall Apart by Arlaina Tibensky
Corey says: This is a beautiful contemporary YA about a Sylvia Plath-loving teen whose family is falling to pieces the same summer she has come down with an epic case of chicken pox. Left alone with her dysfunctional family, her confusing relationships, and her virginity to ponder, she spends a lot of time with an old typewriter and a well-loved copy of The Bell Jar. Narrator Keek is one of my favorite YA narrators of all time, and this creative, quirky, honest novel was a good reminder of why I became a writer and why I love writing for teens.