With only a couple of days left in 2012, I thought now would be a good time to bring out the annual Favourites list!
These are the books that stuck with me throughout the year. The ones that I kept thinking about long after I turned the last page and read the final line. These are the characters who haunted me, the stories that compelled me and the authors who captivated me.
This has certainly been a great reading year – but 2012 is also a highlight for me because I got to be part of some wonderful bookish events. I was honoured to be a judge in the incredible 2012 ‘Inky Awards’, along with some very talented and articulate fellow judges, we were given the very hard task of sifting through some of the best books of 2011-2012 to narrow down a shortlist for teen readers to vote for.
Then there was the Melbourne Writers Festival – where I got to meet some of my all-time favourite authors and hear them speak about their craft, audience, hardships and writing tips. A personal highlight was hearing Melina Marchetta talk, at length, on the ‘Jellicoe Road’ movie adaptation.
And then this month revealed one more literary treat – when ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’ remained on the VCE reading list. I’m choosing to believe that my little anti-wowser rant may have helped a little.
Yes, 2012 has been a very kind year – full of reading, writing and reviewing glory.
Now I’m really excited for 2013. I hope everyone has a very happy (and safe!) New Year. No doubt there will be lots of bookish treats in store for us bibliophiles, but let’s also cross our fingers to good health, good friends and good times in 2013.
Happy New Year!
'The Fault in Our Stars' by John Green
Here is a young adult novel that, literally, stares death in the face and calls on readers to laugh before they cry. Astounding. John Green should expect (another) Printz any day now.
'After the Darkness' by Honey Brown
Trudy and Bruce are a happily married, middle-aged couple enjoying a weekend getaway when they step into a cliff-side nightmare and narrowly escape death. What follows after their frantic fight for survival is a slow sink into paranoia and guilt – when the roles of ‘victim’ and ‘killer’ are reversed, and the innocent pair are left to cope with the deluge.
Haunting and brilliant, I’m desperate for Honey Brown’s next book.
'Me Before You' by Jojo Moyes
'Burned' Void City #4 by J.F. Lewis
by Kristen Callihan
'The Girl in Steel Capped Boots' by Loretta Hill
'The Reluctant Hallelujah' by Gabrielle Williams
‘The Reluctant Hallelujah’ is quite a conundrum – at once funny and serious, devout and controversial, a breathtaking tear-jerker. Reading this just made me that much more excited for whatever Ms Williams writes next.
'Sea Hearts' by Margo Lanagan
'Queen of the Night' by Leanne Hall
'The Wrong Boy' by Suzy Zail
Zail had a lot to live up to with this book, what with an eyebrow-raising blurb about a young Jewish girl called Hanna who finds herself falling for ‘the wrong boy’ during her time in the Auschwitz concentration camp. Wrong boy is an understatement, as Hanna starts falling for the son of the SS Captain she plays piano for in the evenings. High-stakes story indeed – but Zail pulled it off, with brilliance and heartbreak – weaving Hanna’s horrible story with a shockingly complex unfolding romance. Really, it’s a coming-of-age story set during one of the darkest chapters of human history.
Though a work of fiction, Zail’s book was partly inspired by her father, who was sent to Auschwitz when he was just thirteen-years-old, and what she has created is a darkly moving novel of heroism and dark history. I would still like to see this novel put up for some young adult literary awards.
'Fair Game' Alpha and Omega #3 by Patricia Briggs
'My Friend Dahmer' by Derf Backderf
I owe big, big, big thanks to Marisa Pintado for recommending me this one.
'Night Beach' by Kirsty Eagar
I also loved ‘Night Beach’ for the explorations into art, inspiration and obsession – through the eyes of creative protagonist, Abbie. I was lucky enough to interview Ms Eagar and made it a point to spread out all the poignant pieces mentioned throughout the book – and looking back now I see more than ever that Abbie’s inspirations and art loves tell a story in themselves.
'Grace Beside Me' by Sue McPherson
'Black Heart' Curse Workers #3 by Holly Black
'Holier Than Thou' by Laura Buzo
‘Something Like Normal’ by Trish Doller
And that’s very true. Contemporary fiction will always be genre that depicts teen life – it will always be changing to reflect the times, and what is important to teenagers right now. So it’s no surprise that if there’s any predicting to be had, it’s that we’re going to see more novels about post-military service and the effects this has had on a generation of children who witnessed 9/11, and have been seeing news of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars on their TV screens since 2001. With a 2014 withdrawal from Afghanistan ahead of us, now seems the time when people will be reflecting, questioning and healing. And I do think that upcoming contemporary YA novels will reflect this historic moment in history.
So it was wonderful to read Trish Doller as one of the first US YA authors to tackle the questions of post-traumatic stress, soldiers reassimilating to civilian life and dealing with what they’ve lost. ‘Something Like Normal’ certainly sets the bar high for those post-war books which are sure to come. With infinite tenderness and harsh honesty, Doller told the story of Travis who was seen as the hero of his small town, but was still making juvenile mistakes and grappling with grief during his month of leave. This novel had complicated relationships between Travis and his ex-girlfriend, and a girl he wants to be better for – but also between himself and his mother, who has been worrying about her son since he left for Afghanistan a year ago. A beautiful, bittersweet novel that had me promising to read whatever Trish Doller comes up with next. . .
'This is Not a Test' by Courtney Summers
‘Thief of Shadows’ by Elizabeth Hoyt
'The Age of Miracles' by Karen Thompson Walker
‘Tarcutta Wake’ by Josephine Rowe
'Tiger Lily' by Jodi Lynn Anderson
‘The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf’ by Ambelin Kwaymullina
'Shadows' The Rephaim #1 by Paula Weston
'After' Once series #4 by Morris Gleitzman
'Fire in the Sea' by Myke Bartlett
‘Dark Companion’ by Marta Acosta
'Gunmetal Magic' Kate Daniels World #1 by Ilona Andrews
'Friday Brown' by Vikki Wakefield
'Quintana of Charyn' Lumatere Chronicles #3 by Melina Marchetta
The ‘Lumatere Chronicles’ has consequently become another perfect series – crystalized in its perfection for the sublime final instalment that was ‘Quintana of Charyn’.
‘The Diviners’ by Libba Bray
'Creepy and Maud' by Dianne Touchell
Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I loved this book. Loved, loved, loved! It’s a quirky suburban love story about next-door-neighbours who fall in love via window messages and stolen glances, but it’s more the fact that they hope for love even though their respective parents’ romantic travesties should have them down-trodden and cynical. Watch out for Dianne Touchell – she writes wickedly smart characters with enviable voice and lyricism – she’s an Aussie YA author on the rise.
‘Saga’ Volume One by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
‘Ask the Passengers’ by A.S. King