Thursday, January 2, 2014

Speed-dating, YA book style

2013 wasn't a great year for me, review-wise. I read plenty of books, and I wished I could write tons on them, but there just wasn't enough material in them for me to give you a decent, thoughtful review. 

Still, I'd hate to let them go without at least some mention, hence this post. This isn't by far everything I read, but they stand out, either because of hype or because they made me sit up straight(er.)

Breathless by Brigid Kemmerer

This Elemental novella was everything I expected and more - action, romance, and the very real coming-of-age dilemmas which I've come to associate with Brigid Kemmerer's books. (Yes, I know, I bitched about Storm a lot. You caught that review of Spark, right? They get better, each one the more.)

I think what really clicked with me here, though, wasn't so much Nick's struggle as it was Quinn's - Quinn, who, like many of us, has to figure out what to do with herself when her best friend in the whole wide world gets a boyfriend. Her loneliness, her fear of losing Becca, were things that just resonated very strongly with me, and I'm glad that there's novels (and novellas) out there that acknowledge this. 

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Yes, I know, late for that boat, but having finally read this, I can see what all the hype was about (the good hype. The negative hype just reminds me that America is a country that doesn't make sense to me. ) It's one of those books that manages to deliver a sharp social commentary without ever looking down on you, or making you feel like the author is using the characters as clever little mouthpieces for their own political views.

Junior is not a mouthpiece. Junior is a young American Indian boy who wants what everyone else wants - to live the dream, nevermind the dream was not designed for people like him.

Also, for any French readers, shout-out to the Albin Michel translation, which does a great job with the text (those of you who have read my "The Girl Who Lept Through Time" review would remember how strongly I feel about the difficulty of translations.)

What a Boy Wants by Nyrae Dawn

Imagine this as "Hitch" for the white working class set meets a genderbender "My Best Friend's Wedding" and you'll get a fair idea of what you're in for with this book. But the premise isn't the main reason why I'm putting this here (although, who doesn't like them some "Hitch"? Come on! It's Will Smith!) No, I'm putting this book here because it's just hilarious.

And I'm not just saying that because I like boys who grovel hard. No, I like boys who own their personalities. And then grovel hard. (Because let's face it, the main attraction of "Hitch" is seeing the arrogant dude eat humble pie in the end.)

Lamentation by Ken Scholes

This must be the only political fantasy where the food porn was harder than the torture, sex and intrigue taken together. Seriously - make sure you've eaten before you pick this one up.

Actually, this must be the only fantasy I've read where I thought I wanted less political intrigue. Scholes has created a complex, wonderful world, and has put lots of effort and thought into each of his characters... but I had a feeling he didn't know when to pull the stops on the details. Either that, or the story needed a whole lotta more pages.

Uzumaki by Junji Ito

Don't eat before you read this series. That is all.

P.S. - This might actually make you vegetarian.

P.P.S. - The love story is ridiculously pure amid all the horror in this series, but that makes it all the more poignant. Seriously. Best love story I've read in 2013.

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

I've joined the club. This and "Jellicoe Road" have reminded me what Contemporary YA can really be like, and I want to say, if there's anyone out there who hasn't tried reading this woman's stuff, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

"Saving Francesca" is a poignant story about mental illness and growing up in a world that doesn't offer much sympathy for people suffering from either. 

Gazelle by Rikki Ducornet

Catnip to the literary snob in me, although I personally liked "The Fan Maker's Inquisition" much better. I think because, while I empathized with Gabrielle, felt for her, and cried for her right alongside the Marquis de Sade (yes, really,) Elizabeth of "Gazelle" reminded me too much of myself at my worst for me to like her.

Still, if we liked all our protagonists, we would have exactly ten books and never write any more. 

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

Oh, Karou. Oh, Karou, Karou, Karou....

And Akiva. But mostly Karou.

This is definitely more real. While DoSaB was like a long, long fairy tale which ends with a hard slap across the reader's face, DoBaS is like a never ending boxing practice, with the reader's heart as the punching bag. Ice advised. 

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

First half was a realistic, if gritty and cruel retelling of "The Seven Swans." The second was... I don't even know what  the hell am I supposed to say about it. Anti-climactic would be one way to call it. Incompatible with the first half would be better. It's like the French publishers knew it too, because they split the story down the middle and published it in two books.

Also, everything Kat Kennedy says in her review.

Marco Impossible by Hannah Moskowitz

So, so sorry I didn't get to review this when I got the ARC, because it's a fucking beautiful story.

(Then again, I haven't read a Moskowitz story that has let me down, so.... there's that.)

Not much more I can say here, except that Marco will make you think twice before dismiss a best friend as just "quirky side character." He would, probably, start a movement against the stereotyping of "quirky" in books. And get you to sign up for it.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Brb, crying buckets.

Also, FINALLY, a "sisters-before-misters" type book. Yes, thank you, UK, can we please have more? Thank you very much.

No, I really don't have anything to say. I love this book, but it's too personal for me to talk about. It's not the kind of story you can explain to people. You have to read it.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Very late. Very, very late. Wish I could get my snark on for this, but the truth is, a month after reading, I can't recall any of the plot.

The thing about the Divergent series, despite the hype, the debate, the passionate discussions, I can't be arsed to make an opinion beyond "It's an action book that is trying to promote tolerance and love and Christian values, but it keeps mixing its Testaments." 

Secret Girlfriend by Bria Quinlan

A cute contemp which just may earn its own full review. (Keep your eyes peeled.) The story is simple, but the characters jump out the page and demand your attention. I couldn't put it down.

Also, daww! Lots and lots of daww.



Note: Images via Booklikes

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