Saturday, December 3, 2011

My Top Ten Books of 2011


2011 was many things for YA books: the year of sequels and series, dystopian fiction, and many more self-published e-books. Thankfully, there were slightly fewer angels, werewolves, and vampires, and quite a few books that were surprisingly compelling.

Listed in ascending order, the following are my favourite books of 2011:

(Warning: spoilers ahead, though nothing too specific.)
 
by Stephanie Perkins
Release Date: September 29, 2011

Cute.  I can think of no better way to describe Lola and the Boy Next Door. Lola is endearingly quirky, with her penchant for wearing outlandish, themed costumes on a daily basis. Cricket, her love interest and - as one would expect - neighbor, is equally sweet and eccentric. Memorable and fun, Lola and the Boy Next Door was easily my favourite contemporary novel of 2011.

by Jeri Smith-Ready
Release Date:  May 3, 2011

Shift sort of sneaked up on me. I liked Shade, but this sequel really upped the romantic drama and mystery surrounding Aura's ghost-seeing abilities. Compelling plot progression, swoon-worthy boys, and unique magical elements - what's not to love?

by Tabitha Suzuma
Release Date: June 28, 2011

Poignant and emotional, Forbidden defied my expectations. It would be easy to judge such a book solely on its subject matter - an incestuous relationship; it's a testament to Tabitha Suzuma's writing that the two main characters remain sympathetic throughout. Ultimately, it's impossible not to be pulled into their inevitably doomed romance.

Forbidden is also a welcome stand-alone novel in a year that was inundated with sequels and series-starters. And I really like the cover, with its simple but effortlessly symbolic concept.

by Ann Aguirre 
Release Date: April 12, 2011

Enclave is sharp and fresh and original - everything I want in a dystopian read. This genre became a definite trend in 2011, resulting in the publication of many underdeveloped and similarly themed books. However, Enclave immediately caught my attention. The grittiness of both its setting and heroine drive the fast-paced narrative, ensuring that Enclave is thoroughly engrossing.

by Ilona Andrews
Release Date: May 31, 2011

The degenerating cover art and continuously bland titles that plague the Kate Daniels series are a pity, because the books keep getting better and better. This is my favourite adult urban fantasy series, and Magic Slays is particularly gripping. Why? Well, a bitingly funny heroine, romance and witty banter, and a self-contained plot that builds on an already intricate setting. Awesome.

by Cassandra Clare
Release Date: December 6, 2011

Cassandra Clare published two books in 2011 - City of Fallen Angels and Clockwork Prince - the latter of which is unequivocally my favourite. It is so good. Richly atmospheric, Clockwork Prince fully evokes its Victorian London setting. In Clockwork Angel, the characters - I'm looking at you, Tessa and Will - and plot developments often seem too reminiscent of their counterparts in the original Mortal Instruments trilogy. Thankfully, Clockwork Prince further develops the interpersonal relationships and characters, establishing The Infernal Devices as a unique, intriguing series in its own right. 

(And it goes without saying that the cover is gorgeous.)

by Laini Taylor
Release Date: September 27, 2011

Daughter of Smoke and Bone would rank high on this list based solely on the strength of Laini Taylor's fluid, evocative writing. Fortunately, Daughter of Smoke and Bone also features my favourite main character of 2011: blue-haired, artistic, impetuous Karou. While the romance is at times trite, its development is logical and undeniably beautiful. The books is also full of surprises, and the fantasy elements are beautifully interwoven with the Prague setting.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone breathes life into the increasingly predictable urban fantasy genre. It is unique and lovely, with a vivid cast of characters.

by Alison Goodman
Release Date: April 19, 2011

I love YA fantasy in the vein of Tamora Pierce; last year, Eona: The Last Dragoneye provided what I would consider the most kick-ass heroine and compelling fantasy setting. Set in an Asia-inspired world, the book is satisfyingly significant in size and contains magical dragons, action, and romance.

The first book considers the varied interpretations of gender, Eona's attempts to pass as a boy, and her struggle to overcome a crippling injury sustained during childhood. This second book in the duology is very much about Eona's reclaiming her female identity and settling into her heroine role. I found it even more engrossing than its predecessor.

by Maggie Stiefvater
Release Date: October 18, 2011

Another stand-alone novel! Unlike many of the other books on this list, The Scorpio Races is slow-building and subtle rather than action-packed. It is beautiful in a very understated way, with its quietly endearing romance and memorable narrators, Sean and Puck. The premise - villagers riding man-eating water horses in a deadly, annual race - is refreshingly original, as are the motives of those who compete. The inhabitants of the rural village setting are also as idiosyncratic and likable as the book's main characters.

Though not fast-paced, The Scorpio Races is lyrical, atmospheric, and compelling.

by Veronica Roth 
Release Date: May 3, 2011

Really, this shouldn't come as much of a surprise.  

Divergent is attention-grabbing, fast-paced, and emotional, featuring a complex society and conflicted heroine. Based on these characteristics, it's also the only recently published dystopian book that actually warrants comparisons to The Hunger Games. I, you know, sort of liked Divergent. It's an okay book.

But seriously. Divergent is addictive. There's action, romance, a strong heroine, and plenty of potential for future books in the planned trilogy.

(Can Insurgent be published already? Please?)

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