deenaml (deenaml) wrote,

The Best of the Best of 2013

Happy New Year, everyone! I am ready for 2014 and all of the new books I will be reading and writing. Until then, here are the books that resonated the most with me from 2013.

I read 180 books this year. Most were YA novels, followed by MG novels. Then a handful of adult fiction, YA comics (can't call them graphic novels because many were non-fiction), and YA non-fiction. (I don't count picture books because I simply don't think I have time to review every one I read on top of the longer works.)

In no particular order, my five favorite books published and read in 2013 were:

ROSE UNDER FIRE by Elizabeth Wein
In 1944, Rose Justice is ferrying Allied fighter planes for the war effort when she is captured and taken to Ravensbruck, a women's concentration camp where she befriends the Polish "Rabbits," allies with a Russian pilot and French spy, bribes German block leaders, and fights to survive for six months. This novel is written in journal entries, so the heartbreaking and cruel events in the second part of the book are easier to take because certain events are foreshadowed. Still, knowing how much is based on true facts and people gives this story a powerful feel that is extremely well researched and written. While it is difficult to believe that the narrator could write such detailed accounts months later and in a journal while malnourished and emotionally wrought, it is an amazing historical novel about survival, and most of all, friendship and hope. The end is tear-jerking. Highly recommended YA. (Hyperion, 2013)
***WHY IT STOOD OUT: It feels so well-researched, fresh, and has an authentic voice that was both captivating and heartbreaking.***

At age five, Gerald was the subject of a reality nannying television show where he acted out against his abusive sister and oblivious mother by crapping around the house; now at age sixteen, he's trying to control his anger issues and find a future that is devoid of his infamous past. The commentary on putting children on the internet or TV for entertainment purposes is clear and mirrors many contemporary thoughts on privacy violations. Gerald is a sympathetic character, the mother is reprehensible and difficult to understand until the end, and the father is a bit angering too for a while; they are why one keeps reading, to see Gerald overcome everyone and everything with the help of feisty Hannah. Nothing ends perfectly, but Gerald ends with hope. A highly recommended upper YA. (Little, Brown, 2013)
***WHY IT STOOD OUT: The realistic commentary on the future of reality TV/internet kids combined with an intriguing protagonist who wants to change and just great writing.***

BOXERS & SAINTS by Gene Luen Yang
In 1898 China, Little Bao discovers the power of the ancient Chinese gods to help him fight the foreign devils during the Boxer Rebellion, while Four-Girl finds love and acceptance from those very same Christians. Told in two volumes, one from each point of view, these graphic novels are rich in story, character, and illustrations. The colors are vibrant and the fantasy elements keep the history entertaining as well as informative. A lovely pair of novels, deserving of their place on the NBA short list. (First Second, 2013)
***WHY THEY STOOD OUT: The combination of historical fiction and fantasy with beautiful illustrations that enhanced two sides of a story that are not often told.***

Four years ago Judith was kidnapped by a man who cut out her tongue; two years ago she was returned and shunned by her family and neighbors; and now she watches the kidnapper's son, her childhood friend, speechless, yet with so much to say as the mystery of another girl's death remains unsolved. This YA novel is told in second person, from Judith's pov as if she is speaking to Lucas, and is done so convincingly that it is an asset, and not at all a distraction as second person can sometimes be. The historical setting and atmosphere work well to tell this unique story of a girl finding her voice. Highly recommended to older teens and adults in search of a haunting tale. (Viking, 2013)
***WHY IT STOOD OUT: The spot-on use of second-person present tense storytelling for a fresh, bold storyline.***

FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell
When Cath moves an hour from her home in Omaha to attend college, she feels like she's giving up her closeness with her father (who can be manic), her twin sister (who didn't want to share a dorm room), and Simon Snow (the lovable character in the Simon Snow series who she writes super popular fan fic about), and is convinced she has nothing to gain until a new friend Levi shows her that there is more to the world when she looks past her computer screen. Cath feels totally, completely real, from her fears of being a college freshman to her conflicting emotions as she falls in love for the first time. The close third-person pov works brilliantly; the world of fan fiction is clear; and her family, friends, and college experiences are solid. This amazing upper YA novel hits perfectly on so many feelings and frustrations that go along with moving on from high school to college that it was sad to put it down at the end of page 438. A fabulous read. (St. Martin's, 2013)
***WHY IT STOOD OUT: The pitch perfect theme of how going to college is supposed to be the end of "childhood" and the beginning of "what's next," but the lines are not that clear.***

And, because this book BLEW MY MIND while I was on a flight from ORD to YVR, I must add this non-fiction writing craft book published in 2005:

SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder
Snyder outlines his recommended four elements for loglines, fourteen beats for screenplays, and how to make your hero likable from page one, among other tips, in this non-fiction guide that can be used on novels as well as screenplays. This book has so far greatly changed my plotting life; somehow the style totally clicked with me. Reading it made lights go on in my head and I can't wait to plot my next MG novel. Highly recommended craft book. (FSC, 2005)
***WHY IT STOOD OUT: Practical ideas on how to plot were clearly laid out.***

I love seeing what everyone else enjoyed reading this past year. Keep those lists coming, and I hope you check out some of my favorites here!

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