Thursday, January 5, 2012

My Favorite YA Books That I Read in 2011: Part the Third

This is it, the final crop of favorites. Phew. In this bunch, we've got the college experience, one Australian school's version of capture the flag, teeth you can wish on, love in France, and demons.

Dream School – Blake Nelson
Dream School finds Andre Marr heading to the college of her choice, where she will make new friends, hook up with new guys, and ponder the meaning of being cool. Honestly, this one is less about the plot and more about the intimate first-person narration. Reading this book feels like rereading your own journals from high school and college, with all the nostalgia, warm feelings, and cringing, that implies.

A yearly epic war game between the townies, boarding school students, and cadets temporarily camping in their small Australian town leads a young girl to uncover the mystery of her past. And she discovers there is far more to it than the day she remembers most clearly, when her mother abandoned her on the side of the Jellicoe Road.

This book contains what I have come to think of as Melina Marchetta’s signature moves: a slow burning plot and characters so fully realized that you cheer at their triumphs and ache at even their slightest pains. I got hooked and decided that I was a fool for not already having read all of this woman’s books.

Karou is an art student in Prague, but she also works for her father, a creature named Brimstone who collects teeth from around the world and trades in wishes. When Karou meets an angel named Akiva, with whom she shares a powerful mutual attraction, everything she thought she knew about her life collapses.

Tough, cool Karou is one of the best female characters I have ever read, and Taylor’s masterful work makes this the rare book whose plot, characters, and writing are all equally amazing.

Instead of letting her finish high school in her native Atlanta, Anna’s parents send her off to Paris to have a culturally meaningful experience. She is not thrilled, until she meets a boy.  THE boy.

This book is just a pleasure to read in every way. The kind you cradle in your arms and smile at, and if anyone tries to interrupt you while you are reading it, you glare at them because you just have to know if Etienne and Anna end up together!

Sin and Mae are competing for control of the Goblin Market, Alan’s being tortured by magicians who want to control Nick, and Jamie’s living with the magicians, who are gearing up for a big war with the Goblin Market folks. The conclusion to the Demon’s Lexicon trilogy rushes ahead at full speed but still finds time for the moments that really make you want to spend time with Nick, Mae, Alan, Sin, and Jamie.

I was going to call them “quiet character moments,” but that’s not really accurate, as Sarah Rees Brennan’s characters are brash, hilarious, and passionate. As I read their conversations, I imagine them lobbing their words back and forth at breakneck screwball comedy speed. But she also conveys their emotions with equal clarity and force, and the third book of the trilogy is satisfyingly full of cleverness and pathos in equal measure.

And that's it for my favorites of 2011!  Now on to 2012.  I have a feeling there's going to be some good reading this year...

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