Friday, December 31, 2010

Review: Battle Dress by Amy Efaw

Tags: YA, college, West Point, military, army, feminism, sexism, family


For Andi and 1000 other incoming freshmen at West Point Academy, the first six weeks of the summer are the Beast, an intense training regime designed to break them all down, weed the weak from the rest, and reshape them into the best future members of the US Army. Andi battles taunts from squad leaders, classmate prejudices and problems, and her ongoing issues with her messed up family, and finds out what being a cadet truly means.


Most of you do not know this about me, but I have always been fascinated by military protocol. For a nation that champions individuality and creativity, its military seems to be one of the last bastions of enforced conformity and groupthink. Coming from both a collectivist and individualistic culture, I can see the pros and cons of this military protocol. BATTLE DRESS was a solid glimpse into the mysterious world of West Point, although Andi’s internal conflicts were a little roughly drawn.

Creative insults and capital letters flood the pages of BATTLE DRESS, appropriate for the strict discipline surrounding West Point. I enjoyed how the book so thoroughly created the terrifyingly intimidating environment of the Beast: small details such as the different uniforms required for different activities, the time (these cadets have to get up unbelievably early), and the language really contribute to making you feel as if you were experiencing Beast too—without the ridiculously early wake-up calls and five-mile runs, that is.

So I appreciated the details that made Beast come to life for me, but felt much less connected to all the characters, including Andi. There is a sort of running conflict between Andi and her unsupportive, mentally abusive family, and Andi’s feminist side. What exactly a kind of space does a female occupy in the still male-dominated military world? Andi’s feminine roommate, Gabrielle, and a handful of stereotypical sexist squad members contribute to the theme of women’s rights in the military, but in a way that always felt very glossed over and underdeveloped.

Interestingly enough, I think this book might’ve worked better for me if it had just stuck with a straightforward presentation of Beast and not tried so hard to make Andi have complicated emotional issues. I felt like Andi’s struggles to overcome her family’s disappointment, contributing to and combined with her obsession with proving herself in Beast, lent a forced feel to the story. No, I’m not questioning the fact that she has family issues—but issues as delicate as that one need to be carefully and thoroughly developed, and I think that BATTLE DRESS may have relied a bit too much on Andi’s family’s inarguable meanness to carry that part of the plot along.

Overall, however, BATTLE DRESS will make a great read for anyone interested in West Point or the military training culture. Amy Efaw’s personal experience translates well onto the page, and the book does not disappoint in that aspect.

Writing: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Plot: 3/5

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

Cover discussion: 3 out of 5 - This is actually a reprint of a book that came out a decade ago, and I think that the redesigned cover will make it much more appealing to the modern YA reader. It keeps things short and straight to the point, and the title fonts are cool, even if the title itself is a rather bizarre attempt to touch upon both the book's military and feminism issues.

Penguin / Dec. 2, 2010 (reprint) / Paperback / 304pp. / $8.99

Personal copy bought.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

End of 2010 Survey / FIVE Challenge

This awesome survey was created by the inspirational Jamie over at The Broke and the Bookish, with some additions that I gleaned from author Trish Doller.

1. Best book of 2010 - Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. Hands down. The only book I wish I could give 6 out of 5 stars to.

2. Worst book of 2010 - I was not fond of a couple of books I had to read for my Victorian Lit seminar. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy really pissed me off.

3. Most Disappointing Book of 2010 - There's a couple I can think of that didn't live up to their hype for me, but I don't think I'll name names.

4. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2010 - Hmm, maybe The Iron King by Julie Kagawa. I thought I was burnt out on faerie wars and love triangles. Nope! Julie's charming writing pulled me right back into love.

5. Book you recommended to people most in 2010 - I talked up Jellicoe Road, Anna and the French Kiss, and Sugar and Ice quite a bit.

6. Best series you discovered in 2010 - I'll go with the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews. This is quite simply one of the BEST urban fantasy series out there.

7. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2010 - Oh, why is this question so hard? Why were there so many talented authors this year?? I think I'll go with Jeri Smith-Ready on this one. All the books of hers that I've read so far have been consistently top-notch.

8. Most hilarious read of 2010 - That's difficult, as I usually turn back to my utmost favorites when I'm in need of a humorous read, but I tore through Castration Celebration by Jake Wizner last night and there were many moments in the book when I laughed so hard my stomach hurt.

9. Book that made you cry the hardest in 2010 - There was a point, somewhere in Holly Cupala's Tell Me a Secret, where I just put down the book and sobbed for about 10 minutes straight. I don't know why I was so affected by that one chapter. It might've been a combination of PMS and Holly's intense writing.

10. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2010 - I read Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien in one breathless, all-nighter gulp. I didn't dare put the book down for sleep!

11. Book you most anticipated in 2010 - Well, I definitely anticipated Mockingjay, but since nearly everyone's answer is that, I'll also mention that I pined for Clockwork Angel.

12. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2010 - I think that would have to be Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce. AMAZING.
13. Most memorable character in 2010 - Kate from the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews. If I ever had to be in an urban fantasy story I'd want to be like her.

14. Most beautifully written book in 2010 - A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley, for its one-of-a-kind use of poetic descriptive language, phrases so beautiful they made my heart hurt in a good way.

15. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2010 - Umm I guess I'll go with Jellicoe Road for this. The only book I've ever read that actually caused me to stop reading for a few days afterwards, unwilling to pick up another book to break the spell that Jellicoe Road had cast over me.

16. Book you can't believe you waited UNTIL 2010 to finally read - Jellicoe Road! Man, my answers are getting monotonous...

Book Blogging in 2010

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2010 - Probably Jamie at The Broke and the Bookish, for her wonderfully participatory features, posts, and questions that make me think, and her IRL friendship; and Jen of Makeshift Bookmark, for never failing to make me laugh with her genuine enthusiasm for good books.

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2010 - Gah, this is so hard! Oh, hold on, let me just peruse the 200-something reviews that I wrote this year... GAH. Maybe Incarceron by Catherine Fisher?

3. Best discussion you had on your blog - You do realize you're asking me to pick one post I wrote that sparked discussion? I'm very proud of my What's Missing in YA Lit? post (and I still think everyone in YA lit industry should read it and take notes), but I think two that sparked the best comments were my post "Why I Want More Asians on YA Book Covers" and my "What is love, anyway?" post.

4. Most thought-provoking review or discussion you read on somebody else's blog - I've recently discovered the star feature in Google Reader and should probably keep track of my favorites from now on. Let me think... okay, fine, I give up. Just go to Adele's list of discussion posts and the First Novels Club's list of YA character studies and read them all.

5. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.) - PAYA! A writing workshop run by great YA writers, plus the treasured company of old friends and the discovery of new ones. It was just the right size for my kind of bookish event.


6. Best moment of book blogging in 2010 - I'm not really sure what this means? Um, I've had some pretty splendid conversations with bloggers over Twitter this year. And because I'm not a person who gets close to others easily, this seems like a best moment for me.

7. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.) - I don't know if there's much this year that I didn't discover last year, but I greatly appreciated Doylestown Bookshop's Advanced Reviewer Program earlier in the year when, y'know, I obviously didn't have enough books to read!

Abbreviated Persnickety Snark's FIVE Challenge for 2010

So I wasn't able to participate fully in Adele's awesome FIVE list-making challenge, uh, mostly because I was busy making 1302948576 lists for the last two weeks. But some of the lists she challenges us to make are worth sharing, I think. So here goes!

1. The Jessica Darling series by Megan McCafferty - Always and forever my go-to series for when I need a 100-volt jolt to my energy levels, inspiration, and happiness. I feel like I reread this series about once a year, and this year happened to fall on my finals week (heh).

2. The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare - Oh how this paranormal series makes me giggle and sigh.

3. Fat Cat by Robin Brande - Arguably one of the best contemporary YA books out there. I reread it every once in a while just to remember how amazing contemporary YA can be, if you have the right character and are dedicated enough to the research.

4. Dairy Queen + sequels by Catherine Gilbert Murdock - Another amazing contemporary YA series, with a one-of-a-kind protagonist.

5. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins - Reread so soon after my first read-through? Must be a sign of its adorable goodness.


1. Where She Went by Gayle Forman - I absolutely cannot wait to find out what happens to Mia and Adam, in NYC, from Adam's point of view. Will Gayle make me cry buckets again? I hope so.

2. We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han - I eagerly await the conclusion to one of my favorite series.

3. Huntress by Malinda Lo - I look forward to being immersed in Malinda's writing again. Even better, this is an Asian-inspired fantasy with an ethnically accurate cover. WIN.

4. Other Words for Love by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal - Everyone has been saying wonderful things about this debut. Luckily I only have to wait about two more weeks before it comes out!

5. The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta - Ms. Marchetta can do no wrong with her writing, and I can't wait to read this book.


1. Diversity continues to be the norm in stories - The second half of 2010 produced for me many great books featuring a colorful cast of characters. I want to see this quiet shift into the recognition of our differences carry over into 2011 and beyond.

2. Fewer luuuv-at-first-sight romances - They're ridiculous and unrealistic and even the most ardent paranormal romance readers knows it by now.

3. POC characters in paranormal or urban fantasy - Asian characters have a strong showing in Asian-inspired fantasy, but I would love to see a paranormal or urban fantasy story, set in our times, that features a POC main character.

4. Covers diversify and remain true to the story - Enough, enough, enough with the whitewashing! You think you're not going to get caught if you whitewash characters on covers? In this Internet and info-tech age, everyone is a "cop," and one doesn't need to be a professional to cry foul.

Okay, only 4, but I think those are four solid ones.


1. Jamie at The Broke and the Bookish and The Perpetual Page-Turner - Jamie is an eclectic blogger, but she reads a healthy enough dose of YA (*pats self on back for an influence well done*) that she can be included on this list. This beautiful chick is incredible because she's so passionate about inspiring conversation over books. The many features she runs on her blogs have me thinking all the time, and she has the particular talent of asking me questions that make me think about things I've never given much thought before.

2. Jen at The Makeshift Bookmark - Jen is a gem. Her unbridled enthusiasm for books makes her blog a joy to read, each and every day. Not to mention she is an utter joy to talk to online. I can only hope that one day I'll be able to meet her in the flesh, from which we will then proceed to fangirl over our shared interests!

3. Adele at Persnickety Snark - How could I not mention Adele on a list like this? I don't think a list of YA bloggers is complete without Adele, who has spunk and a sharp and inquisitive voice that's all her own. She writes fantastic discussion posts that I always look forward to reading. Even better, I got to meet her this year. That's saying a lot when we live on opposite sides of the world. We hung out for a day in NYC, and it was an amazing experience to talk books with someone so passionate, well-read, and intelligent.

4. Angie at Angieville - One of my favorite bloggers, because even though our reading tastes do not necessarily converge, she just has a way of writing her reviews that makes you feel like you're in a room in person with her, and there is no one else, and she is talking about this book to you and only you. I always take into consideration her reviews because she's just so utterly sincere with them. She's passionate about retellings, which I love, and she also does a cool feature called Retro Friday, in which she reviews her old fave YA reads, which I wish I could do because older gems need recognition as well.

5. Khy at Frenetic Reader - Last but certainly not least, Khy is a fave YA blogger of mine, not just because she is a cool half-sweetheart/half-kickass girl, but also because every single one of her posts is full of a genuine passion and interest in what she's writing about. And you know, I'm a sucker for genuineness all the time. Whether she raving about her newest fave read or ranting about YA genres or covers, she does so with an excellent sense of humor and always gets me thinking. I love that about her blog!


I think that's all for now!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

WTF Covers of 2010

I quietly held in my outrage when these covers were revealed... but as one of my resolutions for 2010 had been to express myself when I am feeling frustrated, upset, etc., well, I am expressing myself now, okay? Rawr. (The Steph-kitty within me rears its head and growls at you with a high-pitched kitten mewl.)

Oh, and I blame whoever tweeted me the night of December 28 as the enablers of this post. Bad children, bad!

In no particular order...

1. Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready

Look, I love Jeri and her writing incredibly much, but I had to be honest with myself and say that I didn't think this cover did her writing justice. The girl wraps around the back cover... so why did they have to put the most awkward-looking part of her on the front?? Simply put, I was relieved when Simon & Schuster redid the cover for Shade's paperback:

Much better. Shoulda done it in the first place.

2. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Oh no you didn't just put a narsty close-up of a girl's face sideways and slap a glowy title font on the front. Anyone could do this on Photoshop. In fact, I know how to make font glowy on Photoshop. My favorite part is probably the font color for Lauren and Jay's names. At least they match the girl's lips and eyes. I really want them to change the image for the paperback, whenever it comes out...but we'll see. A lot of people seem to like this cover. Hrm.

Other similar awkward-full-frontal-uncomfortable-staring covers, yays:

Gah. You know how people being interviewed on shows or documentaries almost never look straight-on into the camera? You know how they always look as if they're talking to someone just to the left or right of the camera? (Well, they probably are.) It's because full-on stares make people uncomfortable. Covers that make me uncomfortable = me staying away.

And just for kicks, here's a cover that made me so uncomfortable that I actually did cover the front while I was reading it so that my inner spineless scaredy-cat wouldn't get nightmares:

And it didn't even need a full-frontal stare with eyes to creep me out. Double gah.

3. The Snowball Effect by Holly Nicole Hoxter

Angerrrr. So much angerrrr. (Or, should I say, angrrrr.) How could they have taken an insightful book and slapped this elementary-school computer graphics lesson's first draft on the front? YES, I'm angry. NO, I'm not lightening my stance. How many readers do you think guffawed at this cover when they saw it in stores (if they even saw it in stores, since if I were a book-buyer for a store I'd probably guffaw at this and pass it up too) and then stayed 10 feet away from it? Goddammit. I hate when good books get sucky covers.

4. The Poison Diaries by Maryrose Wood

I waited on tenterhooks for this book's cover ever since I read about the deal. For some reason, any title containing the word "poison" in it evokes to me a really awesome cover (e.g. Poison Study, The Poison Throne). I was so disappointed when this cover was finally revealed, only a handful of weeks before the book came out (probably because they couldn't decide on the cover, I assume). I love the artistic intricacy of the title font. As for the rest of it? Forgive me when I stand up on my chair and yell, How could you have taken such a fascinating story premise and done...this to it?? A premise like this screams for the need to put sinister-looking plants on the cover. Instead, we get a yawn-inducing image of a girl bathing in a heat lamp. I suppose that's your plant reference right there. Oh, and maybe she has a plant tucked in her shirt but it's out of focus and thus that doesn't count as putting the plant reference in the cover.

Oh, here's some more awkward "girl looking down demurely" covers that just didn't impress me at all:

Shall we gah some more?

5. I Now Pronounce You Someone Else by Erin McCahan

People, I weep. This upsets me. If I hadn't read a good review of this book elsewhere I would have totally ignored it...and that would have been a crying shame, since I enjoyed this book so much I went out and bought a finished copy for my collection. Look, I don't have anything against girly things. I like the sky blue background; I like hot pink in limited quantites; I'm learning to like weddings. But put them all together and completely ignore the witty and heartfelt components of this book... and you make me cry. Now, I love my well-written chick lit stories, but you wonder why they're such a hard sell, and why we can never get anyone to take them seriously? See above for Example A.

6. Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian

I swear that contemporary YA get the shaft in cover treatments. Maybe people think it's more okay to use generic images for contemporary fiction because, uh, photographs are contemporary? Blergh. Yet another book I initially dismissed but then was glad I didn't. *shakes fists at whoever's responsible*

Not going to elaborate, but here are two more that I think join Not That Kind of Girl's cover in the whole "generic as f***"/"awkward picture of close-up lips almost-kissing in a completely unsexy manner" #phail category:

Dude. Almost-kissing is SEXY. That's why the First Novels Club does their annual No-Kiss Blogfest. Sexual tension is SEXY. There is nothing sexier than a well-done almost-kiss. Unfortunately, these covers do not exude sexiness for me.

7. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Oh ho ho, yet more examples of good contemporary YA being shat on in the cover design department. Luckily for this book we all love it so much we can ignore the lackluster cover treatment. Look, I'd be fine if the paperback looked pretty much the same; just move the boy over so we can actually see his face! I know Etienne is swoony and all that, and that everyone's definition of swoony is different, but what's the point of keeping him hidden except for a very un-Etienne-like (at least in my opinion) shoulder, and then showing us what Anna looks like? Either put both of them on, or keep both faces off. Let's stay classy, people.

8. She's So Dead to Us by Kieran Scott

This is just um so bizarre. We know that Kieran Scott also writes under her pen name, Kate Brian. It's a fairly well-known "secret." And I can't help but compare the cover treatments that her two different sets of books, written under different names, get. "Kate Brian"'s covers are edgy, scandalous, alluring--albeit in a generic Gossip Girl-esque way. Kieran Scott's look like they were written for 9-year-olds still stuffing themselves into their kindergarten Halloween ballerina costumes even with their pudge hanging out of the leotards, who like to think they know all there is to know about middle and--gasp--high school through their heavily made-up older sisters and wannabe-21 velour-wearing mothers. (Um, did that make sense to you? Maybe it's a Jersey thing, velour couture.) It's no wonder I haven't had so much as a glimpse of She's So Dead to Us in stores this year... which is a shame, too, because it's like Gossip Girl or The A-List without all the brand name-dropping, and would be happily swooped up by readers of those series.

9. The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

Okay, okay, I don't think this one's nearly as bad as some covers that have been published this year, but it did make me scratch my head for a good two weeks or so after I came across it. What exactly is that bright blue blobby thing? A backlit leaf or flower of sorts? A ghost! A...handmade Halloween costume gone wrong. Once you read the book you get a better idea of what I think the cover was trying to represent, but every time I look at it I still think, "Poor person stuck in that monstrosity of a handmade Halloween costume!" (Why do I think that, anyway? Does that look like a Halloween costume to you, or am I just going crazy?)


You know, I think these #phail occurrences would decrease in number if it were mandatory for the art directors and cover designers to read the book before they create the cover. You can consider it part of the job or something, get paid for the reading time.

Okay, I feel bad for ragging on designers of contemporary YA book covers. I don't wish voodoo on you, I swear! I still acknowledge your rightful existence as a human being and your creative freedom! Anyway, to end on a higher note, here are some covers for contemporary YA that I DO like:




See? I am appreciative of art.

[Disclaimer: Please please please do not take this post the wrong way. I am not making personal attacks on any individuals or groups. I am simply expressing my opinion as a subjective consumer of YA books and a totally amateur observer of art.]

Okay, I'd love for you to chime in at this point! What were some of your WTF Covers of 2010? Let's just take this day and indulge in a little end-of-year ranting... or something like that.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cover Lust (22)

Ultraviolet by R. J. Anderson
(Orchard Books / Spring 2011)

The title is Ultraviolet... and so is the cover! This was instant cover lust for me the moment I saw it. It kind of reminds me of the design of Gayle Forman's If I Stay and Where She Went. I love this for the way it plays up the shadows across the girl's face and swishy hair. Swishy hair! My hair didn't even do that when it was that long.

Away (The Line, Book 2) by Teri Hall
(Dial / Sept. 15, 2011)

Wow. I liked The Line's cover a lot, but this one has definitey surpassed the first book's. So intricate, and so representative of what goes on between the first book and the second. The complementary colors stand out so well.

Luminous by Dawn Metcalf
(Dutton / July 7, 2011)

Perhaps it goes slightly overboard in complexity, but I simply love the vivid sharpness of all the colors and details.

The Sky Is Everywhere (paperback) by Jandy Nelson
(Speak / March 22, 2011)

When I first laid eyes on this cover, I gasped out loud. I'm okay with the abstractness of the US hardcover but the cover for this paperback reprint is right up my cover-loving alley: a photograph, with lovely visual texturing. Wowowowow.

Chime by Franny Billingsley
(Dial / March 17, 2011)

Just... Ohmygoodness. Look at the texture. The sepia tone. The model's penetrating stare.

Wood Angel by Erin Bow (UK version of Plain Kate)
Chicken House / March 7, 2011

This cover knocks all the breath out of me, it's that gorgeous. Very different from the uniquely evocative US hardcover, and gorgeous in its own right. I do think the US cover is more representative of the book's story, but I love love love this cover's cool-toned color scheme, and very fragile yet dangerously powerful the girl looks, curled up like that.

Outside In by Maria V. Snyder (UK edition)
Mira Books / March 18, 2011

I like the US cover well enough, but the UK one just knocks it out of the ballpark for me. Who knew that the careful application of warm yellow-gold on an otherwise steel-blue palette could make the cover glisten so well? I think this cover has more of an adult lit feel over YA, which I absolutely don't mind at all, nope. Wowzers.


So what do you guys think of these covers? Which are your favorites? What covers have you seen lately that have you spinning in awe?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Loser/Queen Giveaway!

Thanks to Simon & Schuster, I am hosting a giveaway for Loser/Queen by Jodi Lynn Anderson! Here is the summary:

Cammy Hall is what anyone would describe as a loser. She lives with her grandparents and has adopted their way of life… right down to the comfortable shoes and early bedtime. And can she help it that she actually likes to knit?
At school, her skills with knitting needles and some yarn go completely unappreciated: people like Bekka Bell reign while Cammy and her best friend, the fearless Danish exchange student Gerdi, watch from the sidelines. Cammy’s used to being an outsider; after years of humiliating moments, her goal is simply to fly under the radar. Then she suddenly starts receiving mysterious text messages that lead her right to all the embarrassing secrets about the most popular kids in school. Cammy never expected to be able to climb up the high school food chain, and the agenda of the texter may be questionable—but how can she possibly give up the chance to be Queen?
This is the print version of the groundbreaking online interactive serial LOSER/QUEEN that premiered in July 2010 on Each week, readers voted on major plot twists. The winning choice was then encorporated into the next week's chapters. Now that voting—and the book—are complete, LOSER/QUEEN will be published as a paperback and packed with extras from the author… and readers will have the opportunity to own the book they helped create!

There will be TWO (2) winners. Grand-prize winner will receive:

1 finished copy of Loser/Queen
1 amigurumi keychain

Second-place winner will receive:

1 finished copy of Loser/Queen

This giveaway is open to US mailing addresses only, and ends Friday, January 14, 2010. To enter, please fill out the form below. Thanks and good luck!

2010 Book Lists, Pt. 10: In Recognition

Escapism For Smart Teens
Close-minded mortals still make the mistaken assumption that YA lit is for lesser intelligences. We know better. Here are some books that can prove these naysayers wrong!

The Agency series by Y. S. Lee
This historical fiction series is a lovely balance of action, mystery, and romance. Ying's amazing depictions of Victorian London--something she knows a lot about, seeing as she has a Ph.D. on it and all--will appeal to the historical Anglophile in all of us. (also on: Best Books Published in 2010, Best Debuts of 2010, Winter Reads, Mysteries, Historical Fiction, POC, Different Reads, YA for Adults)

Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood by Eileen Cook
What happens when you combine smarts with our inner vindictive selves? A romping, totally not-dumb guilty pleasure read that will keep you flipping pages. (also on: Retellings, Feel-Good Reads, Guilty Pleasures)

The Summer series by Jenny Han
Jenny Han gives Sarah Dessen a run for her money. Oh well, they can both reside happily in my universe! The Summer series sounds like it will be a total cliche: there are dramatically emotional moments, death, family tensions, and the ubiquitous love triangle. Instead, it's one of my favorite series, and that's a tribute to how well Jenny Han writes us into Belly's troubles. (also on: Best Books Published in 2010, Quiet Gems, Love Triangles)

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Everyone loves a wonderfully swoony contemporary romance, and Stephanie Perkins delivers it in spades. Also, John Green adores this book, and no one dares call John Green a dunce! (also on: Best Books Published in 2010, Best Debuts of 2010, Night-In Reads, Winter Reads, Feel-Good Reads, Nice Guys, Boarding School Settings, Books with Athletes, Diverse Reads)

The Unidentified by Rae Mariz
YA dystopian lit that's a genuine criticism of some of some modern issues, instead of being merely gratuitous action and outrageous scenarios, really doesn't get better than this debut novel. (also on: Best Books Read in 2010, Best Books Published in 2010, Best Debuts of 2010, Sci-Fi/Dystopian, Diverse Reads, Important Themes)

Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready
An entertaining paranormal love triangle, fantastic world-building without becoming information overload... veteran adult speculative fiction author Jeri Smith-Ready can do no wrong, it seems! (also on: Paranormal, Best Debuts of 2010, Love Triangles, Wonderful Worlds)

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
HOLY COW I wish I knew how Catherine Fisher's mind works, because Incarceron is one heck of an impressive achievement. It's a dark fantasy with dystopic/steampunk/historical feels, and--perhaps unfortunately--each chapter ends in such a way that you just have to keep on reading, to find out what happens. (also on: Best Books Read in 2010, Fantasy, Best Books Published in 2010, YA for Adults)

One for the Awards
If these books don't get professional recognition in some form or another, then things are not quite right in the awards committee world.

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork
This quietly poignant tale of a boy with Asperger's learning how to deal with the real world is simultaneously heart-breaking and heartwarming. (also on: Best Books Read in 2010, Thought-Provoking Reads, Quiet Gems, Memorable Protagonists, POC, YA for Adults)

Nothing by Janne Teller
The Danish have fantastic taste in literature, obviously, to make this eerie dystopian novel a bestseller in its original language. It really deserves more recognition here in the US. (also on: Best Books Read in 2010, Best Books Published in 2010, Sci-Fi/Dystopian, Best Villains, Different Reads, YA for Adults)

This Gorgeous Game by Donna Freitas
This is a beautifully written book that's at times painful to read, because it's just so intimately frightening. (also on: Thought-Provoking Reads, Horror/Suspense/Thriller, Best Villains, Diverse Reads)

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney
The writing style is relatively generic, but it's a powerful approach to the important issue of date rape and its effects on the victim. Probably the most accessible book on date rape written for teens that I've ever read. (also on: Thought-Provoking Reads, Boarding School Settings, Important Themes)

Hush by Eishes Chayil
An incredibly detailed and atmospheric read with a serious theme that's lightened by some surprisingly humorous and touching moments. (also on: Best Books Read in 2010, Best Debuts of 2010, Thought-Provoking Reads, Families, Diverse Reads, Important Themes, Canonicity)

The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
A beautifully written exploration of life after a devastating loss, touching upon love, family, and the never-ending healing power of music and nature. (also on: On Grief, Nice Guys, Families, Books with Artists)

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
An incredible research accomplishment, featuring a memorably conflicted protagonist. (also on: Best Books Published in 2010, On Grief, Historical Fiction, Diverse Reads, YA for Adults)

Stolen by Lucy Christopher
You thought abduction was black and white? Lucy Christopher--and Ty--challenge you to think twice about it. (also on: Summer Reads, Quiet Gems, Best Villains, Beautiful Covers)

These books deserve to be read for decades to come, if they haven't already reached that status yet.

The Hunger Games, Book 3: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
The Hunger Games trilogy rightfully deserves a spot in the YA lit canon, I think. It's an unsurpassable combination of action and discussion-provoking themes. (also on: Best Books Published in 2010, Sci-Fi/Dystopian, Memorable Protagonists)

Hush by Eishes Chayil
A book this important, this intricately written, deserves a long, long shelf life. (also on: Best Books Read in 2010, Best Debuts of 2010, Thought-Provoking Reads, Families, Diverse Reads, Important Themes, One for the Awards)

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
I'm not going to even say much here, because there's not much that I can say anymore about this book. (also on: Best Books Read in 2010, Night-In Reads, Quiet Gems, Nice Guys, Wonderful Worlds, Beautiful Writing, Diverse Reads, YA for Adults)

Singing the Dogstar Blues by Alison Goodman
This is a sci-fi gem that was published earlier this decade. With sci-fi and dystopian lit on the rise, I think it's a good time for this to come back out of the shadows, don't you? (also on: Sci-Fi/Dystopian, Wonderful Worlds, Diverse Reads)

By the Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters
Just...beautiful and chilling, poetic yet unapologetically honest about the fatal scars inflicted by bullying. (also on: Best Books Read in 2010, Best Books Published in 2010, Thought-Provoking Reads, Nice Guys, Beautiful Covers, Important Themes)

2011 Books to Anticipate
By which I mean, uh, no, I won't be listing two thousand one hundred eleven books that I'm looking forward to reading (although I'm sure they exist in that number), but rather that I had the privilege of reading these 2011 releases early, and they are so fantastic that I need to generic early buzz buzz buzz for them because they deserve it!

Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis
This book is, like, your dream child. It's an utterly charming historical fantasy featuring a feisty young protagonist and heaps and heaps of trouble in the form of both magic and obnoxious family members. I LOVED this book, and while I was a little surprised they pushed back the release date from this previous summer, I'm just glad that in a few months, you all will be able to experience the gloriousness that is Kat Stephenson, and then I will have to *sigh* fight you over who gets to call this book their favorite.

Wither by Lauren DeStefano
Holy gushing, I'm not sure how I can express how incredible this dystopian debut novel is. The hype? Worth it. Its gorgeous cover? Deserved. Wither is richly written, the characters' ambiguous predicaments haunting.

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
Published in the UK earlier this year, Forbidden got so many rave reviews on Goodreads that I caved and bought a UK copy from Book Depository. Then I immediately dove into it--something I don't do often--and couldn't put it down. This atypical romance is one of the most intense things I have ever read. Coming out in the US later this spring!

Across the Universe by Beth Revis
A solidly exciting sci-fi/mystery debut novel! Are you one of the handful of people left in this corner of the universe that has not yet read the first chapter of ATU, which has been free online for several months now? If that doesn't suck you in like nothing else, then I don't know what will. The book's not perfect, but it sure as hell is entertaining, and gorgeous to boot, and definitely deserving of all of the publicity that's being pumped into it. (also on: Sci-Fi/Dystopian)

Bumped by Megan McCafferty
Megan McCafferty is the genius who authored the Jessica Darling series, pretty much my favorite series of all time and one that I reread every year, without fail, whenever I need some inspiration/am feeling down/am feeling like the only person in the world who feels the way I do. Her first legit YA novel is a dystopian tale featuring identical twins raised separately in a world where teen pregnancy has become an economy, since adults can no longer have babies. In typical McCafferty style, Bumped is an entertaining AND relevant examination of this aspect of our culture, and worth the the rereads for the new things you will discover every time.

Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann
Bestselling author Lisa McMann's upcoming standalone novel (I think?) keeps her unique writing style to foster the sense of unease and simultaneous readerly detachment-involvement. It's a fast but unputdownable read.

...Aaaaaand that concludes this year's book lists! *collapses on the floor in spasms*

Back to: Master List | Pt. 1 | Pt. 2 | Guest List #1 | Pt. 3 | Guest List #2 | Pt. 4 | Guest List #3 | Pt. 5 | Guest List #4 | Pt. 6 | Pt. 7 | Guest List #5 | Pt. 8 | Guest List #6 | Pt. 9 | Guest List #7 | Pt. 10

Linked titles go to my book reviews; annotations as inspired.


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