Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2009 Book Lists, Pt. 5

The genre that is taking YA lit by storm, and the genre that is a lot of people's preferred genre to read in. Will this genre burn out due to the amount of books being published? Let's hope not! Here are a list of books that represent the best you may find in this genre.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Pretty much the best, and the one that all others will be compared to. (also on: Best Books I Read in 2009, Best Bids for Canonicity, For Boys, Great Protagonists, Use in ClassroomsGive This To Your Parents TooSo You Want to Start Reading YA)

Hunger: a Gone Novel by Michael Grant
A crazy dystopian world that combines Lord of the Flies with supernatural mysteries. The numerous characters are well drawn, and the action never lets up. (also on: Best Books I Read in 2009, Best Sequels of 2009, For Boys)

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
The predecessor to The Hunger Games. Also a story in which kids are forced to kill one another, but this one is definitely much more brutal, much bloodier, and much more senseless. It will disturb your senses, yet keep you up reading. For those who want to see the darker side of The Hunger Games, this one's for you. (also on: For Boys, Horror/Creepy)

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
A stunning look at what happens to one family when a stray asteroid hits the moon out of whack and creates dangerous conditions on Earth. Probably the only apocalyptic novel I've read that is as captivating every time I reread it as it is the first time I read it. (also on: Give This To Your Parents TooSo You Want to Start Reading YA)

The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Kids wake up with no memory inside the center of a giant maze... what the heck is going on? Little is explained, but the suspense is well-wrought, and you'll be clamoring impatiently for the sequel, The Scorch Trials, coming next fall. (also on: Best Books I Read in 2009, Best Books Published in 2009, For Boys, Horror/Creepy)

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
The first YA steampunk novel I've read, and the one to which all others might be compared. It is fascinatingly enjoyable for both boys and girls (I would know, because my brothers are LOVING it). Scott doesn't disappoint once again with his new series! (also on: Beautiful Books, Best Bids for Canonicity, For BoysGive This To Your Parents TooSo You Want to Start Reading YA)

Candor by Pam Bachorz
A community set up to brainwash teenagers into docility...crazy, huh? The character development is a little on the light side, but the ending is absolutely. Incredible. One of the best out there. Read it for the ending, if not for the spooky atmospheric and terrifying concept.

The Missing, Book 1: Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix
A new series from this queen of dystopian adventures for juvenile and middle grade fiction combines time travel, kidnapping, political conspiracy, and more for an interesting new world.

Genesis by Bernard Beckett
A dystopian series for those who want their minds blown and then stitched together with a lot more depth and open-mindedness than before. It's a crazy-interesting book written in--get this--transcription format, and boggles the mind. A lot. (also on: Thought-Provoking Reads, For Boys, Use in ClassroomsSmart ReadsFor Older TeensSomething Different)

Books in this category are either stories about queers or stories in which gender and sexuality boundaries as we know them are blurred or questioned. And they're all also great reads!

Cycler by Lauren McLaughlin
Jill has a terrifying secret: once a month, for several days, she turns into a boy, Jack! Jill wants nothing to do with Jack, but Jack is getting restless and is no longer content with being confined to her rooms during those days of change... A mind-boggling read that blurs the boundaries between male and female. In a sense it's also a psychological insight into how we construct gender. (also on: Smart ReadsMost OverlookedSomething Different)

My Invented Life by Lauren Bjorkman
Roz, believing her older sister Eva is a closeted lesbian, despites to help her come out by pretending to be a lesbian herself. It's a fast-paced, snarky story with occasionally ridiculous situations but heart all the way through. (also on: Something Different)

Ash by Malinda Lo
Those who tend to shy away from GLBTQ contemporary realism might do well with Ash, a retelling of Cinderella. The world in which this story is set is in itself a conglomeration of different cultures and identities. Ultimately, it's not a story about a woman loving another woman, but rather one about the overarching power of love to heal grief. (also on: Best Books I Read in 2009, Best Books Published in 2009, Best Books By a Debut YA Author, For Fantasy/Magic Lovers, Retellings, Beautiful Books, POC, Night-In Reads, Beautiful Writing, Best Covers)

Sprout by Dale Peck
Sprout is an out-and-out gay in an extremely conservative neighborhood, struggling to piece together his identity. This book is intelligent, funny, and uncomfortable enough to make an impact. (also on: HumorSmart Reads)

David Inside Out by Lee Bantle
A story of sexual exploration in a time when the Midwest was hardly accepting of gays. Quite graphic, but David's story also provokes empathy.

Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan
Two of the main characters are gay, but this is really a story about, well, love triumphing all. (also on: Best Books Published in 2009, Thought-Provoking Reads, Beautiful Writing)

Luv Ya Bunches by Lauren Myracle
One of the characters has two moms. This simple detail sparked a great deal of controversy when Scholastic asked Lauren to change that for inclusion in school book fairs. What I enjoy is that it's merely given as fact, not a conflict. We need more books like this. (also on: Middle Grade)

Branching Out: Adult Fiction & Classics
Some of these I read for class. Some of these I read for fun. All of these are ones you should seriously consider checking out.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
This 1200-plus-page epic is INCREDIBLE. I can hardly believe this was written by a human (heh heh). An unforgettable swashbuckling tale of being wronged and setting it right through the most elaborate plan of revenge ever created, taking place over the course of years and involving a complete submersion into your enemies' lives. If you read this, get the Penguin unabridged version translated by Robin Buss, as the others are not the same.

Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber
Based on a true story, Sybil is the story of possibly one of the worst cases of multiple personality disorder ever recorded. We follow Sybil and her sixteen personalities as they slowly emerge in the doctors' offices, and go back in time to see the horrifying childhood that had brought her to that point.

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
A sad and beautifully written novel about the caste system gone deadly. Roy's only novel makes language her servant, bending linguistic rules in order to immerse readers into her world completely. (also on: Beautiful Writing)

One Child by Torey Hayden
Sheila was a sullen and dangerous abused child when she ended up in Torey's special-ed classroom. Thanks to Torey's gentle persistence, Sheila is allowed to blossom into her full intelligence for the first time in her life. Compulsively readable and touching.

Drown by Junot Diaz
Short stories about a Dominican immigrant family, both in the Dominican Republic and in America. Darkly funny, disturbing, and impactful. Diaz is a master. (also on: POCShort Stories)

Ten Little Indians by Sherman Alexie
Alexie writes about Spokane Indians in this short story collection, but they could nearly be anyone, the way you are able to relate to all of them and find their stories hilarious and insightful. (also on: POCShort Stories)

White Teeth by Zadie Smith
I cannot believe a twenty-five-year-old wrote this elaborate thing. A lot of the characters are rather despicable, but the whole book is pretty ridiculous and may hit a little too close to home for some people.

The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale
One of my favorite books ever. Witty, hilarious, and heartbreaking. Also with a non-fairy tale ending, which I greatly enjoyed. (also on: Best Books I Read in 2009, HumorTearjerkers)

Emma by Jane Austen
There is a reason Austen is my favorite author. Few people other than her can be so subtly snarky with her ridiculous characters, and yet have us fall in love with all of them. This is a good one to read after Pride and Prejudice.

The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor
She was recently crowned, like, the ultimate National Book Award winner for this collection of all her short stories. O'Connor's characters are often ignorant, racist, and elitist, but she somehow manages to write in a way that subtly but pointedly ridicules their attitudes. (also on: Short Stories)

Back Creek by Leslie Goetsch
This ia great story about an 18-year-old growing into her role in her splintered family. Touching, easy to read, and perfect for Sarah Dessen fans.

Heart of Redness by Zakes Mda
A gorgeously written book about the racial and class divides in South Africa. Part love story, part historical fantasy, part political.

Summery Friendship Reads
These are great for reading on a beach or passing along to your friends on vacation when you're done. (And yes, you can even read them when it's bitterly cold outside.)

Girl v. Boy by Yvonne Collins and Sandy Rideout
A battle of the sexes in the school newspaper column turns personal...but with startling results? This cute little book is a fast read.

Lovestruck Summer by Melissa Walker
Music and love in around 200 pages, filled with colorful, three-dimensional characters. Surprisingly good for a book of its size and price! Don't judge it by its cover and back-cover description. (also on: Feel-Good Contemporary Realism)

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
A sweet tale about grief, acceptance, and the importance of friendship over the course of several days at a beach. (also on: If You Like Sarah Dessen)

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
Sarah Dessen never disappoints, and this one has everything you've come to expect from her books: frustrating parents, kooky friends, character growth, and a perfect love interest. (also on: If You Like Sarah DessenMost Crush-Worthy Love InterestsSo You Want to Start Reading YA)

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
I wasn't expecting to love it as much as I did from just looking at the cover, but this is a great read about what love really is, with no easy answers, which I appreciated. (also on: Best Books Published in 2009, Feel-Good Contemporary Realism, If You Like Sarah Dessen)

Two-Way Street by Lauren Barnholdt
An easy, he-said/she-said read about exes on a road trip to college. Predictable, and you can definitely tell a woman wrote the male voice, but fun nonetheless. The two protagonists' dynamics are great. (also on: Feel-Good Contemporary Realism)

As You Wish by Jackson Pearce
A return to the lovely days of innocent, gradually developing romance. Your heart will break at all the tough choices the characters have to make. (also on: Best Books Published in 2009, Best Books By a Debut YA Author, Feel-Good Contemporary Realism, Romance, Night-In ReadsTearjerkers)

Confessions of a Serial Kisser by Wendelin van Draanen
Short, a little over the top, but totally cute! I loved Evangeline's voice, even if she was a little misguided in her ideas about kissing.

Secrets of Truth and Beauty by Megan Frazer
A gentle tale of self-acceptance and self-discovery, set on a goat farm. Um, yes. A goat farm. I love how all the characters had flaws, but were still likable in the end. (also on: Feel-Good Contemporary Realism, If You Like Sarah Dessen)

Hollywood Is Like High School With Money by Zoey Dean
A nice little guilty-pleasure read with a picture-perfect ending, lesson learned, everyone gets what they deserved but hugs all around.

Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani
It's hard for me to pitch this book. The writing is excellent, and I like how it takes us through a semester of a likable boarding school protagonist's life. But there's no overarching conflict that drives the story. Still, it's a pretty good read when you're in between more serious reads, for example.

The Pillow Book of Lotus Lowenstein by Libby Schmais
Lotus' naivety and ridiculous notions about the superior applications of French culture in her life may get a little annoying, but it's also a really sweet tale of growth, forgiveness, and learning that cute boys are so not worth losing your friend for.

Coffeehouse Angel by Suzanne Selfors
A cute little romance with strong veins of the indie vs. corporate conflict. The characters are likable, if generic, although the magic element gives it a Disney-esque feel.

Beautiful Writing
Sometimes you want to read books just for their writing. This list contains books you'll want to savor slowly, to make their beauty last as long as possible.

Undercover by Beth Kephart
Beth effortlessly blends genres--poetry and prose, adult and YA--to create a masterpiece for all readers. (also on: Give This To Your Parents Too)

Ash by Malinda Lo
I feel like I've talked about this book enough times over the course of these lists, lol. But yes: stunning writing, great story, etc etc etc. :) (also on: Best Books I Read in 2009Best Books Published in 2009Best Books By a Debut YA AuthorFor Fantasy/Magic LoversRetellingsBeautiful BooksPOCNight-In Reads, GLBTQ/Gender, Best Covers)

Swoon by Nina Malkin
Definitely a weird book that probably would have faired better if it had been marketed as an adult book. (Then again, if it had been, I probably wouldn't have found it.) The story is not for those uncomfortable with sexuality and lust, but Nina's prose is almost hypnotic: it draws you into this strange world with the unconventional voice of its protagonist.

Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan
A book where you'll find a "quotable quote" on every other page. (also on: Best Books Published in 2009, Thought-Provoking Reads, GLBTQ/Gender)

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
As I mentioned above, Roy toys with the rules of language to give readers new sensations we'd never expect. (also on: Branching Out: Adult Fiction & Classics)

You Are Here by Jennifer E. Smith
While the story fell a little flat, the writerly mastery was all there. In fact, it reads a little like extensive character sketches, the way you get to know all these aspects about the characters. (also on: If You Like Sarah Dessen)

Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev
Lisa finds a good balance between the comic and the lyrical. The fairies, of course, provide laughter, while any scene in which Ariel appears will make you shiver with subconscious delight. (also on: Best Books By a Debut YA Author, For Fantasy/Magic Lovers, Beautiful Books, Best Covers)

Ice by Sarah Beth Durst
Sarah Beth's writing provides atmosphere and character strength, lush magic grounded in familiar (sort of) contemporary concerns. (also on: Best Books I Read in 2009, Best Books Published in 2009, For Fantasy/Magic Lovers, Retellings, Romance, Night-In Reads, Great ProtagonistsSmart ReadsMost Crush-Worthy Love InterestsSo You Want to Start Reading YA)

A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell
Sandell wrote novels-in-verse before, and her poetic side shows through with her beautiful sentences and passages.

Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor
It's not exactly "lyrical" writing, per se, but there's something about the combination of the story's content, setting, and conflict that makes the writing simply...flow. (also on: For Fantasy/Magic Lovers, Beautiful Books, POCShort Stories)


Back to 2009 Book Lists, Pt. 1 // Pt. 2 // Pt. 3 // Pt. 4 // Pt. 6 // Pt. 7 // Pt. 8

Back to the Master List of 2009 Book Lists!


  1. SYBIL!!! I remember that when I read that it was such a shock for me! Isn't it a wonderful book? I might read again now that you reminded me of it!

    AGAIN.. Wonderful list! I'm a big fan of dystopian books! THANKS!

  2. WOW, great list! Holy mackeral. I LOOOVED Leviathan! And Steampunk is my new favourite genre!


  3. I love the summery friendship list, gotta add some books to my wishlist. Swoon is very beautifully written but it made me feel stupid sometimes cos there were lots of big words I couldn't understand.

  4. Yeah steampunk/dystopian almost seems to be taking over from all that "bit lit" doesn't it? I loved both genres so I'm happy either way =)

    Oooh Battle Royale, I've heard a lot about that in reference to its similarities with the Hunger Games, and while I loved that book, I'm not sure I can take anything more disturbing. Sounds intriguing nonetheless though!

  5. Great list. It's making me squirm, though, as I still have so many books to get to...

  6. I think this is my favorite list so far. Thanks, Steph!

  7. Great lists - I found two new ones in your GLBTQ list! Thanks so much!


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