One of our favorite things about the end of a calendar year is how many lists there are, ranking the best things that happen over the course of that year. It’s no exception for us – we wanted to take the opportunity to look back at what we read this year and choose our favorites. It was not easy – 2012 was a great year for YA fiction. But we’ve managed to distill it down to five books each, bringing us to a top ten. While we’ve broken these lists out to each of our favorites, we couldn’t quite bring ourselves to rank them. So here you have, in no particular order, the Top Ten Slatebreaking Books of 2012!
SARAH’S TOP 5
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
This was hands-down, my favorite book of the year. And as far as Slatebreaking goes, this one left it shattered in the dust. It’s a story about best friends, breaking barriers, and protecting the things that matter. It’s the best kind of historical fiction, balancing impeccable research with great storytelling. And it’s so outstandingly well-written, consistently surprising, and heartwrenchingly powerful, that I would dare any of you to read it without falling in love with these characters and their story.
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
Though this book is not technically YA, and published as an adult fiction title, it’s teenage protagonist qualifies it for this blog and this list. Addressing the AIDS epidemic in the late 1980s, Wolves gives us a quieter kind of Slatebreaking heroine, but one who is incredibly deserving of the title. The way June come to terms with her grief and grow up into her own person is what makes her a Slatebreaker. And the writing is so good, that I couldn’t leave it off of my best of the year list.
Ask the Passengers by A.S. King
Another year, another great A.S. King title on our top 10 list! This book, about a girl named Astrid who sends love out into the world while she tries to figure out who she is, is just really good fiction. There have been a lot of great books with LGBTQ characters this year, reflecting a real range of experiences. This one was probably my favorite, just because I loved the character so much. But also, it really lets Astrid’s story be complicated, and her relationships with other characters and herself or beautifully realized.
A Certain October by Angela Johnson
This slim novel totally captivated me. I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did. But Angela Johnson has, in really just a few pages, captured an incredible character and a richly developed world. Scotty and her family will absolutely win you over. And for reluctant readers, the minimal length and limited words on the page could present real appeal.
Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
As I’m finishing up this list, I’m realizing how many of the titles we included on it are about coming to terms with grief. It seems like a strong theme in this year’s great YA novels. But it’s also important to our idea of Slatebreaking – how does someone retain a sense of self when suffering a tremendous loss? This book in verse stood out to me as exceptional among the great YA titles I read this year because of the ease with which McCall shifts perspective and scope from major issues to small moments, without losing the story’s emotional impact.
BRIANNA’S TOP 5
Cashore’s writing, in my opinion, became stronger throughout the Graceling series. I appreciated the attention to detail and the depth of character exploration in this third book. Bitterblue is a Slatebreaking character of epic proportion. Because she is a young woman in an unfamiliar position of power, we readers are privileged to witness her inner turmoil as she faces challenging decisions that will impact the fate of those in her kingdom. Cashore also brilliantly challenges heteronormativity in her fantasy world. Malinda Lo describes this better than I ever could, so check out her fabulous blog post about Bitterblue.
Mothership by Martin Leicht and Isla Neal
This is certainly the weirdest book I read in 2012. It’s the oddity of this story and the wildly outrageous characters that make it so memorable. And yet, through all of its silliness, this book still does a great job challenging gender norms and exploring the possibilities of a space-age future that may not be that far-fetched.
Smart Girls Get What They Want by Sarah Strohmeyer
This is the kind of book that I find readers (including me) tend to underestimate because of its cover and the bubble-gum summary on the cover flap. But it’s so good! It is straightforward, smart realistic fiction with just the right level of romance and examples of supportive female friendship that counter the “mean girl” stereotype.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
This is my cry-your-eyes-out book of the year. (You have to have at least one good cathartic book each year, and this one was the best of 2012 for me.) Hazel is strong and resilient while facing some truly miserable circumstances. Green also does a terrific job of depicting an honest and tender teen sexual relationship, with just a hint of awkwardness that makes it feel completely realistic.
The Year of the Beasts by Cecil Castellucci and Nate Powell
This makes my best-of-2012 list because of the innovative way in which Castellucci and Powell play with storytelling form. I love graphic novels and I love novels, and this book blends the two for a compelling story about sibling rivalry.
Check back on Thursday for our favorite middle grade titles of the year!
Totally agree on Code Name Verity and The Fault in Our Stars. Both Code Name Verity and Ask the Passengers made it on to my Christmas list. I also want to read all the other books on your list because you both give great rec’s. Tell the Wolves has me really intrigued…
Code Name Verity made my top ten list for 2012, too.