Compiling our favorite books of the year has become one of our favorite things that we do on the blog. It’s a great opportunity to look through last year’s reviews and see what stuck with us. This list of ten Slatebreaking books from 2013 is by no means comprehensive, and it’s not in any order. But we loved these books, and before we move into 2014, we totally recommend you check them out.
SARAH’S TOP FIVE
Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo. It wouldn’t be a controversial statement to suggest that Kate DiCamillo is one of the best writers of middle grade of the modern era. Regardless of her subject matter, she manages to infuse this beautiful, relatable honesty to her writing. This book takes a hilarious story about a pre-teen cynic and a superhero squirrel and gives readers a beautiful message about divorce, family and love. Hilarious and heartbreaking.
The Year of Shadows by Claire Legrand. This contemporary ghost story set in a falling apart orchestra is satisfyingly scary and terrifically compelling. It also addresses financial struggles during the recent economic recession through a kid’s point of view. Ghosts are frightening but The Economy is the real villain. Luckily, Olivia Stellatella is a Slatebreaker who is up to the challenge.
After Iris by Natasha Farrant. Of all the books that made me cry this year, this one might have broken my heart the most. I loved Blue and her siblings so much. This story of a family coping with tragedy even managed to include some straight up hilarious moments.
Doll Bones by Holly Black. With this book, Black gives us a satisfyingly terrifying ghost story but also a powerful piece of writing about growing up and the transition out of pretend play. As someone who was personally pretty reluctant to give up that part of my childhood as I moved into middle school, I loved the way Black wrote about her three protagonists and the different ways they were maturing, and how their friendship changed as they started to grow up.
The Wig in the Window by Kristin Kittscher. While mysteries aren’t always my favorite genre, I totally love stories about pairs of best friends, especially when those friends are awesome Slatebreakers like Grace Yang and Sophie Young. The mystery might have driven the plot, but the characters left a much greater impression.
BRIANNA’S TOP FIVE
Jessica Darling’s It List #1 by Megan McCafferty. Another Jessica Darling book! This was my most anticipated book of 2013. When an author revisits a series that they haven’t written for in a long time, there is always the risk of disappointment for a devoted reader. Sarah and I were both thankful that McCafferty honored the tone that was set by the previously written books, yet adjusted everything to fit what Jessica would be alike as a younger character. The combination of junior high awkwardness with Jessica’s trademark snark made this book absolutely hilarious.
Call Me Oklahoma by Miriam Glassman. Joining the ranks of predictably quirky early reader characters like Junie. B. Jones, Amber Brown, and Freckleface Strawberry, this book marks the first appearance of Paige Turner on our shelves. Paige stands out from this crowd of girl characters because she is deeply talented and dives into her musical abilities to solve problems in other areas of her life. Paige is a girl character with great potential for future books, and she was my favorite character debut of the year.
Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle. A boy Slatebreaker made my best of the year list! In a cultural climate when gender norms are so persistently reinforced, Nate is so refreshing and wonderful. He is a character with a story that doesn’t typically get told in middle grade fiction. There is a sequel coming out next year and I cannot wait to read it!
One Came Home by Amy Timberlake. This is outstanding historical fiction with a mystery story slant set in Wisconsin. So it’s basically my dream book. Georgie is tough enough to persist through physical and mental trials, yet she also develops a greater sensitivity toward those she loves. The balance of strength and emotion in Georgie struck just the right note. This book should be a movie as soon as possible.
Heaven is Paved With Oreos by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. Another book in my favorites list that is set in Wisconsin. Am I too predictable? This book truly was a standout for me, even beyond the setting. I love D.J. Schwenk from theDairy Queen series, and am so happy that Murdock has created another female character, Sarah, who has to figure out how to express her unique style and personality in a town where differences are not highly valued. Sarah nothing like D.J., but she is just as lovable.
What do you think? What are we missing? What are you most excited for in 2014, MG-wise? Check back on Thursday for our YA list!
My favorite middle-grade story of 2013 was Blue Balliett’s Hold Fast. I loved what the author did with word play: the name of every chapter is a fairly simple word with dictionary definitions that reveal the word has more meanings that you might at first think. Look for all the definitions to appear in the story. This is the summary I wrote of the book on my own blog:
When her father goes missing and robbers destroy their home, a young girl tries to solve the mystery from the homeless shelter where they now live. Mix in clever clues and the poetry of Langston Hughes, and you’ve got a book that is gripping, smart, and eye-opening.