Monday, December 27, 2010

Sandy's Best of 2010: Young Adult








It is that exciting time of year when everyone has to boil down 2010, separate the wheat from the chaff, the men from the boys, the winners from the losers. I find it entertaining to look back at where I've been and relive some of the finer moments in my reading experiences over the last twelve months and approximately 140 books. I've decided to break down my lists in categories based on my reading preferences (Young Adult, Non-Fiction, Audiobooks, Literary Fiction) over the next four days. If I would have read perhaps a dozen more graphic novels, I would have added a category for that as well. Maybe next year!

A few disclaimers...I rarely read things the year they are published. It takes me ages to catch up with the hip and the happening, and self-consciously feel I am often the last to read a viral sensation. So what you will see this week are my favorite books that could have been published this year or a hundred years ago.

When I sifted through my books and ratings last year, I had a horrible time narrowing them down to ten. This year it was not too difficult. I do consider my reads to be of very high quality, so maybe I'm just getting pickier?

I don't consider myself to be an expert on Young Adult novels, however I did read enough of them this year to be able to legitimately discuss them. One of my biggest pet peeves are YA novels that talk down to the reader, and seem to assume this age group can't handle good literature and smart prose. I don't want it sugar-coated. I found three that stood out among the crowd:

1. Before I Fall - Lauren Oliver



A page-turning hybrid of Mean Girls and Groundhog Day, this book examines the consequences of bad teenage behavior. It is terrifying, thought-provoking, and provides very insightful lessons on friendship, bullying, underage drinking, and the price of belonging to the in crowd. I dare you to put it down once you start, and I dare you to try to stop thinking about it after you've finished.

The best part? It has been optioned for a movie.












2. If You Come Softly - Jacqueline Woodson



I could easily place every book I've ever read of Jacqueline Woodson's on a best list, because she is simply a phenomenal writer. But this particular novel is one that has been burned into my memory. It hits on all the topics...bi-racial relationships, gay/lesbian relationships, children coping with divorced parents, and more. But Woodson handles it so gently and deftly, it never feels contrived or preachy. Just one warning...bring your tissues.





3. The Book Thief - Markus Zusak




At the time I wrote this post, I still had not been able to translate my thoughts into the form of a review. I'm sure I will get to it before this publishes, but in my head right now, it almost defies description. To understand WWII through the eyes of a young girl, a girl who loves books and seeks refuge in them, is a precious premise. To see the devastation of the war on a group of quirky, lovable German villagers is heartbreaking but sadly realistic.

Can someone please tell me how on earth this is YA? It is a tough subject for teens (or anyone), but I would let my kids read it because it is handled tactfully. That is not my point. My point is that this book is perfect in every way a WWII novel should be. To have it stuck on a YA shelf does it an injustice.



Stay tuned tomorrow for my three best Non-Fiction reads of 2010!







25 comments:

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Definitely If You Come Softly have been on my list, except I read it in 2009! What a great book that is!

farmlanebooks said...

Two books better than The Book Thief? Consider them added to my wishlist. I almost took a copy of Before I Fall home from the library last time I was there. I'll make sure I get it next time :-)

I look forward to seeing your lists - especially the audio book one. I have my credit card ready and waiting.

C.B. James said...

The Book Thief was marketed for adults in Australia where it comes from. It's just marketing really. The truth is, at this point in America, a YA book will sell more copies than an adult book will. YA is the bigger market.

But it sure is a wonderful book.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

Great book choices! I loved Before I Fall and The Book Thief as well. I have not read If You Come Softly but think I need to.

Marce said...

I look forward to your lists this week.

I have before I Fall and Book Thief on my Wishlist.

Zibilee said...

Great choices! I have heard such great things about Before I Fall and I really, really want to read it! I am also gearing up to read The Book Thief and will have to let you know how it goes. I am also looking forward to seeing your upcoming lists and seeing if any of my favorites are on there!!

marthalama said...

I'm not a big YA reader but I really do want to read The Book Thief. And if the others are better than Book Thief I think I'll have to give them a try.

Lauren said...

Before I Fall is on my list too. It was beautiful. I'm reading The Book Thief now and enjoying it (despite its painful topics). I don't think it being a YA book is an injustice, though. I agree with the commenter - it is all just marketing. Genres are genres, and this day, with the popularity of some YA series, YA books are even more read than adult novels. If it's a great book; I don't think it's genre will deter people from reading it.

Amy said...

The Book Thief and If You Come Softly are already on my list to read and now have check marks next to them. I had no idea that Before I Fall was such a good book. I feel as if I keep running into it...that should've been a clue I s'pose! Thanks for the heads up, Sandy! I'm looking forward to your other lists.

~ Amy

bermudaonion said...

I'm even more behind than you - I haven't read any of those books.

Iliana said...

I agree, I think it's almost a disservice to classify The Book Thief YA. Not because I don't think YA lit can be powerful but because I think a lot of adults don't consider YA literature or just not what they read and they could be missing out. I used to not read YA before blogging! That story is just so gut-wrenching.

Looking forward to your other favorites!

Lisa@ButteryBooks said...

The Book Thief is by far my favorite book of the year for any genre!

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

The Book Thief was a Secret Santa gift this year and I can't wait to dig in. Saw Before I Fall when looking for books for my daughters...will give it a try as well :)

Melody said...

Great choices, Sandy! I haven't read any of those though I've them in my pile (except "If You Come Softly"); I need to get to them next year!

Stephanie said...

Before I Fall is the only one of the three I have read but I definitely understand why it was one of your favorites of the year.

Literary Feline said...

I've started my top ten list for the year and found the first five pretty easy to pick out--the remaining five are proving to be more difficult.

I don't read enough Young Adult novels to make a separate list for them, but I do enjoy reading others lists.

The Book Thief was my top book last year. I just loved it.

Carrie K. said...

I completely agree about Before I Fall and The Book Thief was one of my top ten reads a couple of years back. I'm looking forward to reading some Jacqueline Woodson in 2011 - her book Locomotion is on my swap list of books from Vasilly.

Melissa M said...

I'd heard such great things about Before I Fall that I rushed out and bought it right when it came out...then never read it. The Book Thief is on my must read list too!

caite said...

I read Before I Fall..and while i liked it, I did not love it. If I write a review...I am not very motivated in my reviews recently...maybe I will be able to explain why.
As soon as I figure out why.

Now If You Come Softly I have not tread but I have loved all of her other books that I read, so I really must get hold of a copy ASAP.

Kathleen said...

We are definitely "reading sisters". These are three of my favorite reads of the year. Before I Fall is still a review I have to write. I don't feel I can do it justice because it had me thinking so much!

Nymeth said...

I love 2 and 3 too, and I definitely need to read 1!

Beth F said...

Book Theif goes without saying -- and Before I Fall is on my list.

Alice Teh said...

I absolutely loved book 2 and 3. I couldn't even write reviews for the two books. They're too good and I was speechless.

Swapna said...

I agree that Before I Fall was an amazing book! I didn't love The Book Thief though, I'm in the minority on that.

Jenners said...

I'm with you ... I don't think "The Book Thief" is a YA book. Excellent choices.