Just in time for your holiday shopping, my pick of the best from my reading this year.
Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull
The fifth and final book in this series came out this year and I had tremendous fun reading them all. A contemporary setting with an epic fantasy feel. All but the last are in paperback. This series sits well alongside Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. Great for 10 and up.
Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine
I spoke in a session with Kathryn at a conference this spring, but I was so sick with pregnancy nausea I lay face down on the carpet out of sight until it was my part and never got to speak to her or the other authors. If I could have, I would have told her how much I enjoyed this novel. I'm sure others have compared it to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, but for younger readers. It also won the National Book Award this year. I'd say 12 and up.
White Cat, by Holly Black
I think Holly is in the royalty of YA writers today. She is an incredibly skilled author, and her latest urban fantasy is a terrific mix of noir, grift, and fantasy. The first in a series. 14 and up.
Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld
This book is just gorgeous. Frequent illustrations bring to life this WWI revisionist adventure. Great for fans of historical fiction, fantasy, steampunk, or just great storytelling. In paperback, its sequel Behemoth is in hardcover. 12 and up.
A Conspiracy of Kings, by Megan Whalen Turner
You know of my love for MWT so of course I devoured her fourth in the Thief series, although I waited until I was past the worst of the pregnancy nausea so I wouldn't associate this book with sickness. I'd recommend reading The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, and The King of Attolia first, but this is a great excuse to do so if you haven't already. The Thief won a Newbery Honor, but these intriguing novels feel more teen than middle grade to me and are easily enjoyed by adults as well.
Coffeehouse Angel, Suzanne Selfors
A sweet teen romantic comedy with a touch of the supernatural. This is great light reading for fans of Meg Cabot. 14 and up.
The following books are for adults but are probably suitable and interesting to most teens as well. If you notice a trend in my reading this year, you may get some insight into my WIP, Midnight in Austenland!
There's a reason she is the most widely published author in the world besides Shakespeare. I read ten of her books this year, each one unique and thrilling. She never cheats. All the clues necessary for solving the mystery are there before your eyes, though I never put it together before the detective does. My favorites:
And Then There Were None (she did it first, though many stories and movies have copied her plot)
A Murder is Announced
Maisie Dobbs, by Jacqueline Winspear
The first in a series of books featuring this 1920s English sleuth. The writing is fresh and leisurely, the mystery is not hasty, the setting is memorable.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley
This young girl protagonist is impossibly precocious, the writing unique. I found it well worth the read.
Rebecca, by Daphne DuMaurier
I'd never read this classic before and was thoroughly caught up in the storytelling. If you've skipped this one too, I think it's worth filling in gap in your literary canon. Tension, tension, tension! She does it so well. I felt watched while I read and loved a peek into this world. A very fine gothic romance.
The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson
Wow. Wow. This is the greatest horror novel ever written. I am not the person to judge as I rarely read horror, and this is more terror than horror probably, but I'm still claiming that title for it. It's beautifully written, exquisitely written, and at the same time completely terrified me and made sleeping difficult. I'm tempted to reread just to enjoy her language and crafting but I don't want to be that scared again.
Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen
Many Pride & Prejudice fans haven't read this one and so it would make a great gift. I think it's the funniest of Austen's books, despite being the least read. I reread this book all year, examining how she does what she does. Truly one of the greatest novelist of all times, if not the greatest.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
I recc'd this last year, but it's worth another mention. I love it when I read bestsellers and heartily approve of their success.
I often feel shy about plugging one of my own, but I'm resisting for the illustrator's sake. CALAMITY JACK, people! It rocks! If you haven't read this sequel to rapunzel's revenge, then hang on to your cowboy hats and/or bowlers. Nathan Hale's art is extremely fine, an outstanding example of an illustrator as a skilled storyteller. After you read it once, trying going back to reread without looking at the text and see how much of the story, emotion, atmosphere, humor, etc. he conveys through visuals. Callooh Callay, Nathan Hale. When other illustrators see what he did and hear that he did it in a year, they bow to him in awe. 144 pages, full cover, every page illustrated. You don't have to have read rapunzel to read this one. If your bookstores or libraries don't have it, you can request they order it. It's not for me. Think of Nate and his poor starving children! For all ages.