About the blogfest: The Class of 2012: YA Superlative Blogfest will run Monday, December 17th – Thursday, December 20th and will highlight our favorite books of 2012. This year, the lovely hosts Jessica Love, Tracey Neithercott, Alison Miller, and Katy Upperman will also be giving away books to bloggers who participate in all 4 days of the fest. Click the banner for more info!
If you join in, don't forget to link up at one of the host blogs!
On the menu is Elements of Fiction. These books did these things best!
(We're also going to apologize beforehand that you're going to see a lot of THE SONG OF ACHILLES on here, even though we're cheating a little by including it. Technically, it's an adult book, but it starts with YA-aged characters and is largely a coming of age story and romance.)
(Disclaimer 2: Krispy never cries over books, except in rare cases involving beloved animal companions - but even that's not a sure thing for tears. Alz never cries at books, period. So when either of us says we were near or in tears, it's a big deal. Many FEELS were involved.)
Most Envy-Inducing Plot: SERAPHINA by Rachel Hartman - Ms. Hartman not only crafts a rich and layered world (we're probably most in love with her worldbuilding), she threaded in quite the mystery. While a bit simple on the surface, the murder mystery itself was entangled in a web of politics as well and managed to pull some surprises even on the eagle-eyed, ever-wary Alz!
Most Formidable World: UNDER THE NEVER SKY by Veronica Rossi - While the aether storms were kind of fascinating and beautiful, we wouldn't want to be anywhere near one, and we definitely don't have the survival skills to make it out in the Death Shop (at least not without the ruggedly attractive Perry, ahem). Also, seriously, the rest of the world outside the Pods is called THE DEATH SHOP. Sound like a place you want to visit? I didn't think so. Inside the Pods don't sound that great either, considering the shady dystopian government...
Wanderlust-Inducing: SERAPHINA by Rachel Hartman - Stately stone architecture, grand cathedrals, mathematically logical dragons, courtly music and royalty--what isn't there to love? The world of Seraphina is such a real place, rich in detail and grounded in its own history, that we'd love to take a stroll through the kingdom from the palace to the shadier quarters. As long as we have Orma and Seraphina as our escorts, of course.
Honorable Mention: VESSEL by Sarah Beth Durst - We wouldn't necessarily want to visit the harsh desert environment that the characters of Vessel live in, but Sarah Beth Durst describes it so beautifully. The world is full of golden sand, burning blue skies, and light that reflects off the scales of glass sky serpents.
THE SONG OF ACHILLES by Madeline Miller - Ms. Miller describes Ancient Greece so vividly that it makes us wistful to go. We want to see the Aegean blue waters and chase the characters through the olive orchards and see the peak and forests of Mt. Pelion, the famed dancing women of Scyros, the unscalable bright walls of Troy.
Loveliest Prose: THE RAVEN BOYS by Maggie Stiefvater - This is something of a no brainer. Maggie blew us away with her atmospheric writing in THE SCORPIO RACES, and she didn't disappoint here. Henrietta felt like a real little town in Virginia, but the prose builds such trembling anticipation into the environment that when magic enters the picture, it seems not just expected but also perfectly at home.
Honorable Mention: THE SONG OF ACHILLES - There is something simple but lyrical and lush about Madeline Miller's prose. It fit perfectly into the spare but vivid tone of Homer's epic poems from which Miller draws her inspiration. Her story clicks seamlessly into the Classical world while breathing new life into these age-old characters.
He was outlined against the painted stars; Polaris sat on his shoulder.
Best First Line: SHADOW & BONE by Leigh Bardugo - The line speaks for itself:
The servants called them malenchki, little ghosts, because they were the smallest and the youngest, and because they haunted the Duke's house like giggling phantoms, darting in and out of rooms, hiding in cupboards to eavesdrop, sneaking into the kitchen to steal the last of the summer peaches.
Most Dynamic Main Character: VERITY from CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein (Krispy's pick) - There is something absolutely captivating about Verity. She gripped me with her voice from the first page and never let go. Some have found the beginning of the book slow, but it didn't feel that way to me because I was so invested in Verity's story. She is brave and desperate, funny and flirty and scared, charming but made of steel. She is strong in the face of terrible odds and terrible people, but she is also heartbreakingly vulnerable. I love this girl so much and loved seeing the various facets of her character.
Most Jaw-Dropping Ending: CODE NAME VERITY (only Krispy's read this) - the 2nd half of this novel is so powerful. It's not really the ending per se that is jaw-dropping; it's more like the entire last section. Elizabeth Wein doesn't pull her punches and she delivers an devastating, incredible story. It left me a little winded and nearly made me cry.
Honorable Mention (because it's not YA): THE SONG OF ACHILLES - We wouldn't call this jaw-dropping so much as ALL-THE-FEELS-INDUCING. This ending DID make Krispy cry. The heartbreak, grief and sorrow, the merciless hand of the Fates, the power of true love and the devastation of its loss--
Best Performance in a Supporting Role: ODYSSEUS from THE SONG OF ACHILLES or ORMA from SERAPHINA (since this latter one is actually YA). We couldn't not put the wily Odysseus in this category. He shines with his wit, humor, and quietly revealed depth in all his scenes in TSoA. He is, in general, one of Krispy's Forever Favorite characters in literature/mythology. Alz knows this well and says that Odysseus is totally Krispy's #1 Greek Man 4Evah.
As for Orma, well, we've said it before and we'll say it again: For a coldly logical dragon, Orma has a sensitive heart and fondness for Seraphina, all very well-hidden behind an implacable mask.
Honorable Mentions: When discussing supporting characters, we came up with too many we loved too much, as you can perhaps tell by the number of honorable mentions...
AKIRA from SHADOWS ON THE MOON by Zoë Marriott - Gotta love Akira for being the best mentor/sister-figure/fairy-godmother-like-person anyone could ever ask for.
KORBYN from VESSEL - He's a trickster crow god still getting the hang of this mortal body thing and trying not to seem too uncool about it at the same time. His humor and charm is infectious!
RONAN from THE RAVEN BOYS - We love this broken, bitter, devoted boy so much!
FRANCIS from TEAM HUMAN by Justine Larbalestier & Sarah Rees Brennan - Francis is practically Edward from Twilight but unlike Edward, he actually acts like he was born in an earlier time period, with the nigh-courtly attitudes and mannerisms of a gentleman. For that, we have to give him props.
Best Use of Theme: THE RAVEN BOYS - We both immediately picked this because Maggie had themes in spades in her book, and even more impressively, she digs into every theme she introduces. Nothing is left to stagnate. Character arcs and plot arcs are interwoven with themes of identity, purpose, choice, destiny, friendship, and the belief in there being something greater out in the world.
CODE NAME VERITY (Krispy's other pick) - I loved the exploration of the nature of courage and duty and the depiction of different kinds of courageous girls in this book. Verity and Maddie become best friends despite their lack of surface similarities, but they're both dynamic, complex characters and strong in their own ways. Of course, there was also the big theme of friendship and the true love in that. And on a more meta level, there were themes about the power of storytelling, connection, and the difference between truth and mere fact, all of which don't hit you until you reach the very end. Ah, I absolute adored it!
Honorable Mention: THE SONG OF ACHILLES - Love, identity, fate, and choice, the staple themes of classical mythology are well wrought in this book. Madeline Miller makes these subjects painfully real by sketching all the larger-than-life characters of myth as the flawed people they were. The bigger picture of the Trojan War emphasizes these themes as played out by the personal and intimate struggles of Patroclus and Achilles - as they both try to deal with being caught between the mortal and the divine.
WONDER by R.J. Palacio - Cruelty and acceptance, tolerance and kindness, perseverance and love and coming of age--all of these themes are explored in Auggie's story. He is a boy born with severe facial abnormalities and has been homeschooled until he enters fifth grade and encounters a classroom full of children and all their unwitting (and witting) cruelty. This is a story about reactions and judgment, not always good and not always bad, and how careless words can have the most profound effect. But it's also about tolerance, friendship, and the surprising kindness of which people are capable.
Q4U: What books impressed you with their writerly technical skillz0rs?
Our previous Superlative posts:
Head of Class
Tomorrow's the last day of the blogfest! Come back for our last hurrah!