12.16.2013

YA Superlative Blogfest 2013: Head of Class

It's Monday and there's a blog post! Why? Because it's Day 1 of the 2013 YA Superlatives Blogfest!



About the blogfest: The Class of 2013: YA Superlative Blogfest will run Monday, December 16th – Thursday, December 19th and will highlight our favorite books of 2013. 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! There's a prize for participating every day!

*Disclaimer: We tried to choose books published in 2013, but it's possible we used some older books since we were both more diverse in our reading this year. In some cases, it was the last book in a series that came out in 2013, but we may talk about the series as a whole.

The topic of the day is HEAD OF CLASS, and we're sharing our favorite 2013 YA books.

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Favorite Dystopian: The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken & Dualed by Elsie Chapman

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Alz: I had some plausibility detail issues with The Darkest Minds, and really there wasn't much of a plot since 80% of the book was wandering around/traveling, but I have to admit that it was pretty gripping while reading.  Also, the romance aspect was definitely much better done than typical YA dystopia as it wasn't insta-love and the dude love interest wasn't douchey, angsty, or stalker-possessive.  He was actually a nice guy.

Krispy: I had a few issues with Dualed, much of which ended up being the fault of preconceptions I had going into the book. I expected Dualed to follow the path of many a YA dystopian before it, but the book didn't and once I let my own expectations go, it was a fun ride.

You can get my full thoughts by looking at my full review of Dualed.



Favorite Science Fiction: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

16101128Alz: Krispy loooooved this book way more than I did, one of the few instances where we disagree by more than a star's worth on Goodreads.  Nonetheless, I enjoyed The Fifth Wave even if I found it to be predictable and not really anything new as far as the alien invasion aspect goes.  It had interesting characters, tons of action, and post-apocalyptic survival.

Krispy: There was a lot of hype for this one, which always makes me wary. But once I started this book, I could hardly put it down. It was thrilling and epic and also quite moving in parts. This one was a bit of a genre bender too because it's quite post-apocalyptic and action-y/adventure-y.

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Favorite Fantasy: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

You might remember from last year's Superlatives blogfest that both of us loved Maggie Stiefvater's 1st Raven Cycle book, The Raven Boys. This year's follow-up The Dream Thieves was no exception. We actually read quite a few great fantasy novels this year, but the reason this one takes the top spot is the fact that though we may not know (or have any idea) where the story is going, we would follow these characters anywhere. The premise is unique, the world-building seamless, and the characters are each so complex and distinct, with equal amounts wit and heart and despair. We can't wait to see what they'll discover.

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Pick 2 for Alz: The Girl with Borrowed Wings by Rinsai Rossetti - This book doesn't have a plot, and so the hints of bigger worlds and fantastic creatures remain mostly hints--the focus is on the protagonist and her relationships with people like her psychologically abusive father, her expressionless closest-thing-to-a-friend, and the free-spirited shapeshifter who learns as much from her as she teaches him.  The complexities of character interaction coupled with some truly beautiful and poetic writing made for one astonished but happy Alz, who is normally disinterested in plotless/contemporary romance books.


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Pick 2 for Krispy: The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta - I was a complete Marchetta newbie until this year when I finally read Finnikin of the Rock, Book 1 in The Lumatere Chronicles. I was completely blown away by how mature the themes were (how many fantasy books discuss the effects of diaspora on a people's national and cultural identity?) and how deftly Marchetta navigated the well-trod waters of traditional fantasy while handling a big ensemble cast and multiple story lines. The storytelling in this trilogy is masterful. I have never cared so much about so many different people in one series, and she made me feel for them all. She made me change my mind about characters I didn't even like!



Favorite Contemporary: The Girl with Borrowed Wings by Rinsai Rossetti and Just One Day by Gayle Forman

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Alz: I already gushed above about The Girl with Borrowed Wings.  I just really unexpectedly loved it.  There it was on the library shelf with its cool title and pretty cover and I picked it up and read a few pages and was like, Hey, this is pretty well-written, and I took it home and I read it and I loved it and now I actually own a copy because it just hit all the right notes and didn't try to be anything other than what it was.  Ah!


Krispy: I read a bit more Contemporary this year than usual, but the one that moved me the most was probably Just One Day. It sounds like a typical contemp-romance, but it turns into a story about how sometimes chance encounters can transform a person's life. I related a lot to Allyson's struggles and her feelings of being sort of stuck in her life. And it's Gayle Forman, so the writing was wonderful.

Check out my full review of Just One Day for my more detailed impressions.



Favorite Historical Fiction: The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry and The FitzOsbornes at War by Michelle Cooper

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Alz: All right, so technically The Peculiars falls under "alternate history" and "steampunk" more than what you'd think of when you hear "historical fiction", but I'm chucking it under this category because this was yet another book that I read on a whim and unexpectedly liked.  For one thing, that pretty winged girl on the cover is not the protagonist, who is afflicted with goblinism--which is to say she has very, very long fingers and toes, and worries that she might have the petty-mindedness and thieving nature associated with goblins.  The plot follows Lena Mattacascar hieing out on her own and dealing with a society that views her as less than human, which makes for some great social and cultural worldbuilding.  Ignore the over-hyping book blurb because most of the exciting stuff doesn't happen until the last quarter of the book, but that doesn't mean that what comes before isn't still interesting.

Krispy: The FitzOsbornes at War was probably the only historical I read this year (I never did get around to ROSE UNDER FIRE, the companion to my favorite historical last year CODE NAME VERITY). However, I did enjoy this 3rd book in Michelle Cooper's Montmaray trilogy. It was a fitting conclusion to the tale of the fictional family of impoverished Montmaray royals living in England during World War II. I loved these characters enough to follow them through 3 books, and it was nice but sad to see where they ended up and to say goodbye to them.


Favorite Mystery: 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma

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Krispy: It looks like I was the Mystery reader this year! While 17& Gone wasn't exactly a traditional mystery, it is the mystery of a missing girl that gets the main character Lauren's own journey going. In a very well-crafted use of magical realism, Nova Ren Suma mixes the missing girl mystery with the slow unraveling of Lauren's mind while also exploring the larger theme of missing girls and how society treats them. It was fantastic, not knowing what was relevant or what was real or not.

Honorable Mention: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke gets a mention because like any good gothic, there's a creepy mystery at the center of the book's small, sea-swept town. But it was really the setting and voice that drew me into this story.


Favorite Paranormal: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

12813630Krispy: Just me again for this category too! Read more paranormals than usual this year too, but my hands down favorite was Holly Black's latest The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. I'm always so impressed with Holly Black's seamless worldbuilding, and this book was her at her best. She integrates the supernatural into our world in such a natural, logical way that I could believe that if vampires were to come out into the open, this might be a way our society would handle it. Beyond that, the character development and thematic exploration of humanity and monstrosity in this book was top notch. Holly Black hits that sweet spot of giving us vampires who are seductive and romantic but also unquestionably dangerous and inhuman.

Honorable Mention: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. Gothic + paranormal kind of goes hand in hand, no?


Favorite Family Drama:The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

Yep, we do really love the Raven Cycle books. This makes it in this category because like we said before (and last year), the relationship dynamics of the characters is compelling and it keeps us coming back. Besides, in The Dream Thieves, we get a lot more of Blue's quirky, endearing family of psychic women. So there's drama there and of course drama with Blue's new family of Raven Boys, and of course there's dear, dark Ronan with a metric boatload of family drama in this installment.


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Pick 2 for Krispy: Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn. This deserves a mention because while this book is very much about Win's struggle to reconcile his present and his past and to come to terms to the tragedy in his life, his family plays a large part in this. While they mostly appear as characters in his past, his siblings and parents have a far-reaching impact on Win's present and likely his future - and their absence in his present is only emphasized by their presence in his past.

My complete thoughts on Charm & Strange in my original book review.



Favorite Genre Bender: The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson.

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Krispy: I didn't really know where to put this, but I was so impressed by this book that I had to mention it somewhere. Genre bender actually fits quite well. The book is Sci-Fi and post-apocalyptic and its main city-setting has dystopian elements. It's a book that presents a society that actually looks utopian, and it's only when you look closer that you see things are not as perfect as they seem and that there is unrest. But this is sort of a subplot that only comes to the forefront because the main character June has a character arc that intersects these bigger, societal issues. In her quest to become a true artist, to discover herself and her feelings on love, family, and tradition, she realizes she wants to be an agent of change. So in that way, this book is also very much about self-discovery and identity. It's a plus that we also get trope subversions, gender subversions, a diverse cast (including POC main characters), and the non-traditional setting of future-Brazil.

My deeper thinky thoughts can be found in my review of The Summer Prince.

Honorable Mention: Charm & Strange Like 17 & Gone, this one really utilized magical realism to explore its themes. The book seems almost like it'll be a paranormal-contemporary, but the paranormal elements are really just an incredibly effective use of extended metaphor.

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Woohoo for Day 1 of Superlatives!  Krispy read many books this year and Alz not quite so many.  We're looking forward to the rest of this yearly book tradition of title-dropping, favoriting, and re-squeeing.  Join us tomorrow for Day 2!

7 comments:

Jessica Love said...

Yay! Glad to see Dream Thieves getting so much love. I love that book!

Jaime Morrow said...

What a great list you two have compiled here. Is it okay to put THE DREAM THIEVES in all the categories? Because I sort of feel like it should win all the awards lol. You have some books here that I hadn't heard of, so I'll be adding some to my TBR list. :-)

Rachel said...

I still haven't read THE DREAM THIEVES, oops! I have THE DARKEST MINDS from the library and am hoping to read it soon. And ugh, I still need to read JUST ONE DAY!

Tracey Neithercott said...

I need to read so many of these. The Darkest Minds, The Fifth Wave, and the rest of the Lumatere novels are at the top. I think this blogfest is basically giving me one big sense of guilt over the books I didn't get to this year. (New Year's Resolution: Quit job. Read full-time. Get paid to do it.)

Katy Upperman said...

17 & GONE and CHARM AND STRANGE are both high on my list... I can't believe I didn't get to them in 2013! Awesome choices as usual. I'm happy to see The Lumatere Chronicles and The Dream Thieves getting so much love today!

akossiwaketoglo.com said...

You have a handful of titles on here that I have on my must read list.
I love this meme. :)

~Akoss

Sarah Goldberg said...

The last few months of the year I mostly read Regency romances, so I think I read a lot less YA this year than usual. But . . .

Echoing Jessica and Jaime on THE DREAM THIEVES. I need to start my Lumatere reread so I can fully appreciate QUINTANA. CHARM & STRANGE and THE SUMMER PRINCE are definitely on my TBR list.

My favorite contemporary read this year was published in Australia in 2010 and in the US at the very end of 2012: LOVE AND OTHER PERISHABLE ITEMS. Definitely one I plan on buying for rereads. I also adored the fluffy (but surprisingly thought-provoking) PREP SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL, whose main character and voice I thought were absolutely stellar.