YA Superlative Blogfest 2012: Best In Show

This is it, the final day of the Blogfest! We hope you've enjoyed this survey of the books we've read and loved this year.

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!

For the big finale, the theme is Best in Show!

(Disclaimer again, you're going to see a lot of SONG OF ACHILLES.)


Favorite Cover: THE RAVEN BOYS by Maggie Stiefvater - The stark illustration of the Raven against the white cover is at once eye-catching and intriguing.

Honorable Mention: VESSEL by Sarah Beth Durst - The image is dynamic and actually relevant in terms of its relation to story content. It's a pretty wash of warm, desert colors and features a lovely POC lady!


Cutest Couple: KORBYN & LIYANA from Vessel - Liyana is a pragmatic and practical girl who was destined to be the vessel for her goddess while Korbyn is a companionable trickster god.  The bond that grows between the two of them is forged not by sand and magic, but by their travels and telling each other tales, sharing what is mythology to Liyana and personal history to Korbyn.

Code Name VerityHonorable Mention: CAS & ANNA from Anna Dressed in Blood and Girl of Nightmares - We loved Cas and Anna and their strange connection to each other. They're a good match, even though he's a ghost hunter and she's a ghost. We would have given them the Cutest Couple title if they had had more actual page-time together in Girl of Nightmares.

Platonic Honorable Mention: VERITY & MADDIE from Code Name Verity - I couldn't leave them out because they are a BFF team for the ages. Verity says this about their friendship:
But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two.
We are a sensational team.
I absolutely agree.

Most Likely to Succeed: CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein (Krispy's pick) - This book has quite a bit of buzz, and it deserves all the hype it is getting. It is a brave novel that showed both the best and worst of human nature and all the shades in between. Refreshingly too, this was a story that featured and focused on the power of love in the form of friendship and one between two girls no less! The narrative is told in an interesting way as well - as a written confession from Verity - and relies on an unreliable narrator. Like I said, a brave novel about brave girls.


WONDER by R.J. Palacio (Alz's pick) - I've already babbled at length in previous Superlative posts about the themes of kindness and cruelty and acceptance and bravery and love and the hundreds of other good, touching things in Wonder.  It explores the extremities and difficulties and extreme difficulties of childhood prejudice, innocence, and guilt, and the treatment of "others", and how it can be that the right answer isn't always the easiest.  A thoughtful, thought-provoking, emotionally charged book.

Most Likely to Make You Miss Your Bedtime: THE SONG OF ACHILLES by Madeline Miller - It says something that we've known how this story ends since we were wee lasses (yeah, Krispy's been hardcore reading Greek myth since Elementary school), and yet we couldn't tear our eyes away from this story, from seeing the characters' lives spin towards their ultimate destiny. Krispy stayed up on a work night to finish this book and stayed up even longer having ALL THE FEELS and sniffling on the couch.

Insurgent (Divergent, #2)Best Repeat Performance: INSURGENT by Veronica Roth (Krispy's pick) - While I did feel like Insurgent was a Middle Book/Book 2, I was pleasantly surprised that it didn't suffer from too much from the sophomore slump. Her exploration of the themes set out in her first book continued, and she layered in themes relevant to the consequences of the events from Divergent - namely grief and post traumatic stress. I was also pleased that Tris and Four's relationship didn't stagnate once they were together and that their relationship continues to have complications and continues to evolve. The worldbuilding too is starting to make somewhat more sense. So on the whole, I was pleased.

The Crown of Embers (Fire and Thorns, #2)THE CROWN OF EMBERS by Rae Carson (Alz's pick) - Okay, okay, I have to repeat that I hated the first book for reasons multitudinous, but I also have to repeat that the sequel was a big improvement even if it wasn't a spectacular book by itself.  The heroine made intelligent, informed decisions and performed decisive actions that weren't always right or good, the story made a few revelations that were actually interesting, and the romantic aspect was actually halfway decent.  To go from "hated utterly & full of utmost contempt" to "okay" is a big step in my book.

Honorable Mention: THIS IS NOT MY HAT by Jon Klassen - This isn't YA, and yes, it's a picture book. It is the follow-up but not-really-sequel to last year's very special I Want My Hat Back.

Romance Most Worthy of an Ice Bath: THE SONG OF ACHILLES - While not necessarily sizzling, they have such an epic romance. They do.  We let these quotes speak for themselves:

“And as we swam, or played, or talked, a feeling would come. It was almost like fear, in the way it filled me, rising in my chest. It was almost like tears, in how swiftly it came. But it was neither of those, buoyant where they were heavy, bright where they were dull….
This feeling was different. I found myself grinning until my cheeks hurt, my scalp prickling till I thought it might lift off my head. My tongue ran away from me, giddy with freedom. This and this and this, I said to him. I did not have to worry that I was too slender or too slow. This and this and this! I taught him how to skip stones, and he taught me how to carve wood. I could feel every nerve in my body, every brush of air against my skin.”
“I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.”

Breakout Novel: SERAPHINA by Rachel Hartman - Boy, we're seeing a lot of the same titles tossed around this blogfest, aren't we?  As we said before, and also in our review, and in various other places online and in person, we loved Seraphina's world, its characters, its coldly logical dragons, and its politically-charged plot.

Best Old-Timer (Your favorite read of the year, published BEFORE 2012.): A MONSTER CALLS by Patrick Ness - This book.  It made us feel things.  It was a very sad book and a very powerful one, beautifully written and illustrated, a book about dealing with grief and learning about oneself, including the truths we often don't want to admit.

A Monster Calls

Book Most Likely to Make You Cry: THE SONG OF ACHILLES by Madeline Miller - We know, not YA, but it kind of is thematically for most of the book since it starts with Patroclus and Achilles as children and teens. This is also the book that broke heartless Krispy (WHAT IS THIS WATER COMING OUT OF MY EYES?!) and shook some soul back into soulless Alz. Getting through this book, knowing what was coming, was an exquisite pain.

We never cry at books. Yet this...

2nd Pick: CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein - Since this book is actually YA and nearly made me cry. At the very least, it left me shocked, breathless, and a little overwhelmed by the Feels. I think I'm still processing my thoughts on it.

Cold Kiss (Cold Kiss, #1)Most Pleasant Surprise (Best book you didn’t think you’d like, but totally did.): COLD KISS by Amy Garvey (Krispy's pick) - I'm bending the rules a bit here because Cold Kiss was a 2011 book, but I read it this year. I also borrowed the sequel, Glass Heart, which is a 2012 book, so it kind of counts. I've been burned 1 too many times by YA Paranormal romance, so Cold Kiss was never something I was that interested in picking up. Then I read Erin Bowman's review of it, and the things she said about character and theme convinced me to pick it up. So glad I did because it was such a good read! It was a contemporary about first love and grief dressed just right in a paranormal outfit. So looking forward to reading Glass Heart.

THE CROWN OF EMBERS by Rae Carson (Alz's pick) - You know what?  I've already said every time this book is brought up that it's way better than the first one (excluding the mess of the first 80 pages) so I'm just going to repost these old fatprincess doodles.

Most Creative Use of a Love Triangle: UNSPOKEN by Sarah Rees Brennan (Krispy's reading this) - I wouldn't expect anything less from SRB. She uses her love triangle to not only develop character and create tension, but she also uses it to question and prod our many pre-conceived notions about characters-in-love. For example, the strongest leg of the love triangle is that way because the characters have a very long and intimate history together. Some might even say the circumstances surrounding this history is fated, a sign of destiny. And the tenderness and obvious regard the characters have for each other make it easy to believe this and make it easy for me to ship them, but as one of the characters asks - does the mere existence of these factors mean we're meant to be together? Or is there another explanation, another option? Good stuff this!

Unspoken (The Lynburn Legacy, #1)

Sleeper Hit: VESSEL by Sarah Beth Durst and SHADOWS ON THE MOON by Zoƫ Marriott - We loved both of these fantasies, set in unconventional fantasy worlds and starring capable women of color. They're excellent reads, well-researched and inventive, with romance and adventure, might and magic. Highly recommended.

Vessel Shadows on the Moon

Favorite Outlier (Your favorite middle grade or adult 2012 book): (MG) WONDER by R.J. Palacio - This book has been getting a lot of hype and it's no surprise why. It has a lot of layers and a lot of heart.

(ADULT) THE SONG OF ACHILLES - Are you tired of hearing about this book yet? Like we warned you, we want to give this book ALL THE AWARDS.

And our self-chosen Superlative categories are...

Tiger LilyBest Retelling / New Riff on Something Old: TIGER LILY by Jodi Lynn Anderson (Krispy's pick) - Haha, you thought I was going to say Achilles again, didn't you? Well, I wanted to but it's not YA and TIGER LILY is and I thought it deserved a mention. This is a realistic, literary retelling of Peter Pan from Tiger Lily's POV. It's a bit slow because it's very character focused and the magic of Neverland isn't the flashy Disney magic we're used to. Everything in this novel is understated, but it is nuanced and oftentimes painfully real. Tiger Lily is torn between love and duty, her desire to be with her people and her desire to be free. This is a story about flawed people and about growing up and learning sometimes hard lessons. I loved it.

Shadows on the MoonSHADOWS ON THE MOON by Zoe Marriott (Alz's pick) - This is an excellent retelling of Cinderella--or more accurately, it is a Cinderella-inspired story.  Rather than a slavishly faithful rehashing of a tired old fairytale, Shadows on the Moon is so subtly done that you might well read it and not make the connection to Cinderella.  The hints are there (including some cute subtle nods to the original story), and very generally so is the plot, but the book has plot, characters, and direction of its own, making it an original, interesting, and unexpected story that is faithful to the source in spirit while at the same time exploring the facets of the story in relation to Japanese culture.

Overall Favorite Read of 2012: THE SONG OF ACHILLES by Madeline Miller - We are in agreement about this epic, beautiful, tender, frustrating, and devastating story. Part coming-of-age, part romance, part myth - completely squee-worthy.

The Song of Achilles graphic made/source by Allie

Thanks to everyone (and the lovely hosts) for this fun blogfest! It was great seeing everyone's Superlative picks, and we hope we've put some new books on your TBR list. Though the blogfest is over, we will be posting a little holiday cheer tomorrow. So until then lovelies, stay warm!

Q4U: What were your Best in Show? What was your overall favorite read of 2012?

Superlative Blogfest Recap:
Head of Class
Popularity Contest

Elements of Fiction


Mrs. Silverstein said...

I thought about doing a similar final category, because I hadn't gotten to mention RAILSEA by China Mieville (his riff on MOBY DICK, a book I hated when I was forced to read it in HS.) Happily, I found RAILSEA to be lightyears away from its source material and loved it.

Jaime Morrow said...

I'm really hoping that THE CROWN OF EMBERS is under the Christmas tree this year. I really enjoyed the first book in the series, and I've been really digging fantasy lately. You have some others here that I need to get my hands on. :)

Crystal said...

I am going to have to check out THE SONG OF ACHILLES now and between you and Jessica Love..I'll have to pick up Wonder.

My favorite retelling/reimagining was either Fathomless by Jackson Pearce or Everneath by Brodi Ashton

Katy Upperman said...

Thanks to this blogfest, I'm super intrigued by WONDER, and I'm dying to read UNSPOKEN. Thanks to your comments today, I want to read TIGER LILY too!

Jessica Love said...

I LOVE what you said about the relationship in UNSPOKEN. That relationship was my absolute favorite thing about this book, and I can't wait to see the evolution of it in future books!

My overall favorite of 2012...well, it's a 3-way tie between TFIOS, THE RAVEN BOYS, and UNSPOKEN.

linda said...

Vessel's cover is so gorgeous!

Hahaha, love reading Alz's comments on FATPRINCESS 2. :P Yay for improvements!

I want to read Shadows on the Moon but I'm kind of hesitant because I'm so worried I won't like it and will feel bad giving it a bad rating. =\ I read that the protag is kind of depressed/angsty/full of self-doubt for most of the book and I don't really do well with that...