YA Superlative Blogfest 2012: Head of Class

HELLO MONDAY PEEPS! We're so enthusiastic this wintry Monday morning because it's the first day of the 2012 YA Superlative Blogfest! We had so much fun participating last year (you can take a look in our Archives for Dec 2011 for the posts) that we had to sign up again 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!

Today's topic is HEAD OF CLASS, in which we name our favorite 2012 YA books.

Favorite Dystopian: Insurgent by Veronica Roth & Pure by Julianna Baggott

Insurgent (Divergent, #2)Pure (Pure, #1)

Krispy: I didn't read that many dystopians this year, but I continued to be impressed by Veronica Roth's excellent treatment of theme (questioning preconceptions, identity, virtue, grief) and Tris' character arc. The world-building is starting to make more sense to me too, but I did still have trouble believing in all of it.

Alz: I didn't read that many dystopians either, and truth to tell I wasn't in love with Pure because it was too long, plateaued often, and became increasingly ridiculous.  All that aside though, it was a decent (if dense) dystopian read, with an interesting twist on the whole post-apocalyptic trope.

Favorite Fantasy: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman


You already know how much we loved this book if you've read our review. In short, we loved the complex characters (nuanced, trope-defying, frustrating, love-able), the intricate and elaborate world-building, and the dragons!

Honorary Mention: Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst


We both loved Vessel quite a lot--the trickster crow god, the dust and the desert, the folklore and mythology and the various characters.  Ultimately Seraphina won our hearts on more levels, but Vessel is another satisfyingly rich fantasy read.
Favorite Contemporary: Wonder by R.J. Palacio


This one is technically MG, but it really is a wonderful book. It is more than just a story of a boy with a strange face and more than a story about growing pains. It has heart and humor in spades.  It also deals with the callousness and cruelty of children toward those who are physically different--as well as the kindness and acceptance that can follow even an initially cruel reaction.

Honorary Mention: Every Day by David Levithan

Every Day
Alz didn't read this one, but I thought I'd mention it here because it's actually YA and Contemporary. It's a deftly told story about falling in love and the different facets of teenage life, about connection and identity and memory. David Levithan does a superb job handling the perspective of a teen who changes bodies every day.

Favorite Historical Fiction: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Code Name Verity

Alz also didn't read this one, but I'm hounding her to do so. This is a superbly written book about the spectacular friendship of two remarkable girls set in war-torn WWII Europe that almost made me cry. Verity's voice is gripping in her spirit, her desperation, and her humor in the face of terrible odds, and she spins a wonderful, terrible, heart-string pulling tale. Elizabeth Wein doesn't pull any punches, making this book devastating and powerful.

Favorite Romance: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles

Krispy: ALL THE FEELS. I never had anything but luke warm feelings towards Patroclus and Achilles, but after this book, I will now STAN THEM FOR LIFE. I am permanently sailing on this ship, that's how much I loved their story. This book was so many things - part retelling of a classic epic, part coming-of-age story, part romance. The focus on relationships in a world populated by the capricious gods was so well-done, as was the exploration of the trials and tribulations of loving someone whose very nature is about walking the line between the mortal and the divine, between choice and destiny.

For the record, I pretty much never cry at books (unless it's something like Where the Red Fern Grows where beloved animal companions have less than fortunate endings and even then it's hit and miss), but this book hit me so hard, tears escaped before I even realized what was happening.


More coherently, let us both just say that The Song of Achilles isn't YA, but it is a beautiful, poignant, and poetic retelling not just of the battle for Helen of Troy, but of Patroclus and Achilles, their deepening, blossoming relationship that truly deserves the title of romance without the tawdry connotations that word has often gained in our contemporary world.  Researched, mythologically inspired, and aching in its depiction of love and loss, this book made heartless Krispy cry and soulless Alz feel like crying.

Favorite Paranormal: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle, #1)

There's a lot of say about this book, but it does the paranormal thing excellently. Maggie creates a world that is so very much grounded in reality, but she somehow leaves room for magic to come creeping in.  Densely detailed and equally spare and sensitive, the characters come to life in all their shattered dreams, sordid pasts, and desperate hopes for the future.  Alz also voted this as her favorite paranormal even though she's not quite done with it yet.

Favorite Family Drama: The Fitzosbornes in Exile by Michelle Cooper & A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (both 2011)

The FitzOsbornes in Exile (The Montmaray Journals, #2)A Monster Calls

Krispy: Both of these books were published in 2011, but we couldn't help but jam this in this category because we read them this year. The Fitzosbornes in Exile is part of the Michelle Cooper's Montmaray Journals trilogy, and at their heart, these books are about a royal orphans struggling to keep their family together, grow up, and save their homeland during the tumultuous time of World War II. It's part slice-of-life-and part political maneuvering and wholly charming. I'm absolutely in love with these characters.

Alz: A Monster Calls is a book about a boy struggling with the fact that his mother is dying of cancer.  The dark, stark illustrations combined with the emotionally powerful story made Alz feel many things in her black and withered heart.  To wit, it was the closest I have ever come to crying while reading a book.

Favorite Genre Bender: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater & Team Human by Sarah Rees Brennan and Justine Larbalestier

The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle, #1)Team Human

Krispy: As she proved with The Scorpio Races, Maggie Stiefvater is deft at bending genres. The Raven Boys is on its surface a paranormal with ghosts, legends, and psychics. But as you read, it's more like a contemporary, heavily focusing on the lives and relationships of the main characters. There's also a bit of a murder mystery and the whisperings of destiny.

Alz: Team Human isn't one of my favorite books, but it's definitely a first in its genre: the whole contemporary vampire paranormal YA romance schtick--but from the POV of what would normally be the protagonist's pragmatic BFF, all seasoned with a healthy dose of rarely-seen sensibleness and realness, i.e. what does it mean to choose to become a vampire?  Practicality rears its head in this book far more often than unthinking passion, for which I give the book all due credit.

It turns out we didn't read as many dystopians this year and quite a lot more fantasies. We also read quite a number of later 2011 releases in early 2012, which made things a little confusing. Come back tomorrow when we pick our favorite characters for superlative categories!

Q4U: What are you favorite genre picks for 2012? We'd love to hear it in the comments or in your own blog post! Link us!


Julie Dao said...

Added Song of Achilles to my Goodreads list because that book sounds AWESOME. Thanks for all these fab recommendations!

Emy Shin said...

I keep wanting to check out Seraphina, but never did because school is a time-suck. But I am hoping to read it soon. :D

Unknown said...

There are so many books on here that are on my TBR! A Monster Calls and Wonder especially. And ugh, how devastating and incredible was Code Name Verity? Love your list!!

Mrs. Silverstein said...

So happy to see Code Name Verity on someone else's list--it's one of those books that makes me want to hand out copies in the street!

Alison Miller said...

Loved, loved, LOVED The Raven Boys! And I have Code Name Verity on my shelf. Must get on that!

Glad to see you back for the blogfest!

Jaime Morrow said...

I really need to read CODE NAME VERITY already. I've been wanting to for a while, so this is the nudge I needed. :) Also, SERAPHINA and VESSEL look great too. Thanks for the reminders!

Crystal said...

There are quite a few books on your list that I haven't heard of so I'm definitely going to look into them!

Unknown said...

Wow! So many books on this list that I've never even heard of. I'm off to read up on these. My TBR list loves y'all. My husband thinks your a bad influence. :)

iffath said...

Every Day and Insurgent--SO MUCH LOVE FOR THOSE. Looking forward to reading Wonder and Code Name Verity. Both sound amazing (and horrible).

Anonymous said...

I have you guys to thank for reading Seraphina this year. :)
I'm not very good at genre picks, but I must say my love for historical MG fiction grew up a lot this year. :)


Jessica Love said...

I REALLY need to read Team Human!

Stephanie Allen said...

I feel like I'm one of the last people on the planet who hasn't read Code Name Verity. Obviously this needs to be fixed, like, six months ago.

linda said...

Haha love reading about which books made you cry (or almost cry, in Alz's case). I cry super easily, so I'm always surprised when a book made a lot of people cry but not me. (Like A Monster Calls, for example). I'm looking forward to reading Vessel! :)

Katy Upperman said...

Ooh! SERAPHINA! I checked that out from my library last week... I've heard great things. Now I'm extra excited to read it!

Great picks, girls!

Jessica Spotswood said...

Ooh, I asked for SERAPHINA for Christmas and I can't wait to read it!

Unknown said...

WOW, that's a LOT, LOL!