I’ve come to realize that in all the time I’ve had this blog, I haven’t done any posts exclusively about what I’m reading. Considering “reading” is the very first word of my blog’s tagline, I figured it was about time I changed that. So I decided to put a short list together of some of my favorite books that I’ve read within the past year. Most fit into the YA genre, because that’s generally what I read, but I hope you’ll still consider them even if you’re not a fan of YA fiction. I’ve also tried to emphasize some books that perhaps you haven’t heard of…though there’s a good chance there’s one or two in here that are familiar. Either way, I’ve provided my appraisal of each, which I’m sure you’ve been desperately pining for. And so, in no particular order, I present to you Amy Board’s not-so-comprehensive list of books you aren’t reading (but probably should be).
Control and Catalyst by Lydia Kang: I was delighted to stumble across Control when it was first released at the end of 2013, thanks to an interview with the author featured on YA Highway. I was immediately drawn in by the creative and elaborate world-building, rich characters, and its emphasis on science. When the sequel, Catalyst, came out this spring, I was pleased that it had all the same quirky, nerdy, and imaginative feel of the first book. As a student of science myself, Kang is a sort of author-heroine of mine, and I hope many others will follow in her footsteps to offer quality YA science fiction that doesn’t skimp on the “science” part.
The Shadow and Bone Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo: Although these books have in fact attracted a lot of attention and popularity in the YA world, I’m continually surprised by the number of times I recommend them to other YA fans who haven’t heard of them. So I wanted to include them here, because seriously–these books are fantastic. They are easily the best trilogy I’ve read since The Hunger Games. I was instantly drawn into Bardugo’s world of magic inspired by old Russia. Her grasp of social and political forces and the way they shape us is phenomenal, and the story she weaves together through all three books is breathtaking. Plus I don’t think I’ve both hated and loved a villain so much in any other novel I’ve read. So that’s a bonus.
Thorn by Intisar Khanani: This was absolutely my favorite surprise book find of the year. I fell in love with this re-telling of a fairy tale, filled with creative and diverse characters and a powerful underlying social commentary on justice and inequality. Khanani is a talented and poetic writer, and I was completely shocked to learn that this was a self-published book. I’ll admit I had some preconceived notions about indie publishing based on a few not-so-great examples I’ve encountered in the past. But Thorn blew every one of those out of the water. If self-publishing can produce something as wonderful as this, then I’m all for it.
The Diviners by Libba Bray: By far one of the creepier books I’ve read, The Diviners is a fascinating supernatural thriller set in 1920s New York City. Bray tells her story through multiple characters’ perspectives, and each sounds just as authentic as the next. In addition to the great story-telling, I was very impressed by the incredible amount of research that went into writing this book. It’s clear to me that Bray went to great lengths to make the reader feel completely drawn in to the setting and the atmosphere, and I have a great appreciation for that.
The Paper Magician Series by Charlie Holmberg: These books were another surprise find I stumbled across and have raved about to others. I’ve found it difficult to classify them, as they contain a concoction of fantasy, historical fiction, romance, and YA/NA flavors. All in all, the characters are enjoyable, and Holmberg’s unique approach to magicians and their relationship with the materials they use to conjure magic makes for a really interesting read. I secretly keep hoping for a BBC spinoff series based on this book, just so I could spend a little more time enjoying Holmberg’s world.
Panic by Lauren Oliver: Lauren Oliver is a pretty well-known name in YA fiction, though this appears to be one of her lesser-known works. Which is a shame, because it’s absolutely stellar. It follows a group of teenagers in a small town one summer as they compete in increasingly dangerous stunts in order to win a sizable cash prize. The plot is fast paced and the characters are stimulating. I loved the way each of their dark back stories were revealed one piece at a time throughout the novel, alternately making me love and despise the majority of them.
Black Moon by Kenneth Calhoun: I’m taking a risk here, because I haven’t actually finished this book yet. But what I’ve read so far is so good I can’t imagine it disappointing me in the end; if it does, I promise to write a follow-up apology post. Basically, the novel follows a few characters as they cope with a world falling apart due to an epidemic of insomnia. Intriguing, right? I think so too. I also love seeing a book like this rise in popularity within a genre like science fiction, which too often gets confused with stories of intergalactic travel rather than a wide spectrum of science-based narratives.
If you’ve enjoyed these books too, or if there are other hidden gems you’d like to recommend, let me know in the comments section. I’d love to hear about them!