Every December I pick my 10 favorite books of the year… In previous years, I’ve pretty much read only YA with some Adult thrown in, but, this year, I’ve read lots of MG and Picture books as well, which makes things a little more complicated. I’ve decided to do separate lists for each genre, starting with YA. Below are my 10 favorite YA books published in 2013. Click on the cover to add each book on Goodreads!
The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tulcholke
Violet White comes from old money, but that money has run out, along with her artistic, free spirit parents, who have left Violet and her brother living penniless in the faded family estate. When Violet decides to take on a renter for the guest house behind the estate, she doesn’t expect it to be filled so quickly, nor by someone as magnetic and mysterious as River West, the new face in Echo. Despite the odd and terrible events that seem to follow in River’s wake, Violet finds herself pulled to this boy with his lazy charm and unreliable stories. But River isn’t what he seems… or perhaps he’s exactly what he seems. The devil takes on many forms and, in Echo, he just may be a teenaged boy with a crooked smile. A gorgeous setting and lush writing coupled with the horror and a mystery that spans decades makes Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea impossible to put down, even when the suspense of what might be lurking on the next page grips the reader with fear.
The Vow by Jessica Martinez
Annie and Mo have been best friends since Annie came to Mo’s rescue in elementary school after an unfortunate pants wetting incident. Ever since, the two have been inseparable. Mo is sarcastic and super focused on his future. Annie is the good daughter, careful to never upset her parents, who keep her close after the violent loss of Annie’s older sister years before. When Mo’s father loses his job, the entire family faces deportation back to Jordan. Despite the fact that Mo has grown up in the US and considers himself American, he will be forced to return to Jordan as well. Annie can’t imagine life without Mo and Mo can’t imagine leaving Annie, not to mention everything he’s worked so hard for in the US, so they devise a desperate plan: marriage. Perhaps unsurprisingly, their solution isn’t as simple as they first assume. Marriage is never simple, especially when it’s done secretly and in less than legal circumstances. The fallout of their actions affect Mo and Annie’s lives in ways they hadn’t expected and may not be ready to handle.
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Two Boys Kissing tells many different stories, but all are tied to Harry and Craig, two boys who used to date and are attempting to break the world record for longest kiss. The boys are trying to make statement and are inspired by a friend who was attacked and beat for being gay and alone on a dark street. The stories of other boys are interwoven, including that of two boys who have just met (one of whom is transgender), two boys who have been dating and are dealing with the everyday difficulties of long-term relationships and secrets, and another boy who has yet to come out and struggles with self-loathing. Throughout the novel, a greek chorus composed of gay men who died of AIDS, offers insight into the past, present, and future of gay individuals and the gay community.
Eat, Brains, Love by Jeff Hart
Eat, Brains, Love is told from two different perspectives: Jake, the recently undead, and Cass, the psychic government operative who hunts the undead. Jake’s on the run with Amanda Blake, his super popular classmate, who just happened to turn zombie during the same lunch period as he did. After eating half of their friends and peers in a zombie haze, Amanda and Jake revert back to the normal, clear-headed selves with no other option but to flee. Enter Cass, who works for a secret government team that cleans up situation like the one just created by Jake and Amanda. The team tracks down and takes out the zombies, but not before altering the memories of the humans involved so they overlook that zombies exist at all. Cass has been doing this job for years and she’s proud of it – she keeps people safe and gets rid of monsters – but, with Jake, Cass finds herself doubting everything she’s always believed. Cass’s psychic abilities allow her inside Jake’s head and she’s surprised by what she finds there. Sure, he’s a zombie and he’s killed a growing number of people, but he’s also just a guy. A guy that Cass can’t help but like and who, at least most of the time, doesn’t seem like a zombie at all. While Cass struggles with her connection to Jake, he and Amanda are struggling with the unexpected turn their lives have taken, the guilt from having massacred their friends, and the hunger that sometimes fades, but always returns.
The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau
The novel follows Cia, a mechanically gifted girl who has been chosen to participate in The Testing, which is a means of determining which individuals from various parts of the United Commonwealth will be able to continue their education at university and eventually become an important leader. Only a very small number of individuals are selected to compete in The Testing and most individuals know they will never be chosen, even if they dream of the honor. Cia hopes to be selected, like her father once was, but knows her chances are slim. When she learns that she, and three others from her district have earned a spot in the competition, she’s amazed and incredibly proud – and is confused as to why her parents seem less than excited. Before she leaves for the capital, her father takes her aside and shares one of his deepest fears: that the testing is not the dream that it seems. He reveals to her that, while participants minds are wiped after they’ve completed the testing, he’s been left with terrifying nightmares that he fears may be lingering memories rather than products of an overactive imagination. With this knowledge now lodged in her mind, Cia leaves for The Testing, anxious and guarded. She soon learns that her father was correct to fear The Testing and that she’ll need to use everything in her to survive.
Reboot (Reboot #1) by Amy Tintera
After just one book, I’m already a fan of Amy Tintera and her writing! I found her debut, Reboot, to be an absolutely stunning dystopian offering with a strong romantic plot line and well-placed humor to balance the novel’s darkness and violence. The main character, Wren, is known the most deadly and dangerous of the Reboots by her peers and the HARC, the corporation which effectively rules the Republic of Texas. Reboots, which at first might sound suspiciously like zombies, are actually quite different. In the novel, it’s briefly theorized that Reboots may be more advanced humans whose bodies had the capabilities to manipulate the virus that swept through the population. Their deaths were actually more akin to a resting period – or incubation period, perhaps – for the virus and that, instead of killing them, it made them stronger, both physically and mentally (if you count less emotion as a strength). Reboots, however, are no longer considered humans but Other (by both the HARC and the remaining human population) and have become slaves tasked with hunting down and capturing or killing human criminals.
If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch
If You Find Me tells the heartbreaking story of Carey and her little sister, Jenessa, who have been kept away from people and civilization – and often completely alone in the wilderness – by their addict mother. The girls often fend for themselves, as their mother regularly disappears for long stretches of time, but, as the novel opens, they’re nearing the end of their food stores and Carey is starting to worry about what will happen if their mother doesn’t reappear. Things take a turn when a social worker and Carey’s estranged father find the girls, as directed in a letter by Carey’s mother, and take them back to live with him. The girls are thankful that they’re still together and that they’re warm and fed, but things are still complicated. Jenessa still refuses to speak (she’s been selectively mute since something happened to the girls during their time in the wilderness) and Carey finds that, while she isn’t behind academically, socially she’s an entirely different wavelength from her peers. She’s either too mature or too naive and she often struggles to adjust to the new world she’s so suddenly entered.
Pretty Girl-13 by Liz Coley
Liz Coley’s Pretty Girl-13 reads like a horror novel, but it’s actually realistic fiction – emotional, powerful, horrifying realistic fiction. This debut novel tells the harrowing tale of Angie Chapman, a sixteen year old girl who has been missing for three years after going missing during a Girl Scout camping trip. The novel opens with Angie returning home, with no memory of having been missing for years. She still thinks she’s thirteen and is shocked, and has a difficult time believing, that she’s been missing at all. Thus begins Angie journey to unlocking the mystery of her disappearance and the past three years while learning to live her life again when the world has moved on without her.
Dualed by Elsie Chapman
Elsie Chapman’s debut Dualed is one of the best dystopian novels I’ve read since The Hunger Games and Divergent. For me, it was the action, philosophical elements, and strong female heroine of Dualed that put it in the same league as these successful predecessors. In addition to these elements, Chapman offers readers an entirely new world and society to explore… and attempt to comprehend. In West Grayer’s world, every individual has an Alt: a genetic twin. Each twin in raised separately and grows up training to face the other in a fight to the death. Neither knows when they will be pitted against the other or what skills the other might bring to the table. In this forced showdown meant to simulate a “survival of the fittest” scenario, it isn’t always clear who should be considered the “fittest.”
Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis
Post-apocalyptic novels are usually populated with badass characters, but, even so, Lynn from Mindy McGinnis’ Not a Drop to Drink, stands out. Raised by her mother to survive, she’s more likely to shoot first and ask questions later and quickly learns to trust no one except herself. When Lynn’s mother dies in a horrible accident, leaving Lynn completely alone, she can only rely on the lessons her mother taught her and her wits to survive. But Lynn isn’t her mother and she sees shades of gray where her mother only saw black and white. Suddenly, the lessons she thought she could rely on to guide her actions don’t seem to apply and Lynn is a facing a whole different kind of danger: friendship, love, and duty. Lynn develops relationships that introduce her to new found emotions and an unfamiliar sense of connectedness… and, suddenly, her survival might not be the most important goal.
Did any of my favorites make your 2013 list of favorites too? Feel free to share your Best of 2013 with me via the comments! Stay tuned for my favorite MG and Picture Books of 2013.