Enchanted by Alethea Kontis and Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore. I know people are kind of over the girls-in-dresses thing, but Enchanted feels different to me. The black and white with the pop of color from the flowers? Gorgeous. And Bitterblue...is just perfection. Perfection in my favorite color. I was so excited when Kristin Cashore came to Books of Wonder--mostly excited to hear her speak and to meet her, but also a little bit because it gave me an excuse to get actual, physical copies of her books, which had previously been on my kindle. Such. Pretty. Covers.
Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore. I don't think it would be possible for me to love them more. Unless maybe they got their own book... (Are you listening, Kristin Cashore?) (I'm sure you're not. That's ok.) (But seriously, that book would be amazing.)
Most Likely to Succeed (Or, pick a Printz Winner.)/Most Likely to Make You Miss Your Bedtime (Book you just couldn’t put down!):
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. I mean, for me these two go hand-in-hand. I read a lot of page-turners this year, but none as masterfully put together as this one (and none with subject matter this difficult, at least that came out this year.) But here's the beginning of my review for Code Name Verity: "I am writing this review at 2:00 am. I had about 20% of the book left when I picked it up at midnight, struck by mild insomnia. Now I am finished and I may not sleep tonight." If you don't believe me, here's part of what Maggie Stiefvater, The Great and Powerful, had to say: "As with all my favorite books, it rewards the careful reader. If an author can make me gasp once, it’s likely that novel is ending up on my favorites shelf. If an author can make me gasp THREE TIMES, either the author is making me read their novel underwater or it’s really cleverly done. This one’s really cleverly done. It was a three-gasper." I know this one came out in a tough year, what with TFIOS being the biggest hit since Harry Potter and all (or so it seems) but I'm rooting for it. And I am a TFIOS fan, for sure. I think that book deserves all of its accolades. I just hope this one gets some too.
Best Repeat Performance (Your favorite sequel or follow-up.):
Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore. Yeah, it's a good thing this one has such a pretty cover, because it's showing up a lot. Bitterblue rewarded fans of Cashore's previous books while creating its own amazing world with supporting characters I love to no end. Honorable Mention: A Million Suns by Beth Revis, Insurgent by Veronica Roth, Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver.
Favorite Finale or End of Series Novel:
Goliath by Scott Westerfeld.
I'm totally cheating here--this came out in 2011, but I realized that I haven't read any series finales in 2012 (I am not willing to accept that Bitterblue might be the last we see of those characters or that world.) So I'll go with the excellent conclusion to Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan trilogy. Steampunk with adorable weird animals and Westerfeld's genius ear for slang? If you haven't read this series, pick it up soon!
Romance Most Worthy of an Ice Bath:
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFever. I've mentioned before that Duval is one of my favorites because he is an ADULT (see also: Giddon), but he's got some other great qualities too. He's incredibly loyal to his half-sister, the Duchess. He pushes back on Ismae's blind obedience to her order, and their relationship builds over the course of this very lengthy book until you just. can't. take. it. Then--it delivers!
Breakout Novel (Your favorite book by a debut author.):
My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick. I will totally be picking up whatever she publishes next. (Oh: according to Goodreads, that's going to be What I Thought Was True--but it won't be published till 2014. Sigh.)
Best Old-Timer (Your favorite read of the year, published BEFORE 2012.):
Here are my five-star reads from 2012 that were published in 2011 or earlier: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr, Fire by Kristin Cashore, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins, Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway, and Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. Goodreads links can be found in the widget above.
Book Most Likely to Make a Grown Man Cry:
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green/Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. Cancer vs. Nazis: not to be reductive of two really lovely books, but I mean, come on.
Most Pleasant Surprise (Best book you didn’t think you’d like, but totally did.):
Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf. This is a dark contemporary, dealing with Big Issues and a mysterious death and a lot of things I was iffy about. Plus, with books from Netgalley, it's always a lot more hit-or-miss than books that I find (as I do most of my books these days) through blog recs. This was one of the ones that made Netgalley feel really worthwhile.
Most Creative Use of a Love Triangle:
Adaptation by Malinda Lo. I don't think, given the blurb on Goodreads, that it's too spoilery to mention that this love triangle involves a girl interested in a girl and a guy, both of whom are interesting and sweet and root-able-for. And that gets points from me right away. But by the end of this book, it's so much more complicated than that, even, and I totally love it. I can't wait to see what happens next for these characters.
Sleeper Hit (Book you found so awesome you wish it had been hyped more.):
Enchanted by Alethea Kontis. I think the word I used in my original review was "sparkling"--I love fairy tale reimaginings of all stripes, but what delighted me so much about this one is that it was able to capture the feeling of traditional fairy tales, while adding a modern sense of humor and a great set of twists and turns.
Favorite Outlier (Your favorite middle grade or adult 2012 book):
The Cavendish Home For Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand. I read a few great MG books in 2012--Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead and Princess Academy: Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale were two of my other favorites. But The Cavendish Home For Boys and Girls was definitely my favorite because it had the same creepy, gruesome sensibility as Edward Gorey and Roald Dahl (actually, this is closer to Dahl's short stories for adults, which my beloved 8th-grade English teacher used to read us...or at the very least, Dahl's darkest children's books, like The Witches.) It was these kinds of stories that shaped my dark sense of humor and set me up to enjoy a certain breed of horror movies (campy ones: think Cabin in the Woods or Evil Dead, although of course this is scaled to just exactly what a middle school kid with a twisted idea of awesome could handle.) It made me want to go back to my old school and read it aloud to the middle school students, who would have lost their minds and howled over the gross parts. I was so, so excited about this one--it's the kind of thing I could enjoy while also being DEAD ON for the target audience. Loved it.
Invent Your Own Category--2012 Book You Can't Wait To Read in 2013!
In no particular order, This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers, The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth, and Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan. I left out any sequels/series installments where I've read the first one and just haven't gotten to the latest volume yet (Sorry, Reached, Days of Blood and Starlight, The Crown of Embers, Feedback, and The Evolution of Mara Dyer!) But these three are all ones I keep hearing absolute raves about, and also ones I don't own yet. They are very, very different books, which about sums up my style--what they have in common is that I think I will love them! What are the non-series (or first in a series) 2012 books you most want to read in 2013?