Favorite Books of 2011

Between being a YA author AND a middle school teacher, it is safe to say I read a lot of YA lit. I am excited to share with you all my favorite books of 2011.

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Plot:

Amy is a cryogenically frozen passenger aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed. She expects to wake up on a new planet, 300 years in the future. But fifty years before Godspeed’s scheduled landing, Amy’s cryo chamber is unplugged, and she is nearly killed.

Now, Amy is caught inside an enclosed world where nothing makes sense. Godspeed’s passengers have forfeited all control to Eldest, a tyrannical and frightening leader, and Elder, his rebellious and brilliant teenage heir.

Amy desperately wants to trust Elder. But should she? All she knows is that she must race to unlock Godspeed’s hidden secrets before whoever woke her tries to kill again.

Review: Never was a fan of the space opera until a little show called Firefly….this book is amazing. I’m so glad I gave it a shot. Unique in ways other YA books could only hope to achieve, Revis explores some of today’s biggest issues (gender, sexuality, race, political correctness) in a fast-paced and intriguing way. I wrote an article for an educational magazine about why this book would be great in the high school classroom.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Plot:

Mara Dyer doesn’t believe life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there. It can.
She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her strangely unharmed. There is.
She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love. She’s wrong.
Review: Wow. This might be my favorite book of the year. Books rarely surprise me, and this one threw me for a loop. Crazy creative plot and super fun characters. This one will give you chills, and you’ll be counting down the days till you can get more. LOVE it.

Where She Went by Gayle Forman

Plot:   It’s been three years since the devastating accident . . . three years since Mia walked out of Adam’s life forever.
Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard’s rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia’s home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future – and each other.
Told from Adam’s point of view in the spare, lyrical prose that defined If I Stay, Where She Went explores the devastation of grief, the promise of new hope, and the flame of rekindled romance.

Review: I am rarely a fan of sequels (which is sort of scary considering I am in the middle of writing my own), but this one really impressed me. I loved the first book, but had some small issues with it–mainly I didn’t really feel the love between the two main characters. The second book really explores this. It offers a mature and realistic look at young love and how it’s never perfect or easy.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Plot:  One choice can transform you. Pass initiation. Do not fail! Thrilling urban dystopian fiction debut from exciting young author. In sixteen-year-old Beatrice Prior’s world, society is divided into five factions — Abnegation (the selfless), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent) — each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue, in the attempt to form a “perfect society.” At the age of sixteen, teens must choose the faction to which they will devote their lives. On her Choosing Day, Beatrice renames herself Tris, rejects her family’s group, and chooses another faction. After surviving a brutal initiation, Tris finds romance with a super-hot boy, but also discovers unrest and growing conflict in their seemingly “perfect society.” To survive and save those they love, they must use their strengths to uncover the truths about their identities, their families, and the order of their society itself.

Review: My favorite dystopian of the year….and that’s saying something since it’s such a hot genre right now. It took the formula The Hunger Games perfected—a perfect mix of action and love story. A book both boy and girl friendly. And Roth’s world-building is out of this world.

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare

Plot: In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has at last found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when rogue forces in the Clave plot to see her protector, Charlotte, replaced as head of the Institute. If Charlotte loses her position, Tessa will be out on the street—and easy prey for the mysterious Magister, who wants to use Tessa’s powers for his own dark ends.

Review: Surprisingly, there isn’t much action in Clockwork Prince, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of Clare’s most enjoyable reads. Finally, a love triangle that doesn’t feel forced. The characters are likable. And steampunk is so in right now.

The Dark and Hallow Places by Carrie Ryan

Plot:

There are many things that Annah would like to forget: the look on her sister’s face when she and Elias left her behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, her first glimpse of the horde as they found their way to the Dark City, the sear of the barbed wire that would scar her for life. But most of all, Annah would like to forget the morning Elias left her for the Recruiters.
Annah’s world stopped that day and she’s been waiting for him to come home ever since. Without him, her life doesn’t feel much different from that of the dead that roam the wasted city around her. Then she meets Catcher and everything feels alive again.
Except, Catcher has his own secrets — dark, terrifying truths that link him to a past Annah’s longed to forget, and to a future too deadly to consider. And now it’s up to Annah — can she continue to live in a world drenched in the blood of the living? Or is death the only escape from the Return’s destruction?
Review: I was devastated to see this series come to an end. From start to finish, Ryan’s zombie story has been top-notch. Exciting. Scary. Tense. Wonderfully written. I just can’t say enough about it. Epic. Epic. Epic. No sophmore…or junior slump for this series. Gah. So good.

And here it is: My Book Cover

At midnight, the cover for The Chosen Ones (Book 1 in the Lost Souls Trilogy) was posted on over 150 Young Adult blogs.

My family and I decided to cut back on Christmas this year. We did this for a variety of reasons: my sister and I are nearing our 30s, we are preparing for the arrival of my sister’s son, there’s a Bears game on that day… Needless to say, I was struggling to find the warmth the Christmas season brings. Waking up to all the love and support shown by friends, family, and the Young Adult community this morning really lifted my heart.

Please check back this weekend, where I will show the LOVE to some of the amazing YA blogs out there who helped make this reveal so amazing.

So without further ado:

What if you were mankind’s last chance at survival?

   Sixteen-year-old Tess lives in a compound in what was once the Western United States, now decimated after a devastating fourth World War. But long before that, life as we knew it had been irrevocably changed, as women mysteriously lost the ability to bring forth life. Faced with the extinction of the human race, the government began the Council of Creators, meant to search out alternative methods of creating life. The resulting artificial human beings, or Chosen Ones, were extraordinarily beautiful, unbelievably strong, and unabashedly deadly.

            Life is bleak, but uncomplicated for Tess as she follows the rigid rules of her dystopian society, until the day she begins work at Templeton, the training facility for newly created Chosen Ones. There, she meets James, a Chosen One whose odd love of music and reading rivals only her own. The attraction between the two is immediate in its intensity—and overwhelming in its danger.

            But there is more to the goings-on at Templeton than Tess ever knew, and as the veil is lifted from her eyes, she uncovers a dark underground movement bent not on taking down the Chosen Ones, but the Council itself. Will Tess be able to stand up to those who would oppress her, even if it means giving up the only happiness in her life?