Robin’s 2014 Favorites
It’s interesting to think how your preferences are shaped by your experiences, the type of media you’ve been exposed to, the mood you’re in, etc. And, unlike a lot of book reviewers, I don’t often read things that don’t somehow match my preferences. That said, these are *my* favorite reads from 2014. Your mileage may vary.
Let’s start with a really high point, and probably my favorite of all of the Printz honorees, Maggot Moon. This is an amazing book. Standish Treadwell is an unusual narrator, so innocent and honest in the midst of so much evil and deceit. He reflects the love he’s been shown by his family, rather than the hate he’s been shown by society for being different. And the plot – fascinating! It seems so much like something that could have happened during the Cold War, or today in North Korea.
Next let’s talk about Andrew Smith, as I sit here at 100 pages into Winger. I really loved 100 Sideways Miles. I thought Grasshopper Jungle was amazing, but I enjoyed 100 Sideways Miles more. You can read my thoughts comparing the two books here. It’s odd, because I usually enjoy an intricately plotted story where there are multiple threads that weave together to make a fascinating picture at the end. I guess Grasshopper Jungle just had the wrong vibe for me. And a lot of people being eaten by giant praying mantises, etc….
On the other hand, Jasper Fforde’s latest addition to his Jennifer Strange series, The Eye of Zoltar, was just the right vibe. As intricate and weird and fascinating as all of his novels (and equally full of bad puns and jokes) this did nothing but increase my love for his writing. I’m so happy I get to share him as an author with the students.
A couple of my favorite reads from 2014 aren’t actually out yet. Ally Carter’s All Fall Down (out January 20th) is a serious next step in her writing. It has all of the wonderful elements of her Heist and Gallagher Girls books, but there is that indefinable something more about it. Better writing? Most definitely, although her writing was already quite good. I think maybe it’s that her main character is so much more complex and nuanced? All I know is that Grace seriously broke my heart. The second one I read and loved that’s not out yet is Rachel Hawkins’ Miss Mayhem (out April 7th) – so good! Rachel has an unerring sense of humor amid the devastation she wreaks upon her characters. She also has the rare ability to create a second entry in a series that is better than the first.
Like everyone else on the planet, I loved Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming. You can read my thoughts here. She’s the best combination of a genuinely talented writer with someone who continually hones her craft and is willing to take risks. It’s so lovely. Another book I loved this year with appeal to younger grades is Shannon and Dean Hale’s Princess in Black. I purchased it for my 6 year old friends Maya and Sophie for Christmas without having read it, because it sounded so like them. When I sat down to read it to them, I was delighted! It was everything I had hoped for and more – an awesome opportunity to do fun read aloud voices, and many, many giggles throughout.
Finally, we get to my two favorite books from this year’s reading. Runner up is Alexandra Duncan’s Salvage. I picked it up on a whim when I was at the library with my little friend Aaron. I had heard a lot of praise for it on Twitter, and it was just sitting there on the new book shelf in the YA section. Karen is still patiently waiting for me to write down my thoughts on it for this blog. I just don’t know. How can I explain what a marvelous book this is? It reminded me most closely of two very different novels – Nancy Farmer’s The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm and E. Lockhart’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks. It’s an epic SF narrative in the style of EE&A, with the main character repeatedly thrown into new and foreign cultures and having her understanding of the world and culture and her place in it stretched, expanded and ripped apart. Equally, the theme of determining who you are as a person rather than allowing others (or cultural norms) to determine who you are (as in Frankie) is present throughout. It is amazing and epic. And very difficult to believe that it is her first published novel.
My favorite read from this year – can you guess? If you’ve followed my posts here, you might be able to. It’s a book that inspired me to completely lose my ability to even – Kiersten White’s Illusions of Fate. It is by far my most recommended book from this year. So amazing, and such and impressive step forward from an already well established, excellent author. You absolutely must read it.
Filed under: Uncategorized
About Robin Willis
After working in middle school libraries for over 20 years, Robin Willis now works in a public library system in Maryland.
SLJ Blog Network