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And now to the category I read most of. Trends I noticed: lots more interstellar sci fi, lots more contemporary books that aren't so much about plot as about rooooomance, some parallel world books, and a number of books with the identical plot of wanting to fill a dead friend's bucket list. A lot of books that I read in YA this year, it turns out, aren't published (so I didn't include them-but someday, hopefully I can!) I was somewhat limited to the flavors my library buys, which are not anywhere as varied as the MG they stock, for some reason. So if there is a YA book you loved that you don't see here, let me know about it!

Nomad, by RJ Anderson. I just needed a book where I could depend on the author to tell a good story, and she did. This is the sequel to Swift, and Ivy the piskey is the main character. She’s been exiled from the Delve by her aunt (who is the Joan, or the leader) who doesn’t believe that there is poison down in the old mine they live in. I have no idea how to talk about this book without spoilers for the series, but suffice it to say that Stuff Happens, and Rebecca is good at getting across great emotion through restrained characters.

Belle Epoque, by Elizabeth Ross. About Maud, a plain girl who leaves home to escape having to marry the 40YO butcher across the street, and heads to Paris. But the only job she can do is at this agency where plain and/or ugly girls are hired to play the foil to more lovely society ladies. Generally people hire their own foils, but in Maud’s case, it’s the girl’s mother who hires Maud without her knowledge. But Isabelle, the girl, doesn’t want to get married—she wants to go to the university. And Maud is caught between her employer and her actual friend.

The Gates, by John Connelly. I tried another book of his (The Book of Lost Things) and couldn't connect, but this was quite funny. About the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland opening a portal to Hell, and Satan trying to take over the world, and an 11YO boy named Samuel trying to put a stop to it. Rather funny, and sort of Terry Pratchett-ish.

The Apothecary (and sequel), by Maile Maloy. Sort of a classic feeling, a historical fantasy in the McCarthy era about a girl whose parents are fleeing the Red Scare go to London, and she gets hooked up with this apothecary and his son and friends who use magical chemistry to promote peace around the world. They run off to Nova Zembla (north peninsula of Russia, near Norway) to stop the effects of a nuclear bomb test. Not too many cold war fantasies out there...

Cress, by Marissa Meyer. The Lunar Chronicles continue, this time introducing Crescent Moon (Cress), who’s been on a satellite since she was seven, jamming signals and hacking into earth’s computers to spy for Levana the Lunar Queen. But she wants out, and she’s been protecting Cinder and her friends from detection as they fly around the world, trying to stop the marriage between Levana and Kai. I am really enjoying this scifi/thriller/fairy tale retelling series!

Viola Doyle, or An Unconventional Gift, by Amy Spitzley. Really nicely done. Historical fantasy in Victorianish times (it’s not really Queen Victoria, it’s a made-up person, but general world things are similar). Viola is an unconventional girl whose grandmother gives her a pin that seems to want to belong to her. It’s connected by a broken treaty to a dragon, and whoever has it can control dragons. But Viola doesn’t know this. She and an interesting historian (who is totally unsuitable, but oh, so nice!) try to figure out what’s up with the pin (which glows purple sometimes) while meanwhile, Bad Guys try to steal it. It was fun and totally what I was looking for.

Tandem, by Anna Jarzab. Book 1 of a series. Sasha Lawson has a fairly normal life, until Grant, a popular boy at school, asks her to prom. They have a great time, only—it turns out Grant isn’t really Grant. He’s the analog of Grant, meaning he’s from a parallel universe and looks like Grant, and his name is really Thomas. He’s been sent from his world to bring Sasha back—because their princess, Julianna, has disappeared, and they need Sasha to fake her presence in the meantime. Julianna, however, has actually run off so she wouldn’t be betrothed to the prince of an enemy country. Fun thriller with the parallel universe element.

Better Off Friends, Elizabeth Eulberg. Contemporary, about two best friends (boy/girl) who try to be just friends and then realize that after several years, they’re in love with each other. It’s told sort of telescopically—between each chapter is like a text conversation between them in the present day, and then each chapter is a flashback to a different point in their relationship. Bigger on relationships than plot, this is representative of a lot of contemporary YA I've seen this year. So if this is the kind of book you crave, right now is a good time for you!

Hollow City, by Ransom Riggs. Sequel to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. A very strange book. Again, created around strange historical photos the author found. Time loops and creepy creatures. It's sold as YA and sort of is, although I'm not sure it fits entirely into this category. The POV is a little more adult than YA (which tends to feature a much closer psychic distance between reader and character).

The Cracks in the Kingdom, by Jaclyn Moriarty. Ahhh. This is what I was wanting. One of my very favorites this year. Strange, cerebral, and a bit flighty, but oh, so different from the steel-cold captive gray feeling of a dystopian novel. Elliot Baranski has been chosen to be on the Royal Youth Committee—a cover for a group of teens helping to bring home the Cellian royal family from the World where they’ve been kidnapped to. Um... *spoilers spoilers spoilers* I don't know how to talk about a sequel without spoiling the first book. But there are two worlds, Cello, and The World, which in the last book was breached by sending messages through a tiny crack. This sequel was considerably better than the first book, which I liked a lot.

The Riverman, by Aaron Starmer. Okaaay, this was a weird one. It was on the MG shelf at the library, but I dunno, it was more YA to me. Or adult? Not sure. I liked the voice, and the magical realism bits, and the suspense. At first I was disturbed that it seemed to just...end. But then I found out there is to be a sequel, so that's okay. It’s about a guy named Alistair who keeps secrets, and a girl named Fiona Loomis who lives nearby and is weird. She claims she goes to Aquavania, a fantasy world, and visits other kids—kids who have been taken by the Riverman. And she fears she’s next. Alistair thinks she’s using fantastical terms to talk about a real-life danger, but there really is something magic about it. Or…is there?

Rebel Belle, by Rachel Hawkins. That nice combination of funny and mysterious and paranormal. About a sort of airheaded, overachieving cheerleader who is in the wrong time at the wrong place, and when a janitor is hunted down, he transfers his powers to her before he dies. She becomes a paladin, who has to defend the life of an oracle, aka David, a boy she has fought with since they were little kids. It’s obviously a series, and has rather funny ending.

Demon Derby, by Carrie Harris. I’m not sure I understand even now what a roller derby is, but the main character is a cancer survivor, and also a skater. Wishing people would stop seeing her just as a skater girl, she tries out for this derby thing. The guy running it is some kind of angel sent to rein in demons, and since she has managed to defend herself against a couple, she ends up getting trained. To get rid of the bobblehead factory nearby, where the souls demons steal are getting imprisoned. It was kind of an interesting book—the author’s husband is a survivor, too, and there aren’t too many books about kids who survive. Sure, it was about demons and bobbleheads—but mostly it was about being able to get on with your life.

Amber House, by Kelly Moore, Larkin Reed, Tucker Reed (and sequel Neverwas). About a girl who goes to her grandmother’s house when her grandmother dies, and the house has all these echoes of the past where she sees various of her female ancestors. Then her little brother gets caught in the mirrors and she has to try and rescue him.

Sabriel, by Garth Nix. A hark back to Old School YA fantasy, reminded me of older Robin McKinley. Why didn’t I read this before? Erin Murphy recommended it to me, as the prequel came out this year. Sabriel inherits the title Abhorsen from her father—it’s the person who’s supposed to make sure the dead stay dead. An evil prince from 200 years ago who has wreaked havoc ever since by trying to not stay dead is trying to break out and take over both the Old Kingdom and the newer, bordered Ancelstierre, and she has to stop him when her father dies and leaves her the title of Abhorsen. I liked the mix of modern quasi-England next to a wall where there’s a whole other kingdom, with magic and even different weather and time.

The Kiss of Deception, by Mary E. Pearson. Interesting and different from her other books, which were more dystopian. This is flat-out fantasy (er, fantasy romance?), about a girl who is tired of being a pawn, who flees the day she is supposed to leave for her arranged marriage (and tenuous political alliance with an enemy to join the kingdoms against an even greater enemy). But the prince she’s betrothed to follows her, and the barbarian enemy sends an assassin after her. Both find her serving tables at an inn, and she isn’t what they thought she’d be like. The author pulls some tricks on the reader that I thought were rather cool, but it's the kind of thing that some people like and some people don't.

The Winner’s Curse, Marie Rutoski. I liked her Czech series, which was MG. This is YA. It was inspired by thinking of the Romans conquering the Greeks and appreciating their culture while making them slaves. Kestrel, daughter of the Valorian general Trajan, who conquered the local people (Herrani) and led a colonization into their country, buys a slave because she feels sorry for him. And the story is told from both Kestrel's POV and also that of Arin, the slave guy she buys. There are some unreliable narrator issues in this book as well, but it's broken gradually to the reader, which adds double tension--first when we realize the truth, and second, when we are waiting for the other shoe to drop when the other characters realize it. Really nicely done; I doubt there are many complaints about feeling tricked in this one.

The Perilous Sea, by Sherry Thomas. (#2 of the Elemental Mage series). I need more books like this. It has a similar feel in my mind as The Winner’s Curse, even though the books are totally different. There’s a nice sense of people living in a former time, and yet they feel that they are “modern.” Not sure how you bring that off. Also, this also has an interesting story structure. There are two timelines—one of Titus and Iolanthe (aka Fairfax, when she’s disguised as a boy at Eton) while at Eton, trying to figure out memory loss spells and Titus’s mother’s visions and how to bring down the Bane (ie the head of the evil Atlantian empire). That's interspersed with six (?) months later, when they find themselves stranded in the Sahara, without any memories at all, with agents from Atlantis after them. I don't know what it is with the interesting narrative structures, but I seem to be finding a lot! Anyway, this is the middle book, and now I'm all ready to read the last one.

Now that You’re Here, by Amy K. Nichols. A parallel world story, with 2 POVs—a guy from one world (Danny—initials are DOA) gets pushed into our world, swapping places with a deadbeat Danny version of him here. He knew his world Eevee in his old world, but here they are friends, and maybe more. But there is trouble in his old world, trouble he can't escape from forever (cue book 2). Fun parallel world YA.

The Assassin’s Curse, Cassandra Rose Clarke. About a girl from a pirate clan who saves the life of an assassin sent after her (for spurning a terrible arranged marriage) (she kills an asp), which sets off a curse—the assassin has to stick close and protect her. He’s got some funny magic going on and they start on a quest to find a cure for the curse.The voice and character are consistent in this one—and not just a booky person. The MC is smart but uneducated, and very, very rough.

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