Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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A List: Best YA and MG of 2012

Here’s a nice list. Of course I’m sure there’re many many such lists around, but I do like this one.

What I like about this list:

The categories. Best Prose, Best Non-Dystopian Novel, Most Lyrical, Best For Highly Literate Children, Best Page-Turner, Best Slow Read — among other categories. I like the way these categories let me pay more attention to the types of books which would appeal to me (Most Lyrical) and gloss over the ones that probably wouldn’t (Best Book About Mean Girls).

This list is not especially for SFF, but there are a lot of SFF titles. Besides, every now and then I do read a contemporary YA story — usually because Ana at The Book Smugglers recommends them highly and so I make an exception. (So far I’ve always been happy I did.) So I’m more inclined than I might have been a few years ago to pick up one or two of the contemporary titles that made ths list.

Anyway, I’ve heard of a lot of the recommended titles, but I’ve read exactly . . . wait for it . . . one of them. Just one.

And I didn’t even like it all that much (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children).

I have one other book from this list on my TBR pile (The Raven Boys). Just one. I feel so behind on my reading now!

I have quite a few of these titles on my Amazon wishlist — which I use as a supplementary memory so I don’t forget about them — and this list includes several others that I’m interested in and ought to either buy or add to my wishlist. For example, Bitterblue by Cashore — I heard such different things about it, and I think it might really appeal to me, though actually I’m one of the few who wasn’t so terribly blown away by Graceling. I haven’t even read the second one in the series, what was it called, Fire?

I have heard all these fabulous things about Seraphina , which is a debut by Rachel Hartman, and even more fabulous things about Code Name Verity, which is by Elizabeth Wein, who I already know is an amazing writer. They’re both on my must-read list, but I haven’t actually got them yet. I just read a review of Under The Never Sky (at Bunbury in the Stacks) that makes me want to read that one. I’ve heard of For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund — it’s supposed to be a retelling of Jane Austin’s Persuasion. Doesn’t that sound like a must-try?

And there’s yet another mention of Frances Hardinge here, whom I’ve never read, but evidently I really must. She’s MG, which normally I’m not too inclined to try, but she’s starting to sound like another DWJ, the way people rave about her.

So many books, so little time!

And to add a note of urgency, I believe nominations for the Hugo close in mid-March. I wonder if this gives me enough of an excuse to go ahead and pick up at least a couple of the SFF titles?

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7 Comments A List: Best YA and MG of 2012

  1. Cheryl L

    Frances Hardinge may be marketed as MG in the US, but that doesn’t do justice to the sophistication of her work. I think the only reason her novels get put in that category is that she doesn’t include any romance in them. I have just given GULLSTRUCK ISLAND (aka THE LOST CONSPIRACY) to my 12-year-old niece who is an advanced reader for her age. I didn’t think she was ready for Hardinge until now. The artwork on the US editions of Hardinge’s books is enough to put most self-respecting adult readers off. The UK editions are much more appealing.

    I tried SERAPHINA and GRACELING this year and found the world-building and characterisation in both unconvincing.

  2. Sandy Colson

    I LOVED Seraphina! It was the best thing I read all last year. The world-building is the best I’ve seen since, well, Tolkien.

  3. Rachel

    The Hardinge artwork does put me off! Sometimes I wonder what a publisher’s marketing department is thinking.

  4. Maureen E

    YES to Hartman, Wein, and Hardinge. As I think I may have said here before. :)

    I was surprised by how much I liked Under the Never Sky, since I am generally not a YA dystopia fan (they are all so cookie-cutter, IMO). I haven’t gotten the sequel yet, though. For Darkness Shows the Stars did not offend my Austen sensibilities, which is a major accomplishment, but I didn’t feel like it had the same spark that the original does.

  5. Elaine T

    There were a ton I haven’t read or even heard of on that list. Of those I have heard of, I was a lot more lukewarm about most of them. Including the Cashore – GRACELING was ok enough to finish but I remember getting irritated with it , and I didn’t bother with the sequels. It might have been worldbuilding & characterization as Cheryl says above, I don’t remember.

    SERAPHINA I picked up a couple times, and found myself reacting with an ‘oh, yeah? skepticism, although I can’t say to what, now as I never made it past a chapter or two.

    And the Stiefvater is really well told, prose-wise, but I had issues, including with the goal/mcguffin – I don’t think she wanted readers to react to it with: You’ve GOT to be kidding. It might work for youngsters, but I read a lot of history once that had to do with the reality of stuff she’s using. And, just…. NO. I can’t swallow it. Also I resented the frequent POV shifts, I wanted her to either settle into one or two, or just give up on tight third and write in omniscent. The shifts yanked me around too much.

    I’ve read some Hardinge. She’s good, but includes elements give me a major case of the creeps, so I don’t pick up her books very often. She strikes me as much darker than DWJ. (see creepiness factor.)

    I do want to pick up FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS, as I am fond of PERSUASION. I’ll report back, when I have.

  6. Rachel

    It’s probably good to see a couple of negative comments about SERAPHINA so I don’t go in with massively inflated expectations, but I’ve seen a LOT more raves like Sandy’s, so I pretty much do expect to love it. I hear there’s a neat dragon element, but I haven’t really been reading reviews because I don’t want to spoil the book too much.

    If FOR DARKNESS doesn’t actually do violence to the original, then I’m pretty impressed — I don’t expect anybody to actually match Jane Austen. I really need to get this one — especially since it wll give me a great reason to re-read PERSUASION, which I’ve only ever read once. I really like to re-read a classic before its retelling! I never did read JANE EYRE until I wanted to read JENNA STARBORN by Sharon Shinn. I’ll never be a huge fan of JANE EYRE, but I did enjoy reading both books together like that.

    I like a dystopia now and then, and so far I haven’t read so many that they’re tending to blur together too much. (Yet. There sure is a clutter of them out there, isn’t there?) I didn’t love Dan Well’s PARTIALS as much as I hoped, though, which kind of put me out of the mood for another dystopia just yet. But I think UNDER THE NEVER SKY will probably be the next. After all, I really appreciated Heidi (of Bunbury in the Stacks) review of my books, so I’m inclined to trust her taste!

    I really must pick up something by Hardinge; I’m getting more and more interested. Like, creepy how? No need to answer that, I’m looking forward to finding out!

    And Elizabeth Wein couldn’t write a non-fabulous book if she tried, I think. I mean, I kind of think she sort of did try — anybody who incorperates Arthurian elements in their work may find they’ve jumped the shark, imo. But Wein’s so good I didn’t even mind that. But I’m glad I read THE SUNBIRD first of hers, where the Arthurian elements are not that obtrusive.

  7. Cheryl L

    Yes – Hardinge’s novels are darker than most of DWJ’s work. She can make really ordinary things seem creepy (shopping carts and coathangers in VERDIGRIS DEEP, for instance). Interestingly, A FACE LIKE GLASS has just been nominated for an award in the UK in competition with a number of adult fantasy novels. I think this lends some support to my contention that she’s not really a MG novelist, despite her young protagonists.

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