[DWJ] Best(etc.) Books of the Year

Amy Lee Bennett alb15 at cornell.edu
Fri Dec 29 13:09:35 EST 2006


I still have a hope that I'll finish something else amazing before
Monday (I at least have a decent chance of finishing the audiobook for
Zuzak's The Book Thief, which definitely qualifies), but I'll go ahead
with my reads-of-the-year list anyway.

*Standout YA of 2006: The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs, by Jack Gantos.
Effed up, gothic, disturbing, homage to Frankenstien, and totally
awesome. Yeah, yeah, I was stunned by Octavian Nothing just like
everybody else, and yet this is where I'd put my vote, I think.

*Middle-Grade Notables: Whittington (I forget the author), Michael
Gruber's The Witch's Boy, and Kate DiCamillo's The Miraculous Journey
of Edward Tulane -- all quite excellent audiobook performances, also.
Tulane is not necessarily my vote, but definitely my prediction for
this year's Newbery. If nothing else it WILL get an honor.

*Best Audiobook: The His Dark Materials series. Absolutely, utterly
blew me away (the books blew me away a long time ago; this time I'm
talking about the audio performance). Pullman does the narration --
and unlike many authors who read their own work, he's excellent -- and
the characters are played by a full cast of actors. It was incredible
-- I walked around listening to it with a dazed expression, probably
putting myself in danger of being hit by a train.

*Audiobook Runner-up: I, Coriander -- a delightful performance. Though
The Book Thief might beat it out when I finish. So that's what the
voice of Death sounds like!

*Biggest Disappointment: Criss Cross, by Lynne Rae Perkins, which won
the Newbery Medal. I don't get it. Sigh. Or possibly A Great and
Terrible Beauty -- yech.

*Best (Kid's) Nonfiction: Children of the Great Depression. It made me
want to run out and read Grapes of Wrath right away. So sad, and yet
also uplifting, without feeling false.

*Best Graphic Novel: <i>Fables</i> -- hard to pick just one, though,
since I read them all. Probably the one where Boy Blue kicks all the
ass.

*Best Guilty Pleasure: Gotta follow Deborah here, only I haven't
gotten to New Moon yet (just ripped the audiobook), so mine is Meyer's
Twilight. I spent the first third of the audiobook going "You gotta be
kidding me" and "Is anything ever going to happen?" and "MARY SUE" --
and then I spent the rest of it gripped. Can't explain it, except that
I already knew I had a weakness for teen vampire romance, despite
never having read Anne Rice.

*Alternatively: Pfeffer's Life As We Knew It. Not sure if this ought
to count as a "guilty pleasure" since it's getting plenty of critical
acclaim, but the sci-fi premise is absurd, and it's yet another diary
book where you really don't see, as she describes her life, when she's
actually writing all these entries -- but it was still totally
thrilling, and I just sank into it and didn't come out for the whole
day it took me to finish.

*Most Anticipated Book of 2006: Either Pinhoe Egg or Sharing Knife. I
liked both of them, despite generally agreeing with comments here that
they should have waited and published The Sharing Knife whole. Pinhoe
is my favorite DWJ since... Deep Secret? (I'd have to check the
publishing order in case I've forgotten one of the books in between.)
Quite luverly to find out what Cat & co. have been up to... Snicket's
The End would be on this list, except I haven't gotten my copy yet, so
I can't say.

*Best Recommendation: Peeps, by Scott Westerfeld. Yay, vampires. (Or
possibly Cohn and Levithan's Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, which
was a lot of fun and a very quick read. I wonder if Cohn wrote Norah's
chapters and Levithan Nick's, or if it was all collaborative? The book
might actually say, but I returned it to the library already.)

*Strangest Reading Experience: Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro. Though
what was really strange for me was the class discussion where people
seemed totally hung up on the sci-fi aspect. As a sci-fi reader, I
figured out what was going on within the first 5 pages, but apparently
some of my classmates were thrown for a loop, and didn't like it.
(Second strangest class discussion would be the one where my YA
professor tried to claim that Anansi Boys did not belong in the genre
of fantasy. Say what? I wouldn't have minded if she wanted to argue
that boundaries of genre are ultimately meaningless, but...)

A couple thoughts on the other discussions on this list... it's
interesting that others commented that Bujold's characters don't get
healed to their satisfaction. Different kinds of healing work for
different people, of course; Bujold's form of character healing often
works for me. Not always -- I go back and forth on Ekaterin's
"recovery" from her first marriage -- but there have been times when I
clung to the advice that Harra gave to Miles in Memory, that there is
no secret to going on after tremendous grief and loss, no trick: "you
just go on..." Well, it helped me. Sometimes healing is a very slow
process.

Happy new year, all.
--Amy Lee



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