It's nearing the end of the year and so it would take me a very long time to list all of the reviews that I've written in 2011. Instead, I thought it would be good to review a select few of my favourite books that I've read this year.
A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness
Every single one of my Goodreads friends rated this five stars and I can now see why. I tried not to get myself hyped up for this book and didn't really look into what it was about, I just started to read and I'm glad that's what I did.
I don't really know what to say about this book because I feel as though it is something that you have to experience for yourself.
It made me cry. Not just a few tears either, but quite hysterically - it made my stomach turn and it felt truly heart wrenching. That may sound overdramatic, but it's not - the emotions that this book stirred inside me were extremely strong. The subject matter, loss and grief, is very poignant and Ness has managed to handle it almost perfectly. Conor is a very authentic and well developed character. I could really connect with him and felt what he was going through. The writing was beautiful and vivid - along with the fantastic illustrations, I was thrown into Conor and the monster's world, like I was there with them, struggling through the visions and nightmares. I think anybody who has lost someone that they love will relate to this. It pulls up memories and the deepest, hidden emotions. For me, it felt as though some of my silent thoughts were being revealed on paper.
This is a truly special book and I can see that it could really help a lot of people who have gone through, or are going through, loss of a loved one. The fact that the story was based on Siobhan Dowd's idea, who unfortunately passed away before it's writing, just makes it even more emotive and real. Ness has certainly done this story justice. A true treasure.
Love is the Higher Law - David Levithan
This was such a beautifully written book. I really enjoy Levithan's writing and this book definitely didn't disappoint. 9/11 is always going to be a sensitive subject and here, I thought it was handled exceptionally well. I loved how the three likeable and realistic main characters lives all came together and the relationships between all three of them was both touching and tasteful considering the background subject. The whole novel was extremely poignant without feeling too heavy. As it was based upon some of Levithan's true memories of the day in New York, the book was only more intriguing. Claire, Jasper and Peter all dealt with things in their own way and the differences were fascinating. The voices felt very authentic and it was easy to relate to their anxiety, sadness and confusion before, during and after the attack on the Twin Towers. I think that the message throughout this book is important, inspiring and it was very well displayed - to stand united and to look after each other is important, and just because some people try to ruin things, we should still go on.
Wintergirls - Laurie Halse Anderson
This book was amazing. I really thought that the author put a lot of effort in to make the character seem realistic and troubled, without being whiny or irritating. Obviously the book handles sensitive subjects and I found that they were handled well. I thought the formatting of the book was extremely effective and gave it an 'edge' that some books don't have - it really allowed me to get in the mind of Lia and share her thoughts. The writing was absolutely beautiful and I loved the Wintergirls comparisons. I didn't want to put this book down as it was extremely compelling and both Lia and Cassie were interesting. A book that I'd recommend to any Young-Adult reader
Anna and the French Kiss - Stephanie Perkins
I love this book, Paris and Étienne St. Clair. Though I feel a little embarrassed to write it, this book is so romantic and it gave me lots of warm fuzzy feelings inside in the best possible way - it just made me feel so happy. There isn't an amazing, shocking, earth-shattering plot, but this just feels so real and works so well. It really didn't take me long to get pulled into the whole story. Perkins is a fantastic writer and it's hard to believe this is her first novel. Her writing flows really well. It is apt and realistic for her teenage protagonist, Anna. Anna is a likeable character who is your average girl who has been 'dumped' in Paris by her parents to study at the School of America in Paris. Her new found group of friends are also likeable and realistic - whilst reading this book, you really feel like you get to know everybody in the School. Étienne/St. Clair is handsome, has a wonderful personality and yet is still slightly flawed which makes him even more loveable. Both Anna and Étienne make mistakes, they're not perfect, but their relationship seems like it really could be perfect together. The backdrop of Paris may be cliché for a romance, but it works so well. Perkins described the city fantastically and I really got absorbed into the atmosphere. This is definitely a book I'd recommend.
I am J - Cris Beam
Wonderfully written and thought out, I Am J is certainly something that I'd recommend to others. There are few books out (that I'm aware of) that describe the thoughts and feelings of transgendered teenagers and it's good to see that there's one that's so authentic. This book really encapsulated how it must feel to be stuck in the wrong gendered body. J's thoughts and struggles seemed very real and it was interesting to see how his world and the people around him changed as he started his physical transition.
The strongest point of this book, for me, is that it seemed so realistic. I've never felt as though I've been assigned the wrong gender, but if I had then I'd imagine I'd feel very much like J did and have some of the same struggles. I found the changes in his relationship with his family and friends to be interesting but sometimes their actions did feel a little forced or fake - the only issue that I had with this book. This novel opened my eyes that little bit more to the transgendered community and hopefully it will allow a lot more people to be informed or to even feel more comfortable with themselves. If I was questioning things, J covered it and managed to give me more information. I also found the inclusion of J's best friends self harm issues and the fact that J was a Jewish/Puerto-Rican to be impressive.
Beam has made an inspiring choice to write this and her own experience with other trans- men and women are apparent. I really hope that Beam writes more as she has so much to offer.
Between Shades of Gray - Ruta Sepetys
I absolutely adored this book from start to finish. The subject is so interesting and heart wrenching and it is really felt through the characters. All of the characters are well formed and play their own part, they're easily distinguishable and their personalities are strong. The story, based on true to life events and memoirs, is also strong and intriguing all the way through - it was hard to put this down. The events and emotions are portrayed extremely well. I felt bonded to the characters which made this novel even more powerful. The changing scenes were well set, the atmosphere clear thanks to good writing. An amazing read that I feel will stay with me for a while to come.
Sing You Home - Jodi Picoult
Without a doubt, this is one of the most effective and best novels that I have ever read. Wow - it's really hard to describe this one, but one word I could certainly use is intense. The amount of surging emotions I felt was bizarre, feeling anger, sadness and joy all within a few pages - Picoult's use of humour was fantastic in this novel and I found myself laughing out loud at numerous points yet I did have to pause to reflect at times as the emotive issues left me sometimes seething, sometimes upset - but I still didn't want to put this down. The soundtrack to this book was a great idea for both the storyline and the feeling of the book, but it just made it way too intense for me to listen and read at the same time. I was interested in all of the featured issues and events - not just the issue of LGBT people vs. society and religion but also of alcohol abuse and mental illness. I felt a connection and thought that almost all of the characters were very well developed and striking. The writing was superb and drew me in right from the beginning. I had high hopes and expectations for Sing You Home and I certainly was not disappointed. Picoult has outshone herself. Although I find it hard to put into words, there is so much that I love about this book and it is most definitely one of my new favourites.
Life As We Knew it - Susan Pfeffer
This is a fantastic dystopian novel by Pfeffer which I really enjoyed reading. When I first began reading the book, I didn't feel particularly enamoured by the protagonist, Miranda, or her writing. However, after reading on for only a little while, I found myself absolutely absorbed into the story. One of the great things about this book is that it's realistic and I could actually imagine it happening - it's quite unnerving in that aspect. It's not hard to put yourself in Miranda's position and think about what you would do if the catastrophe actually happened. The tension is great. I can understand why people may see this book as a little repetitive but it's still realistic, it would be that way. I found the family to be endearing and the way that they worked together wasn't unlike how I'd imagine a lot of family units would work. I found Miranda to be a little irritating and some things she did at the beginning of the book irked me, but I couldn't blame her for most of her thought processes or actions and I connected with her a lot more as the book and situation progressed. I loved reading this and it is an easy read that I'd recommend.
Divergent - Veronica Roth
Divergent is a fantastic debut from Roth. Roth obviously has a talent for writing and her action scenes in this book particularly shine through. With more expansion and exploration in following books, this series could get even better.
I found this book to be so exciting - it was fast paced and so I never got bored. I just wanted to keep reading on as more things were revealed about the dystopic society. The factions in the book really intrigued me - I couldn't get enough information about them and look forward to learning more in the next books. The characters are all reasonably strong and I admire Tris, the protagonist, for her determination (yet her doubts and fears still give her realism). The romance was a little cliché, but I still absolutely loved it.
Around the end third of this book, the action became more intense and I couldn't put it down - it was truly enthralling and well done. So much more was being revealed and it'll be interesting to see how things turn out in the next book. I'll certainly be wanting to read the next installment of Divergent.
For more of my 2011 book reviews, you can check out my 'Read-in-2011' book shelf on Goodreads.