Thursday, December 30, 2010

Best Book of December 2010 (and November too!)

Hooray for YA! This has been an awesome year for me and YA books and the two books I am writing about here are no exception. Anybody who thinks YA books are too juvenile are deluding themselves and some of my favorite series ever have been YA. So, click the link to make the jump to see two YA books that impressed the heck out of me. The best part? Neither has vampires or werewolves :)
December's pick:

Alona Dare is the Queen Bee of her high school. She's the one who decides who is popular and who is not, what's in or out. When she steps off the sidewalk one morning while talking on her cell and gets hit by a bus, she's killed instantly. What's shocking to her, though, is what happens at school after's she's gone - her best friend is now dating her boyfriend and everyone else seems to be happy she's dead. It isn't until she notices loser-y Will Killian laughing at her misery that she realizes that just because a girl's dead doesn't mean she's completely out.

Will Killian has his own problems. Like the kid in the movie, he can see dead people. That wouldn't be so very bad if the dead didn't notice him too. They hound him so that he will help them resolve what's keeping them from moving on. His ghost problems have landed him a psychiatrist with dubious motives and multiple stays in mental facilities. He can't function in public without his iPod to drown out the dead folks and so when Alona saves him at a particularly bad time, he ends up agreeing to help her out with her afterlife if she will help him with the other ghosts. The only problem is, he didn't expect to like her as a person. And she didn't expect to like him either. How do you date a dead girl? And who is the ghost that keeps trying to kill him?

I liked Alona. Lots of other reviewers have compared Alona to Rachel McAdams' Regina from Mean Girls. I somewhat agree; I don't think Alona was as ruthless as Regina but she certainly does like to be in control of her kingdom. The interesting thing about Alona? Her social life has absolutely nothing to do with how she lives at home. Her mother is an alcoholic and her father moved out after the divorce. He left and dumped his problems on his daughter's lap and she's been struggling to keep her two worlds apart. The reader gets teased through most of the book with why Alona was so distracted by her phone conversation and while I won't spoil the reason here, I will say that it certainly does explain a lot about her character and why she's so angry.

I couldn't help but feel sorry for Will. Having the gift of being able to see and talk to the dead may have some advantages but for Will, they're ruining his life. Bouncing in and out of mental hospitals and being doped to the gills hasn't helped him like his iPod does; drowning out the voices of the dead let him act relatively normal even if he'll be prematurely deaf from the high volume music. Definitely not a good way to find a girlfriend.

I really dug this book. The light tone and frequent humor make The Ghost and the Goth a quick and enjoyable read. I was disappointed when I closed the back cover because I wanted more Alona and Will! Thank goodness there'll be a sequel; these two are definitely worth another visit. Queen of the Dead comes out on June 7, 2011.

November's pick:

Amy and her parents are cryogenically frozen passengers aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed. They have been led to believe they will wake up on a new planet, 300 years in the future.

But fifty years before Godspeed's scheduled landing, Amy is mysteriously unplugged from her cryo chamber, the near-victim of an attempted murder.

Amy discovers an enclosed world where nothing makes sense, where Godspeed's passengers have forfeited all control to Eldest, a tyrannical and frightening leader, and Elder, his rebellious and brilliant teenage heir.

Amy and Elder are instantly bonded. But can they trust each other? All Amy and Elder know is that they must discover Godspeed's hidden secrets before whoever woke Amy tries to kill again.

Across the Universe is Titanic meets Brave New World.

First off, I would like to say that the reason that I quoted the blurb on the back cover of my ARC instead of summarizing the story in my own words is that I had no idea how I would have done it without completely blowing it and spoiling everything. Across the Universe startled the hell out of me, you know. It has made me instantly wary of any sci-fi movie or book where the characters have to go in stasis first (for starters). In fact, being frozen like Amy was is now on my list of things that I never want to experience in my life. Never ever. And that part was just the beginning. Literally.

Across the Universe is an eye-opening, claustrophobia-inducing, cringe-worthy space epic. Beth Revis has posited a worthy question: What will humans do when someone tries to control every aspect of their existence to suit their purposes? It was appalling, really, the lengths to which Eldest went to keep his thumb on the people of Godspeed. At the same time, I was fascinated in the small traveling world that had been created on Godspeed: crops, livestock, even simulated sunshine and rain were fashioned to imitate Earth. However, it's a flimsy simulation, no more apparent than when Amy tries to go for a run and at one point, almost crashes into the wall. From page 138:
   I take three steps behind me, almost stumble, turn around, and race away faster than I've ever run. This is not my measured run from before. I am not pacing myself, counting my breaths, conscious of my strides. I race like a monster is chasing me; I race as if they were chasing me. I cannot go fast enough. I tear through the tall grass of the fields, the thin blades slicing my skin like paper cuts. I break corn stalks as I pound through the field.
   I run and run and run.
   Past the hospital, through the garden, past a pond.
   And to the cold metal wall.
   I stop, gulping at the air, my heart racing in my ears. I reach up with one hand and touch the wall. My fingers curl into a fist, but it falls weakly to my side.
   And that's when I realize the most important truth of life on this ship.
   There is nowhere to run.
Across the Universe grabbed me from the first page and didn't let go until the last word. What has happened to the mission that Amy and her parents were sent to complete? Who is prematurely thawing out people and why? What happened on Godspeed to change the social hierarchy from a democracy to a dictatorship? Can you manage to read this book without shuddering in relief that you are not a passenger on this ship? I know I couldn't.

Across the Universe will be available on 1/1/11.


Jane said...

I decided that The Ghost and the Goth would be the perfect book to read to finish off the year. I love being able to download a book in seconds!

Jen said...

Yay! I hope you like it!