January 03 2013, 09:29 PM

MY TOP TEN FAVORITE YOUNG ADULT BOOKS I READ IN 2012 → a rec list 

1. Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan
2. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
3. The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness
4. Adaptation by Malinda Lo
5. Ash by Malinda Lo
6. Huntress by Malinda Lo
7. The Darkest Powers trilogy by Kelley Armstrong
8. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
9. Delirium by Lauren Oliver
10. Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

Brief reviews + recommendations under the cut b/c it’s like 10 miles long sorry I just really love books okay

1. Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met … a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.

But all that changes when the Lynburns return.

The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?

- unspoken @ goodreads

I read Sarah Rees Brennan’s other books (Team Human and the Demon’s Lexicon trilogy which are both honorable mentions for this list) earlier this year after discovering her tumblr. If you go read through a couple pages of her tumblr you’ll see that she has this awesome, breezy sense of humor, and it shows through in all of her writing. I really loved Team Human and the Demon’s Lexicon books so I had really high hopes for Unspoken and I was still just totally blown away by how much I loved it. 

I recommend this book to you if you like LADIES because it has ALL KINDS OF AWESOME LADIES. Intrepid reporter news team of ladies, ladies being best friends, ladies who ride motorcycles, lady villains, lady heroes, morally grey ladies, ladies crushing on other ladies, ladies being introspective and discovering themselves, misanthropic ladies who love napping, ladies not knowing exactly what they want and knowing that’s okay. LADIES EVERYWHERE. As an added bonus, the guys are pretty cool too.

2. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.

- shadow and bone @ goodreads


I picked Shadow and Bone up because of the HOLY SMOKES ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS COVER. It’s definitely my favorite cover of the year and it’d probably make my top five favorite book covers of all time. It’s just so pretty and appropriate to the story and perfect. OKAY COVER GUSHING OVER back to talking about the book.

Shadow and Bone is a young adult fantasy set in the dark and atmospheric world of Ravka. It’s got a turn-of-the-century Russian sensibility to it, which I really liked as a deviation from your standard medieval Europe kind of thing. I’d recommend it for anyone who grew up on high fantasies (like me!) because I found it really reminiscent of all that great late-90’s fantasy I loved so much when I was a kid. And the world-building is really different and intriguing. The magic system was my favorite part of the book. It’s also just written in a really engaging style. It’s one of those stay-up-until-four-to-finish-it books.

3. The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness


Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee — whose thoughts Todd can hear too, whether he wants to or not — stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden — a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives.


But how do you escape when your pursuers can hear your every thought?

the knife of never letting go @ goodreads


I’m not 100% sure what to say about this one because I just can’t really describe it. This series reminds me a lot of Battlestar Galactica (2004), which is pretty much the highest praise I can give to science fiction. All the characters are complex and well defined. Nobody is clearly in the right and there’s a lot of grey-and-gray morality. The science fiction aspects of the story serve to highlight the characters’ relationships with each other and also themselves. It’s just… really smart and complex. And at the same time action-packed and emotional!

4. Adaptation by Malinda Lo

Reese can’t remember anything from the time between the accident and the day she woke up almost a month later. She only knows one thing: She’s different now.

Across North America, flocks of birds hurl themselves into airplanes, causing at least a dozen to crash. Thousands of people die. Fearing terrorism, the United States government grounds all flights, and millions of travelers are stranded.

Reese and her debate team partner and longtime crush David are in Arizona when it happens. Everyone knows the world will never be the same. On their drive home to San Francisco, along a stretch of empty highway at night in the middle of Nevada, a bird flies into their headlights. The car flips over. When they wake up in a military hospital, the doctor won’t tell them what happened, where they are—or how they’ve been miraculously healed.

Things become even stranger when Reese returns home. San Francisco feels like a different place with police enforcing curfew, hazmat teams collecting dead birds, and a strange presence that seems to be following her. When Reese unexpectedly collides with the beautiful Amber Gray, her search for the truth is forced in an entirely new direction—and threatens to expose a vast global conspiracy that the government has worked for decades to keep secret.

- adaptation @ goodreads

You might be thinking, “Gosh, Joy, there are an awful lot of books by Malinda Lo on this list”. To which I say: yes.

I had the pleasure of meeting Malinda Lo at a conference this summer and hearing her talk on topics of fantasy, myths, Eastern vs Western cultures, racism, sexism, and homophobia (I also won a signed ARC of Adaptation in an X-Files trivia contest which would have sold me on her work even if all that other stuff hadn’t). I read Adaptation, Ash, and Huntress in a 4 day reading marathon because I just. Couldn’t. Put. Them. Down. They’re so great.

Even though Ash and Huntress were both fantastic, I really enjoyed Adaptation because of its genre. It’s reminiscent of the X-Files and a little bit of the TV series Roswell too, I think. It’s fast-paced and written in a really gorgeous and stark style, where the descriptions are all vivid and striking without being florid or overdone. Reese and Amber’s love story has such a great natural chemistry too it, too.

5. Ash by Malinda Lo

In the wake of her father’s death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.

The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash’s capacity for love—and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.

- ash @ goodreads

Ash was the first of the Malinda Lo books I read. It’s a retelling of Cinderella, and it has the insouciance and charm of a fairytale. It’s a quick read (I read it in a few hours) and it’s just so engrossing. The writing style and world building really come together to suck you into the story. I’ve read a lot of retellings of Cinderella this year and I’ve found that usually the character archetype doesn’t do much for me, but Ash has a real emotional depth to her that’ll make you care about what happens to her and want her to be happy from the get-go.

6. Huntress by Malinda Lo

Nature is out of balance in the human world. The sun hasn’t shone in years, and crops are failing. Worse yet, strange and hostile creatures have begun to appear. The people’s survival hangs in the balance.


To solve the crisis, the oracle stones are cast, and Kaede and Taisin, two seventeen-year-old girls, are picked to go on a dangerous and unheard-of journey to Tanlili, the city of the Fairy Queen. Taisin is a sage, thrumming with magic, and Kaede is of the earth, without a speck of the otherworldly. And yet the two girls’ destinies are drawn together during the mission. As members of their party succumb to unearthly attacks and fairy tricks, the two come to rely on each other and even begin to fall in love. But the Kingdom needs only one huntress to save it, and what it takes could tear Kaede and Taisin apart forever.

- huntress @ goodreads

After I read Ash, I was surprised to find that I liked Huntress even more because usually I don’t care for sequels(/prequels in this case) with new casts of characters.I had literally just finished Ash when I picked this one up, and I really wanted to know what happened with Ash and Kaisa and I didn’t want to move on to new characters and I was a little reticent, but I gotta say, Taisin is my homegirl. She’s probably one of my favorite YA characters of all time. Kaede is definitely great too.

Anyway, everyone should read this one, because oh my gosh Young Adult fantasy with super-diverse casts flails all over the place (see also: The Girl of Fire and Thorns, an honorable mention on this list).

7. The Darkest Powers trilogy by Kelley Armstrong

My name is Chloe Saunders and my life will never be the same again.

All I wanted was to make friends, meet boys, and keep on being ordinary. I don’t even know what that means anymore. It all started on the day that I saw my first ghost - and the ghost saw me.

Now there are ghosts everywhere and they won’t leave me alone. To top it all off, I somehow got myself locked up in Lyle House, a “special home” for troubled teens. Yet the home isn’t what it seems. Don’t tell anyone, but I think there might be more to my housemates than meets the eye. The question is, whose side are they on? it’s up to me to figure out the dangerous secrets behind Lyle House…before its skeletons come back to haunt me.
- the summoning @ goodreads

I literally stayed up all night reading the first book of this, and then left first thing in the morning to go buy the next two and read those straight through, too. As a forewarning: these three books tell one complete story, with each book being an act of the story AND THE FIRST TWO END ON CLIFFHANGERS. Anyway, I’d read a bunch of Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld books and liked them alright but didn’t love them, so I was surprised to find myself so emotionally involved in these three books.

This is largely due to how great a character Chloe is. She’s got interests and desires and likes and dislikes, she’s got a sense of humor and a snark attitude but is also a genuinely caring and good person. She doesn’t let other people push her around but she’s more than willing to help them do anything they need her to do. The ways she reacts to the things that happen to her just ring so true and I really could put myself in her shoes.

8. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list.

Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.

- thirteen reasons why @ goodreads

I know I’m way behind the times on this one, but oh man did this book have me in tears every other chapter. One of the negative reviews I read about it mentioned that it felt cheap that Hannah’s reasons for killing herself were so petty and pointless, but that’s what I like most about it, because adds so much to the tragedy of her death. 

Also apparently it’s going to be a movie with Selena Gomez, so that’s fun.

9. Delirium by Lauren Oliver

THEY SAY that the cure for Love will make me happy and safeforever. And I’ve always believed them. Until now.

Now everything has changed. Now, I’d rather be infected
with love for the tiniest sliver of a second than live a hundred years smothered by a lie.

- delirium @ goodreads

This one’s on here because of Lauren Oliver’s ridiculously gorgeous prose. Delirium has some cool atmospheric aspects, but I’ll be honest and say it kind of lacks world-building and structure (so if that’s the kind of thing that bothers you, maybe skip this one). It’s also a pretty typical boy-meets-girl-and-their-love-defies-their-dystopian-government novel, but I’ve really gotta say: Oliver’s writing makes it the stand-out in that genre. There’s also the added bonus of the relationship between Lena and Hana, which I found myself more emotionally invested in than the love story.

10. Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her… but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best. Then one of the other contestants turns up dead… quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

- throne of glass @ goodreads

This book is just fun. I read through it and its four prequel novellas while I was at the gym. The summary kind of makes it sound like the Hunger Games but it isn’t, really. It reminds me a little bit of Tamora Pierce’s books. If you aren’t already a fan of the fantasy genre, though, I don’t know how much this book will do for you, because the world building is a little weak and frankly kind of confusing. Also, love triangle. Despite all of its problems it’s still a really fun read. 

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    I read Ash, The Knife of Never Letting Go, Huntress (though I think I read both of Malinda Lo’s books in 2011, unless...
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