I'm also not including titles I read as ARCS for books that won't be out until 2015, but let me say that Jo Knowles' Read Between the Lines and Andrew Smith's Alex Crow are books to be on the lookout for.
My top ten books are all titles that will stay with me long after this year is through. (All cover images via Barnes & Noble.com)
10. Stories of My Life by Katherine Paterson. Not a memoir, the author insists, but what the title suggests. This is one of my top ten because of the individual stories, like the one of her friendship with Eugene, that stay with you long after you've read the book.
9. More Than This by Patrick Ness. Time-ish travel, mystery, grief, robots, new alliances--this novel works on so many levels. Worth reading and re-reading.
8. Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour. Movies, mystery, romance, and LGBTQ in a lush setting--this novel had so much going for it. A beautifully told story of figuring out who the right one is. The movie industry may not be theater, but it's close.
7. The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson. I'm a sucker for caper flicks, from The Sting to Ocean's 11, 12 and 13, and this novel pulls out all the stops in a most-satisfying middle-grade spin on the classics. Best of all, the characters are distinctive and entertaining. I hope they'll be back for another go.
6. Goblin Secrets by William Alexander. This is not the only middle-grade novel on this list that involves theater. It is the only one that involves goblins in a slightly mysterious world that mixes magic with steampunk. The writing is as strong as the characters--I can see why this won a National Book Award back in 2012. It's companion, Goulish Song, is in my TBR pile.
5. OCD Love Story by Cory Ann Haydu. This is not one of those novels that's all about learning to lead a "normal" life in spite of [Name of Problem]. It's about figuring out how to manage--life, relationships, roads, the problem (OCD). Everything is interconnected. Bea meets Beck in a support group for teens with OCD, and they get interested in each other, but in order to be together, they have to navigate both their own disorder and the other person's. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear how varied OCD can be.
4. I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. Alternating points of view, two time periods, twins who were once close, but are now estranged. And, like life, it gets a lot more complicated. However, unlike life, all the threads come together for a very satisfying conclusion that involves art, and several generations of conflicted relationships.
3. Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King. Nobody nails the push-pull of being a teen like King. In this case, in a novel that considers what it means to be a woman, whether to be your own woman or the woman society wants you to be, all through the lens of two central relationships--Glory's friendship with next-door neighbor Ellie and Glory's quest to understand her mother, who committed suicide when Glory was four. There's so much to love here, so much to return to again and again.
2. Better Nate Than Ever and its companion, Five, Six, Seven, Nate by Tim Federle. Add musical theater and coming out to standard middle-grade themes like changing friendships and coming into your own, mix with a voice that wobbles between hope and despair, confidence and self-doubt without ever losing its exuberance. And ok, my love for this book might be a little bit colored by my own love for musical theater and by the fact I'm now familiar enough with Queens to know the details are right. But even without that, Nate would still have stolen my heart.
1. All the Truth That's In Me. Julie Berry. This YA novel took my breath away. I both wanted to see how it came out and didn't want it to end because I didn't want to leave its world, which was truly unique. Speculative fiction with overtones of Puritan New England and a young woman who is both brave and courageous, both for her community and herself.