The OF Blog: Best of 2012: YA/Children's Literature

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Best of 2012: YA/Children's Literature

2012 was an interesting year for me when it came to reading Young Adult/Juvenile/Children's Lit.  Due to a conversation I had this summer with Dunja, I re-read several childhood favorites (and reviewed some of them here) and read several that were favorites of her when she was growing up.  Most of those I enjoyed quite a bit.  Yet when it comes to 2012 releases, I only read 9 works that could readily be accepted as either children's lit or YA (I almost added Samuel Delany's Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders, as the two main protagonists were teens when the story began, then I thought better of it, as there would be some irate readers ready to smack me for that ;)).  Yet I enjoyed 8 out of the 9 to some degree or another, so I thought perhaps this might make for a good list for those such as myself who would like to read something new in the field that isn't the X volume in series Y (only one is a continuation of a prior story).  So here's what I read, the five National Book Award finalists for Young People's Literature (one of which is a fantasy) and four others that would likely be classified by some as YA SF/F.

9.  Leah Bobet, Above.  Despite liking her short fiction enough to list her story "Six" for consideration for BAF 4, her debut novel, Above, was an underwhelming YA urban fantasy about a humanity divided into groups based on whether or not they lived above or below the surface.  Although there were some promising moments, the dialogue felt stilted and the story lacked the necessary cohesion to achieve its ambitious goals.

8.  William Alexander, Goblin Secrets.  See my earlier review.

7.  Steve Sheinkin, Bomb:  The Race to Build – and Steal – the World's Most Dangerous Weapon.  See my earlier review.

6.  Eliot Schrefer, Endangered.  See my earlier review.

5.  Nalo Hopkinson, The Chaos.  This is a story about self-identity and ethnicity, as the mysterious black spot that appears on the protagonist's arm can be viewed as a concrete metaphor for her troubles trying to sort out her multiracial heritage.  Well-written, with a very believable character whose conflicts will resonate with many of multiracial/ethnic heritages. 

4.  Carrie Arcos, Out of Reach.  See my earlier review.

3.  Kelly Barnhill, Iron Hearted Violet.  This second novel by Barnhill that I've read this year (The Mostly True Story of Jack being her debut novel) was a delight to read.  When my niece Adyson turns that "magical" age, say around 8 or 9, I think I'd like to lend my copy to her.  Yes, I'm going to that sort of uncle, it seems (I gave her a 50th anniversary edition of Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth for her first Christmas this week).  It is a story of a brave young princess in a world where an unspoken ancient evil is threatening to re-enslave the world and her fight to prevent that.  Traditional tropes, perhaps, but Barnhill writes very well and I think it's good to see girls/women being more than plucky sidekicks or damsels in distress.

2.  Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There.  Speaking of books for my niece, this second volume in her Fairyland series might be a good one to read aloud to her when she's in elementary school.  Valente is a very talented writer and her story, which I would judge to be good for the 9-12 year-old set and older, takes the portal fantasy and twists the "rules" a bit.  Well-done.

1.  Patricia McCormick, Never Fall Down.  See my earlier review.

Feel free to suggest other worthy 2012 releases in YA/Children's Lit that I've overlooked, as I certainly will give them consideration for the future, even if it'd be too late for me to post them in this article.  After all, since my brother and his wife aren't as avid of readers as I am, I'd like to screen new books for my niece to read in the future.  It's the least I could do as being the "creepy" uncle of the family ;)


Kathleen said...

I really liked The Scorpio Races (more a teen book, not for a 9 yro). but maybe that was 2011? anyways, I think it did a really nice job with setting, atmosphere, and character.

Larry Nolen said...

Yeah, it's an October 2011 release, according to Amazon. Premise sounds promising, but it might be a long while before my niece will be reading teen-level work (after all, she's not quite yet 3 months old).

Add to Technorati Favorites