29 December 2011

Top Ten YA Books of 2011

These are my favourite ten young adult or children's books I've read this year - they weren't necessarily published this year. Click on the title of the book to link to the full review.

10. The Death Defying Pepper Roux by Geraldine McCaughrean (2010) 
A charming, quirky novel about a boys attempt to escape his prophesied death by his fanatical aunt who saw it in a vision. Told in a series of vignettes as Pepper has adventures around France. He meets a variety of bizarre characters and learns a little bit about himself and taking charge of your own destiny.

9. Grace by Morris Gleitzman (2011)
A thought provoking but quick read about a very charming heroine. Grace has grown up as a member of a strict Christian cult where she has to keep her hair long and is forbidden to talk to or touch the unsaved. When her Dad is thrown out for asking too many questions, Grace has to work out what her faith in God means she should do.

8. Out of Shadows by Jason Wallace (2010)
Another book that will provoke discussion, this is the tense story of Robert. He lives in Zimbabwe and goes to an all boys boarding school in the years following Mugabe's ascent to power. At school he has to work out what is right and wrong when nothing is clear cut. One for older readers as it contains some upsetting scenes but is a powerful story about friendship, family and race that will challenge teenager readers.

7. Prisoner of the Inquisition by Theresa Breslin (2010)
An excellently plotted, fast-paced historical drama and romance set in Spain during the Inquisition. Zarita is the privileged daughter of the magistrate who unwittingly condemns a beggar to death; the beggars' son, Saulo, ends up sold onto a slave ship governed by a flamboyant sailor and crosses paths with Christopher Columbus before a very dramatic finale where all the threads wind together under the genuinely frightening Chief Inquisitor.

6. My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher (2011)
A superbly written, very moving book about a little boy, Jamie, whose sister died in a terrorist attack and the effects it has had on his family. Jamie is a heartbreaking narrator as he desperately tries to stick his family back together. He also has to deal with life at a new school where his friendship with a student, Sunya, challenges what his father has told him about Muslims. 

5. Archer's Goon by Diana Wynne Jones (1984)
A bit of a nostalgic read for me as this was one of my favourite books as a child. The magical and witty story of a family embroiled in the arguments of a family of warring sorcerers who are secretly in charge of the entire town where they live remains an example of a near perfect children's story. Beautifully written, funny and wonderfully unique. 

4. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (1961)
The other 'vintage' entry on my list, this was the 50th anniversary of this iconic children's novel which follows the bored Milo as he travels to Dictionopolis and rediscovers the magic in everyday life. A supporting cast of quirky, funny characters will entertain and appeal to everyone. A classic for a reason. 

3. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (2009)
A really unique and wonderful novel with a hugely appealing main character. Set in New York in 1979, Miranda starts getting mysterious letters from someone who seems to know things that have yet to happen. A great twist at the end which cleverly wraps everything up without being trite makes this a very satisfying novel to enjoy. 

2. Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness - The Knife of Never Letting Go (2008)/The Ask and the Answer (2009)/Monsters of Men (2010)
This is a total cheat as I have put an entire trilogy at number two but if I'd separated them out I would only have had to miss off numbers 9 and 10 as they are all as brilliant as each other and are best enjoyed when when one after the other. This is a superb trilogy - moving, exciting, challenging and just generally outstanding. It has action, romance, science fiction and everything in between. 

1. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (2011)
So the top entry on my list is another book by Patrick Ness - his newest novel which wa sbased on an idea by the late Siobhan Dowd. It is the story of Conor, whose mother has cancer, and the way in which he is forced to face and deal with the emotions of this. Bolstered by superb illustrations by Jim Kay, this is a tear jerking, magical read and the best young adult I have read this year. 

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