1. Sequins, Secrets, and Silver Linings (Threads #1)
This Cybils nominee was not appealing to me. I didn't like the cover, the title, or the fact that it's all about fashion. But I had it laying around and, hey, someone on the YA panel had to read it. So I picked it up, not expecting to even make it through (I'm being very honest here, as you can tell) and was so surprised to find out that I actually... liked it. It was cute. It was funny. I cared about the characters and their story. I read the whole thing. I went online to see when the next books in this series are going to be published in the US (answer: not soon enough!) I liked - loved - this book so much that it made my I Heart Daily list of the best YA of 2011. I sincerely recommend it to anyone wanting a cute and funny story that's full of heart. Liking or understanding the fashion world is not required, thank goodness.
(Warning: this bit includes a possible spoiler.) This was another Cybils nominee and all I knew going into it was that it was supposed to be about a hate crime in a small town. I hadn't enjoyed Lauren Myracle's TTYL series and went into this one very ambivalently, but it was so incredibly different from what I was expecting. This book was not nearly so much about homosexuality, hate crimes, and acceptance (though there was that) as it was about (POSSIBLE SPOILER!!) meth use in a small town. The ways this subject was explored was fascinating and really really devastating. One of the most powerful, and definitely brutal books, I've read. It's a very real topic that's not tackled much (or at all?) in YA and I was not expecting this sort of read from Myracle. I'm wary to recommend this because it does handle some very touchy topics, but for those interested and who think they can handle it, it's a worthwhile read for sure.
3. Anna and the French Kiss
This book had so much buzz behind it. Every blogger I talked to absolutely L-O-V-E-D loved it. Everyone wanted to live in Paris. Everyone wanted to marry St. Claire. Everyone went gaga over the writing. People called it perfect. It's fairly often that I just don't get the books that everyone else seems to adore, so I was super-wary of this one. I waited to buy it until I could get it for $5, which shows how I felt about reading it. I was pretty sure I wouldn't like it. I was pretty sure it would, at the very very best, fail to live up to the buzz. In a crazy twist: the book was good. The book was awesome. The book was, somehow, EVEN BETTER THAN EVERYONE KEPT TELLING ME. I freakin love this book. LOVE!! It's brilliant! It's amazing! I'm not even exaggerating. I know I shouldn't hype it so much but I just can't help myself. I was surprised to realize that this book is, yes, perfect.
4. Small Town Sinners
It's not that I didn't think I'd like this one, but there were certain things I expected to happen. I expected the protagonist to fall in love with a bad boy. I expected her to do a 180 on her faith. I expected her best friend to be the typical rebellious YA "best friend" who mocks the main character for her good-girl ways. NONE OF THAT HAPPENED. And I was thrilled. Instead of being stereotypes or even just types, the characters in this book are realistic and fully developed. They weren't what I thought they'd be. And besides that (maybe because of that?) I liked the book so much more than I thought I would.
5. Okay For Now
Gary D. Schmidt
Another book I read for the Cybils and another one where I really didn't know what to expect. I know that I had a feeling I would like it, but like it in that sort of bland, it's-okay sort of way. But this book. OMG. I hesitate to call it beautiful, because the writing isn't really that pretty. It's a slow-moving story with tons of characters and storylines. But somehow it just worked. I fell into Doug's 1960's world and the small town his story takes place in. It surprised me with one of the sweetest love stories I've read yet, especially in a younger YA book with a male protagonist. I didn't expect to love this book, but I did.
So, what books surprised you (in a good way) this year? & what do you think of my picks?