Looking back at my year in reading is always a fun and enlightening trip down memory lane. I review less than half of what I actually read, due to pesky time-consuming things like work and my own writing. I try to give space to new authors, trends, interesting work, and my personal favourites. In retrospect, 2012 was a year of great YA but not enough middle grade. Let 2013 be a year of great middle grade! I also seem to be developing a taste for steampunk…
Susin Nielsen finally gets the literary cred she deserves with her Governor-General award for the wonderful The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen. The topic of bullying is approaching saturation point in children’s books (it’s so widespread it has become it’s own sub-genre, one that I have written in myself) but Nielsen balances the bullying with friendship, awkward almost-romance, and humour.
The Peculiar was a beautifully told, harrowing tale of changeling children being hunted in a re-imagined Victorian Bath. With political undertones and visceral prose, it also marked the arrival of a hot young talent in Stefan Bachmann.
Middle grade graphic novel Drama deepened my love for author/illustrator Raina Telgemeier. Her work is always frank, funny, and positive without feeling cheesy or too after-school-special-y. I wish someone would give her animated TV series already.
Splendors & Glooms defies categorization. I’d love for people to read it and tell me what THEY thought. Middle grade? YA? Gothic horror? Fairytale? It is masterful, haunting, and yet another feather in Laura Amy Schlitz’s impressive literary cap.
Code Name Verity knocked my socks off and took me back to my youth when I couldn’t get enough novels set in WWII. An excellent, page-turning mystery that is also a beautiful novel about female friendships.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post was so flawless I couldn’t believe it was a debut novel. It is probably the novel I have recommended the most to a vast range of people this year. I meant it when I said it was a new classic, right up there with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn . I cannot wait to see what author emily m. danforth does next.
Masque of the Red Death was an unexpected gem. I don’t go in for love triangles, but this one was hard to resist. I loved the decrepit Paris meets New Orleans setting, and the vaguely steampunk-ish elements were well developed and made for some excellent escapist reading.
Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls by middle grade horror author Mary Downing Hahn is the kind of book that leaves you unsettled after reading it. Based on a true incident in the author’s past, it examines the after-effects of a shocking murder on a group of teens in the 1950s. Part true-crime, part coming-of-age, part-period piece, this novel stuck with me for a long time.
And of course Sorta Like a Rock Star, which was not a 2012 release but I read it this year and loved it so much I could not exclude it from the list. I have since forced this miracle of a book on many friends and coworkers and all of them felt just as strongly as I did. Read it! You won’t regret it.
I also read quite a few adult books. You can check out some of my favourites on Goodreads:
The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones
The Emperor of Paris by C.S. Richardson
How To Be a Woman by Caitlan Moran
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carla Rifka Brunt
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
Stray Love by Kyo Maclear
Above All Things by Tanis Rideout
Magnified World by Grace O’Connell
The Power of Why by Amanda Lang
The West End Front by Matthew Quick