Monday, December 23, 2013

YA Guy Lists... His 2013 Top Ten!

As YA Guy (the blog) nears the end of its first calendar year, YA Guy (the person) decided to try something new: my top 10 novels of 2013!

A few notes about this list. First, it’s not in any kind of order; I find it entirely too stressful to try to rank-order 10 books I loved. Second, not all of the books on the list were published in 2013 (though some were); they just happen to be books I read in 2013. And finally, I decided not to list books I’ve already reviewed on this blog, so many of the books that might have appeared on this list--such as Chris Howard’s Rootless, Erin Bowman’s Taken, and Scott Blagden’s Dear Life, You Suck--didn’t make it. This has tended to skew the list toward fantasy and science fiction, since most of my favorite realist books of 2013--including Eliot Schrefer's Endangered , Benjamin Alire Saenz's Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, and Nathan Filer's Where the Moon Isn't--have already been reviewed on the blog. I hope you’ll spend some time searching the blog for individual reviews of these (and other) great YA books.

And now, without further fuss… YA Guy’s Top 10 of 2013!

M. T. Anderson, Feed. An unbelievably (yet all-too-believably) dark and dire vision of a future in which everyone has the “feed”--the equivalent of the internet--implanted directly in their brains, turning us into a society of perpetual shoppers, trivia junkies, and entertainment addicts. In other words, what we already are. Anderson’s voice alone will blow you away.

John Green, The Fault in Our Stars. Confession: I didn’t particularly like Green’s Looking for Alaska; I found the title character far less intriguing and mysterious than she needed to be to sustain the narrative. But TFiOS is everything it’s cracked up to be: hilarious, poignant, wry, quirky, fresh, real, heartbreaking yet unsentimental. If Green never writes another novel, he’ll have earned his place in history with this one.

Julianna Baggott, Pure. A nightmarish post-apocalyptic vision of a world in which thermonuclear bombs have fused people’s bodies with everyday technologies, bits of junk, and the landscape itself, this book will keep you riveted with its unsparing detail, harrowing plot, and hauntingly beautiful prose.

Meagan Spooner, Skylark. Spooner’s debut envisions a society in which magic has become a technology and a commodity, a source of power for a post-industrial city and a means of keeping people human. An appealing generic hybrid, Skylark combines elements of dystopian, steampunk, and straight-up fantasy. The sequel, Shadowlark, is pretty darn good too.

J. Barton Mitchell, Midnight City. I loved this alien-invasion novel in which the visitors to Earth control humanity via a device called the Tone, a telepathic signal that turns everyone over a certain age into a mindless slave. Creepy, original, and fast-paced. And the sequel, The Severed Tower, looks promising as well.

Heather Anastasiu, Glitch.  A bit like Feed, this dystopian novel concerns a society in which everyone is plugged into a network that controls their thoughts and behavior. But where Feed goes for satire and social commentary, Glitch moves more in the direction of action and romance. Call it The Matrix for the YA crowd.

Imogen Howson, Linked. This science fiction novel features great world-building, a driving plot, and a budding romance that’s truly earned through shared struggle and sacrifice. It also features a character who’s simultaneously sympathetic and scary, something we don’t see enough of in YA, where the line between good guys and bad tends to be more cleanly drawn.

Jerry Spinelli, Milkweed. A Holocaust story told through the eyes of a five-year-old street urchin, this book achieves what many such stories can’t: a genuinely na├»ve narrator whose dawning awareness of the horrors around him serves as an education for the young reader. And the spare, lovely prose will make you weep.

Markus Zusak, The Book Thief. Yes, it’s too long (about a hundred pages so). Yes, its language can be overly self-conscious. And yes, its attempt to humanize those who cheered on the Nazi war machine was a bit hard to take. But at the same time, it is breathtakingly beautiful, and its central characters, the book thief herself and her adoptive father, are among the greatest I’ve ever encountered in YA.

Aline Sax and Caryl Strzelecki, The War within These Walls. I realize this is my third straight Holocaust book, but so be it. Combining words and images, this novelization of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising will take you no more than a couple hours to read. But you’ll never forget it.

So there you have it. I’d love to hear your comments, and I’d love even more to hear your suggestions. What should YA Guy be reading in 2014?


  1. Great list, Josh! I've only actually read on of those books (The Fault in Our Stars) but several of the others are in my to-read list. Have you read The Keys to the Kingdom series by Garth Nix? It's so imaginative and fun!

  2. I'm definitely going to need to get reading!! LOL! ;)

    1. Just wait until you see my 2014 "to-read" list!