Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best of 2011: Top 5 Books (From Childhood)

I have posted about my top books of 2011 in a variety of places, not least of which is this blog itself. While I could talk about those books a LOT, I don't want to sound like a broken record, so I'm going to switch up the prompt a little. My apologies to our fearless leader, Sarah Enni. I will bake you something to make up for it.

But, in case you wanted a recap, here are my top 5 books released in 2011:

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin.

Rock on, ladies!

So, instead: My Top 5 Recommended Books from My Childhood

(These are probably more MG than YA, because I don't recall that distinction being so clear when I was young, although perhaps I just wasn't aware of it.)

1. Sabriel by Garth Nix (And all the Abhorsen books, actually)

Since childhood, Sabriel has lived outside the walls of the Old Kingdom, away from the power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead who refuse to stay dead. But now her father, the Mage Abhorson, is missing, and Sabriel must cross into that world to find him. With Mogget, whose feline form hides a powerful, perhaps malevolent spirit, and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage, Sabriel travels deep into the Old Kingdom. There she confronts an evil that threatens much more than her life, and comes face to face with her own hidden destiny.

Now that I've read fantasy a little more widely, I realize just how unique the world of this book is. There are bells that summon people/things back from death. There's a race of people who see the future. There's a talking cat. I read these books over and over again. Suddenly I want to read them again...

2. The Trial of Ana Cotman by Vivien Alcock

New in town, Anna Cotman wants nothing more than to find a friend. But when bossy Lindy Miller persuades her to join her older brother's secret society, Anna becomes uneasy. She knows that beneath the secret codes, strange rituals, and frightening masks, the society is just a game. But when Anna breaks the rules and is threatened with punishment, she finds the game has gotten seriously out of hand.

Also incredibly unique. May have fed my obsession with categories.

3. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

At birth, Ella is inadvertently cursed by an imprudent young fairy named Lucinda, who bestows on her the "gift" of obedience. Anything anyone tells her to do, Ella must obey. Another girl might have been cowed by this affliction, but not feisty Ella: "Instead of making me docile, Lucinda's curse made a rebel of me. Or perhaps I was that way naturally." When her beloved mother dies, leaving her in the care of a mostly absent and avaricious father, and later, a loathsome stepmother and two treacherous stepsisters, Ella's life and well-being seem to be in grave peril. But her intelligence and saucy nature keep her in good stead as she sets out on a quest for freedom and self-discovery as she tries to track down Lucinda to undo the curse, fending off ogres, befriending elves, and falling in love with a prince along the way.  

First of all: ignore the movie with Anne Hathaway. (Some of you may have liked that movie, but I did not.) Second of all: I remember getting so frustrated alongside Ella as her awful stepsister takes advantage of her, and cheering (maybe aloud) at the end. And in retrospect, I love how the author plays with "docile fairy tale girl" themes and turns them on their head.

4. Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech

Mary Lou Finney is less than excited about her assignment to keep a journal over the summer. Boring! Then cousin Carl Ray comes to stay with her family, and what starts out as the dull dog days of summer quickly turns into the wildest roller coaster ride of all time. How was Mary Lou suppose to know what would happen with Carl Ray and the ring? Or with her boy-crazy best friend Beth Ann? Or with (sigh) the permanently pink Alex Cheevey? Suddenly a boring school project becomes a record of the most exciting, incredible, unbelievable summer of Mary Lou's life. But what if her teacher actually does read her journal? 

Oh, Sharon Creech. You are amazing. Also, I remember a really strong "Odyssey" theme to this book, and it was really well done. (side note: this book is not silly, as that summary might suggest. At least, it sort of does to me.)

5. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race's next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn't make the cut--young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender's skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.

Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender's two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.

So. The author of this book? Not the kind of guy I want to hang out with. He's made some public remarks that I do not think are okay. At all. (Google it if you want to know.) But I do think the book is amazing and creative and disturbing in a good way, and it got me into reading sci-fi when I was younger, so I'm still recommending it.

Tomorrow I'll be talking about recommended books-- but this time, books that were recommended to me frequently in 2011.

Annnd everyone else said...

Caroline Richmond


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