Sunday, December 30, 2012

Best of 2012: YA Contemporary

I read a ton of books this year, most of them contemporary. I branched out into some more adult stuff this year, especially romances, but at least with YA, I stayed very largely in the contemporary section. Which made picking this list insanely challenging, because wow did I totally love so, so many books I read. Still, including the 2012 contemp releases I read as ARCs in 2011, here's my top picks of the year. And while I intended to pick 12... it was too hard. So here's 15. You know, three to grow on?

15. Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson: Heartbreaking and beautiful, this is a grief novel folded into a finding yourself concept with a sweet romance around the edges. There is something so honest about this one, so highly emotional and engaging. Add in the strong family component, and this one is breathtaking.

14. Burning Blue by Paul Griffin: The plotting in this is brilliant, but more so, I loved the main character and the narration. This is a thriller mystery mixed with an across the tracks style romance, with two characters who seem ill-fitted for more reasons than their social standing, yet it works so, so well.

13. Never Enough by Denise Jaden: I love this one for all the issues it covers, without being obvious about covering them. From body image and self esteem, to first love and other firsts, this one is so relatable and endearing. It's one of those books readers will find parts of themselves in, no matter what, and it's a book that left me stunned.

12. Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf: This one amazed me with the potency and layers, and it's intensity. While there are some secrets kept for later, much is laid out from the start and built from there. Mixing a few different elements, and having a high emotional impact, this one is easily on my favorites shelf.

11. Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols: This one wins for my favorite Jennifer Echols book so far, which is saying something. But Leah is an amazing character, and the feel of this one was so different from much of what's out there. From her pilot status to the back story and other elements mixed in, and the seriously hot, sizzling off the pages romance and tension, this one has all the things I love in a book.

10. Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie: This one wins, first and foremost, for the voice. There is something so immediate and so affecting about the way it's written, and so very obviously teenage boy but also... THIS teenage boy. The anger, the confusion, the hurt. It's all there, along with a host of other things. There's some raw truths to this one, as well, and it's one of those books that challenges your way of thinking.

9. Butter by Erin Jade Lange: For all the ways I love when a book eviscerates me, I love just as much when one can tackle some rough issues with grace and humor, and this is one of those. Butter is a witty, fun character, yet he also is far from perfect and not just because of the weight issue. There is something so painful about his mindset at times, and even the premise of this one is just downright heartbreaking. I connected hard to this book, and it left me feeling all sorts of things in the end, even if the story had me laughing out loud constantly.

8. Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry: Holy hot kisses. This book has some of the Best. Kisses. Ever. But more so, I adore Echo and Noah. They each have their own intense, heartbreaking, and amazingly well done stories, and adding to it is as how those stories start to weave together. With great writing and strong voice, set alongside all the heat of their budding relationship and the pain each brings along as well, there is a hard hitting but fabulous must read.

7. The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour: This one of those books that, in truth, I can't accurately explain all the ways I love it so much. It's the voice, the way Colby is so obviously boy and yet somehow not, somehow more emotional, more feeling, more softened. It's Colby himself, the way he sees things, the hurts he feels, the mistakes he makes. And it's the story, the trials and the mishaps and the sweetness and the fun. This book is so many levels of Kari perfection wrapped into one beautifully scripted story.

6. Out of Reach by Carrie Arcos: Unfortunately, the biggest reason I adore this book would be a spoiler. But suffice it to say it's in the ending and the journey to it. This book isn't just about the effects on the rest of the family when someone falls into drugs, yet so much centers back to that as well. There's romance without really seeming like a romance. There's pain and hurt and confusion, morphed into an awkward understanding without making the hurt go away. This one is one of those books that says so much in such a short time, and kept me thinking about it for weeks after I was done.

5. If I  Lie by Corrine Jackson: Again, one of the main things I love is related to the ending, but Quinn is one of the strongest, most well done characters I've read, and this entire book had me hooked. It is so intensely emotional, so engaging from the start. Throwing some pretty big questions at the reader, this is also one of those books that challenges you, and stays with you long after you're done.

4. Live Through This by Mindi Scott: This book captivated me from the first time I've read it, and while I admit I did beta read this one, that isn't why it's on this list. Truly, this book got to me, enamored me. More than anything, I love the gray areas this one explores, how abuse maybe doesn't always look like abuse, how sometimes it's not just shame or even a sense of deserving that keeps someone silent. But on top of that, I love how even with what's going on in private, the rougher things Coley is dealing with, she's not shut down by it. She still has problems with her friends, she's still falling for an adorkable and sweet boy. She's still just a normal teenage girl on the outside. And somehow, as the story progresses, all that is mixed up, tested and messed with, and the end result is a book that left me gutted without me noticing the knife ever slipping in.

3. 34 Pieces of You by Carmen Rodrigues: This book broke me. Both times I read it. I felt so, so much for these characters, loved and hated them. Wanting them to somehow get past all that's happened. But Jake, especially, got in my head. He is such a broken mess, so lost and unsure and damaged. And this book is so honest, so realistic, that things are far from perfect and happy in the end. There is so much in this book, both on the pages and between the lines, and add in how all three POV's weave together, and this book is breathtaking and stunning and awing.

2. In Honor by Jessi Kirby: I'm going to be honest and say Rusty is a huge part of my intense love for this book. He is everything I love in a book character. Broken, messy, cocky and kind of a jerk on the outside, mushy and sweet on the inside. He doesn't in any way have his crap together, he doesn't even really know how to go about getting it together. But he's still, inside, a good guy. He's caring, and he's thoughtful. And the way Honor brings that out of him, but more so the things he brings out in her, the way they both handle their grief, sometimes in some pretty heartbreaking ways, just got to me. This is a book I've read 3 times, and one I'll read several more. It's stunningly written, and has such an impacting story even without it being a long book.

1. Something Like Normal by Trish Doller: This is basically the epitome of a perfect Kari book. Absolutely amazing male POV. A guy who is hard on the outside, mushy on the inside. A guy who has this incredible sense of loyalty and honor, yet is his own kind of lost and unsure. Then there's the romance, a slow burn yet not lacking heat at all. A girl I admittedly have a girl crush on, who can hold her own yet isn't overbearing. A story that is, in the end, about just trying to figure things out and work through some crap without having to walk away with everything perfectly lined up. And more. There is so much in this book, so many levels and layers and emotions and feelings. Cute mixed with pain, humor mixed with honesty. I adore this book, for these and probably a million other reasons.

So those are my top contemp picks of 2012. What are some of yours?


  1. I've read 11 of these, and the ones I haven't read have already been on my TBR lizt for a while. YA contemporary is my favorite genre.

  2. SO many of these are at the top of my TBR and I can't wait to read them!! My favorite contemp of the year was THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green, but since I generally don't buy hardcovers, I'm always a year behind. I except that most of these will end up on my faves list once I finally get to them!

  3. I'm incredibly honored, Kari. Thank you so much.

  4. I'm incredibly honored, Kari. Thank you so much.

  5. Love the list! Thank you for being such a champion of 34 Pieces of You.