My favorite novels have beautiful writing that doesn't distract from the story. I enjoy diverse, quirky characters who see the world from fresh viewpoints or take me to exotic locations. I usually prefer realistic contemporary fiction but there are exceptions. My list includes some of my favorite authors as well as debuts. The title links will take you to my full reviews.
EUPHORIA by Lily King was the best novel I read this year. Anthropologist Margaret Mead's time in New Guinea inspired this fictional story. King is one of my favorite authors and this is her best book so far. Follow the link to my full review and my author interview for the story behind the story.
THE BONE CLOCKS by David Mitchell is impossible to categorize. This ambitious novel follows a woman from her teenaged years in the 1980s into a world ravished by climate change. There's a paranormal plot line too. Read Mitchell and you'll understand why he's another favorite author.
The ten-year-old sister who stole The Sound and the Fury from her older sister:
"Over the past two weeks she's worked her way through it, savoring the words like a cherry Life Saver tucked inside her cheek."
YOUNG ADULT FICTION
"How would I survive alone? It has been the question of my life, and I'm still no closer to the answer."This terrifying, literary page-turner gave me nightmares, but I couldn't stop reading. Luc is one of my favorite characters in young adult literature. At possibly thirteen (his birthday was long forgotten) Luc is a young protagonist for teen readers, but he acts more mature out of necessity. The professor, with his aspirations of being an African Jane Goodall, was intriguing too. The apes were as well developed as the human characters but not anthropomorphized, which is hard to find in children's books. The setting felt tactile and real. It was beautifully written too.
Schrefer, who clearly did his research, delivers a strong wildlife conservation message while acknowledging human needs in developing countries. This story is educational but entertaining and would appeal to animal lovers and especially to boys who like adventure stories and don't mind gore.
Schrefer's ENDANGERED (2013) with its female protagonist and a matriarchy of bonobo chimpanzees would be a better pick for a girl. Both of his books were nominated for the National Book Award and have many fans among adult readers. Schrefer is at work on a third great ape novel. I can't wait to read it.
GOING OVER by Beth Kephart is the best book by one of my favorite young adult authors. In this Cold War romance, the Berlin Wall stands between two star-crossed teenagers. The novel brings history to life for teens in this real world dystopia. The literary writing and adult characters broaden the appeal to an older audience.
FAR FROM YOU by Tess Sharpe was a strong debut with an original voice. A car accident leaves Sophie limping and addicted to painkillers, but she won't let her disabilities stop her from finding the murderer of her best friend. It was well written but not easy to read. Teens would love the edgy content. I like this book even better now, months later, on reflection.
MIDDLE GRADE NONFICTION
BROWN GIRL DREAMING is a powerful memoir in verse by children's author Jacqueline Woodson. Readers of all ages will appreciate her personal reflections on the legacy of discrimination and on the joy of writing. It won the National Book Award for Juvenile Literature.
Reviewer's Disclosure: Lily King's daughters go to school with my daughter and Beth Kephart is a blog buddy, but they did not ask me to review their books. I received free review galleys of Going Over and Far From You from the publishers. The other books I purchased at independent bookstores.
Promising 2014 novels in my To Be Read stack:
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (the historical novel topping most best books lists)
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer (satirical fiction)
The Remedy for Love by Bill Roorbach (contemporary fiction by a Maine author)
I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (contemporary YA fiction on many best books lists)
A Moment Comes by Jennifer Bradbury (historical YA fiction set in India)
Blind by Rachel DeWoskin (contemporary YA debut)
No Surrender Soldier by Christine Kohler (historical YA fiction set in Guam)