Reminder: This list refers to books I read in 2013, not necessarily books that were published only in 2013.
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
This heart-wrenching and eloquent book is one of the most moving books I’ve read in a long time. The story is memorable and the writing is luminous. Highly recommended!
Best Coming of Age:
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
This book is just excellent. It’s a coming-of-age book about two very brave sixteen-year-old teens in 1986 near Omaha, Nebraska. Everyone raves about this one, for good reason.
Attachments could have been a light, knock-it-off-quickly sort of book, but Rainbow Rowell elevates the story to make this a book you want to hug, and take to bed with you.
Fangirl is the endearing story of Cath Avery, a prolific and popular writer of fanfiction based on the novels about Simon Snow, which is a Harry-Potter-esque series.
No contest here: Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
I laughed and cried. I felt hope and despair and elation and fear. At times I wanted to put the book in the freezer. [This analogy comes from the “Friends” episode in which Rachel offers to put Little Women in the freezer for Joey, who wants to stop something from happening and/or reading that it did!] I felt ALL THE FEELINGS.
Most Romantic – YA:
Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay
This book knocked me out. The author reminds me of Melina Marchetta in the way she manages to make the characters so real and so affecting. The characterization and dialogue are excellent, and and I was extremely moved while reading it.
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
This is one of the most clever, suspenseful, and scariest post-apocalyptic books I have read to date, and I’ve read a lot of them! And yes, there are bits and pieces of a lot of other well-known books in this one, from Ender’s Game to The Stand to Divergent. But Yancey makes the tropes his own, and ups the suspense level enormously.
Best Fantasy – YA:
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman [FICTION]
I’m so happy to see this book get so much recognition, and so happy that the recognition pointed me to this book! Both Seraphina’s interior and exterior worlds are so richly imagined, and so remarkably creative, that I can’t compliment the author enough. Don’t let the idea that there be dragons here turn you off; think of them as metaphoric, which I believe they are. The characters are uniformly complex: by turns heart-warming, amusing, heart-breaking, fragile, stronger than they know, full of hurt, but full of hope.
The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power by Robert A. Caro
I can’t offer enough encomiums about this book, nor about the fabulous narration by Grover Gardner on the Brilliance Audio production. He manages to sound exactly like Lyndon Johnson when he needs to do so. There was not an instant of this story that fell flat or dragged. I was also incredibly impressed by Caro’s objectivity – he told you the good, the bad, and the ugly about both the Kennedy men and LBJ, and you never knew from one moment to the next where your sympathies would lie, because Caro never tries to push you one way or the other. It’s just the facts, maam, but delivered in a way that is riveting, exciting, nuanced and many-layered.
Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple
After reading this, I immediately emailed everyone I knew looking for a good book. This one is imaginative, funny, and poignant, with witty and penetrating social commentary that is right on target.
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
This is one of those books that is like an unexpected gift; you know from the moment you open it up that it is going to be something special. It is beautifully meditative and deeply moving, written in the first person as a stream of consciousness.
Good Dystopias Worth Mentioning
These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
The plot of this book has been used a thousand times, from The African Queen to The Titanic. Yet still we don’t grow tired of it.
Proxy by Alex London
This entertaining story adds new layers and creativity to the usual post-apocalyptic-dystopia mix.
Best Series Continuations
Fuse by Julianna Baggott
Hands down the most creative post-apocalyptic series going!
Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Fans of fairy tale retellings will love this dystopia series set in the future.
Saga, Volumes 1 and 2 by Brian K. Vaughan
This is a series in which the females are all formidable, amazing, powerful and tough, and the guys are sensitive, nurturing, and have “an appalling sense of moral relativism.” And that’s just one of the entertaining aspects of this remarkably creative and at times hilarious collection.
Other Authors I enjoyed this year: