Below appear some of our favorite reads from our reviews of the last twelve months, regardless of when the books in question came out. The order in which the books appear below is alphabetical, by title. Each link from a book title takes you to a full review (in all but one case, at The Book Book); and each link from a reviewer's name will take you to his or her own Web site.
My nomination goes to Anna and The French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. It's YA Contemporary. From the review at Claire Dawn's site:
Stephanie Perkins has the strange and dubious distinction of being the first author to ever make me cry in the acknowledgements.
To her husband, Jarrod: "Thank you for being you, because you are my favorite."
If that's not a person meant to write teen romance, I don't know who is.
Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver
Samantha Kingston dies in a car accident after a party one night, then keeps waking up to the same day over and over again -- the day she dies. The only way to end this cycle is to figure out who and what needs to be saved. Her life? Her reputation? Her friends? Or maybe it's that someone/something she'd never noticed until she'd been forced to relive the same events day in and day out.
I selected this book as my favorite because the story has stuck with me long after finishing the read. Oliver's writing style and storytelling skills are in a class all their own.
In The Convent by Panos Karnezis, six nuns inhabiting a decaying Spanish convent find a baby in their midst, and the seeming equilibrium of their lives is shattered by jealousy and madness. A simply-told tale with chilling undertones.
Tender Morsels, by Margo Lanagan, is nominally a YA fairy tale which you may not choose to share with your children when they're very young. (And I wouldn't blame you.) But its dark, dark surface masks a gentle and whimsical -- even playful -- heart, and it rewarded me on every page. A powerful, wrenching story, told in an exhilarating melange of not-quite-medieval English, set in a world at the very border of real and fantastic.
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, by David Mitchell
Set in 1799 on an artificial island off the coast of Nagasaki, Japan, this novel is a story of the Dutch East India Company, Tokugawa Japan, colonialism, oppressed minority Christians, slavery, love, medical history, forgotten religious sects, miscegenation, racism, and war. Mitchell flexes his brawny fictic muscles for 400 pages here, and doesn't cut his readers any slack, so don't embark lightly. But if you have the chance to read and savor it, The Thousand Autumns may rock your world like it did mine.