Sometime during summer the cat thought 2013 would be a really weak reading year. And there have been some major disappointments and some serious stinkers this year, for sure. I didn’t care for Allegiant (the last in Veronica Roth’s Divergent series). I definitely thought Lauren Myracle’s The Infinite Moment of Us was the biggest disappointment of 2013. I thought Melvin Burgess’s The Hit totally stank. I honestly don’t understand how people could rate books like Where She Went or Virtuosity more than, “Mèh, they’re OK…-ish.”
But, more than anything the books I read in 2013 have convinced me that there’s one thing I just can’t take anymore and that’s… mediocrity. I absolutely hate it when it seems like there’s no effort in the book I’m reading. And most of all, I want to see personality in the words I’m reading, I don’t just want to see craftsmanship (although it’s a big plus, obviously!), I want to see balls! I want to read character – not as in a well-rounded character or protagonist (although, again, that’s obviously a major plus), but as in: show me what you’ve got, show me your stuff, show me your fucking talent! Take a risk, don’t play it safe and show me you care. Your book doesn’t have to be perfect, but I want to see you care. I want to see authenticity and honesty and intellect in the writing. I want you to be an author, not just a writer. If that makes me a book snob, then so be it.
I absolutely loathe carelessness and disinterest when it comes to the book I’m reading. If you only write half a character, then don’t put that character into your book. If you only have half a plot, or dozens of half-assed developed plots, then cut them short and focus on the essential. If you show me fake sentiment, cheap thrills, or go for the lowest common denominator I really don’t care much about what you write. If you write a book because that’s what people happen to do these days or because they want to sit at the cool kids’ table, or if you write a book because a book packager has this great idea of what will work and sell, I cannot take you seriously.
So… on to 2013 and the books and authors that passed the one and only true feline test of authenticity! (books published in 2013 will be indicated in bold)
For the cat 2013 was absolutely the year of Andrew Smith, no question about it… I read all his 6 published books in 2013, starting with The Marbury Lens in February and ending with (his debut) Ghost Medicine in October. An absolutely highpoint was Winger in June. But also Passenger, Stick and In the Path of Falling Objects showed me the talent of a true author: fierce and intense, an authentic voice amidst an ocean of average wannabes. He does not always turn out ‘perfect’ books, but they always – always – make an indelible impression. I cannot wait for Grasshopper Jungle in February 2014!
If I mention Andrew Smith, I cannot not mention A.S. King, and not just because she pointed me in the direction of Andrew Smith. In October Reality Boy once again proved how she can see through the bullshit and is one of the most – if not the most – open and caring authors out there these days. She rocks and she’s my hero. And she writes like no other. Respect.
I have one book on my bookshelf, unread, that I’m afraid to touch, because I know that if I do, that’s it… I won’t have any left of that author and what will I do then, if I don’t have one of his books to fall back on… The first book to leave me completely drained and shattered this year was Adam Rapp’s 33 Snowfish. Rapp is the master of voice and in 33 Snowfish, stream-of-consciousness is the logical narrative device to carry the characters’ voices, giving the novel a certain cadence and musicality that is unique in YA literature today. Looking back on 2013, I do think that it’s not a big leap from liking Adam Rapp to liking Andrew Smith’s novels, though, in that both go places where very few YA authors dare to go. Again, balls, man, balls! *
One author showed that “Yes, it’s really OK” to have obvious literary ambitions as a YA author, and that’s David Levithan. His Two Boys Kissing was important not just because of its topic, but also because of its narration: daring and poetic. David Levithan definitely showed his talent once again in 2013!
Adam Rapp, Andrew Smith, A.S. King or David Levithan… these people are so good I want to keep them a secret, but I realize that wouldn’t be fair, so if you buy someone a book for Christmas this year, then make it one of their books… but if you have more money to spend, then there are definitely a couple of other authors and books that made 2013 worthwhile reading-wise:
I figured out you can’t go wrong with Chris Crutcher (Deadline, Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, Whale Talk) or with garden gnomes on book covers (Jordan Sonnenblick’s Notes from the Midnight Driver).
I don’t understand why Gregory Galloway’s The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand didn’t get more recognition. Well, I do understand, but I don’t get it… I read two extremely good debuts this year, namely Jesse Andrews’ Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, and Evan Roskos’ Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets . And Matthew Quick also confirmed this year that he’s so incredibly good at describing feelings of isolation from the world in Please Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock . But he doesn’t revel in the despair but shows what it means not to get stuck in that isolation and hopelessness.
I didn’t read a lot of Middle Grade fiction, this year, but what I read was excellent:
- Gary D. Schmidt’s Okay for Now, which is MG and YA of course, because Gary D. Schmidt is just absolutely boss and can do no harm. Ever.
- Anthony McGowan’s Hello Darkness confirmed that McGowan is the funniest British MG and YA writer around these days.
- Jo Knowles’ See You at Harry’s scores big on integrity and humaneness (although I just noticed, I didn’t write a review of it).
- Paul Zindel’s The Pigman: how good is this book! Totally withstands the test of time!
2013 isn’t over yet, and I’m still reading a few books, but it’s already very obvious that this ‘best of 2013’ or how you want to call it, isn’t the most standard of ‘best of YA lists’ of 2013…** but I don’t care, this is what I read, this is what I like. Take it or leave it.
*I totally get that I’m not being very woman-friendly here. But then, I don’t want to be PC. Fuck that shit 😉
** Yes, I only have 2 women in my ‘list’, but what women they are!