The criteria for selecting 2017’s six books of the year were quite straightforward: no sequels, no prequels and no retreads of old ground. Our six YA titles are outstanding standalone novels that impressed with their original plots and characters, and outstanding storytelling. They were fresh, inventive and. at times, visionary. And they were very entertaining.
A House Without Mirrors is a tight, cleverly written haunted-house mystery that is best read with the lights turned down low. There are no cobwebs, chain-rattling spirits or creaking doors in Marten Sanden’s disturbing story, but it doesn’t need any of the clichés of spooky storytelling to send shivers up the reader’s spine. This is a short novel that really packs a ghostly punch.
Debut novels don’t come any more impressive than Lauren’s Wolk’s Wolf Hollow, which had readers and critics reaching for superlatives. A teenage girl at odds with the rural community in which she lives and a very unpleasant psychotic bully who decides to target her make this a disturbing but outstanding YA read. Comparisons to the great To Kill a Mockingbird are not lazy exaggerations. In a nutshell, Wolk’s novel stuns, and the good news is that there is more of this new author to come in the new year.
Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar takes us into the Mexican-American dessert, and tells the story of teenager Carol and her grandfather. Carol’s dysfunctional family are breaking up and selling grandfather Serge’s run-down farm. Tensions rise between the old man and his towny family as the desert heat drains them all of energy. This intergenerational story is a gripping read.
Letters From the Lighthouse is a exhilarating read for those who like historical mysteries. The setting is Britain at the start of the second world war. Emma Carroll expertly evokes the period, and the mystery story she tells is a clever one. Secrets and dark goings-on crowd round teenager Olive Bradshaw and her eight year-old brother Cliff as they are packed off to live in a sleepy seaside town away from the nightly bombings in London. Carroll mixes together a fascinating historical background and a electrifying fictional plot in this nail-biting thriller.
The Hunger Games, To Kill A Mockingbird, Pride and Prejudice and other books we can read over and over again - what's yours?
At the centre of Patrick Ness’s Release is an ordinary American teenager coming to terms with being gay. Adam Thorn is the son of an evangelist preacher, and his parents have high expectations of him. And one of those is not being gay. Ness’ frank and moving novel follows Adam through the course of one life-changing Saturday. This is a true and intense story, stunningly told, and full of hope and honest story-telling.
And on a lighter note, A Place Called Perfect is an entertaining and original tale about a young girl moving to a new town where everyone wears special spectacles and where everything is perfectly ordered and sunnily happy. What’s going on? It’s great fun finding out in Helena Duggan’s witty and lively treat.
It’s been a wonderful year for bookworms, and there’s already plenty to look forward to in 2018, with the second in Philip Pullman’s Book of Dust trilogy, releases from Cassandra Clare (The Mortal Instruments), Holly Black (The Spiderwick Chronicles) and Veronica Roth (Divergent), and some exciting debuts featuring POC characters. Happy reading!