This was a good year for science fiction. On the SFF scale, I’ve always leaned more towards fantasy. Lately though, the YA fantasy field has been overcrowded with paranormal books (which really aren’t my thing). There just haven’t been many well-written books along the lines of Graceling (where the magic doesn’t occur in our own world). Science fiction is a different story. It started with the dystopia movement and I’m pleased to say it’s progressed beyond that subgenre to some straight-up old school scifi goodness. The trend continues beyond this year. I am very much looking forward to it.
All of that is to say there were some real standouts in science fiction this year. In fact, despite my deep and abiding love for all things dystopian, the standout sci fi novels weren’t dystopias. Of course, my favorite book of the year was a fantasy, and a paranormal one at that…
Best book of 2011: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
No need to recap why – I’ve said it at least half a dozen times already.
There are a smattering of runners-up, and here is where the sci fi shines: Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan, A Long Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan (which I didn’t review, but Kelly did), and Tankborn by Karen Sandler. Karen Healey’s moving fantasy The Shattering and A. S. King’s literary novel Everybody Sees the Ants round out my top picks of the year.
Even the almost-great science fiction offerings were better than usual: Variant by Robison Wells, Divergent by Veronica Roth, and Ashes by Ilsa Bick all exceeded my expectations. Keep it up, authors. The science fiction field is so fertile for new and genuinely innovative stuff. I except to see some of that in 2012.
Book I most look forward to sharing in 2012: Cinder by Marissa Meyer
If Cinder is any indication, my wish for 2012 will be granted. Look for a review of this very early next year. I know it’s been getting a lot of buzz. It’s deserved.
Most anticipated sequel of 2012: Spark by Amy Kathleen Ryan (July) and the sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone (September) are neck and neck here. Insurgent (May) is a solid third, but I don’t feel the itch to get my hands on it like I do the others.
These two share the dubious honor in this category, but for very different reasons. Chime was almost the polar opposite of what I enjoy in a book, whereas Dust and Decay was well-written and exciting but too much of a rehash of the first book in the series to be in satisfying.
Cutest: Long Tail Kitty by Lark Pien
By a long shot. Is there anything cuter than this book? No, there is not. Dare I say it – it might be even cuter than some of your children. (This is a 2009 book, but I read it this year, so I’m including it.)
Best surprise: Clarity by Kim Harrington
I was so surprised – and pleased – by how much I enjoyed this mystery with a paranormal twist. Clare’s voice is among the best I read all year.
Book most in need of some judicious editing: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
It had potential. When I’m at my most grandiose, I like to think I could have whipped this book into shape. And then I remember that writing and editing are always harder than they seem.