Publishers Weekly does a very handy periodic list called The Stars So Far, which lists all the YA and children's books that have garnered starred reviews in certain print publications that year. I thought I'd do a similar list for YA and middle grade speculative fiction books that were published in 2013.
A disclaimer: I haven't read very many of these books myself, and I've been holding off on writing reviews of any of them until after the Detcon1 YSF Awards
are given, so none of this contains my personal opinion.
Reviews are funny things. People who write them are trained to be objective and thoughtful, but they're ultimately personal opinions. This means that sometimes people will have really different opinions about a particular book. I love it when I read six reviews, two of which are super-negative and four of which are super-positive; it's just an indication that the book has touched someone personally -- which is the wish of most authors. So please, take this list with a grain of salt. Just because a book has positive reviews does not mean you
will like it, or that it is right for your library.
You can also find this list on Goodreads
, but it doesn't note how many stars a book has received, nor does it include the snippets from reviews. A PDF printable version is here
labeled MG are middle grade (ages 8-11); otherwise they are YA.
review sources include Book Links, Book Report, Booklist, Bulletin of the
Center for Children’s Books, Choice, Christian Library Journal, Criticas, Horn
Book, Kirkus, Kliatt, Library Journal, Library Talk, Publishers Weekly, School
Library Journal and VOYA.
Holly. Doll Bones. MG
melancholy, elegiac and ultimately hopeful; a small gem."
Holly. The Coldest Girl in
and dangerous, bloody and brilliant."
Tom. Far, Far Away.
figures and situations glimmer through McNeal's small-town American cast like
love story, part mystery, part horror, this is as much about the twisting hand
of fate as it is about the mutability of folktales."
Sage. Jinx. MG
literary cut above Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl books but with no less tension or
Gail. Etiquette &
supernatural-meets-steampunk world full of action and wit."
Kate. Flora and Ulysses. MG
touching and oh-so-funny tale starring an endearingly implausible superhero and
a not-so-cynical girl."
Robin. Dark Triumph.
intricate, masterful page-turner about politics, treachery, religion, love and
Bennett. September Girls.
isn’t just a supernatural beach read; it’s a rare and lovely novel, deserving
of attention from discriminating readers."
Jaclyn. A Corner of White.
characters help readers navigate a tantalizingly complex plot."
Maggie. The Dream Thieves.
pace is electric, the prose marvelously sure-footed and strong, but it's the
complicated characters... that meld magic and reality into an engrossing,
Susann. The Kingdom of Little Wounds.
brutality, eloquence, and scope are a breathtaking combination."
Lauren. Perfect Ruin.
the first page, readers will be enticed by Morgan’s voice, precise in its
descriptions yet filled with curiosity."
Catherine. How to Catch A
period melodrama replete with colorful characters, narrow squeaks and explosions
of ectoplasmic goo."
Alaya Dawn. The Summer Prince.
with political turmoil and seeped in culture, this unique and highly
fantastical dystopian romance is both intriguing and imaginative."
the oversaturated dystopian market, Champion stands out for its suspenseful
story and broad appeal."
Melina. Quintana of Charyn.
of Megan Whelan Turner and Elizabeth Wein should find this exceptional series
and affecting, completely coherent and oddly irresistible. It is a brilliant
science fiction/fantasy, part political machinations with a hint of
unsettling, complex and multilayered."
Paul. Battling Boy.
masterful nod to the [superhero graphic novel] genre."
Robin. The Waking Dark.
novel works just as well as mainstream horror as YA, and the ending is both
effective and brutal."
Cat. In the Shadow of Blackbirds.
just the right balance between history and ghost story, neatly capturing the
tenor of the times, as growing scientific inquiry collided with heightened
Rick. The 5th Wave.
War of the Worlds, part Starship Troopers, part Invasion of the Body Snatchers,
and part The Stand."
Rae. The Bitter Kingdom.
action-packed and thoughtful end to an ambitious series."
brazen, polemical novel that riffs on contemporary issues."
Nancy. The Lord of Opium.
literature has changed significantly since the first book [House of the
Scorpion], but this sequel is still a cut above the rest."
Karen. The Midnight Dress.
lyric and unexpected."
Lisa. A Tangle of Knots. MG
and intricate, rich with humor and insight, this quietly magical adventure
Gareth P. Constable and Toop.
complex, richly textured tale that will satisfy patient readers."
Sarah. All Our Pretty Songs.
otherworldly and heartbreaking."
Chris. The Watcher in the Shadows.
touch of Chabon, a hiss of steampunk, and a blast of originality."
Anne. A Box of Gargoyles.
flavorful mille-feuille with equally tasty layers of dark magic, light comedy
and salty determination."
Patrick. More Than This.
delicate balance between dystopian survival and philosophical grappling."
Brandon. The Rithmatist.
well-crafted mix of action and setup, enriched by a thoroughly detailed
cultural and historical background and capped by a distinctly unsettling
Polly. The Wells Bequest.
clever, sparky adventure made of science fiction, philosophy and humor."
Sherri L. Orleans.
bleak setting becomes a tableau for lifes basics: survival and sacrifice,
compassion and greed."
terrific suspense with thoughtful depth when the bombs really do fall in this
alternate-history Cuban missile crisis thriller."
creative concept, skillful dialogue and vivid characters."
April Genevieve. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.
this one to fans of creepy mysteries, particularly tales that don't skimp on
the violence. They'll appreciate the conclusion's heart-pounding, bile-rising
Anne. The Real Boy.
fondly remind readers of Gail Carson Levine's Ella Enchanted (HarperCollins,
1997) and Meg from Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time."
Catherynne. The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two.
layered imagery draws deeply from the fairy-tale canon as well as Valente's
accessibly explored moral ramifications of future technologies with a strong,
capable teen heroine and heart-pounding action."
Suzanne. The Program.
lovers of dystopian romance, this gripping tale is a tormented look at identity
and a dark trip down Lost-Memory Lane."
Sarah. The Golden Girl.
the mythology of the Celtic fairy tradition into 1930s Hollywood."
John David. Sidekicked.
Avengers meets Louis Sachar."
charming and life-affirming, supernatural style."
Leigh. Siege and Storm.
three-dimensional characters and an involving plot that keeps a steady pace.”
Laura. The Outside. Amish
horror story with heart and soul.”
gory, thrilling vision of the twilight of the gods, in all their pettiness and
Megan. The Water Castle.
fascinating questions about the possibilities of science."
Erin. Sorrow's Knot.
lovely gem, dark and quiet as the dead but glimmering with life as well."
grounded and wonderous.”
Caroline. Magic Marks the Spot.
silly, rollicking good time."
Joelle. The Testing.
romance, intrigue, and a plausible dystopian premise into a near-flawless
Cinda Williams. The Enchanter Heir.
smoldering story soaked in tears, sweat and blood, constantly threatening to
blaze into an inferno. Spellbinding."
Andrea and David Levithan. Invisibility.
child of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Levithan's Every Day."
to satisfy fans of the dystopian-romance genre."
Kimberly Newton. Beholding Bee.
first-person account and slow understanding allow for a smooth transition from
realism to fantasy."
Adam. The Grimm Conclusion
story-mongering, with traditional and original tropes artfully
Ari. The Path of Names.
Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay for kids."
Pete. The Cydonian Pyramid.
of ancient Mayan sacrifices and political intrigue, the book will have fans of
historical fiction and science fiction thinking through the motives and
concepts of this smoothly layered adventure."
Christopher. The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle.
banter, amusing characters, and seat-of-your-pants action."
Karen. When We Wake.
thoughtful and compelling--science fiction done right."
Amy. The Time Fetch.
characterization and fantastical invention."
sensuous version of Alice's adventures for the Hot Topic crowd."
roller-coaster ride into space."
Charles de. The Cats of Tanglewood Forest.
satisfyingly folkloric, old-fashioned--feeling fable."
Kathryn. A Dash of Magic.
will enjoy accompanying these kitchen magicians on their Parisian adventure."
David. Backward Glass.
the complex threads of adventure as they come together through the multitude of
intertwined journeys is a joy."
plot and strong world-building are this sequel's strengths."
a more satisfying readalike experience for fans interested in [the dystopian]
Sarah J. Crown of Midnight.
plot, dishy romance, and rich world building."
T. Michael. The End Games.
story is not all zombie fun and games; it is brutal bordering on horrific, and
it packs an emotional wallop."
Maile. The Apprentices.
enough magic, chaste romance and humor to appeal to middle-grade readers
richly textured first novel deserves to be widely read."
dystopian tour de force."
Amy Christine. Gated.
complex, intriguing tale rooted in real-world events."
Brennan, Sarah. Untold.
whopping dose of girl detective-style sleuthing make this series a refreshing
take on the paranormal romance genre."
Beth. Shades of Earth.
has brought real and immediate emotions to sci-fi scenarios."
dialogue, bizarre plot twists, high-intensity action, and a touch of mystery
Megan. The Madman's Daughter.
sticks fairly close to Wells's Island of Dr. Moreau but furthers her story's
appeal with sweeping romance."
Liesl. Rump: The True Story of Rumplestiltskin.
picaresque-style narrative gives the maligned character a refreshingly
plainspoken voice, while honoring the original story's hauntingly strange
Jonathan. Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase.
wry, practical voice counterpoints the suspenseful supernatural goings-on in
this rollicking series-opener, which strikes just the right balance between
creepiness and hilarity."
Crisitin. All Our Yesterdays.
travel done right... Powerful emotional relationships and tight plotting."
Sherry. The Burning Sky
blend of magic, gender-bending disguise, and self-sacrificial longing will
satisfy fantasy lovers."
of real-world and fantasy, the focus on family, and the tale of a young woman
overcoming what seem like incredible odds."
Kasie. Pivot Point.
appeal to those who enjoy the [paranormal] genre, and it is a welcome change
from vampires and zombies."
Kiersten. Mind Games.
effective paranormal thriller."
fast-paced, fever-bright post-apocalyptic adventure."
headlong, and occasionally tongue in cheek, and the narrative's dark moments
never get too scary because everything else is so much fun."
If I missed any, please let me know!
Labels: dystopian fiction, fantasy, horror, science fiction, speculative fiction, stars so far