Best reads of the year, 2014 edition!

It’s time for Alison’s Best Reads of the Year Awards!

The rules are as follows:

1) I must have read these books for the first time in 2014, though they don’t need to have been published in 2014.

2) Books I read as ARCs or manuscripts prior to 2014 do not count, even if they came out in 2014. Sorry, critique partners!

3) Books are listed in no particular order.

4) I am not allowed to choose more than five books per category, but I can choose fewer.

5) Books may receive more than one award.

Here we go!



Everything Leads to You, Nina Lacour

Complicit, Stephanie Kuehn

I’ll Give You The Sun, Jandy Nelson

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, A. S. King

The Summer Prince, Alaya Dawn Johnson

(extremely close runner up: Wildlife, Fiona Wood. Good lord, I’m already cheating.)



The Secret Hum of a Daisy, Tracy Holczer

A Snicker of Magic, Natalie Lloyd

All Four Stars, Tara Dairman

Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson

Hook’s Revenge, Heidi Schulz



The Rehearsal, Eleanor Catton

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P, Adelle Waldman

Dear Daughter, Elizabeth Little

Tell the Wolves I’m Home, Carol Rifka Brunt

Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver



Vampires in the Lemon Grove, Karen Russell

Stone Mattress, Margaret Atwood

Tenth of December, George Saunders



This One Summer, Mariko and Jillian Tamaki

Saga, Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples

Sex Criminals, Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky

Blankets, Craig Thomas



Fiction Ruined My Family, Jeanne Darst

How to Be a Woman, Caitlin Moran

Yes, Please, Amy Poehler

Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy, Melissa Milgrom


And now for the special awards!


THE HAPPY-CRY AWARD: Isla and the Happily Ever After, Stephanie Perkins. I don’t want to spoil anything by telling you why, but some people appear in this book that I was just SO HAPPY TO SEE. I’ve only experienced this specific emotional reaction one other time, which was when I read Bitterblue. I have never cried with happiness upon seeing someone in real life.

MOST SATISFYING REREAD: Prep, Curtis Sittenfeld. I read this book a really long time ago, before I was writing myself, and I didn’t appreciate how completely freaking brilliant it is. This book isn’t technically YA, but if you write contemporary YA, you absolutely must read it. Curtis Sittenfeld is one of the most astute writers I’ve ever discovered.

GORGEOUS COVER AWARD: The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mattheiu and Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.

THE WTF AWARD: Grasshopper Jungle, Andrew Smith. This is not to say I didn’t like this book; I enjoyed it a lot. But I don’t think I’ve ever had such an intense “WTF DID I JUST READ???” moment as I did when I finished this book.

THE “WHY DID I WAIT SO LONG??” AWARD: Blankets, Craig Thomas. People have been talking about this book for AGES, but because it’s so large and heavy and expensive and there was such a long wait for it at the library, I never picked it up. That was a huge mistake. It is astonishing.

THE MOST DELIGHTFUL AWARD: Don’t Even Think About It, Sarah Mlynowski. This book is so clever, so funny, and so well executed. I’m furious that I didn’t think of the idea first. It reads like Sarah Mlynowski had the best time ever writing it.

THE MOST BELIEVABLE CHARACTERS AWARD: Wildlife, Fiona Wood. The characters in this book were perhaps the most realistically flawed people I’ve ever read. Every single time one of them made a choice, I was like, “Yup, that’s a terrible choice, and that’s EXACTLY what she would do.” I’m in awe of Fiona Wood.

THE “WHY CAN’T I WRITE SENTENCES LIKE THAT?” AWARD: Blue Lily, Lily Blue, Maggie Stiefvater. Not that much actually happens in this book, but I didn’t even care. It was still one of my most enjoyable reads of the year.

THE “WHY IS THIS YA?” AWARD: Midwinterblood, Marcus Sedgwick. This book won the Printz Award this past year, and I really liked it… but I cannot for the life of me figure out why it’s sold as YA. If anyone has any theories, I’d love to hear them.

THE “WHY ISN’T THIS YA?” AWARD: Tell The Wolves I’m Home, Carol Rifka Brunt. This book is amazing, but I can’t find a single reason why it was published as adult. Help.

THE “TIES YOUR BRAIN IN KNOTS” AWARD: The Rehearsal, Eleanor Catton. This book is half about an event and half about a play about that event, and it’s often impossible to tell whether you’re reading about a performance or not. Anyone who’s interested in the blurry lines between reality and art must read this book.

THE “BOOK I WANT TO SHOVE IN EVERYONE’S FACES” AWARD: This One Summer, Jillian and Mariko Tamaki. This quiet, gorgeous graphic novel is perfect in every way, in my opinion. I can’t wait to read it over and over and over and over.

Hope you all had an excellent year of reading, and I can’t wait to dig into my TBR pile for 2015!