Young Adult Education The Best YA Books of 2012 (That I Read) Kerry Winfrey

I love sitcoms more than I love most things in life, but I hate that old sitcom cop-out…the clip show. Like, sure, all of these moments are great, but I’ve seen them all already, probably multiple times! I don’t need to see them again, but this time with about 3 minutes, total, of new content that consists entirely of characters saying something like, “Remember that time…?” The only time I ever want to see a clip show is if it’s an episode of The Golden Girls, and that’s because I could watch The Golden Girls on loop for the rest of my life and never get tired of them (especially if they’re reminiscing over cheesecake).

Well, I’m sorry to do this to you, but I’m basically giving you the column version of a clip show. But just imagine it’s like an episode of The Golden Girls, and we’re all sitting around a kitchen table (it’s a really big table) and eating cheesecake, but instead of talking about Blanche’s sex life or Rose’s St. Olaf stories, we’re talking about our favorite YA books from 2012.

Also, I want to clarify that these are the best YA books of 2012 that I read. So if you’re tempted to comment with, “But you forgot…” just know that I probably didn’t forget. More than likely, I just haven’t read your suggestion yet! I am only one person. One person with an almost unnatural love of YA books, but one person just the same. In that spirit, please let me know what your favorite YA books from 2012 were. What did you love? What did I miss out on? Or, if you have any stories that start with “Picture it, Sicily, 1922…” please feel free to share those as well (I can keep this Golden Girls thing going for awhile). Without further rambling, here are my 5 favorite YA books of 2012.

5. The Downside of Being Charlie by Jenny Torres Sanchez

Here’s what I said about the book back in June:
“Jenny Torres Sanchez deals with a lot of serious issues (depression, eating disorders, bullying, etc.), but never in a heavy-handed or moralistic way. The Downside of Being Charlie never feels like an episode of Full House (no disrespect meant to Full House, of course). By the end of the book, things are starting to get better for Charlie, but his life is by no means perfect. Rather, Charlie realizes that no one’s perfect—not him, not his parents, not even Charlotte VanderKleaton—and that’s okay.”

I know I don’t write about too many male-centered books here (for one reason or another, I tend to read mostly books about the ladies), but The Downside of Being Charlie is an awesome read for anybody. I love Jenny Torres Sanchez, and I’m super excited for her new book (Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia) to come out next year!

4. Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill

This book is set in London and there’s a romance. What more can you possibly ask for?? I love this book because it’s funny, it has a super-relatable heroine, and it features a ton of romantic tension, which is my favorite thing in the entire world. Here’s a quick summary from my initial review:

“Smarty-pants Julia gets to spend her spring break in London with her teacher and some of her classmates. Julia, who’s such a literary nerd that her nickname is “Book Licker,” is stoked to see Shakespeare‘s birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon. Unfortunately, her classmates are mostly looking forward to shopping. What’s worse, Julia gets stuck with Jason Lippincott as a travel buddy. Jason is immature, annoying, and nothing like Julia’s ultimate crush, Mark.

See, Julia believes in the concept of “meant to be,” or MTB. If you’re meant to be with someone, they’ll find you. Mark may not know he’s her MTB, but Julia’s sure he’ll figure it out eventually. The problem, of course, is that Mark’s back in the states, and Jason’s idea of fun is convincing everyone she had sex with him in the airplane bathroom. But then she starts getting some weird, flirtatious texts from a mysterious British guy, Chris.”

That’s right, you guys…A SECRET ADMIRER! Lauren Morrill rules and this book is awesome.

3. Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield

Here’s my short plot summary from July:
“Becca, her high school’s salutatorian, wants nothing more than to get far, far away from her hometown. She doesn’t even look at colleges within 200 miles of Bridgeton. But when her boyfriend, James, unceremoniously breaks up with her and a dead body shows up on the side of a country road, everything changes. Now, all Becca can think about is the dead girl. Who was she? Where was she from? And, most importantly, who killed her?”

You guys, I loved Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone. I feel like I talked about this book all the damn time. It was weird and wonderful, dark and moody, and not like anything else I read all year. Sure, it’s about a murder, but it’s also about how stifling and secretive small towns can be. Plus, the cover is absolutely gorgeous.

2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Okay, so I actually never wrote about this book on HelloGiggles. Several readers sent tweets, emails, and comments asking about it. But I never wanted to write about it, for two reasons. One, I don’t think I could write about the book without giving away some major spoilers, and that’s the last thing I want to do. And two…well, what else could I say that hasn’t already been said? I mean, obviously HelloGiggles loves John Green. Everyone loves John Green. He’s awesome and funny and smart and, let’s be real, one of the best writers alive. Other than that, what else do I have to add to the conversation?

I read this book in one sitting and cried hard when I finished it. Not, like, “Oh, let me daintily wipe this tear from the corner of my eye” crying, but full-on ugly crying. That’s the power of John Green! If you know someone who doesn’t understand how great YA can be, give them this book. And then stop being their friend, because seriously, they suck.

1. Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

Technically this book came out at the end of December in 2011, but I don’t care. It’s my list! I make the rules! And anyway, most of us didn’t get our hands on this book until 2012. Here’s what I said about it earlier in the year:
“This book resonates so deeply because almost everyone has, at one time or another, gone through what Min’s going through–falling in love with someone who’s so clearly wrong for you, but going all in anyway because it seems so impossible that it couldn’t work out. How could something that feels so good go bad? How can something that seems forever end? And how could this feeling, the one that’s stronger than anything you’ve ever known, change? But it does change; that’s the thing. You just don’t know it yet because it’s the first time. Sometimes “love” just means today, not tomorrow, and sometimes “always” just means “for now.”

Why We Broke Up captures that first love/first loss feeling better than anything I’ve ever read. I got sucked into Min and Ed’s short, lovely, sad romance. Daniel Handler knows that it doesn’t matter or hurt any less just because you’re 16—love is love, no matter how brief, flawed, or doomed the relationship might be. This book is a stunner; much like Ed Slaterton, even if you think you’re ready for it, it’s gonna break your heart.”

From the second I started this book, I knew it would be one of my favorites. Daniel Handler is an incredibly gifted writer who makes Min, Ed and Al seem real. Most importantly, he makes Min’s relationship with Ed feel important without making it saccharine. I understood why Min fell head-over-heels for Ed, even though he was a giant d-bag. And then there’s the beautiful artwork by Maira Kalman! Basically, if you haven’t read this book yet, then get thee to a bookstore and pick up a copy. It’s a fantastic story and a lovely physical object. Why We Broke Up felt like the best sort of teen movie, so I was thrilled when a HelloGiggles reader told me it’s being made into a film! I can’t wait.

So there they are…my top 5 for the year. Are there things I’ve overlooked? Of course! I tend to read contemporary YA with a romantic slant, and the list definitely reflects that. But I think these books are worth reading for anyone, regardless of their preferences.

One more thing before I go: Writing for HelloGiggles over the past year has been one of the best experiences ever. It’s been incredibly fun to chat with you guys about books, and I love receiving each and every one of your comments, emails and tweets. The HelloGiggles community is really THE BEST, and that includes the readers and the lovely ladies (and a few gents) who have columns. Big thanks to all of you for always being so nice and recommending such awesome books and not telling me I’m creepy when I get emotionally invested in the romantic lives of fictional teenagers. Let’s hope 2013 is just as full of great books and swoony romances!

Now it’s your turn: What were YOUR favorite YA books from 2012? Let me know in the comment section! Or, as always, feel free to send me an email at youngadulteducation@gmail.com or find me on Twitter @KerryAnn.

Image via Open Library

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  1. Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens. The cover was a bit off-putting, but it was WONDERFUL. Also loved The Fault in Our Stars (and everything else John Green has ever written), Why We Broke Up, Every Day by David Levithan, and even though I’m not sure it was published this year, John Green and David Levithan’s collab Will Grayson, Will Grayson. I will definitely be checking out the other books in your list!

  2. I read both Stephanie Perkins books in the last week on your suggestion and I need to say THANK YOU! What good books!

    • That’s awesome, Dana! I’m so glad you liked them! They’re some of my faves.

      Kerry Winfrey | 1/04/2013 10:01 am
  3. Love that Meant to Be is on your list – that book made me so happy and I love recommending it to my bookstore customers. This year, I also really enjoyed The Diviners by Libba Bray and Something Like Normal by Trish Doller. And in a few weeks, Just One Day by Gayle Forman is being released and it’s fantastic. Definitely one you’d like.

  4. The Fault in Our Stars was great young adult fiction and I agree I too was crying like a little girl.

  5. John Green is the best YA writer in my opinion! Totally loved Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone as well!

  6. Insurgent by Veronica Roth (sequel to Divergent)

  7. Ok, my list is a bit weaker, because it is a list of my favorites of books I read IN 2012, so that means…some may have been around a bit but…

    1. The Fault in Our Stars – John Green (obvs mention–I also recommend it to YA doubters)
    2. Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher (I recommend audiobook version, makes ;the tapes’ come alive)
    3. Between – Jessica Warman (a few twists I didn’t see coming)
    4. Anna and the French Kiss – Stephanie Perkins (love love love)
    5. Legend – Marie Lu (badass)

    Also, not sure if this is YA or not, but I read The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor and it’s pretty epic. Even if you’re not like an Alice in Wonderland junkie. Just word to the bookworms :-P