Another year has (nearly) come and gone, and that means it’s time to look back at the books we’ve reviewed in 2014—all 250 of them. (Guys. We really like books.)
Not all of these books were good, mind you, and not all of them were new, but we’ve culled through the rest (i.e., the books that were both new and good) to present to you … our favorite reads of 2014!
Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
Meg Wolitzer’s first foray into young adult literature is a deeply compelling exploration of grief and the power of words. After her boyfriend’s sudden and tragic death, Jam Gallahue is sent to recover at The Wooden Barn, a boarding school/therapy center, where she enrolls in a mysterious class called Special Topics in English. Sylvia Plath figures heavily in this beautifully atmospheric novel, but it’s not all gloom and doom thanks to the dynamic energy of Wolitzer’s storytelling. I loved this book so much, I nominated it as a future FYA Book Club selection so that I can force everyone to read it.
Seconded by: Jennie
Guy in Real Life by Steve Brezenoff
Following the unlikely romance between a metalhead dude (Lesh) and a Dungeon Master (D&D) gal (Lana), Steve Brezenoff’s novel is so much more than a great premise. It’s funny, it’s subversive, and it explores gender in surprising and nuanced ways. Plus, I’m a sucker for geek culture, and the chapters on Lana and Lesh’s imaginary lives—D&D and MMORPG, respectively—were fascinating, not to mention fun. If you’re a member of an FYA Book Club, you can look forward to devouring this sucker in April. (If you’re sensing a pattern here, it’s because I’m not afraid to abuse my power.)
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
The fact that I quoted seven different passages in my review of this book should tell you that, when it comes to packing a punch, Jandy Nelson’s word skills are masterful. In this gorgeously captivating novel, twins Noah and Jude grapple with serious loss and, subsequently, the deterioration of their relationship. Noah shares his narrative at age 13, while Jude tells her story three years later, and their voices are electrifying and raw. Filled with piercing insights and vivid emotion, I’ll Give You the Sun will break your heart … and you’ll be thankful for it.
Seconded by: Jennie
The Infinite Sea (The 5th Wave #2) by Rick Yancey
When you love a book as much as I loved The Fifth Wave, you always approach the sequel with equal amounts of excitement and fear. Fortunately, with The Infinite Sea, I had nothing to worry about. It’s just as pulse-pounding and intense as its predecessor, and Yancey resoundingly beat the Bridge Book Blues by developing supporting characters and throwing some major curveballs. I read this book back in September, and I’m still nursing a raging case of TEABS. Don’t bother asking me when the next book is coming out because IT’S LIKE A YEAR AWAY AND I CAN’T EVEN.
The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer
In her wildly entertaining novel, Kate Hattermer combines a performing arts high school, reality TV, Ezra Pound and a gerbil named Baconnaise. The nerdtastic hero, Ethan, is awkwardly charming and hilariously self-deprecating, while Hattermer’s dialogue is snappy and clever, resulting in a lighthearted yet thoughtful read. Also, major snaps for the use of a long poem as a plot device.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
This book absolutely slayed me. Lockhart weaves a mesmerizing tale of innocence lost set against a backdrop of upper class constraints and family secrets. Two years after suffering from a serious head injury on her family’s island, Cadence Sinclair finally returns to the scene of the accident to piece together her shattered memories, only to discover that her mind isn’t the only thing that’s fractured. There’s a powerful turbulence to this novel that lurks beneath its well-manicured characters and their WASP-y dialogue, and it builds to a climax that will knock the wind right out of you.
Seconded by: Jennie
Honorable Mention: Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle
By far the juicest romance of the year. This book has THE BEST premise, and the only thing that should stop you from consuming it in one sitting is the fact that we have to wait like a year for the sequel, Truly Madly Famously. TEAM JORDAN.
Mandy W.’s Picks:
100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith
I’ve read a lot of Andrew Smith books this year, but his latest novel is unquestionably my fave so far. Finn Easton’s hilarious and insightful perspective of the world is unlike anyone else’s that I’ve ever read. I could stay on Finn’s road trip with his BFF, Cade Hernandez, for infinite miles. (P.S. CALL ME, CADE.)
Isla and the Happily Ever After (Anna and the French Kiss #3) by Stephanie Perkins
Is it even possible to think of a Stephanie Perkins romance without unconsciously, dreamily sighing? The Anna and the French Kiss books come full circle with a return to the City of Lights, following the exhilarating and swoontastic relationship of Isla and Josh. And there juuuust might be a cameo for those who have been following this series.
Seconded by: Jennie
Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan
Josie Sheridan’s intelligence is perhaps only matched by her wit—which, if you’re following this formula, equals a delightfully unique voice that had me highlighting quotes all over the place. And Josie’s a nerd! A three-dimensional nerd who’s obsessed with languages! So obvs, I love her something fierce.
To All the Boys I've Loved Before (To All the Boys I've Loved Before #1) by Jenny Han
Lara Jean Song might be a goody-goody, but she’s the goody-goody fictional BFF I wish I had growing up. Us sheltered girls need a heroine, too! Plus: I compared this book to my beloved The Mindy Project, y’all. I would never take Mindy Lahiri’s name in vain, HOW DARE YOU.
The Winner’s Curse (The Winner's Trilogy #1) by Marie Rutkoski
I hopped onto this bandwagon relatively late, although I def. noticed the effusive praise it had been receiving around the blogosphere. It didn’t take long for me to discover why; Marie Rutkoski’s fantasy series starter lives up to the hype FO’ SHO—to the point where I flexed my FYA Book Club muscle to make this an upcoming pick. Thank goodness I set my cover bias aside to say yes to the (misleading) Fancy Dress.
Seconded by: Jennie
Mandy C.’s Picks:
Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer
You might think it would be silly to introduce yet another major character in the third book in a four and a half (Fairest only counts as #3.5 in the series) book series, but in this book, Marissa Meyer introduces a great addition to the larger Lunar Chronicles team (Cinder, Kai, Scarlet and Wolf)—as well as a perfect foil to Captain Carswell Thorne. I’m really going to be sad when this series comes to completion next year.
Jackaby by Will Ritter
I can’t say enough good things about Will Ritter’s debut historical fantasy novel about an oddball consulting detective with a penchant for long coats and scarves (no, not that one), his self-reliant and sharp-eyed assistant and the wacky situations they find themselves in. I sincerely hope there’s more to come from this team.
Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
I don’t often read a lot of contemporary fiction (see above and below) but Nina LaCour’s book certainly holds its own amidst my darling fantasy and scifi books. The story of a young woman’s search for love and an unexpected quest, the novel is funny, swoony and also introduced me to a career that I’d love to have when I grow up: set designer for the movie industry.
The Kiss of Deception (The Remnant Chronicles #1) by Mary E. Pearson
Although the cover is a little freaky, Mary E. Pearson’s novel is filled to the brim with fantastical themes—all set in a dystopian America that’s reverted to feudalism. Plus magic! And assassins! And swoon! And a surprise twist that’ll leave you wanting more.
A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird #1) by Claudia Gray
This book belongs on my best of list solely for its cover, but, thankfully, the story within makes the book even more worthy. The story of a young woman who’s the “normal” one in a family full of geniuses, this novel involves vengeance quests, dimensional travel, mistaken identities and grandiose conspiracies—it’s what some might call “a fast-paced thrill ride.” Oh, and the swoon is not to be missed.
The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling #1) by Erika Johansen
As evidenced by the other books on my list, I can’t resist a fantasy story with a kickass heroine. Erika Johansen’s novel checks those boxes and then some. Plus: The aforementioned heroine has a love of books that rivals mine. (Major pants, lady friend.) I’d be remiss not to mention, however, that this is one of those books that crosses the YA and adult genres; some scenes are way too mature for younger readers, or those who might be adversely affected by adult themes such as rape, abuse and slavery.
Red Rising (Red Rising Trilogy #1) by Pierce Brown
Pierce Brown’s science fantasy novel about a brewing caste revolution “reminiscent of Hunger Games and Game of Thrones” that takes place on Mars (phew!) reads much like a movie … which is appropriate given Brown’s career as a screenwriter. Happily, this book stands on its own two feet. Warning, however: This is another of those “Is it YA? Is it adult?” books that’s very graphic in its detail of adult themes.
The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley
For anyone whose coming-of-age soundtrack had a heavy grunge component, this book will blow you away. Newcomer Jessie Ann Foley’s beautifully written novel intertwines all my favorite things: grunge rock, beautiful Irish boys, Europe, and the thrill of going on a musical pilgrimage. It’s so bittersweet and gorgeous that it’s no surprise that it’s making all the Best Of YA lists this year. Hands down, this is my favorite standalone YA book from 2014.
Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper
Seething with anger and oppressive Victorian mores, when you read Kendall Kulper’s debut, you can practically hear waves crashing on the shore. Avery’s race to either claim her birthright and become the Roe witch—or die—is full of rich imagery and one seriously sexy love scene.
Adam by Ariel Schrag
Tart, crisply written, and darkly hilarious, this story is about a boy who pretends to be a transgender man in order to win the heart of a lesbian young woman. The titular Adam’s heart of gold wars with his seventeen-year-old sex drive, to poignant and often hilarious results.
The Thing I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know by Brent Hartinger
For those of us who first met Russel Middlebrook as an awkward teen, just coming to grip with his sexuality, it’s nice to see him as a young man, fully confident and just as awkward.
Renegade (Elemental #3) by Antony John
The long awaited third installment of the Elemental series, this one does not disappoint. It’s got pirates in it!
Press Play by Eric Devine
An overweight kid decides to get revenge on the lacrosse team bullies by secretly filming their brutal hazing. They’ll see the humor in that, right?
Feral by Holly Schindler
Creepy as hell murder mystery set in Missouri.
Every Inferno by Johanna Parkhurst
A young man tries to figure out who killed his parents when he was a little boy, as well as coming to grips with his own sexuality.
The Art of Secrets by James Klise
When a valuable work of art vanishes from a school, everyone teams together, looks for clues, and totally blames everyone else.
Torn Away by Jennifer Brown
A young girl loses her mother and sister to a tornado. Then things start to get rough.
Now that you’ve read our picks, what say you, FYAers? Did we miss any of your top books from 2014? Let us know in the comments!