The Nominees of the 2014 Goodreads Choice Awards...
Titles I've read on the YA Fiction list:
Don't Look Back, by Jennifer L. Armentrout:
There’s a sex scandal involving some photos, and while Sam is embarrassed about their circulation and certainly feels violated about their existence in the first place, she doesn’t A) feel shame about the (consensual) sexual activity, and B) it isn’t ever suggested that she should. Teen sexuality is treated frankly and without condescension, and that terrible experience is paralleled by a very healthy, loving one.
To All the Boys I've Loved Before, by Jenny Han:
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before features the premise of a standard romantic comedy—over the course of years, a girl writes letters to her crushes once they’ve become FORMER crushes; said letters accidentally get mailed en masse—and has scenes straight out of a farce, but it features a storyline and characters that are more surprising, more interesting and more well-rounded than the majority of entrants in either genre. It’s about family, about sisters, about responsibility and independence and bravery, and about growing out of friendships and crushes and about growing back into them.
I'll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson:
Their voices are stellar. As close siblings tend to be—and I’d imagine that it’s even more so with twins—they are intimately familiar with each other’s personal slang and verbal shorthand, but at the same time, their voices are completely distinct.
Better Off Friends, by Elizabeth Eulberg: Girl and guy are platonic friends, everyone always assumes that they're a couple because of the whole When Harry Met Sally question... and then, SPOILER ALERT, they get together. So, it's basically a He Said, She Said romantic comedy. Light and mostly gentle and for me, forgettable enough that I never got around to even mentioning it until now.
We Were Liars, by e. lockhart:
Happily, in We Were Liars, guessing the twist early on (which I did, because Guessing Twists Early is one of my Superpowers, which is, like, the MOST BORING AND ANNOYING SUPERPOWER EVER, but I digress) doesn't detract—the book doesn't hinge on the reader's surprise, and reading it whilst In The Know actually allowed me to appreciate how well-crafted the whole thing was.
Titles I've read on the YA SF/F list:
These Broken Stars, by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner:
For the most part, These Broken Stars is a solid entry into the rapidly growing YA space opera field. In terms of character, plotting and worldbuilding, it’s not as rich or well-developed as Beth Revis’ Across the Universe, and in terms of pure emotion, it’s not as gutting as Cori McCarthy’s The Color of Rain, but it’ll hold its own against other angst-heavy, romance-centric stories about opposites attracting.
The Kiss of Deception, by Mary E. Pearson:
There's action and romance and romantic complications; the characters are smart and strong and the emotions are palpable; the focus seamlessly shifts from Lia to the Prince to the Assassin and back again; the worldbuilding and creation of multiple cultures is super; the details about daily life are just as compelling as the action sequences. As you'd expect from a girl who's grown up a princess, Lia is capable of being QUITE imperious when roused as well as QUITE bossy, but she's also wonderfully stubborn and hugely empathetic and even if I didn't always AGREE with her decisions, I understood them. There are threads about family and duty and friendship, and OH MY STARS, IF YOU LIKE HIGH FANTASY, THEN JUST READ IT.
Heir of Fire, by Sarah J. Maas: I haven't written about this one because I want to re-read it to see if my first impressions were accurate... but my basic take-away was that Maas' writing, character development, portrayal of complex emotion, and her world-building have all improved exponentially since her first book. BUT. Like I said, I want to go back and re-read before writing about it at length.