Sunday, 16 December 2012

Books of 2012: My Highlights

A lot of great books hit the shelves in 2012. Some highly-anticipated novels left many readers underwhelmed, while other quiet debuts proved that you don't have to have a well-known name to write a quality piece of fiction. 2012 also saw the welcome return of much-loved author Marian Keyes and brought British expat Jane Green briefly back to her native England.

This year, Young Adult fiction became my new favourite genre. Having adored the imagination and complexity of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, I had been searching for something to fill that void. The release of the Hunger Games film earlier in the year sent me to the book trilogy and I managed to devour all three in a very short space of time. It was similar in plot to that of Battle Royale (one of my favourite films!) but it brought a sick reality TV element that made it all the more sinister in its glamour. The Suzanne Collins trilogy was simply the beginning of my YA enjoyment this year though, with an impressive debut from Louisa Reid and a dramatic change in style from world-renowned author Jodi Picoult.

Firstly, Reid's dark book Black Heart Blue blew me away. There is nothing worse than finding something written for teenagers that is filled with a patronising attitude and simplicity - as if they are incapable of grasping anything more. There is none of that here as Reid deals with abuse, neglect and disability with grace and intelligence. The book, about the twin left behind after the death of her beautiful, more socially accepted, sister, is heartbreaking but gripping in its style. An eye-opener that promises more exciting work from an immensely talented author.

Completely different in style to Black Heart Blue, Picoult teamed up with her teenage daughter Samantha Van Leer to write the simply magical Between the Lines. The story, which sees the division between reader and fictional character blurred, saw a teenage girl fall for a character in a book - who wants nothing more than to leave his world and join hers. With gorgeous images in the margins and an utterly captivating and imaginative story, it's pure unadulterated escapism. A delight.

Another impressive debut this year came from Karen Thompson Walker who took a slow and menacing apocalyptic look at the end of the world in The Age of Miracles. It's completely captivating throughout and the prose is just gorgeous.

For the more adult reads this year, highlights have included Jane Green's The Patchwork Marriage, Dorothy Koomson's The Rose Petal Beach and the welcome return of Marian Keyes with her first novel in a few years, Mystery of Mercy Close. Green handled the contemporary issue of blended families with impartiality and understanding. Koomson brought a hidden darkness and humanity to a mystery and Keyes brought her own battle with depression into a courageous book about Helen Walsh.

2012 was also the year when Novelicious creator, Kirsty Greenwood, self-published her hilarious debut novel, Yours Truly. The book is filled with northern charm, humour and endearing characters. The premise - that Natalie Butterworth, people-pleaser and all round wallflower, is hypnotised into telling the truth - is inspired and loses nothing in the execution.

For the even more adult readers, of course, this was the year of 'mummy porn' Fifty Shades of Grey. The writing of this phenomenon was poor but the book was a guilty pleasure enjoyed by millions of readers across the world. The series spawned lots of copycats who tried to follow on from the success of E.L. James's books but only one managed to come close. With the creation of her crossfire series - which began with Bared to You - Sylvia Day created a brilliantly written tale of two dysfunctional people far more equal in their partnership. It's dramatic, naughty and devilishly exciting. Well worth a read.

What have your book highlights been for 2012? Share your tips in the comments below...

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