Great 2011 Books to Gift

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I have to admit that I haven’t read as much fiction this year as usual. It’s just been one of those stressful years where reading has unfortunately taken a back seat. But I started thinking about Christmas coming up and what I have read this year that I’d love to pass along for my family and friends to enjoy. Here are the new young adult novels published in 2011 that have wowed me.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

This book felt like the rich, authentic fishermen-island setting of Katherine Patterson’s Jacob Have I Loved, but with the tenacious spunk of Puck Connolly and the sagacious reticence of Sean Kendrick — two characters who instantly endeared themselves to me. I’d recommend this to everyone, both those who love Stiefvater’s other books and those who haven’t liked or haven’t read them. This is by far her best and it shines brilliantly.

If that doesn’t convince you, read this review at Angieville or the snippets of starred reviews on Stiefvater’s site. I’m not the only one who thinks this is one of the best books of the year.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

National Book Award finalist Laini Taylor is one of my favorite authors because of her ability to create intricate, fully realized worlds and to describe them in sentences I savor. This novel does that again with not one but three complex interconnected worlds, complete with compelling mythologies and cultures, and the story takes gut-wrenching twists that made me gasp. My one and only complaint is that it ends on a cliffhanger, waiting for a sequel to wrap it up. Of the four books I’m listing in this post, this one is the only novel with mature content, so I’d recommend it for older teens and up. The story is so apocryphal and unique they’ll be spellbound.

The publishers have set up a gorgeous website with news of all the starred reviews and “best books of 2011” designations this novel has already received plus free previews of chapters, characters, etc.

Leviathan, Behemoth and Goliath trilogy by Scott Westerfeld

These are the kind of books that can be enjoyed by anyone, guy or girl, teen or adult. I handed the first to my 20-year-old brother and he declared he was instantly hooked. My 25-year-old sister read all three as fast as she could get her hands on the next. And her middle-school students are loving the series too. What makes these books so fun and interesting is the steam punk genre: an early 20th century world full of fabricated animals and steam-powered machines, which I posted about here.

Entwined by Heather Dixon

Anyone who loves fairytale retellings needs to read this one! It’s like The Secret Garden meets, well, a nuanced version of the awesome storyboard humor of Heather Dixon. Heather’s sense of humor and background as a storyboard artist bring the twelve dancing princesses to life in the greatest ways. As I said in a blog post called “Showing Character” back in the spring, Heather never has to stop and explain things, you just understand by the expressions or dialogue or actions — even by the sounds. The scenes tug your heart in two directions, knowing how much each side is hurting and misunderstanding the other, while keeping a subtle humor alive and well. I loved everything about it, especially it’s wide age appeal: eight-year-old girls would be enthralled as much as I was as an adult. It’s wonderful.

What 2011 books are at the top of your gift list? Or what older books are you still buying for book lovers in your life?

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