As I was preparing my post for the YA Debut Author Giveaway Hop, I was checking out my reviewing stats to see how many debut books I read in 2013. This year I read 40, while last year I read 64.
But I'm excited to report that this year, I've read four out of five of the Morris nominated YA books. I even picked one of them as a prize for my stop on the Hop. But I really enjoyed all four, and will tell you a little about each one…
Summary from Morris announcement: When Maude Pichon moved to Paris, she never dreamed she would end up working for the Durandeau Agency as a “repoussoir”—a foil for society’s elite who believe a plain face alongside them makes them look more beautiful. A countess hires Maude as a companion for her daughter, Isabelle, but as the girls’ friendship grows, Maude finds herself torn between her integrity and her livelihood.Excerpt from my June 8 review: Beautifully written and thoroughly researched, Belle Epoque was inspired by a short story by Émile Zola called Les Repoussoirs. In the story, a salesman rents out unattractive girls to serve as companions for young society women on the marriage market, making their employers seem lovelier by comparison.The story opens as Maude -- who has fled to Paris to escape an unappealing arranged marriage -- answers a newspaper ad and learns about the repoussoir concept. At first, she's insulted and horrified, but she needs the money and eventually accepts a job as companion to Isabelle, the daughter of a countess. Belle Epoque is rich in sensory description and full of wonderful details about turn-of-the-century Paris.
Summary from Morris announcement: Drew, also known as “Win,” has been isolated in a New Hampshire boarding school since he was 12. Though he excels at both academics and athletics, he is concealing a horrific secret that has driven him to the brink of madness. With the help of his friends, can Win confront the beast within him before it’s too late?
Excerpt from my July Goodreads review: An intriguing and well-written book that alternates chapters between Win/Drew's present life at a Vermont boarding school and his past as a ten year-old. Though there are a few very familiar YA tropes here -- a main character who is an outcast at a tony New England boarding school, and a murdered teenager -- this book definitely puts an original spin on them.
Based on the clues that were given (some very strange interactions between Drew and his family, the book's title and chapter subtitles, which I think are physics terms, plus the fact that this book reminded me of a 2009 YA book -- don't want to say more as that would be a spoiler for both books) I was able to figure out the big mystery about half-way through the book. I really liked the unique spin that Charm and Strange put on all the genre, the way the book was structured, and the writing. Again, I don't want to say much, because part of the pleasure of this book is trying to put all the pieces together. And even when you've done that, this book will still have you thinking…
Summary from Morris announcement: At the height of the Spanish flu pandemic, WWI, and the Spiritualism movement, outspoken Mary Shelley Black is adrift in a fear-ravaged San Diego. While her childhood friend Stephen challenges her heart, his antagonistic spirit-photographer brother, Julius, represents everything her scientific mind abhors. When the unthinkable happens, how will Mary Shelley endure the unbearable losses, not to mention the evolution of her supernatural abilities?
Excerpt from my April 1 review: In the Shadow of Blackbirds is a unique and haunting story. Mary Shelley Black is smart and stubborn and a little rebellious, and you can literally feel her chafing against the limitations on women in 1918, a time in which men had gone off to war, but most American women were still not allowed to vote. In the Shadow of Blackbirds takes some real and fascinating issues of the time -- World War I, the Spanish Influenza epidemic, and spiritualist photography -- and weaves them together in a story that is both incredibly gripping and truly spooky. I highly recommend this one if you're feeling like you need something really fresh and different, if you're a lover of historical fiction and/or ghost stories, or if you just love a good story, compellingly told.
Summary from Morris announcement: Evan Carter bounces from school to school—he has no friends and views girls as nothing more than a means to sexual release. When a brutal attack leaves him physically and mentally broken, Evan must evaluate what matters in his life and learn how to “accept responsibility, but not blame.”
Also nominated, but I did not read:
Summary from Morris announcement: James has a lot on his plate: strained relationships, a fractured family, and an all-consuming anxiety. He deals with depression by hugging trees, “yawp”-ing at the world like his idol Walt Whitman, and conversing with his imaginary therapist—a pigeon named Dr. Bird.