As the year draws to an end, I though it was about time to sum up my favourite books of the year. This list started out as a top 5 but quickly expanded to a top 12. What you will find below are the first 6 (in no particular order) of my top books of the year. Full reviews can be found by clicking the book covers.
There is no doubting that this is a very dark book. In fact, the black cover, pages and illustrations set that tone from the outset. Told through two parallel stories, a diary and a graphic novel, the book tells the stories of Mary and Ella. As the book progresses, there is more and more overlap between the two leading to the climax (and warning for the future). Topics covered range from bullying, social exclusion, selective mutism and neglect. It challenged me to think deep and left me having an emotional response like I haven’t had for a long time.
This is a rip-roaring Victorian adventure set in Cardiff. Told from the perspective of Nansi, a young girl working in a theatre, we follow her on her quest to reunite with her mother. The book draws the reader in with its fast pace and by creating vivid images of the setting. The squalid conditions aren’t glossed over, neither is the sinister nature of Nanci’s existence. The characters, especially Sid, are superbly crafted.
There’s no better recommendation than the children in my class hanging onto every word as the book drew to its conclusion.
Meet Alex, a teenager whose OCD causes him distress everytime he leaves the house. Now meet Dan who takes out his frustrations on Alex. Their personalities both become tested when the boys’ mothers arrange for them to spend most weekends together. Cue an unlikely friendship and an exploration of different mental health issues. This was never meant to be an action-packed thriller. It is a book which challenges the reader to empathise with two opposing characters and to watch them find their place in the world.
As a child I remember asking what would happen if the world ran out of water. I was told under no circumstances could this ever happen. Fast forward twenty years and I found myself reading a book with that very premise. It hardly ever rains, there is a water shortage and the world is at war because of this. Add this to the fact the protagonist is a bit quirky and instantly I was instantly hooked. As the plot drew to its emotional and thought-provoking conclusion, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. An extraordinary tale of friendship and one with an ending that left a warm glow of satisfaction.
Here is a whodunnit with a twist. Matthew suffers from OCD which leaves him spending most of his time looking out of his bedroom window. Before long he is taking note of every last movement of his neighbours, so when Tommy, an infant staying on the close, goes missing on the street, Matthew becomes key to unraveling the mystery. Through his observations, we get an intimate view of the people who live on the close until layer by layer the plot unravels. A highly entertaining read which raises important issues about mental health.
The premise of the book is simple. Children are increasingly using technology in their daily lives and in the process shunning the natural world around them. As a result, their vocabulary is also changing. With this book, MacFarlane and Morris try to reverse that trend. They present 20 spells for ‘lost words’ such as bramble and acorn. Each spell is supported by Morris’ exquisite illustrations. This is a beauty of a book.