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Another year, another of my idiosyncratic lists of the best of the best. Here are my top 10 selections for 2017, arranged alphabetically by author.
Anderson, M. T. Landscape with Invisible Hand. The inimitable Anderson has conjured up a singular satire to show us the world as it might be if colonized by aliens. It’s not pretty. The despoliation of the environment and the imbalance between those who have and those who have not are heartbreaking and only too reminiscent of what passes for reality these days. A beautifully realized novel.
Green, John. Turtles All the Way Down. Green’s eagerly awaited novel doesn’t disappoint. Its story of a girl whose obsessions control her life but who may, nevertheless, find romance with a wealthy boy whose father has gone missing is at once suspenseful and heartbreaking. It challenges its readers with its attention to ideas and introspection but richly repays their efforts with aesthetic satisfaction. This is Green at his most mature.
Lee, Mackenzi. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. There’s always room on my list for books like this one, which reminds me of the sheer joy of reading. Son of a lord, Monty is a lover of vice and an equal-opportunity lover of both boys and girls, though his heart belongs to his friend Percy. Their grand tour of Europe quickly turns into a wildly entertaining picaresque as the two attempt to turn their friendship into something more.
Lockhart, E. Genuine Fraud. Move over, Patricia Highsmith; Lockhart’s in town with an homage to your classic The Talented Mr. Ripley, only hers is the talented Ms. Jule. Suspenseful and intriguingly structured—the story is told backward—the book is endlessly fascinating and compellingly suspenseful. Somewhere, Alfred Hitchcock is nodding in approval.
Ness, Patrick. Release. Ness releases us from the humdrum with this fascinating novel inspired by Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway and Judy Blume’s Forever. An unlikely juxtaposition but one that the talented Ness makes work. Of course, there’s a ghost—and a queen—but there’s also a boy named Adam who loves his boyfriend Linus so much it physically hurts; but will he ever be fully invested in their relationship? Readers will ache for the two to be together even while they follow the fortunes of the ghost and the queen, whose spirit is entangled with that of the ghost. If the two can’t be separated, disaster will follow . . .
Pullman, Philip. La Belle Sauvage. A boy, a boat, and a baby are featured in this first volume in Pullman’s Book of Dust trilogy, which is also the long-awaited prequel to the author’s earlier trilogy, His Dark Materials. Lyra is the baby; Malcolm is the boy, and the much-loved boat, La Belle Sauvage, is Malcolm’s. In the wake of a devastating flood, Malcolm flees in his boat, attempting to spirit Lyra to safety from the pursuing agents of the Magisterium, the evil, all-powerful religious body that rules his world. Having captured the reader’s hearts with his wonderfully empathetic characters, Pullman then ratchets up the suspense to almost unbearable levels. Will Malcolm and Lyra—and the surly Alice—escape?
Reynolds, Jason. Long Way Down. The increasingly celebrated Reynolds stretches creatively by giving readers his first novel in verse. Beautifully written, this tour de force tells a story whose dramatic action takes place in only one minute and seven seconds. Gun violence is at its heart. Violence that may be exacerbated as 15-year-old Will seeks revenge for the murder of his brother Shawn.
Silvera, Adam. They Both Die at the End. Imagine a world in which everyone who is going to die receives the shocking news in advance, and you have the premise and setting of this wildly imaginative new novel by the gifted Silvera. Two boys who are strangers to each other, Mateo and Rufus, receive phone calls at almost the same time, and then, thanks to an app called “Last Friend,” they meet and bond, finding comfort and more as their relationship swiftly evolves. But will the two really die at the end?
Taylor, Laini. Strange the Dreamer. Lazlo Strange is the eponymous dreamer in Taylor’s brilliantly epic fantasy, which takes him from the quotidian library where he works to the fabled lost city of Weep, which has fascinated him since he was a boy. The reality he finds there is even more fantastic than his imaginings, as he revels in the company of the legendary godslayer Eril-Fane. Not all the gods are dead, however. Five of their children remain, leaving us to wonder if they will be the next to die.
Thomas, Angie. The Hate U Give. Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two very different worlds. One is her home in a poor black urban neighborhood; the other is the tony suburban prep school she attends with the white boy she dates there. Things change dramatically when she is the only witness to the unprovoked police shooting of her unarmed friend Khalil. Will she speak out about this horrifying miscarriage of justice? Thomas’ first novel is stunning in its examination of the complexities of race, as it invites long thoughts about the social fabric, ethics, morality and justice. Social realism at its best.
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