‘Magnus Chase and the Ship of the Dead’ by Rick Riordan
Act surprised. Go on, I dare you. For anyone who’s listened to Book Hype, you’ll know that Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series is one of my all-time favorites — right up there with Harry Potter. When Magnus Chase showed up on the playing field, I was surprised by how instantaneously I fell in love with him. He was like Percy — heroic, sarcastic, and a bit of a dunce at times — but older and a bit world-weary. Having grown up on the streets of Boston as a homeless teen, Magnus had seen some stuff. Little did he know even more was coming along.
By the time Ship of the Dead rolled around, Magnus and his friends had successfully delayed Ragnarok — which can’t be too easy to do. I think this installment deserves best book of the year, not only because it’s the final in the Norse mythology series, but because it strove to be the best it could be in terms of diversity and acceptance. Many other authors could do well to keep Rick Riordan’s shining example in mind when they go to put pen to paper. – Karen
‘The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue’ by Mackenzi Lee
A personal goal of mine for 2017 was to get back into the habit of reading regularly. And sure, most of the books I picked up were part of the journey to The Last Jedi, but I also read a significant amount of queer YA — a trend I’m hoping to keep up through 2018.
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue was a book that I’d written off, due to a marketing campaign that touted its similarity to another queer novel that I had fundamental issues with.
Thankfully, I had a handful of friends that insisted I’d love the book and, ultimately, they were right. Monty, Percy and Felicity swept me off my feet as they embarked on Monty’s Grand Tour of Europe. My love of historical fiction is well documented — give me a well-written period piece any day of the week — but what set Gentleman’s Guide apart was the focus on queer and POC characters.
That diversity made Gentleman’s Guide feel all the more real, rather than the unrealistic depictions of an all-white world that historical fiction typically totes. With adventure, romance, magic, and pirates, what more could I have asked for from a book? Mackenzi Lee’s novel delighted me at every turn, and I look forward to returning to her world in The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy. – Donya
‘Roar’ by Cora Carmack
This was by far the easiest favorite for me to pick this year. If you are a Book Hype listener or follow me on Twitter, you undoubtedly know about my undying devotion to all things Cora Carmack, but Roar delighted and surprised in ways I didn’t see coming.
I remember my excitement upon learning more than a year ago that Cora was going to dive into the world of high fantasy YA for her next series, but little did I know that the reality was going to be beyond my wildest expectations.
Roar opens up a rich world in which storms are sentient beings, royals are tasked with the job of literally protecting their people, and storm hunters create opportunities for anyone not born with storm magic in their veins. The story is told from multiple points-of-view, but ultimately, Roar is Aurora Pavan’s story of enlightenment and self-acceptance. Oh, and you will definitely get a surprise or two along the way. I could not be more excited for the next chapter to arrive in 2018, but Roar kicked the Stormheart series off with one hell of a bang. – Kristen
‘City of Brass’ by S.A. Chakraborty
I am a long-time fan of the fantasy genre. I love the faraway worlds, the systems of magic, the fantastical creatures and the fast-paced quests that go with the conventions of the genre.
I’m not, however, so enamored with how frequently white and homogenous fantasy novels tend to be, and how they so often are fixated on replicating creatures from western myths — fairies and goblins and elves. Fortunately, S.A. Chakraborty’s City of Brass completely explodes these rather unfortunate conventions of the genre, setting her story in the the 18th century Middle East, populating her lush world with magical beings from Islamic mythology — creatures of fire, such as djinn and ifrits, and creatures of water, like the marid — and telling a story with diverse characters who are all proudly brown and black.
The alternating perspectives of Nahri, a lost Daeva princess who has spent most of her life as an orphan in the streets of Cairo, and Ali, the second son of the king of the magical city of Daevabad, are woven together in an enthralling and emotional narrative. This was such a well-written, beautiful story that I consider it to be one of the best debuts I’ve ever read and I eagerly await part two in the trilogy. – Lelanie
‘Autoboyography’ by Christina Lauren
It’s no secret that I love author duo Christina Lauren, but Autoboyography is without a doubt the most beautiful and important novel they have published to date. The coming-of-age story is about two boys who fall in love during a writing class, although neither of them is really out of the closet.
It carefully tackles the issues that arise as young adults deal with coming to terms with their sexuality, specifically when they’re growing up in an environment where the LGBTQ community is shunned. And also deals with having to learn how to love yourself, even when those close to you can’t accept who you are. Autoboyography really sticks with you after having read it. Most importantly, it can really help anyone struggling with self love and acceptance. – Sonya
‘The Book of Dust, Volume One: La Belle Sauvage’ by Philip Pullman
2017 was a time portal of sorts for television lovers. But it was also the year one of my favorite childhood book series returned with a new adventure. Philip Pullman, 17 years after the release of The Subtle Knife, brought Lyra’s world back to life with La Belle Sauvage.
Before the release, I reread the original trilogy that captivated my imagination as much as Harry Potter. La Belle Sauvage did what Cursed Child could not. It plunges the reader back into a new, yet familiar world with characters who measure up exceptionally well to their predecessors. (And you didn’t need to “see it” to believe it.) The announcement of the book, the release, and the reception was a delightful reminder that something else was and continues to be as special as The Boy Who Lived. – Brittany
‘Strange the Dreamer’ by Laini Taylor
2017 was a great year in reading for me (shoutout to Thick As Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner!), but I have to say that Strange the Dreamer stood out in particular. Wildly imaginative and beautifully written, the first part of Taylor’s new duology tackles no lesser themes than humanity, genocide, and the burdens of fate — even on those who seem too small to have a destiny.
But for all its high ideas, Strange the Dreamer is also an exciting fantasy, a tragic romance, and an unusual hero’s journey. Lazlo Strange’s hidden past weaves together stories of blue children, cursed cities, and a literal walking nightmare, but the combined effect is every bit as human as it is epic. The sequel should be arriving some time next year, and I can’t wait to see what Laini Taylor has in store. – Michal
‘Otherworld’ by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller
Otherworld is the dystopian world that I’ve been waiting to dive into for years. I was so thrilled to get completely sucked into both the real, and the virtual world that Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller created with their first YA novel, which will eventually become a trilogy.
The main characters, Simon and Kat, are instantly lovable, and are perfect viewpoints for the interesting story about a new virtual reality experience that’s being used in ways you’d never expect. Otherworld tackles the topics of virtual reality and artificial intelligence wonderfully, taking you down surprising paths that make you think about what these technologies could really mean for us. – Kendra