Time for lunch! And I'm sitting here in my pajamas...

During the past week, Zach arrived and will be home for two weeks, Hannah stayed over a couple of nights (and will be back by Wednesday for several more), I've read several YA novels and am still slogging through Margaret Atwood's Year of the Flood. I really want to like this novel, and believe me, I'm trying.

Meanwhile, I've read a LOT of Young Adult books this year, and there have definitely been a few standouts. I pushed myself into unusual categories for me and found a couple of wonderful books. (I usually tend towards romantic stuff, so for something outside of that to get my attention, it has to be awesome.)

Appropriate for an all-age recommendation: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. I hemmed and hawed on getting this novel, because it was so outside my norm, but I loved it. Leviathan is the first of a triology, which to someone who loves to read is the definition of frustration, unless you happen to pick up the series when it's complete (that's how I read the Twilight series, during June of this year). I began reading the Harry Potter series during the summer of 2005, just ahead of book six (HP and the Half-Blood Prince), also right before the fourth movie released (HP and the Goblet of Fire). Keith had just turned 10; we read them one after the other, together - great fun! When we finished the sixth book and said, "We have to wait two years for the next one??" Zach and Hannah, fans from the get-go, gave us The Look.

Anyway. Leviathan was one of the best character-driven books I've ever read. It's an alternate history/ SciFi/ Steampunk novel. I adored both main characters, Alex and Deryn, who trade chapters in completely separate stories until you hit the middle, where their destinies collide. The year is 1914, and the Great War begins in the first chapter. Alex is the (fictional and only) son of the murdered Archduke Ferdinand. Instead of the Allies and the Central Powers, there are the Darwinians and the Clankers. The Clankers are all about the steampunk stuff (which Alex and his trusted few advisors use to flee the advancing Germans), while the Darwinians use fabricated animals, such as the Leviathan, a giant airship made of a whale and lots of other smaller animals, such as message lizards who run up and down the lines delivering messages from one part of the ship to the other. On this ship is where we find Deryn, posing as a boy named Dylan because she desperately wants to be is an airman - a boys-only profession - and she's a natural. Despite all the sci-fi weirdness, I got sucked into the story immediately and I couldn't put it down. I believe it has appeal across age groups and genders, and that's quite a feat.

Most YA-reading girls have heard of Sarah Dessen. I'm sad for myself that no one wrote this type of novel when I was in high school. I was a romantically-minded girl, and I wanted romance in my reading life. I ended up reading historical romance novels, which were more explicit than I needed and didn't help me sort through my contemporary adolescent problems. I've read several Sarah Dessen novels in the past few months and I liked all of them, but my favorite was The Truth About Forever (2004).  Great story and characters - I fell in love with Wes and Macy.

Other favorites of the past year:

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles: Bad boy and Hispanic gang member Alejandro and spoiled cheerleading white girl Brittanyboth of whom play these roles as their public images while hiding their dreams, actual strengths, needs and fears from nearly everyone.

Graceling by Kristen Cashore: fantastic sci-fi/fantasy/romance - Cashore has created a new world of multiples kingdoms, where certain people are born with gifts. These people are called gracelings, and are identifiable by their eyes, which are always two different colors. Here we meet gracelings Katsa and Po, each struggling to use their differing gifts for good. There is a king to liberate and the mystery of his capture to be solved, and these two come together in an attempt to find answers to these obvious questions while fighting inner battles concerning right and wrong, personal power and the greater good, and destiny itself. Also a swoony romance.

Time for lunch!  And I'm sitting here in my pajamas... which is about to be the title of this post.

Tammara Webber

New York Times and international bestselling author of contemporary romantic fiction