My name is S. Jae-Jones. I am a writer, an editrix, an artist, a photographer, and an adrenaline junkie. And she abandons her mind to obscure arts.

Best Reads of 2012

Holy moly, it has been…a shamefully long time since I’ve last updated my blog. There are several reasons for this, not the least of which has been how busy I’ve been this past year. The two biggest factors for the decrease in time is that I am now assisting three other editors at St. Martin’s Press, in addition to acquiring my own books. Having acquired my first two books is, of course, the biggest and happiest-making part of 2012, even if it is actually the biggest time suck. (And yet I love every minute of it. I must be a masochist. ;-))

Other factors for my blog absence include: blog fatigue, the feeling that I’ve run out of useful things to say without having to repeat myself, the other feeling that perhaps blogging itself has become passé, my love affair with Tumblr because it doesn’t require me to come up with original content, and the fact that my original content is now reserved for the awesome Publishing Crawl, etc. A lot happened for me in 2012, but the majority of it didn’t make it into this blog.

Still, I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t include at least one “best of” list. Most of my reading was for work, but I managed to squeeze in a few for pleasure. Not many, but a few. Unlike last year, I legitimately have an actual Best Book of 2012, and those of you who follow me on Twitter can probably guess what it is.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

My GoodReads review is short and sort of says nothing at all, but it does aptly sum up what I feel about Code Name Verity.

I cannot get this book out from under my skin.

As far as books go, I tend to read for intellectual stimulation rather than emotional gratification–that is, personal identification is not necessary for me to enjoy a book. I would rather be amused or impressed than satisfied or satiated, so I tend to prefer books that are more about Ideas than Feelings. Barring that, I would rather read a book that is commercially plotted and paced because I am much more interested in What Happens than How the Characters React Emotionally. And even if I do personally identify with a protagonist or character, I’m usually able to distinguish between what I feel about a book and what I believe are its literary merits.

Not so with Code Name Verity.

I could, like so many others, illuminate its many fine literistic qualities: its clever reveals, its authentic historical voice, its structure, etc. but when I think of Code Name Verity, I don’t think of it as a great literary work (although it is); in fact, I don’t think much at all. I am lost. Ich bin verloren. I am utterly consumed by FEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELINGS.

Ironic, considering how often I rail against FEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELINGSespecially FEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELINGS at the expense of GODDAMN COMMON SENSE–but perhaps this is why I am a sucker for those who love despite all reason. Because I do. Despite my pragmatic brain, when I love, I love wholly, irrevocably, completely, in spite of (or perhaps because of) the flaws. If I am not outwardly demonstrative, it is because I do not know how to articulate the depth of what I feel, and therefore do not try. Hence the brevity of my initial review of Code Name Verity.

But now, at year’s end, I shall try. I shall try.

‘Tis indeed a miracle, one must feel
That two such heavenly creatures are real.

Earlier this year, I wrote about three movies I loved, and one of them was Heavenly Creatures, a movie that destroys me in much the same way as Code Name Verity. In my review of the movie, I wrote about what I called my One and Onlys.

I formed intense bonds and friendships with other girls. I had a string of One and Onlys growing up, girls with whom I shared not only interests and hobbies, but my heart and soul. We were sisters in all but blood, but even better than sisters, we were the same. Girls with whom I made up fantastic worlds and stories, girls who were my firsts in almost every single way.

Where Heavenly Creatures explored the dark side of the One and Only, Code Name Verity is about the utter opposite. If Heavenly Creatures was about the point where affection turns into co-dependence and love turns into mutual paranoid obsession, then Code Name Verity was about the selfish and selfless acts we do for the other because we love.

Spoilers

“KISS ME, HARDY, Kiss me, QUICK!”

Turned her face to make it easier.

And I shot her.

This is The Moment in Code Name Verity, the moment I cannot reread or even think about without crying. The things they did for love, Queenie and Maddie. “Kill me,” Queenie asks, “kill me to save me.” And then she looks away to spare her best friend the pain of having to watch her die. And Maddie does it. She kills her best friend because she loves her, and because her best friend asked. The things we do for love.

It’s like being in love, discovering your best friend.

It is. It really is. If there was just one line from Code Name Verity that sums up the entire book, it is that.

I’ve never much cared for romance; I’ve always thought it silly and ridiculous, even as a silly and ridiculous young girl. I hate being wooed, and hate even more this absurd notion that the pinnacle of Love is romantic love, that happiness with a romantic partner is the Be All, End All to human existence. What tosh, and I say that as someone who has happily (and rarely, but sometimes, unhappily) been with her Bear for over seven years.

Sarah J. Maas, author of Throne of Glass, once wrote the most beautiful and moving love letter to her best friend Susan Dennard (called Sooz), author of Something Strange and Deadly. In it, she touches on the very nerve that thrills whenever I read Code Name Verity (and I’ve read it several times this year already): that friendship completes us. That of all the loves that exist in this world, friendship is the most pure, the most selfless, and the most rewarding. Long after romantic relationships end, long after your family is gone, your friends are the ones who stay because they love not out of attraction (romance) or obligation (family), but free will. Love given of free will is the sweetest.

Not enough books celebrate this, and even fewer books celebrate female friendships in particular. We are subjected to endless “bromances” and movies glorifying the ideal of “brotherhood”, but so often female friendships are denigrated as trivial, petty, or even unimportant. Female friendships often take place on a more domestic scale, it is true, but when tested, I would wager their bonds are just as strong as any “band of brothers” you might find, and Queenie and Maddie prove that in spades.


Phew, I spent nearly 1200 words on just one of my best books of 2012, so I’d better make the rest brief. Without further ado, the rest of my best books of 2012 (and the links to my GoodReads reviews, if there are any):

Best Books of 2012

A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle CooperBitterblue by Kristin CashoreFroi of the Exiles by Melina MarchettaSeraphina by Rachel HartmanThe Cabinet of Wonders by Marie RutkowskiThe Crown of Embers by Rae CarsonThe Diviners by Libba BrayThe Fault in Our Stars by John GreenThe Peculiar by Stefan BachmannUnspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan
In no particular order, my best reads of 2012 were:

As you can see, we have my perennial favourites (Rae Carson, Libba Bray, Sarah Rees Brennan, all three of whom made my list last year), but other trends appear to be that I am on a(n alt) historical and/or high fantasy kick. Three of this year’s reads were straight up historical (The Diviners, A Brief History of Montmaray, and Code Name Verity), and two more were alt-historical (The Cabinet of Wonders and The Peculiar). Four were high fantasy (Bitterblue, Froi of the Exiles, The Crown of Embers and Seraphina), a record high for me! (Actually, this year was filled with TONS of great high fantasy, but I couldn’t pick them ALL to include on this list.)

New additions this year were two middle grade titles (The Cabinet of Wonders and The Peculiar). I love middle grade, but I don’t often read them as I tend to read YA for research as much as for pleasure. (Unfortunately, St. Martin’s Press does not acquire middle grade…yet.) Only two men on this year’s list (John Green and Stefan Bachmann), and surprisingly, not a single adult title.

A pretty good reading year for me, in contrast to 2011, where it felt as though I struggled to find books I loved. I think we’ve finally moved past the infernal dystopian trend in YA–I’m hopeful historical and high fantasy will make a comeback, and based on my list, chances look pretty good.

That’s it! What were your best reads of 2012?

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2 Responses to Best Reads of 2012

  1. Kristan 30 Dec 2012 at 9:48 pm #

    Oh, I just posted my list too! http://kristanhoffman.com/2012/12/30/my-fave-books-of-2012/

    Our overlaps: TFIOS and CROWN OF EMBERS.

    I also read and really enjoyed BITTERBLUE and FROI OF THE EXILES (as well as FIRE and FINNIKIN OF THE ROCK) but they each had enough problems for me that I couldn’t list them as *favorites*.

    Funny, because contrary to your preferences, I read more for emotional connection (though not necessarily “identification”) than for intellectual stimulation. But my *favorites* tend to engage me in both areas.

  2. Krispy 3 Jan 2013 at 1:24 pm #

    I loved your explanation of what you read for. For me to LOVE a book, I have to have that emotional connection, but I can also rate a book highly for its technical/intellectual merits even if I didn’t love it.

    I think all of the books you listed I’ve either read or they’re still on my TBR list. I’m dying to read The Diviners (I really enjoyed Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle series & have been itching for her to get back to magical historicals) and Bitterblue!

    I agree absolutely with everything you said about Code Name Verity. I went into it expecting it to be good (there had been so much word-of-mouth buzz), but it took me by surprise with how breathless it left me, how much it MOVED me. The voice was wonderful as were the plot twists, but the prose had these really beautiful moments and I didn’t think I’d fall so in love with both Queenie and Maddie. I almost never cry at books, and this one made me tear up, and I finished this book thinking, “OMG, everyone has to read this!”

    It was my favorite YA of the year (though I loved Seraphina, the Raven Boys, the Montmaray books a lot as well), and it would have been my favorite book of the year if I hadn’t read The Song of Achilles in the waning months of 2012. But I kind of love that my two favorite books this year were about a friendship for the ages between two girls and a friendship/romance of epics between two men. They were two sides of one amazing reading coin and have both earned places on my Forever Favorites shelf.

    But yes, more stories about girl friendships! More stories about family (I love the Montmaray books for this, and how Sarah Rees Brennan does family relationships)! More high fantasy with elaborate worldbuilding (Seraphina!)!

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