Monday, December 20, 2010

2010 Book Lists pt. 1: Contemporary Fiction

*Back to Introductory Post; Pt. 2; Pt 3; Pt. 4; Pt. 5; Pt. 6; Pt. 7
*Books are linked to my reviews, if available. Otherwise, they're linked to Amazon. I have read all of these books and written reviews for most, but haven't posted many of them yet. As I do, I will update this page.

Contemporary Fiction
-Until my recent obsession with paranormal romance and a burgeoning interest in high fantasy, most of my reading was in the contemporary genre fiction. My expanding interests has not dampened my love for stories that I could conceivably live. Here are some of the fun contemporary fiction books I read this year:

Anna And The French Kiss - Stephanie Perkins
Don't let the awful title keep you away. One of the best contemporary fiction reads in years. Anna is sent to a boarding school in Paris for her senior year of high school. Mired at first by culture shock and loneliness, she quickly finds a good group of friends and a really cool guy. St. Clair is one of the most genuine, nice, funny guys in YA literature. Their friendship/relationship goes through as many ups and downs as a roller coaster, but it still manages to feel real and enticing. (Amazon)

Secrets Of My Hollywood Life 5: Broadway Princess - Jen Calonita
The penultimate installment of Secrets of My Hollywood Life is set in New York City. Kaitlyn spends the summer performing on Broadway, but without her boyfriend Austin. The SOMHL series is loads of fun - name-dropping, fashion galore - but best of all featuring a really sweet, genuine girl. Gossip Girl this is not. (Amazon)

Suite Scarlett and Scarlett Fever - Maureeen Johnson
Scarlett’s family owns an old, run-down hotel. She balances caring for the hotel with managing her crazy brother and two sisters. Add being the assistant to a drama-queen formerly famous actress and dealing with “interesting” boys. All that totals up to one fun, adventurous, crazy life. (Amazon 1 and Amazon 2)

Viola In Reel Life - Adriana Trigiani
New Yorker Viola is sent to a rural boarding school when her parents go on a long film trip. Viola fancies herself a budding filmmaker and you learn lots about films in the book. All the good qualities of a boarding school book - interesting new friends, adventure, budding romance. (Amazon)

Once Was Lost - Sara Zarr
PK (paster’s kid) Sam’s like is falling apart. Her dad is withdrawn and her mom is in rehab. A local girl goes missing and the town is in an uproar. Sam gets close to the girl’s brother during the turmoil. Sam really struggles with her faith in the midst her family falling apart and the potential death of a young girl. Excellent portrayal of religion without sounding preachy or overly critical. (Amazon)

The Lonely Hearts Club - Elizabeth Eulberg
Penny Lane thinks boys are more trouble than they’re worth. She starts a club celebrating and pledging singledom. This leads to fury around the school (even the administration), but loads of fun for her girlfriends. The problem is that Penny may have found a boy worth liking. (Amazon)

Out Of My Mind - Sharon M. Draper
11-year-old Melody is a genius, but trapped in a body crippled by cerebral palsey, no one knows it. She can’t walk or talk or do anything by herself. When she gets a machine that speaks for her, people are shocked at the things she can do...but do they believe it’s really her? Heartfelt, inspiring book. Really makes you think more about disabled children. (Amazon)

How To Say Goodbye In Robot - Natalie Standiford
Bea moves to a new town and unexpectedly becomes best friends with Jonah, a loner who seems to hate everybody. They bond over a crazy radio talk show whose transcripts are included in the book. One of the strangest books I’ve ever read. It’s funny, depressing, sad, poignant. Well worth reading. (Amazon)

Fat Cat - Robin Brande
Cat is a charming, smart, overweight girl. When she becomes her own science project, she loses tons of weight. This brings on so many changes: a love for cooking, a conversion to veganism, and lots of attention from boys. But Cat is too blinded by pride and prejudice to notice the boy who really likes her and is worth liking. Lots of fun food references in this book and a good argument for veganism. (Amazon)

Perfect Chemistry - Simone Elkeles
Pretty, popular girl Brittany is stuck being lab partners with bad-boy gang member Alex. Both think the other person is despicable, but really they have a lot in common. Alex makes a bet to catch Brittany’s heart, but he finds himself actually falling in love with her. Pretty predictable romance plot. Still it’s hard not to like the character and get carried away with the story. (Amazon)

The Daughters and The Daughter Break The Rules - Joanna Philbin
It’s actually possible to be fabulously wealthy, famous, and well-dressed and to also be a nice, intelligent person. These books follow three 9th graders through the ups and downs in life. Fun, light, uplifting stories. (Amazon 1 and Amazon 2)

Pretty On The Outside - Kate Kingsley
Gossip Girl meets British boarding school. A group of kids with too much money and time on their hands and too little supervision. Not too many morals, but they do wear great clothes and have interesting adventures. (Amazon)

Will Grayson, Will Grayson - John Green and David Levithan
Two boys named Will Grayson meet one night and form a friendship. WG1 is the average kid in the shadow of his flamboyantly gay best friend, Tiny. WG2 is a gay teen who is so depressed that you spend much of the book wanting to give the kid a big hug. WG1, WG2, and Tiny become an interesting trio as Tiny puts on a school musical called Tiny Dancer. Lots of sarcasm, lots of boyish angst. (Amazon)

Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson
Heart-breaking depiction of the effects of date rape on a 14-year-old girl. Melinda goes through life with a black veil over her face - she wants to live, but the memories and the depression separate her from the world. Deeply cynical, yet realistic portrayal of high school. You won’t be able to tear yourself away from the last quarter of the book. (Amazon)

The Cupcake Queen - Heather Hepler
Penny moves from New York to tiny Hog’s Hollow when her parents separate. Her mom opens a cupcake story, which becomes a big hit. Penny loves decorating cupcakes and coming up with new designs. She is less successful in warding off the local mean girls. Still, she finds small-town life better than expected. Features a great friend character: Tally and a really cool, mysterious yet nice boy: Marcus. Nothing too original except for the cupcake aspect, but fun nonetheless. (Amazon)

The Espressologist - Kristina Springer
Jane loves to predict people’s personalities based on their favorite coffee drink. She turns this into a matchmaking adventure on a lark, and it turns into a huge success. Suddenly Jane is matching people left and right, including her best friend and Cam, a guy in her college class. But the more Jane gets to know Cam, the more she’s wishing she was matched to him instead. Jane is a bit annoying, but Cam is great, and the story is light and fun. (Amazon)

North Of Beautiful - Justina Chen Headley
Terra has beautiful hair, a slim, toned body, and a gorgeous face...only it's marred by a huge purple birthmark. She has a horrible, emotionally abusive father, a broken mother, and two brothers who never come home. A chance meeting of Jacob, a goth Chinese-American boy, and his mother changes Terra's life forever. Jacob is funny, confident, happy, and encouraging. He and his mom bring Terra and her mom out of their shells and on the road to self-discovery. Beautiful, lyrical writing that is sometimes painfully real. (Amazon)

The Mother Daughter Book Club, Much Ado About Anne, Dear Pen Pal, and Pies & Prejudice by Heather Vogel Frederick
Four very different girls and their mothers start a book club. The girls, reluctantly at first, become best friends. Each book covers a year of their lives, starting in 6th grade. They read a different book each year (e.g. Little Women, Anne of Green Gables) and the girls’ personal lives loosely follow the plots of the books. A wholesome read that still manages to showcase three-dimensional characters. The girls and their parents all make mistakes yet all learn something. (Amazon 1, Amazon 2, Amazon 3, Amazon 4)

Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes - Chris Crutcher
Eric is a former fat boy. His former best friend Sarah can’t erase her horrible scars and is now in a psych ward, completely mute. Eric must discover what made Sarah stop talking. It turns out to be more complex and dangerous than he could have imagined. The book is full of philosophical discussions about race, religion, and abortion. Eric is a really sweet boy. The book also features strong, positive adult-teen interactions, which most YA books lack. (Amazon)

Jellicoe Road - Melina Marchetta
Beautiful, complex, haunting, romantic, heart-breaking, uplifting. No single word can describe a book this wonderful. It’s extremely confusing at first, but if you stick with it, you will be in love with Taylor Markham and her world. Taylor represents her school in its annual turf war with the Townies and the Cadets. This year’s war is full of battles, friendships, and new love. Interspersed throughout the book are excerpts of a novel written by Hannah, Taylor’s housemother. You’ll be amazed how everything fits together. (Amazon)

The Sky Is Everywhere - Jandy Nelson
Beautiful tale of grief. You will spend much of the book laughing and crying at the same time. Reeling from her sister’s death, grief threatens to overtake Lenny. She seeks comfort in her sister’s boyfriend Toby in ways she probably shouldn’t. She is also attracted to a new kid, Joe, who can take her away from her grief, if only for a short time. Joe is an incredible guy: sweet, a talented musician, cute...just perfect. Wonderful use of poetry throughout the book. You really feel Lennie’s grief, confusion, and love.

Before I Fall - Lauren Oliver
Samantha is a stereotypical popular mean girl with a perfect life...until it ends. Now, she has to relive her last day over and over until she gets it right. If only she knew what "right" was supposed to be. See Samantha go through the stages of grief - anger, sadness, acceptance. Read as she finds the boy she should have been with all along and try to make amends for the cruel treatment of her and her friends. (Amazon)

The Last Song - Nicholas Sparks
17-year-old Ronnie is still furious over her parents' divorce three years ago and is miserable that she's stuck spending the summer with her dad in North Carolina. She longs to hate everybody and everything, but finds a new friend, a handsome boy, a passion for aquatic life, and an opportunity to heal her relationship with her dad. The book equally explores the father/daughter relationship and the boy/girl relationship. Even though it's predictably melodramatic, you'll still cry at the end. (Amazon)

Reality Check - Jen Calonita
Four best friends in a Long Island coastal beach town have a pretty boring life until a reality show swoops in and gets them to star in a new show about "real teenagers." But reality TV isn't all it's cracked up to be. The producers want to see more conflict - even if they have to force it on the girls. Four best friends seem to be friends no more. Can the girls get out of the reality show and manage to keep their friendship? All of Jen's books are fun, light reads that keep a smile on my face.

Hollywood Is Like High School With Money - Zoey Dean
Fun, breezy chick lit. Naive, midwestern girl hits LA, discovers that big city girls are really mean and tough, tries to beat them at their own game, eventually triumphs while staying true to her kind, somewhat innocent self. Fun name-dropping and fashion tidbits. Lots of interesting information about the inner workings of a movie studio (whether realistic or not). Nothing revolutionary, but still lots of fun. (Amazon)

Operation Redwood - S. Terrell French
Julian Carter-Li has been abandoned by his mother and is stuck with his awful aunt and uncle. But Julian is a quiet, obedient boy...until he finds an email to his uncle from Robin, an irate girl protesting a plan to cut down some ancient redwood trees. Inspired by Robin and his friend Danny, Julian sneaks off to spend the summer with Robin and her family in rural northern California. Operation Redwood manages to entertain and teach the reader a whole lot about trees. (Amazon)

Living Dead Girl - Elizabeth Scott
15-year-old Alice was kidnapped by Ray five years ago. Her life has been pure hell since that time. She’s no longer a little girl and will soon be useless. She has to help Ray find her replacement, with only death awaiting her on the other side. Fascinating analysis of how cruel treatment and hopelessness can influence a person’s character. Hard to read, but very interesting. (Amazon)

The Summer Before - Ann M. Martin
Babysitter’s Club fans rejoice!!! A brand-new prequel to the BSC series. See Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia, and Stacy the summer before the club is formed. All four girls are having a difficult summer. Feeling alone and struggling with the pains of growing up. The book is quintessentially Ann M. Martin style, yet it somehow feels more grown-up than the Babysitter’s Club books. A sweet, yet also bittersweet book. (Amazon)

Dear George Clooney: Please Marry My Mom - Susin Nielson-Fernlund
A 12 year old girl going through a tough adjustment after her parents' divorce, her new stepmother, and her mom's new boyfriend. Violet does a lot of things that are really stupid and cruel, but you can't help but feel sorry for her as you are inside her head. Book is primarily set in Canada - an unfortunately rare setting. Despite the character's age, the book is best for YA. (Amazon)

The Sweetheart of Prosper County - Jill S. Alexander
Fun, comfortable book about growing up in rural Texas. Boring Austin Gray wants to be someone special: The Sweetheart of Prosper County. So she joins FFA and raises a rooster named Charles Dickens for the fair. In the process she makes new friends, gets to know a great guy, and discovers what it truly means to "be someone special." (Amazon)

Girl, Stolen - April Henry
A blind, 16 year old girl is kidnapped accidentally by a boy carjacking her stepmom's car. Griffin (the boy) is just as scared as Cheyenne (the girl) when she becomes a pawn in Griffin's dad's schemes. Told from alternative POVs of Griffin and Cheyenne, you get a great view of the story from the victim and quasi-criminal's perspectives. Sympathetic characters and loads of plot twists. (Amazon)

Swim the Fly - Don Calame
Hilarious. Laugh until you cry. Call all your friends and read aloud excerpts because "they must hear this." Three boys have a summertime goal of seeing a girl naked for the first time. Meanwhile, Matt (the narrator) also set a goal to swim the 100-m fly to impress a girl (Kelly). The boys are anything buy studly. Three awkward, kind loser kids. The lengths to which they go in pursuit of their goal will have you in stitches. The book is also oddly poignant and ultimately has one of the best portrayals of a strong, sweet burgeoning relationship that I've read. (Amazon)

In A Heartbeat - Loretta Ellsworth
Two girls: Quiet, obedient, loving Amelia has been ill for years with a bad heart. Fast, sassy, Eagan lives to skate but also rebels against her mother's pressure and wants the most out of life. When Eagan dies in a freak skating accident, Amelia gets her heart. Suddenly Amelia takes on some of Eagan's sassy, bold personality and even her interests, like purple lollipops and skating. Told in alternating points of view between Eagan and Amelia, see Eagan adjust to an unexpected loss and Amelia adjust to being a new person, both literally and figuratively. (Amazon)

The Cardturner - Louis Sachar
Alton's greedy mother "volunteers" him to help his rich uncle play bridge. His uncle is miserly and cranky on the surface, but Alton gradually sees a different man, brilliant and funny who has a bittersweet past. Alton even manages to find a cool girl friend in his family's mortal enemy. The Cardturner manages to teach the elementals of bridge in a non-boring way. (Amazon)

The Aristobrats - Jennifer Solow
A group of popular girls take their position seriously and try to be examples for the rest of the school. But when they're stuck doing the nerdy school webcast, their popularity plummets. They discover what's really important and that they are not, perhaps, the good examples that they think themselves to be. (Amazon)


  1. Great list and a great way to organize them. I have read a few, but will have to look up a few of the others.

  2. Wow Alison, I can't wait to see all your lists! There are so many books on this I want to read, but Anna and the French Kiss and Jellicoe Road are at the top:) Thanks for sharing all these, I can see my wallet is going to take a hit after all your lists are posted, but it will be worth it:)

  3. This is a great list! I'm so excited because my sister got me "Anna and the French Kiss" for Christmas and I saw that John Green recommended it as well, so I'm glad to hear that it's good. Because honestly, the title and the cover put me off a little bit. =/ Also, "How to Say Goodbye in Robot" sounds like something I should check out!

  4. I'm reading Anna and the French Kiss right now, and I'm liking it !

  5. Great list! I don't read much contemporary YA (although I'm planning on reading more), so I'm going to save this list and refer back to it! The only one I've read here is Perfect Chemistry (which I loved!). I also plan on reading Before I Fall and Anna and the French Kiss. I've heard so many things about that one.

    Love this post! :)

  6. I hope you read Will Grayson, Will Grayson sometime soon! It was such a fun surprise for me - I really enjoyed it. I'm interested to see what you think of The Lonely Hearts Club, too, someday. I think I'm the only person who didn't enjoy it. I'm not usually a huge fan of contemporary fiction, but I think I'll draw some suggestions from your list :)

  7. This list is AWESOME! So many books I've read and so many books that are still on my TBR list!

    I am in the middle of Before I Fall right now and I cannot put it down! It's so incredible.

    I still need to read Secrets of my Hollywood Life..thanks for the reminder :)

  8. Great list. I read Viola in Reel Life and I was thrilled when I found out there's a sequel.

  9. Wow. This is a huuuuuge list! I've read 10 of your picks and I'm itching to read the rest. I love that you didn't just stick to books that were published in 2010. Thanks for sharing!

  10. I love that you included the Secrets of My Hollywood Life on your list. Kaitlyn is such a sweet, nice girl. She's a nice change from the mean girls in all the other "rich" series. I usually recommend the SoMHL series to girls who want to read Gossip Girl, but whose parents don't like the sex, drinking, and meanness.

  11. Alison - This is a terrific list. I've read a few books on the list and they happen to be favorites of mine. "Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes" by Chris Crutcher remains one of my all-time favorite YA books even though I read it years ago.

    Linda at


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