The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Claims to be a young adult book. I say it's just epic. I've heard so much about this series, but stayed a little hesitant… I'm not big on reading fantasy - I've never read Harry Potter! (And don't intend to - don't bother trying to sway me.) Since I've decided to read outside my genre, I picked it up, but I didn't know what to expect when I started. I was blown away. It's like what would happen if Shirley Jackson raised the stakes in "The Lottery," expanded it, and set it in the dystopian world of Lois Lowry's The Giver. The setting is America, after some sort of rebellious uprising. Instead of 50 states, there are now 13 districts and the Capital - but District 13 has been eliminated due to rebels. Every year, children's names are put in a lottery, and one boy and one girl are chosen from each district to go to "The Hunger Games" and fight to the death. Only one person can win. Hooked? GO READ IT.
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. The second book in the Hunger Games series. While it wasn't as fantastic as the first, it was still really good and held its ground. It was far from a let-down. I had some ideas about what would come next, but was pleasantly surprised that only one of those actually happened - and in a different way than I had thought. I can't say what I want without giving away the major plot point, but let's just say… the way it happened wasn't hokey at all. It was completely believable, as much as anything can be in a fictional/fantastical realm. I feel like this book was more of a necessary stepping stone to bridge one and three.
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. At first, the style of writing seemed a bit different than the first two, though I can't exactly place why. It is still amazingly good, and I definitely teared up at the end. Crying due to a violent book is a good thing in my mind, because there was no obvious sentimentality tugging at my heart strings - it's just so well-written, you feel for the characters. And maybe I was a little sad it was all over. I'm ready to read them again.
Assholes Finish First by Tucker Max. Let me state that, while I think Tucker's books are funny, I know better than to recommend them to anyone. That being said, if you've read them and you're not a frat boy, let's have a round table discussion.
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. A young adult book. The narrator is very funny, in a deadpan, sarcastic way. I was smiling or laughing at most of the sentences in the first third of the book. Then it starts to get more serious. I'm not sure if this is meant to be a science fiction book - the jacket blurb doesn't mention it - but time travel is involved. It really makes you think. Days later, I was still trying to figure out everything that happened in the book, trying to find logic in it. I don't know if kids would understand it better because it's easier for them to digest these ideas, but there are parts I didn't really follow. Again, this was because I was trying to find the logic behind all of it. It was still a funny read, and it was a Newbery winner so that says something.
Rescue by Anita Shreve. I've read quite a few of Shreve's books before, and usually enjoy them because of the writing style. I picked this book up from the library because it was there and I knew the author. The jacket copy sounded fairly compelling, but the book wasn't really. It was told in two parts - the year of courtship and marriage of a couple, and then the year their daughter is seventeen. The mother is an alcoholic and the father is an EMT, so the heft of the story focuses on those issues and how the daughter is coping with them. It was an easy read, and I finished it so it wasn't bad, but the ending was a flop.
Never Tell a Lie by Hallie Ephron. Read on the nook. A suspenseful mystery about a pregnant woman and her husband and their creepy new house. An old high school classmate comes to their yard sale and never leaves. The husband is accused of murder, and his wife believes he is innocent - until his lies start to surface. Definitely a page-turner - I finished it in a couple hours. It's written very matter-of-factly, like most mystery/suspense, without beautiful language. However, in this case, a lot of the things described (that were fairly crucial to the story) were hard for me to imagine. I'm not sure if it was the language or the way the words were put together, but I couldn't picture a lot of the scenes/happenings, so it didn't seem to fit together too well. There were also some inconsistencies that may have been on purpose, going along with the creepy happenings, but it was never clarified, so I wondered if they were mistakes, or simply never addressed in the resolution.
The Center of Everything by Laura Moriarty. This book, set in Kansas, follows a girl from age ten to seventeen. The story deals with her struggles growing up, being raised by a single mother, trying to decide between religion vs. biology, and so much more that it'd spoil it to mention here. I started this book unsure of what it was about and how it'd be written, but I absolutely loved it. A reviewer on the back cover compared it to To Kill a Mockingbird, and it could be an updated, different version of that story. It's worth a read, and I ask you to not judge it by its somewhat-girly cover - it's a good book for anyone.