My favourite YA novels published in 2012...

1. Slated - Teri Terry

Everything you want in a YA dystopian-thriller: a brilliant premise executed perfectly, a loveable cast of characters, a heroine you route for from page one AND a completely believable sort-of-not-quite-almost-nearly-romance. This novel will hold a fond spot in my heart for a long time to come.

2. Rebel Heart - Moira Young

Moira Young can do no wrong in my eyes. This book sweeps you away into another world that's believable and compelling. A real page turner, packed with plot.

3. The Raven Boys - Maggie Stiefvater

I can't praise this book enough. Maggie Stiefvater is an incredibly talented writer who has that rare gift of interspersing dry humour through even the most emotional scenes. The characters were excellent and each had their own arc that left you loving and routing for each of them in turn. The friendship between the Raven Boys was a real strength of the novel. Every detail in every scene was necessary; either developing a character or plot in some way (even when it initially didn't seem to be). This is the first Maggie Stiefvater novel I've read and I will definitely be reading more. Clever and completely absorbing.

4. Pandemonium - Lauren Oliver

It's not often that I like the second book in a trilogy more than the first. Lauren Oliver is such a skilled writer it was impossible for me not to adore this book. Cleverly structured, with the past and the present running concurrently, each chapter revealing another piece of Lena's puzzle. Saw the ending coming from a mile away but I didn't mind because everything else about the book was perfect!

5. Partials - Dan Wells

This is a fantastic book, though I feel the Young Adult label is a bit of a stretch. Other than starring teenage characters, the novel doesn't have that young adult "feel" to it, with a slightly slower pace and lengthier descriptions of scientific processes than you'd expect from your average YA sci-fi. That said, it was excellent. Vivid, exciting, complex and well explored. My main criticism is that info-dumping is quite heavy in the first chapter and there are several info dumpy conversations throughout, though the unique voices of the cast of characters more than make up for that. I'm also convinced that think the book would have been stronger if the last chapter didn't exist. Despite that, a brilliant book.

6. Between Shades of Grey - Ruta Sepetys

This is one of those books that I immediately recommended to everyone, regardless of whether they read young adult or not. I read the last chapter whilst walking home from the bus stop crying! One word: haunting.

7. Shift - Em Bailey

I can't say enough good things about this book! Usually I can see a twist coming from a mile away but this one totally shocked me. Olive was an excellent character with such a brilliant, authentic voice I was routing for her from page one. The book was structured cleverly; during the first half we follow Olive as she tries to uncover the truth about Miranda, then spend the second half helpless as Olive, herself, is brain-washed. Strong, concise writing with a thrilling a plot.

8. BZRK - Michael Grant

Wow. The creativity that went into this book was astounding. Such an original novel and totally spot on in terms of geekiness vs action. Michael Grant is the king of getting lots of ideas on the page in as few words as possible. So much happens in BZRK it's hard to believe it's a stand alone.

9. The Other Life - Susanne Winnacker

A neat, compact novel that gripped me from start to finish. Fast-paced with a surprisingly touching romance. 

10. Cinder - Marissa Myer

I love cyborgs. I don't love steampunk though, and I felt that all the cinderella aspects of the novel let it down. Weird, I know, since that's the whole reason most people pick it up, but it felt gimmicky and unnecessary and otherwise detracted from an awesome novel that was beautifully constructed.

NANOVER... And what I've learned.

Nanowrimo is officially Nanover. I "won" on Sunday 17th November, when the word count for my Nanonovel stood at 50100. I've loved every second of Nano. It's forced me to step outside my writer bubble and mingle with other writerly types and it's made me proud of what I do rather than faintly embarrassed. In short, Nanowrimo is Nanoawesome!

It's also taught my a lot. So here for you in a handy to digest numerical list are the Top Ten Things I've Learned From Nanowrimo:

1. I love statistics

I think I can attribute a significant amount of  my Nanosuccess to the stats page. I've always been an obsessive word counter, keeping records of words written and chapter lengths and total novel lengths, but I never knew how powerful the count down element could be. Waking up on Sunday morning knowing I had 7,000 words left to write was far more motivating for me than knowing I'd written 43,000. By the time I've reached 43,000 it's become abstract. 7,000, on the other hand, is a goal I know I can accomplish on a lazy Sunday. So, with this in mind, I've created a spreadsheet for my future projects that does essentially the same thing as the Nanostats page (albeit less attractively). I can set my writing goal and it automatically tells me what my daily word count needs to be, then draws a graph plotting my actual words against my word goals. If anyone wants a copy, let me know in the comments and I'll email you one! You need excel or Open Office to run it.

2. I take this seriously

I want to be an author. I want to be an author. I want to be an author. I want to be an author. I want every day to be like Nanowrimo. I want to have the time and energy to write 7,000 words a day every day for ever more. Thanks.

3. Writing makes me happy

I know this sounds silly, but I don't think I've ever been a happier writer than the time I've been a Nanowriter. This is the first ever first draft I've written where at no point have I become overwhelmed with the enormity of the task, because I've proven to myself that I can write lots of good quality, interesting words very quickly. And that makes me really, really, really happy. The glow I got after my 12,000 word weekend could not be rivalled by even the musical episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

4. I fit in

Yup, I've found my clique. Being in a room with 50 plus other writers at the kick off party made me aware that writers are a kind of type, of course with a million shades of grey in between, but still a type nonetheless. Our common interest in locking ourselves away from the outside world to toil for hours over a project we'll probably be too shy to show anyone unites us in more ways than I was expecting!

5. First drafts can be easy

*gasp* I said it! EASY! I know writers are never meant to say that but I've never gotten so much writing done with such little mental anguish before and I hope that this is something I can replicate. You know I'd resigned myself to thinking that I just hated the drafting process and it was in revisions that I found enjoyment with writing. WRONG! I hated the drafting process because I wasn't getting excited enough about the drafts I was writing. Without the excitement I didn't have the motivation to do it. This post on Pretentious Title was a real eye-opener for me, making me realise that the reason I was struggling with first drafts was because the scenes weren't good enough. Before every scene of my Nanonovel I took a bit of time to work out what I wanted to write and how I wanted the scene to look and progress and then I stopped and thought, "is that cool enough?" I didn't write a word of the scene until I was so excited about what I'd come up with there was no way I couldn't!

6. What I want to write and what I'm good at writing are two different things

My Nanonovel is fantasy for the lower YA audience. I've written lower YA fantasy before (which was pretty much Harry Potter... :/) but I always try to write higher YA sci-fi because that's exactly what I love to read. It's a hard pill to swallow, but maybe I'm just better at writing fantasy for a slightly younger audience?

7. Caffeine makes me a ninja and I can use it sparingly

I don't drink caffeine as a general rule as it tends to make my CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) symptoms worse. Where many people (like my boyfriend) need a cup of coffee to get to baseline functioning, caffeine can be a weapon for me! Of course there's the caffeine come down to contend with, but if I have it on a Saturday, I'm back to normal functionality by work on Monday morning.

8. Shyness is a self-limiting belief

I use my shyness as a crutch to not do things I'm scared of. Nanowrimo meet ups and write-ins have forced me out of my comfort zone and into the big scary world where all the people are. If I can take steps to combat my shyness, I can do bloody anything!!!

9. Anything worth having sure enough's worth fighting for

Thanks Cheryl. Nano's been all about sacrifice. In the last 17 days I haven't swum, I've eaten rubbish, I've barely skimmed the surface of my to-read pile, and I've missed several episodes of the X Factor. Luckily for me, I don't have scales at home, but if I want to maintain this sort of feverish writing level, I'm going to have to fine-tune what sacrifices are worth making in the long run.

10. Silhouette

I've never been able to spell it. Can now. Thanks Nano.