Miss Corene’s Best of 2009

This was a great year for YA fiction. There were high highs (ie my nightmares about The Hunger Games) and bitter disappointments (Death in the Air I am glaring with an eyebrow raised in your direction). And despite the fact that my “To Read” pile is taller than my “Read” pile (Grad School is time consuming and there’s a lot of reading that is significantly less fun than cruising through the newest Gordon Korman novel. Who knew?), I’ve managed to whittle it down to the best of the best of the best.

So without further ditherings, I present:

Miss Corene’s Best Five YA Fiction Reads of 2009 – In No Particular Order With Short Annotations of a Recommendatory Type Except for the One Where I Get All Weird and Art History Lecturer About Japanese Art History. I Can’t Help It, I’m a History Major


Skim - Words by Mariko Tamaki and Illustrated by Jillian Tamaki

Skim - Words by Mariko Tamaki and Illustrated by Jillian Tamaki

Remember when you were sixteen years old and everyone was telling you that these were the best years of your life and that you’d better enjoy these days because they are going to stay with you the rest of your life? Do these people remember what it was like to be sixteen? Were these people ever really sixteen?

Skim captures being a teenagers like no other book had done before. This graphic novel by the Tamaki cousins captures the drama, the angst and the depression of being sixteen in a world that doesn’t seem to understand. Skim explores depression, suicide, the fickle nature of teen girl friendships, racism, first love and some seriously inappropriate student-teenage relationships.

What really sets Skim apart is Jillian Tamaki’s lyrical and haunting illustrations. Like the ukiyo-e style that it echoes, Skim’s surreal “Floating World” is brought to life through a stylized viewpoint that reflected her dissociation with the real world.

Oh my god. I sound like my Introduction to Art History professor.

Anyhow, depressing? Yes.

Uplifting? Have you been a teenage girl?

Must read? Absolutely.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

This book has scarred me for life. In a good way.

It’s a brutal, unflinching look at a grotesque Battle Royale between children in a distopian future America.


For Life.

You should go read it. You will have nightmares for weeks.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman with illustrations by Dave McKean

They don’t hand out Newbery Awards to just anyone, you know. I have a huge literary crush on Neil Gaiman so I don’t know why it took me so long to actually read The Graveyard Book. Maybe it’s because once I started, I knew that the whole day was shot. I devoured this book; forgetting meals, missing bus stops (ending in an impromptu trip to Surrey), ignoring friends and faithful hounds (I may have uttered the words “Walk yourself” to my dog. She responded by chewing on the cover).

A frightening, funny, and wise book about family and growing up, this is Gaiman’s best work.


Order of the Odd-Fish

The Order of the Odd-Fish by James Kennedy

This book came as a bit of a surprise. I’d heard nary a peep about it before I picked it off the library shelves and started reading it on the SkyTrain as I figured that the chapters were short enough that I would be able to finish a few off before my stop.

And then I passed my stop and couldn’t tear my eyes off the page.

And I ended up in Surrey at the end of the line.


The Order of the Odd-Fish is one of the weirdest, ebullient, busy, fantastical, lively, curious, strange, surprising, grotesque, scary, triumphant, inventive books I have read this year.

Words cannot describe the words in this books. You just have to go out and experience it yourself.

And I promise that you will never look at cockroaches the same way again.


The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Word Nerd by Susin Nielsen

Susin Nielsen is a writer for Degrassi: I Can’t Remember What Incarnation But I Think Snake is Bald and Joey Jeremiah is OLLLLLLLLLDDDDDDD so you know that anything that comes out of her head is going to be authentic, funny and distinctly Canadian (not in the prairie angst way but the Kids in the Hall vein). Word Nerd is the story of Ambrose who is good at Scrabble, bad at people.

Really bad at people.

So bad, that some of the guys he goes to school with try to kill him with a peanut.

Word Nerd is the best book you will read about ex-convicts and Scrabble this year.

So that’s it for 2009. Here’s looking forward to more nightmarish, depressing tales of murder and misfortune and less unplanned trips to Surrey!

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Thanks so much for the nice review, Miss Corene! It made me very happy.

By the way, did you know we had a gallery show of “Order of Odd-Fish” fan art in Chicago a couple weeks ago? It was also a costumed battle-dancing party that recreated the Dome of Doom scene.


It is my honor to accompany you to Surrey anytime.

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