With 2013 just around the corner (already?!?), it’s time to reflect back on another year of reading and select our favorite books. The funny thing about my picks for 2012 is that three of them are sequels to my favorites from 2011. The recipe for success? One strong female character, lots of action, and a dash of romance.
The follow-up to Divergent, Insurgent continues the story of Tris, who lives in a future Chicago where society has been divided into factions in order to extinguish undesirable human traits that lead to a world at war. But on the day of Tris’ initiation into her chosen faction, a coup results in the very thing the establishment of the factions tried to prevent. Tris is a richly complex character who must now decide where her loyalties lie while grappling with unrelenting guilt and grief–emotions that affect both her choices and her relationships. Unlike most in her society, Tris makes use of the lessons that each faction has to offer, rather than focusing on only one faction’s philosophy. If you haven’t read Divergent, I strongly recommend starting there.
Sure to please fans of The Hunger Games, Outpost is the second installment in a post-apocolyptic dystopian trilogy. After spending her entire life training to be a huntress down in the tunnels of the enclave, Deuce is having trouble adjusting to life as a regular girl in the topside town of Salvation. Here, Deuce isn’t considered grown, as she was in the enclave, and life consists of going to school and doing chores with her foster mother. Deuce doesn’t quite know how to fit in and she longs not to waste her true purpose: to defend the community. As she did in the first book, Enclave, Deuce continues to question the authority and intentions of the community’s leaders as well as the expectation that she must conform to traditional gender roles. This series is also best read in order.
Picking up where Blood Red Road left off, Rebel Heart is another engrossing read that will be enjoyed by fans of dystopian fiction as well as those that are new to the genre. It continues the story of Saba, an imperfect but capable and strong-willed female character who will do whatever it takes to find her true love, Jack. Unconcerned with placating others, the eighteen-year-old Saba uses her wits and determination to overcome even the most insurmountable of obstacles. Packed with action and danger, the Dustlands series is also about friendship and love–both romantic and familial. Saba’s irrepressible desire to find Jack tests the boundaries of her family’s loyalty and exposes her own shortcomings. Once again, this book will have more meaning when read after its predecessor.
Bitterblue is an immensely readable and compelling sequel to Graceling and it’s companion book Fire, featuring another strong and likable female character. Eighteen-year-old Bitterblue is queen of Monsea. It isn’t easy for her to lead a kingdom that is recovering from the thirty-five-year reign of her father Leck, a sadistic maniac with the ability to alter people’s perceptions of reality. Stuck in her castle tower signing papers all day, she can’t help but feel removed from the kingdom she is supposed to rule. So Bitterblue begins to sneak out of the castle at night–anonymously–to intermingle with her subjects so that she can learn about their lives and become a more effective queen. On the streets of the city, she discovers that her kingdom is not as peaceful as her closest advisors have led her to believe after she befriends a group of people trying to expose the truth about what happened during Leck’s reign and set things right. When her friends become the target of those who intend to silence the truth, Bitterblue decides that she cannot rest until she understands exactly what Leck did that left her kingdom so damaged. Only then can she help her kingdom heal from the truth of those atrocities. While it is not necessary to read Graceling or Fire first, readers who do will have a greater appreciation of Bitterblue‘s characters and storyline.
2012 was an excellent year for strong female characters. I’m looking forward to following some of their stories in 2013, and hopefully meeting a few more.
Happy reading and Happy New Year!