I read five books in January:
1) The Witch's Boy by Kelly Barnhill
2) The Maze Runner by James Dasher
3) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
4) Legend by Marie Lu, and
5) Prodigy by Marie Lu
Of these, I would have to say that my favorite is a re-read: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. This novel follows 15-year-old Christopher Boone, who has a brilliant mind, a pet rat, and a diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome. It takes place in the unlikely town of Swindon, UK, where Christopher and his father struggle with Christopher's autism, a condition that makes him quirky at best and frighteningly violent at worst. Largely unable to relate to other people, Christopher nevertheless decides to investigate the mysterious killing of his neighbor's pet dog, and winds up unravelling the neighborhood's—and his own family's—startling secrets in the process.
This book has to have one of my favorite protagonists of all time. It is fascinating to see the world through Christopher's eyes, and this unique perspective provides a satisfying amount of dramatic irony—just as Christopher can explain a complex math problem that would perplex most people, the reader can understand what Christopher can't: the real danger he puts himself in, and the pain he inadvertently causes his family. The characters are very real and beautifully flawed, their experiences in turns funny, harrowing, and filled with imperfect love.
Next up: A tie between The Witch's Boy by Kelly Barnhill and Legend by Marie Lu. These are two very different books. In The Witch's Boy we meet Ned, a boy haunted by the loss of his twin, and Aine, the practical daughter of the Bandit King. But what do the two children have to do with one another, with Ned's mother's wayward magic, with nine ancient stones, an enchanted forest, and the fate of the nation? I loved the unique twist on magic in this novel, the power and intelligence of the female characters, and the sense of love and loss that pervades the story.
Legend, on the other hand, could not be more different. The story begins in Los Angeles, in a future in which large chunks of every continent have been swallowed by floodwater, and thus the world map has been drastically redrawn. In the Republic of America, a tragedy strikes the family of child prodigy and star
soldier June Iparis. The government blames Day, a notorious teenage criminal. But when June and Day meet, they discover that the things they thought they knew about their country were only strands in an elaborate web of deception. Filled with action, mystery, violence, and smart, tough characters who somehow still manage to be vulnerable, this book is a strong, engaging start to a unique dystopian trilogy.
Prodigy, the sequel to Legend, follows the protagonists as they delve deeper into the mysteries of the war between the Republic and the Colonies of America, as they strive to save—and avenge—those they love. A little slower than Legend, particularly in the middle of the novel, Prodigy answers many of the questions raised by Legend, and adds many more questions of its own.
Lastly, there's The Maze Runner. I like the premise of the novel a lot: a boy with amnesia is dumped into the middle of a giant maze, where he joins a group of boys, also with amnesia, who spend their lives trying to find a way out. No one knows who sent them to the maze or why, until a new arrival shows up, and the pieces start to fall into place. The writing in this novel didn't click with me, but the story was just intriguing enough that I stuck with it until the end, and was left curious about the sequel.