Welcome to Smugglivus 2013! Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2013, and looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2014.
Who: Sarah and Brianna, the brilliant feminist bloggers behind Slatebreakers (yes, so named for THAT scene in Anne of Green Gables when Anne Shirley breaks her slate over Gilbert’s head).
Please give a warm welcome to Sarah and Brianna!
We are ecstatic to be back for our second year contributing to Smugglivus. Last year was awesome, and we are thrilled to have the chance to return.
As we were trying to think about what to write about, we were also spending some quality time enjoying our most anticipated movie of the season, Catching Fire.
There are a lot of things to be excited about with the release of this movie. It’s breaking crazy box office records and proving that movies about women and movies based on YA can sell to audiences across genders and age brackets. It also was a way better movie than The Hunger Games was, with fantastic pacing and strong performances across the board.
There seems to be general consensus about the increase in film quality but we are both strong believers that the second in the trilogy was actually the best of the three books. The Hunger Games establishes an incredibly compelling world with dynamic characters, but Catching Fire takes the whole thing to the next level. Suddenly, this isn’t just a story about a girl trying to survive to protect her family – it’s about a young woman who becomes an unlikely hero and symbol in a political system that is flawed on all sides. It moves us outside of the immediate horror of the games and into the larger horror of the Capitol and the systematic oppression of Panem. Catching Fire is where things get real.
So as we were thinking about the superiority of this particular sequel, and thinking about our sequel blog post as part of Smugglivus, we thought we would take a moment to celebrate some of our other favorite sequels in YA, books that actually improved on the original.
Second Helpings (book 2 of the Jessica Darling series by Megan McCafferty)
Sloppy Firsts introduces us to Jessica Darling, the cranky feminist hero who can barely survive high school once her best friend Hope moves out of town. The first book is so funny and spot on. Second Helpings is far from just a re-hash of Jessica’s junior year experiences though. This book includes some of the funniest moments of the whole series. Plus, this is where we start to understand that McCafferty is brilliantly willing to move her story forward in large chunks of time, and we see Jessica grow and change realistically as she grows up. By the time we get to the end of the series, we’ve seen her go through high school, college and into early career. Unusual for contemporary YA, and fantastic.
The Fitzosbornes in Exile (book 2 of the Montmaray Journals series by Michelle Cooper)
I listened to A Brief History of Montmaray on audio book when I was living in Los Angeles and driving all the time. I liked it well enough as a piece of epistolary historical fiction, but it didn’t blow me away either. 3 stars on Goodreads, likeable enough protagonist. So I didn’t seek out the second book right away. And when I finally did read it, I not only loved the book, but I realized it actually made me like the first book more. The Fitzosbornes in Exile moves the royal cousins out of their insular home on Montmoray and puts them against a landscape of political events in pre-war England, 1937. Sophia’s character comes into her own, and through her eyes both her family and the historical background come to life. The third book, it is worth noting, is better still – this became one of my all time favorite historical series.
Hattie Ever After (sequel to Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson)
This is a sequel that takes a dynamic character and places her in a completely different setting. Hattie Inez Brooks did her best to survive as a homesteader on the Montana prairie in Hattie Big Sky. Now, thanks to new opportunities, Hattie tries to make is as a reporter living in San Francisco. The two locations could not be more different. I loved watching Hattie’s defining characteristics shape her experiences in her new town. This sequel was particularly excellent because Larson stayed true to the character that she established in the first book while crafting different and fascinating experiences for Hattie to explore.
Fire (book 2 of the Graceling Realm trilogy by Kirstin Cashore)
Hold on – I know there are a few of you out there who are yelling, “It’s a companion novel!” at the screen right now. I say to you: if you do not consider Fire a sequel, then Bitterblue counts as a sequel and that book is awesome too. But right now I’m going to write about Fire because it is the second in the second in the trilogy and I completely love it. I related more to Fire than I did to Katsa because Fire is fierce yet still deeply affected by emotions. Katsa is undeniably terrific, but she’s so unlike me. I could see pieces of myself in Fire. I also will argue vehemently with any YA enthusiast that Fire’s relationship with Brigan is way hotter than Katsa’s relationship with Po. Cashore used this book to dig even deeper into her exploration of sexual liberation for female characters, which is admirable.
Of course, we’re always hungry for more books from series that we love. Here are our most anticipated sequels of 2014:
Isla and the Happily Ever After (book 3 of the Anna and the French Kiss series by Stephanie Perkins) We adore Stephanie Perkins’s writing. She does contemporary YA romance like no other author. This book will bring together the couples from Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door into what will probably be a spectacularly romantic and funny story. Perkins has also been extraordinarily brave discussing her challenges writing this book. It will be meaningful for Perkins and her fans to finally have this book out there in the world.
Lair of Dreams (book 2 of the Diviners series by Libba Bray) Evie’s supernatural secret is out, and we can’t wait to see what happens with this amazing and diverse cast of characters. There are so many people that we hope we get to know more about: Henry, Margaret, the dreamwalker…and we bet there will be more characters who we will grow to love, too.
We are confident that these excellent sequels are examples that sometimes more is better. Clearly this is an abbreviated list – we’d love to hear from you about what fantastic follow up writing we’ve missed out on.
Thanks, Sarah and Brianna! (And for the record, we are 100% with you on Catching Fire, The FitzOsbornes series, and Fire!)