Ghost Medicine, by Andrew Smith
The first sentence of Ghost Medicine reads I can see myself lying in the dirt, on my back, on a warm, starry night, with my feet up on those rocks, ringing a swirling and noisy fire, listening, laughing, seeing the sparks that corkscrew, spinning above me into the black like dying stars, fading, disappearing, becoming something else; my hat back on my head so I can just see my friends from the corners of my eyes, which says a lot about the book (so I don’t have to, but might anyway).
This is quite different from a lot of other Young Adult literature: the writing is intense, poetic, slooow, at times brutal, and nearly always completely excellent. The story is simple; an idyllic summer (hard work on the farm, horse riding, nights outside by the fire, good friends, rather a lot of tobacco chewing) turns tumultuous and dangerous after a series of encounters with the local bully boy (who is unfortunately also the sherif’s son). The characters are a well drawn, the detail is great (especially the horsey stuff), and their predicaments are believable. Read this book if you like things slow and chilled out, but don’t if you don’t.
I also liked:
Front and Center, Catherine Gilbert Murdock & Perfect Fifths, Megan McCafferty – because they were DJ and Jessica Darling’s last hurrahs.
Shiver, Maggie Stiefvater – because it was so darn sweet.
Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins – because it was much better than I thought it was going to be, and I really want to read the last in the series now.
Fragile Eternity, Melissa Marr – although I actually thought Ink Exchange was better (but that was last year). You can read the prologue for Radiant Shadows (another bad title!) here.
Solace of the Road, Siobhan Dowd – a classic road trip story, where Holly/Solace starts out in search of one thing and finds something else entirely better. I think this is the last of Siobhan Dowd’s books to be published, which is sad.
What They Always Tell Us, Martin Wilson – a well-written, down-beat story of two brothers working through very different stuff.
Fire, Kristin Cashore – this was good, although I didn’t think it deserved its rave reviews. Nice to see Leck a bit more (the prologue is creepy!), but I thought that someone who could control people’s minds should have been a bit more dangerous.
The Bride’s Farewell, Meg Rosoff – because while it’s no How I Live Now, Meg Rosoff is still a brilliant writer of stories about girls who know how to look after themselves in harsh circumstances.
And that makes 10, so that’s like my Top 10 Books of 2009.