I think that this will probably be on a lot of lists. Quite simply, I adored Jellicoe Road. I loved the characters: tough but fragile Taylor; sweet Jonah; caring Jessa; smart Ben; confused Chloe P; tough Hannah; tough Jude.........on and on I could go. There are plenty more characters, and the novel is made up of an ensemble cast. The plot is wonderfully amazing and confusing at the same time, keeping the reader's attention and making you turn the pages. And the writing! I know everyone blabs about Jellicoe Road, but you should honestly go and read it. The novel is completely worth it.
Red Glass by Laura Resau
This novel was published a few years ago, but it's not really that well known. Well people should sit down and read the freaking book, because it honestly deserves much better attention. Here's why, folks. There's fantastic characters -- Sophie, Dika, Pablo, Angel, Mr. Lorenzo -- a wonderful plot that tugs at your heartstrings, and fabulous writing that you read for the cadence. But here's the thing, there's a wonderful setting. Resau is an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher, primarily teaching Mexican immigrants like the ones spotlighted in this story. She makes you feel like you're there, smelling the roses and the scents. You really can tell that she's been to the places she mentions many times. Combine the writing, the plot, the characters, and the fantastic settings = wonderful book.
Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard
This one I love for the same reasons I loved Red Glass. There are fantastic characters, writing, plot, and setting. Also, this one is written by a YA highway contributor :) It's a fantastic read, and you'll adore Mandarin, Grace, Momma, Taffeta, Davey, Ms. Ingle, and everyone else in the entire novel by the end.
Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma
I loved the mystery of this book. Not everything makes sense in the end, some things are tragic and heartbreaking and this is magical realism at its finest. It's so confusing that the novel is fascinating. I felt like I was swimming in deep waters as I read it, wading out the truth from the fiction. It's a wonderful psychological mystery, and I'm excited for Ren Suma's next book.
Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard
I know this is two books by the same author, but this one was just as amazing as her first. The setting, the characters, sexy diving instructors...this one has it all. Fantastic read and if you like travel books check it out in 2012 (or if you have a NetGalley account check it out on the Random House Children's Books section).
That's my Top Books of 2011. If you're interested, go to yahighway.com to enter yours.