Adrian Hawkhurst and Justine DeCrabillac from the Spymasters series by Joanna Bourne
I have a great fondness for a lot of the characters in this series: Doyle and Maggie are awesome too, as are Pax and Camille, but I haven't been as invested in a ship in a romance series like I was in Adrian/Justine......well, ever. Probably because most romance series don't have ships like this one, where it is featured in more than one book. Bourne made interesting choices regarding the chronology in the writing of this series. As such we see Adrian in every book, but at different points in his life. Justine is introduced in The Forbidden Rose (which is book 3 but the first one I read). Basically as soon as I finished The Forbidden Rose, I wanted to jump straight to The Black Hawk because I fell so hard for these two characters and their interaction. Adrian is 100% my kind of hero: snarky and brilliant with an arrogance that covers his vulnerability and has a heart of gold. Justine is more than a match for him intellectually and their banter is magnificent. I appreciate how very chill they are as a couple. Their circumstances as spies for warring countries are dramatic, but they are not. They are matter of fact about it all. That's not to say they don't have their fair amount of angst, but they are both such rational realists that the tone is not angsty or dramatic. I did end up reading the first two books in the series before reading The Black Hawk, but am not convinced that is necessary. (I don't like those two nearly as much as the rest of the series. They are full of more romance tropes I don't enjoy as much. If you are interested, I'd recommend beginning with The Forbidden Rose like I did. Definitely HIGHLY recommend and loved books 3-5.)
Nora and her Supporters (especially Pablo) from Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina
I adore Nora and how much of a survivor she is. Reading her story is not easy or comfortable, but I rooted for her every page even as I wanted to jump in and help her, make her see the truths she needed to see sooner and assist her in getting out. Her journey to independence and safety is a beautiful one and I adored every single one of the people who helped her out in myriad ways to achieve it. I especially adored Pablo, who may be my favorite male love interest in a YA novel ever. He backs off when she tells him, but is ready to help her when she needs it most. He is steady and supportive.
Eugene Parsons and Charlie Easton from Earth Bound by Emma Barry and Genevieve Turner
I wrote the longest review I've ever written for a romance on this book because I just loved it so much. I'm just going to copy parts of what I said about these two characters in that here because, after rereading it twice, I feel the same. I fell for Eugene Parsons in his very first scene in Star Dust. I wanted this next full novel in the series to be about him because from that very first scene I knew he had the potential to be exactly my favorite sort of hero. I have a weakness for intelligent men who come across as arrogant asses on first encounter-because they are actually partly an arrogant ass, but also because they are equally a socially awkward nerd. Parsons lived up to every expectation I had for him in this respect and then some. He
may be is my favorite romance hero ever. Pair a hero like this with a heroine who matches (if not exceeds) his intelligence, doesn't take any of his crap, and teases him about his nonsense, and you have my exact favorite type of love story. Charlie is an amazing and perfect match for Parsons. She is super smart, incredibly competent at what she does, and her sly and sassy wit is more than a match for Parsons. He doesn't quite know what do with her most of the time and I looooove it.
Hermione, Polly, Mallory from Exit Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
These girls. I love when female friendships are showcased in YA. Johnston did this one so incredibly well. This now rivals the girls from Saving Francesca as my favorite depiction of friendships in YA. There are some terrible things that happen in this book that no girl should ever have to go through. The way Hermione deals with and processes what happened to her was something I could relate to so well. The way her friends surround her and hold her up as she does that is beautiful in every way. Polly is the sort of girl everyone wants on their team when bad stuff goes down. Fierce and unafraid to go to the mat, she is amazing in every way. Mallory's support is of a more quiet and low-key sort, but just as important. There is a scene where they and their fellow senior cheerleaders are together and talking about the colleges they will go to, looking ahead and planning for a future despite the hard times and trauma and it's making me cry just thinking about it now. The whole book is pretty much like that.
Lucy, Max, Oliver and Liao from The Left-Handed Fate by Kate Milford
These four kids are doing their best to navigate a treacherous adult world and still maintain who they are. Caught up in a war and torn between personal loyalties, loyalty to country, honor, duty, and love, they have to make some tough choices. They are incredibly likeable as individuals even though they have evident flaws. Every single interaction any of them with any of the others brings out different sides of their personalities and makes them all the more real. I could read a hundred books showcasing the adventures of these four people and never grow tired.
The Sullivan Family and "Cousin Freddy" from Secrets of the Dragon Tomb by Patrick Samphire
I have a great fondness for sibling stories, and this is a magnificent one full of adventure, a quest to save half the family, and a lot of self discovery. Edward, Putty, and Olivia have a wonderful dynamic. The story is mostly told from Edward's point of view so the reader gets to see him and his opinion of his sisters grow and change over the course of the book. Putty and Olivia are opposites but have a common strength and inner steel. Then there is Freddy who is every thing I adore in a hero in the most hilarious way. I read this book twice this year, once for myself and once aloud to my son. Both times I was struck by how real the characters are and how much humor and heart they all have. I can not wait for more stories featuring this family.
The Hart Family (particularly Finley and Avery) from Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand
In a year where I read a lot of great characters particularly in MG, Finley Hart is my favorite. This is her story and she tells it beautifully. Sent to stay over the summer with grandparents she's never met, Finley is a fish out of water and doesn't understand the rules of her new home and family. Yet how she bonds with every member of that family and how they all reach out to help her in their own ways (ranging from deeply flawed to courageous) is a beautiful tale of connection and hope. Finley's cousin Avery is definitely my favorite secondary character. She is Finley's complement in every way and the way they interact and share things is wonderful.
Miles Vorkosigan from the Vorkisogan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold
I can't believe I waited so long to start this series. From everything everyone told me of Miles, I knew I would love him and I do. (My friend Chachic describes him as Gen in space and she's not wrong.) Miles is super intelligent, a brilliant strategist, a political mastermind, and kind of an unthinking jerk sometimes. And he is so much fun to read about. I love the supporting characters too and how varied their personalties are and how they either love or hate Miles. There's really not much in between there. It's wonderful. I can't wait to read more of the series!
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Who are some of your favorite characters you've encountered this year?