The Cybils brought me to Sarah Rees Brennan, who is probably now my favorite YA author. Her Demon's Lexicon was on the 2009 finalists lists, which was good because I'm fairly sure the cover would never had gotten me to read it (who was that emo-lipped boy? Certainly not Nick). I've since given it as a gift many times, although when I give it to boys I tend to put a slip cover on it. Luckily the soft cover involves swords rather than swooning. I love her characters-- they are funny but real, taking their lives seriously even when their dialogue makes me laugh out loud. Everything feels important and authentic, even when the characters are fighting demon possession or discovering that magic is real and deadly.
Anyway, I gobbled up her entire Demon's Lexicon series, enjoying the way she took risks with her characters and her story, letting the stakes be real and the dangers sharp, tracing the reality of emotions and identity through her story of magic and possessions. If you haven't read The Demon's Lexicon, The Demon's Covenant, and The Demon's Surrender, go do so. Even if you don't like the covers.
Then she wrote Team Human with Justine Larbalestier, which means I now can hand my friends a book about teen vampire love without cringing. And it means that I discovered a new author.
Her current series is a gothic story about evil sorcerers, English sheep country, and the dark underside of imaginary friends. The first two are out -- Unspoken and Untold, and they are full of wonderful people, such and Angela, the beautiful girl with the grace of a lion. Wait, I meant the laziness of a lion. Kami Glass, who should teach a detective school with Veronica Mars. Jared and Ash Lynburn, two boys who look alike but react as opposites. Bad guys who sometimes win. Good guys who sometimes do terrible things. Teens who had love lives but still manage to fight evil. Older brothers who protect their sister's friend, for reasons that make sense to both adults and their teenage son, who also loves these books.
And if I haven't convinced you to read them yet (although why not, the kindle editions are only $8), you can try the short story THE TURN OF THE STORY Brennan has been throwing on her blog as a gift to her readers. Or listen to Mark read the first few bits here.