So here we are featuring another rundown of the best YA novels of 2011, chosen by some of the most passionate and enthusiastic bloggers on the planet. Seriously, if you’re not following these blogs and have an interest in YA, then you should be!
Human.4 by Mike A Lancaster
Easily one of the best Science Fiction books I’ve read this year. Human.4 takes a page right out of The Twilight Zone’s book. The plot is simple enough. Kyle agrees to be hypnotized as part of the town’s talent show only to wake up to broken technology and everyone acting like he doesn’t exist. The truth ends up more terrifying than he could have imagined. To me it feels like an “old school” Science Fiction book which I love! Everything about it is what I love about Science Fiction: crazy storylines, really cool technology, man vs. machine ideology. It’s Science Fiction at its finest. Sci-fi fans, I can’t urge you enough to go buy the book!
It is a beautiful yet harrowing book which looks at the treatment of the Lithuanian people under Stalinist rule. They were treated in much the same way as the Jewish people under Nazi rule but it is a horrific event in our recent history that very few people seem to know about. Just watching Ruta’s video which introduced the book was enough to do it for me as you can see how important the subject is to her as the book is based around events that happened to members of her more distant family in Lithuanian. What makes this book perfect for me is despite all the horrors the main character Lina faces she still carries around in her this overwhelming notion of hope for a better future which for me was the entire message of this book … that even in the most awful conditions the spirit human kindness and goodness still exists and can’t be stamped out by even the most tyrannical of oppressors.
This has been my most anticipated book of the year! The love story of Patch and Nora has been so addictive, I just can’t get enough! I fell in love with Patch all over again! I devoured every page in Silence. I knew it was going to be an amazing read right from the opening. I went through so many different emotions, in the span of couple of chapters. Anger . . . Pain . . . Sadness . . . Relief . . . It was easy getting back into this storyline. In Silence we are introduced to new characters, as well as a visit from characters we have already grown to know and love (or hate?!). There were a few points in the book that had my heart pumping (love it!). I can also pinpoint WHEN I fell in love with Patch again . . . dancing at the club. The whispers, and the twirling, and the sexy half smiles, and the hands (squeeeeee!) There was one line in the book, where I had to put the book down, and just smile and sigh. I won’t say what it is, but when you come across it, you’ll do it too! And honestly, I found myself giggling like a school girl at certain parts. And yes, they revolved around Patch’s unforgettable one liners. You know the ones! Whether you are just beginning this sage from the beginning, or are waiting for book #4, you will be so engrossed in this story, and you’ll be wishing for your own Fallen Angel.
I’m sure that everyone who has been following this series will be thinking much the same as MaryAnn from Chapter by Chapter. If you feel the same, then follow MaryAnn on Twitter and let her know!
The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta
It’s impossibly difficult to only choose one favorite in 2011. But, the first book that came to mind was The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta. This book is amazing, powerful, emotional, heartbreaking and hopeful. And, honestly, it’s Melina Marchetta. What more do I need to say?!
This was an easy choice for me. Will Hill did a few things with his YA debut, and my favourite amongst them was give me my monsters back. When I was a kid, vampires, werewolves, and assorted other beasties all frightened me. In DEPARTMENT 19 they do that again, and with a flowing prose that won’t allow you to put the book down. If creatures could crawl off the page, sneak across my sheets and steal away into my dreams they certainly did here. A fast-paced, action-oriented romp through history and modern day that simply doesn’t stop for breath. I found myself reading at 3 A.M. many a night after the world had gone to sleep and I just didn’t want to leave Hill’s world. An absolutely amazing debut, written by quite a storyteller, DEPARTMENT 19 is definitely my favourite YA title of the year.
My pick for top YA novel of 2011 is Sally Gardner’s The Double Shadow. Set during the Interbellum and the Second World War, this is a story about the importance of memory. Amaryllis’ and Ezra’s (love) story is just the top layer of this complex narrative, which shows the reader not just how much memory and identity are interwoven, but also how dangerous it is to lose or get trapped in your memories and I found it fascinating. I fell in love with Sally Gardner’s characters – even some of the baddies! – and the way her narrative made me think about things, not just the book itself, but also how its themes applied to my own life. Historical with a speculative bent, The Double Shadow was a haunting book, which I had a hard time putting down and couldn’t wait to pick back up!
Dystopian fiction for a teenage market is definitely not a new concept. From Z for Zachariah by Robert C O’Brien to Brother in the Land by Robert Swindells, there have been novels written about a dystopian future. In the past couple of years – particularly since the publication of such landmark series as the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness and the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins – dystopian fiction has exploded onto the shelves, and this looks set to continue well into 2012.
Here are some of the novels we think that you should be including in a YA dystopian wishlist:
I would be surprised if you hadn’t heard of the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins! It has been a rampaging success, giving rise to sales into the millions and a movie adaptation (released March 201). All three novels in the trilogy have been New York Times bestsellers.
Set in a dark vision of the near future, a terrifying reality TV show is taking place. Twelve boys and twelve girls are forced to appear in a live event called The Hunger Games. There is only one rule: kill or be killed. When sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdee steps forward to take her younger sister’s place in the games, she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.
Matched exploded onto the scene in 2010, with Disney snapping up the film rights before the book had even been published, and Crossed following a year later.
In the Society, Officials decide. Who you love. Where you work. When you die.
Cassia has always trusted their choices. It’s hardly any price to pay for a long life, the perfect job, the ideal mate. So when her best friend appears on the Matching screen, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is the one… until she sees another face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. Now Cassia is faced with impossible choices: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path no one else has ever dared follow — between perfection and passion.
In our series of posts that highlight the Best YA Books of 2011, chosen by the bloggers who have been supporting Strange Chemistry from day one, Divergent is chosen time and again. It recently took the title of Favourite Book of 2011 in a Goodreads vote, sweeping aside such fantasy giants as A Dance With Dragons by George R R Martin and The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. It has shown genuine crossover appeal, and now many thousands of people are eagerly awaiting the next instalment.
In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves… or it might destroy her.
Delirium is another New York Times bestseller – as many of the YA novels on this list have ended up being – and has already been optioned for film.
Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing.
They didn’t understand that once love — the deliria — blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the government demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.
But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.
Wither is a 2011 young-adult dystopian novel written by Lauren DeStefano. It was originally published on March 22, 2011, by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing. It is set in a future where scientists succeeded in engineering a perfect generation of humans, free of illness and disorders, but as a consequence, also created a virus that plagues that generation’s children and their children’s children, killing females at age 20 and males at age 25. The fallout from this disaster drastically set apart the poor, who scavenge for food in a society that has few to no workers, from the rich, who celebrate each new building built as the continuance of the human race. It is the first book of The Chemical Garden Trilogy. The second book, Fever, has a planned release date of February 2012.
By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. She can thank modern science for this genetic time bomb. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years. Geneticists are seeking a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children.
When Rhine is kidnapped and sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can’t bring herself to hate him as much as she’d like to. He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life. But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband’s strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement. Her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next, and Rhine is desperate to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive. Will Rhine be able to escape–before her time runs out?
Uglies is a 2005 science fiction novel by Scott Westerfeld. It is set in a future post-scarcity dystopian world in which everyone is turned “Pretty” by extreme cosmetic surgery upon reaching age 16. It tells the story of teenager Tally Youngblood who rebels against society’s enforced conformity, after her new found friends Shay and David show her the downsides to becoming a “Pretty”. They show Tally how being a “Pretty” can change not only your look but your personality. Written for young adults, Uglies deals with adolescent themes of change, both emotional and physical. The book is the first installment in what was originally a trilogy, the Uglies series, which also includes Pretties, Specials, and Extras
Under the surface, Uglies speaks of high profile government conspiracies and the danger of trusting the omnipresent Big Brother. While the underlying story condemns war and all the side effects thereof, the true thrust of the story proves that individual freedoms are far more important than the need for uniformity and the elimination of personal will.
Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days.
The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.
The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war– and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.
The Chaos Walking trilogy – what an immense triumph. All three novels have had awards showered on them – from the Costa Children’s Fiction Prize to the Carnegie Medal. Monsters of Men was also shortlisted for the Arthur C Clarke award, one of the very rare YA novels to garner this honour.
“The Noise is a man unfiltered, and without a filter, a man is just chaos walking.” From this, the title of the trilogy was derived.
The books are centered around Prentisstown boy, Todd Hewitt, and companion Viola Eade, with the first volume beginning a month before Todd’s thirteenth birthday. The story follows his journey through New World, where he searches for answers and opposes the plans of Prentisstown’s Mayor, David Prentiss.
Now we have deliberately left out some of the authors that we know have written dystopian novels because we want YOU to tell us your favourites that don’t feature on this list!
Also, how about discussing with us why a subset of science fiction i.e. dystopia has become so popular while other areas of science fiction, like time travel and space opera, are not receiving so much attention from YA authors? What do you think?
One of the things we get asked the most is how to define YA. What makes a novel YA and not adult?
So we tried to come up with some of the factors via our editor’s Twitter stream as to what drives the term YA. Since a few people commented that it was a useful resource, we present it here, in list form.
YA is NOT a genre.
YA is NOT published just because of cynical marketing types.
YA is NOT just paranormal romance.
YA IS written deliberately by MANY authors – they are not shoehorned into it.
YA IS an attempt to document the issues that face many teens – from skin colour to bullying to sexuality to conformity.
YA doesn’t HAVE to have teen protagonists, but it is the NORM.
YA is ENGAGING with teen readers who have different issues and feelings from adult readers.
YA can and does feature MANY genres – sci fi, fantasy, horror, contemporary, historical, thriller.
YA has an emotional INTENSITY that differs from adult fiction.
YA fiction – often through settings -shows a world in flux. It uses settings as a metaphor for the journey and exploration that a teen faces
YA asks questions like ‘Who am I?’ ‘Who do I want to become?’ ‘Where do I fit in?’
The true YA protagonist will often have a blinkered view of the world. A naivety. A freshness.
Young characters in adult novels often have a more knowing approach – an adult’s ability to reason and suppose.
YA novels are not a NEW concept-think of Treasure Island, Black Beauty, Alice in Wonderland. If these were published today, they would be YA
In YA novels the culture that surrounds and absorbs young adults plays a huge role in their lives.
YA novels’ issues and characters are treated in a way that does not invalidate, minimize, or devalue them. They are deemed important.
YA literature can be advantageous to reluctant student readers by addressing their needs
YA fiction portrays teens confronting situations and social issues that push the edge of acceptable content and boundaries.
A YA novel will generally be 70k-90k words – the slighter format ensures the narrative is pacier and punchier.
This might be controversial, but YA novels have more simplistic language – the plot and characters are more important than complex words.
YA is not easy to generalise. YA is not easy to compartmentalise.
One of the BEST things about YA fiction is that it is so INCLUSIVE. When I say inclusive, I think I need to define it better. It shows outsiders, sure, but also implies through hope that being an outsider is acceptable. It shows that you can be gay, POC, transgender, into fantasy etc and that’s okay.
Those were our immediate thoughts – we would LOVE you to debate these and suggest your own!
As we’re reaching the end of 2011, here at Strange Chemistry we thought it would be great to reach out to those YA bloggers around the world and ask them what their favourite YA novels of 2011 had been. After all, they are the experts! You’ll see a few of these posts on the run up to Christmas, as we gather together the responses and celebrate the very best in YA fiction.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
It’s not very often you come across something as unique and special as this book. It’s a wonderfully chilling story interspersed with hand-picked real vintage photographs that will captivate every corner of your imagination. It feels like a work of art in your hands – a beautifully produced hardback with nice thick pages that smell divine, and a secret signature hidden under the cover of the book. It takes a book like this to make you realise just how much an e-book pales in comparison, and how important it is to keep the printed book alive. I can’t even describe just how much I loved this book, and I recommend it to my customers at Waterstone’s on a weekly basis! I guarantee you will not have read anything like it before.
My absolute favorite YA this year is a contemporary novel, “Catching Jordan” by Mirand Kenneally. I’m a lover of contemporaries in general, but this one caught my eye because it was about a girl who was captain of her highschool football team. I don’t really know much about football and have never had the desire to educate myself on it, but even the football didn’t keep me from enjoying this book. I loved the main character, Jordan. She was strong and fought for what she wanted, which I think is so important in a character written for teen girls. I also really appreciated that the characters weren’t perfect, they all made mistakes and had flaws, which made the story feel more real and relatable. And really, any book that can make me want to re-read it immediately, is a winner for me.
Thank you for asking us. In my opinion I believe the best book of 2011 has to be Divergent by Veronica Roth. I think Divergent is an exciting, exhilarating read. Dystopian is one of my favourite genres to read in YA fiction and this book was very unique. It was fast paced and I was constantly kept in suspense as to what was going to happen next. I loved the main character Tris and the male protagonist Four. I also liked how Divergent didn’t focus so much on romance like many other YA novels. I look forward to reading Insurgent next year.
I am obsessed with this book. I think I’ve read it three times this year and no-one can work out why I love it so much, when I hate books such as Dead Beautiful and Die For Me. I think it’s because of the boy. Unlike the majority of YA paranormal/fantasy books, the boy in this seems to have more of a personailty to me – maybe it’s because he’s all tortured and I want to look after him! Moving on from the boy, this has all the elements I love – a bit of Greek Mythology (well, a lot), friends and enemies, friends becoming enemies, enemies becoming friends, Gods and Goddesses, I could never guess where the plot was going. It was so much fun trying to work out who was which God/Goddess! I spent a lot of time googling them and trying to match the personalities to their Greek God counterpart. Where’s my copy, I need to go have a re-read…
Thanks to Vickie of Coma Calm for this one (find her on Twitter here).
Every aspect of the story is essentially believable (if you can get past zombies first of all). While it isn’t overwhelming with steampunk-ed-ness, there is just enough to make you remember this is a different time and they have some cool stuff going on. The romance isn’t over the top or in your face, but it comes on gradually, none of this “instant love” stuff that is common in young adult novels. These characters actually get to know one another. The main character, Nora, is great; she is not whiny like many female teen characters are written. She is all about taking charge and kicking some butt when need be – but she isn’t obnoxious at all. There are even some moments where I laughed out loud. It’s pretty long for a YA book, but well worth it. It’s not just mindless, undead action like a young adult zombie book could be.
Following an interesting discussion on our @strangechem Twitter feed (come follow us! We like to do the talking thing!) today’s YA Novels You Should be Reading post concentrates on angels.
Led by some of the authors listed below, angels became an incredibly hot property in the world of YA fiction. Immortal bad boys – vampire equivalents for those who wanted a more celestial and less blood-sucking version. Characters such as Patch have become just as longed-for as Edward Cullen!
Interestingly, some of our Twitter followers mentioned the religion angle of angels (hmm, angle and angel need to be written very carefully when they’re side by side!) and how that has put them off picking up books that focus on heavenly beings. However, other people argued that very few of the angel novels include religion at all.
Here are our top ten angel-featuring novels!
1) Fallen by Lauren Kate
There’s something achingly familiar about Daniel Grigori.
Mysterious and aloof, he captures Luce Price’s attention from the moment she sees him on her first day at the Sword & Cross boarding school in sultry Savannah, Georgia. He’s the one bright spot in a place where cell phones are forbidden, the other students are all screw-ups, and security cameras watch every move.
Even though Daniel wants nothing to do with Luce–and goes out of his way to make that very clear–she can’t let it go. Drawn to him like a moth to a flame, she has to find out what Daniel is so desperate to keep secret . . . even if it kills her.
2) Angel by L A Weatherly
In a world where angels are beyond redemption, Alex thinks he’s found one that might deserve mercy. Alex is a ruthless assassin – of angels. Forget everything you’ve heard about them before. Angels are not benign celestial creatures, but fierce stalkers whose irresistible force allows them to feed off humans, draining them of their vitality until there is barely anything left. As far as Alex is concerned, the only good angel is a dead angel…until he meets Willow. She may look like a normal teenager but Willow is no ordinary girl. Half-angel, half-human, Willow may hold the key to defeating the evil angels. But as the hunter and the hunted embark on an epic and dangerous journey and Willow learns the dark and terrifying secrets of her past, Alex finds himself drawn to Willow…with devastating consequences.
3) Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
For Nora Grey, romance was not part of the plan. She’s never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how much her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch came along.
With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Nora is drawn to him against her better judgment.
But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora’s not sure who to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is, and to know more about her than her closest friends. She can’t decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is way more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.
For Nora is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen – and, when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost her life.
4) Halo by Alexandra Adornetto
Three angels are sent down to bring good to the world: Gabriel, the warrior; Ivy, the healer; and Bethany, a teenage girl who is the least experienced of the trio. But she is the most human, and when she is romantically drawn to a mortal boy, the angels fear she will not be strong enough to save anyone – especially herself – from the Dark Forces.
Is love a great enough power against evil?
5) Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages–not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.
When one of the strangers–beautiful, haunted Akiva–fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
6) Mercy by Rebecca Lim
A fallen angel haunted by her past. Yearning for her immortal beloved. Forever searching for answers. Who will show her Mercy?
Mercy has lost herself. She can’t count how many times she’s ‘woken up’ in a new body, and assumed a new life, only to move on again and again. During the day she survives in the human world on instinct and at night her dreams are haunted by him. Mercy’s heart would know him anywhere. But her memory refuses to cooperate
But this time is different. When Mercy wakes up she meets Ryan, an eighteen year old reeling from the loss of his twin sister who was kidnapped two years ago. Everyone else has given up hope, but Ryan believes his sister is still alive. Using a power she doesn’t fully comprehend, Mercy realizes that Ryan is right. His sister is alive and together they can find her. For the first time since she can remember, Mercy has a purpose; she can help. So she doesn’t understand why the man in her dreams cautions her not to interfere. But as Ryan and Mercy come closer to solving the dark mystery of his sister’s disappearance, danger looms just one step behind.
Will Mercy be able to harness her true self and extraordinary power in time?
7) Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
Clara has known she is part-angel since she turned fourteen two years ago. But only now, through fragmented visions of a terrifying bush fire, is her Purpose – the crucial rite of passage for every part-angel – becoming clear to her. When Clara meets Christian, the boy in her visions, he is everything she could wish for – so why does she also have feelings for her enigmatic classmate, Tucker? Clara discovers that her Purpose is only a small part of a titanic struggle between angels and their destructive counterparts, the Black Wings. And when the fire of her vision erupts and both Christian and Tucker are in danger, who will she choose to save?
8) City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder — much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing — not even a smear of blood — to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?
This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know. . . .
9) The Fallen by Thomas E Sniegoski
Aaron Corbet isn’t a bad kid — he’s just a little different. On the eve of his eighteenth birthday, Aaron dreams of a darkly violent landscape. He can hear the sounds of weapons clanging, the screams of the stricken, and another sound he cannot quite decipher. But gazing upward at the sky, he suddenly understands. It is the sound of great wings, angels’ wings, beating the air unmercifully as hundreds of armored warriors descend on the battlefield. Orphaned since birth, Aaron is suddenly discovering newfound — and sometimes supernatural — talents. But not until he is approached by two men does he learn the truth about his own destiny, and his role as a liaison between angels, mortals, and Powers both good and evil, some of whom are hell-bent on his own destruction….
10) Angelology by Danielle Trussoni
Sister Evangeline was just a young girl when her father left her at St. Rose Convent under the care of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. Now a young woman, she has unexpectedly discovered a collection of letters dating back sixty years – letters that bring her deep into a closely guarded secret, to an ancient conflict between the millennium-old Society of Angelologists and the monstrously beautiful Nephilim, the descendants of angels and humans.
Right! Those are our 10 angel novels. Now, over to you:
- Have you read any/all of the above? Did you enjoy them? Did you dislike them?
- What is it about angels that appeals to you?
- Which glaring omissions have we made? Make your suggestions in the comments!