Plain Kate by Erin Bow
At first glance this story is bleak. The Heroine, Plain Kate, is orphaned young, left only with talent for carving and her father's tools. She struggles to survive in a world where food is scarce and magic is feared. But through this, with one seemingly disastrous event after another, it turns into a story about love, friendship, family and, maybe most importantly, living with grief.
This is Ms. Bow's first novel. Poetry was her medium before this and I think it shows. Elegant imagery and an understanding of emotion that wrenches your heart are prominent throughout. This is not a light-hearted YA read.
With all that in mind, however, I think Plain Kate is a promising debut for a YA author and, if you're willing to get your heart broken a little bit, a great read.
(aside note: The title in the UK is 'Wood Angel' which I think is a much better and more descriptive title.)