2. Rithmatist, by Brandon Sanderson
The more I read from Sanderson, the more impressed I am with his creativity. Each of his series features a different magic system--all fascinating, all plausible. In this case, the magic system features chalk drawings that come to life to attack or defend as the case may be. Only Rithmatists are allowed to create these chalk drawings, originally developed to defend against the wild chalklings currently trapped on the island of Nebrask. (Yes, island: the book is set in an alternative late 20th century universe where the United States is actually the "United Isles." Just one more thing to love about it).
Joel is a student at a prestigious academy for Rithmatists and non-Rithmatists, but all he wants to do is study rithmatics. Of course, he's not allowed to, but that doesn't prevent him from sneaking into classes and reading as much as he can on the topic--to the detriment of his other studies. But when Rithmatist students begin disappearing from their homes and Joel is asked to assist one of the professors investigating the case, he begins to understand that there's more to his world than he knew.
I think I loved the world-building here as much as any of the characters: I liked Joel, and I adored Melody, the outcast Rithmatist student who befriends Joel (although it could also be said that Joel befriends her.) I'm already looking forward to the next book in the series.