It’s that time of year, when people are making their top 10 or 20 or 200 books of the year. As of now, I’m at 64 books read (though I’ll probably add another 1-2 before the year ends). Less than in recent years, but hey, this was my first full year taking care of a tiny human. Not as much unadulterated reading time as I used to have! So instead of a top whatever list, I’ve decided to do my 2015 reading superlatives (along with some 2016 anticipated books). If you see something on the list you haven’t read, well, you should.
Most Feminist YA
THE CURE FOR DREAMING
The genre of Cat Winters novels are not my usual cup of tea, and yet I’ve added her to my auto-buy list. Her sophomore novel, The Cure for Dreaming, weaved together some magical realism with some feminist AF narratives. Throw in some amazing historical details, and I was ALL IN.
Book I Evangelize the Most
VIVIAN APPLE AT THE END OF THE WORLD
PLEASE READ THIS BOOK. It’s funny and smart and subversive and so so important in our political landscape. The sequel, Vivian Apple Needs a Miracle, has one of the best laugh-out-loud finales I read this year.
Best Series Ender
IN THE AFTERLIGHT
Again, The Darkest Minds trilogy is not something I’d usually be into, but these books are so well written and well-develped. I recommend this trilogy to anyone who says they know a reluctant teen reader.
This category is a shoutout to the #QuietYA hashtag. What if I told you this story was a loose version of if one of the Dugger girls got woke? What I love most about this novel is the respect Mathieu has for Rachel’s faith. In a lesser author’s hands, this story would have taken the easy way out and given Rachel some kind of Rumspringa-esque rebellion. But this is a gentle story about faith and family and finding yourself, and I want more people to read it.
This graphic novel was so happy-making, I think I sighed and hugged it when I finished. Perfect for rebels and outsiders and athletes and junior riot grrrls, or just the girls who are looking for a place and finding middle school to be less than perfect.
ALL THE RAGE
This needs to be in the hands of every high schooler, male or female, across this country. It’s raw and honest and just such a good book. There’s a reason I’ve auto-bought everything Courtney’s written since I first picked up Cracked Up to Be in 2008.
Narrated by Edward Herrmann
RIP Richard Gilmore … this incredible story was made even better by the late Herrmann’s narration. I could just imagine him telling Rory that he’s read the most extraordinary book and pressing it into her hands. You wouldn’t think a book where more than a hundred pages are spent floating lost in the Pacific could be gripping, but it so is.
HELLO, GOODBYE, AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN
Jennifer E. Smith
A novel about a couple on the night before they leave for different colleges, retracing their relationship and trying to decide if they’re going to stay together or break up. I loved it all the way through, but that ending really sealed it for me. Jen writes contemps that feel so real. I’ll read anything she writes forever.
THE ROYAL WE
Jessica Cocks and Heather Morgan
I loved the Fug Girls’ YA novels (Spoiled and Messy), so I was going to read this no matter what. But when I found out that it was a Will-and-Kate-style rom com? YES PLEASE! This book is a beast at over 500 pages, but I read it in a weekend. I’m pretty sure I neglected my husband, child, and all responsibilities to finish it.
Most White-Knuckle Read
WRITTEN IN THE STARS
This one was a major surprise. I knew it was going to be great (everyone told me it would), but I didn’t expect it to be such a tense page-turner! This is another one I couldn’t put down, and again, in the hands of a lesser author, the ending wouldn’t have been nearly as delicate and strong. This book is important, but that doesn’t mean it’s not also incredibly readable.
Willowdean from DUMPLIN’
I think I literally fist pumped while reading this book. The moment where Willowdean is giving her friend a pep talk while a douchebag taunts her from the parking lot, and she pauses only to yell “Eat shit!” and then returns to her pep talk is maybe the most triumphant moment in writing this year. I loved Willowdean for her complexity and her heart, and you will too.
Will from BEAUTIFUL PLAYER
Yes, I discovered Christina Lauren in the last quarter of 2015. Yes, I read them all (in a row). Yes, it was hard to choose (Max! Finn! Ansel! Not-Joe!). But in the end, I went with Will. Maybe it was the running? I don’t know … it worked for me.
THE CARNIVAL AT BRAY
Jessie Ann Foley
Ok guys, maybe this book was a big deal, but it’s possible I missed that because it came out right when I had a baby (it was definitely a big deal, because it was nominated for the Printz, I was just wildly out of touch, ok?). Regardless, this summer I discovered a paperback copy for sale while I was shopping at my local Kroger and figured, hey why not? Color me shocked when a book I’d never heard of turned out to be one of my favorite stories of the year. This is the book I wish I’d had when I was in high school.
The Novel That Wrecked Me
A LITTLE LIFE
All I have to say about this is WHY DOES ANYONE TALK ABOUT FRANZEN WHEN HANYA YANAGIHARA IS WALKING AROUND ON THIS BEAUTIFUL EARTH? Oh Jude and Willem and Malcolm and JB. These were the most fully realized characters I’ve ever come across. It gave me the hardest crying jags I’ve ever experienced while reading. It was brutal to read, but also beautiful. I mean, don’t just trust me. It was a National Book Award finalist, after all.
Book That Changed My Life
Two things: 1) I usually can’t get through a self-help/inspirational book without a million eye rolls and 2) I DNFed Eat, Pray, Love because #whitewhine. But Big Magic? Big Magic made me fall in love with writing again after a very hard year writing-wise (that’s a post for another day…). Thanks to Big Magic, I’m writing again for fun. I’m remembering why I do this. Some people keep the Bible on their bedside table? I have my marked up, be-stickied copy of Big Magic. If you’re a creative type, you need to read this.
Series I Binged
I highly recommend picking one series next year that’s complete that you missed and binging it. It’s so fun! After a million recommendations, I finally picked up the first from my local library, then returned to check out the remaining 5 all once. Two weeks later, I’d had a fun and exciting ride with Cammie and the Girls.
Favorite 2016 Book
THE SERPENT KING
I loved this book for focusing on the kinds of characters we don’t often see in YA. There’s also a *thing* that happens in this book that had me sending a slightly hysterical DM to Jeff midway through. I’ve never been so mad at an author ever (but in a good way, I promise). Put this book on your TBR, though if early reviews are any indication, you already do. I predict everyone and their dog is going to be reading this next year.
2016 Books I’m Dying to Get My Hands on
Are you a publicist? Do you have these galleys? Because watch out, I might be stalking you. These are my 2016 auto-buys!
THE UNEXPECTED EVERYTHING by Morgan Matson
Her books always rank amongst my favorite reads. This might be the only book I’ve already pre-ordered, and it doesn’t come out until May!
SUMMER DAYS AND SUMMER NIGHTS by Stephanie Perkins
Another Perkins anthology! I loved My True Love Gave to Me (which I bought WHILE I WAS IN LABOR you guys; remind me to tell you that story!). If I were in the Hunger Games and this book was in the cornucopia, I’d make a run for it.
YOU KNOW ME WELL by David Levithan & Nina LaCour
A Levithan/LaCour teamup set during the Pride Parade in San Fran?! I mean …
THE LAST BOY AND GIRL IN THE WORLD by Siobhan Vivian
I loved The List, Vivian’s last solo-novel, and I can’t wait for this one.
PASSENGER by Alexandra Bracken
The only non-contemp on this list, but what can I say? Bracken is an incredible writer, and I’ll get my hands on anything she publishes