2017 has been a real beast, hasn’t it? I won’t even bother listing all the indignities and horrors of the world, because you know (or maybe you’ve forgotten because there have been so many … so I won’t remind you). But through it all, I’ve kept reading. And if there’s to be some bright spots in my year (other than Leo joining our family, which was pretty stinkin’ awesome), then it was that I read some really amazing books this year.
READING GOAL: 75
BOOKS READ: 66
Ok, I didn’t smash my reading goal this year. I set a modest goal of 75 (I usually hit around or over 100), but hey, I was having a baby this year! What I didn’t factor in was Freddie’s second broken leg and the attendant difficulties that brought to sitting down with a good book. Still, 67 books read isn’t too shabby when you consider I grew and birthed a human, helped a toddler through two broken legs, and WROTE A BOOK
Ok, enough tooting of my own horn … now on to my favorite reads of the year (listed in the order I read them)
What it’s about: Rose is a talented ballet dancer whose mother is battling Huntington’s Disease, a fatal genetic disease. Rose is trying to plan her future while also wrestling with the decision to find out if she, too, carried the gene.
This is a 2016 YA that I let slip by by, and I’m so glad I caught up with it this year. I was on a panel with Kate at Boston Teen Author Fest, and hearing her talk about this book and the people she met as she researched it was really special. It also has one of my favorite romances of the year, too.
If you love: the heart of Sarah Dessen mixed with the romance of Stephanie Perkins
What it’s about: Molly’s had a 26 crushes and no boyfriends. But when her twin sister falls madly in love, Molly thinks maybe it’s time to move past the unrequited stage so she doesn’t get left behind.
Becky is just such a delight, both in person and on the page. Simon was great (and how fun does that trailer look?), but her sophomore effort was FANTASTIC. I hope the Simon movie blows up so that eventually we get to see Molly, her family, and loveable Reid on the big screen.
If you love: funny families and sweet romance like Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
What it’s about: when adopted Grace winds up pregnant and deciding to give her daughter up for adoption, she realizes it’s time to find her birth mother … only to find she has a biological brother and sister. The book follows the three teens as they wrestle with what family means and their places in it.
I read a galley of this several months before it was released, and as soon as I finished crying, I wrote an email to Robin telling her how mother-effing good it was. So cue my total lack of surprise but complete delight when Robin got named to the National Book Award Longlist, then the short list, and then WON THE DAMN THING. This book is so tender and gentle and full of big important emotions and small, sweet moments. It’s one I’ll return to when I’m feeling like I need writing inspiration, because the prose feels effortless. Have you read this yet? No? WHAT. ARE. YOU. WAITING. FOR?!
If you love: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell or the smart introspection of John Green’s Looking for Alaska
What it’s about: on the eve of their high school graduation, best friends Ryan and Gaby face a decision about the state of their friendship, setting the story off on a countdown of the top ten best moments of their relationship.
This is the book I most fervently evangelized in 2017. The story is fantastic, but the magic is truly in the way it’s told. Katie presents the top ten moments in this friends-to-maybe-something -more story, and I just didn’t want to put it down. This one also has a really amazing and gentle depiction of anxiety. If you’re looking for a contemp you may have missed in 2017, go snag this one.
If you love: Jennifer E. Smith, Jenny Han’s To All the Boys series, or Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
What it’s about: Desi decides to put her master planning skills to work to help her win the affection of Luca … by following to the letter the lessons of her father’s beloved K-dramas
Are you singing the song? I’m singing the song. And like the song, I Believe in a Thing Called Love is just so fun. And I say that as someone who has absolutely zero connection to K-dramas, that’s how good of a writer Maureen is. Her characters and story just sparkle off the page. And Desi’s father is one of my favorite parental characters I read this year.
If you love: The humor and voice of Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway or the Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
What it’s about: Told in a series of emails and text messages, this one tells the story of two best friends off to college on opposite coasts and how they go about finding themselves and building new lives while still staying connected to their old ones.
This one was a fast read that had me laughing out loud. I was initially drawn to it because one of the characters goes to Emerson College, a school I worked at after I finished grad school. And hoo boy did this get this one get it right. Funny and heart wrenching.
If you love: snark, pop culture references, and the Jessica Darling series by Megan McCafferty
What it’s about: A graphic novel about Imogen, who’s leaving her family in the Renaissance Faire for the first time to head off to middle school
Oh man, was this book so real. I don’t want to say “painfully real,” because this book is like a warm hug, but we all know middle school is mostly a horror show. But it has such an uplift that I recommend it as a quick feel-good read to middles schoolers and grown-ups alike.
If you love: Judy Blume’s middle grade novels or Jamison’s first graphic novel, Roller Girl.
What it’s about: Taking inspiration from her mother’s Riot Grrrl past, Vivian launches a ‘zine and a feminist revolution in her small, conservative Texas town.
This one was much-hyped in my mind, thanks to a blurb from Amy Poehler (who optioned the book months before its release) coupled with a truly kickass cover. I loved reading about Viv and her efforts to upend the casual misogyny that’s so familiar in football-centric high schools and small towns all over the country. Moxie girls FIGHT BACK!
If you love: smart feminist stories like The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks by E. Lockhart or Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian
What it’s about: Set in late 90s Shaker Heights, Ohio, the novel follows the intertwined lives of a picture-perfect suburban family and the bohemian artist mother and daughter who arrive to shake things up.
You’ve seen this cover. You’ve heard this title. This adult novel was everywhere in 2017, and as well it should be. I love the way Celeste Ng weaves us in and out of the various perspectives in this supposed suburban utopia. I couldn’t put it down.
If you love: contemporary literary fiction by authors like Jami Attenberg, Tom Perotta, or J. Courtney Sullivan
What it’s about: A memoir about navigating the racism inherent in comedy and the entertainment industry, a primer for white people on how to avoid being “that white person,” and a touching story of family across generations.
I did this one on audio, read by W. Kamau Bell, and I highly recommend it. His delivery is everything, and it’ll make you want to seek out more of his writing and comedy. It was also a much-needed salve for the dumpster fire that was the 2016 election.
If you love: comedy memoirs like Yes, Please! by Amy Poehler or Mindy Kaling’s books or the smart, sharp takes on race issues from authors like Roxanne Gay or performers like Key & Peele
What it’s about: Natasha and Daniel meet and start an unlikely romance on the day Natasha and her family are set to be deported
Another 2016 read that I didn’t get to until 2017, and to be honest, sort of avoided after all the hype. But when I finally picked it up, I realized all the hype was 100% deserved. It’s not just in the story, it’s in the telling. Nicola Yoon weaves in the perspectives of side characters across generations that add layers of meaning and emotion to an already beautiful story.
If you love: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan or Girls in the Moon by Janet McNally
What it’s about: A rookie journalist is given the chance of a lifetime — an exclusive interview with legendary film start Evelyn Hugo and the opportunity to unravel the mystery of her personal life
Written like a memoir, this novel takes you through decades of Hollywood history while slowly unraveling the mystery of Evelyn Hugo’s one true love and the lengths she went to to protect her family. It’s incredible juicy and page-turny with a surprise ending.
If you love: tales of old Hollywood like the You Must Remember This podcast
What it’s about: the 3rd book in the Diviners saga, this one follows the Diviners as they try to understand who the King of Crows is, how he’s connected to Jake Marlowe and Project Buffalo, and why ghosts have suddenly overrun New York (starting with a very creepy mental hospital).
Hoo boy has Libba Bray taken us there with the Diviners series. It’s almost hard to believe that she started this series well before our current political era, because the parallels between the eugenics movement of the 20s and the nationalism that we’re seeing today are almost chilling. And that’s without the creepy ghosties that Libba writes so well. This book also gave me my favorite single bit of writing of 2017, from her author’s note:
This is a book about ghosts.
For we live in a haunted house.
If you love: honestly, I don’t even know. Libba Bray is a true original. But if you love historical fiction that pops off the page combined with a bit of horror and a twisty, series-long mystery, then START READING THE DIVINERS RIGHT NOW OK?!