With 2016 winding down, it’s time for me to share where I’ve spent my year. Sure, I could blog about the adventures I went on this year (Mexico! Norway! Denmark!), but that would just remind me that I’m no longer there.
Instead, I’m going to tell you about the places I can go back to at the click of an eReader button, or flip of a page – the literary adventures that stuck with me this year. These are the books I think of right away when I look back on what I read this year. They’re the reads I’m likely to recommend to anyone and everyone who talks to me about anything remotely book related.
As usual, I read a lot of YA. I actually read more adult books than typical this year, but the adventures that I think about – the ones I’d like to see you take? They’re all YA. And this list covers the gamut of what YA was for me in 2016:
The Heartbreakers – Ali Novak
This is hands down my favourite contemporary YA of all the contemporary YA that I read this year. And I read a lot. But The Heartbreakers has the light and romantic elements that I didn’t see much of this year. It’s sweet and angsty with all the teenaged love feelings, but the themes of sibling relationships and being true to yourself permeate the book. It’s cute as hell while taking on some tough topics and not underestimating or talking down to teens, which pretty much makes it my perfect contemporary YA.
The Girl Who Fell – Shannon M. Parker
On the opposite side of YA cuteness is The Girl Who Fell. This one starts off with some of the sweetness typical of a contemporary YA, but it’s underscored with elements of ick from the get-go. So, why do I recommend this book if it’s not my perfect contemporary YA? Because those elements of ick grow. Slowly. Dauntingly. Suffocatingly. Until I wanted to yell at the main character that she was being stupid and throw the book across the room. But she isn’t a stupid character. She’s smart. Strong. And this is a love story of the most horrific kind. But it’s YA. It has that glimmer of hope – that optimism in the pits of despair. And we can all use that.
The Conspiracy of Us – Maggie Hall
This book kept me up way beyond my bedtime. Mysteries, secret societies, Europe… Yeah, sleep stood no chance. This book (and its sequel, Map of Fates) are essentially The Da Vinci Code for the YA crowd – if The Da Vinci Code included complex themes of identity, trust, and loyalty. I will admit to wanting to chuck the main character off a plane at the start of the book, but her character grows so nicely – and continues to develop in complicated ways in the sequel – that I’m glad I stuck with her. So, so worth it.
Lies We Tell Ourselves – Robin Talley
Okay, so historical fiction isn’t my usual go-to, but am I ever glad my history nerd won out when I saw this one. Lies We Tell Ourselves takes place during school desegregation in the US. It’s dual POV of a black girl and the white girl who’s been taught to hate her. But both girls doubt the things they thought they knew – about themselves, and each other. In many ways, this is a heart wrenching read. It’s violent. Uncertain. Fearful. But the glimmer of hope is beautiful.
The Female of the Species – Mindy McGinnis
Every now and then I read a book and immediately email my school’s librarian to make sure we have a copy. This is one of those books. Told in three interconnected points of view, these characters make it clear how differently one event can affect people – how what’s unseen, forgotten, or largely unknown is still ever present. It also deals with the topics of sexual assault and consent in a frank and unapologetic way, including through a male character’s point of view, which is so refreshing. This isn’t a light read. But it shouldn’t be. It’s gripping. Horrifying. And important.