I returned to my hometown this month, which means I got a LOT of books at my public library. This is especially noteworthy because somehow in smalltown Illinois, my library is really great at stocking diverse books. The number of books I read about people of color BY people of color increased this month, which I’m quite pleased about. I also accidentally read several books with the word “star” in the title, but they had nothing in common beyond that.
Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
I’m not usually into the mystery genre, but this book was excellent! Each character (and there are a lot of them) is detailed and flawed and believable. There is a lot of violence against women, but that’s the point: there is a lot of violence against women. I love a good male protagonist (bonus points for a detective) who understands this reality and grieves it.
Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All by Jonas Jonasson
Jonasson is a hilarious writer with amazing dry wit. This book covers some dark topics (murders, cons, fake religions) and somehow turns our awful protagonists into accidentally good people that we the readers root for. Yet another reason to go to Sweden!
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal by Jeanette Winterson
Oooowww, this book is emotionally painful. It is the sad and beautiful memoir of a woman raised by an abusive mother who somehow manages to fiercely pursue life and love. It’s very quotable, and towards the end I was especially intrigued by Winterson’s fascinating ideas about madness – what causes it and how to find healing.
The Demon in the Wood by Leigh Bardugo
This is a short story about the Darkling from the Grisha Trilogy, and I am always interested in the backstory’s of villains. This story humanizes him and explains his behaviors, but more interestingly, it shows how individual actions are created by, and reinforce, cultural oppression.
Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik
I did not know how much I needed a Muslim Pride and Prejudice in my life, but I did! This is such a fun and cute book that feels familiar while also being a refreshingly unique interpretation on an overdone classic. I loved reading about modern Muslim culture in the Western world, and Sofia’s Bridget Jones-esque diary entries are perfection. I can’t recommend this enough.
Serafina’s Promise by Ann E. Burg
This novel in verse about a young Haitian girl who dreams of someday attending school so that she can become a doctor is a beautiful story beautifully written. Serafina fights for her dreams despite poverty and the Haitian earthquake, giving us lines like: “Without dreams the world is only dirt and dust.”
The Midnight Star by Marie Lu
I loved Lu’s Young Elite series, but I found this final book a lot weirder than the others in a way that doesn’t quite fit. I had to keep reminding myself that we had already established their magical world, but somehow the mystical realm of death stuff felt out of place. I also wish that Adelina’s villainy had stuck more – the book never could quite commit to her descent into a lust for power and control.
Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
A cute middle grade book about a dyslexic girl whose new teacher manages to understand her and show her her greatness. It is simplistic but lovely, and a great book for kids to learn the value of differences. Definitely something I would have pushed hard when I was a children’s librarian.
A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
This is an excellent sequel to a mediocre book. I cannot describe how thrilled I was when the stereotypical romance from A Court of Thorns and Roses was revealed to be not protective…but abusive. Feyre’s growing affections for Rhysand make total sense because he is a feminist fantasy: an extremely powerful, intelligent, witty man who only wants to let his loved one make her own choices and be her best self. The plot is non-stop, the romance is sizzling, and I am mad that I have to wait several more months for the next book!
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
This unrealistic but engrossing romance details the one day in which a Korean guy and a Jamaican girl meet and fall in love before she is deported away from New York City. I rolled my eyes at the love-at-first-site gimic quite a bit, but the book won major points for its unique POV-changing chapters. We see things from both protagonists’ points of view, but also from parents and the guy who almost ran into them. Because of that, the story is both tiny (one day) but also broad (so many people affected their meeting).
The Last Star by Rick Yancey
The final book in the 5th Wave series is a worse disappointment than the LOST series finale. So many questions were left unanswered, and some of the answers were so convoluted and ridiculous that I didn’t even try to understand. I found this to be a very unsatisfying conclusion to what started as a thrilling series.
A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman
Another novel in verse, this time about an Indian girl who loses and regains her dream of dancing after her foot is amputated. It’s an inspiring story that feels both diverse and universal. I really liked the story’s assertion that rather than ruining a person’s creativity, pain and loss can actually deepen and enrich a person’s artwork.
The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork
This is SUCH a great book. It feels light even though it covers heavy topics – Pancho is an orphaned teenager who wants to find and kill the man who murdered his mentally disabled sister, but who then finds new meaning in life when he is befriended by a guy with brain cancer. Yikes, right? But despite the morbid plot points, this book is so uplifting and inspiring. That’s the point though: in a world of death and pain, we can still choose to pursue life and love every day that we are given.