Happy 2019! A new year – how exciting. Are you soaking in vacation still, or are you back at school/work? After a lovely last few days with my family (our winter break adventures included all good things: a viewing of the whimsical Mary Poppins Returns, a matinee of the brilliant Barber Shop Chronicles, and a stop to my favorite place on the Cape), I’m taking my day at home to tend to my to-do list – and, hopefully, to wrap up a novel or two!
In the meantime, I’m a bit late to the party, but I wanted to share my favorite books of 2018. It was a slow reading year for me – school and theatre took first priority – but I’m grateful that I was able to find so many favorites in what I did read. From adventurous series finales to quieter contemporary novels, find my top nine listed in alphabetical order below. What did you enjoy reading in 2018? (My TBR list is ready for your suggestions!).
And though, it’s Wednesday, I’m linking up with Top Ten Tuesday hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. Read more about the weekly series and add your own list HERE :-)
First on my list is Ruth Lehrer’s excellent, heartfelt debut, Being Fishkill, a YA novel that follows the friendship between thirteen-year-old Fishkill, her classmate Duck-Duck, and Duck-Duck’s mom, Molly. I’ve read it twice now – once when I grabbed it from my library and again for my Adolescent Literature class – and both times was I left moved by the resilience in Lehrer’s characters and the emotional punch of her poetic writing. One to read this year, for sure – especially if you’re looking for younger protagonists or representation of lower-class families.
Few series have gripped and kept my interest like the Ruby Redfort books from Lauren Child; six books in, and I’ve learned to set aside an entire afternoon for reading each new installment. The last book had its US release in May, and it was certainly worth the wait. Ruby’s action-packed, puzzle-filled escapades end with the perfect blend of suspense, humor, and sass, and Child demonstrates an acute sense of pacing over the book’s 500+ pages. Fan I am, I’m biased, but I don’t think there’s a better set of mysteries for the middle-grade audience.
I’ve already raved about Kate Messner’s Breakout, but it’s for good reason: the epistolary novel is all at once tender, pressing, and thought-provoking in its discussions of race, class, and privilege. With such broad topics, it’d be easy to lose sight of the book’s young audience, but Messner doesn’t speak over her middle-grade readers; she instead crafts a narrative that is accessible as it is engaging. I wrote over the summer that it that blew me away, and the sentiment stands. Be prepared for me to recommend it time and time again over the months to come.
If you haven’t yet read Everything Must Go, you’re missing out on one of the very best novels in feminist YA. Through its witty coming-of-age narrative, debut author Jenny Fran Davis establishes a distinctive voice (main character Flora is a memorable one!) and successfully tackles an ambitious plot that is as funny as it is thoughtful. Fans of Rookie, Lady Bird, and Jennifer Mathieu’s Moxie will find it an utter delight, but I also plan to hand it to everyone I know in the coming year – and needless to say, I’m excited to see what Davis writes next.
Sadie seemed to be everywhere this fall, but it’s hype that’s well-deserved. Courtney Summers has established herself as a staple of contemporary YA, and Sadie follows in her tradition of harrowing yet empowering narratives (leave it to Summers to strike that delicate balance). I finished it both on the edge of my seat from the quiet suspense and full of heartbroken anger that Sadie’s story mirrors the reality of so many. If you too choose to grab it, opt for the audiobook or listen to the podcast for a fully immersive reading experience. It’s worth it.
It’s not often that I cry while reading, but The Science of Breakable Things, the middle-grade debut of author Tae Keller, had me pulling out tissues left and right. Main character Natalie’s mission to help her mom is a heartwarming one, and Keller approaches mental illness with a care and nuance I wish were universal across children’s literature. One reviewer writes that it’s a novel that feels “so very human,” and I couldn’t agree more: characters aren’t perfect, but they aren’t called to be. All I can ask now is: next Tae Keller book soon, please?
School has kept me so out-of-the-loop of all things bookish that I’m not sure if The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik, David Arnold’s newest novel, flew under the radar or not. Nevertheless, I’ll say it here: it’s one of the best, if quirkiest, books I’ve read in a long time. Arnold’s storytelling risks (hypnosis! altered realities!) pay off, and Noah’s wry observations make him a narrator to remember. I’m encouraging anyone and everyone to check it out, if not for the numerous nods to pop culture, then for writing that sings and characters that stick.
I wasn’t surprised that I fell in love with Summer of Salt, as I’ve yet to find a book of Katrina Leno’s that I haven’t adored. Nevertheless, so much stands out about her latest novel, a spell-binding tale about sisters on a small island: its beautiful atmospheric quality, its fierce storyline of lineage, sisterhood, and power, and its ability to be timely and timeless. It is, to take a cue from the notes I made just after reading, “everything I wanted and more.” Catch me recommending it endlessly now and reading it again in the summertime.
Finally, Wild Blue Wonder was one of my last reads of the summer. It’s also one of the few books this year that I devoured in a single day, hooked on the narration and growth of protagonist Quinn. Author Carlie Sorosiak has a knack for writing realistic characters and relatable family dynamics, and her immersive setting had me dreaming of the magic in summer afternoons and winter mornings. Fans of contemporary fiction would do well to grab a copy – I myself already plan to purchase it for my own bookshelf.
Have a wonderful Wednesday! xx