And I’m back with my annual favorite books post! Once again, I didn’t read as many books as I wanted to, but I’ve come to learn that my expectations are almost always too high. However, I did read some stellar books, and I would recommend every single book on this list! These are roughly in order of when I read them, for no reason other than that’s how they were listed in my journal. Enjoy!
Sadie by Courtney Summers
This was my first book of the year and remains one of my favorites. It probably helps that I listened to the audiobook version (highly recommend), which won all kinds of awards. So many trigger warnings for this one (pedophilia, sex abuse, drug abuse, murder) because it’s a seriously heavy book, but the unusual podcast structure provides brief moments of respite and keeps the story moving forward. Definitely my favorite “dark” YA I read this year. Granted I only read a handful of those. But still.
We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
Really my biggest regret was reading We Are Okay and Watch Over Me in the same year because I feel awkward including two books by the same author on this list. And We Are Okay *just* edges out Nina LaCour’s most recent release, in my opinion. They were both masterpieces (obviously) and the emotional execution in both was on-point (obviously), but there’s something about the quiet heartache that undercuts the entirety of We Are Okay that left me very much not okay. (I cried a lot. But in a good way, you know?)
Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang
For starters, the book jacket is bright orange and has the texture of a basketball. Hands down the best textured cover of the year, which should really be a category. But I absolutely fell in love with this graphic novel about a high school basketball team and the diverse cast of real-life characters who made history. Each of their individual stories was fascinating, and the attention to detail (both in the art and script) was astounding. Seriously, though, the fact that Dragon Hoops made me care the tiniest bit about a sports team is no small feat.
New Kid by Jerry Craft
I thought New Kid was stellar. (As did many other people considering it won basically every award in 2020.) The experiences of twelve-year-old Jordan starting at a new school include implicit bias, microaggressions, and straight-up racism–all topics that need to be better represented on school and library shelves. But it’s also a story that’s hilarious, accessible, and so full of heart. (I have only read an ARC of this one, however, so I’m very eager to see the book in full color! That will only make it better, obviously.)
Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold
I don’t know what I love more about Red Hood: the absolutely exquisite prose or the extremely detailed sex scene that happens almost immediately. Elana K. Arnold is a remarkable storyteller, and her ability to weave beautiful images and write truly gripping characters is at its best here. If you’re looking for a book that is captivating, scary, and empowering all in one, this is your book! (And unless you want to get angry at all the misogynists of the world, I recommend avoiding other reviews of this one.)
Stand Up, Yummy Chung! by Jessica Kim
The hard thing about writing books about comedians is that they genuinely have to be funny. The good thing about Stand Up, Yummy Chung is that it absolutely delivers. The dialogue is snappy, the characters are people I genuinely want to befriend, and the story is equal parts heartwarming and hilarious. It’s the perfect coming-of-age story for kids growing up in the era of K-Pop, YouTube, and ultra-competitive middle school.
Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina
I’ve said this to a few people, but I honestly believe Merci Suarez is the perfect middle grade book. It’s like Judy Blume for a new generation (and ten times better—no offense, Judy). For me, this book has been an incredible mentor text as I foray into the world of writing middle grade fiction. There are mean girls, first crushes, a tight-knit family, and, of course, a dynamic star in Merci Suarez who somehow reminds me of every sixth grader I’ve ever met.
Beach Read by Emily Henry
I love books about writers, I love romantic comedies, and I love anything set in a picturesque coastal town, so it’s really not shocking that Beach Read was a win for me. When you also include disparaging comments about annoying litfic men and research about a local cult, it truly becomes a slam dunk. (Side note: Books about novelists are WAY better than tv shows about novelists because they’re, like, written by novelists. Shocking, I know.) This one was charming, genuinely funny, and kept me reading when I was having trouble focusing on anything other than Twitter, which is extremely high praise coming from me.
Alone by Megan E. Freeman
Usually, my top books of the year feature books that came out years (and occasionally decades) ago. However, with Alone, I’m ahead on my reading list because this gorgeous verse novel comes out on January 12th (shoutout to Megan for sending along the ARC). This kinda-dystopian middle grade book reads like a new and much improved Hatchet. The concept is intriguing all on its own, the poems are beautiful both individually and as a collective narrative, and there’s a Rottweiler named George who’s really the MVP of this book.
The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert
And the last book I read in 2021, which ended up being one of my favorites! (An entirely predictable turn of events considering it’s Brandy Colbert). If you’re a fan of democracy, cats, and multiple POV stories, then this is the perfect book for you! It’s fast-paced, high energy, and not excessively long. (Can books please stop getting longer? Please?). So if you’re looking for a good way to start 2021, pick up The Voting Booth!
That’s all, folks! See you next year.*
*(Just for this post specifically. I will obviously post more frequently than that. Though not as frequently as I should, if I were guessing.)