Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas--This came novel came highly recommended and I'll admit I was initially skeptical because I thought it may be too close to real life cases and I wasn't sure I'd like it? Turns out I was dumb to be skeptical and I LOVED IT. The spotlight on media and class and friendship was provoking and interesting.
Just Visiting by Dahlia Adler--I don't think I've read a book that is so honest about the tough choices that young adults are making during their senior year in high school (admittedly I'm not well read in YA so I'm guessing that's my fault, so...) but this book takes two best friends and allows us to witness how they tackle those tough decisions. I loved reading about their friendship and the things they said vs. what they thought, I loved the diversity, and I loved the humor. I know my students would love to read this book...if only I could get it on the district approved list.
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff--I first heard about this on NPR one morning and it sounded interesting. I found a friend to read it and thank gawd she did because had she not promised it would get better, I may have stopped reading early on. But I trusted Michele and around the 18% mark I was completely sucked in to the story of these characters. The way Lotto and Mathilde each view their marriage and each other was fascinating and the ending was just..wow. I'm not sure I've read a novel about the functions and dysfunctions of marriage that even came close to how much this one resonated with me.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt--if you've read Donna Tartt before than you know that she has a distinctive style. I often think of her style as one that has beautiful prose and moments that strike me as incredibly profound but honestly I think of her as a writer who often makes me want to drink, smoke, and do drugs while I'm reading her novels. Every book has incredibly fucked up characters who undergo these bizarre life experiences and I completely get sucked in, every time. This novel was no different. Theo's life is a series of loss and tragedy with these tiny glimmers of hope being completely drowned in despair. His thoughts on life, art, deceit, and people often were so heavy that I had to take breaks just to catch my breath. The last 20 pages won the Pulitzer, in my opinion.
White Oleander by Janet Fitch--this novel was beautiful. I know it's been around for a while and I'm late to the party but...so what?! I enjoyed it. I loved following Astrid as she made her way through her life with a variety of 'mothers' and heartbreaks. The observations about mothers and daughters ..and really people in general..and the melancholy that swirled through each page was something that just seemed to seep into me as I was reading it.
Marrow by Tarryn Fisher--Vengeance can be beautiful even as it is destructive. I loved the heart of Margo; she's officially in my top five antiheroines. She's this seemingly normal-ish girl who is so badass and powerful that I found it impossible to hate her, even if she concerned and/or scared the fuck out of me. Margo's compassion and empathy were laudable and her actions were horrifying and yet she did exactly what many wish they could do--eliminate the evil in the world.
Where Sea Meets Sky by Karina Halle--I've not read everything by Karina Halle so maybe this novel is emblematic of the series I haven't read yet? I enjoyed this novel not only for the enormous risks Josh takes (and his bravery to do it) and the slow building friendship/relationship between the characters but also for the wanderlust it gave me. Karina Halle writes some seriously good geography porn and I was constantly searching out the locations she was writing about.
All The Rage by Courtney Summers--This book pummeled me with emotions. Its unflinching look at what it can look like to be a female in this world was heartbreaking, enraging, and bleak and I needed to read every word in this novel. It re-ignited some dormant impulses and thoughts and made me better for my daughters, my friends and family, and my students. This novel felt so important..still feels so important... and is another one I wish I could put on my district's reading list.
Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid-- made me think about the what ifs of the world. What if I'd done this instead of that? Haven't we all had a moment where we've considered what would've happened if we had or hadn't done something? This novel is all about Hannah and how one choice could completely change the path of her life. We get to explore two possible ways her life could go and it begs the question--what would've happened if...
The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi--I assigned this to my seniors for summer reading and it was a HUGE hit. It really caused me to consider how where you live, the culture and government that 'rules' it, and how where you/what you come from has such a huge influence on how you view the world. This is the first graphic memoir I've read and the text + graphics made this a very interesting and thought provoking experience.
Cam Girl by Leah Raeder--are y'all sick of me talking about this novel? Too damn bad. It's beautifully written and has this diverse set of characters who are wonderful and infuriating and wonderfully infuriating. It has romance and suspense...and just all of the things I've come to love about Leah Raeder's writing. I think what I especially appreciated about Cam Girl was the continued focus on gender + love + friendship and what those things meant to Ellis and Vada. With this novel, Raeder gave me an opportunity to think about what it means to be genderfluid, what it means to love your friend and want to have that love returned, and what it means to want to live authentically and to have your choices respected by those around you.
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes--I'd heard a lot of hype about this novel and I was really prepared to hate it because I'm a curmudgeon that way. Turns out I'm an ass. SURPRISE. I know there are many reasons people enjoyed this novel but the thing that really stood out for me thinking about euthanasia. I'm firmly in the 'it should be your right' column but what surprised me was how I was empathetic and sometimes not empathetic with the plight of Lou. This novel made me think about how messy and emotional these decisions must be and it really presented me with some things I'd never really thought all the way through.
Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino--this was my first Renee Carlino novel and I'm still thinking about it. I loved the premise and the way Matt and Grace's love story was structured. I loved the idea of these older characters looking back to their early life together and how it all unraveled. I loved the writing--it was warm and evocative and funny and I always felt like I was in scenes with Matt and Grace. The art and music and NYC landmarks that were constantly threaded throughout the novel enhanced made the novel that much more for me.
All of these novels consumed me as I read them; they made me think and question and reflect and those are some of my favorite things.
I wanted to add a few things! And you may be shocked by this one...
Joe is a man of many things...and intriguing is the least of it. This book made me think so much about how little we know people and what they might hide from us...then it made me think of all of the pitfalls of the internet and social media, and how scary the world is. But then...the human nature of the characters around Joe...make him much more humanized, and relatable and you're like...omg this bitch is not to be believed, so Joe is really the best thing about this book...and then you think omg...what is the matter with me that I think this? And the cycle goes round and round in this brilliantly written novel. Read it. It is brilliant.
Then I read:
and kablam...if I didn't already love Tiffany Reisz so much with The Siren...ho-lyy shit The Angel just built on a world I loved, and gave me even more to think about. With love, and life and faith and sex...there is so much more to each character and how deep the story goes is incredible. I can't even begin to describe how much I laughed and cried and swooned along with Nora and her friends. I finally understood a lot more about Soren, and fought for him against the reporter who wanted to bring him low in my heart, and yelling out loud when it got really intense.
And several of the ones that Shelley picked were incredible for me too. Me Before You because watching someone die from a terminal illness is one of the hardest things I have ever done in my entire life so to see another perspective when it comes to dying with dignity and this story had so much more to offer with each character, and the hilarity that was a huge surprise from Lou's family.
Before We Were Strangers blended the past and present in a beautiful story, that was beautifully written, and really from the get go made me think about life and the choices we make. Wondering if you made the right decision on things is usually a rabbit hole that is best left not fallen down, but it is nice to read a point of view about it...and the writing of Renee Carlino is brilliant. I felt all of the feelings possible, and still want to re-read this book.