One of my resolutions for 2018 was to read more and look at screens less during the evening hours. So far so good! Here are some quick thoughts about the 36 books I’ve read so far this year, categorized for your reading and linked for your buying pleasure.
My Three Favorites So Far
- Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds – This is a book that will stay with me for a long time. Reynolds once again uses free verse to help the reader connect to the relevant issues of today. Will is supposed to avenge the murder of his brother. Revenge is one of the rules of the neighborhood, but he is struggling with this decision. Reynolds takes us on Will’s elevator ride to becoming a murderer where, at each floor, he is greeted by someone he knows. This book was extraordinarily powerful and gave great insight to the difficult choices people make – “right” isn’t always so easy. I have recommended this to every middle school student I know.
- Crazy Rich Asians series by Kevin Kwan – Consisting of the three books: Crazy Rich Asians, China Rich Girlfriend, and Rich People Problems, this series is absolutely hilarious. Although the first book is definitely the best, after I finished the final book, I was kind of sad that I would not longer be reading about this hysterical family residing amongst Singapore’s wealthiest. There certainly are a lot of characters but you grow to love each and every one of them.
- The Good Daughter by Karen Slaughter – I really loved this page-turning, plot-twisting, surprise ending physiological thriller. This was a great vacation read with great character development and an interesting plot. Despite living in a peaceful town, Charlie and Sam, are witness to an extremely brutal and violent crime that may or may not be connected to their dad’s infamous job as a lawyer that represents serial killers. You never know where the book will go, but unlike most suspense books, this isn’t just about the plot, but the inner thoughts of the various family members in response to horrific events.
For the remaining books, I will offer short categorized reviews.
Middle Grades/ Young Adult Literature
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle – Finally read it. Finally liked a science fiction book. Definitely a classic. I can imagine it’s even better read aloud. Girl genius power!
- The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli – Diverse but never forced, this is such a refreshing coming of age book that covers the challenges of sibling, friend, parent-child, and love relationships. You’ll love Molly and will root for her to conquer her anxiety and take a risk at love.
- Simon vs. the Homosapiens by Becky Albertalli – Most teens question their identity at some point and Simon is no different. He just happens to be a closeted gay teen falling in love with someone over the internet. Funny and heart-warming, this is another great coming of age novel.
- Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate – We read this book as part of a 7th grade immigration unit. Written in poetry, the language beautifully expresses what life in the United States is like for Kek, a Sudanese refugee. You apparently don’t wash dishes in the washing machine!
- The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks by E. Lockhart – This was a re-read, and I loved it just as much the second time. Boarding school student Frankie learns of an all-boy secret society. Watch out!
- The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan – This magical realist novel tackles the difficult topic of losing a family member to suicide. The beautifully written book carefully explores how Leigh comes to terms with her loss while at the same time getting to know her mother’s family in Taiwan. Excellent resources for those dealing with suicide are included.
- When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead – Newbury Award winning science fiction book – another that I actually enjoyed. Who is writing Miranda notes that someone is going to die? And who is going to die??
- Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys – Another re-read, I absolutely love this book. This is the story of Lina and her family’s forced enslavement into one of Stalin’s work camps during World War II. Mesmerizing.
- Kids of Appetite by David Arnold – Enjoyable though sometimes confusing book about a gang of quirky kids called the Kids of Appetite on a mission to spread Victor’s father’s ashes across the US while also being suspected of murder.
- Words on Bathroom Walls by Julia Walton – Such an important book that allows readers to see into the mind of someone diagnosed and trying to overcome paranoid schizophrenia. Adam is an important character for so many reasons and Walton’s book helps to demystify mental illness for all.
- Brown Girl Dreaming by Jaqueline Woodson – I chose this book for my 7th grade English students to read over the summer. I hope they like it as much as I did! Beautifully written through poetry, Woodson explores her own life growing up between South Carolina and New York City in the 60s and 70s. Just stunning!
- American Street by Ibi Zoboi – Another magical realist novel, this one incorporating Haitian culture and voodoo, this is an immigration story as much as it is a coming of age story. Very moving, honest, and at times difficult to read for its imagined truths.
- Far From the Tree by Robin Benway – A coming of age novel that explores topics related to adoption, teen pregnancy, and foster care, this is a wonderful story of three siblings from different backgrounds who find and learn from each other.
- Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly – Newbury Award winning multi-cultural novel that explores growing up, bullying, and friendship. Interesting well-developed characters. Will Virgil be rescued from the well?
- I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erica Sánchez – A beautiful book that explores the life of a first-generation Mexican girl, Julia, who wants to (oh my!) go away to college in the aftermath of the death of her perfect sister. Julia is an imperfectly perfect character and this book tackles difficult topics including mental health, dignity and growing up in two seemingly different worlds.
- One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus – Loved this page turner so much, I stayed up until the wee hours to finish it. A modern day Breakfast Club, who will not escape Saturday detention?
Sometimes I Read Books for Adults
- This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel – An important and timely book about parents raising a transgender child. At times, you get angry at the parents for their decisions, but I imagine the story represented one of the many challenges parents face. Really incredible read that I highly recommend.
- An American Marriage by Tayari Jones – If Oprah picked it, it’s gotta be good, right? Well this OBC book didn’t ‘t disappoint. How can a newlywed couple on the verge of making a true name for themselves in their black community and beyond handle a husband’s wrongful prison sentence? Very interesting and though-provoking narrative.
- Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson – fun, light read perfect for the beach. Zany characters – all hoping to find love. What more could you want?
- Class Mom by Laurie Gelman – Funny read about anb older mom dealing with the PTA, years after her first children went to school. Spoiler Alert: The PTA ain’t what it used to be.
- The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand – Another beach novel from Hilderbrand, this one dealing with twins who don’t get along and live on different islands – the Vineyard and Nantucket. So much fun to read about island life.
- The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand – Hilderband’s latest deals with Nantucket, a wedding, the murder of the maid of honor, and the drama of the social elite. A fun read!
- A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart – Really great read about what it is like to parent and maintain a relationship with a child on the Autism Spectrum and how a parent finds the ability to connect through video games.
- All the Missing Girls by Meghan Miranda – Suspense novel where the main character tries to determine the connection between two girls kidnapped years apart. Didn’t love it; didn’t hate it.
- The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Ginder – It might not be life changing but still a funny story about a dysfunctional family attending a wedding.
- The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes – Funny and light – sort of an updated Devil Wears Prada. Great beach read!
- Girl With Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee – Since North Korea seems to be such a hot topic these days, I wanted to learn more about the country. This is a fascinating story of Lee’s escape and about the North Korean regime in general.
- Fire on Ice: The Exclusive Inside Story of Tonya Harding by Abby Haight and J.E. Vader – Man, was I completely enthralled with this real life drama when I was 10 years old. I had to read this book when I saw the movie was based on it. WOW. Tonya Harding is definitely One. Of. A. Kind.
- The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime that Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater – I did not remember this story of a young black boy setting fire to a a white, gender non-conforming girl in Oakland, California. Incredible is all I have to say.
- Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose – fascinating story about a Civil Rights leader often overlooked but who set the stage for Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. Fascinating story.
- Americanized by Sara Said – Written with great humor, this is a provocative true story of an undocumented Iranian teen living in America. Gives an interesting perspective regarding our national debate on immigration and the travel ban.
Photo Credit: Josué Gogue