I shared lots of love for many books last year on social media, and I want to start this year by mentioning all those wonderful reads on here for easy, all-in-one-place consumption. There will be a number of posts, five books at a time, in no particular order, over the next couple months. Here’s we go!
My Heart and Other Black Holes, by Jasmine Warga
This was the first 2015 debut book I read (that wasn’t my own), and I was only ten pages in when I thought, “Hot damn, the 2015 debut bar is set high.” For a book that deals with such a dark subject matter—depressed protagonist Aysel wants to commit suicide and is looking online for a partner to make sure she sticks to her plan—this book has a surprising sense of humor. Don’t get me wrong, it’s really sad and really painful, but like life, there are still laughs woven in there amongst all the darkness. It makes the book even more human and, as a result, even more moving.
The Distance Between Lost and Found, by Kathryn Holmes
When I finished reading this one, I was astounded to learn that author Kathryn Holmes had never lived through an experience like this. It’s a lost-in-the-wilderness survival story and it plays out in this way that feels so true-to-life, with every tiny detail, every injury, every missed meal accounted for incredibly well. It has a wonderful emotional arc for main character Hallelujah, too, who struggles to gain her confidence back after a dude in her church youth group—who happens to be the preacher’s son—has spread awful lies about her. There are definitely some religious themes, which I thought might be off-putting, but they’re handled in thoughtful, interesting ways that add to the richness of the story. I guess what I’m saying is: maybe skip The Revenant and read this book instead.
None of the Above, by I.W. Gregorio
It’s an amazing thing when you finish reading a highly engaging piece of fiction and feel like you’ve genuinely learned something, too. This book expanded my mind and my empathy without ever feeling preachy. Popular high school senior Kristin learns early on in the novel that she’s intersex, meaning that, though she presents as a female, she also has male organs. Soon the whole school finds out, and suffice it to say, Kristin quickly becomes a lot less popular. The story is told in a grounded, believable way, with characters you truly care about, so it never for a moment feels didactic. That said, it does force you to examine your own thoughts about gender, to wonder what you would do if you discovered this about yourself or your partner, which is why I truly believe this book should be required reading for every human being.
The Honest Truth, by Dan Gemeinhart
This book is sort of a MG cousin to The Distance Between Lost and Found—it’s the story of a young, terminally ill boy and his dog, making a trek up a mountain with the potentially limited time the boy has left–and it’s just as beautifully done. I cried a lot throughout this one and, even though I’m not a huge animal person, when I got to the last page, I thought, “Man, maybe I should get a dog,” which, trust me, says a lot about how terrific this book is. (It’s also worth mentioning that Dan’s second book, Some Kind of Courage, comes out today!)
Everything, Everything, by Nicola Yoon
You can actually feel the love bursting off the pages of this book, which is a huge-hearted delight from cover to cover. It follows Maddy—a girl whose compromised immune system means she’s never been able to leave the house her whole life—and what happens when she starts crushing on the new boy who’s moved in next door. The tone is unique, and Yoon nails it—grounded yet playful, moving without ever being precious, and along with the text, the book is filled with emails, graphs, and brilliant drawings by David Yoon, who, yes, happens to be the author’s husband. (I’m telling you; the love oozes.) As if all that’s not enough, it’s unpredictable, too, always a step ahead of the reader. So, yeah, if you like love and surprises and joy, this one’s worth a look.