MOST ENJOYABLE READ OF THE YEAR
Dear Farenheit 451 by Annie Spence - This is a series of letters a librarian has written to books that are important to her. It is hilariously funny and also emotionally wonderful. I wish I had written it.
EVERYONE LOVED IT SO IT MUST BE AWESOME
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles – President Obama had it on his best of the year list so who I am to disagree? It starts slowly, but once you give in to the world it creates, it will break your heart in the best possible way.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – Thomas' first novel is on EVERY best of the year list and with good reason. It's a first person account of a BLM-inspired story that puts you in the shoes of a girl who is caught in the middle.
Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld – Ooh, Scott, where have you been? This graphic novel makes me remember why I loved UGLIES so much. A weird world that has a fearless girl making her own decisions and taking chances.
MY GOSH, THESE REAL HUMANS ARE FUNNY
Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell by W. Kamau Bell, Sleepwalk with Me by Mike Birbigli and We are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby are all memoirs written by comedians that have just the right amount of pathos to make the laughts even more powerful.
PLEASE GET OUT OF MY HEAD
Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed – The story of an island community, cut off from the outside world that has a terrifyingly disturbing secret really freaked me out. But I couldn't stop reading until I figured out the big picture.
Landscape with Invisible Hand by MT Anderson – When the aliens land on earth, the promise a life of ease to everyone. And yet, things go to hell anyway.
Thornhill by Pam Smy – I only gave this one 4 stars when I read it, but I keep thinking about it. It is the very evocative story of a bullied orphan who lives in a group home and the curious girl who moves in to the house next door years later and becomes obsessed with her story.
BEST GROWN-UP READS
The Animators by Kayla Raw Whitaker – The story of two young women who meet in college and create an animated masterpiece takes you into their process and their lives in a fascinating way.
Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin – A Monica Lewinsky-type girl makes a mistake in judgement. The ripples go on and on. I enjoyed Zevin's YA books, but I adore her adult books.
THROWBACKS FIR KIDS
Eddie and his Big Deals by Carolyn Haywood – The author of the lesser-Betsy books takes a look at childhood chauvinism in the 1950s. I don't think she meant it as a cautionary tale, but for the modern reader, it surely works that way.
I Go By Sea, I Go By Land by P.L. Travers – The author of MARY POPPINS wrote this story of a pair of siblings who emigrate to the US during WWII as the war was raging. It is touching, funny and an interesting slice of history.
Journey to an 800 Number by E.L. Konigsburg – Konigsburg had a great imagination. This story of a young boy going to live with his free-spirit father and his camel one summer was fascinating and odd.
BEST NEW MIDDLE GRADE
War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley – I didn't think I could love a book as much as Bradley's The War that Saved My Life, but the sequal comes pretty danged close!
The Inquisitor's Tale by Adam Gidwicz – This clever story about some magical children and a dog, set in the middle ages is historically interesting and a grand romp.
SURE, WE'VE ALL READ IT, BUT NOT WITH PICTURES
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling – This was the same text that I practically have memorized, but the new illustrated edition (and those of the first two books in the series) add a richness that I didn't think was possible. Get them now!
BEST PICTURE BOOK
Where's Walrus? by Stephen Savage – Did it have a plot? Perhaps... There was probably a missing walrus somwhere. I just remember being completely charmed by the illustrations.
HEY GREAT NEW FANTASY WRITER!
Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom and Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – Bardugo is my favorite new fantasty writer. Her “Grisha-verse” novels feature young people with super-human powers in a beautifully drawn world based on Tsarist Russia. I read 6oC and CK first, although S&B (and it's two sequals) came first in her writing process. I love the world and the adventure is first rate.
HEY, GREAT NEW REALISTIC FICTION WRITER!
Moxie and Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu – Mathieu has a great feminist perspective. She writes about girls who live in situations where their voices are not respected. The heroine in Devoted is in a “Quiver-Full” family and the protagonist of Moxie is stuck at a Texas high school where chauvenistic jocks rule the school. She shows how their dawning sense of self-worth makes them willing to question the way they have been minimized in a fascinating way.
HEY, GREAT NEW CREEPY WORLD WRITER
Every Heart a Doorway and Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire - These companion books tell the story of what happens to young people who find doorways to other worlds that may not be as child-friendly as Oz or Narnia, but influence them nonetheless.
Don't Get Caught by Kurt Dinan – I tend to read female-perspective YA, but this story of a prank war and the way it influences a disperate group of high school kids has a male perspective and a humorous point of view.
Long Way Down by Jason Reynold – Man, the hits just keep coming for Reynolds. He has been on my best of list for the past 3 years. He doesn't disappoint with this small yet powerful story about a young man considering murder as revenge for his brother's death and the ghosts who help him decide what to do.
DEFINITELY ON SUMMER READING 2018
One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus – Five kids are in detention a la THE BREAKFAST CLUB. And then one of them dies. When the murder investigation starts, no one's secrets are safe!
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon – Who knew a book about two kids whose parents are trying to arrange their marriage could be so funny and romantic. It's like a bollywood film set in San Francisco with a sassy girl who loves programming more than romance.
Amy, Chelsea, Stacey, Dee by Mary G. Thompson – Yes, it's a terrifying tale of child abduction, but when one of the girls comes back, the drawn-out process of finding the truth of what happened is just gripping.