These are my five favorite books that I read this year. I'm not necessarily going for an evaluation here, just trying to highlight the ones that I really enjoyed reading and that I would recommend highly to other people. They are in no particular order. It's hard enough to narrow it down to five!
If you read my original review in February, it will come as no surprise that this book made my top 5. It was everything I love about good historical fiction - educational, thought-provoking, moving, captivating. If you don't believe me, ask the millions of people who use Goodreads who selected this book as the favorte YA fiction novel of the year. I cannot wait to see what Sepetys writes next!
I read this one recently and haven't reviewed it yet on my blog. As you know, I am trying to read books featuring marginalized character and social justice issues this year as part of my Reading in the Margins personal challenge. So it should be no surprise that race and racial relations are topics that both fascinate and confound me. (see also Book #4) I have read several of Jodi Picoult's other novels before, but I think this one is really exceptional. It veers away from her traditional format and does a really incredible job of addressing how race and privilege (or lack of it) intertwine. There is some upsetting content here, so it may not be for everyone, but I was really impressed with this novel.
I did not review this book previously either. It was my personal challenge book that I decided to read over the summer. At 900+ pages, it took me nearly the entire summer to read it (I thought I would have more time to read with an infant at home? #deluded), but I am so glad that I did. There is a reason that this book has gained modern classic status and is so popular with everyone who reads it. It's an epic story about a community, a cathedral, and the impenetrable strength of the human spirit. If you haven't given this tome a whirl, try it out. It's intimidating, but the story is quick and will keep you eagerly flipping pages as you hope for the best for your favorite characters.
Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely
No surprise on this book either. I raved about it in September and I reviewed it for my Oakland Schools blog as well. I was so impressed by the way that these two authors came together to write an honest and compelling story about such a difficult and divisive topic. The talent required to write a book is so impressive to me, but the talent required to write about controversial topics with a teenage voice while collaborating with another author is downright other-worldly. I think this is one of the most important books written for young adults in recent memory.
For the underdog from left field, I offer you this unassuming graphic novel, which I admit I only picked up from the shelf at my public library because of its most excellent title. The book was a nice mix of light & dark and the black & white illustrations captured that vibe perfectly. Ultimately, I think the reason that this book made my list is because it lingered. Long after I read it, I found myself thinking about it - imagining how it would connect to lessons in different classes, picturing certain students and teachers who I thought might really appreciate it. When a graphic novel with an admitedly quirky premise and title can manage to expertly drive home a message about the power of individuality and how people who express that power are treated, something special has happened.