Ok, so I got kind of jealous of everyone posting all of these awesome booklists and making me spend a ton of my Christmas-gift money on books for myself. BUT I didn’t keep track of what I read in 2013 and trying to figure out what I was reading last January is impossible. So, that’s my New Years resolution: Write Down What I Read. (also: Blog More)
But then I figured out that I’ve been on a pretty strong reading binge in the past few months and I think I have read 13 great books in a row, 13 books I can recommend to others to finish 2013. So here you go, my last 13 books of 2013:
1. HIP HOP HIGH SCHOOL by Alan Lawrence Sitomer
Why I read it: I was looking for something to use as a class book with my freshmen & sophomore girls in Brooklyn. I’m finding it very difficult to find books that are literary, contemporary, and feature girls of color, especially girls of color who deal with the issues of bad schools and poor and violent neighborhoods. There are stories there, people! Where are these books??
Why I liked it: For basically the reason I put above. It hits a demographic and a list of problems that we need MANY more books to address. The main character’s journey from laziness to action is a great one too.
(I have a big bone to pick with this one though because the author clearly had a vendetta against Notre Dame and painted my Alma Matre in a way that was offensive and, frankly, irresponsible if you want your readers to think seriously about college.)
2. WHY WE BROKE UP by Daniel Handler and Maria Kalman
Why I read it: It was recommended by a friend as a great romance. And I’m not generally that into romance but I had a student begging me for some.
Why I liked it: It was SO romantic and yet SO high school-realistic. I loved how quickly it flew into the life-is-perfect-I-love-everything-about-you-and-I-always-will clouds and then plunged and crashed into the earth.
3. SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY by Karen Harrington
Why I read it: It was twitter-recommended when I went searching for dark middle grade. I’m still looking for more of this!
Why I liked it: Man, this is a dark premise. Sarah’s mother is in a mental institution because she killed Sarah’s twin brother and attempted to kill Sarah herself when they were toddlers. I always say that one of my main reasons for reading is to exercise my compassion muscle and this book gave me a lot of exercise. Of course I have heard about dark stories like this one in the world and on the news, but somehow, in my wondering what it must be like for a mom to be in that kind of a dark cave, I’ve never thought about the load the surviving child would have to carry forever.
4. THE JEWEL by Amy Ewing
Why I read it: Because Amy Ewing sent it to me and asked me to.
Why I liked it: It is amazing. Very few high fantasies can capture me the way that this one did. It’s like moving to another world. Also, Amy uses Violet’s story to challenge reader to see every human as a person and an individual. You all need to read it. But, you can’t until September. Nah-nah-nah-boo-bo0.
5. THIS FULL HOUSE by Virginia Euwer Wolff
Why I read it: I read and loved the two first volumes of LaVaughn’s story: MAKE LEMONADE and TRUE BELIEVER (Although I read them completely out of order starting with the middle one, I think that’s ok for this series.)
Why I liked it: OK, I loved it. If I was able to make a list of best books of 2013, this would be on it. I’m not going to list everything I loved about it because I don’t have time for that, so the top two things about this book
A. It meets the standards I was talking about with Book Number 1. LaVaughn’s race is not specified but she clearly lives in an inner city and the author deftly, respectfully, and realistically deals with this.
And B. LaVaughn is obsessed with science. I found this also refreshing and unique in YA contemporary.
6. THE BOOK THIEF by Marcus Zusak
Why I read it: The movie was coming out and I was afraid the commercials would ruin it for me. Seriously I had this book on my shelf for years and I just didn’t get around to it until the movie made me.
Why I liked it: Again, I loved it. In fact, I loved it TOO MUCH to see the movie. It’s full of complicated, layered characters and beautiful sentences. And this was another good one for the compassion-muscle. I had not spent much time thinking about Germans in Nazi Germany who were not-exactly-on-board but not powerful enough to resist.
7. FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK by Matthew Quick
Why I read it: I think this one was also twitter-recommended but I don’t completely remember. I’m just glad I found it.
Why I liked it: OK, I loved it. I told you guys this was an awesome reading binge! Leonard is going to kill himself. Every other book I’ve read that deals with a suicidal narrator was ultimately a disappointment. Either the character doesn’t kill himself and you feel like he’s been lying to you for pages and pages, or he does and you wonder why you invested time into this character who just dies at the end. But not this one. The one had hope. Read more about it here.
8. REALITY BOY by A. S. King
Why I read it: I discovered A. S. King this year. I’m not sure what took me so long. But I read ASK THE PASSENGERS and PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ earlier in the year so I was excited for REALITY BOY.
Why I liked it: I recently read this review of REALITY BOY by John Green and I have to say I disagree with him completely. I loved, loved, loved the dysfunction of this family and the way Tasha and her mother cannot find a solution. It struck me as real, terrifying, and fascinating. I found the love story pretty standard, but the family dynamics are original and engrossing.
9. 45 POUNDS (MORE OR LESS) by K. A Barson
Why I read it: I met Kelly Barson at BEA and I liked her so much I was excited to read this.
Why I liked it: Awhile ago I was discouraged (I’m not going to say by who) from writing a book which was about body dysmorphia. I was told that weight loss books don’t sell. I was told readers need to be convinced to read about overweight girls. Man, that was depressing. Well, Ann, our main character, is so much more than overweight. She’s determined and smart and lost in her own family. Yet, she treats her weight as a real problem not a simple character trait. This book manages the balance that some people may have deemed impossible.
10. THE VOW by Jessica Martinez
Why I read it: Friend-recommended and oh, what a concept.
Why I liked it: That blurred line between friendship and romance; that difficult time when you’re not sure if your friends, your family or your boyfriend are the most important to you; that psudo-independence that comes from being 18: all of those are here.
11. HOW TO LOVE by Katie Cotungo
Why I read it: Honestly, I was intrigued by the similarities between this book and ME, HIM, THEM AND IT. Teen pregnancy. Florida. Catholic family. Turns out these were all surface similarities and the books are incredibly different, but I found it pretty fascinating.
Why I liked it: I loved the baby. There’s a lot of reasons to like this book, but I loved the presence of an actual baby in the pages and the ways that swung the narrator. It was subtle but there and important.
12. COUNTING BY 7’S by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Why I read it: It was recommended over and over when I was looking for dark middle grade.
Why I liked it: I’m not sure liked is the right word here. I was fascinated by it. It broke all of the rules. It mixed third and first person. It used a somewhat unreliable narrator. It even danced between present and past tenses. If you write, you need to read and dissect this book.
13. YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS by Meg Medina
Why I read it: I’m still searching for the pearl of a book that is literary, contemporary, female-focused, features characters of color and is honest about American poverty.
Why I liked it: This is one of them. But I wish there were more.