126 The Hate U Give

hateugiveby Angie Thomas, 2017

Starr Carter is sixteen years old when she witnesses the police shooting of her friend Khalil. Pulled over for a seemingly routine traffic violation, things quickly go south when Khalil demands to know why he was stopped, is frisked, and returns to the car to ask Starr if she’s okay. There appeared to be a gun in the car, they say of the hairbrush sticking out of a pocket in the door. He was dealing drugs, they say with no evidence of such in the car. One more gangbanger out of the way, they say, while knowing nothing about Khalil and the life he led. It’s a sad day when a book like this is necessary and, yet, here we are, and this book is so very necessary.

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123 Beasts of No Nation

beastsby Uzodinma Iweala, 2005

Some books exist to give insight into another part of the world. Some books exist to give insight into another culture. Some books exist to give insight into another way of life. Beasts of No Nation exists for all three, but mostly it exists to tell the horrifying story of a young boy caught up in the middle of a war.

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122 The Mothers

mothersby Brit Bennett, 2016

Nadia Turner is just seventeen when she becomes pregnant with 21-year-old Luke Turner’s child. As the son of the town pastor, Luke has kept their relationship a secret and it’s only when the pregnancy arises that he must confess his sins to his parents. Nadia is on the verge of leaving Oceanside, CA, where she lives with her father, the two of them alone after her mother’s suicide. Determined not to let anything keep her from fulfilling her dreams, Nadia takes the only route she feels is available to her and terminates the pregnancy. These are not spoilers, as these events occur in the very opening pages of the book, but they are the impetus of Bennett’s astute exploration of motherhood in the pages that follow.

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120 Everything I Never Told You

everythingby Celeste Ng, 2014

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s when a book or a movie screams out, “This is important! Important subjects discussed here!” I thought this in particular about the movie Crash which, for all its good intent, wanted to ensure the audience know that this was a movie about Race and subsequently beat us over the head with it. It’s much rarer when a story can tackle these big ticket items with grace and subtlety, simultaneously acknowledging their presence while not tiring the audience with its cries. Yet, this is exactly what Everything I Never Told You does, in beautiful prose, in a story just sad enough to feel true.

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119 Dark Matter

darkmatterby Blake Crouch, 2016

Sliding Doors, meet quantum mechanics! 

If there’s one trope I find tiresome, it’s science-fiction that serves as a masquerade for the heteronormative love story. I’m looking at you Interstellar and Arrival and, now, Dark Matter. Now, I’m not entirely dead inside. I like a good love story on occasion – Jane Eyre is one of my most favorite books – but when I come to sci-fi, I expect it to be more than just a ruse for a man and a woman to find their happily ever after. Which isn’t to say that I didn’t like reading this book or that I didn’t find the story creative or engrossing, because I did, but if I had wanted to watch Sliding Doors, I would have watched Sliding Doors. I don’t drink my whiskey with water and I don’t need my sci-fi made palatable with romance, thank you very much.

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118 The Underground Railroad

undergroundrailroadby Colson Whitehead, 2016

After languishing at nearly number 500 on the waitlist, The Underground Railroad finally came in at the library! Anyone who reads any sort of books is likely to have heard of this blessed-by-Oprah, National Book Award, Pulitzer Prize winner and I was experiencing an acute case of FOMO with this one. The only question I had was, would it live up to the hype?

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