129 If I Was Your Girl

ifiwasyourgirlby Meredith Russo, 2016

I kind of hate fairy tales. Not the Brothers Grimm sort, which are actually quite gruesome and only vaguely resemble the stories we were told as kids, and not even really the Disney sort, because I can’t lie that, as much as it rankles my inner feminist, I still enjoyed Beauty and the Beast. No, I mean those stories where someone with a “problem” – they have a string of failed relationships, they are clumsy, they (gasp!) have curly hair and glasses – overcomes said “problem” to live happily ever after. I realize there is some comfort in knowing that we are all lovable despite our differences, but this sort of trite plot and predictable ending are far from new and far from interesting.

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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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113 Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

aristotledanteby Benjamin Alire Sáenz, 2012

There is always the risk when reading immensely popular books of your expectations exceeding the book’s reality. I was prepared for this to be the case when I finally got around to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, a much lauded book online and on BookTube for its depiction of a relationship between two teenage boys. Young adult novels positively depicting gay relationships are still something of a novelty, so we’re in a place where most books that do this, regardless of the quality of the writing, get a pass simply because they address a subject that is marginalized and, in some cultures, taboo. In some ways I believe Aristotle and Dante is getting that pass, but I was pleased to find that, in other ways, it is wholly deserving of the attention it has received.

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88 Cress

cressby Marissa Meyer, 2014

This is, in my opinion, the best installment in The Lunar Chronicles yet. Things are really starting to move along as Cinder, Scarlet, Wolf, and Thorne all come together to stop the impending nuptials of Emperor Kai and Queen Levana. In the process, they come across a young girl named Cress, whose blonde hair has remained uncut for as many years as she’s been imprisoned in a satellite. We are, of course, talking about the classic Rapunzel tale here, but although Cress would like to cast herself as the stereotypical damsel in distress, Meyer makes it clear that she is far more than that.

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87 A Monster Calls

amonstercallsby Patrick Ness, 2011

First, let me just say, do not read this book in public. I wish someone had given me that warning before I decided to read/listen to this during my Amtrak ride over Christmas, where I was failing miserably at not openly weeping as the story came to its close. Second, I will say that you will probably benefit from not knowing too much about the story going in, as I did not and I feel my ignorance made it just that much more affecting. Read reviews sparingly. Third, I scooped up the audio version as one of Audible’s Daily Deals and I honestly don’t know if I would have wept quite so much had I read it without the stellar performance of Jason Isaacs (aka Lucius Malfoy). I highly recommend it.

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85 The Wrath and the Dawn

wrathandthedawnby Renee Ahdieh, 2015

Let’s talk about abusive relationships. If someone threatens your safety or treats you poorly, it doesn’t matter what happened in their past. It doesn’t matter if they have an explanation for why they behave the way they do. It doesn’t matter if they, in fact, hate themselves for their behavior. It doesn’t even matter if you find you are attracted to them. You do not have an obligation to be with them.

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82 The Sun Is Also a Star

sunisalsoastarby Nicola Yoon, 2016

I’ve long said that it doesn’t matter what a book is about – if it’s written well, I’ll love it. Nicola Yoon proves just that within the pages of a one-day teenage romance. With a plot that I’m typically inclined to hate, she offers astute commentary on immigration, interracial relationships, nationality, and what it means to be an American. Oh, and she flips gender stereotypes on their heads. (Hooray for not all girls being helpless romantics!) I adore Yoon for showing what great work can be done inside this usually fluffy genre.

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