We're winding down 2019, so it's time to get reflective on the past year. It feels like multiple lifetimes have happened in this single year. It was one of the best years for the blog that I've ever had. Even though I might have read less this year, I expanded my interviews and guests posts, got to work closely with some wonderful writers, and fell further in love with the YA community. A huge thank you to everyone in the Novel19s for working with me, being so kind, and putting out some of the best books I've ever read. In the next few weeks, I'll be posting more about the future I see for the blog going into 2020 and it's third year, but, for now, let's celebrate all the amazing stories 2020 has brought to us! I did my Reading, Writing, and Me book awards recently which honored over 20 books in tons of different categories so if you need last minute holiday shopping inspiration, check out this list and the earlier one!
1. Permanent Record
I have not stopped thinking about this book since I put it down. I never reread books, but I'm considering picking this one up again this year. Mary H.K. Choi books always just speak to my soul like nothing else, probably because they're so painfully real. I was recently talking with another teen on Twitter and we were discussing how it was everything we needed and it discussed tons of important, little talked about topics. One of the major things was credit card debt which seems like a totally weird thing, but it's important. There's a lot of identity questions, success questions, and just a ton of normal life narrated in the most poetic way. Adult, teen, twenty-something- this is a book that's going to hit everyone. Also, it is the most gorgeous book I've ever seen. It is a piece of art inside and out.
2. You'd Be Mine
If I had to pick a book to define 2019 for me, it would be this one. I have fallen for country music stars Annie and Clay head over heels, and, through them, I've met one of the sweetest, most talented writers in YA. The book is extraordinarily well crafted and ties together a multitude of different topics in a way that makes each character's life feel dynamic and fully real without being overcomplicated. Hahn knows how to make a character you'll fall in love with while also being able to understand their flaws in a way that makes them complete. This is another book on the older end of the YA spectrum and tackles a lot of bigger questions that move far past purely teenage concerns. Reading Erin's answers to my questions left me more in awe of the whole project. You can find that here.
3. All Our Broken Pieces
This was the book I needed this year. I read a lot of books about mental health topics looking to feel less alone, more seen, and, honestly, to find hope. I've read some incredible books on the topic, but I've never felt more seen than when I read about Lennon. The way her OCD is portrayed shared many similarities to my own experience. But, more importantly, Lennon was a whole, grounded person before she was a person dealing with a compulsion or a spiral. Many characters with mental illness in YA are defined by their illnesses, but Lennon isn't. Also, this book stood out to me because of Kyler and Lennon's relationship. It was so hopeful, and it meant a lot to me personally. He was so genuine and understanding about the difficulties Lennon faced. He never wanted to "fix" her and he never made her feel weird about what she was dealing with. I want more relationships like that in YA. I'm so happy I got to have a chat with L.D. who wrote the book. You can read it here.
4. The Best Lies
I am all for a thriller that won't give you nightmares. This one won't make you sleep with the lights on, but it might give you an existential crisis. For the murder and the lies and the twists, this book is mostly a story of infatuation. And, interestingly enough, not romantic infatuation- toxic friendship. Elise is the manic pixie dream girl of best friends, but, the scary thing, is that everyone can think of an Elise they've known at one point or another. A toxic cocktail of charisma mixed with some's stuck, boring life creates a sort of celebrity, and Remi is caught in that web. It's a psychological interrogation, it's fast paced, and it creates a lot of reader reflection. Remi's family background is so well drawn and helps clarify how everything fell together in the horrible way it did. This is another book that has pure art as its cover. 2019 really was the year of beautiful books. To dig deeper into this, I talked to Sarah about writing the book. Read it here.
5. You Asked For Perfect
Academic pressure is becoming a more common conversation, but it's often trivialized. I think that's because if you're not living it, you don't get it. This book sticks you in it. While a lot of YA is set in high school, it's rarely focused on the academic stress and its impacts. If you're a teen, you might cry with relief at finally seeing some of the things you're going through acknowledged on the page, if you're a parent, educator, or someone who works with teens, it'll be eye opening. It's a book everyone should read. Laura and I talk about it more here.
6. The Art of Breaking Things
Skye is an artist, an older sister, a best friend, but she's also a survivor. In the years since she was abused by her mother's ex-boyfriend, Skye has struggled to feel okay again. Drugs, alcohol, and partying have helped mask the pain, but, when Dan comes back into their lives, Skye is forced to confront what it means that her mother didn't believe her recounting of what happened. This book captures the consequences of people's traumatic experiences being invalidated perfectly and confronts how important it is to be believed and have support in the wake of it. This story is extremely well crafted, and the ending is extremely hopeful. Laura discusses it with me more in our interview here.
Like I said in my previous post, you can't understand an experience fully through statistics or news pieces. Fiction has the unique ability to allow you to live through a completely different experience in a completely immersive world. Heroine was, at times, a terrifying read. It's painfully real and entirely gripping. Don't miss it.
8. Wild and Crooked
This was first recommended to me by Vicky Who Reads who runs her own amazing blog, and I could not have loved it more. It's a story full of LGBTQIA characters, has disability representation, and more that is just so casually included. As much as I love books that dive into specific experiences, it is so cool to just see these characters existing and solving a generation old murder mystery. Also, for everyone who wants a break from the love stories, this is an amazing friendship and family story with a small town history to unpack.
8. Let's Call It a Doomsday
Ellis is another character I found intensely relatable. While she deals with doomsday ideations that I don't, the way we experience anxiety is very similar. I love that this portrays a positive therapy relationship and an honest look at how families deal with anxiety (even with the best intentions, there's plenty of frustration and misunderstanding). There's also exploring friendship and its potential toxicity, and sexuality. I love that this book has two bi main characters, and I can't wait for all the bi MC books I've seen slated for 2020. This is a story that's gripping for its main plot but memorable for all the other facets it covers. There's also discussions of religion and evaluating childhood beliefs that are done so respectfully.
10. Have a Little Faith In Me
What complete list of books is finished without a serious laugh out loud pick. Sonia delves into Christianity and some of its pitfalls in this hilarious summer camp set debut. In between the laughs of an atheist at Jesus camp, there's a super sweet, realistic relationship, some incredible friendships, and a bit of sex ed for good measure. I love how the ultimate message is that even when it seems like people have nothing in common, there's still a lot of common ground for friendship to be formed. Sonia and I discuss it more here.
Getting to interview some incredibly talented authors has been the high point of my blogging year. It's taught me a lot and helped me define what I want to do as a career more. I wanted to take a second to highlight some of my favorite interviews that I didn't get to mention above, many with Novel 19s.
Into YA with Ronni Davis- We discuss her book, When The Stars Lead to You, tackling mental health topics, and shifting points of view from the status quo.
Into YA with Carrie Allen- Carrie is doing so much for sparking discussions about women in sports and the inequality and misogyny that's still prevalent. Her debut, Michigan v. The Boys, is not to be missed especially for hockey fans.
Into YA with Shana Youngdahl- The standout parts of As Many Nows As I Can Get include how its complex plot and structuring meld into a beautiful, clear story. We discuss how she made that happen in our interview.
Into YA with Arvin Ahmadi- Arvin is one of my all time favorite authors, so I was over the moon to get the chance to chat with him.
Into YA with Kathleen Glasgow- In the same vein as Arvin, Kathleen was one of the authors who made me fall in love with YA, so I almost fainted when she DM'd me about doing an interview. Getting to chat with her was a real treat.
Thanks again to every author I've gotten to work with, every author who's written a book I've enjoyed, and everyone who has read or supported the blog. Every tweet and favorite is appreciated! If you don't know about the social media pages, I'm on Twitter (@readwriteandme) and Instagram (@readingwritingandme) for the blog. If you're an author with a book coming out who would like help with promo, don't hesitate to reach out via DM or email at ReadingWritingAndMe@gmail.com. And if you want to follow me personally, I'm on Twitter @mslaurenbrice.