Winter Holiday Gift Guide: Give a Book!
For The Music Lover:
Fiction: More Than Maybe and You'd Be Mine
If you have a music lover in the family, these are two books that need to be in their hands. These two swooney YAs are perfect romances and have truly musical hearts. If they're more interested in country music or a peak into what it's like to be a touring musician (and fall in love with your opening act), You'd Be Mine is the book for them. I also think it's the better fit for adults. If they're more into grunge bars, cold Michigan nights, dance, and sons of famous English punk-rockers, Erin's more recent book, More Than Maybe, will be a perfect fit. It's bursting with so many musical references that it almost creates its own language between the two love interests. Both of these books are can't miss reads. MM Review. YBM Review.
I only recently picked this book up, and I haven't finished it yet, but the premise is to intriguing, I have to throw it in. The book follows Candace Park through K-Pop training. As everyone knows, training is physically and mentally intense, and it comes with a list of strict rules that absolutely cannot be broken. Candace finds herself in the middle of a scandal because of it. Is the spot in the girl group that hangs in the balance worth giving up everything she loves about her current life?
This would be a perfect pairing with the new Blackpink documentary: Light Up The Night to give a fictional look compared to the documentary style reality. If you want to hear more about the documentary, you can read my review here.
I stumbled into this book after reading the sources for Larger Than Life, and I've fallen in love with it. I usually don't mark up my books, but I read this one with highlighter and pen in hand so I could easily find all my favorite moments. This is a book about fandom, written by a fangirl. Hannah set out to define fandom and capture what it is, its cultural impact, and what it means to the people in it without the usual derogatory filter that gets cast over it. Each chapter uses a different artists to illustrate a different facet of fandom, and while the book is positive overall, she doesn't shy away from its flaws. I'd never read such an accurate or caring journalistic portrait, but I think that comes from Hannah doing the work, getting to know fans on and offline, going to events, and wrapping up in fleece blankets in the rain to camp outside a show. It's a beautiful portrait and one that any current or former fangirl will cherish. Full Review: Here.
Larger Than Life
This is the book that I found Fangirls through! I'd been eyeing this book since Marissa started popping up on all my favorite podcasts. She's a boy band expert, and she goes about writing a complete history with the glee of a fan and the thoroughness of a scholar. This is the perfect gift book. It's soft cover but close to coffee table book size, and it's full of bright, fun illustrations to bring each boy band discussed to life. There are specific bands profiled in great detail and a general timeline to guide you through the nuance of the birth of boy bands. It's the best overview of the subject that I've found. Full Review: Here.
Switched on Pop
Got a pop music lover in your life who wants to know more about how the music actually works? Are they a fan of the Switched on Pop podcast? This book is a great first overview into music theory and production elements as it easily explains the concepts through the lens of different popular songs. They prove what makes some of the biggest radio hits work. It's a fun, insightful look into the world of popular music that's a quick read and perfectly suited for casual music lovers looking to go a little deeper. Full Review: Here.
For the Mystery Fan:
Fiction: I Killed Zoe Spanos Here.
One of Us Is Lying Here.
One of Us Is Lying and One of Us Is Next would be a great duo present to give to any new YA mystery reader.
They Wish They Were Us
If prep school mysteries are more their speed, this new release is perfect. The story revolves around a secret society that lost a member of its own in a murky, initiation related death. Though it happened freshman year, as a senior, Jill is set on discovering what exactly happened to her best friend, Sheila. This leads her down a dark, twisty path. Though I eventually figured it out and the ending is a bit stereotypical, the story kept me on my toes. This is also a great choice to get for anyone who might be a Halsey fan in your life (maybe paired with her poetry book?) because Halsey is co-producing and starring in the television adaption that is coming soon. Read more about that here. Full Review: Here.
Nonfiction: I'll Be Gone In The Dark
This is a book I would only recommend for older teens or adults, but it's a must read for true crime fans. It's the most thorough account of the Golden State Killer case I've ever encountered. While I go in and out of actually wanting to read true crime, this book was gripping. The beginning gives all the gritty, terrifying details of the cases and the crimes he committed. That part wasn't super enjoyable, but I loved the second half that chronicled Michelle's research into the crime and her blog, True Crime Diary. She kept pace with the actual investigators with half of their resources, and those accounts stood out to me. Fair warning. This book will give you nightmares, and I wouldn't recommend reading it at night or alone. Full Review: Here.
For Those Who Love Poetry/Beautiful Words:
Poetry: Swimming Lessons
Lili's book was the first poetry I'd read in years beyond casually finding poems on the internet. She made me absolutely fall in love with the genre again. I've always been someone who liked writing poetry but hated the poetry unit in school because all of the poems were old and felt pretentious. I love Lili's modern style and voice. These feel like hyper-relatable snippets of thoughts and musings put on the page conversationally. It's a quick read, but a good one. She delves into topics like loss, break-ups, and mental illness from a highly personal point of view. I would recommend this to anyone wanting to get into poetry, or as a gift for anyone who is a fan of Riverdale or any of Lili's acting. Full Review: Here.
I Would Leave Me If I Could
I can't count anymore how many times I've read this book. If you've heard her music, you know that Halsey has an almost unmatched grasp of language, and that's on full display here when she's out of the confines of rhyme and melody. These poems also feature an unmatched layer of honesty. She takes you on a tour through her darkest moments and most painful thoughts, but there are also light moments. Happy winks and words of encouragement. I also love that she manages to present all of her experiences as "I've been there too" over "look at what I've been through". It's a highly intense read and delves into many sensitive topics, but it is well worth the emotional investment. If you're shopping for a Halsey fan, this is a must add to their shelf, and even if they already have one edition, there are a variety of editions featuring different covers, poster bundles, and additional poems they might be eager to get their hands on. Full Review: Here.
For Those Looking For a Fun Romance:
You Should See Me In A Crown
Apparently rural Indiana is big on prom. It's such an important activity that the prom queen walks away with scholarship money. After losing a scholarship to her dream college, Liz is forced to resort to joining the court to secure the money even though it's the opposite of everything she stands for. Through all the antics of the required meetings on the way to prom, she falls in love with the new girl at school and pushes for a more inclusive view of who's allowed to be on the court and have fun at prom. While the book deals with important issues like racism and homophobia, the book is overall a fun and joyful read. Full Review: Here
I'll Be The One
Skye has always wanted to be a K-Pop star, so when auditions for the biggest K-Pop reality competition come to LA, she knows she has to compete. Despite the stigma around her weight, Skye is confident in her ability to sing and dance everyone off the stage. Once she makes it in, she meets fellow competitor, Henry. He comes from a rich, well known Korean family, and he's practically perfect, so everyone thinks he's sure to win the show. The more they get together though, the faster they start to fall for one another. With the high concept world of a reality TV competition, the intense world of K-Pop, and two bi love interests, there's something for everyone in this super cute, uplifting read. Full Review: Here.
Today, Tonight, Tomorrow
Rachel Lynn Solomon has been one of my favorite YA authors since her very first book, so of course I loved her latest release. This time, she's focusing on a tight, 24 hour time period where academic rivals Rowan and Neil are forced to work together to win the senior night scavenger hunt and secure the prize money. Though they've antagonized each other since freshman year, there's always been a certain chemistry between them, and being out of high school and stuck together only lights that further. Rachel builds an engrossing world and gives the perfect amount of detail to feel like you know their whole world in a single day. This is perfect for older YA readers or adult YA readers. Full Review: Here.
For The Graphic Novel Enthusiast:
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me
This graphic novel came out a few years ago, but I only got around to reading it this year. It's the perfect break up story as two girls navigate their tumultuous high school relationship. It's one of the best tellings of the "you can love someone and still need to let them go" stories I've seen. The illustrations are truly beautiful and so fun to look through, and it's a great story as well. Graphic novels are great for reluctant readers, but even if the person you're shopping for isn't already a fan of graphic novels, if they also like art, they're sure to appreciate this.
For The Nonfiction Nerd:
Shopping for someone fascinated by words and linguistics or who has always been a staunch defender of cuss words? This book will be a perfect read for them. In a casual, fun tone, the book goes through the history of different words and their evolutions in society, mostly looking at words that revolve around women and the LGBTQ community. It's a fascinating, eye opening read, and I'm a total word nerd, so I'll listen to the history of how any of them came to be. Full Review: Here.
Catch and Kill & She Said
If you're interested in journalism, this is an engrossing read. Ronan Farrow tells the story of the time he spent working on breaking the Harvey Weinstein story. While he wasn't the first to get the story to print, he had quite the journey to publication. From getting followed and threatened by operatives for Harvey, having his job put into question because he got too close to the bad stories haunting his own agency, and a whirlwind of red flags and attempts to stop him, the book details an incredibly important movement while also feeling like a piece of fiction by itself. It's totally engrossing, and I still can't believe half of it is real. If you're fascinated by process like I am, this is the book for you. Also, Ronan is a great writer. She Said tells a similar story, with less of a thriller edge, about the two women who worked at the New York Times to break the Weinstein story. Theirs is still a harrowing journey but mostly focused on the process of finding sources and the delicate journey of getting people to tell the story about one of the worst things that ever happened to them. They're both highly nuanced and important reads. CK Full Review: Here. SS Full Review: Here.
For The Curious Foodie:
How Not To Die
This book honestly changed my life, which is something I hesitate to say about books in the food/wellness space because it's so individualized, but it's the truth. Our food system is terrifying. What we're ingesting in everything we buy from the grocery store without realizing it is truly startling. It is leading to the increase in incurable disease indisputably. As someone who is terrified of medical issues, this book is both terrifying and empowering. It thoroughly goes through each of the leading killers, that are medically preventable through lifestyle, and discusses what in our food and lifestyle have lead to the increase. What I like most about the book is that there's a general conclusion that animal products have been so polluted that it's starting to harm us as well, and therefore, the best thing you can do for yourself is to go vegan, but it's not pushy. Basically the idea is taking as many steps as you're comfortable with to reducing your diet's dependence of those products. It's logical, clearly science based, and highly eye opening to what certain industries are allowed to do to us because of their powerful lobbies. Full Review: Here.
The Secret Life of Groceries
Similar to Fashionopolis, this book doesn't present a real solution, but it is eye opening to the problem. Benjamin spent years exploring every avenue of the grocery business to understand what was truly happening. While the book explores many facets from how the stores manipulate us to how it's become almost impossible to innovate in the space, most of the book unearths deep exploitation from the truck drivers who transport food, those who produce the food, and those who work in grocery stores. While there aren't action steps at the end, it proves that something must be done to change the industry and hold it to higher standards.
For Those Who Live on Their Phones:
The Gravity of Us
Cal is glued to his phone because, though social media, he has become the premier teen newscaster in New York. He's starting to line up dream internships, and his hard work is coming together. Then his dad gets a job at NASA, and he's forced to move across the country. They want him to give up his social show to sign NDAs for the new reality show following the new astronaut mission. Instead, Cal is set on unearthing the sinister happenings under the surface at NASA. Also, he falls in love with a fellow space kid and boy next door. It's a book I've grown to love more and more since I read it. Full Review: Here.
Lulu is moderately famous on new social media app, Flash. She got a boost from dating the son of a famous rockstar (she's very embedded in the famous, LA world), but people also love her content. Though her life is perfect on paper, she's starting to hate all the parties and putting up a front for everyone. It's like they're always watching. When she meets Cass at a party, Cass shines brighter than everyone else. She isn't playing the games that Lulu has come to despise, and she feels real to Lulu. And Lulu starts to fall for her, even as she's still questioning her sexuality and how open she wants to be. When they stumble into the hidden world of the Hotel, both of their lives change course in an irreparable way. (This is one of my favorite, favorite books of the year, if not my most favorite). Features a bi MC and lesbian love interest. Full Review: Here.
Just like look, this book also takes place in the fascinating world of comics. Jubilee and Ridley are on opposite sides of a battle. Ridley's dad is the owner of one of the biggest comic stores in the country that's been swallowing up and ripping off indie stores for a decade. Jubilee is the daughter of the owner of Verona Comics, a popular indie that even produces their own line of comics. They struggle to stay afloat when the big stores can offer cheaper prices, and Ridley's dad wants to buy them out. This Romeo and Juliet retelling sees these two teens fall in love and fall apart under family pressure, mental health struggles, and confusion. I also love this book because, like look, it features a bi love interest, but Jubilee is also unlabeled, which is really cool. She sometimes uses bi or pan but generally doesn't feel like she wants/needs to label her sexuality. I'm hoping we'll get more and more unlabeled rep in YA. Full Review: Here.
When I discussed fandom in the music sections, I didn't add in Alice's books (even though she's the expert YA fandom writer) because they delve into a different kind of fandom around books, TV, and podcasts. Georgia is moving three hundred miles to start university. She should be going with her friends, but they're all scattered into different dorms. Her only comfort as she struggles to fit in is fan fiction, which she both writes and reads. She's highly tapped into internet spaces, and that's where she thrives. Throughout the book, she also starts to realize that she's aro-ace, a section of the LGBTQIA spectrum that does not have enough visibility. I'm happy to see it slowly get more representation in YA. At its core, though, Loveless is a messy coming of age, college set novel. Full Review: Here.
What I Like About You
This YA read felt a little too close to home. If there's a book blogger in your life, they're sure to love this book (just ask them about what they've already read if you're going to buy them a book!). The book follows Kels from One True Pastry, a book blog that pairs reviews with cupcakes. Her blog is taking off, and she's landing dream cover reveals. She also has a great network of online friends and a supportive community. Offline, though, Kels's real name is Halle, and her life is spectacularly boring. When she moves in with her grandparents, worlds collide when she meets one of her online best friends, Nash, IRL. Not coming clean immediately lands her in a sticky situation. A highly relatable book about blogging, first love, and college applications is sure to be a hit with any teen in your life. Marissa was a book blogger herself, so the details baked in this book are incredibly realistic to the triumphs and tribulations of being a blogger. Full Review: Here.
I Don't Know Where To Put This But Everyone Should Read This Book:
Felix Ever After
This should be a must read for everyone. It's been the standout book of the year for good reason. For one, New York City comes bursting to life through Kacen's words. Beyond that, it delves into art school politics, messy relationships, and figuring out your gender identity. My favorite part about the book (besides like everything) is how it gets into the nuance of labeling and identity and that the first label you choose or identity you settle on doesn't have to be the last. It's okay to evolve, reassess, or decide on something different. It doesn't invalidate you in the least. This book is the perfect "quiet YA" that's made a major impact on the industry. Full Review: Here.
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