I love to read. I read all the time, sometimes in places where I probably shouldn’t be (in restaurants while waiting for my food, among others), and I read quite a few books a year. My current tally for the year is 72, and my Goodreads goal is set for 110.
Since I read so much, I often get asked for a few recommendations from my friends. And then I thought, why not just make periodic posts of books I liked a lot, and direct them that-a-way?
And, here we are. Four books I liked a lot and would recommend, based on genre. All are YA, since that’s what I typically read.
Fantasy – The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater
Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them–until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.
His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.
But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little.
For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn’t believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.
If you’ve read her Shiver series (The Wolves of Mercy Falls) and didn’t find yourself liking it too much, I urge you to give her a second chance with this series. The second book, especially, is amazingly written, and not getting attached to the characters (or, at least one of them) is nearly impossible.
I never stood a chance.
Sci-Fi – The Gone Series by Michael Grant
In the blink of an eye, everyone disappears. Gone. Except for the young.
There are teens, but not one single adult. Just as suddenly, there are no phones, no internet, no television. No way to get help. And no way to figure out what’s happened.
Hunger threatens. Bullies rule. A sinister creature lurks. Animals are mutating. And the teens themselves are changing, developing new talents—unimaginable, dangerous, deadly powers—that grow stronger by the day. It’s a terrifying new world. Sides are being chosen, a fight is shaping up. Townies against rich kids. Bullies against the weak. Powerful against powerless. And time is running out: On your birthday, you disappear just like everyone else…
I love, love this series (obviously, since it’s in this post), and if you like YA books with a bit of a darker side to them, then definitely think about picking this one up. From what I hear (because I haven’t read the book), it’s a similar concept to Stephen King’s Under the Dome, but this is the more age-friendly version, and has a much different set of plot points surrounding it. I think the only similar thing is the whole trapped under a dome thing, honestly.
But don’t hold me to that, just read the series. It’s a longer one, but totally worth it.
Historical Fiction – Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.
Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously–and at great risk–documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.
I’m a huge historical fiction junkie, and I eat up books set in WWII like you wouldn’t believe. This one, along with Salt to the Sea by the same author, is one of my absolute favorite depictions of the era as of yet.
Word of warning, since it’s set during WWII, it is very depressing. If you’re not into historical fiction or WWII literature, I would steer clear of this book. Otherwise, it’s such a good story.
Contemporary – Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Cath is a Simon Snow fan.
Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan…
But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.
Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.
Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.
Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.
For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?
Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?
And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?
You’ve probably heard about this one multiple times since it’s a very popular book in fan communities (can you blame us? it’s titled Fangirl), but I have to include it. Like many others who recommend Fangirl, I relate pretty strongly to the main character, Cath, in enough ways that I felt connected to the story. It’s a very coming-of-age story, in a sense, and you may not love it if you don’t have anything to relate to in it (though, some people still adore the book, even if they don’t relate), but Rowell is such a good writer that I would say it’s worth giving it a shot.
That was a really long sentence, but I’m keeping it. Fangirl is great for the average fangirl, or just your usual contemporary reader. I’m not much of a contemporary person, but Rowell’s books change the game. (Her fantasy books, though. I love even more. But that’s for another recommendation post.)
If you’ve already read any of these, I’d love to hear what you thought of them, even if you didn’t like them. I also love recommendations myself, so, by all means, tell me what I should read.