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The Two Worst
I’m starting with the two worst because I don’t want to end this blog post on a negative note. Always end positively!
1. The Madness Underneath (Shades of London #2) by Maureen Johnson
I really enjoyed the first book in this series, and I know Maureen Johnson is a good writer, so I had reasonable expectations for this one. Sadly, few books have disappointed me like this one. NOTHING happens in this book until the last few chapters. That’s when the plot actually starts getting somewhere, but then the book ends. Maybe the series gets better with the third book, but I won’t bother finding out. If you have to read this series, read the first book and end there. You can thank me later.
2. Every Day by David Levithan
Okay, so, this book isn’t BAD per se, it just has a lot of untapped potential. This person, A, wakes up in a different body every single day. We don’t know if they are a boy or a girl, because even they don’t know. That’s cool, I like that. BUT, this book barely touched the surface with that concept. It focused on the love story, which is an interesting facet of A’s condition. Levithan could’ve explored so much more but chose not to. What happens if the body dies while A is in it? Are there other people like A out there? Why is there a geographical limit to which bodies they inhabit? What happens when A grows old? Of course Levithan probably can’t answer all of these questions in one story, but the story he did choose to tell was a boring one.
The Five Best
1. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
This is the first Jandy Nelson book I read, but now I need to read more. Sadly, she has only two published books, but if she ever comes out with something else I’ll be first in line. This book is about romance, sexuality, and growing up, but at its core it’s about family. Even though it’s marketed as YA, Nelson’s writing style is truly unique and she doesn’t dumb it down.
“Or maybe a person is just made up of a lot of people,” I say. “Maybe we’re accumulating these new selves all the time.” Hauling them in as we make choices, good and bad, as we screw up, step up, lose our minds, find our minds, fall apart, fall in love, as we grieve, grow, retreat from the world, dive into the world, as we make things, as we break things.”
2. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein
This memoir focuses on the Riot Grrrl punk rock scene, primarily set in the northwest. Literally almost everything in this book was new to me: all-female rock bands, music, touring, the American northwest scene, punk music. I had no point of reference or background information before diving into this book, but I’m sure glad I did. The problem with most memoirs is that they’re just not well written; Brownstein proves that she is not only a good musician, actress, and producer, but also a great writer.
“We were never trying to deny our femaleness. Instead, we wanted to expand the notion of what it means to be female. The notion of “female” should be so sprawling and complex that it becomes divorced from gender itself. We were considered a female band before we became merely a band; I was a female guitarist and Janet was a female drummer for years before we were simply considered a guitarist and a drummer. I think Sleater-Kinney wanted the privilege of starting from neutral ground, not from a perceived deficit or a linguistic limitation. Anything that isn’t traditional for women apparently requires that we remind people what an anomaly it is, even when it becomes less and less of an anomaly.”
3. The Likeness (Dublin Murder Squad #2) by Tana French
Tana French is in my top 10 list of writers ever. She is that good. I really can’t tell you anything about the plot without giving important things away, so just trust me on this one. It’s heavily influenced by The Secret History by Donna Tartt (which I also read this year), but set in Ireland. What I love about Tana is that she never ties up the ending of her novels perfectly for you. She knows that you, the reader, are smart and don’t need everything spelled out, which I greatly appreciate.
“Some people are little Chernobyls, shimmering with silent, spreading poison: get anywhere near them and every breath you take will wreck you from the inside out.”
4. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Let’s be honest, Sylvia Plath gets a lot of crap just because young girls like her. If young girls like something, it will always be mocked by popular culture but nine times out of ten it will actually be good (see: One Direction and Teen Vogue). But how many of the people that make fun of Plath and the girls who read her have actually took the time to read Plath? The Bell Jar is compelling because we know Plath based it on her own experience. How much of it is autobiographical? If it is true to life, is any of it embellished? How much is fiction? We’ll never know, but what makes this book beautiful is that it all feels real, no matter where her inspiration came from.
“When they asked me what I wanted to be I said I didn’t know.
“Oh, sure you know,” the photographer said.
“She wants,” said Jay Cee wittily, “to be everything.”
5. Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
Will Shonda Rhimes ever do anything that doesn’t please me? The cover makes it look like a self-help book aimed at people who will never actually take the steps to improve their lives, but the inside is completely opposite. Even though it is obviously in book format, it reads like a blog post. I know people say this about a lot of books, but it truly feels like I’m sitting down with Shonda and she’s dealing out life lessons over brunch. We’re buddies now, me and Shonda. The premise of the book is simple: Shonda realized she wasn’t living to her full potentional by saying no all the time. So she started saying yes, even when it scared her. This book gives me lessons that I’ll take with me while I’m studying abroad in Scotland and traveling in general: I need to say yes to new experiences, activities, people, and life.
“They tell you: Follow your dreams. Listen to your spirit. Change the world. Make your mark. Find your inner voice and make it sing. Embrace failure. Dream. Dream and dream big. As a matter of fact, dream and don’t stop dreaming until your dream comes true.
I think that’s crap.
I think a lot of people dream. And while they are busy dreaming, the really happy people, the really successful people, the really interesting, powerful, engaged people? Are busy doing.”
What were your top books of 2016? The worst?
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