I’ve never recapped my personal best-of reading list so early in the year before, but 2019 is already off to such a great start I’m making an exception. The biggest silver lining of February’s snow show was getting more time to read. Here are just a few of my faves so far, in no particular order because these books are amazing and I refuse to rank my favorite children books.
Watch Us Rise by Renée Watson & Ellen Hagan
Recommended for fans of Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu.
I’m convinced I will always 100% love everything Renée Watson writes. This book hit so many high notes and addressed so many topics important to me that I really just want to read it again.
Best friends Jasmine and Chelsea are fed up with the way female students are treated at their supposedly progressive high school, so they start a Women’s Rights Club. Poems, essays, and videos go into their club’s online blog, Write Like a Girl. The blog goes viral, but online trolls escalate tensions in real life and the blog gets shut down by a condescending school administration. Jasmine and Chelsea aren’t ready to go quietly into the night–not when they know they are reaching other students who are facing the same misogynist treatment. How will they balance their need to help and be creative while not further angering their school’s administration?
The way that feminism, racism, body shaming, and everything else is addressed was just 10/10 perfect. The essays, poems, and playlists that the characters create for the Write Like a Girl blog were my absolute favorite part. It was like getting a very rad nonfiction bonus in my fiction book.
I fought for them. I cried for them. I cheered them on and didn’t want their story to end. These are multidimensional characters written authentically and I’m so here for it.
Cold Day in the Sun by Sara Biren Recommended for fans of The Cutting Edge and The Everett Silvertips.
This book is for anyone like me who was completely obsessed with the film The Cutting Edge–where a hockey player and a figure skater are paired up for the Olympics–who also wanted a sequel to be about hockey.
Holland is the only girl on her high school’s hockey team and she’s used to holding her own skating with the guys–even though it means dealing with the misogynist insults from the small hockey town’s good ole’ boys. But when she’s selected to represent her team on national television to help sway the public to vote for a major hockey tournament to be held in her hometown, Holland will have to confront her own self-doubts and fears that she might not be good enough to be on the boys’ team.
Oh, and she’ll also have to deal with her changing feelings towards her bossy team captain who she’s starting to realize might not be her frenemy after all. Maybe, just maybe, her frustrations stem from strong romantic feelings for him that she’s ignored for too long.
Cold Day in the Sun is full of feminism, the Midwest, small-town life, and a romance that will hook you and not let you go.
The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye
Recommended for fans of historical fiction with a sharp social justice edge.
As soon as I finished this smashing book I immediately missed the residents of The Paragon Hotel. Especially Blossom. And Max. And Nobody. And okay, everyone. It’s literally everyone.
I spent several days utterly invested in this story of a white woman who goes by the name Nobody. She flees the Mob in 1921 after having to fake her death. Rescued by a concerned train porter, she is allowed to stay in an all-African American hotel in Portland. The Paragon Hotel’s residents are reluctant to welcome her, as having a white woman in their rooms will only draw negative attention from the bigoted community. Soon these fears become reality. Nobody and the hotel’s staff and residents are thrust under the KKK’s magnifying glass as they all search for a missing 6 year old foundling they’ve all been collectively raising from infanthood.
The pacing is great, dipping back into Nobody’s past when relevant, and showing how she learned to survive. The author turns phrases like pancakes and if I were highlighting all the clever passages the pages in my copy would be nearly solid yellow.
This book destroyed me in a good way.
Even though this is fiction, I learned a lot of disturbing things about the KKK’s nonfictional influence in Oregon. I’m likely to start digging into the Northwest Room for more information about this time period in Oregon’s past.
Death Prefers Blondes by Caleb Roehrig
Recommended for fans of Leverage, RuPaul’s Drag Race, and heist novels.
I was immediately hooked at the premise of a heist novel starring teenage drag queens, and it only went up from there.
Margo isn’t your typical teen. By day she’s a socialite the paparazzi can’t get enough of. By night she’s a highly successful cat burglar. She and her four best friends, all of whom are teenage drag queens, each have their own reasons for doing what they do. The one thing they have in common? They’re damn good at stealing. But when a routine job goes wrong, they’ll need all their skills, training, and friendship to not only survive but to stop the mastermind who is determined to out them all.
There’s love, sex, violence, friendship, redemption, and huge helpings of both snark and bonding. If you’re looking for a fast-paced wild ride of a novel–look no further.
So let’s hear it. Which books have hit the tippity top of your favorites so far this year? Leave your recommendations in the comments. Who knows? Maybe one of your favorites will hit my next best-of list. Which judging by the way this year is shaping up might be sooner than we both expect.