In a year filled with a lot more downs than ups, we needed to try to find things worth celebrating. For some of us, that meant look at the books that helped us forget everything happening around us because sometimes we just need to keep our heads down for five minutes.
Where Am I Now? (Mara Wilson, 2016): “Many of us grew up seeing young Mara Wilson on the big screen, whether it was in the classic adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Matilda, in the hilarious Mrs. Doubtfire, or any of the other movies she starred in. Mara writes openly about things such as her life growing up as a child star, why she decided to leave Hollywood, her mother’s death, and her experience living with mental illness. There is even a chapter on Matilda, in which Mara pens a heartwarming “letter to Matilda”. She does not hold anything back, which I really admired—her writing is honest, smart, inspirational, and funny. As a reader, it was easy to relate to some of the things Mara felt or wrote about, despite the fact that her upbringing was so unique. Since her book is filled with such honesty, I think her stories have the power to make people feel less alone.”- contributor, Kavita Gurm
Red Queen (Victoria Aveyard, 2016): In her debut novel, Aveyard tells the story of a seventeen-year-old and a world divided by Reds & Silvers. Mare Barrow finds herself inexplicably tied to the Silver Palace, despite her poor, Red upbringing. Red Queen deserves all the praise it’s received from readers across the world and the hype that’s persuaded so many to pick up in the first place, and, of course, it’s New York Times Best Seller #1 spot.
One True Loves (Taylor Jenkins Reid, 2016): An unexpected love story about a woman who’s forced to choose between her husband she believed was dead and her fiance who brought her back to life. Taylor Jenkins Reid doesn’t hold back her punches when it comes to emotions, because despite the story being essentially a love triangle it feels real and tangible. It’s more than a love story between a man and woman, it’s a love story between a woman and herself.
The Girls (Emma Cline, 2016): Evie is caught by the fearlessness of a group of teenage girls during the summer in the 1960s. Soon, Evie is drawn to an older crowd and caught in the whirlwind of a son-to-be infamous cult. Cline creates an intellectual and compelling story about teenage girls — something we’ve needed for quite some time. I can guarantee you’ll go in expecting something completely different than what you end up getting, but that’s the thrill of Cline’s book.
The Royal We (Heather Cocks, 2015): “I will be the first to admit I’m a sucker for a good “chick lit” novel (even though it physically pains me to type out “chick lit”). I love a good happy ending, but there seems to be a shortage of good books in this category for those in their 20s. Every book is about high schoolers or falls in what I affectionately call the “wine mom” category. But enter “The Royal We” – a genuine game changer from the duo The Fug Girls, Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan. “The Royal We” follows Midwestern college student Bex Porter as she studies abroad in the U.K., away from her twin for the first time as well as accidentally at the same school as Nick, who just happens to be a prince. I know, I know – it all looks and sounds like some Will & Kate fan fiction, but it is genuinely one of the best novels I’ve read in recent years. The characters are so well-written, the banter is top-notch, and it’s full of ups and downs, which feels refreshing for the genre it falls under. The book may have come out in 2015, but reading it twice in less than three months qualifies it as my favorite book of 2016. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you might even end up researching how to study abroad in London.” – Managing Editor, Emily Maag
A.D.: After Death Book 1 (Scoot Snyder, 2016): In a world where superheroes (and antiheroes) reign, Scott Snyder creates a three-part epic comic about humanity. A genetic cure for death is found, but after years and years, one man starts to question everything. The combination of narrative pages alternating with traditional panel art gives it a fresh look and allows for the required explanations without pages of unnecessary conversation. The story itself is fast-paced and compelling, but the story would be nothing without the art and the art would be nothing without the story. You will puzzle over its details, its dialogue intent on revealing only the tiniest of hints.
Honorable Mentions: The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon, Emergency Brake by Ruth Madievsk, The Version of Us by Laura Barnett, Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between by Lauren Graham, Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton, Paper Girls Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan, Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin Manuel-Miranda and Jeremy McCarter, and Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety by Ann Y.K.. Choi