Well guys, gals, and nonbinary pals, it’s New Year’s Eve and the last day of 2019, so you know that that means: it’s time for my Top 10 overall reads of 2019! This list was pretty hard to narrow down, as at the time of this post I’ve read 227 books this year, but I think this list encompasses all of the great stories I’ve had the pleasure of reading this year! Without further ado, here are my favorite reads of the year!
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Summary: Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.
But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.
So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.
Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.
Three Words: startling, distinct, heartbreaking
Readalikes: The Revolution of Birdie Randolph by Brandy Colbert, Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes, Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
Summary: Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.
Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.
There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?
Three Words: heart-warming, mirroring, inclusive
Readalikes: Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert, If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Summary: Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamourous family’s mansion. The next items?
- Enjoy a drunken night out.
- Ride a motorcycle.
- Go camping.
- Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
- Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
- And… do something bad.
But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.
Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.
But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…
Three Words: inclusive, inspiring, unputdownable (yes that’s a word)
Readalikes: A Distant Heart by Sonali Dev, The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory, The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
Good Talk by Mira Jacob
Summary: “Who taught Michael Jackson to dance?”
“Is that how people really walk on the moon?”
“Is it bad to be brown?”
“Are white people afraid of brown people?”
Like many six-year-olds, Mira Jacob’s half-Jewish, half-Indian son, Z, has questions about everything. At first they are innocuous enough, but as tensions from the 2016 election spread from the media into his own family, they become much, much more complicated. Trying to answer him honestly, Mira has to think back to where she’s gotten her own answers: her most formative conversations about race, color, sexuality, and, of course, love.
“How brown is too brown?”
“Can Indians be racist?”
“What does real love between really different people look like?”
Written with humor and vulnerability, this deeply relatable graphic memoir is a love letter to the art of conversation—and to the hope that hovers in our most difficult questions.
Three Words: thought-provoking, uncomfortable, necessary
Readalikes: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehesi Coates, I Was Their American Dream by Malaka Gharib, German Calendar No December by Sylvia Ofili
If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann
Summary: High school finally behind her, Winnie is all set to attend college in the fall. But first she’s spending her summer days working at her granny’s diner and begins spending her midnights with Dallas—the boy she loves to hate and hates that she likes. Winnie lives in Misty Haven, a small town where secrets are impossible to keep—like when Winnie allegedly snaps on Dr. Skinner, which results in everyone feeling compelled to give her weight loss advice for her own good. Because they care that’s she’s “too fat.” Winnie dreams of someday inheriting the diner—but it’ll go away if they can’t make money, and fast. Winnie has a solution—win a televised cooking competition and make bank. But Granny doesn’t want her to enter—so Winnie has to find a way around her formidable grandmother. Can she come out on top?
Three Words: summery, understanding, inspiring
Readalikes: Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann (if you haven’t read it already), Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju, The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding, Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney Stevens
The Leavers by Lisa Ko
Summary: One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her.
With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left with no one to care for him. He is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate. They rename him Daniel Wilkinson in their efforts to make him over into their version of an “all-American boy.” But far away from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his new life with his mother’s disappearance and the memories of the family and community he left behind.
Set in New York and China, The Leavers is a vivid and moving examination of borders and belonging. It’s the story of how one boy comes into his own when everything he’s loved has been taken away–and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of her past.
Three Words: heartbreaking, intricate, empathetic
Readalikes: We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok, Across a Green Ocean by Wendy Lee
There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon
Summary: Ashish Patel didn’t know love could be so…sucky. After he’s dumped by his ex-girlfriend, his mojo goes AWOL. Even worse, his parents are annoyingly, smugly confident they could find him a better match. So, in a moment of weakness, Ash challenges them to set him up.
The Patels insist that Ashish date an Indian-American girl—under contract. Per subclause 1(a), he’ll be taking his date on “fun” excursions like visiting the Hindu temple and his eccentric Gita Auntie. Kill him now. How is this ever going to work?
Sweetie Nair is many things: a formidable track athlete who can outrun most people in California, a loyal friend, a shower-singing champion. Oh, and she’s also fat. To Sweetie’s traditional parents, this last detail is the kiss of death.
Sweetie loves her parents, but she’s so tired of being told she’s lacking because she’s fat. She decides it’s time to kick off the Sassy Sweetie Project, where she’ll show the world (and herself) what she’s really made of.
Ashish and Sweetie both have something to prove. But with each date they realize there’s an unexpected magic growing between them. Can they find their true selves without losing each other?
Three Words: warm, empowering, adorable
Readalikes: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli, Fake It Til You Break It by Jenn P. Nguyen, Frankly in Love by David Yoon
The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater
Summary: One teenager in a skirt.
One teenager with a lighter.
One moment that changes both of their lives forever.
If it weren’t for the 57 bus, Sasha and Richard never would have met. Both were high school students from Oakland, California, one of the most diverse cities in the country, but they inhabited different worlds. Sasha, a white teen, lived in the middle-class foothills and attended a small private school. Richard, a black teen, lived in the crime-plagued flatlands and attended a large public one. Each day, their paths overlapped for a mere eight minutes. But one afternoon on the bus ride home from school, a single reckless act left Sasha severely burned, and Richard charged with two hate crimes and facing life imprisonment. The case garnered international attention, thrusting both teenagers into the spotlight.
Three Words: revealing, well-researched, complex
Readalikes: Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin, Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin, October Mourning by Lesléa Newman
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell
Summary: Laura Dean, the most popular girl in high school, was Frederica Riley’s dream girl: charming, confident, and SO cute. There’s just one problem: Laura Dean is maybe not the greatest girlfriend.
Reeling from her latest break up, Freddy’s best friend, Doodle, introduces her to the Seek-Her, a mysterious medium, who leaves Freddy some cryptic parting words: break up with her. But Laura Dean keeps coming back, and as their relationship spirals further out of her control, Freddy has to wonder if it’s really Laura Dean that’s the problem. Maybe it’s Freddy, who is rapidly losing her friends, including Doodle, who needs her now more than ever. Fortunately for Freddy, there are new friends, and the insight of advice columnists like Anna Vice to help her through being a teenager in love.
Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell bring to life a sweet and spirited tale of young love that asks us to consider what happens when we ditch the toxic relationships we crave to embrace the healthy ones we need.
Three Words: relatable, beautiful, difficult
Readalikes: Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan, Bloom by Kevin Panetta & Savanna Ganacheau, Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable & Ellen T. Crenshaw
On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
Summary: An epic graphic novel about a girl who travels to the ends of the universe to find a long lost love, from acclaimed author Tillie Walden.
Throughout the deepest reaches of space, a crew rebuilds beautiful and broken-down structures, painstakingly putting the past together. As Mia, the newest member, gets to know her team, the story flashes back to her pivotal year in boarding school, where she fell in love with a mysterious new student. When Mia grows close to her new friends, she reveals her true purpose for joining their ship—to track down her long-lost love.
Three Words: dazzling, sensitive, nomadic
Readalikes: Decelerate Blue by Adam Rapp & Mike Cavallaro, Cosmoknights by Hannah Templer, Kim & Kim by Magdalene Visaggio, Eva Cabrera, & Claudia Aguirre
What did you read and love thie year? Please place them in the comments- I’m building my 2020 TBR list as we speak!
Until next year…