Originally published in: 2016
What it’s about: A year after his wife’s death a man finds his wife’s charm bracelet while cleaning out her things. A bracelet she never wore. It leads him on a wonderful adventure.
What made me pick it up: I heard it was similar in premise to another book I enjoyed, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (turns out I liked it better), so I placed it on hold.
My favorite things: I really liked Arthur as a character. He was open and decent and viscerally sad. The thing I liked most, though, was his ability to process and accept that what his wife did that he may have never known about just made her who she was. It didn’t make her bad. It didn’t ruin their many years together. It just made her her. The woman he loved. It was romantic and heartfelt in such a sincere, simple way.
Who it’s great for: Adults who loved Harold Fry. Those who want a novel about a journey.
What it’s about: A memoir by Against Me! frontwoman Laura Jane Grace that explores her experiences with gender dysphoria and transition while tracing her life has a musician.
What made me pick it up: Oh man, I pre-ordered this the moment I heard it was going to be published. Grace has been a longtime hero of mine, her music was the backing track to my later teen years, and so I was thrilled to see she’d be penning something longer than a few verses.
My favorite things: The inclusion of journal entries within the narrative is well done and offers a more intimate understanding of Grace’s experiences, making it all more real and easier for the reader to empathize. I also appreciated them because I got a little bit of thrill each time I spotted a line in one of her entries that became a lyric or song title. The way she considers difficult questions that follow her coming out is eye-opening. How does her identity impact her wife’s understanding of her own sexuality? Will she still be Daddy to her young daughter? Grace is brutally honest about herself and her band and it is in turns infuriating and heartbreaking. She has no trouble opening up about all of her experiences and emotions, from depression and self-loathing to anger and entitlement.
Who it’s great for: Memoir readers seeking drama and dirt. Fans of Against Me! who don’t mind reading harsh words about the rest of the band. Anyone looking for a painfully honest story of transition and redemption.
What it’s about: In 2020, a transgender teen, her mom, and their grieving neighbor Dylan plod through a frozen apocalypse together.
What made me pick it up: I read Fagan’s first book The Panopticon which was equally bleak but also hopeful. I enjoy the way she writes characters and her use of language. The Scottish brogue mixed in is also very entertaining and instructive if you’re like me and Google each unknown word. When I saw the press for this I placed a hold.
My favorite things: Fagan makes Stella’s journey as a trans teen extremely relatable and realistic. You feel the depth of all the characters’ confusing emotions, which is one of my favorite aspects of her writing. You also feel the bleakness of their deepening winter, in a way that’s almost too real.
Who it’s great for: Adults who can handle a large dose of heaviness sprinkled throughout with bits of light. Those who like ambiguity. Anyone who wants to feel like it’s deep January somewhere north of Florida.
What it’s about: A young girl fears nothing and relies on no one, at least until she is confronted with the reality that jumbies exist. She learns that it’s okay to be scared and important to trust in your friends.
What made me pick it up: I was looking for a creepy middle grade read and came across The Jumbies. I was only planning to read the first few pages to get a feel for it, but I got sucked in.
My favorite things: I don’t know too much about Caribbean folklore, so I enjoyed getting to learn a little through the context of the story rather than having everything spelled out. I love the variety of characters and relationships that develop throughout the story. Baptiste does a great job of illustrating the idea that just because you are scared of someone or something, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are dangerous or want to hurt you-sometimes they’re just different than you.
Who it’s great for: Tweens looking for stories of friendship. Fans of creepy. Those looking for a strong female lead.
Originally published in: 2015
What it’s about: A selfish rabbit learns he can grow so much more if he shares.
What made me pick it up: I was alone in the book drop photographing some returns for a #bookdroplife Instagram post when I saw this and spent a couple extra minutes in there reading it.
My favorite things: The illustrations are beautiful. If you want an eye-catching picture book with a great message, this is for you.
Who it’s great for: Littles who like animals and are just learning to read. Parents who want a brief book with a message. Anyone who appreciates great illustrations because these are wonderful.
What it’s about: A collection of true stories about love written as prose, comics, and illustrated stories.
What made me pick it up: There are a lot of great authors and artists involved in this project and I was interested to see how they would handle writing about themselves and their love lives.
My favorite things: I love the variety of style and content and wide range of experiences that are included. The stories cover everything from unrequited crushes and first loves to heartbreak and moving forward. A lot of incredible artists worked on this anthology and brought some of the stories to life really well. Each piece is short enough you can easily dip in and out if you don’t have a lot of time to devote to it.
Who it’s great for: Geeks, nerds, and dorks of any variety. Members of any fandom. People who like graphic novels. Anyone in the mood for true stories about love and heartache.
What it’s about: Popular Youtuber Hannah Hart on overcoming her challenging childhood and figuring out her adult life.
What made me pick it up: I read Grace Helbig’s book Grace’s Guide a few months ago, which was fun and relatable and all about adulting. Since she is a frequent collaborator and friend of Hart’s, when I saw this book was being published I made sure to get it ASAP.
My favorite things: This gave a very unguarded look at Hart’s life including her mental illness, the difficulty of expressing her budding sexuality, and the untreated schizophrenia of her mother. I really like her frankness as well as her unequivocal stand that something is wrong with our treatment of mental illness in this country. She’s good at balancing moments of levity with moments of seriousness.
Who it’s great for: Teens. Adults. Anyone who has suffered with mental illness or had someone close to them suffer. People who watch Hart on YouTube and want to know more of her story. Someone in the mood for a memoir.
What it’s about: A young Haitian girl named Serafina and her dream to be a doctor when she grows up despite all the challenges she faces.
What made me pick it up: This book was recommended to me by Goodreads after I rated another novel in verse.
My favorite things: The message of hope in this book is wonderful. Serafina is a very determined character. The author also gave a very honest portrait of the hardships of daily life in Haiti. I especially enjoyed the incredibly lyrical language.
Who it’s great for: Older kids. Teens. Adults. Anyone interested in the struggles of developing nations. People who want a quick read. Those who like poetry.
What it’s about: Set in a post-apocalyptic North America where a widespread disease catches children before they ever reach adulthood, a young girl races to find a cure to save her loved ones.
What made me pick it up: The name piqued my attention because, hey, who doesn’t love ice cream? But the new spin on the post-apocalyptic is what actually pushed it to the top of my TBR pile.
My favorite things: Newman writes in an imagined future dialect that was a struggle to work through at first, but as I got used to it I really enjoyed trying to puzzle out the origins of the language. I love the way she imagines how a society of children would boil down and try to embody the values of older generations. And can we talk about the shameless overuse of Instagram filter on the cover image? What is that-Crema? Rise? Charmes? Whatever it is, it perfectly fits the tone of the book.
Who it’s great for: Fans of dystopian or post-apocalyptic fiction. Anyone up for a linguistic challenge.