We Were Liars

by E. Lockhart

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This is the best book I’ve read in a long time; I opened it for the first time a few hours ago and it’s already laying finished on my bed and I’m not sure how to function in the real world again after reading it.

Cadence Sinclair comes from a great and rich and powerful family, and spends summers on the island her grandfather owns, with houses built for each of his daughters and their families. She spends her summers with the liars, her two cousins and the boy that is almost like an adopted brother, until she falls in love with him.

She tells this all in past tense, because something has happened, her memory of that summer is gone, and no one will tell her the truth.

I can’t tell you any more other than to say that the suspense and beauty and heartbreak are all magnificent here; reserve the hours you need to read this sooner rather than later.

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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

by Jenny Han

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Lara Jean writes letters to all the boys she’s ever loved; the boys that got away or that she was too afraid to date, and hides them in a hat box under her bed. Her mom died when she was young and her oldest sister is leaving for college in Scotland leaving Lara Jean with her feisty little sister Kitty, whose moods blow in like storms. She lives next door to her sister’s ex who she is secretly in love with and is trying to figure out how to take care of her family and be herself.

One day Peter walks up to her at school with one of these secret letters in his hand. Her neighbor has one next, and Lara Jean suddenly finds herself at the center of attention.

I loved this book and stayed up late finishing it; it’s light and funny and engaging and a wonderful warm-weather read about finding yourself and not taking people for granted.

The Sky is Everywhere

by Jandy Nelson

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Lennie Walker’s older sister dies practicing her lines to Romeo and Juliet, and Lennie doesn’t know how to function without her.

While this could easily be a melodramatic book, Lennie’s journey through grief, romance, and ultimately finding herself is both charming and heartbreaking. She is a poet and is supported by a quirky cast of characters, including a grandmother who grows roses seemingly from Eden and a giant uncle called “Big.” Her best friend swears by shouting the names of random animals and Lennie finds herself needing to choose between two radically different boys; one, her sister’s boyfriend, who understands her consuming grief, and one, the new ┬ámusical prodigy, who pulls her out of it.

I loved Lennie’s (named after John Lennon) story. I loved how she learns to see herself as the star of her own story instead of her sister’s shadow, and I loved her poetry. This story seems true to the actuality of grief, how it can be gut-wrenchingly sad and heartbreaking and at the same time how you keep living through it anyway.

Where Things Come Back

by John Corey Whaley

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I’m not quite sure how to describe this book; two simultaneous storylines only intersect in the last few chapters, and those were truly the only chapters I loved.

The first story follows Cullen Witter, a small-town boy ready to escape, who has one of the greatest best friends ever written, who writes lists of book titles that he will never write, and who idolizes his little brother. The story opens with him identifying the body of his cousin who died of an overdose, and very quickly his town is overrun with woodpecker hysteria, and his brother, Gabriel, suddenly goes missing.

The second begins by following a young missionary in Africa. This was the plot that unsettled me; the characters in this half of the novel grow increasingly fanatic and insane.

While all of these many plots seem completely separate and unrelated, the last couple of chapters somehow tie the entire novel together. All of my questions were answered, all of the seemingly random characters suddenly found their place, and the suspense totally had me- there were two ways it could have ended, and I had no idea which way it would go. I had a hard time getting into the book to begin with, but the last chapters were so well done that I almost want to go back and reread the entire thing to try and follow all of the threads from the beginning. The book has high praise from many people, and it was well-written and complex, but most of the book felt so disconnected that I had a hard time enjoying great portions of it.

The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door

by Karen Finneyfrock

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When the recommendation blurbs on the back of the book are written by Sherman Alexie, Ruta Sepetys, and James Howe, there’s a pretty good indication that this book is special.

I am in the middle of a book drought, where nothing speaks to me, and I’ve finally found the book that I need to stay up late to finish.

Celia is starting high school and has gone “dark,” (aka, goth) in order to cope with a social trauma from the previous year. She is bitter and broken and friendless when a new boy sees her for who she is, and through that friendship she begins to heal.

The book has moments of humor and truth and absolute heartbreak. Celia pours her heart into her books of poetry and has secretly nerdy ambitions (like to read a book from each of the Dewey Decimal classifications). She needs to decide whether she wants to hold onto the past and revenge or allow herself to move on.

I highly recommend this read- go pick it up!

The Book of Lost Things

by John Connolly

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To me, this book was like a combination of the Chronicles of Narnia and Neil Gaiman and Grimm’s Fairy Tales. David, after the loss of his mom, begins to hear his books whisper to him from their shelves and has dreams of a strange world full of wolves and a crooked man. After a German plane crashes in his backyard, David hears the voice of his mother and follows it through a tree into another place. This place is full of the dark, twisted fairy tales that Disney doesn’t tell.

While the book isn’t perfect (it runs a little long and David never felt like a fully realized character to me), the journey David takes through these dark stories was fascinating and hard to stop reading. I loved them more than the plot as a whole.

Overall, this was the first book in a while that held my attention well; its familiar stories were off enough to keep me turning the pages, and the ending felt satisfying.

The Misfits

by James Howe

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Funny and touching, The Misfits follows “The Gang of Five,” four oddballs who decide to stand up for themselves during student council election season. The story is told by Bobby who lost his mom in elementary school and grew up being called “Fluff” and “fatso;” he’s content being mostly invisible and working as a tie salesman until his friend Addie decides to become political.

This book was wonderful for a lot of reasons, but I think my favorite thing was the honesty used to talk about bullying and being a misfit without ever delving into melodrama. These kids recognize the system for what it is, but they also know themselves and have a support network in each other which gives them the power to make change.

On top of that, the book is funny and often written as notes from their weekly meetings in a sticky corner booth (including lots of “Will the food ever get here?”) and the kids are all struggling with who they like right before the school dance. There are anonymous locker notes and surprising confessions, and the relationships that form aren’t those of undying love (which would be strange and unnatural here) but more of the true awkwardness of telling someone you like them when you can barely speak to them at all.