I read a lot of contemporaries this year. Out of # books (as of this posting), I’ve read 20+, and I don’t even have to look to know that’s more than any other year before. June was a heavy month for them, but I kept sprinkling them in whenever times were getting too tough, which was fairly often, and so, for the first time, I actually had to really pare this list down and put some serious thought into it!
I definitely could have made it a top ten, but I’m happy with the five that I chose, so we’re keeping it at that. LOL THIS WAS THE CASE, and then I read two contemporaries that had to be on this list, so I switched it to a top 10, what’s it to ya? And, as usual, it’s in alphabetical order even though I do have a favorite, and they’re not all 2020 releases, just my favorites that I read this year!
If there is a single book that’s made me obscenely hungry this year, it was With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo. I know I’m definitely not alone in this as a similar statement is dropped in pretty much every single review I read for this book, but damn. I was warned, but I did not take that warning to heart. And though the food is a large part of why I love this, with all the intricate ways it’s woven into and beneath the larger plot, the characters are what kept me. Emoni was truly a joy to have as a narrator, and I found myself wishing her all the happiness in the world like she was an actual person out there that I could send my good vibes to. There was definitely a theme of summery reads to my contemporaries this year, though this one definitely strikes me as one of the most vibrant.
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender might just be my favorite book of the year? Stay tuned to find out because ya girl definitely put her top ten not in alphabetical order and tried to dig my own grave. I can’t believe I haven’t reread this yet, but I think I’m still basking in the glorious afterglow of just how out of this world good it was because y’all. This damn book. I love every single word of this book. Every single one. Bury me with it, and never let me stray far from it because it’s just definitely one of the best books I’ve ever read. I love it so much, and I’m so grateful it exists.
Was I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver 100% the reason this had to become a top ten? YOU BETCHA! This book is going to exist in my bones for a long, long time, and though I’ll need to reread it sometime, it won’t be for a while because I’ve just got to sit with how truly wonderful it was, and how seen I felt while reading it, and just ugh. It was so good, and I knew it was going to be just given how many people were loving it, but wow, I was not prepared for how much it was going to give my heart a much-needed hug.
I won’t lie, I was not expecting The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake to firmly grab hold of a spot on this list. It sounded really good before I started reading, and then it tried to consume me, and I’m never going to be the same. Everything that was happening around me while I was reading this was just completely ignored, and I could do nothing but curl into a ball and slowly be devoured. The language in this was just spectacular, and the story wound its way deep into my heart, but, as always, it was the characters that set their hooks in me and wouldn’t let go. This was poetic and agonizing and wonderful.
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson was definitely the other reason that this needed to be a top ten instead of five because me crying over Liz Lighty for 20 pages straight needs to be witnessed by everyone. This book was just honestly a masterpiece, and I wanted to consume it all in one sitting, just fold myself into all the different and wonderful relationships in this. Perhaps one of my things were the friendships, and how they were slowly built over the course of the book until they became something new and unexpected and just so good.
UGH THIS SWEET BOOK! By Any Means Necessary by Candice Montgomery was one of my favorite summer reads this year because it’s just the quintessential summer read, and it was so damn good. It was such an interesting story, and I loved the chaos of the Torrey and how he just never had his shit together at any point, but he tried really hard, and I was rooting for him the entire time. The romance was so understated and quiet, but so, so good, and I can’t wait to reread this next summer.
It has been approximately too many months since the last time I screamed about my need for Netflix to adapt Late to the Party by Kelly Quindlen for next summer, so here we are again, OLÁ I NEED THIS TO BE A MOVIE POR FAVOR. Give it to me nowwwwwww. There were so many times when I wanted to just hurl this book across my room in pure furious joy, and it was such a wild combination of emotions that I’m still screaming about it, months later. This needs to be enjoyed in the summer, though, so even if I want you to read it right now, you gotta wait and really let it try to destroy you appropriately.
Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay was a powerful book that I was not expecting at all, and it was definitely the kind that I had to sit back and just breathe through at certain times. It was so incredible how Ribay managed to make Jun such a vital, vivid character, despite the fact that we never actually meet him, and getting to see Jun’s story unfolded through Jay’s eyes was so well done. Jay, too, was such a lovely MC, and my heart was just breaking every chapter for him.
Gosh, of all the characters on this list, Juliet in Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera is probably the one that speared through my heart the worst. I see so much of myself in her, and I just wanted to bundle her up and take her away from this cruel world so many times. And yet, she continued to level up and impress the hell out of me anytime someone tried to stand in her way, and I still want to wrap her in blankets and hiss at anyone that comes near, but I know that she could do it for herself just as easily, and damn, girl. You are crushing it, keep being fierce.
I’m always down for a Ruta Sepetys book, and The Fountains of Silence was no exception. It took me totally by surprise when it had a happy ending, rather than a sad or bittersweet one, and it was a very nice surprise. I’d geared myself up the whole time for something heart-wrenching, and while there were definitely a lot of that threaded throughout the book, the ending almost felt like relief. This yet again proved that Sepetys is an author to follow, and I’ll be preordering her books now.