I can’t believe it’s already that time of the year! I was about to say that I read a lot less contemporary books this year than I normally do, but I think I read a normal amount, I just didn’t like a lot of them. In total, I read 26 contemporary books, and very few of those were good reads. June totally tanked my reading after several two and three star books, but, thankfully, I did manage to snag a couple favorites of not only this year, but of all time.
If Yolk by Mary HK Choi wasn’t on this list, I’d be doing something wrong. Choi became an auto-buy author for me after her debut, Emergency Contact, and she’s continued to absolutely knock it out of the park with each release after it. The way that she wrote the sisters in this so deeply resonated with how my own relationship has transformed over the years with my sister, and it’s so clear to me that Choi has a sister and knows exactly what she’s talking about. The deep, unrelenting anguish and sorrow in this story is so damn painful, too, in a way that really makes you pause and sit through whatever the MC is going through because it’s also so relatable. And Choi really is the queen of relatable stories, if the way I had to quietly step away from reading Permanent Record is any indication. This was a superb new release from Choi, and I am over the moon in love with it.
I read three Claire Kann books this year because she truly just wrecked me wholeheartedly, and it was amazing. Of the three, though, If It Makes You Happy was definitely my favorite. I ugly cried so hard at the end of this, and I just felt so seen by it. Though I didn’t identify with the specific orientation that the MC identifies with, I understood it so deeply that it felt almost like a moment of wait holy shit. This was such a powerful book that I’ve been thinking back on over and over since I read it all the way back in February, and it will definitely be one that I read again. Kann is became an instant auto-buy author for me after this book, and I immediately went and read everything else she’s blessed with her words. And not gonna lie, if I had to pick a single contemporary favorite, it would be this.
Once again, Mason Deaver ripped out my heart with The Ghosts We Keep, and I’m so grateful for it. This was not at all what I expected out of their next novel, but it was everything that I needed. This was such a powerful story of loss and grief, and how those two often show up in vastly different ways than we’re expecting them, too. I really appreciated the anger that came through because that’s such a valid and relatable emotion that comes up for a lot of people when dealing with loss. I thoroughly enjoyed this, and I can’t wait to see what Deaver does next.
Yoooo, don’t even get me started on A Phở Love Story by Loan Le. This book was phenomenal. Even if it hadn’t totally smashed the miscommunication trope and said no hecking way, I would have loved this wholeheartedly, but the way that the two MCs communicated with each other is always going to be something that just has me shouting. Every time things might have gone sour between them, they actually talked to each other, and I was just over the moon about it. Even beyond that, though, this story was an absolute delight to read, and it was just everything and more that I needed this year.
Of course One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston is on my top list of the year, who do you think I am? I will admit that OLS didn’t quite kill me the way RWRB did, but I’ll definitely be rereading this again, whether because of every single one of Nico’s scenes or just because August was someone I wanted to wrap in a blanket and hold onto forever. The characters were just outstanding in this, which seems par for the course with McQuiston now, and though the plot was also stellar, I am never going to forget these characters. They’ll live quietly in a corner of my heart for the rest of my days.