I did a post like this back at the very beginning of this blog, but today, inspired by Top Ten Tuesday, I'm going to list some more books that were outside my comfort zone, that I didn't expect to like, but that I now recommend. A lot of them will probably feature these book turn-offs. Check them out!
1) Munmun by Jesse Andrews. The premise for this YA dystopian novel sounds pretty ridiculous and more like something from a children's book than YA, but upon reading it, I discovered it to be a brilliant and harsh allegory for class in our society. It's worthy of Jonathan Gulliver, who has an epigraph at the beginning. It definitely affected my perspective on poverty and wealth. The book tells the story of an impoverished teen boy living in a U.S. where your physical size is proportional to your wealth.
2) Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. Unlike the majority of YA readers, I didn't like Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Strange the Dreamer is a YA fantasy that takes place in the same universe (multiverse?), so I held off for a while, but once I read it, I fell head over heels. I plan to reread Daughter of Smoke and Bone just because of how much I loved this duology! It follows a young librarian on an adventure he's always dreamed of and a half-goddess in hiding above a city full of traumatized humans who slaughtered the gods when she was just a baby.
3) Still Life With Tornado by A.S. King. A.S. King is another author I'd read before and not really liked--in this case, I'd read multiple books by her, and their incredible strangeness was what held me off. With this YA magical realism novel, though, I felt that the oddity only strengthened the narrative. It follows a depressed teen girl with a very unhealthy family situation who keeps seeing different versions of herself all over the place. It's a powerful read.
BookS in Verse
4) Kiss of Broken Glass by Madeline Kuderick. I tend to finish novels in verse wishing there had been more to the story. They just don't work for me the way prose does--which is weird, considering my love for nontraditional formats. This YA contemporary novel in verse, however, depicted self-injurious compulsions quite well and inspired me enough to become a recommended read.
5) Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. This one's a real whammy: an MG autobiography that takes place in the 60s and 70s and is told as a book in verse. There's a lot of elements there that I don't tend to gravitate towards, but it's so incredibly powerful and moving that I consider it a must-read. It follows Woodson's experience as a black girl living in New York and South Carolina during that time.
6) A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman. As with books in verse, anthologies just don't tend to do it for me. This YA fantasy anthology that features short stories retelling Asian mythology and folklore is the exception. The stories are beautiful and magnificent, and they retell wonderful tales that I wasn't previously familiar with..
7) Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick by Maya Dusenbery. One of the rare nonfiction books that I read and loved, Doing Harm is an examination of medical sexism that I often recommend. As a chronically ill woman, I really appreciate Dusenbery's work in investigating what people like me experience in the U.S. medical system.
8) Rejected Princesses: Tales of History's Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics by Jason Porath. I suppose it's not all that surprising that I would love this illustrated guide to some of history's most interesting women, most of whom we rarely talk about. Some of the stories are drawn from mythology and legend rather than straight history, and some are more graphic and brutal than others, but all of them provide a lot of inspiration for both storytelling and life.
9) Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay. As you've probably noticed, YA literature is my real comfort zone, my sweet spot, my passion. But I rarely put adult fiction on my recommended list--and that's partly because I'm interacting with a YA audience, but also because I myself don't venture into adult fiction (besides classic literature) quite so often. Dear Mr. Knightley is one exception, an adult contemporary romance that's told through letters and is inspired by Jane Austen. It's a lovely and engaging novel with a classic flair.
10) Menagerie by Rachel Vincent. This adult fantasy tells a beautiful and horrifying story about a circus that imprisons sentient fantastical creatures, including the main character, and forces them to perform for a human audience.
You can see some more of my adult fiction picks here.
As with adult fiction, I don't read and recommend MG books nearly as often as I read YA lit. I mostly delve into the category when my inner child is looking for some nostalgia--after all, MG used to be the only thing I read! However, I plan on doing a post in the future where I share my rare MG lit picks, so you'll have to wait until then to see these books.
11) The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee. This YA historical fiction follows a young, bisexual, British gentleman on his Grand Tour of Europe with his asexual, science-loving younger sister and his black best friend, whom he's secretly in love with. Straight-up historical fiction without any fantasy elements isn't usually my jam, so I put off reading this for a while, but it was so beloved by other readers that I had to give it a try. And I loved it! The characters are fantastically well-written, and there's a strong social justice aspect.
12) And I Darken by Kiersten White. This YA historical fiction trilogy is categorized as historical fantasy because it alters the known facts of history, but in every other way, it's straight historical fiction. It tells the story of Vlad "the Impaler" Dragwlya if he had been a young woman, and when I say it's brutal, I mean brutal. There is a lot of harsh, graphic stuff in this story. With all that considered, there is absolutely no reason why I should like it, and yet I do. It's brilliant and vivid and impossible to put down.
13) The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry. This YA historical fiction is about a teen girl with saint-like healing powers and a deep devotion to Christ who is marked a heretic amid the Crusades in France. Through this book and The Dovekeepers, I discovered another exception to my relative lack of interest in historical fiction: I'm interested in historical books that examine the lives of religious women.
14) Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina. This edgy YA historical fiction takes place in the 80s during the run of the Son of Sam serial killer and follows a teen girl who's experiencing juvenile domestic violence at home. I love that it addresses that kind of abuse, because it's rarely talked about.
You can see a few more of my historical fiction picks (including historical fantasy) here.
That's it for today's post! Tell me about some books that were outside your comfort zone or that you didn't expect to like. I'll be back next week with a history of my writing "career" so far.
Images via Goodreads.
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