Reviews

Review: None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio

I walked up to the edge of the parking lot and watched the cars go by, catching little glimpses of the drivers’ faces. They all stared ahead at the road, everyone in such a rush to get to their destination, barely registering things on the outside before they blew on by. I wondered if they were going on errands, or rushing to hot dates. I wondered what they thought of when they saw me. Did they see a girl? A boy? Could they tell something was wrong?

Since the new year began, I’ve been thinking about reading more LGBTQIA+ books, but I hadn’t thought to consider which books from the spectrum I would pick up. In the back of my mind, I knew what “intersex” meant, from having been taught about it last term in my Gender and Society course, but before then, I had never come across the term nor had I bothered to look it up. Coincidentally, then, I found None of the Above on a Goodreads list for YA contemporaries, and saw it fit to start learning from somewhere more personal than an arbitrary Google search. Here is its summary:

n_aWhat if everything you knew about yourself changed in an instant?

When Kristin Lattimer is voted homecoming queen, it seems like another piece of her ideal life has fallen into place. She’s a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college and she’s madly in love with her boyfriend. In fact, she’s decided that she’s ready to take things to the next level with him.

But Kristin’s first time isn’t the perfect moment she’s planned—something is very wrong. A visit to the doctor reveals the truth: Kristin is intersex, which means that though she outwardly looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes, not to mention boy “parts.”

Dealing with her body is difficult enough, but when her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Kristin’s entire identity is thrown into question. As her world unravels, can she come to terms with her new self?

What None of the Above succeeds in doing, in my opinion, is being educational at the same time as it stresses the subjectivity of dealing with one’s identity as intersex. I liked that Gregario made this about a regular teenager, a girl who had friends and popularity and a boyfriend, who discovered an aspect about herself and learned about it – and in the process, taught me, the reader, about it – while still maintaining the thoughts any teenager would possess given her situation. And not only does this novel succeed in making this of great importance (the battle one faces with oneself alongside other stresses like school and breakups), but it also succeeds in making the solution clear: in Kristin’s case, communicating with and forgiving her friends, talking to her father about everything, and putting aside differences, etc.

The thing is, to me, the first part of the book was quite enjoyable, because not only was it educational, but I liked to see Kristin’s growth and development into understanding herself. I liked seeing that the author put a lot of emphasis on Kristin’s mental health (her depression), the backstory of her mother’s death (as well as her father’s grief because of that) and how that played into the storyline, but some things just seemed randomly dispersed, almost thrown in like an afterthought. While I did appreciate the whole part about Kristin volunteering at the clinic, I felt that the romance that was added to the story (with Darren) took away from what I preferred seeing, which were the friendships with Gretchen and Jessica. And the whole fiasco with Vee and Faith was ridiculous to me, because in the end, Kristin forgave Faith waaay too easily. I just think it’s fair that she could have stewed a little longer. And that scene at the end, with the fight? Kristin was barely fazed, and that irritated me. Not only was it randomly tossed into the end for some final drama, but the author had put so much emphasis on a lot of important subject matters prior to that moment in the novel, and that near brush-off was weird, to say the least.

Nevertheless, None of the Above is a good read about being an intersex teenager, and perhaps that’s why Gregario had a lot happening in only 330 pages – only just finding out you’re an intersex teenager can be difficult and scattered. There’s certainly a lot going on in terms of family, friendships, and romance, so if you would like to read a book like that, I would recommend this one.

3 stars!

– W

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What I’m Reading This Week

Happy Monday!

I know. I haven’t posted anything the whole last week, but since I’ve only just begun blogging, I reserve the right to excuse my laziness/procrastination with the mounds and mounds of schoolwork I’m assigned everyday. In any case, that hasn’t stopped me from reserving library book copies, and it certainly hasn’t stopped me from making lists of the books I’ll be reading in the days to come. (I don’t know about anyone else, but there’s something so satisfying about making lists, regardless of if any of the activities on them will go unnoticed in the future. It’s the thought that counts.) Here are the books/other works I plan to read – and maybe or maybe not – complete this week!

1. Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare

r_jI thought it only fair to begin my week with school work, since I’m constantly procrastinating, and Romeo and Juliet is a literary work. It’s a book, even. I’ve already begun reading it, and in fact, I’m about halfway through it, but I’m at that stage of Shakespeare where I understand mostly what’s going on but can’t really make a decision about liking or not liking the piece until I’ve finished the whole thing. I think it’s because I’ve read countless retellings of this particular play, memorized lines from this play before even glancing at it, and all of that just made the experience a little underwhelming? In high school, we didn’t have R & J to read in grade nine; our school probably thought it was “inappropriate” (I know) and had us read Julius Caesar instead. Anyway, when I do finish my Shakespeare course, I’ll probably have a delightful (for me) post all about my recommendations, and I have no idea yet if this will make it there.

2. When the Moon Was Ours, by Anna-Marie McLemore

w_mThis book. Excited me. So much. When I read its description on Goodreads, I knew I had to get my hands on it immediately, and moreso because of the reviews (the description is a little vague, admittedly). From what I can generate from my very, very early understanding, it’s about two close friends, Miel and Sam, who both have their own individual narratives (Sam being a trans boy, I believe – if I’m wrong I do apologize; and Miel being a girl from whose wrists roses bloom) that convulge in this story about a group of sisters that are said to be witches who want to take the roses that Miel grows. I watered it down a lot because my explanation sucks, but the part that did hook me was that I’d never really explored magical realism aside from required reading, and the concept of that, mixed with the “folk”-esque atmosphere around this setting, the cultured narrative, and the diversity (ethnically, combined with and alongside the trans narrative), all seem very intriguing and powerful. I feel like this book will change my life, and I’ve only just begun it (page 32), but I’m excited to finish it.

3. Dead Girls Society, by Michelle Krys

d_gI remember that there was a little bit of buzz about this book (or maybe I’m imagining it) on Goodreads and I remember putting it off because at the time, I was in a phase of reading new adult and YA fantasy, and not thrillers. Maybe it’s the colder weather, but I’m the kind of reader that prefers gruesome, dark, or thrilling books in the winter than in any other season, and I spotted this book and took the opportunity to reserve it. I’m barely five pages in; I’d put it down for a few weeks to read None of the Above instead, but I’m determined to get back to it. This is a story about Hope, a girl who has cystic fibrosis whose opportunities are held back because of her CF. She receives an invitation to a mysterious group called the Society, and she takes the opportunity to get some control over her life, but she doesn’t realize that she’ll have to complete a few dangerous dares for the group to win her money – and that she has no choice. It sounds very exciting, and I think there’s a friends-to-lovers romance going on here, which is always greattttt.

4. Trouble Is a Friend of Mine, by Stephanie Tromly

t_fI saw someone post a review about this book’s sequel, Trouble Makes a Comeback, on Goodreads, which is what made me look at this book’s blurb. I’m always excited for these investigative, detective-ish YA fiction, especially after having read – and loved – Ellie Marney’s Every trilogy, and Gemma Halliday’s Deadly Cool books. I hear this one is funny, suspenseful, and cute at the same time, which is what drives me to give it a try. I love the cover especially, for some reason. Something about that font means I will like the book (or maybe I’m biased after reading Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda? idk). I have its sequel as well, but I’m not making any promises to myself about finishing both books this week. (But one may hope.)

It looks a little ridiculous to only be reading four books a week (to me, at least), since there was a time when I could finish seven or eight a week, and tens of them in a month. But sadly, university has sucked me into its woes, and I actually prefer to digest every book I read at a time. It’s healthy and it’s fun.

Have a great week!

– W

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My Favourite YA Contemporary Romance Authors

It’s easy to guess that I’m a hardcore contemporary fiction fan, whether it’s young adult or new adult. I love reading about realistic experiences by characters like you and me, or characters that represent people I’ve never met. While fantasy and science fiction provide good entertainment and also contain diverse, relatable characters, there’s something particularly enjoyable about knowing that the world you live in is exactly the same as the world you’re experiencing by reading, even though it is not.

When I scrolled through my “stand-alone-or-contemporary” bookshelf on Goodreads, though, I noticed that the authors whose contemporary works I most looked forward to wrote contemporary YA romance – which is fine, I do enjoy a good romance – so if you’re hoping for Deep Meanings in this list, you might be disappointed. That’s not to say that I won’t have a list of YA novels – or authors – in the future containing important messages; in fact, I’ve already begun venturing into this imaginative and explorative world of books that deal with difficult and/or necessary topics, so maybe I’ll have that list out by the end of 2017. Regardless, here are the authors whose contemporary works I look forward to the most:

1. Miranda Kenneally

There’s something special about this author and her teen romances. I don’t know if it’s because they’re (mostly, if not all) sports-related, or if it’s that the romance is so well-written, or if it’s because every character is so individually different and lovely, but I love her releases every single time, and I’ve read all eight of her books. Surprisingly, none of my friends had read any of her works before, so whenever I’m asked to find someone a realistic young adult romance novel, I recommend Catching Jordan. It was one of my favourite five-star reads, and it still is. Miranda has a book releasing this July – Coming Up for Air – that I loved and reviewed, so do check it out!

2. Kasie West

I remember the first time I read a Kasie West book, which was Pivot Point (I believe that was her debut? I could be wrong). It wasn’t my favourite book in the world, but it did pique my interest, especially when I discovered that Kasie was also releasing some YA contemporaries. When The Distance Between Us came out, I loved it so much, and I personally think this author has a knack for contemporaries, because I highly enjoyed every single one she’s released after that. Just last year, P.S. I Like You was published, and it made me want to start writing again – and when a book makes me feel like that, I know it’s special. Her next novel, By Your Side, is coming out this month, and I’m hearing that people who didn’t really like her previous works loved it, so I’m predicting I will, too.

3. Heather Demetrios

When I read Something Real in 2014, I was shocked by how much I liked it, considering how it’s not really in my comfort zone. I was even more shocked when I read and liked I’ll Meet You There, because that was even further out of my comfort zone. I don’t know. Maybe that’s my thing with this author, that I need to be shocked by my love for one of her books. But they are really good. They both deal with some tough subjects like family, war, and trying to live a normal life, but that just emphasizes how much is packed in them and how well Heather writes. I don’t think she has an upcoming YA release – as far as I know, she’s been writing some adult fantasy that I haven’t delved into yet. But if you haven’t given her works a try, please do.

4. Stephanie Perkins

Did you think she wouldn’t make this list? Of course not! Stephanie Perkins was one of the first authors (the other is mentioned next) who got me interested in contemporary YA in the first place. Before her, I was attempting to get through Nicholas Sparks, but the characters weren’t appealing enough, since the stories were so tragic. When I discovered Anna and the French Kiss, though, I entered this glorious new world and devoured as many contemporaries as possible. Few of them really held a candle to Perkins’ works, though. And as much as I loved Anna more than Lola and the Boy Next Door and Isla and the Happily Ever After (it’s always the first release), I still eagerly anticipate every release by this author. And I did love Lola and Isla as well, as I did the short stories she published in the anthologies she edited. I don’t think I know anyone who hasn’t read her works, so I won’t even bother telling you to read them. It’s pretty much a given.

5. Lauren Barnholdt

This is another (probably the author) who got me into YA contemporary fiction when I was twelve or thirteen years old. It’s strange, since I haven’t seen anyone talking about her presence, and how she set the bar pretty high when it came to writing contemporaries. I remember discovering her works and reading them one by one without gaps, and I loved all of them. Now, granted, I didn’t technically “anticipate” her releases, since they were already released, and I haven’t read any of her latest works, if there are any. But she, along with Stephanie Perkins and Jennifer Echols write some pretty great contemporary books. If you want to read some of Barnholdt’s releases, I would suggest One Night That Changes Everything, which I adored.

I do have to to give some honourable mentions to Becky Albertalli and Lily Anderson, who wrote Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You, which I hadn’t included because they were debut authors in 2015 and 2016. But both of them are releasing some new works in the upcoming year(s), which I am happy about. I’m looking forward to reading The Upside of Unrequited by Albertalli, and Not Now, Not Ever by Anderson.

*Another important thing to note is that the books in this list contain white characters in (mostly) heterosexual relationships, which occurred to me when I went through my Goodreads lists. Furthermore, the authors themselves in this list are (as far as I know) white or white-passing, and I’m kind of disappointed in myself for not realizing that earlier. I’m hoping that I can change that, as I had mentioned in my Diversity in YA and Why It’s So Necessary post, especially when it comes to reading diverse fluffy contemporary novels from diverse authors! I’ve been seeing some pretty excellent contemporaries with diverse characters releasing this year (ahem, When Dimple Met Rishi and others), so I’m excited to discover some new, possibly favourite, authors. And with that said, I hope you guys do the same.

Have a good weekend!

– W

Reviews

Review: Coming Up for Air by Miranda Kenneally

22846825Swim. Eat. Shower. School. Snack. Swim. Swim. Swim. Dinner. Homework. Bed. Repeat.

All of Maggie’s focus and free time is spent swimming. She’s not only striving to earn scholarships—she’s training to qualify for the Olympics. It helps that her best friend, Levi, is also on the team and cheers her on. But Levi’s already earned an Olympic try out, so she feels even more pressure to succeed. And it’s not until Maggie’s away on a college visit that she realizes how much of the “typical” high school experience she’s missed by being in the pool.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Maggie decides to squeeze the most out of her senior year. First up? Making out with a guy. And Levi could be the perfect candidate. After all, they already spend a lot of time together. But as Maggie slowly starts to uncover new feelings for Levi, how much is she willing to lose to win?

Release date: July 1, 2017 (Sourcebooks Fire)

Thanks to Netgally and Sourcebooks Fire for providing me with an e-ARC!

Anyone who knows me knows how much I dive for Miranda Kenneally’s novels. They’re guaranteed to make my day, and it helps that some of the characters in older Hundred Oaks books appear in newer ones as cameos, which makes the lightheartedness and romance that much more special. So it’s really no surprise that I liked Coming Up For Air.

This installment – if that’s what you choose to call it – is about Maggie and her best friend Levi, who are training for Olympic swimming qualifiers. In between challenging herself to actually make the cut despite an old rival (Roxy), Maggie is also trying to balance a normal future college life with her newfound sexual desires, and trusts Levi, who’s had much more experience in that department, to “teach” her. It seems like a complicated story, but since it’s Miranda Kenneally, I was no less excited to read it.

I have several mixed feelings about the book, and the only way I can discuss them is by comparing my reading experience for Coming Up for Air with Kenneally’s previous release, Defending Taylor. While its predecessor made me actually fall in love with the love interest (Ezra), Coming Up for Air lacked in that department – at least in the first half of the book. Don’t get me wrong – I did like Levi, and he definitely made a swoon-worthy character, as this author’s love interests (and protagonists) tend to do. But I felt that I was seeing more of Maggie’s investment in the relationship than Levi’s (again, that developed a bit better later on), and it seemed that there was a short gap between their friendship and their sexual attraction for each other – not really an in-between.

But that doesn’t take away from what I did like about the book infinitely more. For example, I liked how Miranda handled Maggie’s feelings like a teenager would, and that the conversations Maggie had with all of her friends, her peers, and her coach, parents, and teachers, were significant in her self-improvement as a swimmer. One of the things I most like about Miranda’s novels is how simple they appear but how important they actually are – including the presence of parental figures and helpful teachers. I barely knew Maggie’s parents or Levi’s Oma and Opa, but I felt like I knew enough about them, which says a lot about character development. And of course, Sam and Jordan made an appearance (and there was a lovely epilogue at the end of the novel in Sam’s POV!!) so I was a happy reader.

What I liked the most (if this review isn’t gushing enough) was how Miranda balanced two conflicts at once and merged them in some form. Here, Maggie’s struggle to qualify for the Olympics was also in harmony with her struggle to be a normal teenager with sexual desires, and Levi basically hung in the balance with his own desire to make the cut and depend on sex to “take the edge off”. It only seemed likely that both would depend on each other, and I felt that this was handled perfectly. While I mentioned before that Levi wasn’t as swoon-worthy to me as I’d hoped, the romance definitely developed further as the story progressed. I liked that Levi made up for what he’d done to Maggie and that Maggie took her time forgiving him, as she deserved. This is definitely something I liked better in Coming Up for Air than I had in Defending Taylor, which is that self-development outweighed anything else.

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t recommend this book, so I obviously will, if you’re looking for a lighthearted, quick read, with a lovely friends-to-lovers romance and a lot of self-improvement lessons. I laughed a lot during this book – especially at the Superman briefs and the condom-shopping! – and yes, smiled wistfully. Be sure to read this when it releases!

4 stars!

– W

Discussions

Diversity in YA and Why It’s So Necessary

if you’d told me six years ago that there was such a thing as “diversity” in YA, i would have been genuinely befuddled. not because i wouldn’t have known what it meant, not because i would have been opposed to it, but because it didn’t seem likely in YA. true; occasionally, i would come across the Latino “sidekick”, or the gay best friend, or the quiet Muslim co-worker. i might have recalled the lightskinned black guy in the mix of white kids in a friend group. but diversity? what was that? honestly, if you’d asked me when i was twelve or thirteen years old, i would have more likely remembered what was considered “radical” not necessarily what was “diverse”. a girl protagonist who wasn’t cast off as a shy, non-troublesome, or conforming person. a girl protagonist who could dish out snarky comebacks faster than Olive Penderghast. a girl protagonist, again, who – contrary to being sheltered an submissive – wasn’t “like other girls”. a strictly white feminist ideology that i considered radical, and hence, diverse. of course, what all these examples have in common is the girl – who also happened to be cisgender, heterosexual, and white.

don’t get me wrong; i was well aware that YA literature incorporated stories that weren’t molding to this bland cishet wet dream. the problem wasn’t that they weren’t present, because they were; the problem was that they were invisible, at least to me and my friends. for a long time, i lived and read in a Bubble containing stories that were identical. if i picked up a book off a library shelf, i was unsurprised to find a girl protagonist just like the one before her. i didn’t think of these girls as white or Caucasian (or whatever white people call themselves), i thought of them as just the standard Americans. each girl on the bookshelf in my Bubble was around sixteen or seventeen years old; had blonde, dirty blonde, or light brown hair; and had light-coloured eyes – green or blue or hazel or light brown or even, in the case of those YA paranormal/fantasies, violet. until i saw outside of the Bubble, YA literature was rampant with these girls, who saw themselves as flawed, despite basically catering to every European beauty standard on the market. if it was body dysmorphia an author was presenting, i would have considered this unimportant. but it wasn’t. this was every book i pulled off a pile.

what about the “diverse” characters? unsurprisingly, they fell under the same stereotypes. i can’t even begin to recall the number of Latinx characters who seemed to undergo the same exact personas in alternate stories. they would be the best friend, or the take-no-crap kid at school, or the rebel, or – of course – the guy in the poorer neighbourhood with multiple siblings whom the girl protagonist fell in love with. and most would parrot endearments or insults or what-have-you in Spanish, as if the other stereotypes weren’t enough. black kids? i can barely remember them. a character could have a black parent, or a black friend, but black characters, in general, existed on the sidelines – i’ve noticed this trend has not changed, in YA or NA. rarely would i find racial or ethnic minorities that weren’t associated with some sort of stereotype. and LGBTQ+ characters, if they weren’t the main characters, were accessorized. gay boys were to girls as sticks are to puppies. and for some reason, bisexuality or pansexuality were never represented in any of the novels i’d read. and – in case this wasn’t obvious – every LGBTQ+ person had to be white.

i mean, at least the writers gave us the courtesy of upholding ethnic minorities in this splendid light. mixed children somehow became these exotic artifacts possessing light brown hair, green eyes, and tanned skin. which is actually twice as bad, because what if our characters were flawed? what if, like the white girls inside the Bubble, we thought we didn’t look good enough? at the time, i was a fat, teenaged girl in high school. i am Bengali-Canadian, and knew nothing about my own sexuality, having grown up in a strict Muslim household. it seemed impossible to read a book about me. the closest i had come was reading about equally fat young-adults. but the difference, of course, was that they were neither brown nor Muslim, so they had the privilege of being outspoken and non-adherent to mainstream beauty standards with less backlash. and it’s not that i expect, right now, for someone to immediately publish that story, it’s that it seemed so unlikely at the time. and when i did read about someone closer to my identity – in that she was Muslim – i was grossly disappointed. i still remember it, because even though she wasn’t a main character, she stood out from the rest for wearing a headscarf. but more importantly, the white author who wrote her character described her as someone struggling to break free from her father’s oppressive clutches and be able to work a job.

and that, consequently, is one of my main issues with white authors who “incorporate” diverse characters. it’s as if people of colour, and Muslim kids, and anyone of the LGBTQ+ community has a duty to be as different from the mainstream as possible, even while the whole point is to appear as normal kids – which we are. it’s as if a character existing outside the boundaries of “white cis heteronormative” standards is so radical that for them to be normalized is abnormal. hence, why mixed children in novels are given perfect chocolate-y or caramel-y dewy skin with chiselled jawlines, curly luscious brown hair, and intense green eyes. if this kid was around, they had to supercede the bland, classic lifestyle that suited the white girl. the Bubble existed to contain all the normalcy that was the white kid, and everything that existed outside of it was too exotic to be considered normal. because diversity was considered a profound idea in all those novels, i implicitly believed that being a standard white kid whose parents had a decent income was more “normal”, which pushed me to continue reading YA following the same pattern.

now, though, i’m seeing a lot of big changes. in the years since, i’ve opened my eyes a lot and have seen so many differences presented to me. i go to my local Indigo and see an entire bookshelf dedicated to LGBTQ+ YA novels – with gay, lesbian, trans, etc. protagonists, not side characters. i search up “young adult novels with minorities” and find a whole Goodreads list compiled for that purpose. i search young adult book tags for new reads and find books about magical realism, gender transitioning, bisexuality, and being a brown girl in an arranged relationship (comedified!). and, of course, i find books about feminism; not white feminism, which i’d considered “different” and “refreshing”, but feminism encountering and including intersections like race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. they are funny, heartfelt, cute, and they exist beyond any Bubble. that, to me, is “diversity”, and we need more of it.

there is still a lot of work to be done. there are still stereotypes we have to encounter and dismantle. the biggest problem with the struggle to find books without misplaced content and stereotypes was that a lot of the authors who established these norms were white, and i cannot express enough how problematic that is. listen, amplifying the voices of minorities is different from speaking over us, and by publishing a book where you define the boundaries between a white cishet kid and a brown Muslim one, you have the control here. and that pushes publishers to idealize your warped image of us over our own voices, and minimizes the potential for diversity to actually be a thing. now that i’m seeing diverse groups of people writing their/our own stories, we have to support each other here so the influx is far greater. of course, there are still intersections between race and sexuality, gender and race, and religion and all three, that have meaningful histories and deserve representation as well. but right now, it means a lot that “diversity” isn’t so lackluster, so invisible. there are brown, black, East Asian, LGBTQ+, etc. authors writing these stories, not having our voices suppressed by others. it means the world to me, and by the time i start working in the book publishing industry (hopefully!), my biggest desire is to see more of this diversity.

here’s the thing: diversity in YA has always been possible. it’s also always been present. i think the platform to share these stories was quite smaller, however, and there was little recognition for them. other people told our stories, and warped our presence to adhere to suit their standards, which was why “diversity” was so invisible. i think many of us were just waiting on the sidelines for a way to have our stories told in a way as “normal” and visible as a mainstream voice would be told, and without being seen as ethereal or “different”. we are as normal as we are different, and we deserve a chance to prove it.

– W

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2016 Year-End Book Survey

Hi everyone!

I decided to kick my blog off with an end-of-the-year bookish survey, since I love reading others’, and it’s fun to challenge myself. I haven’t had the chance to read as many books as I would have liked (considering how much I’ve read in previous years), but… blame that on being an English major. But I do still think it’s worth a try, even if I might not have a variety of book genres for each category. Also, this “tag” was created by Jamie of Perpetual Page Turner!

1. Best Book You Read in 2016
YA: The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You by Lily Anderson
NA: Right of First Refusal by Dahlia Adler
School Books – Novel: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
School Books – Other: Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going to Love More But Didn’t: Sadly, Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes, and 738 Days by Stacey Kade.

3. Most Surprising (in a Good or Bad Way) Book You Read? I was pretty surprised that I didn’t reeeally enjoy Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here by Anna Breslaw. I rated it 4 stars, but that was because of the ending. Unfortunately, the rating didn’t really reflect a great portion of the book. It was surprising, considering that it was one of the more feminist (and funnier) reads of 2016. Weirdly enough, I rated Shakespeare’s Tempest 3 stars, but think it was a surprisingly good read.

4. Book You Pushed Most People to Read (and They Did)? I didn’t really push people to read any books this year, with the exception of buying a hard copy of Lily Anderson’s The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You and telling my sister to enjoy it (and I’m also pretty sure one of my Goodreads friends added it to their TBR after I rated it, so). She’s currently in the process of finishing it.

5. Best Series You Started in 2016? Best Sequel of 2016? Best Series Ender of 2016? Best series I started? Does My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows count? I’m pretty sure they’re writing “spin-offs”, but I think it should count. It was hilarious despite my complete cluelessness of English history. The best sequel, hands down, was A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas. The best series ender… I actually don’t think I’ve read any aside from One With You by Sylvia Day, though I don’t necessarily think it was the best series ender.

6. Favourite New Author You Discovered in 2016? God, this is difficult. I definitely enjoyed Lily Anderson, Sally Thorne, and Julie Buxbaum.

7. Best Book from a Genre You Don’t Typically Read/Was Out of Your Comfort Zone? Alright, this is interesting. I made a plan that I would incorporate more LGBTQ+ books into my reading, since I noticed I wasn’t reading much of it. They weren’t out of my comfort zone, but that is a genre I hadn’t made a habit of reading from. In 2016, I read several I enjoyed, like Mary Calmes’ Marshals series and Megan Erickson’s In Focus. I’m also trying to fit Dahlia Adler’s Out on Good Behaviour into my winter break, which I’m sure I’ll love, since I loved its predecessor. From genres out of my comfort zone (mostly classics or historical fiction), I would choose Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Lady Janies’ My Lady Jane.

8. Most Action-Packed/Thrilling/Unputdownable Book of the Year? Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany and J.K. Rowling, for sure.

9. Book You Read in 2016 That You are Most Likely to Re-read Next Year? Trust the Focus by Megan Erickson.

10. Favourite Cover of a Book You Read in 2016?

17838528
for the dogs, of course.

11. Most Memorable Character of 2016? Feyre from Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Mist and Fury, and Taylor from Miranda Kenneally’s Defending Taylor. I liked seeing the noticeable character development in both girls.

12. Most Beautifully Written Book Read in 2016? The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi was exquisitely written.

13. Most Thought-Provoking/Life-Changing Book of 2016? Soucouyant, by David Chariandy, but it wasn’t published in 2016. This book had me thinking so much more expansively – and inclusively – about race and mental health and their intersectionality. It actually got me thinking more about inequality and pushed me to consider double-majoring in Sociology (which I did).

14. Book You Can’t Believe You Waited Until 2016 to Finally Read? The only one I can think of is A Midsummer Night’s Dream, lol. Most of the books I’ve read this year were new. I am planning on reading Stephanie Tromly’s Trouble is a Friend of Mine this year, though, so we’ll see. OH, and Kirsty Eagar’s Summer Skin. I’ve heard such good things about it.

15. Favourite Passage/Quote from a Book You Read in 2016?

ISABELLA

Ha! little honour to be much believed,
And most pernicious purpose! Seeming, seeming!
I will proclaim thee, Angelo; look for’t:
Sign me a present pardon for my brother,
Or with an outstretch’d throat I’ll tell the world aloud
What man thou art.

ANGELO

Who will believe thee, Isabel?
My unsoil’d name, the austereness of my life,
My vouch against you, and my place i’ the state,
Will so your accusation overweigh,
That you shall stifle in your own report
And smell of calumny.

(from Measure for Measure, Act II, Scene IV. You need to read this play.)

16. Longest and Shortest Book You Read in 2016? A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas (640 pages) and Modern and Normal by Karen Solie (100 pages, though admittedly, the latter is a collection of poems).

17. Book That Shocked You the Most: The Speedy by Keith Barker, Chris Hanratty, Shira Leuchter, and Jordi Mand, for being a short play with a lot of depth and meaning, didn’t technically shock me, but I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to read, and equally surprised by how enjoyable it was. Plus, I read this as part of a first-year English course, and my professor had a few students act out some great passages. It was wonderful.

18. OTP of the Year (You Will Go Down With this Ship!): I don’t know what it is about YA fantasy, but it makes me more desperate to save my “OTP”, so I have to say, Feyre and Rhysand from A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas.

19. Favourite Non-Romantic Relationship of the Year: I loved Albus and Scorpius in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (though I don’t really consider them non-romantic; there’s definitely an OTP there), and I also quite liked the progression of Devon and Foster’s relationship in First & Then by Emma Mills.

20. Favourite Book You Read in 2016 From an Author You’ve Read Previously: Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally (of course).

21. Best Book You Read in 2016 That You Read Based SOLELY on a Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure: I picked up and loved Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum after reading one review recommending it.

22. Newest Fictional Crush From a Book You Read in 2016? Cade from P.S. I Like You by Kasie West. And Ezra from Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally. I also really liked Frankie in Dahlia Adler’s Right of First Refusal, which is why I want to continue to her story.

23. Best 2016 Debut You Read? The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You by Lily Anderson.

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year? Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton.

25. Book That Put a Smile on Your Face/Was the Most Fun to Read? I keep repeating this, but… The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You by Lily Anderson. I think this author just takes the cake with a bunch of these questions, but it was just SO FUN reading this book. I also really loved my reading experience during The Hating Game by Sally Thorne.

26. Book That Made You Cry or Nearly Cry in 2016? I cried a few times reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz.

27. Hidden Gem of the Year? Shuffle, Repeat by Jen Klein – I barely heard anyone talking about this book, and saw only one of my Goodreads friends reviewing it, and the premise seemed really interesting. It was actually really good.

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul? Reading Mary Calmes’ Fit to be Tied crushed my soul in a lot of parts. It was pretty hard to read. But also excellent.

29. Most Unique Book You Read in 2016? I’d never read an anthology quite like Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies (and I’m kind of cheating here, since I read this in December 2015, but whatever); even though on the surface it looked simplistic, the historical magnitude, the attention to detail, the precision and the character descriptions… it was truly unique.

30. Book That Made You the Most Mad (Doesn’t Necessarily Mean You Don’t Like It)? I didn’t like L.H. Cosway’s Showmance and K.I. Lynn’s Six because both made me mad. I tend not to enjoy books when they make me angry…

Looking Ahead…

 

1. One Book You Didn’t Get to in 2016 But Will be Your Number One Priority in 2017? I have quite a few. Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar is one of them. The Royals series by Erin Watt, The Vanishing Throne by Elizabeth May, The Dark Days Club by Allison Goodman, and Timekeeper by Tara Sim (though that’s because the copies are still on-order at my library) are also on this list.

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating for 2017 (Non-Debut)? Miranda Kenneally’s Coming Up for Air for sure, Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Wings and Ruin, and Elizabeth May’s The Fallen Kingdom. Oh, and of course, I’ve been eagerly anticipating Mackenzi Lee’s The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue.

3. 2017 Debut You Are Most Anticipating? I’m most looking forward to Caraval by Stephanie Garber (as I’m sure everyone is) and Frostblood by Elly Blake, but I don’t know very many debut authors. Which I ought to fix.

4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2017? Series ending: The Fallen Kingdom by Elizabeth May; sequel: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

5. One Thing You Hope to Accomplish in Your Reading/Blogging Life in 2017? Read more diverse books, for one thing, which I haven’t noticed I’ve neglected to do despite what my interests are. Incorporate more YA into my reading (I tend to drift towards NA romances often and then DNF them, for some reason; NA isn’t bad at all, and I’ve read some really good ones, but I want to go back to reading books catering to a different audience). Also, I want to read more Shakespearean plays! Which I will be, since I’m taking a whole course on his works. As for blogging… well, this is my first post, so we’ll see how it goes.

6. A 2017 Release You’ve Already Read and Recommend to Everyone: Unfortunately, I haven’t read one!

So that’s it! I skipped the blogger questions, as I’ve only begun blogging, but I hope you enjoy. And here’s to a better, greater reading experience in 2017!

– W