The year is almost over! I read a lot of books this year, and most of them were great. But I can’t list everything in one post, so here are some books that outshone all the other wonderful things I read this year.
2 a.m. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie Helene Bertino. This was my number one favorite book this year. Told from several points of view, the story mainly focuses on Madeleine, a nine-year-old girl who, on Christmas Eve-Eve, becomes determined to get herself to the jazz club the Cat’s Pajamas and sing on stage. Bertino takes us hour by hour, sometimes minute by minute, through Madeleine and the other characters’ paths to this place, at this time. Not only are all the characters gloriously flawed and relatable, but as a writer Bertino’s descriptions flipped all kinds of switches. “… amid an argument of cables, Gray Gus’s drum set sits, charred.” I almost screamed when I read this. How does a person come up with descriptions like this? How? Please tell me how!
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. Part essay, part MS Pant comic, I laughed so hard my stomach was in cramps and I actually, for real, full on cried. I was a wreck of a human and could not even speak straight to explain to my husband what exactly I found so funny. Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely brilliant.
Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead. A kid’s book! A lot happens in this story, so let’s see if I can condense it. Bridge was in a horrible car accident a few years ago, and wonders why she’s still alive. She’s entering the seventh grade with her two best friends, Emily and Tabitha, who are also figuring things out for themselves. She also becomes friends with a boy, Sherm, who recently had a big upset with the dynamics of his family that he hasn’t come to terms with yet. And then there’s the mysterious 2nd person point of view chapters, where a character who remains unknown for most of the book thinks over the past year and her own problems with friendships and changing relationships. The number of issues Stead manages to cover is unreal (bullying, double standards about how boys and girls are treated over harassment and dress codes, toxic relationships, and those are just some) but not only does she give all of these elements their due, she also never sacrifices story or character to get these things across. This book is a masterwork, and Rebecca Stead is a treasure.
The Girl with Ghost Eyes by M.H. Boronson. Taking place in early 20th century San Fransisco Chinatown, this fantasy follows Li-lin, a young widowed exorcist with yin eyes, which allow her to see the spirit world. There’s a matter-of-fact tone that took me a little while to fall into, and she does spend a lot of time dealing with sexism and worrying over what her father thinks of her, but then the tone grew on me and I remembered that this is a Chinese woman from a hundred years ago, of course these would be things that would concern her, and I began to notice the really great things about the story. Like the wonderfully fleshed out spirit world rooted firmly in actual Chinese folklore, and Li-lin’s triumphs as her weaknesses become strengths.
Giant Days by John Allison and Lissa Treiman. A graphic novel about three girls — Daisy, Esther, and Susan — who become best friends right after entering University. I only just read this one, but it’s easily one of my favorites. Sometimes the story tips a little bit into the ridiculous, like when they all get the flu and Esther falls into fever dreams while Daisy gets high off foreign cold meds. And sometimes it deals with serious things, like when Esther struggles to get anyone to take action on a group of bros who put her picture (along with a lot of other girls’) online in, “in good fun.” Mostly, though, it’s about three different girls who love each other and want to help each other, and that is so great. And the art is wonderful! Look at how gorgeous Lissa Treiman made Esther!
The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. I haven’t read Winter yet, still, but I’m hoping that Meyer holds firm and keeps up the great work she’s done with this series. Loads of great characters, and Meyer is amazingly able to make them fit in with the fairy tale of that book while still making them all their own separate person.
Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Brooke Allen. I mentioned Lumberjanes the other day, but I’ll bring it up again. This is the kind of book I wanted to read when I was a kid — girls who are best friends (think my obsession with Baby-sitter’s Club) fighting monsters (think my obsession with…well…with most other things). There’s not much to not like about this comic.
How to be Happy by Eleanor Davis. I also mentioned this book earlier this year. Beautiful drawings and heart-wrenching stories, what a fantastic book.
Those were some of my favorite books this year: what did you like? Did you read any of the above books yourself?
This post was written as part of Top Ten Tuesday on The Brook and the Bookish. Check out their post to see what other books people have chosen!