I’ve got an unintentional red-orange theme running through the covers I’m posting this month. They look pretty together, right? Lots of good stories, too!
(As always, covers link to Goodreads pages.)
17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma – Going in, I thought this book was merely a ghost story, but it turned out to be so much more. Nova Ren Suma’s writing is gorgeous and evocative. She handles this subject matter with nuance and sensitivity (where it could have easily careened into overwrought territory) and I was completely engrossed. I love how the mystery of the missing girls unfolds, and I love how layered and complicated MC Lauren is (a liar? mentally unhinged? truly seeing these ghostly girls?). I love, too, that I was surprised by every turn of the page. Recommended if you’re into eerie but literary novels.
17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen – Another lovely surprise! I opened this book thinking I’d get a fluffy story about boy-chasing, but what I got was a complex contemporary about family, friendship, stereotypes, and (yes!) kisses. MC Claire’s voice is one of the most authentic I’ve read in a long time. She’s real and relatable and transparent (in a good way), and I totally would’ve wanted to be friends with her in high school. Speaking of friends — Claire’s are a complicated bunch. Initially, they seem like caricatures of the teenage stereotypes we’re all familiar with, but they’re not. Watching their connections with Claire change and evolve was fascinating, as were Claire’s relationships with her family members — her mom, especially. I highly recommend this one if you’re a (picky) fan of contemporary YA, like me.
The Hook Up by Kristen Callihan – Do not judge this book by its cover, y’all. The story is a bazillion times better. It’s a college-set (football!) NA, and it is hot, hot, hot. Honestly, it’s hard for me to objectively “review” this book because I was so onboard with MCs Anna and Drew, any flaws that may have fallen into the narrative flew right over my head. I will admit that I was skeptical through the first few chapters because there’s some pretty intense insta-lust going on, but as Anna and Drew spent more and more time together, their affection became palpable. They grew to adore each other, which made me adore both of them. There’s all kinds of drama going on in this story, but it wraps up realistically and satisfyingly. Can’t wait for the next book in this series!
Beautiful by Amy Reed – Ugh. This story was hard to get through — not because it isn’t excellent (it is), but because the MC, Cassie, is only 13 and she finds herself in some truly horrifying situations. Her life is just so, so sad, and my heart broke for her over and over. Beautiful is one of those books where you hope for more, more, more for the protagonist, but end up watching her crash into hurdle after hurdle. It’s agonizing, but unputdownable. Amy Reed’s prose is stark, frank, and arresting, and despite the gloominess of this novel, it concludes with a hint of promise. I look forward to reading more from this author.
11/22/63 by Stephen King – I read this book so I could cross another goal off my Thirty Before 35 list (read and review a Stephen King novel), and I ended up enjoying it even more than I’d anticipated. It’s the story of a modern man who’s introduced to a portal that leads to 1958 Maine. He uses it with the hope of changing the past, particularly the Kennedy assassination — he wants to stop it, rewriting history in the process.
This novel was a sloooow start, but I was expecting that because Jake (AKA George) has to wait several years beyond 1958 for the Kennedys to arrive in Dallas. He uses the time to research the assassination, hatch a plan to stop Oswald, and navigate life in an era without cell phones, the Internet, and GPS.
There’s a lot going on in this story, as Jake/George makes a life for himself in “The Land of Ago.” There are dozens of characters (Deke and Mike and Bobbi Jill and Miz Ellie — love them all!) and tons of tiny plot threads that (of course) make big splashes later.
Though 11/22/63 isn’t a horror story, it includes a nod to King’s It, as well as some graphic and brutal imagery. Conversely, there’s a romance involving a lovely woman named Sadie. Her relationship with Jake/George felt so sweet and genuine, despite the many necessary lies he was obligated to tell her. While I definitely liked the romance, there were a few references to sex that made me raise an eyebrow — hearing about “love making” from Stephen King is a lot like what I imagine hearing about it from my grandfather would be like.
All in all, 11/22/63 was fantastic. It scared me and it made me laugh and it made me think, a lot, about time and the butterfly effect and the consequences of our actions. I absolutely recommend it.
What’s the best book you read in October?