Below, find the books I read during the last two months. I’ve been having a hard time getting through young adult books lately (they’re usually my fave!), so this list is adult-read heavy. That said, Starry Eyes and Sadie were exceptional.
Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy
1. Unflinching. Where All Light Tends to Go is an intense, graphic story about a boy caught up in the meth ring his father runs in rural North Carolina. It centers on murder, scandal, and secrets, and while author David Joy doesn’t shy away from ugliness, he writes about this world in the most elegant way. I found myself rereading many of his beautifully penned lines.
2. YA-ish. This is an adult novel (the subject matter and themes are mature) but main character Jacob is eighteen and his voice reads as authentically teen. The heavier content was a cool change of pace without falling too far outside my usual reading scope.
3. Extraordinary pacing. There’s not one moment in this debut novel that drags. Things are constantly changing for Jacob, worsening his situation and upping the tension. I couldn’t put this book down, and its conclusion, while surprising, did not disappoint.
The Girls by Emma Cline
1. Haunting. I’m still thinking about this book more than a month after finishing. It was evocative, ruthlessly honest, and so unsettling.
2. Coming of age. Much like Where All Light Tends to Go, the narrator of The Girls, Evie, is a teenager. She becomes mixed up in a cult reminiscent of the Manson Family, and ends up learning a whole lot about power, evil, and what it means to be a girl in the late 1960s. Evie’s arc and the characters who surround her are absolutely fascinating.
3. Gorgeous prose. I’m a big fan of Emma Cline’s writing style. Her words are vivid and her sentences are lovely, even when the subject matter is not; I ended up completely caught up in the world she spun.
Sparkly Green Earrings by Melanie Shankle
1. FUNNY. I’m not normally drawn to books described as “hilarious”; honestly, that’s a very lofty claim. But Sparkly Green Earrings is full of wit and snark. Melanie Shankle writes with openness and humor about the not so glamorous parts of marriage and motherhood, and I couldn’t help but laugh. A lot.
2. Heartwarming. Here’s a fellow mama writing honestly about how distraught she was over a miscarriage, about how stressful potting training can be, and about getting puked on, repeatedly, by her sick toddler. Sometimes it’s really nice to be reminded that you’re not alone in the awful moments. That’s what this book did for me, and my heart was happy as a result.
3. Conversational. Melanie Shankle’s style is frank, fluid, and fun; it almost feels as if she’s sitting across the table, sharing anecdotes over coffee. Pick this one up if you’re looking for something light and bright.
Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett
1. Survival story. I especially love survival stories that have a strong romantic thread. Starry Eyes is a survival story set in the California backcountry starring two former best friends turned sweethearts turned enemies. So. Good.
2. Awesome characters. Zorie and Lennon are both a little bit eccentric. She’s into astronomy, planning, and nerd-chic fashion. He’s goth and loves retiles. Also, his moms own a sex shop, so that’s fun. Zorie and Lennon, despite some major complications, are so great together. Their banter and chemistry are incredibly well written, and made this book nearly impossible to put down.
3. Sex positive. I’ve read all of Jenn Bennett’s YA novels this year, and don’t even think about asking me to pick a favorite. Her books rock, and one of my favorite things about them is their candid, affirming take on sex and sexuality. I’m such a fan, and highly recommend Starry Eyes, as well as Jenn’s other books.
Sadie by Courtney Summers
1. Brutal. Like the Courtney Summers novels before it, Sadie battered my heart. It’s visceral, suspenseful, gritty, and rich. It’s affecting and incredibly entertaining — a study in outstanding storytelling.
2. Unique format. Sadie is told partly through Sadie’s first-person perspective as she hunts down her sister’s murderer, and partly through the transcripts of a podcast called The Girls, which centers on finding Sadie. What a brilliant way to relay this riveting story.
3. Unforgettable characters. Sadie, Mattie, West have burrowed into my soul. I finished this novel weeks ago, but I’m still worrying for its characters, as if they’re real people. Courtney Summers writes about the challenges of being a girl in this cruel, callous world like no other author I’ve encountered. Sadie is a must-read.
Story Genius by Lisa Cron
I’m not going to review this book with my usual 1, 2, 3 format because I can sum it up in one sentence: Writers, you need to read Story Genius. This craft book lays out the steps in creating a character-driven “blueprint” that will help you execute a truly satisfying story — one that will hook readers from the start. Story Genius has changed the way I think about crafting narratives, and I plan to use Lisa Cron’s strategies going forward. So glad I picked this one up!
Tell me — what’s the best book you’ve read this autumn?