Finally I get to tell you what my top reads are this year. It was hard to narrow down but I survived. 2017 has been a good year for diverse/own voices books and it’s good to see a lot had been released in Australia around the same time as the US and UK. I can’t wait for the ones coming out in 2018!
Here are my top reads (not in any order of awesomeness):
The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas)
TW: police brutality, racism
This is an important and brilliant read on #BlackLivesMatter, police brutality and institutionalised racism. Plus the writing and characters blew me away as well as the importance of family and friendship.
The Language of Thorns (Leigh Bardugo)
This collection of Grishaverse fairytales with some retellings of familiar tales made me teary. It has everything. Witches, pretty illustrations, betrayal, dark magic, magical animals, mermaids and a beautiful retelling of the Nutcracker. Always trust Bardugo to sweep you off your feet.
Big Little Lies (Liane Moriarty)
TW: domestic violence, bullying
Australian adult books and parent drama aren’t my thing, but this one hooked me in with its suspense and cliffhangers. The plot builds up to a twist that blows you away.
A Darker Shade of Magic trilogy (VE Schwab)
TW: characters slitting hands
I love all three books of this series. I love the amazing characters and a city having four different versions of itself, tied to different kinds of magic or lackof.
A Crown of Wishes (Roshani Chokshi)
The beautiful writing and intense characters never leave you, nor does the magical setting. I’m tearing up.
WANT (Cindy Pon)
Dystopia was reborn because of this book. I love everything from the suits that keep the fortunate alive to badass Jason and his badass squad to the page-turning climax to the pretty cover.
The Upside of Unrequited (Becky Albertalli)
This book about a fat teen girl, who has so many crushes, finally finding someone made me cry and so happy. It’s a fat positive book that teen me would’ve needed.
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns (Julie C Dao)
TW: child abuse, psychological abuse
One of the best Snow White retellings ever. The writing and the magic of the world the book is set in are soooo good and hypnotising. Just like Xifeng, the main character, I had mixed feelings about the romance. I want her and Wei together but Wei is a kind of a douche and she has a destiny to fulfill.
I love that Xifeng’s ambitious, unashamedly vain, and won’t let anything or anyone stand in her way to the throne. Plus she eats people’s hearts to stay beautiful and powerful. A villain I support.
There are some slow moments and the ending is a little too summary-ish, but the build up to Xifeng becoming empress and the evil queen/stepmother is wow. I’m totally up for the sequel.
Strange the Dreamer (Laini Taylor)
Things to love about this one: the hypnotising writing, a librarian who turns out to be a badass and becomes a major part of a mission, a girl who controls moths and a manipulative child villain.
Lord of Shadows (Cassandra Clare)
I’m impressed with the intersectional diversity in this book. Along with stronger writing and character development, it’s definitely an improvement from the other Shadowhunters books. There’s so much love and loyalty and crying. The ending…
Tower of Dawn (Sarah J Maas)
I was hesitant about this one, but it surprised me. The disability rep was pretty good and respectful, though some may think differently. Curing Chaol’s disability is part of the book and there are ableist moments but they’re countered off. While the sex scenes are a little unnecessary and the married reveal made me laugh (give it a rest, Maas), Chaol does deserve happiness.
The book has awesome, intense scenes and story arcs that put the previous books to shame. The character development and plot build up are so good, and the poc rep is better.
When Dimple Met Rishi (Sandhya Menon)
Prepare to make heart eyes. This book has two poc leads pursuing their passions, diverse portrayals of Indian-Americans, and has a positive take on arranged marriages. I also didn’t see the amount of geekiness coming.
Queens of Geek (Jen Wilde)
This is a love letter to fandoms. It also resonated with me as a bi poc with anxiety and have experienced going to a con. It’s awesome and overwhelming. The diversity rep is good and we see that it’s an important part in the story itself – Charlie and Taylor have moments of seeing themselves in fiction. And it’s wonderful.
Not Your Sidekick (CB Lee)
This book is soooo good. It has family drama, teen drama, intersectional diversity, concepts of hero and villain being shaken, a balance of light and heavy moments, and the sidekick taking matters into their own hands.
Always and Forever, Lara Jean (Jenny Han)
The Song Covey family doesn’t fail to bring warmth and happiness. This book also gave me a lot of angst over Lara Jean and Peter K, but eventually ends with a satisfying ending.
Tiny Pretty Things and Shiny Broken Pieces (Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra)
TW: bullying, bulimia
I’m a sucker for ballet stories, so I was so hooked by the cold and vicious world of ballet, the mystery, the suspense in these books. The world is so cold and vicious that the dancers literally try to tear each other apart [grabs some popcorn]. The experiences of poc dancers are explored as well as the obstacles life throws at them, which I found refreshing.
Wintersong (S Jae-Jones)
Things to love: references to Goblin Market, writing that sounds poetical or musical and the cursed love interest trope. There are some slow and aimless scenes, descriptions on “savages” and underdeveloped romance and character development, but the book is an enjoyable read.
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (Mackenzi Lee)
I think this is my funniest read of the year. I love the characters Monty and Percy and the wild adventures they have. There’s also a Frankenstein-inspired subplot and intersectional diversity – respectful bi, poc and disabled rep.
The Crown’s Fate (Evelyn Skye)
Things to love about this book: Russia, magic-wielding lovers fighting each other – they want to be together but their duties and goals come first, character development, dark magic, beautiful writing and references to Russian folklore and the Nutcracker (gods I’m so weak for that story).
The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle and The Dark Prophecy (Rick Riordan)
I started reading more Riordan books including the Percy Jackson series this year, and wow he doesn’t disappoint. I fell in love with the Apollo series because Apollo is my fav Greek god and Riordan’s version is pretty funny and flawed. Plus Meg is a cool sidekick, the villains are creepy, and there’s more intersectional diversity compared to the Percy Jackson books.
Akira (Katsuhiro Otomo)
Wow, after finally reading this manga, I understood why it’s a classic. Science experiments, rogue and dangerously powerful subjects of those experiments, authorities forever sweating because of them, a rebel girl doing badass things, a clueless guy getting dragged into the situation and his friend becoming a superpowered villain…
So much is happening, I love it.
Milk and Honey (Rupi Kaur)
TW: sexual abuse, rape
I wasn’t prepared for this book of poems, with just a few lines on each page that are enough to reach into your soul. It’s a heartwrenching and confronting read about the effects of rape, abuse, hate, failed relationships, and the struggle of healing and self-love.
One of Us Is Lying (Karen M McManus)
TW: abuse, poor mental health rep
The Breakfast Club meets Gossip Girl and Cluedo. It was hard to put down, but the ending is out of place and I don’t like the outsider/person with mental health issues is the culprit trope. Still, an intriguing read.
Shadowshaper (Daniel Jose Older)
I love the concept of art as a power, the diverse characters who have each other’s backs and the monsters which are creepily good.
The Bone Witch (Rin Chupeco)
This book won me over with a witch who can summon the dead and manipulate bones. The writing is so haunting that it sticks with you. Despite the aimlessness every now and then, a “savage” tribe appearing and a flat romance, it’s an enjoyable and unique read.
They Both Die at the End (Adam Silvera)
I fell in love with Mateo and Rufus. They made me a little more adventurous.
Labyrinth Lost (Zoraida Cordova)
This book has it all: dark magic, a close family of witches, bi poc main characters, betrayal, a dangerous quest to save family and beautiful writing.
Whispered Words (Takashi Ikeda)
I love this manga about two girls who are best friends but secretly love each other romantically. They keep their feelings secret because they each think that they’re not the right type of girl for the other. And on top of that, another character who’s in the middle of figuring out his gender identity is in love with one of the girls.
One Dark Throne (Kendare Blake)
Better than the first book, this one has more plotting, tension between the three queen sisters, and further exploration of magic and cultures.
Cloudwish (Fiona Wood)
I’m so happy with this book about a Vietnamese-Australian teen who’s into art and wants to defy her parents’ wishes as a perfect student, but still wants them to be proud of her.
Our Dark Duet (VE Schwab)
Monsters vs monsters. Violin playing. Tragic romance. Prepare for feels.
Death Note (Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata)
A smart and model citizen teen plays god in trying to make the world free of crime. He soon abuses that power to not get caught. This manga deserves better than a shitty whitewashed remake.
The Babysitters Club (Ann M Martin)
I’m 30+ years late, but I finally read this book and for an 80s book, I was impressed with the diverse characters. Claudia, a Japanese-American, in a central, non-stereotypical role (including her family). Stacey getting support and love from the other girls after it’s revealed she has diabetes. Mary Anne, a homebody and has anxiety, getting the same support and love too.
There’s also the fact that these girls set up a business while having school. Amazing.
Black Butler (Yana Toboso)
This manga has so much going on, so much tension, so much action, and that plot twist… wow.
Geekerella (Ashley Poston)
TW: child abuse, bullying
A cute Cinderella retelling with cool modern twists and truly a love letter to fandoms.
Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer (Katie Alender)
This one surprised me. I was hooked by the suspense, my fav Marie Antoinette on the path of revenge, and the blending of history and mystery. The detailed descriptions of places in Paris and Versailles are refreshing.
Warcross (Marie Lu)
This book hacked into my soul. I love the game Warcross, Asians being proud of their creations, a twist on hero and villain, and a teen girl hacker/bounty hunter as the protagonist.
Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend (Kevin Kwan)
These books are so good that I cried and laughed so much. I love the characters even the most ridiculous ones, and the soothing feeling whenever the books go into detail about aesthetics, food and places. I love coming across Malay, Singaporean, Chinese, Indonesian slang and phrases – some I’m familiar with.
And most important of all, an Asian diasporic couple being happy and in love, and are the main characters.
Nimona (Noelle Stevenson)
This is a cute graphic novel about a powerful sidekick working for a villain and a plot twist that would blow your mind.
Saints and Misfts (SK Ali)
TW: rape, psychological abuse, bullying
This book is soooo good. I can’t speak for the Muslim rep, but I enjoyed the diverse portrayals of Muslims, Muslim women being proud of what they wear, and a Muslim teen, Janna, who does what she loves (photography and has a forehead fetish), proud of wearing a hijab and practicing her religion. She also faces criticism from her family, other Muslims and non-Muslims.
The book also explores the aftermath of attempted rape that Janna experiences. It’s confronting and the end result is bittersweet, but gives hope and strength for victims who need it.
Nexus (Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti)
Things to love: terrible, messy and diverse teen superheroes, teen supervillains, superpowered teen lesbians, tension within squads, character development, betrayal and a bittersweet ending.
Fullmetal Alchemist 1-3 (Hiromu Arakawa)
I love everything in this manga: the intense plot, the characters even the villains, the world of the alchemists, and the fusion of Japanese and German cultures. And yes, the frustration we short people experience.