This week is a difficult topic: the Absolute Best in X Genre, or something along those lines. Since I have plenty of contemporary favorites and it’s easy to find standalones rather than series in that genre, I decided to go with that, and to make it even easier (on me, anyway), I’m sticking to my absolute favorite contemporary books that I already own. As always, these books are in no particular order because that is just asking for too much.
1. Since You’ve Been Gone (Morgan Matson)
This is one of those books I wanted to reread this summer but just didn’t get around to, but not for lack of wanting. Emily is a character that I connected to so much as the friend who’s perfectly content to sit quietly next to the outgoing friend and simply go along with her plans. I truly felt for Emily when she lost her best and really only friend, and even though I liked seeing her gain new friends and adventures, I was rooting for her to find Sloane so that she could figure out what happened and hopefully keep a friendship that was obviously so important to her. Sloane never felt like a selfish antagonist, although I could see how some people might think of her that way. When I look back on this book, it’s not the romance I remember, it’s the friendship at the core of this book, as well as a fascinating family that both exacerbates and loves Emily.
2. The Revenge Playbook (Rachael Allen)
This was one of my first ARCs, and what a way to start. I loved Allen’s debut, 17 First Kisses, so that combined with a summary about girls banding together to take down the football team in a scavenger hunt led to high expectations for this book, but luckily it met them. It was great getting to meet four girls who are so very different but still able to come together and it has me waiting impatiently for more from Allen.
3. Saving Francesca (Melina Marchetta)
What a way to start a reading relationship with Marchetta – so far, this book has remained my favorite from her. I connected to Francesca and her own battle with slight depression while her mother deals with full-blown depression that affects her whole family. Like the rest of her books that I’ve read so far, the beginning was a little confusing, but that’s the only reason that this book didn’t get a stellar 5 stars.
4. Smart Girls Get What They Want (Sarah Strohmeyer)
I don’t really know what it is about this book, but everything just seemed to work – the whole smart girls trying to interact with their classmates more, the romance that the protagonist just did not see coming, the friendship between said smart girls, and the fact that the protagonist’s name, Gigi, is short for Genevieve (but really, why would she use a nickname, her name is obviously perfect!). I haven’t quite managed to recapture the magic of this fun and fluffy book with Strohmeyer’s other books, but I will keep trying.
5. Everything Leads to You (Nina LaCour)
This book got ALL THE STARS! I kept expecting something bad to happen that would derail this gorgeous tale of set design and girls falling for girls, but it never did. I really need to relive all this, now that I don’t have that sense of dread hovering over me and making me afraid that something horrible is going to happen – I can just enjoy the story.
6. My Life Next Door (Huntley Fitzpatrick)
This might be a story about first love and family obligations and such, but for me, like for many others, this is the beautiful story of the Garrett family. That messy, big, loud, and beautiful family that lives next door and happily brings protagonist Sam in under their wings. I just want to live with them and be a part of their family.
7. Lock and Key (Sarah Dessen)
I’m not quite sure what it is about this book that makes it my favorite Dessen story – maybe it’s the interesting family relationship, maybe it’s the boy-next-door romance that broken protagonist Ruby stumbles into, but something about this story makes it really work and really stick with me. Maybe it’s just the fake Facebook website that Ruby’s newfound brother-in-law invented – who knows?
8. The Reece Malcolm List (Amy Spalding)
I am an extremely shy and introverted person, much like many protagonists in YA, so it’s great to see a protagonist who not only fits that archetype, but shares another important trait: a little bit of confidence. Reece knows that she’s a great singer and she’s not embarassed to be proud of that fact – I’m the same way with my writing, one of the few areas of my life where I can tear apart my work and not feel bad about it, because I know that I’m a pretty good writer and that it takes work. I also love the relationship between Reece and the mother she never knew, as well as the life she lives when she moves in with her mother. Really, the only thing I didn’t love about this book was the romance, which is the only reason it didn’t get a full five stars.
9. Ruby Oliver quartet (E. Lockhart)
Yep, I’m cramming four books into one because RUBY OLIVER IS THE BEST AND DESERVES IT! *ahem* Ruby is amazing and messy and self-loathing and a tad narcissistic and judgmental and just gloriously real. She was the first example of a great combination of a spectacular story that also deals with mental health issues, and for that alone, Ruby will always have a special spot in my heart.
10. Made You Up (Francesca Zappia)
When I read this book about a girl dealing with schizophrenia the first time around, I thought it was a decent debut, but I wasn’t wowed by it. I am a totally shallow reader, though, so I actually ended up buying it because hello awesome cover, and I reread it for a class assignment about childhood disabilities and disorders. Well, the second time around made this into a new favorite – maybe it’s because I was a little less confused, maybe I was simply in a better mood, I honestly don’t know. The book can be confusing, but that taps into protagonist Alex’s mindset very well, as someone who thinks she can tell the difference between fact and fiction but never really manages to do that. I’m impatiently waiting for a second book from Zappia, which seems to be the case for too many of these awesome authors on this list. Come on, people, write faster for me!