Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, where book bloggers are invited to share their top ten lists centered on a certain theme.
This week’s theme is books that were worth the hype. This was a really fun topic for me, because there are so many hyped-up books that I put off reading but ended up loving just as much as everyone said I would.
Here are my picks:
1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Goodreads Summary: “Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.”
My thoughts: The Hate U Give deserves 100% of the attention, awards, and recognition it has received, and then some. Literally every human being ever needs to read this (and pre-order Angie’s upcoming book On The Come Up). I also highly recommend the audiobook, narrated by Bahni Turpin.
2. Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Goodreads Summary: “Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.
With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.”
My thoughts: I love queer love stories but held off on this one because it was focused on coming out (I always want queer books where being queer is not treated as a huge deal), but after reading it, I’ve realized that this book is about so much more than coming out! It’s about family, friendship, courage, allyship, and so much more.
3. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
Goodreads Summary: “What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them… all at once?
Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.”
My thoughts: I was late to the Lara Jean bandwagon, but I finally read this trilogy this year. I normally like serious, dark, sad stories but this happy fluffy series was just as adorable as everyone says it is. Lara Jean and her sisters are so memorable, and I can’t wait for the Netflix movie on August 17.
4. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Goodreads Summary: “The Lovely Bones is the story of a family devastated by a gruesome murder — a murder recounted by the teenage victim. Upsetting, you say? Remarkably, first-time novelist Alice Sebold takes this difficult material and delivers a compelling and accomplished exploration of a fractured family’s need for peace and closure.
The details of the crime are laid out in the first few pages: from her vantage point in heaven, Susie Salmon describes how she was confronted by the murderer one December afternoon on her way home from school. Lured into an underground hiding place, she was raped and killed. But what the reader knows, her family does not. Anxiously, we keep vigil with Susie, aching for her grieving family, desperate for the killer to be found and punished.”
My thoughts: Alice Sebold’s writing is just as haunting, heart-shattering, and beautiful as everyone says. She writes about violence in such an unflinchingly real way, and I love that The Lovely Bones explores how families are changed in the wake of trauma.
5. Warcross by Marie Lu
Goodreads Summary: “When a game called Warcross takes the world by storm, one girl hacks her way into its dangerous depths. For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. When Emika hacks into the game illegally, she’s convinced she’ll be arrested, and is shocked when she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem … and he wants Emika for the job. In this sci-fi thriller, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu conjures an immersive, exhilarating world where choosing who to trust may be the biggest gamble of all.”
My thoughts: Like most of Marie Lu’s releases, Warcross was super hyped up. This fast-paced novel was diverse, fun to read, and unique. I describe it as a cross between The Hunger Games and Ready Player One. Be sure to read Warcross now before its conclusion, Wildcard is released in September.
6. Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
Goodreads Summary: “Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.
Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.”
My thoughts: Despite loving Julie Murphy’s Ramona Blue, I didn’t think I’d like Dumplin’ because it was about beauty pageants and Dolly Parton, but it is 100% worth the hype. Willowdean is one of my favorite YA characters ever and I have such new appreciation for Dolly.
7. George by Alex Gino
Goodreads Summary: “The middle-grade debut by Alex Gino, George, tells the story of a girl whom the world identifies as a boy. When Gino’s heroine is not cast in the lead role for a fourth-grade production of Charlotte’s Web, she decides to reveal her true identity.”
My thoughts: Alex Gino writes Melissa so beautifully and this novel deserves all the recognition it has received. I love recommending George to readers of all ages. Alex Gino is a very interesting speaker, and I definitely recommend attending one of their signings or author visits if you have the chance. Be on the lookout for their upcoming middle grade book this fall, You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P!
8. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Goodreads Summary: “Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.”
My thoughts: Aristotle & Dante has definitely earned its spot on LGBTQIA+ booklists, with its beautiful prose and lovable characters. Its a compelling story of friendship, family, identity, and love that also explores trauma, mental health, and incarceration.
9. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Goodreads Summary: “Two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation. “
My thoughts: As a true YA lover, I almost never read adult fiction, but I’m so glad I gave Homegoing a try. This novel was such a gorgeous, sweeping, multi-generational narrative that was expertly crafted.
10. Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly
Goodreads Summary: “In one day, four lives weave together in unexpected ways. Virgil Salinas is shy and kindhearted and feels out of place in his loud and boisterous family. Valencia Somerset, who is deaf, is smart, brave, and secretly lonely, and loves everything about nature. Kaori Tanaka is a self-proclaimed psychic, whose little sister Gen is always following her around. And Chet Bullens wishes the weird kids would just act normal so that he can concentrate on basketball. They aren’t friends — at least not until Chet pulls a prank that traps Virgil and his pet guinea pig at the bottom of a well. This disaster leads Kaori, Gen, and Valencia on an epic quest to find the missing Virgil. Through luck, smarts, bravery, and a little help from the universe, a rescue is performed, a bully is put in his place, and friendship blooms.”
My thoughts: Erin Entrada Kelly won my heart with this middle-grade novel, and I’m so happy that she received the Newbery Medal for it. Filipinx representation, deaf representation, and more, plus magical realism. This was such a charming story of friendship, family, and more.
Do you normally read books that get a lot of hype? What books did you think were worth the hype?