Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig (★★★★☆½)
Part memoir, part self-help(ish) book, part something else entirely, Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive seeks to remove the stigma society places on depression, by revealing the author’s own struggles with the disease, as well as peppering the book with facts and statistics on depression and suicide. Super personal and very raw, I see this as a sort of companion to Notes on a Nervous Planet, which is structured in a very similar manner. Warning: this one is not nearly as light-hearted, but equally helpful.
Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage (★★★☆☆½)
Baby Teeth stars a pint-sized sociopath with designs to kill her mother, the mother herself, and the father who is completely oblivious to his wife and daughter’s true selves. You know, totally normal family dynamic type stuff. The story is made up of alternating chapters that switch between the crazed daughter who is too smart/demonic to be believable, and her mother, who is convinced she will never be a good enough wife and mother. While a super interesting premise — mostly because the kid is not alright — the plot definitely drags at times.
Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood (★★★★★)
Rust & Stardust is based on the 1948 kidnapping of 11-year-old Florence “Sally” Horner, a crime that would go on to inspire the Vladimir Nabokov classic Lolita. Despite being pulled straight from history, Greenwood’s novel is less a true crime story and more historical fiction, exploring the horrors that Sally was most likely forced to endure during her 21-month ordeal, and the ramifications it had on the people in her life. This heartbreaking and beautifully written novel deserves every single star (and then some).
The Elizas by Sara Shepard (★★★☆☆½)
Sara Shepard’s latest adult novel is a thriller that features some of my favorite writing mechanisms, including an unreliable narrator and a story within a story. Unfortunately, like the majority of Shepard’s young adult novels, there is a heavy reliance on doubles (no more doppelgangers or twins ever again, please!), and the novel doesn’t get really interesting until about a third of the way through … before completely losing the plot again shortly thereafter.
My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows (★★★★☆½)
Historical fantasy meets alternate history in this much happier and way more fantastical re-imagining of the life of Lady Jane Grey (AKA the Nine-Day Queen). Told by the trio now known as the Lady Janies, My Lady Jane follows book-loving Jane Grey, who lives in a world where some people can turn into animals. Unbeknownst to Jane, she’s going to be named next in line to the throne by her dying cousin, and she’s about to be married off to a man who is sometimes a horse. Sure it’s super wacky, but it’s also really funny and charming.
Frostblood by Elly Blake (★★★☆☆½)
I had a lot of trouble with the first 75% of Frostblood. Despite being blessedly fast-paced (the only thing that kept me going), the beginning of Blake’s book has a predictable plot that I’ve already read a million times over. Spoilers: the magical girl who can control fire is going to be the chosen one who falls in love with the attractive yet damaged man who can control ice. Thankfully, all that turned around when I got to meet the real villain of the story. Thanks for saving this entire series evil frost king!
Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy (★★★★☆)
Super adorable and simultaneously super sad, Dumplin’ tells the story of Willowdean Dickson, a self-professed “fat” southern girl dealing with the death of her Dolly Parton-loving aunt, her former beauty queen mom’s hard to live up to expectations, and a best friend who is pulling away from her. To make matters worse, she is falling for a boy at work … a boy she doesn’t think she deserves. Desperate to fulfill her deceased aunt’s dreams, Will — the definitely not beauty pageant type — enters the Miss Clover City pageant, changing her life forever.
Tarnished by Kate Jarvik Birch (★★★★☆)
Despite being incredibly dumb, Tarnished is the compulsively readable follow up to Perfected, which takes place in a world where young women are genetically engineered as pets for the wealthy. Tarnished takes an even darker turn than its predecessor, exploring the tragic fate of unwanted pets. Is it good? Absolutely not. Is it fun? Sort of. Will you keep reading regardless? Of course you will.
Red Clocks by Leni Zumas (★★★★☆½)
Described as The Handmaid’s Tale for a new generation, Red Clocks follows four very different women (a wife and mother, a barren teacher, a pregnant teen, and a mysterious homeopath) who live in a not-so-distant future where abortion is illegal, in-vitro fertilization is no more and single people are no longer allowed to adopt. Perfect for our current political climate, Zumas’ novel is a frightening and very feminist look at the dangers of life legally beginning at conception.