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).
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.
The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One by Amanda Lovelace (★★★★★)
Lovelace’s second –and in my opinion superior — poetry collection in the Women Are Some Kind of Magic series is a love letter to feminism and all the nasty women of the world. Once again split into four parts (The Trial, The Burning, The Firestorm and the Ashes), this time around Lovelace takes aim at a broken patriarchal system through the lens of a witch hunt, inspiring and motivating readers through her quotable poetry.
Opal: A Raven Cycle Story by Maggie Stiefvater (★★★★☆½)
This short story follow up to The Raven King focuses on Ronan (the best raven boy), Adam (the okayest raven boy) and their dream made sort of love child Opal as the trio plans to create a brand-new Cabeswater. Told from Opal’s perspective, this is the coda The Raven Cycle deserved, now with 100% more adorably domestic Ronan/Adam moments.
The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw (★★★★☆½)
Every summer in the town of Sparrow three accused witches return from the dead to seek their revenge, taking over the bodies of three young girls and luring men to their deaths. Moody, suspenseful and atmospheric, The Wicked Deep is set in the seemingly magical town of Sparrow (they sell cakes that make you forget), whose dark past is now a successful tourist attraction. One room facing the haunted ocean please!