I hereby present my top ten books of 2017! This year’s list is a bit unusual, because I have spent the year pursuing my MFA in Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University. Thus, all of the books included were read as part of my studies, and eight of ten are from Hamline’s required reading list. (Shout out to Hamline for having the world’s best required reading list!) But I shall stop rambling and get on to the list:
School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex, illus. Christian Robinson
This. Book. Is. So. Funny. But it’s unexpectedly funny. The jokes aren’t ostentatious or annoying, they’re precious and endearing. There are a lot of “first day of school” books out there, but Rex’s spin on that tradition is wholly original. If you’re an elementary school teacher and you’re not reading this book on the first day of school, I really don’t know what you’re doing with your life.
All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon, illus. Marla Frazee
This book gets me emotional every single time I read it. As a rhyming picture book, it really reads like a poem. And yes, often rhyming picture books are cheesy and annoying, but this one is my favorite exception. Frazee’s art is beautiful, and Scanlon’s story about community is one that I’ll never get tired of reading.
Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Kahn, illus. Sophie Blackall
The emotional execution in this book is astounding. The story is not angsty or overwrought, yet the range of emotions experienced by the reader is impressive for 800 words. All of the characters are dynamic and relatable (again, super impressive for 800 words), and the ending is adorable. It’s the perfect book for siblings and families.
The Au Pairs by Melissa de la Cruz
I read tons of YA Chick Lit this year my Master’s thesis, but this one thoroughly impressed me. The setting brought all of the glamour and drama that’s characteristic of privileged Chick Lit, each of the three protagonists had a well-developed emotional arc, and de la Cruz presented themes of wealth, power, and privilege that were both accessible and thought-provoking.
This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki
I don’t read many graphic novels. But This One Summer completely blew me away. It’s rare for me to still be thinking about a book days after finishing it, yet Tamaki’s depiction of mental illness, pregnancy, and feminism left me ruminating for days. Which is such a good thing. I didn’t like any of the characters, yet I knew all of them. Does that make sense? Idk. Just read it.
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
Do you ever read a perfectly crafted sentence and wonder why you can’t think or write so beautifully? Well, every single sentence of Yoon’s novel was like that. I’m such a sucker for beautiful language, sappy metaphors, and heartbreaking love stories. Like, I’m such a sucker. So much so that I included a passage from The Sun is Also a Star in my wedding ceremony.
Orleans by Sherri Smith
I love dystopian fiction that reflects and comments on the present, something that Smith does masterfully in Orleans. The novel depicts a horrifying, violent, and all-together repulsive future, but it’s a future that is based in the atrocities of today’s world (institutional racism, global warming, class warfare). The plot is brilliant, the voices are memorable, and the setting of destroyed New Orleans is unbelievably powerful.
Code Name: Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Wein is brilliant, and Verity is so freaking smart. I love when a narrative outsmarts the reader, and this book does just that. What I love even more, however, is that when you look beyond the mind games and dramatic reveals, you’re left with an incredibly moving story about friendship. It’s smart and sweet, which is an impressive combination.
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
Okorafor’s worldbuilding was on-point. In Akata Witch, the fantastical world isn’t just developed through setting description. It’s a part of every character, every conversation, and every moment of action. Also, thank god for some non-Western fantasy. I didn’t know how much I needed that in my life until I read this novel. (Also, the sequel just came out, so yay!)
The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata
The Thing About Luck is the only middle grade book on my list, but it’s my absolute favorite of the year. I don’t normally love alternative narrative structures, but Kadohata’s beautiful language and compelling characters sold me instantly. The book itself is quiet, but the story is so poignant that I couldn’t stop reading. If I could learn to write like one person, it would by Cynthia Kadohata.
So that’s the list! Obviously, I would recommend that you read all of them ASAP. But I understand if you’re busy. Also, let me know your favorites of the year because I can always use more book suggestions.