Hey everyone! Here we are, the end of a decade and the beginning of a new year. It’s time now to talk about the best books of the year, and I think I’m going to do an all-genre list. Normally I’d just stick with YA, but there are a few other books I’ve read this year that I feel deserve some mention, but I’ll keep that to a minimum. YA is, as always, my main focus.
So let’s take a look! And yes, they are in order of how I would recommend them. Should be fun.
Top Ten Books of 2019
10. All Fall Down by Ally Carter
One of the more unexpected books I read this year, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this. We’re introduced to Grace, who is dealing with some huge emotional issues revolving around the death of her mother (that Grace witnessed) and there’s a lot of political drama between the nations on Embassy Row. It’s dark, suspenseful, and impossible to put down.
9. An Affair of Poisons by Addie Thorley
This is only one of two books on this list that I picked up without any prior knowledge of the book or author. And to say I had fun reading this magical historical fiction would be putting it mildly. A re-imagining of 17th century France with alchemists, we follow Mirabelle, a young poisoner-in-training who realizes too late that she’s only been a cog in a deadly machine. Mix into that a kitchen boy who is the illegitimate son of the King and you’ve got a daring story.
8. The Five by Hallie Rubenhold (Nonfiction)
This book was recommended to me by a friend who is a librarian. This is one of the boldest and most feminist nonfictions I’ve ever read and it was so eye-opening that I can’t even tell you. The Five takes a look at the unfortunate lives of the five confirmed victims of Jack the Ripper. They weren’t prostitutes like we’ve been told for over 100 years–instead they were unfortunates, poor women whose life circumstances had forced them to make difficult choices. Addicted, homeless, divorced, it didn’t matter. But you’ll never look at them or Victorian England the same way again.
7. A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
I read this one back in the first week of January and I loved it. Some of it was the nostalgia value of having the book set in 2002, where dial-up internet was still a thing and everyone closely guarded their phone’s minutes. But on the other hand, this book tells a very important story, of life after 9/11 for those who were Muslim Americans. And it’s so important that we can see the world from another perspective.
6. Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George
A twist on the Shakespearean comedy, Much Ado About Nothing, this book places the well-known tale into the Roaring Twenties in New York. Bootleggers, flappers, and mobsters run amok in this story set in a small speakeasy trying to remain afloat. It’s that juxtaposition between the familiar (the play) with the unfamiliar (the setting) that made this a lot of fun to read.
5. On the Spectrum by Jennifer Gold
This was the second of two that I picked up with no prior knowledge. I picked it up for the Eiffel Towers on the cover, but I stayed for the characters and the unexpected depth. The “spectrum” in the title does in part relate to our narrator’s brother’s autism, but also in part to her own issues with an eating disorder. And the fact that both of these were portrayed as a spectrum next to each other was so different and so moving that I couldn’t help but get swept along with the story.
4. My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie (Historical Fiction)
Anything by these two is quickly becoming my favorite thing. This story, from the perspective of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, was certainly no exception. It’s more of a life story than anything, going from the 1770s when Eliza’s family deals with the early years of the War for Independence all the way to the 1850s. It’s quite the span and it can be a bit dense at times, but I did not cry harder over a book this year than I did this one. So many tears were shed, even when I knew what was going to happen.
3. The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen
I’m well aware of Dessen’s reputation as a writer–at least 3 of her books live on my shelves and I’ve read many more. But for some reason, I was still taken aback by this story of class and identity. There’s the Lake North/North Lake class conflict that was really interesting, coupled with Emma’s/Saylor’s struggle to figure out who she is and who she wants to be. It was a lot of fun to read and it slowly gets beneath your skin until you’re actually sad the book’s over.
2. Brazen and the Beast by Sarah MacLean (Romance)
I read a lot of romance novels because I enjoy their characters, plots, and happy endings in this not-so-happily-ever-after world. And Sarah MacLean is the queen of romance, if I do say so. Each book is better than the last and this one continued to blow me away. I could not put it down. The heroine is feisty, stubborn, and clever, which is the best combination. The hero is strong, powerful, and wickedly smart. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the hero is nicknamed “Beast” and the plot has some resemblances to Beauty and the Beast, which is my favorite story (obviously).
Now, on to the #1.
Drum roll please…
1. A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer
I suppose this shouldn’t be much of a surprise, considering it is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. But it was such a bombshell. The heroine has cerebral palsy, which makes her something of an outsider in her Washington, D.C. home. And our hero is a prince in what is essentially a fantasy realm, cursed in a way that he feels helpless to ever break free. Part of that curse involves kidnapping girls to see if they can fall in love with him. Only he’s running out of time and hope.
Thank God the sequel comes out soon.