By Claire Golden
One of the pastimes that’s gotten me through quarantine is reading. Although I’ve always loved books, sometimes I need them more desperately than ever, and the past year of COVID-19 quarantine is a prime example of that. Since I can’t go anywhere until I’m fully vaccinated, I’ve been reading books to escape my attic room and go on adventures with the characters.
I enjoy a variety of genres, but what I really want from a book is to be completely immersed in a different world. I want books that will take me somewhere else for a few hours. So I’ve compiled a list of the top five books that have captivated me the most this year.
The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna
This book is a recent release. It’s a Young Adult fantasy novel about a group of girls who are cast out from society because of the color of their blood, but they are training to be warriors who can take back their world from the oppressive patriarchy. The phrase “girl power” is overused and makes me roll my eyes, but that’s the sentiment of this book. The worldbuilding swept me up, and the characters are multifaceted and vibrant. This is a book I couldn’t put down and I would highly recommend to anyone looking for action-packed feminist literature, whether or not you typically read YA.
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
This YA fantasy trilogy is far from new — it was published in 2013 — but it’s being turned into a Netflix series, and I always prefer to read the book before I watch the adaptation. I expected this to be a generic YA fantasy, but boy was I wrong. It isn’t afraid to go dark, but the story ultimately has a hopeful ending. I read this trilogy while I was recovering from surgery and it thoroughly distracted me from my pain. Now I can’t wait to watch the series!
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
For a change, here’s something that’s not a YA fantasy. (My family teases me about my love for YA fantasy, but we all have our favorite genres, right?) This novel won a Goodreads Choice Award and it sure does deserve it. It’s about a mom influencer who becomes obsessed with her daughter’s babysitter, a Black teen from the other side of town, after an incident where where the babysitter is accused of abducting the little girl she cares for. Emira, the babysitter, is a great character and extremely likable, while Alix is fun to root against. But the novel brings up important questions of “woke” culture, “mom bloggers,” and racial dynamics.
Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo
This author is one of my auto-buy authors; I will read absolutely anything she writes. And I think this novel is her best work yet! It’s a historical fiction about a Chinese-American teenager named Lily growing up in San Francisco and discovering that she’s lesbian when she falls in love with her friend, Kathleen. Together, they visit the Telegraph Club, a lesbian bar. I learned so much about 1950s San Francisco and what it was like to be LGBTQ+ back then, from an #ownvoices author who is also Chinese-American and lesbian. Lily felt real to me, and the novel was very moving in addition to just being a plain good read.
Among the Beasts & Briars by Ashley Poston
And one more YA fantasy to round out the list. This book reads like a fairytale, from its shorter length to the beautiful descriptions of castles and forests. Cerys escapes into the enchanted forest after a curse strikes her town and must survive with only a fox…who might also be magical…and her own wits. She is resourceful and spirited, and she has a fox companion that charmed me from the start. Although I have read enough YA fantasy to fill an entire bookshelf, this one still brought enough new material to the genre to keep me entertained. Also, serious cover love!
What books have kept you entertained during these long quarantine days?