Beyond the mainstream Hunger Games, Harry Potter, etc, here are some of my favorite books of all time. Of course, given all I’ve read and all the amazing books out there, this is by no means exhaustive.
The Winner’s Curse series
Not only is the cover amazing, the story is too.
Premise: As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.
One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.
But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.
Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.
The Selection series
Continuing the theme of beautiful ballgown covers… this story is The Bachelor meets royalty/fantasy in all the best ways.
Premise: For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.
But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.
Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself—and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.
The Nightshade series
I’ve read this book, and the series, so many times. Werewolves the way they were meant to be.
Premise: Calla Tor has always known her destiny: After graduating from the Mountain School, she’ll be the mate of sexy alpha wolf Ren Laroche and fight with him, side by side, ruling their pack and guarding sacred sites for the Keepers. But when she violates her masters’ laws by saving a beautiful human boy out for a hike, Calla begins to question her fate, her existence, and the very essence of the world she has known.
By following her heart, she might lose everything- including her own life. Is forbidden love worth the ultimate sacrifice?
I just read and reviewed this (and its not out yet) but check out my review: here.
Premise: Nearly a century has passed since the world was devastated by pandemics and wars that wiped out over ninety-percent of the earth’s population. To assure the survival of mankind, the leaders of the rebuilt city of Haven are breeding a better human race: meaning those deemed too stupid, too weak, too poor – too “unfit” – are arrested and forcibly sterilized.
John Hunter is a penniless, self-educated young man from the wrong side of Haven struggling to make something of himself to provide for his wife and their hopes of starting a family. Until the authorities show up at his door and arrest him for the crime of being “unfit.” Heartbroken and humiliated, will John abandon his aspirations and resign himself to quietly accept his fate?
The Fault in Our Stars
Anyone who knows me knows this is by far my favorite book of all time. Does it glorify cancer? Yes. But does it do everything else right? Yes. Any time my work feels wrong, I look to this book as an example of what to do to make it right– characterization, plot, themes big enough to matter but small enough to be tangible, enough emotion that even on my 20th read I know I’m going to cry, unpredictability that fits the story perfectly, and more.
Premise: Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.
Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.
Our Year of Maybe
I read this after following Rachel Lynn Solomon on Twitter, after she was a mentor on Pitch Wars, a competition for a mentor to help authors pitch their work to agents. And wow, I’m glad I did. Read my review: here.
Premise: Aspiring choreographer Sophie Orenstein would do anything for Peter Rosenthal-Porter, who’s been on the kidney transplant list as long as she’s known him. Peter, a gifted pianist, is everything to Sophie: best friend, musical collaborator, secret crush. When she learns she’s a match, donating a kidney is an easy, obvious choice. She can’t help wondering if after the transplant, he’ll love her back the way she’s always wanted.
But Peter’s life post-transplant isn’t what either of them expected. Though he once had feelings for Sophie too, he’s now drawn to Chase, the guitarist in a band that happens to be looking for a keyboardist. And while neglected parts of Sophie’s world are calling to her—dance opportunities, new friends, a sister and niece she barely knows—she longs for a now-distant Peter more than ever, growing increasingly bitter he doesn’t seem to feel the same connection.
Peter fears he’ll forever be indebted to her. Sophie isn’t sure who she is without him. Then one blurry, heartbreaking night twists their relationship into something neither of them recognizes, leading them to question their past, their future, and whether their friendship is even worth fighting for.
A Mango-shaped Space
This book is definitely easier to read (likely more for middle school readers) but I’ve always loved it. Perhaps I’m biased given my passion for psychology, but I’ve loved the depiction of synesthesia, the cat, and Mia.
Premise: Mia Winchell appears to be a typical kid, but she’s keeping a big secret—sounds, numbers, and words have color for her. No one knows, and Mia wants to keep it that way. But when trouble at school finally forces Mia to reveal her secret, she must learn to accept herself and embrace her ability, called synesthesia, a mingling of the senses.
The Hating Game
I’ve read a decent number of romance and contemporary novels, but this is definitely one of the best. I reviewed it previously: here.
Premise: Nemesis (n.) 1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.
2) A person’s undoing
3) Joshua Templeman
Lucy Hutton has always been certain that the nice girl can get the corner office. She’s charming and accommodating and prides herself on being loved by everyone at Bexley & Gamin. Everyone except for coldly efficient, impeccably attired, physically intimidating Joshua Templeman. And the feeling is mutual.
Trapped in a shared office together 40 (OK, 50 or 60) hours a week, they’ve become entrenched in an addictive, ridiculous never-ending game of one-upmanship. There’s the Staring Game. The Mirror Game. The HR Game. Lucy can’t let Joshua beat her at anything—especially when a huge new promotion goes up for the taking.
If Lucy wins this game, she’ll be Joshua’s boss. If she loses, she’ll resign. So why is she suddenly having steamy dreams about Joshua, and dressing for work like she’s got a hot date? After a perfectly innocent elevator ride ends with an earth-shattering kiss, Lucy starts to wonder whether she’s got Joshua Templeman all wrong.
Maybe Lucy Hutton doesn’t hate Joshua Templeman. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.
Books I think are over rated:
Despite all the hype, I think these books are bad, problematic, or just not for me.
Turtles All the Way Down
Sorry John Green. I loved The Fault in Our Stars, but this fell really flat for me. I know he himself has struggled with OCD, but the plot and characterization were lacking and even as someone who studies anxiety disorders, the way the OCD was explained and described didn’t make sense.
Great for a teen debut? Yes. Well-written and original? No. I mean even the title is just dragon with an E instead of a D. If you want a book of all fantasy cliches in one, this is for you. I think there is even a blogger who went through a few chapters of this book as an example of how to edit your own book and what not to do in writing..
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
This book (of the play) wanted to do way too much and ended up doing nothing satisfying. The characters were different than in the original series and the plot felt contrived. This was obviously an attempt to take advantage of the Harry Potter fandom, without the level of writing fans had come to expect.
13 Reasons Why
I know there’s been a lot of pushback on this one since the Netflix series. Beyond the obvious issues with glorifying suicide, blaming characters for the suicide that occurs, etc, I have always hated this book (and refuse to see the show). Years ago, I read it 2 or 3 times because I kept forgetting I had read it (obviously not very memorable). I actually met the author at a writing conference and for some reason he rubbed me the wrong way. Anyway, I can probably give you 13 reasons why you shouldn’t read this book, or you can just trust me.