Top 10 Books of 2021

February 10, 2022

 

 

Paper Towns
John Green
Isabelle’s Rating: 5/5 Stars
Goodreads Rating: 3.75/5 Stars

Overview:
Paper Towns, by John Green, is about Quentin Jacobsen, a high school senior who admired his neighbor and peer Margo Roth Spiegelaman throughout his childhood. Their senior year of high school she mysteriously disappears and Quentin makes it his mission to find her. As he follows the clues she left for him, he begins to realize she isn’t the girl he thought he knew.

Review:
When I finished Paper Towns, I was surprised by how much I loved it. I typically lean more towards exciting novels with high stakes, however this story is a simple one about a teenage boy who thought he loved a girl, but soon realizes she isn’t who he thought. I think it’s the simplicity of the story that makes it ingenious. The story is something almost everyone can relate to, the ups and downs of high school, its fantasies and romances, and most importantly… its awkwardness. All of these aspects make this book’s world and characters real, which is why I love it so much. Many books’ fatal flaw is that they don’t feel genuine, but Paper Towns has some of the realest people I have ever read about. Quentin and Margo are as wonderful as they are awful, which shows they are genuinely human. John Green’s Paper Towns tells a story that’s charming and believable.

Maid
Stephanie Land
Samantha’s Rating: 5/5 Stars
Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars

Overview:
Maid explores the underbelly of upper-middle class America and the reality of what it’s like to work for them. “I’d become a nameless ghost,” Stephanie writes about her relationship with her clients, many of whom do not know her from any other cleaner, but who she learns plenty about. As she begins to discover more about her clients’ lives-their sadness and love, too – she begins to find hope in her own path.
(Goodreads Overview)

Review:
Maid by Stephanie Land is one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful books I have ever read. Although it is easy to assume and generalize characters, this is not the case upon reading Maid. Not only does this book contain the struggles of making ends meet, it highlights the complex nature of being human. This novel continues to unveil the author’s most complicated moments as well as her most simple ones. The seemingly effortless dedication to her daughter’s well-being is beyond admirable. And although she does battle with emotional trauma from her abusive relationship, her daughter is her top priority. She skips meals, works endless shifts, all with her daughter in mind. Throughout the book, there are several instances where it is easy to be angry about her choices. Her misjudgments enable readers to feel uncomfortable. The range in emotions only increases the intensity of this novel. This book is not to be taken lightly, Land emphasizes the importance of family, dedication and most of all, the special bond between mother and daughter.

Olive’s Ocean
Kevin Hankes
Samantha’s Rating: 5/5
Goodreads Rating: 4/5

Overview:
Martha Boyle and Olive Barstow could have been friends, but they weren’t. Weeks after a tragic accident, all that is left are eerie connections between the two girls, former classmates who both kept the same secret without knowing it. Now, even while on vacation at the ocean, Martha can’t stop thinking about Olive. Things only get more complicated when Martha begins to like Jimmy Manning, a neighbor boy she used to despise. What is going on? Can life for Martha be the same ever again?
(Goodreads Overview)

Review:
Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Hankes creates a sense of familiarity and simplicity in an otherwise complicated world – which made this book so interesting and impossible to put down. The premise of this book follows a young girl’s life as she explores what it means to be alive, the growing pains of young love, and the importance of family. This book is perfect for people of all ages. Hankes has a brilliant way of combining the issues of childhood with difficult life decisions and occurrences. I fell in love with this book for a number of reasons: the aesthetic, the simplicity, but most of all the unspoken bond between Martha and Olive. Martha was able to grow so much as a person throughout this book which makes her goodbye to her former self so bittersweet. The theme of maturity in children’s literature is very rare, however, this book encapsulates maturity in such a simplistic way that allows readers to beg for more.

Deaf Like Me
Thomas S. Spradley
Samantha’s Rating: 4/5
Goodreads Rating: 4/5

Overview:
Deaf Like Me by Thomas Spradley, is the moving account of parents coming to terms with their baby girl’s profound deafness. The love, hope, and anxieties of all hearing parents in relation to their deaf children are expressed here with both power and simplicity. In the epilogue, Spradley’s daughter reflects upon being deaf, her education, her struggle to communicate, and the discovery that she was the focus of both her father’s and uncle’s book. At once moving and inspiring, Deaf Like Me is a must reading for every parent, relative, and friend of deaf children everywhere.
(Goodreads Overview)

Review:
Deaf Like Me was as frustrating as it was powerful. The book is written from the perspective of a hearing father and the emotional journey he takes upon helping his daughter become “normal.” It is frustrating to see his ignorance and the approaches he takes to make his daughter Lynn part of the hearing world. With that said, he acknowledges the mistakes he made throughout the book. This beautiful story stresses the importance of creating a safe environment that allows for growth for both parents and children. I felt many emotions while reading Deaf Like Me, but a word I would describe this book would be: genuine. Thomas Spradley is not only self aware, but thorough in his writing as he expresses the trials his family faced in understanding Deaf culture.

The Goldfinch
Donna Tart
Samantha’s Rating: 4/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.5/5

Overview:
The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America and a drama of enthralling power. Combining unforgettably vivid characters and thrilling suspense, it is a beautiful, addictive triumph – a sweeping story of loss and obsession, of survival and self-invention, of the deepest mysteries of love, identity and fate.
(Goodreads Overview)

Review:
If identity crises and emotional turmoil are typically something you reach for, The Goldfinch by Donna Tart is definitely the book for you. There is a somber theme surrounding The Goldfinch; many emotional heart wrenching moments occur as the main character, Theo Becker, recounts powerful experiences that have shaped him. The combination of love and loss through different stages of Becker’s life is extremely brilliant and creates a special bond between the reader and Becker. Typically, I am drawn to books that paint the main character as morally gray. This book is exactly that, the love in this book that is subconsciously intertwined in the beautifully painted scenes that overpower the feelings of loss. It can be awkward and depressing reading books that involve death and constant loss, but The Goldfinch holds an appealing balance between the emotional parts of life and the lightheartedness of growing up.

Every Word You Cannot Say
Ian S. Thomas
Samantha’s Rating: 4/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.5/5

Overview:
Every Word You Cannot Say is a poetry novel depicting the words we cannot say when facing life’s toughest moments.

Review:
At first I was hesitant about reading Every Word You Cannot Say due to the fact that it is a poetry book. I have not read many poetry books, but I definitely was not disappointed with the premise and the relatability that this book has. Every Word You Cannot say is perfect because there is no beginning, middle or end, rather readers are encouraged to read specific lines that pertain to their life at that moment. I was surprised that so little words could encapsulate a range of emotional experiences. I believe visual learners would deeply enjoy this book. The combination of literature as well as artistic expression is brilliant. There are purposeful pauses that are shown with empty spaces or graphics. This all adds to the emotion. If you are seeking a piece of literature that is reassuring, Every Word You Cannot Say is a must read.

The Inheritance Games
Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Isabelle’s Rating: 5/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.24/5

Overview:
The Inheritance Games is about Avery Grambs, a high school student whose plan for the future is to win a scholarship and make a better life for herself. But her plans change when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves her virtually his entire fortune. The weird thing is Avery has no idea who Tobias is or why he would leave his estate to her. To receive the inheritance she must move into the Hawthorne House and live with its inhabitants, Tobias’s newly scorned family and among them his magnetic grandsons. Caught in the middle of a world filled with wealth, lies, and puzzles Avery must solve the mystery Tobias left for her.

Review:
The Inheritance Games was exciting, captivating, and a joy to read. With its short chapters and compelling characters, it was a fun read. The book really reminds me of the movie Knives Out, a “whodunit” murder mystery that is centered around detective Beniot Blanc as he investigates Harlan Thrombey’s mysterious death. However, this book is not about a murder, rather, like Knives Out, it has high-stakes and investigation. The characters, though not particularly inventive or nuanced, are very likable. I especially loved Xander and Jameson. Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Inheritance Games. It’s a mystery that follows well-liked tropes and a reliable plot structure, making it fun and fast-paced. The Inheritance Games is nothing new for the young adult mystery genre, but it certainly is a great addition. If you like family secrets, treasure hunts, romance, and Texas billionaires this is the book for you.

Daisy Jones & The Six
Taylor Jenkins Reid
Isabelle’s Rating: 4/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.23/5

Overview:
Daisy Jones & The Six follows the rise of a fictional rock band in the 1970s called “Daisy Jones & The Six,” as well as the mysterious circumstances that surround their break-up at the height of their popularity.

Review:
Daisy Jones & The Six is unlike any book I have ever read. What makes this book so captivating is its MTV-documentary-style formatting. The book reads like a transcript, which can be off-putting to some readers, but in my opinion this “oral history” is what makes the concept of this book attainable. While reading I also listened to the audiobook which I recommend because it has a full cast and enhances the reading experience. What I loved so much about Daisy Jones & The Six is the conflicting narration. Every character remembers their own version of events and with the unique style of the book you can compare and contrast each of their accounts. All of this allows the reader to decide who to trust, which gives the book nuanced undertones. Daisy Jones & The Six explores the price of fame, the truths of love, and the complexity of relationships – all of which come together to create a breathtaking novel.

People We Meet On Vacation
Emily Henry
Isabelle’s Rating: 4/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.06/5

Overview:
Alex and Poppy are best friends – but they have nothing in common. Poppy is a wild child; Alex wears khakis. Despite their differences ever since their fated car share home from college many years ago, they have been inseparable. Every summer for a decade they take a glorious vacation together, until two years ago when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since. Poppy has achieved her dreams but she has been stuck in a rut. When someone asks the last time she was truly happy, she knows it was with Alex. And so she convinces him to go on one final trip with her, in which she has a week to fix everything, while hopelessly tiptoeing around the thing that has stood unaddressed in their seemingly perfect relationship all these years. What could go wrong?

Review:
People We Meet On Vacation is romantic, funny, and touching. The perfect book for a day at the beach or any vacation. Honestly, this book made me a little teary-eyed. Alex and Poppy’s relationship is adorable, and their chemistry is unmatchable. If you’re looking for a feel-good book, this is the one for you. The book switches between the past and present: The past recounts their friendship, from the time they met to the vacation where everything went wrong. The present shows the aftermath and their last ditch effort to save their relationship. The whole book, the author keeps the reader guessing as to what happened between Alex and Poppy to strain their friendship. However, the eventual reveal was disappointing due to it being predictable to me. But, other than that, I really liked this book, despite what these latter sentences suggest. It’s cute, has believable, and likable characters, as well as a romance that can’t help but give you butterflies.

A Thousand Splendid Suns
Khaled Hosseini
Isabelle’s Rating: 5/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.40/5

Overview:
A Thousand Splendid Suns is a breathtaking story set against the volatile events of Afghanistan’s last thirty years – from the Soviet invasion to the reign of the Taliban to post-Taliban rebuilding – that puts the violence, fear, hope, and faith of this country in intimate, human terms. It is a tale of two generations of characters brought jarringly together by the tragic sweep of war, where personal lives – the struggle to survive, raise a family, find happiness – are inextricable from the history playing out around them.
(Goodreads Overview)

Review:
I read A Thousand Splendid Suns for English class sophomore year. I was shocked when I loved it so much. Honestly, we are all guilty of disliking books purely because of being required to read them, but this novel is the exception (other than The Great Gatsby – that book was magnifique). A Thousand Splendid Suns is heartbreaking – a story of female friendship and found family. Not only is this novel complex, but also historical. While reading, I learned about the Taliban and the part they play in Afghanistan’s history. The characters are beautifully written and the novel has two strong heroines. Overall, this book is definitely a favorite of mine, and I recommend everyone read it!

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    Howard HorningFeb 16, 2022 at 2:28 pm

    Great story you guys!! Loved all the books(=

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