Here’s a roundup of several books I’ve read and enjoyed so far in 2017.
We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
I stayed up till 2 am in the morning to finish We Are Okay. This is a beautiful book inside and out because it deals frankly with grief and pain as well as the illuminating joy of first love — in this case, between two girls. Books about grief aren’t my usual go-to but this one took hold of me and didn’t let go. It was so clear, like its winter setting. It spoke so eloquently about depression, dealing with loss, complicated friendship-love-relationships. It had great sentences.
The main characters are fully realized queer girls, but We Are Okay isn’t primarily about coming out, unless it’s about coming out of grief. Also I particularly loved every detail of the San Francisco/Northern California flashbacks. So well done and genuine. I loved being there again. So, in conclusion, read the book! It’s precise and grounded and real.
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
When Trevor Noah became the new host of The Daily Show, I watched, but initially wasn’t drawn in. I missed Jon Stewart and I didn’t really connect with Trevor right away. So I wouldn’t have picked up his memoir had it not been recommended to me by editor Cheryl Klein when we were in Phoenix at the Desert Nights, Rising Stars writers conference in February.
She told me that the book does interesting things with memoir, interspersing his personal experiences with shorter passages delving into the history and culture of South Africa. When I started reading the book, I was hooked right away. Trevor Noah has a wonderfully engaging and funny voice, and he does a great job introducing us to his homeland.
His memoir is about growing up biracial in South Africa during and after apartheid, and it’s about his complex yet deeply loving relationship with his mother. The stories he tells are eye-opening and fascinating. It was illuminating, moving, and funny. But not in funny haha way — funny in a real, heartfelt, finding-humor-in-tragedy way. And now I am much more interested in The Daily Show, which I honestly think is finally finding its groove with its new host.
Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown
This is a sweet and sexy young adult romance about Joanna Gordon, a lesbian Christian teen (yes, really!) who moves from big-city Atlanta to small-town Rome, Georgia, with her evangelical radio host dad and his new wife. He asks her to lay low on her gay pride while they adjust to small-town life and the in-laws. Jo reluctantly agrees (there are reasons that become a big part of the book), and she finds it increasingly difficult to keep her promise when she (surprise!) falls for a beautiful girl in her church group.
This is first and foremost a romantic comedy. It is adorable and full of oh-no-they-didn’t, will-they-or-won’t-they shenanigans. It’s also about being Christian and queer at the same time, something that I’ve read very little about but really appreciated. Best of all (for me), Jo has a best friend, Dana, who is also an out queer girl. Their friendship is hilariously real, and it both infuriated me and made me laugh because I recognized it.
If you’re in need of a rom-com about a queer girl in a small Southern town, pick up Georgia Peaches! It’s perfect for spring.
This year I’ve also enjoyed In the Labyrinth of Drakes by Marie Brennan, which is book 4 in the Memoirs of Lady Trent series, about dragon naturalist-cum-adventuress Lady Trent. These books are like Amelia Peabody set in an alternate Victorian world with dragons, and they’re basically candy to me. The fifth and final volume of Lady Trent’s memoirs, Within the Sanctuary of Wings, has just been released and I can’t wait to read it!
If you’re looking for page-turning thrillers about clones murdering each other in space (and who isn’t?), then I suggest you pick up Mur Lafferty’s Six Wakes. It’s escapist fun with lots of brain candy about clones and identity and humanness, and makes you think of 3D printers in a totally new light.
Finally, I inhaled The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly, his most recent Harry Bosch novel, over the course of a weekend. This is the nineteenth (!) Bosch novel that Connelly has written, and by now these books are well-oiled machines. They don't necessarily surprise, but the pacing is page-turningly steady and the details are always fascinating to me. They're also really good for travel because they're easy to sink into and escape what's around you.
If you'd like to see what I'm reading more often, follow me on instagram, where I often post pics in-progress. Happy reading, everyone!