The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. ★★★★★
Sometimes I read a book that I have no idea how to review. A book that’s so remarkable, so moving and affecting, that anything I have to say will feel hollow by comparison. But I’m going to give this a go anyway.
Most of what I review is either science fiction or fantasy, so The Hate U Give is a rarity for me – a contemporary YA novel! I honestly can’t remember the last time I’ve read one of these. Anyway, I kept hearing about how amazing it was, as well as how timely – it was inspired by the Black Lives Matter Movement – so I decided to get a hold of a copy. And boy, am I glad I did.
The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg. ★★★★★
In The One Hundred Nights of Hero, Isabel Greenberg returns to the fantastical universe she created in her first graphic novel, The Encyclopedia of Early Earth. However, The One Hundred Nights of Hero involves all new characters and stands completely alone. The two graphic novels can be read in any order.
The One Hundred Nights of Hero opens with a bet between two men. One complains that he can never find a woman who meets his criteria, the most important of which is that she will be chaste and loyal. His friend disagrees. He knows exactly such a woman – his wife Cherry. And so the bet is formed. The husband will leave for one hundred nights, giving his friend the opportunity to try and seduce Cherry. And if seduction fails, he may very well turn to more brutal methods.
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua. ★★★★★
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage is an absolutely delightful graphic novel that contains a wealth of historical information regarding Ada Lovelace, Charles Babbage, and the history of computing while at the same time being relentlessly entertaining.
The book begins with a brief history of Ada Lovelace, Charles Babbage, and their work on the invention of the computer and computer programming. However, both died before any of the machines Babbage planned were ever invented. And so Padua imagines an alternate ending – a world where their Analytical Engine reached completion and adventures ensue.
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire. ★★★★★
Every Heart a Doorway is an elegant novella about what happens to children who go to magical worlds but then wind up back in this world, longing for the magical home they’ve lost. A woman named Eleanor West runs a school for the stranded teenagers, where at least they can be different together.
For all it’s brevity, Every Heart a Doorway is a story that really resonated with me. It has that sense of beautiful darkness that’s often best found in fairy tales and that reminds me of Catherynne Valente’s In the Night Garden. More than that, it’s a story about feeling out of place and adrift, looking for a place where you feel is home. While it didn’t have a YA “feel” to it, it could easily be suitable due to the themes and teenage main characters.
The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire by Jack Weatherford. ★★★★★
A section from the ancient text The Secret History of the Mongols was cut away by censors, leaving only these words of Genghis Khan: “Let us reward our female offspring.” In The Secret History of the Mongol Queens, Jack Weatherford chronicles the stories of Genghis Khan’s daughters and the queens who came after them. The stories of many of these women have been largely forgotten in the mainstream historical narrative, but they had important and overlooked roles in Mongol history.
Warchild by Karin Lowachee. ★★★★★
Trigger warning for rape and child abuse
Warchild was an absolutely brutal book. When you look at the thematic material – the effects of war on children’s psychology – it’s no wonder.
Warchild takes place against the background of war between humans and aliens and some humans who sympathize with them. Yet, Warchild is an intensely character based novel centered around Jos, who ages from eight to eighteen over the course of the book. Basically, this is a coming of age story from hell.
The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg. ★★★★★
The Encyclopedia of Early Earth is a graphic novel about the power and beauty of storytelling. The book opens with a man from the Nords (the North Pole) falling in love with a woman from the South Pole. Due to fantastical magnetic reasons, they cannot touch each other, yet they chose to spend their lives together anyway. During that time, the man tells stories of his life and how he came to arrive at the South Pole.