Remember how, when you made your crush a mixed tape, you included the name of the song and artist, but also what album the track came from? I miss that…#nostalgiaisdeadly— laurelsnyder (@LaurelSnyder) December 1, 2022
Okay, this was a weird year. A lot more re-reading -- some Phyllis A. Whitney, lots of Jen Lancaster, Susan Isaacs, some of the late great Barbara Ehrenreich. And, let's face it, I spent a lot of time in the past. The 1980s, in particular, which is why the Snyder hashtag above, #nostalgiaisdeadly, resonated. I do feel like the arc bending towards justice gets a little longer every year, but that doesn't stop me reveling in some cultural nostalgia. And note that I am also including a bit more YA this go-round, since I am not reading for any awards requiring confidentiality....
All About the 1980s
Not unlike Grady Hendrix's Paperbacks from Hell on last year's list, this gorgeous volume collects some extraordinary cover art from a range of what-would-become YA books from past decades. A loving tribute to the books that made us.
This book is one of the best things I've read about American sociology, consumerism, and change over time. While not strictly about the '80s, that decade factors heavily.
Red, White, and Whole (2021)Rajani LaRocca
It's 1983, Reha's mother is sick, and this novel in verse explores her experiences, caught between cultures and working through those heady middle school friendships.
I Must Betray You (2022)Ruta Sepetys
Sepetys explores Ceausescu's Romania, where the VCR is upending totalitarianism and young people are negotiating freedoms. Watch Chuck Norris Versus Communism afterwards.
Party Girls Die in Pearls (2017)Plum Sykes
From the detailed descriptions of the '80s wardrobe to the silly in-group slang, I thoroughly adored this blast from the past wrapped around a mystery.
YA, YA (okay, and some MG)
Himawari House (2021)Harmony Becker
This really well-executed graphic novel features a trio of teenagers finding their way in the world and exploring aspects of Japanese culture, with re-discovery of their own identities thrown into relief.
In the Wild Light (2021)Jeff Zentner
Jeff Zentner has his finger on the pulse of the realities of the contemporary American South, even when you put those Southern kids in a Connecticut boarding school.
The City Beautiful (2021)Aden Polydoros
This incredibly dark YA novel will take you into the White City that was the Chicago World's Fair, with precise period details and an entirely new sensibility. Fans of Daniel Kraus will love it.
The Tryout (2022)Christina Soontornvat
A graphic novel about middle school with all the friendship drama and feels for your rabid Raina readers. I am already antsy for the sequel, which will be called The Squad…
African Town (2022)Charles Waters and Irene Latham
An achievement of a novel in verse, told from alternating points of view, about the close-knit community founded by the last group of enslaved people brought to the United States. Carefully researched and masterfully executed, but funny and joyous, too.
A Sitting in St. James (2021)
A complicated family, a brutal place and time, and all sorts of personal agendas and generational vendettas make this novel absolutely Faulknerian. I dare most readers to even notice it is marketed as young adult.
Thrillers, Mysteries, a Little Romance
Apples Never Fall (2021)Liane Moriarity
Back to vintage Moriarity, with characters who are so dimensional and stories that criss-cross in shocking moments of revelation. Here, four children attempt to figure out what has happened to their mother and what the young stranger who stayed in their home might have had to do with it. No one gets it right.
The Spies of Shilling Lane (2019)Jennifer Ryan
A young woman disappears while doing espionage work during the Second World War. Her headstrong mother heads to London to find her, and finds a sweet happily-ever-after of her own in the process. Jennifer Ryan has a great body of work set in this era, but this was my favorite.
The It Girl (2022)Ruth Ware
Again, as with the Sykes, back to Oxford, only a decade ago but somehow more distant because of all the inherent institutional anachronisms. A cast of characters that will remind you of people you knew in college.
Meet Me in London (2021)Georgia Toffolo
I am not British, so I refuse to be thwarted by Toff's Tory leanings. This is the first in a series of four delightful linked romances, about a creative and an entrepreneur, and it's perfect for the holidays and for those who have not been abroad in too long.
The Last Party (2022)Clare Mackintosh
A fun procedural set in a border community where locals are dealing with an influx of weekenders at a new resort. Lots of interesting characters and a wonderful ending that leaves you wondering just who really "did it."
The Heights (2022)Louise Candlish
The observation of someone who shouldn't be there, from a distance, spiraling into obsession, is the perfect pandemic-era thriller, at once claustrophobic and voyeuristic.
The Maid (2022)Nita Prose
The voice of a neurodivergent main character is so different, and the twists so very clever, it definitely made me think a thought or two. And can I mention how fun it is to read a book set in Canada?
The Rock Star in Seat 3A (2012)Jill Kargman
After a re-watch of the whole of Odd Mom Out, I ripped through all Jill Kargman's books this year, because I am convinced we would be best friends in another universe. This was particularly fun and sexy, and full of the trademark Kargman side-eye.
Thirteen more years of best books:
Books are such a gift, my boon companion, and I love this time of the year because I find so many wonderful things to read in these year-end lists. Here's to lots more great books in 2023!