by Ashley Dickson-Ellison (@teachingtheapocalypse)
Phew, I have read some great books thus far in 2023, which makes choosing five to highlight so much harder! I have loved a lot of what we've read for Unabridged this year, and I've shared some of my favorite reads in episodes, but in this list I chose to highlight books that haven't been featured in our episodes or as our buddy reads. Here are some of my favorite reads for the first half of 2023. It's been a great year for reading so far!
Dean Atta's The Black Flamingo (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) - I absolutely loved this young adult novel in verse. This focuses on Michael as he goes through his youth and young adulthood. With beautiful, lyrical lines and vivid depictions of events, Atta shows the struggles Michael faces as he simply seeks to be himself. Through the verse, Atta demonstrates how Michael must navigate challenging situations over and over because of gender expectations and assumptions imposed upon him beginning in early childhood. I rejoiced as we see Michael find his way and a community that can lift him up.
Tracy Deonn's Bloodmarked (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) - The second in the Legendborn series, this novel was so captivating that it left me with quite the book hangover when I finished! I loved Legendborn, but I was honestly even more captivated by book 2. I had put off reading this one for fear that I'd need to reread Legendborn first, but I started on a whim this winter, and I found myself immediately immersed in Bree's world. I had no trouble picking up the storyline despite it having been a while since I read Legendborn. I love seeing Bree grow into her power and determination, and the world that opens up to her is fascinating and complex. This book also prominently features Selwyn Kane, and I find his complicated character captivating in spite of myself, so perhaps that was part of why I loved this one so much!
Akwaeke Emezi's You Have Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) - I was captivated by this powerful story about the profound impact of grief and finding a way forward after devastating loss. I also appreciated the exploration of art as a way to express grief and other complicated emotions. I loved Feyi's character and the way that she resists easy answers and strives for a meaningful, fulfilling existence. For those doing the Unabridged Reading Challenge for 2023, this one is perfect for category about food—cooking is a central (and delicious!) part of this novel. Check out my full review of this phenomenal book.
Alice Oseman's Heartstopper (Bookshop.org) - I raved about this series earlier this year, and I had to include it here since I absolutely could not stop reading it! This is a young adult graphic novel series featuring Charlie and Nick, two teenagers who are figuring out who they are as individuals and how they fit together in their relationship. The latest news is that this will be a six-volume series; four of the volumes are already out. There are so many things I adore about this sweet series, but one aspect that really stood out to me is the compassionate, nuanced approach toward many important social issues. So good! I cannot wait for the fifth volume!
Jesse Q. Sutanto's Vera Wong's Unsolicited Advice for Murderers (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) - Oh, how I love Sutanto's books! I just finished this one last week. I didn't think I'd love anything more than Meddy and her aunties in the Aunties series (Dial A for Aunties and Four Aunties and a Wedding are the two books already in that series), but this book has risen to the top as my favorite of Sutanto's so far! I absolutely loved Vera Wong's character and the determined way she takes charge of events after a man breaks into her tea shop and promptly dies on the floor. This one, which has a murder mystery feel to it, has a full cast of quirky, shady, fascinating characters who all have secrets to hide. I feel a book review coming on - be on the lookout this Friday!
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