This year it was hard to narrow it down to just 10 books as there were so many books I really loved this year. So to narrow it down, I had to ask myself which ones was I still thinking about even after I started reading the next book? Those are ones I choose for the list. (These are really in no particular order
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray – This book I really wish I read when I was a teenager as so many of the messages I could have really used. You would almost think that a book about teenage beauty queens stuck on a desert island would be caricatures but they weren’t. They were very like girls I know or were me. I could pretty much identify with all of their struggles. Plus it was a lot of fun.
Winter by MarissaMeyer -I am really going to miss this series so much. Cinder, Scarlet, Cress and Winter made me laugh, cheer, angry ( on their behalf) and proud of all of them. Winter was by far the longest book of the series and it was non-stop action. There wasn’t any filler or time to relax. It was the perfect ending.
CarryOn by Rainbow Rowell – A little bit Harry Potter and a little bit of fanfiction. It was a great final book to an imaginary series. I was surprised by many of the twists and turns and touched by the romance.
Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray – I loved the first book in the series and so I was nervous this one wasn’t going to be as good. It was better. Now my only complaint is that she doesn’t write fast enough.
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard – It was fun, tense and very interesting. I thought I knew where things were going and then I didn’t. I’m looking forward to what lays in store in the next book.
Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow – This wasn’t anything like I thought it would be. It was surprising. It was fresh. It had the sassiest A.I. in the history of A.I.’s. For that reason alone, you all should read it.
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir – It was sorta historical fiction with a dystopian vibe and boy did it work. It was brutal and it was tense but entertaining.
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – This was very much an Ocean 11’s style caper with a little bit of a magic and darkness in only the way that Leigh Bardugo could do it. It’s set in the same world but after the events of her last series but a completely different vibe.
The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson – This is the third book in the series so the stakes are so much higher and it didn’t disappoint. It’s full of humor, action and ghosts. What else can I say.
The Rose Society by Marie Lu – This is the second book in the series that tells the story from the villainess point of view (though I’m not convinced that Adelina is the real villain but whatever) It was intense and was surprising, maybe a little problematic but worth the read.
There was two books that I enjoyed so much that I read the other books in the that were out in the series this year too. So I thought they would get their own category.
Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas – For those looking for a Game of Thrones fill in until George publishes the next book, I recommend this. It was has all the twists and turns and is not afraid to kill of a character or two. I’m never really sure where it’s going to take us next but I know it will be well worth the ride.
Talon series by Julie Kagawa – It has a little bit of everything. A Romeo and Juliet Love, a love triangle, a betrayal and yeah dragons. Who doesn’t love dragons? Ok, the idea isn’t that original but I do love it anyway.
I’ve found myself thinking about Libbi Bray’s Beauty Queens a lot in the past few days. (That link is to Beth’s awesome review of the book.) As Beth mentions in the review, Bray does a good job of capturing certain expectations about women. (spoilers ahead). In the book, there is a subplot about the Corporation, a mega-company bent on continuing to push into illegal markets and trades, and the beauty queens throw a wrench in the works by crash landing in the middle of the operation. From the moment of the crash landing, the queens are completely underestimated. As Beth said, “They are just girls so they are not that important. They won’t survive long. Right?” This part of the book captures how old ideas about gender still cling on even though advancements have been made. But, Bray did a good portraying another dynamic as well and this is what I want to talk about today. Changing norms have made some space at the top of many fields for women to succeed, but it hasn’t really leveled the playing field. Some women have an advantage over other women because of other ways our societies are unfair. This plays out in the book through the interactions of two non-white characters Nicole, an African American woman, and Shanti, an Indian immigrant. In the book, they know that there is only room in the top ten for one non-white contestant and that makes them leery of each other. They also know that their faults will be scrutinized more than their white counterparts, a subplot seen through the eyes of Nicole as she remembers the last time an African American contestant had a sex scandal and it ruined her chances of success (even though the consequences for white contestants wouldn’t be as severe).
This has been on my mind because some of those dynamics have been in the news recently. If you are at all interested in pop culture, you may have heard that the 2015 MTV VMA award nominations are out and that Nicki Minaj is not happy with them. After the release of the nominations she took to twitter and stated that she felt that her videos for Anaconda and Feeling Myself were slighted because of the type of artist she is and that other artists doing what she does in her videos are rewarded. She also stated that because she wasn’t celebrating particular types of bodies, she wasn’t getting as much love from the awards committee. I don’t watch a lot of music videos, any really, and I don’t think I’ve seen any of the videos nominated (although, I have seen Anaconda). Then, Taylor Swift took Minaj’s comments personally. I would like to suggest that part of the reason why Swift might take Minaj’s comments personally is that she knows that there is a limited amount of space for women at the top of her field and she works hard and is unwilling to give up that space. Minaj’s twitter criticisms are valid: as a society we do value certain bodies higher than other bodies and this is not only seen in how we reward people but also in how treat people in general.
Beauty Queen was an interesting book because it brought intersectionalism, the idea that people may be operating in a space under more than one type of oppression, into the conversation meant for teen audiences about how women are treated. And, while I found the book to be funny and moving, this broadening of the conversation of what feminism is and who it best serves might be the most important part of the book.
Beth and I are in the same book club. The reader on this audio book is knocking it out of the park. Each girl has her own voice and it is wonderful! I checked this out from my public library. Shout out to the Buffalo and Erie County Public Libraries!