Being confined to our childhood bedrooms during the coronavirus pandemic brought a lot of us back to hobbies we enjoyed when we were younger. After re-reading the slew of series I loved in my childhood an inordinate amount of times — I’m looking at you “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” and “The Hunger Games” — I realized I needed to broaden my horizons. With the help of #BookTok — a TikTok hashtag where avid readers review and share their favorite reads with the masses — I’ve found some new books for all of us who have rekindled our love of reading.
“We Were Liars” by E. Lockhart
Deceit, drama and suspense. “We Were Liars” has it all. Lockhart weaves together an enthralling tale about the deceptively perfect and wealthy Sinclair family in this novel. Centered on a group of friends, called “the Liars,” Lockhart leaves just enough of the story out of reach to keep you guessing. “We Were Liars” is full of twists and turns sure to keep you entertained until the very last page.
“The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller
Ever read the “Percy Jackson” series in middle school and thought you were the authority on Greek mythology? Then this one’s for you. Think of “Song of Achilles” as the series’ older cousin. Madeline Miller artfully retells the story of the Trojan War with a focus on the relationship between Achilles and his confidant Patroclus. The story is told through the eyes of Patroclus rather than Achilles and provides a riveting recount of the Trojan War from a perspective not many are familiar with. Oh, and fair warning, have your box of tissues ready — this one’s a tearjerker.
“Shadow and Bone” by Leigh Bardugo
For a fantastical escape from the drab day-to-day life of assignments, deadlines and obligations, pick up Leigh Bardugo’s “Shadow and Bone.” Narrated by a teenage orphan named Alina Starkov who grew up in the fictional land of Ravka, the novel is a fun escape from reality. Her relationships with characters such as the Darkling and her struggles to fit in ground the story and allow it to remain a relatable narrative in spite of its fantastical nature. Prepare for your school work to be pushed to the back burner as you binge the book series and its Netflix adaptation.
“It Ends With Us” by Colleen Hoover
If you’re looking for something that will break your heart into pieces and then put it back together, Colleen Hoover has just the right book for you. The novel chronicles Lily Bloom’s relationship with the seemingly perfect Ryle Kincaid. Everything is smooth sailing until her first love, Atlas Corrigan, comes back into the picture. A thoughtful reflection on the cyclical nature of abuse and its horrors, “It Ends with Us” is a compelling read from start to finish.
“They Both Die at the End” by Adam Silvera
OK, try not to be scared off by the title because this book is worth every tear you might shed while reading it. The wonderfully heart-wrenching, “They Both Die at the End,” paints the picture of a society where people are given a notification when they reach the last 24 hours (or less) of their life. Our protagonists, Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio, meet through an app called “Last Friend” which allows people to make new friends on their “End Day.” Mateo and Rufus make the best of their “End Day” together, doing everything they were too scared to do during the rest of their lives and finally living freely. Make sure to have a happier novel queued up after you finish this one, trust me.
“All the Bright Places” by Jennifer Niven
In the small town of Bartlett, Ind., two teenagers, Theodore Finch and Violet Markey, seek more than what the town has to offer. Paired together for a school project, the two travel the state of Indiana together and fall in love. Niven artfully switches between the perspectives of both teens, allowing us a glimpse into their thoughts and emotions in a way that allows you to truly resonate with the characters. The dynamic between these perfect narrative foils will captivate you from beginning to end.
“Monday’s Not Coming” by Tiffany D. Jackson
Tiffany D. Jackson’s “Monday’s Not Coming” uses an unconventional and disorienting narrative structure to examine racial issues, mental illness and bias in the media. The disappearance of Black girls across the United States was the catalyst for the book as our protagonist, Claudia Coleman, searches for her best friend Monday Charles who has been missing for a year. The twist in the novel is a shock and throws readers for a loop. One of the more socially relevant novels on this list, “Monday’s Not Coming” is a vital read for anyone who wants to be more aware of the neglect of Black women by modern society.
“One of Us Is Lying” by Karen M. McManus
Another suspenseful read, Karen M. McManus’ debut novel employs the use of multiple points of view to great effect. Bayview High was the site of the murder of Simon, a student who ran a gossip page about his peers. As we flip through the perspectives of the four suspects of Simon’s murder, we get closer to the truth and learn just how much everybody has to lose. This book will keep you on your toes, so clear your calendar and get ready to read all 368 pages in one sitting.
“The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak
You might recognize this one. Zusak’s novel is set in the year 1931 while the Nazis still occupied Germany. The protagonist, Liesel Meminger, has an insatiable love of books — one so great she is willing to risk life-and-limb to learn to read. The narration of the novel by Death is a haunting and effective literary tool that emphasizes to readers the horrors of the Holocaust. “The Book Thief” is the perfect way to close out this list — and the perfect narrative to demonstrate just how important literature is.