I’m a notoriously picky reader, known to stop reading even after fifty pages, if I’m unsatisfied. Life’s too short, and, thankfully, there are many books worthy of love from page one till the end.
Devoted mother, Mara, has five days to decide whether she’ll spare her family the agony of caring for her during the worst stages of Huntington’s Disease. A devoted temporary guardian, Scott, faces returning the boy he loves to his neglectful, drug-addicted mother. Should blood relationships trump all? What constitutes a good parent? What would you do if you were Mara or Scott? Most importantly, how do you define strength of character?
Told in alternating passages before and after kidnapping victim Mia Dennett returns home, the story starts out tense and becomes more twisted with every chapter. I was thoroughly obsessed with the writer’s unique voice and the characters. But what got me good was the heart of it: the relationship between Mia and her kidnapper, Colin Thatcher, from Colin’s point of view. What happened in that cabin where he kept her? What circumstances preceded the kidnapping? What was really at stake? I didn’t want the story to end, even after the final, agonizing twist.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
In this literary memoir, twenty-six-year-old Cheryl Strayed decides to hike over a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, solo. Extreme measures for an extreme situation. Because after losing her mother four year prior to the hike, Strayed systematically dismantled her entire life. With unabashed honesty, Strayed reveals everything she’s done to get herself to a place where she has nothing left to lose. And by doing so, she finds the strength to reclaim her life.
Bodies of Water by T. Greenwood
A tragically beautiful love story about two women in the 1960s. Gritty and emotionally wrenching. How would you like to spend your life biding your time, kept from the person you love, except for a few stolen fear-riddled days? I read this book fast, obsessed with the story, and with a lump in my throat reminiscent of my experience while reading The Color Purple. And just like The Color Purple, the story inspires you to appreciate life.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Sixteen-year-old terminally-ill cancer patient Hazel Grace pulled me in from page one and didn’t let me go until the last perfect word. When Hazel meets Augustus Waters at a cancer support group, an unlikely relationship develops. Despite their physical challenges, it’s how normal they are that gets you in the heart. Their questions are universal. Am I special? Who will remember me when I’m gone? Do I matter? Augustus and Hazel seek meaning in their lives, and by doing so, teach us all about ourselves.
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Hannah Baker is a sixteen-year-old girl who has committed suicide and left behind tapes for those partially responsible, detailing the reasons why. The novel begins when the tapes–Hannah’s voice–land in the hands of Clay Jensen, and we follow Clay on his journey to discover how he may have played a role in Hannah’s life and death. Rather than blaming any one person or event, the novel serves as a cautionary tale to remind us that even the smallest gestures possess the power to either harm or to heal, and that it’s never too late to make the right choice.
Heartbroken by Lisa Unger
Heartbroken charts the course of three women, living diverse lives, and carrying ghosts from their pasts. Birdie is the seventy-five-year-old matriarch of a dysfunctional family. Kate, her housewife-turned novelist daughter. And Emily, a young woman estranged from her own mother, whose connection to their family ultimately brings Birdie and Kate together. From page one to the end, the novel gains thrilling momentum. But it’s the dual mother-daughter stories, and the uncanny way Unger makes even the most horrific decisions relatable that beats the novel’s heart.
Preemie by Kasey Mathews
In Kasey Mathews’ memoir of her daughter Andie’s premature birth, the author’s emotional growth rivals her daughter’s physical triumphs. With remarkable candor, Kasey recounts moving from horror, disbelief, and the inability to connect with her child to becoming Andie’s staunchest advocate. Her story serves as I’ve-been-there-too comfort for any parent who’s had to face the challenge of a sick child.
Outside The Lines by Amy Hatvany
The story centers on thirty-on-year-old Eden West, and explores the ways in which her relationship with her mentally ill father, David, missing for twenty years, has impacted her adult life. Eden’s search for her father becomes her journey of self-discovery, and brings up far-reaching questions about a family’s responsibility and limitations when faced with a mentally ill loved one.
Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult
On the surface, the novel is about Luke Warren, the larger-than-life wolf researcher and cable-TV celebrity, whose devotion to his wolf packs tore apart his human family. When a terrible car accident leaves Luke comatose, his estranged son, Edward, returns home. Edward and his sister, Cara, have vastly different opinions about what their father’s wishes would be, if he could tell them. In Picoult signature style, she delves into the question of the definition of life itself. Ultimately, the story becomes Edward’s coming of age, as the young man takes on a new and essential role in his human family.
Grace by T. Greenwood
The novel begins with the ending, a shocking trek for thirteen-year-old Trevor Kennedy with his father urging him forward, a gun to the boy’s back. What has happened to bring a family to the breaking point? Told from the points of view of Trevor, his father, Kurt, mother, Elsbeth, and Crystal, an acquaintance with her own wounds, the story unearths the tragedy of bullying and enlightens us on the ways we are all the same, wonderfully imperfect.