My Favorite Reads of October & November 2021
October and November were intense months for me. I read almost nothing in October, and then devoured book after book throughout November. I’m combining my favorite reads of those months because I wasn’t in a place to recommend books at the end of October; after healing through November with a lot of time in my favorite reading nook, I feel more than ready to share some of the books that helped me through.
Not including The Luminous Dead or Sisters of the Vast Black, which some of you read with me, here are the books that caught me the most:
The Ones We’re Meant to Find
by Joan He
Cee has been trapped on an abandoned island for three years without any recollection of how she arrived, or memories from her life prior. All she knows is that somewhere out there, beyond the horizon, she has a sister named Kay, and it's up to Cee to cross the ocean and find her.
In a world apart, 16-year-old STEM prodigy Kasey Mizuhara lives in an eco-city built for people who protected the planet?and now need protecting from it. With natural disasters on the rise due to climate change, eco-cities provide clean air, water, and shelter. Their residents, in exchange, must spend at least a third of their time in stasis pods, conducting business virtually whenever possible to reduce their environmental footprint. While Kasey, an introvert and loner, doesn't mind the lifestyle, her sister Celia hated it. Popular and lovable, Celia much preferred the outside world. But no one could have predicted that Celia would take a boat out to sea, never to return.
Now it's been three months since Celia's disappearance, and Kasey has given up hope. Logic says that her sister must be dead. But nevertheless, she decides to retrace Celia's last steps. Where they'll lead her, she does not know. Her sister was full of secrets. But Kasey has a secret of her own.
This book blew me away. The Ones We’re Meant To Find is an absolutely gripping story of sisters who are worlds apart, seeking each other and finding so much more than they ever could have bargained for in the process. A tale of climate collapse that’s saturated with slow-simmering anger and seething tenderness, I recommended it to everyone I know the instant I finished the last page. Incisive, thoughtful, heartbreaking.
by Delilah S. Dawson
When Chelsea Martin kisses her husband hello at the door of their perfect home, a chilled bottle of beer in hand and dinner on the table, she may look like the ideal wife, mother, and homemaker -- but in fact she's following an unwritten rulebook, carefully navigating David's stormy moods in a desperate nightly bid to avoid catastrophe. If family time doesn't go exactly the way David wants, bad things happen -- to Chelsea, and to the couple's seventeen-year-old daughter, Ella. Cut off from all support, controlled and manipulated for years, Chelsea has no resources and no one to turn to. Her wealthy, narcissistic mother, Patricia, would rather focus on the dust on her chandelier than acknowledge Chelsea's bruises. After all, Patricia's life looks perfect on the surface, too.
But the façade crumbles when a mysterious condition overtakes the nation. Known as the Violence, it causes the infected to experience sudden, explosive bursts of animalistic rage and attack anyone in their path. The ensuing chaos brings opportunity for Chelsea -- and inspires a plan to liberate herself and her family once and for all.
The Violence comes out early in 2022, and it’s well worth your preorder. It’s the first book I’ve read that takes place in a post-COVID world; as a result, the plague that drives the narrative feels grounded and extra-haunting. The exploration of cycles of abuse is handled deftly and with an eye toward the complexities of complicity, perpetuation, and escape. Sharp, propulsive, satisfying.
House of Hollow
by Krystal Sutherland
Iris Hollow and her two older sisters are unquestionably strange. Ever since they disappeared on a suburban street in Scotland as children only to return a month later with no memory of what happened to them, odd, eerie occurrences seem to follow in their wake. And they're changing. First, their dark hair turned white. Then, their blue eyes slowly turned black. They have insatiable appetites yet never gain weight. People find them disturbingly intoxicating, unbearably beautiful, and inexplicably dangerous.
But now, ten years later, seventeen-year-old Iris Hollow is doing all she can to fit in and graduate high school on time--something her two famously glamourous globe-trotting older sisters, Grey and Vivi, never managed to do. But when Grey goes missing without a trace, leaving behind bizarre clues as to what might have happened, Iris and Vivi are left to trace her last few days. They aren't the only ones looking for her though. As they brush against the supernatural they realize that the story they've been told about their past is unraveling and the world that returned them seemingly unharmed ten years ago, might just be calling them home.
I picked up this book because of the cover, which is completely stunning. I absolutely couldn’t put it down once I started reading. House of Hollow is a brutal, mystifying book about beauty, violence, and Other Places. It asks questions about the nature of the self and what we will do to protect the ones we love. This book also leans heavily on the nature of sisterhood, when that sisterhood… is not entirely natural. It is simply stunning. Haunting, compelling, pitch-dark.
Like Other Girls
by Britta Lundin
After getting kicked off the basketball team for a fight that was absolutely totally not her fault (okay maybe a little her fault), Mara is dying to find a new sport to play to prove to her coach that she can be a team player. A lifelong football fan, Mara decides to hit the gridiron with her brother, Noah, and best friend, Quinn--and she turns out to be a natural. But joining the team sets off a chain of events in her small Oregon town -- and within her family -- that she never could have predicted.
Inspired by what they see as Mara's political statement, four other girls join the team. Now Mara's lumped in as one of the girls -- one of the girls who can't throw, can't kick, and doesn't know a fullback from a linebacker. Complicating matters is the fact that Valentina, Mara's crush, is one of the new players, as is Carly, Mara's nemesis -- the girl Mara fought with when she was kicked off the basketball team. What results is a coming-of-age story that is at once tear-jerking and funny, thought-provoking and real, as Mara's preconceived notions about gender, sports, sexuality, and friendship are turned upside down.
Like Other Girls accomplishes so much in such a short space. It is a lovely story of queerness in a small town; it is a heartbreaking story of the conflict between identity and expectations; it is a loving, profound story of separating internalized misogyny from the desire to be oneself. Alongside that, this book brings the Friday Night Lights impossible magic of making me, a dyed-in-the-wool Indoor Kid, enthusiastic about football. I absolutely loved this book and I know you will, too. Bold, sweet, earnest.
I generally try to stick to three favorite books. This month, because I combined October and November, I let myself stretch it to four. But even that feels too limiting, since I read so many amazing things. You should also check out these ones:
- The Farm by Joanne Ramos - a devastating deep dive into the exploitation of fertility, class, and race, as told through the story of a luxury surrogate farm.
- How High We Go In the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu - a stunning multigenerational tale of global pandemic, cosmic possibility, and interconnected lives. I listened to the audiobook, which has a large cast and is simply beautiful.
If you haven’t checked these books out yet, I highly recommend that you do! Order a few copies for your friends and family. Maybe even for your enemies, just to sow confusion. Remember to get your books ordered early this holiday season!
In the meantime, care for yourself and the people around you. Believe that the world can be better than it is now. Never give up.