I am sad to announce that after almost four years, I will be leaving Cumberland Public Libraries for another library system. It’s been a privilege to get to know the kids, teens, and adults who borrow books and attend programs, and I will miss seeing everyone at the library! In this article I was going to feature books about saying good-bye, but after a quick catalogue search I learned that almost all the books on the topic were about death or just looked depressing. So instead I’m going to say farewell by recommending my favourite books of the year.
The best book I read this year is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. 16-year-old Starr Carter struggles to balance her home life in a poor neighbourhood with her school life in a suburban prep school. She reconnects with her friend Khalil at a neighbourhood party, and on their drive home a cop pulls them over for a minor infraction. Things quickly escalate and Khalil – who is unarmed – is shot dead. Starr is scared to come forward about what really happened that night, but as the media coverage increasingly paints Khalil as a thug and a drug dealer, she finds the courage to stand up and tell the truth. This is not just a timely novel about police brutality and race relations; it’s also a story about family, identity, and finding your voice. If you read only one young adult book from this year, make it this one!
I read two other fantastic teen novels this year. In The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon, science nerd Natasha is 12 hours away from being deported to Jamaica when she crosses paths with Daniel, a poet and dreamer who challenges her belief about the impossibility of love at first sight. Yoon is an extremely compelling writer and I read this in one sitting. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee is an 18th century historical novel about the rakish Henry “Monty” Montague who is embarking upon a Great Tour of Europe with his sister and his best friend/secret love interest Percy. This book full of adventure, romance, and humour, but it also delves into deeper issues of race, sexuality, and mental health. It was unlike anything else I’ve read and highly recommend it.
In 2017 I discovered Giant Days by John Allison, which has become one of my favourite graphic novel series. This comic, set in England, follows roommates Esther, Daisy, and Susan as they navigate their first year of university. It’s consistently laugh-out-loud funny and the characters are great! My other favourite graphic novel series is Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. This adult space opera series about star-crossed lovers and their fight for survival is not for the faint of heart (there’s sex and violence galore), but the storytelling is incredible. The seventh volume came out this year, and it was one of the most beautiful and devastating installments of the series yet.
I read some fabulous adult novels this year too. I highly recommend Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Socially-awkward Eleanor has not changed her routine of frozen pizza, vodka, and weekly chats with her awful mother for 9 years running. When Raymond is hired as the IT guy in the office where she has always worked, he threatens to disrupt that routine and draw Eleanor out of her isolated existence. Eleanor was so real that at times I expected her to walk into the room where I was reading! Honourable mentions for favourite adult books read this year include Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarity and Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien.
For these books and more, visit your local library, or check out our website, www.cumberlandpubliclibraries.ca. Goodbye and thanks for everything, Cumberland County!
Jenn Atkinson is the youth services librarian for the Cumberland Public Libraries.