It’s hard to believe that 2021 is over! It’s been a whirlwind of a year, that’s for sure.
Throughout all of the chaos and confusion of the past twelve months, I, like many others, experienced all sorts of highs and lows… But through it all, reading was my primary source of comfort, joy, and safety. Getting lost in stories has always been a cathartic, relaxing sort of bliss for me, but with 2021 being the crazy year that it was, I depended on reading more than ever. And because of that, I discovered so many incredible books this year, all from various different authors and genres.
I always look forward to the transition from one year to the next, because it gives me the opportunity to reflect on my reading and share all of the amazing stories I discovered over the course of the year… So, without further ado, here are my favorite reads of 2021 (in no particular order)!
I picked up The Bridge Kingdom duology after finally giving into the insane amount of Instagram hype it’s gotten, and even though I went into it with the highest of expectations, I was still so shocked by how much I loved it! The world-building, for starters, is fanastic. The majority of the story is set in the tropical island kingdom of Ithicana, resulting in an absolutely stunning fantasy landscape, with lush beaches, perilous seas, and wild jungles. Getting swept away into this beautiful world was such an incredible form of escapism, especially when real life could be so loud and overwhelming. I also loved reading about the tense political dynamics between the world’s warring nations– No one does political intrigue like Danielle L. Jensen! Beyond world-building, the characters and romance in this story were excellently crafted as well. I couldn’t get enough!
This is probably the most painful, disturbing work of fiction I’ve ever read, but the topic is absolutely critical to read about. Vanessa Wye’s story goes back and forth in time, each chapter alternating between her youth, as she is sexually groomed and manipulated by her forty-five-year-old English teacher, and present day, as she grapples with the trauma his abuse has left her with. This book is a haunting yet powerful examination of the lasting impact sexual abuse can have on a person’s life, and it will leave you feeling devastated, angry, disgusted, and horrified all at once. Although it’s a very uncomfortable read, My Dark Vanessa deeply moved me– It’s a book I’ll never forget.
Last year, after a great deal of hesitation and apprehension, I took a leap of faith and started the Outlander series! I was incredibly nervous going into book one, as I had heard very mixed things about the series. Not only that, but each volume is close to 1000 pages long, so reading one is no small commitment. But thankfully, I ended up LOVING Outlander! Diana Gabaldon’s writing is infused with so much rich historical detail, and her characters are beautifully developed. A few months after finishing Outlander, I picked up its sequel, Dragonfly in Amber… Imagine my surprise when I ended up liking Dragonfly in Amber even MORE than Outlander! Traveling to the French Court alongside Claire and Jamie was so exciting– I think that the political intrigue of this new setting was what made it so difficult for me to put the book down! And, oh my gosh, don’t even get me STARTED on that ending! Biggest cliffhanger of the CENTURY. Give me book three NOW.
Easily one of the best fantasy novels I read all year, Defy the Night was a wild, action-packed adventure from start to finish. It’s a story of desperation, division, misplaced trust, and hidden agendas… All things that make for a juicy, unputdownable page-turner. I was, quite literally, unable to peel my eyes away from the pages of this book, as the plot was full of non-stop twists and turns that took me completely by surprise. Not only that, but the romance in this story was everything. It’s an enemies-to-lovers slow burn, and I was living for every moment of it. If you’re a fan of YA Fantasy novels with morally grey characters, betrayal, mystery, and political intrigue, this is DEFINITELY the book for you.
Last year I found myself in a dreadful reading slump, and although YA Rom-Com has never been my go-to genre, I figured picking up something outside of my comfort zone might help get me back into reading… So, that brought me to Tweet Cute. I went into it with no expectations at all, and ended up ABSOLUTELY LOVING IT! This book has everything you could possibly want in a YA Contemporary/Rom-Com novel– Lovable characters, wholesome romance, hilarious banter, and LOTS OF DRAMA. Need I say more?
Just thinking about this book still gives me chills, even though I finished it months ago. It’s easily one of the most unique stories I’ve ever encountered in all my years of reading– It’s practically impossible to categorize it under a single genre because it’s a blend of so many! House of Hollow combines horror, suspense, fantasy, and psychological thriller to create a truly spectacular masterpiece. As I read this book, I was turning the pages like crazy, finding myself unable to tear my eyes away from the story that was unfolding before me! Furthermore, the plot twists in House of Hollow are so unexpected, but incredibly well thought out. The characters, too, were extremely complex and well developed, making for an even more gripping storyline… In short, YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK.
I think the biggest surprise of 2021 was that I read my first Shakespeare play and LOVED it. Prior to reading Romeo and Juliet, I had a very stuck-up, prejudiced view of Shakespeare’s works (I know, I know, I’m cringing at my past self too). I thought that the archaic language and over-dramatic characters in his plays would make them a pain to understand, but fortunately, I was very much wrong. Even though Shakespearean language can be perplexing at times, one of my favorite things about reading Romeo and Juliet was decoding the complicated text, which I never would have expected! Shakespeare’s imagery and metaphors are simply beautiful– definitely some of the best poetry I’ve ever read. Also, I was pleasantly surprised by how complex and well-developed his character dynamics were, not just the relationship between Romeo and Juliet, but the familial bonds in the play as well! Long story short: I completely misjudged Shakespeare, and I can’t wait to read more of his work.
Sing Me Forgotten is a gender-bent, “Phantom of the Opera” retelling with a dark, moody atmopshere, compelling morally grey characters, and enchanting storytelling. It was completely and utterly addictive, as there was never once a dull moment. If you’re looking for an unputdownable book to read in one sitting, this is definitely it! The character building really sucks you into the story from the very first page– Isda, our anti-hero, is such a flawed, complicated character, and as I read the book, my heart ached for all of the pain she endured. I was simply awestruck by the strength and resilience Isda had, even after living a life of constant loneliness and self loathing. Her story’s ending was absolutely devastating, yet stunningly hopeful… Honestly, I don’t think a five star rating does this book enough justice!