I haven’t done Top 5 anything in a while, but I thought I could give this week’s Top 5 Wednesday a shot! The topic is Top 5 Books You Are Thankful For. It ended up being…a little demoralizing. Let me explain. When I first saw the topic, my mind immediately jumped to books with f/f pairings, just because this has been on my mind lately. In particular, YA books with f/f pairings. But as I went through my list of books read this year, I realized that none of the books I’ve read this year feature any prominent f/f pairings. There is a thread on Twitter that recently talked about how few f/f books there are in YA and in fantasy, particularly compared to m/m, and f/f books tends to be sidelined as “special interest” or something. All of which is to say: please, please, recommend f/f books to me! Preferably fantasy, but I will take contemporary as well! Give me recs guys!!!
Anyway, I didn’t mean to turn this into an essay on the state of the YA market. Despite the aforementioned blow, I did manage to find five books I am thankful for, and for various reasons! In no particular order:
A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab: Aside from being a spectacularly written book with incredible tension and a romance that makes me giggle (a rare thing), A Gathering of Shadows also features Lila Bard, an absolute tour de force of a character. So often women with magic are reluctant to use their powers or stumble into them. Not so with Lila. Lila actively seeks out her power. She is not frightened by her abilities; she is impressed by them. She wants to be the most powerful of them all, so she trains as hard as she can, even when others tell her not to. She takes ridiculous risks and she’s full of herself and she’s not frightened of anything. She is an absolutely incredible woman, an incredibly written female character, and I am so thankful she exists.
Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali: This was one of my favorite books of the year. Ali writes about Muslim community with such grace, such love, such complexity! In Ali’s book, Muslims were real and human, lovable and flawed, loving and cruel. Ali wrote about a niqabi who also happens to be an outspoken badass – talk about flipping the stereotype of oppressed Muslim women right on its head! The narrator is witty and engaging, and the writing is high-quality. I am thankful this book exists because it is such a great example of diversity in literature done right.
The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: Probably one of the stranger books I’ve read this year, but also one of my favorites! It’s a novel of manners a la Jane Austen with a touch of magic (telekinesis, to be specific). At its heart, it’s a romance. However, what drew me to it was the elegant writing, the prettily crafted world, and the compelling main characters. The moment I finished this book I was inspired to write a novel of manners of my own (Egyptian inspired, in my case). So, I am thankful this book exists, because without it, I wouldn’t have my current WIP, which is one of my favorite projects that I’m working on.
Monstress by Marjorie Liu: This one’s a little different, since it’s a graphic novel. I don’t normally read those, but I was drawn to Monstress. Let me quote the Goodreads summary at you so you understand why: “Set in an alternate matriarchal 1900’s Asia, in a richly imagined world of art deco-inflected steam punk, MONSTRESS tells the story of a teenage girl who is struggling to survive the trauma of war, and who shares a mysterious psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, a connection that will transform them both and make them the target of both human and otherworldly powers.” I mean. Need I even say more? This book is absolutely wild, so freaking original, with that overwhelming epicness that so many fantasy books strive for but don’t achieve. I am thankful that something this original exists.
Sister of my Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni: Not only am I partial to f/f relationships, I am super fond of friendships between women. Sister of my Heart features one of the most beautiful, intimate, and enduring friendships between two women that I’ve ever seen. Two girls, Anju and Sudha, from different worlds, grow up together, close as sisters, and their love for each other goes beyond anything. There were so many beautiful scenes in this book, but the one that I remember most clearly is Anju watching Sudha look at the moon. Sudha is topless, but her hair is covering her chest, and Anju is thinking she is beautiful. There were of course flaws in this book, and I’m sure if I went back and looked with a more critical eye I would find them. But I don’t want to. As much as I want to go back and reread this book I’m afraid reading it now, with my more critical eye, might ruin it for me. So I am simply thankful this book has given me such a beautiful and powerful female friendship to think about.