Well everyone we liked as kids is dead, Europe thinks we're the worst and an evil butternut squash is president. But despite it being the most depressing year ever, I discovered some absolutely amazing books! I also read some actual shite. Where I have done a full review of a book mentioned, it will be linked in the title.
Let's start with the things I loved this year.
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet* and A Closed and Common Orbit* by Becky Chambers
Long Way was the very first book I read this year and it still gives me butterflies when I think of it. The world that Becky Chambers created and the way she folded you in the arms of her lovely cast of characters and made you feel a part of the team made this book truly special and it's sequel is no different. Her book are all about humanity and confronting difference in a positive way and facing your fears with the people you love by your side. The sci-fi novel incarnation of a group hug and a set of BFF necklaces. There's going to be a third and I'm actually incapable of being more excited about it.
Cut by Hibo Wadere
A very different topic. Cut explores the devastating truth of FGM and Hibo's experiences as a victim, both in her native Africa and here in the west, where she thought she had escaped the culture. Hibo's testimony is vivid and terrifying and was a real wake up call for me in terms of clarifying my own thoughts about feminism, and what it is we are actually trying to achieve. Women's rights are often dismissed as women getting offended when they're offered help with manual work, but Cut shows the reader just what the stakes really are and how much suffering goes on directly due to gender inequality. FGM is happening and little girls are being viciously mutilated right under our noses and we are ignoring it. This book needs to be read by everyone.
The Girls*by Emma Cline
This novel is the one I wish I'd written. A compelling, claustrophobic novel about coming of age and how easy it is to be drawn into things you don't understand when you're looking for somewhere to belong. Screw you Emma Cline, with your effortless, dreamy writing style and your poignant thoughts expressed so intelligently and your compulsive interesting plot and your ability to express the goddamn truth about what it is to be a teenage girl all in your debut novel. Like how dare you. Who gave you the right??
Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb.
My first foray into Hobb's world. If you've tried the Assassin's books as an 'in' with Hobb but found yourself stalling, I'd definitely recommend trying these instead. They were recommended to me by a seasoned Robin Hobb reader as an alternative starting point from the Fitz and the Fool series and I got along with this so much better. All of the characters were completely infuriating in a thoroughly understandable and human way. The human drama would have been enough to sustain my interest but the incredible and original fantasy elements woven throughout cemented this as a favourite. Despite being a bajillion pages long and taking nearly a month to read (plus reading a few things in between,) there was never a point in Hobb's plot where I wasn't interested and invested in the story. It's chunky but it's worth the effort, and the other two books in the series are some of the first things I'm reading come the New Year.
My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix.
Some of my friends at work absolutely love this book, and I put it off for a while because it was labelled as a horror novel, but eventually I decided to give it a try and I'm so glad I did. This is a horror book... in that it has some scary, creepy moments in it and is kind of about demon possession, but it's also way more about friendship, and girls growing up together and about what it means to really really love someone, and how far you'll go to help that person. This book is an utter delight, rich and fun and so incredibly satisfying.
Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Before this year my graphic novel collection had been 70% Batman and pals, with the other 30% being essentially 'other superheroes n' shit'. Over 2016 I've really branched out and found some amazing graphic novels that have captured my heart. The one I've probably enjoyed the most is Saga. A wacky, oddball space adventure following two star crossed lovers from opposing sides of a war. The story and world are so creative and interesting, the characters, despite being some of the weirdest creatures imaginable are so human and real, and every issue ends with you wanting to keep reading to find out where the hell things are going next.
Positivity over with, let's get on to what sucked ass:
All That Man Is * by David Szalay
Apparently all that man is, is a boring horny narcissist with zero depth or human interest. Szalay can write with the best of them but the pretty words are wasted on a jumble of dull pointless snippets about people who want nothing but to bang the nearest thing to them.
Harry Potter and The Cursed Child by Jack Thorne, John Tiffany and JK.
I understand that this probably worked well as a play, but it feels like the printing of the screenplay was a bit of a cash grab and it led to a lot of people being very dissapointed. The result was a shrug worthy plot, a big fuck-you to previously established rules within the universe, some really oddly thought out characters (Christ Rose how did Hermione and Ron raise you to be such a shitbag?) and the possibility for the first openly queer couple in the Potter canon being thrown away like an old chocolate frog wrapper. Uncool J.K.
The Wicked + The Divine by some people my bookshelves are far away and I'm not walking over to see.
So the art in this is absolutely gorgeous. The premise is incredibly promising. The storyline is erratic and makes literally zero narrative sense and whoever did the dialogue between the characters appears to have been copying from a transcript in which there was a printing error and half the lines got lost. The sequence of events that we follow feel like they get picked out of a hat, which is a shame because the premise is so cool and the art is fucking amazing. I'm sure the storyline is building up to a big conclusion where all the gaps will be filled in and everything will fall into place but graphic novels take a long time to come out between volumes and there's no way I can stay interested in something that seems so badly thought out for that long. I finished volume three and what was supposed to be a big plot twist felt completely bizarre and gimmicky and I really don't want to put myself through volume four.
The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkowski
This years foray into the Young Adult genre. Still can't get on with it. Thought the characters were flat and unconvincing, the writing was perfectly nice but lacked any real personality, the romance made me do an Office style fourth wall stare several times and STOP USING RESCUE FROM AN ATTEMPTED RAPE AS A WAY FOR THE ROMANTIC LEAD TO BE THE HERO WE'RE SO MUCH BETTER THAN THAT. Also this book completely undermines the idea of the slave narrative and how harrowing life as a slave is and given that I was reading 'The Underground Railroad' at the same time I just really couldn't be doing with it. I attempted to start the second book but got fifteen pages in before realising I didn't give a fuck. Next year is Patrick Ness! Hopefully he'll do better.
What did you love and hate this year?
All books provided by publishers are marked with a *. All opinions are my own :)