Where the Crawdads Sing – Coming to theaters in July 2022, the movie adaptation of Where the Crawdads Sing is directed by Olivia Newman and starring Daisy Edger-Jones. The novel, written by Delia Owens, is a coming of age thriller set in the fishing village of Barkley Cove. A young girl named, Kya, lives alone in the nearby marsh until one day a local boy is found dead. Locals suspect the “Marsh Girl ” is guilty, but soon she becomes dangerously entangled in the world she’s always lived apart from.
The Summer I Turned Pretty – Young Adult writer Jenny Han’s novel comes to life as a new Amazon Prime series premiering in June 2022. Both the book and adapted television series is a perfect summer binge for romance fans. The first book of a trilogy, The Summer I turned Pretty is about the complicated love triangle between Isabel Conklin and her two long time family friends. If you enjoyed the Netflix adaptation of Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy this is sure to be a can’t miss!
The Time Traveler’s Wife – Written by Audrey Niffenegger and previously adapted into a movie in 2009 starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams, the story follows Henry DeTamble and Clare Anne Abshire as they navigate the complexities of love amidst Henry’s rare genetic disorder that causes him to spontaneously and involuntarily time travel. The book, originally published in 2003 is now being adapted to a HBO series released in May 2022. The series stars Theo James and Rose Leslie as the leads and is sure to tug at the heart.
Pachinko – Released as a series on Apple TV+ in March 2022, Pachinko was originally written by Min Jin Lee and published in 2017. The novel follows the lives and experiences of a Korean family who immigrated to Japan. The adaptation is directed by Kogonada and Justin Chon and stars Youn Yuh-jung, Lee Min-ho, Jin Ha, Anna Sawai, Minha Kim, Soji Arai, and Kaho Minami.
Heartstopper – Directed by Euros Lyn and starring Kit Conner and Joe Locke, this Netflix series dropped season one in April 2022. Based on the novel by Alice Oseman with the same name, the story follows two young boys, Charlie and Nick, as they navigate the complexities of young love and the deepening of their friendship into something more.
I know what you’re thinking, why not wait until all the books are out? Well, my counter is: where’s the fun in that? Don’t you want that feeling of anticipation when the day of your favorite series’ next book finally comes? You head to the bookstore and see it front and center in a towering display of joy and satisfaction. You purchase it because one of the thrills of being a bookworm is, in fact, purchasing more books than you have room for. Then you go home and spend the next couple of hours reading the book you’ve been waiting for all your life. Here are four unfinished series with sequels coming soon that have the potential to become that book.
American Royals—Katharine McGee.I did not expect to love this as much as I did and now it’s one of my favorite books. I finished the first one in a couple of hours and headed straight back to buy the second. I thought this was a duology and almost cried when I found out there was going to be a third one. I need more of this story! The third book, Rivals, is expected May 31st. A short wait for such a high reward. (Preorder here.)
The Inheritance Games—Jennifer Lynn Barnes. Puzzles. Romance. Danger. I bought this on a whim without seeing if it was a completed series or not. It wasn’t, unfortunately, and now I find myself in the position of having to wait until August 30th to find out what happens next in The Final Gambit. So many twists and turns. So many questions left unanswered. (Preorder here.)
Once Upon a Broken Heart—Stephanie Garber. I thought this was a standalone spinoff to the completed series Caraval. It turns out it just continues the story of Jacks, the Prince of Hearts, and a new character Evangeline Fox. It’s full of fantasy and romance. You will want to read all of the books by Stephanie Garber. The expected publication is September 13th so there’s plenty of time to read Caraval and Once Upon a Broken Heart. (Preorder here.)
Gilded—Marissa Meyer. Perhaps the longest wait on the list, but it’s Marissa Meyer. I would wait an eternity for one of her novellas. Cursed is expected November 8th and I will be waiting outside the bookstore for this one. Gilded is a haunting retelling of Rumplestiltskin. Follow Serilda and her magical stories as she discovers an ancient curse.
It is not often that I find myself thinking “I’d like to see that on the screen!” Most of the books I have read fit into three categories: so good that the film would mess it up; so important that transforming into film would be unethical; or so terrible that no money, time, or effort should be wasted on this story. Occasionally, however, a story takes on a unique, colorful, and euphoric sort of life in my mind and I quickly fall into the belief that creating this visual experience in film would be a thing of cathartic beauty which would leave viewers breathless—and in this breathlessness, they would examine their own lives and improve upon them. That might be a bit idealistic, so, at the very least, I am talking about my own self-improvement. The following six books are the handful that I would watch as a television series in a heartbeat.
Cemetery Boys—Aiden Thomas. Cemetery Boys follows Yadriel, a young transgender boy born into a Latinx family of the brujx community in East Los Angeles. Brujx is the all-encompassing word for a community of brujos and brujas, which is a Spanish word generally translated as a sorcerer. When young brujos and brujas in the community come of age, they perform a ritual to gain their powers, which differentiate based upon gender. Yadriel, who was assigned the biological sex of female at birth, wants to prove that he is actually a young man by performing this ritual. After this, Yadriel goes to find the ghost that murdered his cousin, but in the process, he accidentally summons the spirit of Julian Diaz, one of his classmates. As the novel unfolds, the characters work to solve a mystery, an adorable love story takes place, and we grapple with the question of what a family truly is.
This entire book is set to the backdrop of magic and colorful imagery, which I imagine people in the film industry would trip over to create. There are far too many neutral tones and darkness in television, but this book would take something that could be darkly lit and place pops of color and life everywhere. Besides that fact that it would be visually appealing, this book has LGBTQ+ representation written literally everywhere. It isn’t the kind of story that awkwardly sticks a gay best friend in the corner as an afterthought. The author of Cemetery Boys and all of the main characters are a part of the LGBTQ+ community, so the audience is made aware of real issues that far too many of them face, including homelessness and rejection by their family. What I especially love about this book, however, isn’t simply that the author raises these issues, but that they show a possible world where they find people who love them and those who were previously opposed grow to become accepting. This is the kind of sweet magic we should be putting on our screens.
Girls Save the World in This One—Ash Parsons. June has been obsessed with zombie films her whole life, especially a zombie apocalypse show called Human Wasteland and its dreamy lead character. When she and her two best friends head to ZombieCon to meet him and other prominent actors from zombie-themed films, she is ecstatic. When they arrive, however, some of the fans are acting a bit off. Before they know it, chaos breaks out and June discovers that it’s because real zombies are taking over ZombieCon. June must do everything she can to save her and her friends from the zombies, relying on the skills she has learned as such an avid fan. Along the way, she meets the star of Human Wasteland, and she learns what it means to be a leader in an unlikely situation.
This is exactly the kind of hilarious, light nonsense I would love to see as a limited series. None of that Marvel-women-coming-together-in-one-scene-as-a-forced-show-of-feminism nonsense. The prospect of this show is giving off the vibes of Netflix’s new show “The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window”. It’s the perfect satire of those popular zombie shows, while also being powerful, sweet, and relatable (at least in the sense that an avid fan has wished for something like this to actually happen).
Macbeth—William Shakespeare. This play follows the titular character Macbeth on his quest to amass more power and take over as Scotland’s ruler. Persuaded by his wife, Lady Macbeth—and his own ambition—he sets out to obtain this position by any means necessary. Interwoven into the story are themes of love, murder, prophecy, and paranoia, as well as questions about proper gender dynamics, what it takes to be a good leader, why we seek power, and how we should seek power.
Like many other Shakespeare plays, Macbeth has made it to the big screen many times, the most recent being at the end of 2021 with Denzel Washington playing Macbeth. Call me critical or filled with hubris, but I believe that we should give Macbeth more than a two hour movie. At the very least, it deserves to be a limited series so that we can properly explore the intricacies of this play. There is so much to unpack, and I haven’t seen a single rendition that fully encompasses this story. They’re either lacking the philosophical questions Shakespeare poses about how power corrupts and how a good ruler is made, or they play too far into modern notions of entertainment: blood, drama, sex, and violence (which is ironic because that is exactly what Macbeth covers in the play). Macbeth shouldn’t simply serve as entertainment. It should shock people so deeply that they begin to understand how malleable human nature is and undertake a strengthening of their own character.
Ash Princess—Laura Sebastian. Ash Princess, which is now a finished trilogy, follows Theodosia, a young woman whose country was taken over when she was a child. She is forced to live among her captors, enduring abuse and ridicule. That is, until a series of events forces her to choose between continuing this life and fighting to regain her and her country’s freedom. This story raises themes of imperialism, colonization, and slavery. In typical Young Adult Fantasy fashion, these characters have powers, Theodosia herself having her own unique force.
I thought the book series was excellent, but I did think there could have been more detailed storylines. In my vision of a television series adaptation, this story would not stay so much in the Young Adult genre. It would expand on the effects of colonization, and Theodosia would be less whiny. The books spend far too much time on her love triangle, and they don’t adequately show the strength that someone in her position and making those choices would require. In at least five seasons, I can see this story being the next Game of Thrones.
Second First Impressions—Sally Thorne. Ruthie Midona likes to play it safe. She has a stable job, and her appearance is an absolute paradox—she is a young woman, but she dresses as if she were an elderly lady. Moreover, she works at a retirement villa called Providence. When Teddy Prescott enters her life, he is everything she is not: a motorcycle-riding, tattooed young man who has trouble committing to much of anything. He is everything she wants, though. When Teddy’s father, the owner of Providence, has him live on site with Ruthie and the other residents, Ruthie tries her best to avoid falling in love with him. He’ll be gone soon enough anyway. However, Teddy’s charm and persistence makes her efforts impossible. Every single character, not just Ruthie and Teddy, has a unique and quirky personality that everyone is sure to enjoy.
When I imagine the setting of this novel, it brings me great peace. In my mind, the cottages of Providence are sporadically placed amid a giant garden-like plot of land. A staple of the novel is also the tiny, endangered turtles that wander around the grounds. This beautiful setting, as well as the eccentric characters that fill the novel, would create a fabulous limited series of absolute hilarity and romance.
We Were Liars—E. Lockhart. This book follows Cadence, a member of the wealthy Sinclair family who spends their summer vacations on a private island with large estates, one for each little family. When Cadence is fifteen, she suffers a head injury, but doesn’t quite know how this happened to her. Over the next few years, she receives little communication from her two cousins and friend, who she normally spends the summers with. When she finally returns to the island, everyone seems a bit off, and she is pushed to uncover what actually happened to her when she was fifteen. This novel is filled with mystery and frustration over unnecessary wealth and class differences. In a shocking twist at the end (one that had me screaming in my car because I was listening to the audiobook), we are forced to think about how our actions can have severe consequences, even when they begin from someplace righteous.
This would make an excellent limited series. It’s energetic, exciting, and traumatizing. The setting of a private island during summer would give us so many beautiful scenes. Most of all, I want to see this on the screen because it calls attention to wealth and class disparities, how money can corrupt our personalities, and how it can misguide even the best of our intentions. This is the kind of story humanity needs in order to see the true effect of our actions and become more conscious of our choices.
A new year brings with it another crop of incredible books for readers to enjoy—and while it’s impossible to know which books will captivate the world in 2022, these 10 books appear to be full of potential. Mark your calendars, because these amazing stories will be hitting bookstore shelves this year, and you won’t want to miss them.
Book of Night—Holly Black. From the beloved author Holly Black comes the story of Charlie, a con artist working as a bartender. In her world, shadows can be manipulated, changing a person’s memories, feelings, powers, and more—but these changes come with a serious price. When a figure from her past arrives at Charlie’s door, she must re-enter the terrible world of shadow trading, facing off against thieves and nobles, all hell-bent on controlling the power of the shadow. In this world of shadows and deceit, is there truly anyone Charlie can trust?
Release Date: May 23,2022
Daughter of the Moon Goddess—Sue Lynn Tan. Inspired by the legend of the Chinese moon goddess, this story follows Xingyin, a young girl who lives on the moon to hide from the celestial Emperor who exiled her mother until she is discovered and forced to flee. She makes her way to the Celestial Kingdom where she, in disguise, begins to train with the Emperor’s son. However, even as passion blooms between the two, forbidden magic threatens the kingdom and Xingyin will soon have to choose between saving the realm or saving those she loves the most.
Release Date: January 11, 2022
Book Lovers—Emily Henry. Nora Stephens is a cutthroat literary agent who is seeking a literary adventure of her own in Sunshine Falls, North Carolina. Despite her best efforts, though, she keeps running into Charlie Lastra, a brooding editor from the city and Nora’s personal rival. However, as their encounters become more and more frequent, Nora begins to discover that there is more to Charlie than what she first suspected.
Release Date: May 3, 2022
Dead Girls Can’t Tell Secrets—Chelsea Ichaso. Was Piper’s fall an accident? Piper Sullivan has been in a coma for a month after what everyone assumed was a freak hiking accident—but when her sister Savannah finds an invitation to a wilderness club at the very place and time her sister fell, she begins to suspect foul play. Savannah joins the club for the weekend camping trip at the same mountain, but the truth will not be found so easily. Everyone has secrets, including Savanah.
Release Date: April 5, 2022
The League of Gentlewomen Witches—India Holton. Charlotte Pettifer is the future leader of the League of Gentlewomen Witches, a group of witches dedicated to using magic to maintain what is proper. When the long-lost amulet of Black Beryl is discovered, Charlotte must team up with Alex O’Riley, a pirate who also desires to steal the amulet. But Charlotte must be careful or her pirate might run off with her heart.
Release Date: March 15, 2022
Dead Silence—S.A.Barnes. A salvage crew receives a distress call on their way back to earth and are shocked to discover that it’s The Aurora, a luxury spaceliner that vanished twenty years ago. The crew is elated as this salvage could set them up for life, but as they investigate further they realize something is very wrong. From messages in blood to haunting voices from the darkness, it’s clear that something horrible happened to the Aurora, and if they don’t figure out what happened soon, they might be next.
Release Date: February 8, 2022
Taking Down Backpage: Fighting the World’s Largest Sex Trafficker—Maggy Krell. Backpage was the largest sex trafficking operation in the world, advertising the sale of sex with vulnerable people in 800 cities and making millions of dollars. In Taking Down Backpage, Maggy Krell, a California prosecutor, details how she and her team managed to take down the trafficking monolith. From the victims’ stories to the sting operations to the future of sex trafficking, Taking Down Backpage provides a harrowing tale of the fight for justice in the digital age.
Release Date: January 11, 2022
The Book Eaters—Sunyi Dean. Devon belongs to a reclusive clan of book eaters, people who are able to gain a book’s content by eating it. As a woman, she was raised on a diet of fairytales and cautionary stories while her brothers were raised on stories of valor and adventure. However, all she’s ever learned from her years of book eating will be put to the test when she discovers her son doesn’t hunger for books, he hungers for human minds.
Release Date: August 9, 2022
Serendipity: Ten Romantic Tropes, Transformed—Edited by Marissa Meyer. Lovers of the romance genre will be familiar with the genre’s many beloved tropes. The fake relationship, the matchmaker, first love, unrequited love, secret admirers, and many more have delighted readers since the beginning of time. Now, ten young adult authors join forces to turn these tropes on their heads, creating new stories for readers to fall for.
Release Date: January 4, 2022
Gallant—V. E. Schwab. Olivia Prior is an orphan who was raised in a school for girls with only her mother’s journals to provide her any clue to her past. That is, until she receives a letter that invites her home to Gallant. However, she finds that there is more to the Gallant manor than the first meets the eye, and she must now decide where she truly belongs—with her prior family protecting the world from the master of the house, or by his side.
This post is a collaboration between Makayla Aysien and Lauren Kuhman
Enemies to Lovers
The Hating Game—Sally Thorne. The Hating Game follows Lucy and Josh—two people who work for the same publishing company—who are forced to work in the same office space, and who absolutely despise each other. Lucy is sweet, colorful, passionate, and friendly, while Josh is tough, reserved, and intimidating, but no less passionate than Lucy. The two clash so often and so epically that their heated relationship is infamous at their little publishing company, Bexley & Gamin. When a promotion becomes available—available to only one of them—their competition appears to come to an all-time high. Amid the chaos of change, and the two of them knowing that their current dynamic will surely be altered by this promotion, the main question is what kind of new relationship might blossom between the two of them.
The Hating Game is the book that pulled me into the romance genre. I thought I had picked up a mediocre book that wouldn’t distract me while I was supposed to be committed to schoolwork, but this turned out to be one of the best mistakes I have ever made! With its endless hilarity and truly passionate romance, I couldn’t put it down. Other enemies to lovers books like to point out the fact that their main characters are “verbally sparring” without actually bantering, but Lucy and Josh know what it means to be witty. I think it’s safe to say that Sally Thorne has reinvigorated the enemies to lovers trope in the modern romance genre.
Six of Crows—Leigh Bardugo. Six of Crows follows a handful of teenagers in Ketterdam, a city where capitalists’ dreams come true and gangs run the streets. When an opportunity comes along to become obscenely wealthy, Kaz Brekker—leader of one of Ketterdam’s prominent gangs, the Dregs—recruits an unlikely crew to complete a heist.
Six of Crows is everywhere, and it deserves all the hype it gets. It intertwines some of the greatest storylines and tropes imaginable, from heists and trickery to young love and friendship. Bardugo has created vivid, lively, but vastly different personalities who somehow come together to achieve their goals. Every member of Kaz’s crew comes from some sort of great familial loss, but in working together, they discover a love for each other that is more important than any other wealth.
If I Never Met You—Mhairi McFarlane. This romance follows Laurie, a successful career woman, whose longtime boyfriend suddenly and unexpectedly ends their relationship. Their breakup is made all the more awkward by the fact that they work for the exact same law firm. Laurie hasn’t dated in years, but her ex and his new girlfriend, as well as the workplace gossip about her love life, pushes her to take action. After running into Jamie Carter, the office playboy whose love life is the topic of conversation far too often, they hatch a plan to pretend that they are dating.
If I Never Met You combines one of my favorite tropes—workplace romances—with another amazing romance trope: fake dating. While this is very much a romance novel, it offers a unique type of romance to the genre. It’s subtle, slow, and sweet. This book focuses a great deal on Laurie and what it’s like to move on from a relationship that ended in profound heartbreak, but also offers a gentle hand to those who are learning to open their hearts back up again.
Main Character Ends Up with a Celebrity
Catch a Falling Star—Kim Culbertson. I am a supporter of the fact that romances don’t need to be incredibly physical to be amazing or that adults can’t enjoy YA novels—and Catch a Falling Star is no exception. One of the first novels I bought and read myself at my school’s Scholastic Book Fair, Catch a Falling Star perfectly encompasses all the feelings of young love with the caveat that the main character doesn’t initially want such feelings. This fairly short novel is about a small town girl who, when a movie star comes to film in her town, is asked to portray the celebrity’s girlfriend. While the relationship is tense at first, it isn’t before long that both catch feelings. But is it real? Can the two survive the pull of their completely different lives?
This is a great read any time of the year, but if you don’t like the cold and are dreaming of summer look no further for a perfect wish-I-was-on-the-beach read. As well, for fans of Disney Channel’s movie StarStruck this book encompasses those tensions, feelings, and hope that young love can offer.
Girls Save the World in this One—Ash Parsons. We couldn’t include this trope without mentioning Girls Save the World in this One by Ash Parsons. A quirky and lovable novel that combines unlikely romance and the zombie apocalypse, this book is perfect for anyone wanting a typical literary trope with a unique plot.
Self-Discovery and Mental Health
Dear Evan Hansen—Val Emmich. A musical, a book, and now a movie, it goes without saying that Dear Evan Hansen has become a world-wide phenomenon (and with good reason). The story follows Evan Hansen, an anxious and isolated high-schooler. One day he is tasked with writing a letter to himself by his therapist—however fellow student, Connor Murphy, takes the letter. The next day, Evan Hansen is approached by Connor’s grieving parents who believe that the letter was a final note from their son, who took his own life that day. Evan Hansen is pulled into a conflicting situation as he searches for belonging while addressing the harsh reality of being a young person and lifting the grief of the Murphy family.
Dear Evan Hansen is an amazing story and addresses so many ideas but mostly emphasizes the idea of personal growth and self discovery as Evan Hansen searches for meaning and belonging while making some pretty bad decisions. Additionally, the story is available in many formats that all articulate the prevalence of Evan Hansen’s journey. The book and movie are the most accessible, but as always I encourage you to read the book first (and as a bonus listen to the original sound track as you read!).
Lord of the Flies—William Golding. Lord of the Flies by William Golding is just an all-around good book. Short and concise, the novel follows a group of young boys who have recently been stranded on an island. What begins as an organized attempt to survive quickly descends to chaos. Declared a classic and recipient of the Nobel Prize, the novel goes beyond its acclaimed status. It is the type of story that offers something new every time you read it; it takes on multiple forms, multiple focuses, and articulates new ideas. It is timeless not only because it speculates some of the most innate qualities of humanity, but because it is a story that answers the age-old question of what would happen if you were stranded on a desert island. So…what would you do?
Everyone talks about the books they love—those they’d recommend and can’t live without. However, despite people’s tendency to love to hate, no one likes to call out the books that deep down they just think are overrated. Fellow Spellbinding Shelf blogger Makayla and I have listed seven novels that we believe to be the most over-rated. Some of them are famous, some of them will probably be famous, and some of them are just not the best (in our opinion). That is not to say this is a comprehensive or objective list. Our list is composed of personal biases and opinions—you may or may not agree, and that’s okay! We just wanted to call out some of the novels that, while we love the author or deep down enjoyed the story, they don’t need to be as famous as they are today.
Safe Haven—Nicholas Sparks. I wish I loved Nicholas Sparks—I really do. I have had the pleasure of knowing many people who regard him highly, and I find their enjoyment adorable. However, his terrible writing, combined with the lack of diversity in his novels and the blatant sexism within the world of book publishing has left a permanent distaste in my mouth. To be fair to Nicholas Sparks, I have only read one of his books: Safe Haven, but to be fair to myself, and this post, it was because I could not manage to read more than this one. Even getting through Safe Haven took me half a year. His writing is basic and lacks depth. It wouldn’t bother me so much, because a great deal of writing is basic and lacks depth, if he was not so popular. His stories always unfold the same way, and they always feature two white leads—one male, one female. Finally, what I will never understand is why his books are shelved in “fiction.” I had the pleasure of working at a bookstore for years, and his books had to go in the fiction section because they have “fictional themes.” What that means is that Nicholas Sparks got the honor of being shelved in what people view as a more serious genre—when the romance genre, where he belongs—has no male authors, is given the deeply sexist label of “chicklit,” and disregarded as also having “fictional themes.” His popularity has been fading as the years go on, but maybe it’s time it fades all the way.
The Fault in Our Stars—John Green. I am a long-time fan of John Green and I love his novels—however, appreciation of anyone (especially authors) is not without some good ol’ criticism. While this may be an unpopular opinion, The Fault in Our Stars is a fairly basic love story, and while sad, it also doesn’t add anything new to the genre and is a form of tragic romance that was, and is, common in the romance genre. Additionally, its adaptation into a movie only pronounced the cultural craze over the fairly basic plot. It had everything that could push it into fame, right down to the cheesy tag ling “Okay? Okay.” Don’t get me wrong—I liked The Fault in Our Stars and I love John Green’s novels. However, between the facts that the novel is so famous it’s annoying and the plot doesn’t add anything new to the genre, it’s pretty overrated. Let’s just say I’ve never had the desire to reread or even rewatch the, albeit good but overrated, story.
Beautiful Disaster—Jamie McGuire. As a teenage girl, the last thing that should be recommended to you is a “romance” novel that features an abusive relationship, while still being marketed to you as sweet and the ideal relationship that you should aspire to have. When I was a teenager, I eventually gave in to reading Beautiful Disaster after the incessant pestering of both the internet and other people, only to find that what I was told was an “opposites attract” romance novel was actually a disturbing story about a man with anger issues and his obsession with the main character, an average girl. A lot of romance novels feature an “average girl,” to show that everyone is deserving of love and deserving of being worshipped by the people we think are too good for us. Beautiful Disaster takes this and shows that even the average girl can find themself in an abusive relationship they can’t escape from and wouldn’t even want to escape from because they have fallen into a deeply twisted love story with someone who doesn’t really love them. The number of people who think this book depicts a romance is truly saddening. Perhaps worst of all, the author of Beautiful Disaster is a massive racist and incredibly sexist. This isn’t simply apparent in her writing; she has used social media to share these offensive thoughts. “Offensive” isn’t a strong enough word. She’s a despicable person who does not deserve to publish books. Even worse, last month in October, it was announced that Beautiful Disaster would be made into a movie. After other abusive stories found such success as films, like After by Anna Todd and Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James, how could we not throw another one into the mix? We don’t need another one! There are so many amazing romance novels to choose from that are healthy and adorable. Jamie McGuire needs to be cancelled.
The Great Gatsby—F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby is a proclaimed classic, is read in practically every American classroom, and has inspired way too many 1920s-themed parties. Again—don’t get me wrong, it’s a good book—but does it really still deserve the fame? The novel only adds to the long list of predominantly white, male perspectives students receive in school and the book is arguably misogynistic. And whether or not this misogyny is a product of its author’s opinions or a deliberate criticism of the attitude towards women, the trait isn’t very redeeming. I think there are better books and stories that can be highlighted and taught and while it’s a great book and essential read it has moved into a phase of cultural phenomenon where the original intention, symbolism, and plot of the novel is now irrelevant and can be misconstrued—which has inevitably led to its overrated status.
You—Caroline Kepnes. You—the popular Netflix series—was a book series first, but I bet anyone reading this post knew that already. This might be an unpopular opinion, but You, both the show and the book series, are massively overrated. The book is in the point of view of our stalker and serial killer Joe Goldberg, as he breaks into homes and kills everyone that he thinks is going to steal the object of his obsession away from him. As if the stalker and serial killer bit wasn’t enough to make you think “he’s not for me,” Joe is also massively arrogant and pompous. He’s an aspiring writer and admittedly well read, but he thinks that this makes him superior to everyone else. The problem with this is that the author Caroline Kepnes has written Joe’s narration in such a way that denies his intelligence, so we have to live with his pretension without getting the payout of smart writing. Furthermore, Kepnes’ writing perpetuates sexism and glorifies this sort of behavior. I’m not sure if she was going for creating a creepy book that we were all supposed to find creepy without her having to make some sort of moral commentary, but she failed in making this book appropriately creepy and thrilling. Rather, she made a book from the point of view of a serial killer boring, which has to be morally impermissible, right? Perhaps an example of her lack of success in achieving her intended message can be shown in the fact that my library does not shelve You in mystery or thriller. It shelves You in romance. If you want to read a book about a creepy man stalking a young woman, read The Seducer’s Diary by Soren Kierkegaard. I was nauseous the entire time, but I can’t deny that Kierkegaard succeeds in showing he’s a massive creep.
Romeo and Juliet—William Shakespeare. I have a fair amount of qualms regarding Romeo and Juliet—not Shakespeare. Mostly, my criticisms stem from the popular interpretation and public perception of this famous play. It has been referenced too many times, hailed by too many romantics and young people, and acclaimed too often. Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy and not even one of Shakespeare’s best works. It is similar to the Mona Lisa – it’s only famous because of the attention given to the work. Yes, the themes are good. Yes, the story is a “classic.” But do we need to read it so much in school? Do we need several movie adaptations and dozens of inspired stories based on this play? Probably not.
The Grapes of Wrath—John Steinbeck. Again, we have come across an author who I wished that I loved: John Steinbeck. He isn’t a terrible writer, and I can’t deny that his books reflect a time period in American history that is intertwined with such tragedy. However talented he is at reflecting the reality of many Americans, he is also very talented at crafting the driest characters and creating scenarios with unnecessary details. The Grapes of Wrath was the first book that I read by Steinbeck, and even though I thought it was terrible, he clearly has enough talent for me to force myself to read some of his other books (Cannery Row and Tortilla Flat). What I learned is that all of these books are the same: his characters are poor and desperately want alcohol. If we’re allowed to write this repetitively, then maybe I can go on to win the Nobel Prize in literature too! He is praised for his “keen social perception,” but I have to say, it feels like a bunch of white men patting each other on the back for doing nothing.
Of all genres, science fiction and fantasy most closely match the wild exuberance and sense of wonder that makes young adult fiction so enjoyable. But when new readers are introduced to these genres, they are often recommended the first 600 page tome in a series written by an old white guy with a beard. And while there’s nothing wrong with those epics (if that’s your thing), they are certainly not the only books these genres have to offer.
Here is a list of science fiction and fantasy titles that explore the themes of self-discovery and growing up YA readers will find comfortingly familiar, but feature styles, ideas, and worlds that YA readers will find enticingly novel.
These are some of my very favorites, and I hope you enjoy them!
Spinning Silver—Naomi Novik. The winters in Lithvas are getting longer, the harvests poorer. But Miryem Mandelstam, despite her youth, is keeping her family fed, clothed, and sheltered. She has taken over her father’s failing moneylending business and rebuilt it. But one day, proud of her success, she unwisely brags that she can “turn silver into gold.” Word of this brag reaches the Staryk—the strange and cruel winter fae who inhabit Lithvas’ woods. They take her brag literally, and show up at her doorstep with fairy silver, expecting gold in return. If she fails this impossible task, Miryem knows the Staryk will kill her, but even if she succeeds, the strange kindnesses of the fae may be more terrible than their wrath.
A new take on a classic fairy story, Spinning Silver is equal parts clever, romantic, and terrifying.
Trigger Warning(s): This book is written from a Jewish perspective and deals frankly with the history of antisemitism in Eastern Europe.
Parable of the Sower—Octavia E. Butler. In a future United States ravaged by climate change and capitalism (not too dissimilar from our current reality), teenaged Lauren Oya Olamina keeps a journal of her life. She had been blessed (cursed?) with the ability of hyper-empathy, which forces her to share the sensations of people around her. Hyper-empathy can be quite deadly to those who suffer from it in this violence-plagued world. Lauren must struggle to survive and grow, always seeking a place where she and her loved ones can be safe.
A decade before dystopian novels would become a trope of YA fiction, Parable of the Sower invented many of the conventions that would later become staples of the subgenre.
Trigger Warning(s): This book depicts a collapsing society. It contains depictions of violence, including racist and sexual violence.
Trail of Lightning—Rebecca Roanhorse. After a great flood, most of the world is underwater, but Dinétah—traditional homeland of the Diné (Navajo) bordered by four sacred mountains—has survived, becoming an independent nation in the post-apocalyptic world. The flood that obliterated most of the world brought back magic with it, and monsters. On Maggie Hoskie’s sixteenth birthday her grandmother is murdered and her home destroyed by a witch. This traumatic event activates her magic powers, inherited from her ancestral clans. Her magic attracts the attention of the demigod monster-slayer Neizghání, who agrees to train her in his craft. Filled with sorrow and a lust for vengeance, Maggie sets out on a quest to defend the people of Dinétah from monsters, by any means necessary.
A bold work of fantasy that blends tropes from the mythic and urban subgenres in a way I’ve ever seen before, Trail of Lightning is unputdownable.
Trigger Warning(s): This book deals frankly with violence and its aftereffects, including PTSD.
An Unkindness of Ghosts—Rivers Solomon. The survivors of Earth set out many years ago on the colossal spaceship Matilda towards a new planet. In the generations since its launch, society in the Matilda has stratified into a racial caste system reminiscent of an antebellum Southern plantation. Aster Gray is a healer born into a life of slavery on the lower decks. From her secret laboratory in a long abandoned part of the ship, she researches the journals her mother left behind before her death 25 years ago. Hidden in their pages may lie the secret to understanding her own history and how it entwines with the future of this broken ark. Or perhaps all she will find are ghosts.
A bleak, lyrical meditation on intergenerational trauma and claiming life amidst a system of racial oppression, An Unkindness of Ghosts is heavy and rewarding.
Trigger Warning(s): This book examines a system of slavery much like Southern chattel slavery of Black Americans. It contains depictions of the racial and sexual violence and the consequences of said violence.
Assassin’s Apprentice—Robin Hobb. FitzChivalry is a bastard. That’s what his name means: Prince Chivalry’s bastard. Royal bastards are considered dangerous in Buckkeep Castle—left unchecked they could become rivals to the true princes for the throne. Accordingly, royal bastards are never allowed independent lives, but are kept as servants and wards of the crown. They are trained as diplomats, magicians, and even assassins. Assassin’s Apprentice chronicles the childhood and young adulthood of a lonely boy caught up against his will in a political system much bigger than him. He is passed from faux father figure to tutor to liege lord, searching for an identity of his own and people who love him for more than the power he represents.
A tender, character-driven fantasy, Assassin’s Apprentice has the most memorable characters of any book I’ve ever read and a hero you can’t help but root for despite his flaws.
It’s that time of year where ghosts, goblins, and other various supernatural entities are creeping up everyone’s spine. While the movies are creating their own chills and thrills (we see you Michael Myers), there is nothing that compares to the goosebumps you get between the pages of a good book…
Here is a round up of our staff’s favorite horror and suspense stories.
Staff Writer Jaycee Graffius
Frankenstein is not just my favorite Halloween read, it is my favorite book of all time. The entire book just drips with a gothic atmosphere and symbolism that makes rereading a joy. I personally love the similarities between the monster and Victor Frankenstein as it really hammers home how, in a way, Victor is the monster’s father and abandoned him in a world that couldn’t love him.
While Frankenstein has become universally recognizable in our culture, much of the book’s messaging has been forgotten by the mainstream. This is tragic because the book explores so many ideas that still need to be talked about today, from the dangers of science without empathy to the creation of monsters and whether the monster is truly to blame for what he’s become. Combine all this with the writing style of Mary Shelly, a personal hero, and Frankenstein fully earns it’s place as one of the best classic horror novels of all time.
Staff Writer Makayla Aysien
I never thought that I could enjoy the genre of horror, largely because I don’t like looking over my shoulder as I walk up the stairs at night. I was pulled into horror by an odd sense of circumstances: a philosophy course of mine required that I write on the philosophy and ethics of horror. This is where I found The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen.
This novella follows the perspective of Dr. Clarke as he hears a series of stories about a mysterious woman named Helen. Wherever Helen goes, she seems to leave behind others in states of insanity or death. What kind of supernatural powers does Helen have? How is she connected to the titular character of the great god Pan? Those who love horror, fantasy, supernatural, and reflections of real aspects of society—especially how people view women—are sure to love The Great God Pan.
Staff Writer Paul Stanton
My favorite ghost story is Sofia Samatar’s A Stranger in Olondria. Strange, haunting, and beautiful, this winner of the World Fantasy Award for best novel captured my heart. The book feels like a gothic horror while using almost none of the tropes associated with that genre. A perfect, delightful read for the spooky season.
Staff WriterMichael Weaver
Filled with spectacular art and equally as phenomenal writing, The Immortal Hulk is impossible to kill. Even worse, he’s haunted by the scariest villain yet: his Dad, who just so happens to command a force stronger than Hell itself… Hulk can’t simply smash his way out of this one.
Editor’s Note: Stay tuned for a more in-depth look at The Immortal Hulk from Michael soon!
Editor-in-Chief Sharon Enck
Set against the backdrop of an elitist university within an MFA cohort, Bunny by Mona Awad is one of my new Halloween favorites. Snotty mean girls? Check. Loner outsiders who get pulled into witchy and menacing goings-on? Check. Samantha prefers her own dark company to those within her cohort who inexplicably call each other “Bunny” and seem to be of one mind and body. She manages to evade them for most of her time at Warren University, but then suddenly gets invited to a mysterious “salon” and soon starts her own journey into the rabbit hole…in more ways than one!
Bunny is a dark, twisted (in all the good ways) ride that is not for the faint-of-heart or squeamish. With its themes of grief, mental health, social acceptance (and what we will do to attain it) it is a fascinating read. And you will never look at bunnies—or creative writing cohorts for that matter—the same.
Staff Writer Lauren Kuhman
I am not a big fan of horror because I like to sleep at night. However, every once in a while I find myself enjoying a thriller or mystery and one of my absolute favorites is Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. While not inherently scary, it is a book of extraordinary adventure perfect for any Halloween night. Main character Robert Langdon is a symboligist and after a murder in the Louvre he is called to aid in the investigation.
Little does he know that this call will lead him down a long, intricate, dangerous, and thrilling journey over the course of a day. Dan Brown masterfully combines art, history, religion, and mystery into a thrilling and fast-paced story. Whatever you are doing this spooky season, I promise that this book will cast a spell on you. If you pick it up, be prepared for a spookily good time!
Managing Editor Jade Stanton
The Picture of Dorian Gray tells the story of the titular protagonist’s descent into hedonism and the subsequent loss of his morality. Dorian unwittingly makes a Faustian pact wherein he will remain forever youthful and beautiful—but owns a portrait that will reflect the depraved state of his soul.
Aside from delving into important themes such as morality, innocence, corruption, and beauty, The Picture of Dorian Gray also includes many ghoulish themes: from suicide to murder and a monstrous painting hidden in Dorian’s attic, Wilde’s classic is the perfect way to get into the spooky spirit this Halloween!
Every day exciting new stories are released to eagerly awaiting, book-loving masses. This October is no exception, and while it is impossible to know just how good these books will be, there are several that have caught my eye. Watch your bookstore shelves this October, because these 7 books sound like they will be worth a read.
A Spindle Splintered—Alix E. Harrow. In the first book of her new series, Alix Harrow tells the story of Zinna Gray, a girl infected with an illness that kills all who have it before they turn twenty two. On her twenty-first birthday, her friend Charm decides to throw her a Sleeping Beauty themed party for her last birthday, complete with a spinning wheel to prick her finger on. However, once she pricks her finger, Zinna is sent to another world and meets another sleeping beauty who’s just as eager to escape her fate.
This story sounds like it will be a fascinating addition to the growing collection of fable retellings we’ve seen recently, and the author has said there will be some wlw themes included. Sleeping Beauty is a fairytale that has been largely forgotten within the retelling trend, so I’m looking forward to seeing this classic re-imagined.
Release Date: October 5, 2021
Black Birds in the Sky—Brandy Colbert. Black Birds In The Sky is a nonfiction book that covers the Tulsa Race Massacre when, in 1921, a mob of white people burned down a thriving black neighborhood. It strives to answer the many burning questions surrounding this wildly whitewashed blight on American history, and ensure that the injustices that occurred are remembered.
As someone who has only recently begun to learn about the horrors that permeate American history, this book immediately caught my eye. We have experienced a major racial reckoning this year, and it is incredibly important that we learn from our past as we move forward. This book will undoubtedly shed light on this shameful corner of American history, and will be an enlightening read for all.
Release Date: October 5, 2021
Crossbones—Kimberly Vale. The recent death of the pirate king marks the beginning of an ancient contest where three competitors will risk everything they have to win the coveted bone crown and island throne. Csilla Abado, a young captain who must face those who doubt her and her sister’s desire for her position; Kane Blackwater, a young man who wishes to escape the dirty trades he’s made to keep himself captain of his father’s ship; and Lorelei Penny, a young stowaway who wishes to avenge her mother. All fighting to win, but something is brewing. If they’re not careful, they’ll be nothing left of them to bury.
This book reminded me of Six Of Crows as it also has a multiple perspective story told by morally grey characters. This, along with the delightful grim pirate anesthetic, sounds like a delightful fantasy read this October.
Release Date: October 5, 2021
Kingdom of the Cursed—Kerri Maniscalco. The sequel to Kingdom Of The Wicked, Kingdom Of The Cursed follows Emma, having just sold her soul to become the queen of the wicked, as she enters the seven circles of Hell with the Prince of Wrath in the hopes of avenging her sister’s murder. She soon finds, however, that navigating the sinful world of Hell is dangerous. Between sinful princes, stunning palaces, and a mystery to be solved, Emma has her work cut out for her as she begins to unravel her past and the truth behind her sister’s death.
This is the second book in a series, but the plot sounded far too intriguing to pass up for this list. With its Cruel Prince vibes and hints of romance, this series sounds like it will be the perfect book binge this October.
Release Date: October 5, 2021
Say Their Names: How Black Lives Came to Matter in America—Curtis Bunn, Michael Cottman, Patrice Gaines, Nick Charles, and Keith Harriston. The summer of 2020 shook the nation—from the horrifying video of George Floyd’s murder to the ensuing protests, conversations regarding race and the disadvantages and prejudices that come with being black in America were widespread, and the message ‘Black Lives Matter’ was broadcast across the country. Now, five journalists detail what it took to get to this moment in history. From mass incarceration to over-policing to the protests in Ferguson, they detail the systemic problems in our society, how they came to the forefront of public consciousnesses, and, crucially, what to do now.
This movement is often misunderstood and misinterpreted by society. This due in large part to the general public’s lack of knowledge of the issues being discussed, as they aren’t commonly taught in school. This book is a must-read for people still struggling to understand the BLM movement and what must be done to move forward.
Release Date: October 5, 2021
The Haunting Season: Eight Ghostly Tales for Long Winter Nights—Various Authors. Eight authors worked to create this collection of spooky tales all set in the dark cold of winter. From a girl frozen in death, to a bustling Christmas market, to an estate with a deadly secret, these tales will give you chills for two entirely different reasons.
With Halloween right around the corner and the Arizona heat in full force, these stories are perfect for creating a chilly, spooky atmosphere this holiday season.
Release Date: October 12, 2021
Where They Wait—Scott Carson. Nick Bishop, a down on his luck journalist, takes a job reviewing a new mindfulness app, Clarity. This app contains “sleep songs” that are designed to help the user sleep. The songs are haunting ballads sung by an unknown women and they seem to work perfectly—that is, except for the nightmares. Every night, Nick dreams of a haunting woman who calls his name and whispers to him. As his dreams start to seep into his waking life, Nick realize that the people behind Clarity are interested in more than just his writing.
Another perfect tale for Halloween, Where They Wait is perfect for anyone looking to get into the spooky spirit this October.
If you’ve used social media recently, you’ve likely come across at least one ad promoting a storytelling app. From Choices to Hooked, this new sub-genre has grown considerably, often stealing the spotlight with bizarre ads promoting stories about romance, murder, and more. However, despite their initial similarities, these apps vary wildly in genre, style, and—most importantly—in quality. While some apps provide a rich reading experience, others lack story and are more focused on encouraging the user to spend money. In order to determine which storytelling apps are actually worth the storage space, I downloaded five of the most commonly promoted apps and gave them a full month of use. I will be reviewing them based on the quality of the stories and of the app itself to decide which of these apps are hidden gems, and which are better left uninstalled.
Hooked: 3/10.Hooked is an app that specializes in telling stories through the texting format. It does this by having the reader click the screen, causing the text to appear in small chunks, similar to reading a text conversation. It also has short form shows as well, but for this list I will only be reviewing the written stories.
The minute I installed this app I knew that this app would not be great. In order to access ANY of Hooked’s stories the user must subscribe to pay five dollars a WEEK! To put this into perspective, Netflix and Hulu both cost less than ten dollars a MONTH. I subscribed to the free trial so I could at least view the content, but this was already foreboding.
The stories on Hooked are fine. They aren’t anything special, but they aren’t terrible. The unique formatting helps the stories that focus on scarier elements stand out, but it falls flat when there are more contemporary plots. Simply put, Hooked is not worth paying five dollars a week, and I cancelled my subscription before I was charged.
Galatea: 7/10. Galatea is an app that functions a lot like a Kindle, with an expansive library of stories for the user to read. Unlike many of the other apps on this list, Galatea is not a choose your own adventure style app—rather, it just provides the stories as is. The stories on the app can vary in quality, but overall they tend to be written professionally and offer several stories that I personally really enjoyed. There are occasional oddities in the stories that may confuse readers who are more used to professionally published work, but overall the stories are coherent and often fast paced.
The stories featured tend to focus on the romance genre, specifically paranormal romance, and a majority of the stories on the app surround werewolves or some other creature. I’m a fan of paranormal romance, so this wasn’t an issue for me, but readers who are unfamiliar with some the the common tropes of this genre may not enjoy it.
One area that will make orbreak one’s enjoyment of this app is the adult themes. The romance on this app can be very spicy and sex scenes are pretty common. This doesn’t effect the rating of the app overall, but it is important to know going in that explicit content is the norm, so those who are uncomfortable with them can avoid it.
Where the app lost some points for me, however, is their built in monetary system. When reading a story the user can only read one ‘chapter’ every six hours. If the user wants to keep on reading they can either pay five dollars a month for unlimited reading or buy coins to unlock the next chapter. Due to these intensives, the app can be difficult to use without paying, and since there is no in-app way to earn coins, the monetary system is designed exclusively to get more money.
However, I was able to use the app successfully without spending much money, and I do feel that many of the stories on the app are worth the wait.
Is it Love? Drago: 1/10. Is it Love? Drago is one in a series of apps, all titled Is it Love?, that have been regularly advertised. Since I didn’t want to play every app in the series, I downloaded the one that they seemed to advertise the most. This means that, unlike the other apps on this list, Isit love? Drago only tells one story.
The app tells the story of a young witch who has been hired as a nanny for a little girl while she’s in college. The house where she works also has two mysterious men who live there, and the young nanny must grapple with her attraction and curiosity as she discovers the secrets of this family. As a choose your own adventure style game, the user must guide the nanny and make choices that shape the ending.
To call this story a Twilight ripoff would be disrespectful to the Twilight books. The “mystery” element is completely pointless, especially because the logo for the app makes the answer painfully clear, and this leaves the reader frustrated as the nanny acts oblivious to the obvious red flags. The vampires also behave uncomfortably throughout the game, often just staring quietly at the character and never answering her questions and just overall being boring. The dialogue is also very stilted and it reads like a first draft, ruining any enjoyment that the reader could gain from playing. Truthfully, while I did attempt to play the game for a full month, I did not progress through much of the story because I had to constantly stop due to the writing; so while it is theoretically possible that the story improves, if I wasn’t writing this article I wouldn’t have completed the first chapter.
There is a coin system at play in the game—specifically, the user must pay coins to access each line, and after you spend them you either pay for more or wait 24 hours for more coins. This is a manageable system where the user can choose to be patient and get through the game without paying, however it doesn’t hide the overall flimsy storytelling of the app.
Choices: 7/10. Choices is a choose your own adventure game that has tons of different stories to choose from. The user selects a story from the many available and then reads it all the while making choices that effect the outcome of the game.
This was a difficult app to review due to the massive diversity presented by the stories available. While it does have some common themes, like a heavy focus on romance, the overall quality of each story varies wildly. In the end, I had to split the difference in my rating as it neither exceptional nor terrible.
In a similar vein, the monetary system for this app is also neither exceptional nor terrible. Diamonds are needed for certain choices and to style the playable character’s avatar, but it is possible to earn more as you play and they aren’t necessary to use the app successfully. Overall, Choices is a broad app that has its hits and misses but is generally a solid storytelling app.
The Arcana: 10/10. Lastly, we have The Arcana, a choose your own adventure game set in a medieval fantasy setting. The reader plays as the apprentice to the magician Asra who has lost all their memories except for the past three years. The apprentice is hired by the countess, Nadia, to catch a man named Julian who murdered the count, Lucio, three years ago. In this fantasy mystery, the reader can choose between six different paths, each with a character that they fall in love with. Each path also comes with a good and a bad ending, depending on the readers’ choices.
To say that I love this app is an understatement. Every character is meticulously written with unique and dynamic character arcs that make each romance plot fascinating. The amount of detail included in both the artwork and the storytelling also creates a reading experience that is unparalleled by any other app on this list. While the focus of the app is on the relationships, the plot of each route also receives a great deal of effort and care, making the stories told on this app truly magnificent.
The game does have a coin mechanic, but the coins are only used to buy extra scenes within each chapter and do not affect the story in any way. It is fully possible to complete every route without spending any coins. There is also a mini-game where the user can earn coins, so the user could do that as well. All in all, this is a fantastic storytelling app that has set the bar high for others like it.