As a long-time book lover with far-sweeping tastes (meaning I will read literally anything), I have recommendations for fans of all genres. To try and touch all sorts of readers, this spring we’ll be moving through a book for every letter of the alphabet! First up: race-driven realistic fiction, sordid satire, artistic alternate-reality, and flighty fantasy.
Americanah — by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
You might have heard about Adichie from the excerpt of her TED talk that got sampled in the Beyoncé song “Flawless” a few years back. Her best-seller Americanah reads like a memoir of Ifemelu, a woman who emigrates from Nigeria to the United States for school. The novel starts 15 years after Ifemelu has been in the U.S., and skips around from her childhood until then, sometimes switching to the perspective of Obinze, her high school love who remained in Nigeria. Much of her story surrounds her tender relationships both with family and lovers, the growing unrest she has in her own identity, and the lines of race she encounters in America — all told in Ifemelu’s thoughtful, snarky, and perceptive voice.
Bumped — by Megan McCafferty
The set-up is this: a fertility-ravaging plague has spread over Earth. Teenagers are spared, and encouraged to procreate, which quickly spurs a high-stakes surrogacy industry. Fertile, genetically-prime girls are “pro-preggers”; virile, genetically-prime boys are “studs.” Bumped is littered with invented slang and little details like a pre-natal flavor of Doritos. This isn’t a dictatorship-esque Hunger Games; the society created in Bumped has the same motivations of profit and fame that keeps the Teen Mom series alive and running. It’s a satire, and a fairly ridiculous one at that (often so gross that it makes this book fairly polarizing). The plot is, granted, strange and clichéd, and not enough to make me read the sequel, but the set-up was engaging enough that I still recommend it. It’s not a stretch from our world to theirs, at least in the ways society preys on the sexuality of teenage girls.
Cathy’s Book — by Jordan Weisman and Sean Stewart
An old favorite and still under-appreciated series, Cathy’s Book is an urban fantasy told through the interactive pseudo-journals of its restless, artistic heroine. The pages are riddled with Cathy’s sketches as she unfolds a conspiracy-laden mystery that circles around her ex-boyfriend and maybe even her long-dead father. You can call the phone numbers you find inside, and visit the websites, and pull out some of Cathy’s art for your own, but your narrator (and her friends that get tangled up in her troubles) is so fleshed out and flawed that she pulls you in herself.
Daughter of the Forest — by Juliet Marillier
Juliet Marillier retells the Grimm fairytale of “The Six Swans” in a vivid Celtic setting. Young Sorcha, seventh daughter of a seventh son, takes on a painful quest to end the curse that turned her six, loving older brothers into swans. Daughter of the Forest is full of that sort of rich, high fantasy elements that can be cloying for some, but most of the time is indescribably satisfying. At turns a painful coming of age story and an indulgent romance, Daughter of the Forest is for fans of historical dramas and fantasy alike.