sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

August 11, 2020

books i loved but didn’t review: top 10 reads of 2013
posted by soe 1:32 am

Longtime readers may have noticed that while I start out my book reviewing game strong each year, it fades as the months pass by. Usually, by summer, I’m so behind I give up and just wait until the end of the year and hope that I can get my act together to give you a top ten list.

While there are many books to share for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic from That Artsy Reader Girl, Top Ten Books I Loved But Never Reviewed, I thought I’d wander into my half-finished draft posts and see what could be updated to post here. Since it was going to more work than I felt like putting in to finish last year’s best-of post, instead I’m giving you the ten best books I read in 2013. (No, this is not the oldest post in my draft folder.)

The best books of 2013, none of which I bothered to review at the time and most of which I will now give inadequate attention to in exchange for a little more sleep. Rest assured, you’d do well to read any of them:

  1. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

    Narrated by a Greek chorus of early gay AIDS victims, this book tells the story of 30 hours in the lives of several gay teen boys. The titular characters have decided to set a new world record for kissing, in part to raise awareness after a classmate had been beaten for being gay. Other characters whose perspectives we get include the classmate (who is dj’ing the event), two boys exploring a new relationship, a boy who is suddenly outed to his conservative parents after they find he spends time in explicit chat rooms,

    This book is the first I’ve read that I felt spoke for my spot in Generation X, sandwiched between being too young to have avoided the specter of HIV and too old to have missed the ability to be an out, openly gay teen. Levithan’s language is poetic and heartbreaking and increasingly tense and real, and my heart bleeds just a little bit thinking about it, even after all this time.

  2. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
    This was the first Rainbow Rowell novel I read, and I picked it up because of the cover. Set in an era when one could share headphones in a rather intimate gesture of friendship (no, not February), this book tells the story of an abused girl and the boy who comes to love her. One of the most niggling cliffhangers in all of the books I’ve read. (No, not in a “The Lady, Or the Tiger?” kind of way.)
  3. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
    While attending an author event for Eleanor & Park (do check out Rainbow’s author events — she’s just as funny live as she is on the page and she has a fun style — the bookseller told me that they’d just finished Rainbow’s upcoming Fangirl and they liked it even better than her first y.a. novel. In this one, a budding writer (and lover of a Harry Potter meets Twilight fantasy series that’s getting ready to conclude) sets off to college with expectations of how the year will go — including that she’ll room with her twin sister — and it all goes sideways pretty quickly. Possibly a great book to read if one is starting college this fall with all of its inherent question marks. Plus, it’s inspired Rainbow to write now three books telling that fantasy story.
  4. Just One Day by Gayle Forman
    I loved the whimsy of this book, which looked at how just one day can change your entire life. In it, the main character is on a post-high school graduation trip to Europe, meets a random guy in England, and agrees to temporarily run off to Paris with him. Then things get challenging. There is a companion novel, Just One Night, which is not as good, but which does answer lingering questions you’ll have at the end of this one as you hug it to you.
  5. Wonder by R.J. Palacio
    Everyone pretty much read this middle-grade novel back in 2013, about a boy with a cranial condition that causes him to have a distinctive facial disfigurement. (I’m certain there’s a less ableist way to put that, and I’m sorry that I can’t think of what it is.) In the story, he’s heading to school (5th grade) for the first time ever. This is his journey and that of his classmates.).
  6. Dr. Bird’s Advice to Sad Poets by Evan Roskos
    I’ll be honest: I don’t remember a ton of details about this book. There are some conversations with an imaginary pigeon. There’s a lot of depression and anxiety on the part of the main character, a teenage boy who’s an aspiring poet and who’s trying to survive in an abusive household in the wake of his beloved older sister’s absence.
  7. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
    This is the other middle-grade novel that everyone read back in 2013, and was the winner of the Newbery that year. Its main character is a gorilla has lived in a cage inside a small, run-down shopping mall for more than a quarter-century. When a young elephant joins him in the enclosure, Ivan is spurred to take action to protect his new friend from unkind behavior.
  8. Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle
    In the first of a heartwarming series of middle-grade novels, Nate takes off from his confining Pennsylvania hometown to audition for a Braodway show (E.T: The Musical) and to see his aunt, who lives in the City. A charming adventure story for those who want more reads in the same vein as The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.
  9. Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
    A young girl, who loves comic books and who is struggling in the wake of her parents’ divorce, pairs up with a squirrel who gets vacuumed up, a near-death experience that, as in so many other instances, results in superpowers. This was another Newbery winner — this time for 2014.
  10. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
    Yet another award winner (the Carnegie and the Greenaway). In this illustrated dark novel, a young teen who must deal with a horrible tree-monster who shows up at his house every night to tell him terrible stories. He then tells the main character that he, too, must share a story — a true story from the boy’s own life. This book is beautifully crafted, but prompts ugly crying from time to time.
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