Friday Reads: A Roundup of Awesome

I've fallen behind on my book reviews once again, but I had to get in a few more shout-outs before I do my "Best of 2015" list (probably next week). So here we go! 

Julie Murphy's DUMPLIN' is amazing. I loved this book so much! I have gushed and gushed about it since reading it a month and a half ago. What's it about? Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson is full of confidence and sass, but when she strikes up a secret relationship with the hot jock at work, Bo, she feels herself start to falter. It doesn't help that her best friend has some new friends—girls who think of Willowdean as the joke she's never wanted to be. To regain her sense of self, she decides to do the craziest thing she can think of: she signs up for her town's beauty pageant, bringing several other "misfits" along with her. The fact that her mom—who gave her the nickname Dumplin'—runs the pageant is only the first hurdle Willowdean has to overcome. This book is sweet and funny and romantic and heart-wrenching and empowering and triumphant. Everyone should read it. 

If that seems like a high bar to set for the books in this post, it's a good thing my next one was just as awesome. Rainbow Rowell is an auto-buy for me at this point. I don't even need to know what the book is about—I'll probably adore it. But for CARRY ON, which is a spin-off of Rowell's FANGIRL (spoiler: I love that one, too), the anticipation was HIGH. This book is the finale of the fictional Simon Snow series Rowell invented for FANGIRL, except instead of being written by fictional author Gemma T. Leslie or FANGIRL protagonist Cath, it's Rowell's own take on Simon, Baz, and their friends' adventures. You don't have to have read FANGIRL to enjoy this one. It's a clever and magical (heh) twist on Harry Potter and other Chosen One stories, beautifully written and filled with wrenching emotion and epic romance. Highly recommended! 

Next up is what has become (sadly) a rarity on this blog: an adult book! (Hoping to rectify that next year, but that's a tangent for another post...) I'd heard wonderful things about Emily St. John Mandel's STATION ELEVEN, and it did not disappoint in the least. This is a literary dystopian that jumps back and forth between the collapse of modern society and a future generation of traveling performers navigating the devastated landscape of what used to be the United States. There are also flashbacks that examine the lives of the people whose descendants are facing this grim future—which includes a religious cult that's taken over a small settlement. I don't want to give too much more away, so I'll just finish by saying that STATION ELEVEN is absolutely gripping. 

I am still catching up on my Fearless Fifteener debuts, and I finally got my hands on one I was really looking forward to! Fonda Lee's ZEROBOXER is not my usual genre: a science-fiction sports book. That said, I don't care if you're into sci-fi or sports, this book is worth reading. Carr Luka is a rising star in the sport of zeroboxing, which is basically weightless combat in a cube-shaped arena. After several big wins, he becomes the face of his sport—and an inspiration to the people of Earth. But just as his career is soaring to the next level, he uncovers a criminal conspiracy that has implications not only for his own future, but for the future of Human-Martian diplomatic relations. The zeroboxing scenes are cinematic and beautiful, while Carr's personal struggles are rendered realistically and become truly gut-wrenching. This book will make you think and it will make you cheer. 

Courtney C. Stevens' debut, FAKING NORMAL, was among my top reads of 2014, so you can be sure I was eagerly awaiting her follow-up, THE LIES ABOUT TRUTH. Stevens is so good at digging around in the emotional guts of a story. She grabs you by the feels and squeezes. In this book, Sadie is living in the aftermath of a car accident that shattered her group of friends, killing her close friend Trent. She's physically and emotionally scarred. The only person she's been able to connect with is Trent's brother Max. They've been emailing for months, slowly opening up to each other. But as the anniversary of the accident approaches, Sadie has to decide how much more she's willing to open up and let go. Throw in a small mystery about secrets Sadie has long kept hidden starting to appear in her mailbox and you have a seriously engrossing read. Don't miss this one! 

Finally, I recently finished Dahlia Adler's newest YA, JUST VISITING. I love friendship stories, and this is such a shining example of that genre! While there is romance in it, the most important relationship in this book is between the two narrators: BFFs Reagan and Victoria. The plot centers around their college visits, as the two of them assess what they want from their future and begin to realize that their paths might not be as intertwined as they'd always believed. Reagan is studying and working tirelessly to get out of the small town where she was raised, which feels more and more like a prison. Victoria has big-city fashion-design dreams—but isn't in as much of a hurry to escape her home and her life. They plan to room together in college, but when everything they haven't said to each other starts to come out, things get complicated fast. If you like BFF stories, check this one out! 

Phew—that's the end of this post! 

Coming up: I'll share my Top 10 Reads of 2015. And as for 2016, there'll be some changes 'round this here blog, so stay tuned... :)