I always have a hard time when topics call for books from a favourite genre, since I don’t necessarily have one consistent favourite. Back in August, I made a post about my top 10 YA hidden gems for a Top 10 Tuesday prompt, so that pretty much ruined my first choice to list some YA books. I decided to broaden it and go with contemporary as a genre since it is broad enough to encompass many of the books I’ve enjoyed, and seems less limiting than narrowing things down to specific age ranges. I know a lot of people purposely avoid contemporary books that are realistic because they read to escape, but I tend to really enjoy character-driven books that are set in the the real world.
Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.
1) Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova
I think this book got completely overshadowed by the incredible Still Alice, detailing the life of a woman who develops early-onset Alzheimers. This book is in a similar vein, about the family of Joe O’Brien, a police officer who is diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease after experiencing some bizarre symptoms. To be fair, although I rated both books 5 stars, this one did not quite have the same impact on me as Still Alice and occasionally seemed like it was telling virtually the same story. Lisa Genova has a real strength for telling emotionally-driven stories that also give a realistic look at what these unusual disorders may be like. I love how her books also focus on the impact of the disease on other family members, since that is a perspective that often seems to be overlooked. This book is nearly as strong as Still Alice but definitely less well-known, so it deserves a lot more attention.
2) The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult
Of all of the Jodi Picoult books I’ve read, this seems to be one of a few that is very underrated. This book is about a 14-year-old girl named Trixie who may have been raped by her ex-boyfriend. It also focuses quite heavily on Trixie’s relationship with Daniel, her protective father, struggling with the idea of his little girl growing up, who is considering taking justice into his own hands. Part of the appeal of this book is the use of Daniel’s comics about Dante’s Inferno, which are a unique touch that really add to the story. For some reason, this seems to be one of Jodi Picoult’s most hated books, but I really enjoyed it. Jodi Picoult’s strength has always been her ability to write interesting characters and handle complex issues in a meaningful way, and to me this book was no exception.
3) The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle
I read this book in the middle of 2016 for one of my reading challenges, and it quickly became one of my favourites of the year. It is about a 17-year-old high school student named Morgan whose parents discover that she is having an affair with her married teacher. Morgan refuses to accept her parents’ view that she is being manipulated, and instead is willing to take the stand at her teacher’s trial to testify that their relationship is real. This book was by far one of the best student-teacher relationship stories that I’ve ever read because of the strength of the writing and especially of the character development. This book was my pick for a prompt requiring a book with a beautiful title, and I also loved the cover artwork. Since then, I’ve also read Keepsake by Kristina Riggle which was another great and underrated book that I would recommend.
4) Wrecked by Maria Padian
This was one of my most anticipated books for last year. It originally came out in October 2016, but it flew under the radar for quite a while before I decided to commit to it for my 2017 reading challenges. Ironically, it ended up being one of the books I kept procrastinating on until close to the end of the year even though it was one of the ones I wanted to read most. This book is about a sexual assault that takes place on a college campus, as told from the perspectives of the victim’s roommate and the accused’s friend. I thought this book did an excellent job of depicting the complexity of the issue and I liked how it came at it from angles outside of the two people who were involved. It was an interesting and unique version of this storyline, and very well-written. I’m surprised this book has received less than 1000 ratings on Goodreads, and under 300 reviews given how popular books on this topic seem to have become recently.
5) Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson
I originally felt that this book got completely overshadowed by The Hate U Give, only to realize that it was only officially released last week and the copy I read must have been an ARC. I got it for free from the library and didn’t realize I had it so far in advance. It is about an African-American girl named Mary B. Addison who is now living in a group home after spending several years in jail. Mary and her mother were accused of killing a white baby who was under their care, and Mary is now pregnant with her boyfriend’s child, needing to set the record straight once and for all about what happened so she can keep her own child when it is born. It is a difficult book to read because of the subject matter, which includes abuse, systemic racism, and many other issues. I though this book was very compelling with a shocking ending. I guess it’s too early to know whether this is really a hidden gem since it just came out, but I hope it gets the attention it deserves.