Editor picks for your 2021 reading list

A new year means new media to consume, and with 2021 already presenting a fair dose of turmoil, immersing yourself in a book proves a more effective escape than ever. Below are recommendations for your 2021 reading list, tailored specifically for different interests. After all, in a year that’s already far from perfect, who’s to say that your books can’t be? 



Danielle Tran

If you’re looking for simplistic yet resonant:

Title: Flora & Ulysses

Author: Kate DiCamillo

Genre: Children’s, Graphic Novel 

Sentence Summary: Following a vacuum-cleaning related incident, a self-proclaimed cynic and a squirrel-turned-superhero embark on a quest to answer the questions of the universe. Involves: comics, divorce, loneliness, hope, donuts. 

Notable Notes: illustrations, humor, Flora’s-character, Mr.Buckman’s-character, Ulysses’s-poems, DiCamillo’s-trademark-simplistic-yet-insightful-writing


Title: When You Reach Me

Author: Rebecca Stead

Genre: Children’s

Sentence Summary: Miranda is a sixth-grader with a steadily increasing number of problems: her best friend, Sal, no longer talks to her, her mother recently gained entry in a game show whose prize money they desperately need, and someone is leaving impossible notes—asking for a letter of events that haven’t happened yet. Involves: friendship, keys, time travel, common sense. 

Notable Notes: Stead’s-disarming-writing-style, Miranda’s-mother, Miranda’s-unique-honest-voice, discussion-of-difficult-concepts-in-comprehensible-terms, discussion-of-relevant-issues



Danielle Tran

If you’re looking for honest and heart-wrenching:

Title: Where Things Come Back

Author: John Corey Whaley

Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction 

Sentence Summary: In the summer before his senior year, Cullen Witter’s world turns on its axis: his cousin overdoses, his younger brother disappears—breaking the already fragile foundations of their family. Dysfunctional romance blooms, and the sighting of a supposedly extinct woodpecker sends their small Arkansas town into upheaval. And, across the world in Africa, a young missionary struggles to fulfill the path his father expects of him. Involves: purpose, grief, zombie dinner parties, woodpeckers.

Notable Notes: Cullen’s-honest-voice, Gabriel’s character, Lucas’s character, depiction-of-grief, discussion-of-idealism, THE-LAST-SENTENCE-(ultimate chef’s kiss)   


Title: Little & Lion

Author: Brandy Colbert

Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction 

Sentence Summary: When Suzette “Little” returns to her home in L.A., she isn’t sure things will ever be the same; not only has her brother, Lionel “Lion”, her once closest friend,been struggling with bipolar disorder, but a year at boarding school changed Suzette more than her family and friends know. Involves: mental illness, exploration of sexuality, race, identity, flowers.

Notable Notes: the-DIVERSITY-(chef’s kiss), LGBTQ+-representation, disability representation, ethnic representation, Suzette’s-character, Emil’s-character, accurate-depiction-of-mental-illness, acknowledgement-of-microaggressions



Danielle Tran

If you’re looking for diverse perspectives:

Title: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Author: Sherman Alexie

Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction 

Sentence Summary: Raised on the Spokane Indian reservation, Junior finds his life dramatically changed after enrolling in an all-white high school. Involves: racism, systemic oppression, familial relationships, alcoholism, grief, cartoons, basketball, friendship.

Notable Notes: Junior’s-unrelentingly-humorous-yet-hopeful-voice, cartoons, Rowdy’s-character, discussion-of-relevant-issues, depiction-of-alcoholism   


Title: Patron Saints of Nothing

Author: Randy Ribay

Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction 

Sentence Summary: As his senior year of high school comes to a close, Jay Reguero finds himself questioning the direction of his future. Upon the news of his cousin Jun’s passing, Jay travels to the Philippines to investigate the country’s true economic state, the brutality of the drug war, the fracturing of familial relationships, and ultimately his own role within these varying landscapes. Involves: Filipino-drug-war, systemic-oppression, familial-relationships, academic-pressures, identity, investigative-journalism.

Notable Notes: diverse-perspective, well-researched-depiction-of-the-drug-war-in-the-Philippines, familial-and-academic-pressures-experienced-by-Jay, poetic-writing, call-to-action



Danielle Tran

If you’re looking for heart-racing science fiction:

Title: Nimona

Author: Noelle Stevenson

Genre: Graphic Novel, Science Fiction, Fantasy  

Sentence Summary: Recluse and societally-deemed supervillain Lord Ballister Blackheart doesn’t ponder too long when enlisting young, shape-shifting Nimona as a sidekick. However, he couldn’t begin to predict the long-lasting consequences of his decision—those both laugh-out-loud hilarious and unpredictably dangerous. Involves: medieval setting with futuristically advanced tools, shape-shifting, nemeses, sharks, morals, scientific conspiracy boards. 

Notable Notes: humor, artistic-development, Blackheart-and-Goldenloin’s-relationship, Blackheart-and-Nimona’s-relationship, elusive-backstories, dramatic-battle-scenes, Lord-Blackheart’s-character   


Title: The Knife of Never Letting Go

Author: Patrick Ness

Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult 

Sentence Summary: Todd Hewitt is the last boy in a town where men hear one another’s thoughts. A month before he becomes a man, Todd encounters a creature that threatens the entire fabric of their society. Forced to run, he, the creature, and his dog embark on a journey that becomes increasingly dangerous the farther they flee. Involves: innocence, murder, aliens, inner thoughts of a dog.

Notable Notes: peak-adrenaline-literally-the-entire-time, Todd’s-conflict-with-innocence, the-spackle, the-writing-style, the-cliffhanger-(cue: internal screaming), upcoming-film



Danielle Tran

If you’re looking for gorgeous fantasy:

Title: Strange the Dreamer

Author: Laini Taylor

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult  

Sentence Summary: Lazlo Strange, an orphan and junior librarian, knows what no one else does: the city of Weep existed, and he is about to embark on a journey to discover what really happened. Involves: gods, dreams, moths, romance, legends. 

Notable Notes: THE-most-gorgeous-prose, Lazlo’s-character, Sarai’s-character, world-building, story-building, that-cliff-hanger-(cue: internal screaming)  


Title: Circe

Author: Madeline Miller

Genre: Greek Mythology, Fantasy, Adult

Sentence Summary: When Circe, the daughter of the sun god Helios and a naiad, comes into the world, no one understands her true capabilities—least of all herself. Spanning across the many decades of her life as a goddess, Circe encounters legendary figures such as Daedulus, Medea, and Odysseus, all while determining her own identity in relation to gods and mortals. Involves: abuse, feminism, loneliness, witchcraft, heroes, love, (im)mortality

Notable Notes: gorgeous-writing, Circe’s-resiliance-amidst-countless-injustices, Circe’s-emotional-development, development-of-witchcraft, heck-yas-stand-up-to-oppressors-moment