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Updated by Jen Blair on Dec 07, 2019
Headline for Winter Break Best Books - Best of 2019
Jen Blair Jen Blair
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Winter Break Best Books - Best of 2019

These are the books that I loved the most this year. I always try to make a Top Ten...and then fail miserably because there are TOO MANY good books! If you can't decide what you are going to read during Winter Break? Start with one of these. You can't go wrong.

All the Bad Apples by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

Because her writing makes you want to stop and take a breath, it’s so beautiful. You just want to take it all in. Because even though she is writing realistic fiction, it feels like poetry. Because the ties to historical Ireland will leave you reeling.

Butterfly Yellow by Thanhha Lai

The story of one girl’s journey from post-war Vietnam to find her brother in the United States. She comes to rescue her brother, but she ends up rescuing herself.

Dig by A.S. King

Dig for your emotions. Dig for your relationships. Dig for understanding. Dig for truth. This is the story of one exceptionally dysfunctional family as they come to grips with their racist past.

Forward Me Back To You by Mitali Perkins

A surprisingly light-hearted read, considering that it’s about assault and human trafficking, but the vivid characterss of Kat and Ravi will have you sucking this book down in one sitting. And all hail, Grandma Vee. May we all have a Grandma Vee in our lives.

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

This is about the war after a war. How do we survive the secrets and fear brought on by an oppressive political regime? We don’t deserve Ruta Septeys.

Frankly in Love (Frankly in Love, #1) by David Yoon

Charming, witty, and engrossing. A love story. A friendship story. A family story. On the surface a light-hearted romance, but really so much deeper.

A Heart So Fierce and Broken (Cursebreakers, #2)

A sequel that I loved better than the first? Yup. After the seemingly happy ending of A Curse So Dark and Lonely, the characters must use their new-found power to find their path to what is right. Breathtakingly good.

How It Feels to Float by Helena Fox

Indelible characters, deep exploration of the themes of grief and mental illness while still being funny, witty and real. And writing like this: “The sand feels like a touch. It feels like my mother’s hand on my skin, cool against warm. It feels like talking at night. It feels like stories and it feels like being seen.” Dude.

The Liars of Mariposa Island by Jennifer Mathieu

From the writer that brought you Moxie. How families can hurt each other and love each other at the same time. Such vivid characters and setting. I want this book to win all the awards. All of them.If you read only one book this year? Read this one.

Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds

Because Jason Reynolds. He is the master and the king. Characters that you know and understand within only a few sentences. Language that begs to be read aloud. Connected stories that you could read over and over again to find connections and references. Questions raised in one story are answered and resolved in another story - like call and response in a novel.

New Kid by Jerry Craft

Because I can’t get this book out of my head. No other book I’ve read this year had so many layers while retaining its narrative flow. Bullying, racism, microaggressions, all taken on without losing sight of the vivid characters and their stories. I don’t always find graphic novels immersive, but this one hits all the targets.

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay

A vivid portrayal of Jay who, while trying to make sense of the tragedy of his cousin Jun’s death, reveals the story of his entire family that somehow also manages to tell a bigger story about the country of Philippines. I loved this story and these characters.

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

The more I think about this book, the more that I am blown away. There is no other book like this one. A story of a utopian town where its residents have become complacent. No one is looking for monsters, but what if they exist? Who are the monsters? And if you look away, do they stop existing?

Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson

Laurie’s response to her own rape as a teenager and what it takes to survive. Written in verse, this book begs to be read multiple times. With a fist raised in the air. Laurie asks us to speak up. And shout.

Some Places More Than Others by Renée Watson

I cried so many times while reading this book. The truth of this family and how they found a way to come together and forgive each other and love each other and see each other. Watson’s poems at the end are show-stoppers.