Oh, hi. Didn’t see you there. It’s me, your friendly Betches Vanderpump Rules recapper and occasional book reviewer, here to talk about what I’ve been reading. Now, truthfully, I’ve been reading a lot less since quarantine started, since I’m one of those psychos who gets all her reading in during her daily subway commute. Now that I have to actually make time to sit down and read a book, I usually end up accidentally watching true crime documentaries instead. Oops!
Anyway, I’ve heard that reading is making a comeback—only took a little pandemic to get people to read things other than their phone screens. So in the spirit of books being a thing again, and also us not really having a summer so I don’t want this to be my summer reading list, here are the best books that came out during quarantine that you should read while in quarantine.
Please See Us by Caitlin Mullen (March 3, 2020)
This is a thriller, but it’s not a typical thriller. It is a cool thriller, but really, I would describe it more as a writer’s thriller. The focus is more on the striking prose and crafting vivid scenes than about having a fast-paced, action-packed read. Picture this: it’s Atlantic City, circa whatever year Atlantic City went to sh*t (I could Google it, but I’m not a historian). Two unlikely women meet and become friends: Clara Voyant, a teenage psychic, and Lily, an aspiring art curator who moves back to her hometown after being chewed up and spit out by the Manhattan art scene. Throughout all this, sex workers are being murdered and dumped in AC, and no one even notices. Told through multiple perspectives, including the “Janes” who are murdered, it’s an extremely compelling read.
BLACK WIDOW: A Sad-Funny Journey Through Grief for People Who Normally Avoid Books with Words Like “Journey” in the Title by Leslie Gray Streeter (March 10, 2020)
We’re all going through a sort of grief right now, and this “sad-funny journey through grief” just might be what we all need. Leslie Gray Streeter lost her husband to a sudden heart attack, and finds herself slapped with a label she doesn’t want: a widow. She doesn’t want pitying looks or whispered sympathies, she doesn’t want to wear a black dress and a big hat to her husband’s funeral. Black Widow takes readers through the more unexpected aspects of grief, “from coffin shopping to day-drinking, to being a grown-ass woman crying for your mommy, to breaking up and making up with God.”
The Herd by Andrea Bartz (March 24, 2020)
Yes, I know I’ve written about The Herd before, but I’m covering it again because it’s just that good. (But actually, if you remembered that I have covered it before, DM me @sarafcarter because you deserve recognition for your photographic memory of useless facts.) This thriller takes place in a famed all-female coworking space… no, not the one you’re thinking of, this one’s fictional. When the beloved founder is found dead, her best friends have to figure out who killed her, without compromising the future of the coworking space. And if you can’t get enough of Andrea Bartz’s writing, check out her articles for Betches.
A Mother’s Lie by Sarah Zettel (April 7, 2020)
Beth has spent her entire adult life running away from her past, ever since she narrowly saved her daughter from being abducted. But the thing about the past is that it, and the people from it, don’t really like to stay buried. And when those people from Beth’s past include her two grifter parents, whom she never told her daughter about, let’s just say, sh*t goes off the rails. Just a warning if you do buy this book: you may finish it in a day (speaking for myself).
The Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth (April 7, 2020)
It’s the adult debut from the author of the Divergent series, and if that didn’t sell you right there, I don’t know what to tell you. Okay, I do. An evil force called the Dark One tried to end humanity as we know it, and a group of elite teenagers called the Chosen Ones were called into battle to save the world. (Tbh, would be great if we oculd get a couple of supernatural teens to save us right about now.) Fast-forward 10 years, and the Chosen Ones are trying to resume normal lives—that is, until one of their own winds up dead, and they quickly realize the world still needs saving. Told through narrative and enhanced with magazine articles, government briefs, scholarly papers, and even stand-up comedy routine transcripts, the format is really fun and inventive.
You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle (April 7, 2020)
Need something lighthearted? You Deserve Each Other is like Bride Wars meets How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days. In it, Naomi Westfield is about to get married to her picture-perfect fiancé, Nicholas Rose. The only problem? She can’t stand him. Oh, and that they have an agreement that whoever calls off the engagement has to foot the entire bill. So when Naomi finds out that Nicholas wants out too, they are forced to go head-to-head in a battle of wits, emotional warfare, and pranks to see who will crack first.
Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel by Ruth Hogan (April 14, 2020)
Tilly was a bright, carefree little girl, and when her father suddenly disappeared, she and her mom moved into Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel in Brighton. She eventually falls in love with all the other quirky people there, including Queenie. But when Tilly’s mom sends her away to boarding school without warning or explanation, Tilly is betrayed and heartbroken to leave her makeshift family. As a woman, and after her mother’s death, she returns to the Paradise Hotel, determined to find out what really happened to make her leave the hotel, and the type of person her mother really was.
The House Of Deep Water by Jeni McFarland (April 21, 2020)
While most residents of River Bend, Michigan, never imagine leaving, it’s precisely the place three women were desperate to escape. Linda Williams is perpetually dissatisfied. Her mother, Paula, is the opposite—always too sure. Beth DeWitt is one of the town’s only black daughters, now a mother of two. Linda, Paula, and Beth’s paths collide and a scandal forces Beth to deal with her past. If you just binged Little Fires Everywhere, you’ll want to pick up this debut that examines family ties, racial microaggressions, and the power of intergenerational trauma.
Summer Darlings by Brooke Lea Foster (May 5, 2020)
Heddy Winsome is a working class girl from Brooklyn who wants nothing more than to live among the wealthy. She gets a taste of that life in the summer of 1962 when she lands a gig as a nanny for a rich family out on Martha’s Vineyard. But as she falls in love with someone on the island, she’s forced to reckon with the fact that what you see on the outside (glitz, glamour, nice houses, perfectly coiffed hair) isn’t always what’s going on on the inside.
The Paris Hours by Alex George (May 5, 2020)
Sicily, 1912 Paris, 1927, between the two World Wars. While the city teems with artists and creatives, four regular people are searching for what they’ve lost. Camille, Marcel Proust’s maid, who was supposed to burn all his notebooks but hid one for herself. Souren, an Armenian refugee, who performs puppet shows for children. Guillaume, a lovesick artist who’s hounded by debt until Gertrude Stein walks into his studio. And Jean-Paul, a journalist who tells others’ stories so he can avoid telling his own. The Paris Hours is told over the course of one day in 1927, when all four characters’ stories collide.
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The obsession with Little Fires Everywhere started in 2017 with the release of the novel by Celeste Ng—a book that just about every book club had at the top of their reading list. Filled with drama, strong leading ladies and small-town suburban drama, it was no surprise that it quickly became one of the biggest books of the decade. Now, the queens Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington are bringing it to life with their new Hulu series based on the book. If you can’t get enough of this enticing storyline, and need something to read while you’re stuck at home for the foreseeable future, you’ll live for these 10 unforgettable novels.
1. The New Husband by D.J. Palmer
Out April 14, 2020
Picture this: your husband goes missing on a fishing trip, is presumed dead, and then you find out he was having an affair. Tragic. For the main character in The New Husband, Nina Garrity, this is her reality and she’s doing her best to move on a year and a half after the strange disappearance that left her a widow. Trying to move on with a new man, Simon Fitch, everything seems like smooth sailing. But when her daughter raises concerns about him, Nina begins an investigation into Simon that will send her reeling—we’re talking Dirty John level secrets.
2. The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Grey
Released January 14, 2020
No matter how close sisters Althea, Violet and Lillian are, they never imagined that one of them would be arrested and put on trial for stealing money from a charity (who does that?!). Now left to care for Althea’s twin daughters and wrestling with the idea that the woman who raised them is a criminal, the family begins to fall apart, member by member. With plenty of family drama, a fire, and difficult mother-daughter relationships, this book gives us serious Little Fires Everywhere vibes.
3. The Opposite of Fate by Alison McGhee
Released February 18, 2020
Mallie Williams was feeling on top of the world until a terrible assault left her in a coma. The worst part? Her attacker got her pregnant. By the time she regains her strength and comes out of the coma, her family will have made a decision that will change her life forever. Filled with hopeful messages about life and the decisions that alter the way we look at the world, Mallie Williams proves to be the ultimate badass in Alison McGhee’s latest novel The Opposite of Fate.
4. Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Released December 31, 2019
Alix Chamberlain is a certified boss, living a life full of success and confidence (So… can we all be Alix?). Living a predominantly great life, she’s completely caught off guard when her babysitter, a young black woman named Emira, is accused of kidnapping her child at their high-end grocery store. When a video is released of the horrific incident, Alix knows she has to do something to make the situation right. But the video brings someone from Alix’s past back into her life, forcing all of her plans out the window and putting her completely out of control for the first time in a long time.
5. Queen of the Owls by Barbara Linn Probst
Out April 7, 2020
When college professor Elizabeth innocently poses for nude photos, the only thought in her mind is how these photos will bring her one step closer to her hero Georgia O’Keeffe. Instead, the seriously creepy photographer who took the photos exploits Elizabeth, publishing them for the world to see. Unable to persuade him to take the photos down, Elizabeth does her best to embrace the situation and help others understand why she did it in the first place. If you’re trying to get in touch with your inner feminist spirit this spring, you’ll love Elizabeth and Queen of the Owls.
6. The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger
Released July 2, 2019
Said to be the book “that predicted the college-admissions scandal,” (The Wall Street Journal) you better believe The Gifted School is full of juicy private school drama. Four families have known each other for over a decade, raising their children together and happily living side-by-side in their quaint community. But then an exclusive new school for gifted children opens up and suddenly, the parents of these four families turn against one another, doing whatever it takes to get their children into the most prestigious school in town—and setting a horrible example for their kids in the process.
7. Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier
Out April 21, 2020
College sweethearts Marin and Derek were living the dream before their son Sebastian was taken. Over a year later, the police no longer have any leads in the case, leaving Marin to hire a private investigator to continue digging. But unfortunately for Marin the plan backfires as the PI learns Derek is having an affair with a woman… a much younger woman. Like any reasonable woman who’s been betrayed, Marin begins to contemplate what it would take to break them up for good and it isn’t long before she begins to explore ways of getting her out of Derek’s life permanently. Yikes!
8. Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes by Kathleen West
Released February 4, 2020
Isobel Johnson has never claimed to be a perfect teacher and tries her best to fly under the radar, avoiding the sometimes-crazy class parents. But all of that hits the fan when she introduces a fairly liberal lesson to her class and she begins getting threatening calls from her students’ parents. Simultaneously, helicopter mom Julia has just been trashed by her fellow moms for making an error while casting the school’s winter musical. Banding together, Isobel and Julia quickly find out just how toxic privileged schools like Liston Heights High can really be.
9. A Hundred Suns by Karin Tanabe
Out April 7, 2020
Ever wonder what Little Fires Everywhere would look like as a historical fiction novel? We’ve got you covered! Moving to Vietnam with her husband in 1933, American Jessie Lesage has absolutely no idea what to expect. With scandal surrounding her husband and his connection to the Michelin rubber fortune, she knows she needs to keep up the visage of the perfect wife. Determined to make a real life for herself in Vietnam, she befriends local woman Marcelle de Fabry. What Jessie doesn’t know is that Marcelle is in support of giving the Michelin plantations back to their rightful owners, a secret that will severely threaten Jessie, her husband, and their success.
10. A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler
Released March 10,2020
Good neighbors can be hard to come by, and no one knows this better than single mother Valerie Alston-Holt in A Good Neighborhood. A professor of forestry and ecology, Valerie has everything she could ever want: a bright son headed to college soon, a tight-knit community, and a beautiful home. Things are obviously too good to be true for Valerie (or else this wouldn’t be a novel) and soon, the Whitman family moves in next door and immediately starts to disrupt her life. First, the family completely demolishes the house they bought, building a monstrosity, then they find themselves arguing over a historic tree in Valerie’s yard. But worst of all, Valerie’s son has fallen for the Whitman’s daughter, causing all Hell to break loose. If you think you have bad neighbors, this book will reassure you of how good you have it!
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Summer is officially over and I know this because yesterday a girl in Uggs spilled her pumpkin spice latte all over me. We’ve now moved into that weird in-between stage of seasons where summer is dead but none of your favorite shows are back on so you don’t have an actual excuse for why you ignored your BFF’s text about getting your ass down to the bars ASAP. Like, b*tch LET ME LIVE (my best life on the couch). But never fear, because where there’s a will, there’s a way for me to get out of being social, and that way is to binge read myself into a coma. That said, we’ve got some bangin’ book series to educate you with that are legit better than binge watching all seven seasons of Game of Thrones. You’re so welcome.
The ‘A Court of Thorns and Roses’ Series by Sarah J Maas
I’d been hearing about this series for years and never picked it up because I thought it would be another boring YA fantasy series, and also because I’m stupid. But once I started reading, I could not put these books down. It has all the intrigue and action of Game of Thrones but with twentysomethings and hotter people (if that’s possible). The books follow 19-year-old huntress Feyre who accidentally kills something she shouldn’t and ends up having to spend the rest of her life in a faerie realm. If I lost you just there, HEAR ME OUT THOUGH. At first it’s a little like Beauty and The Beast, but it’s so much more than that by the end of the book. Think epic world building, feuding kingdoms, and badass leading ladies who aren’t afraid to scheme the sh*t out of some men. The books are long AF, but, like, so is a Law & Order: SVU marathon and you people never miss that sh*t.
The ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Series by Kevin Kwan
Would it be a comprehensive reading list if we didn’t include Kevin Kwan and the bougiest family we’ve ever f*cking seen? I think not. The Youngs make your family drama look like child’s play and theirs goes down on private jets. Advanced warning: You might want to settle in with your own order of dumplings, otherwise you’re bound to get very, very hungry while reading. And then go see the movie.
The ‘Addicted To You‘ Series by Krista & Becca Ritchie
Just gonna be real up front and say right now that this is a romance series, so don’t @ me in the comments when you get all hot and bothered on the subway because someone said the word “climax.” Let’s be real, these books are no dirtier than whatever you’re texting your ex after three vodka crans. Just saying. The books follow Lily Calloway and Loren Hale, two members of Philadelphia’s most elite families who both happen to be battling secret addictions while also trying to date each other. If that sounds a little heavy, that’s because it kind of is, but in the immortal words of Kim Kardashian West “it’s the good kind of baggage, like Louis Vuitton.” Seriously, this series is INSANE. Think Kardashian-level family drama meets the lux inner circle of Gossip Girl. Now go forth and binge.
The ‘Thousandth Floor’ Series by Katherine McGee
I know I keep comparing sh*t to Gossip Girl, SO SUE ME. It’s not my fault that show was the voice of a goddamn generation. Anyway, moving on. Set in a futuristic Manhattan, the Thousandth Floor series follows five teens who live at the Palace hotel but on, like, steroids. You’ve got all the Upper East Siders and a Lonely Boy living in the year 3000 where not much has changed but they live underwater. I paraphrase; the book actually takes place in 2118. Whatever. In any case, it’s about a group of rich teenagers who all are hiding dark secrets. Dun dun dunnnn. This book is a fast AF read. It reads like a thriller element because each book opens up with someone dying—and you know we betches love death. Feel blessed, because there’s three books already out so that’s at least four happy hours you can miss in favor of binge reading.
‘The Last Time I Lied’ by Riley Sager
This isn’t technically a series but both of Riley Sager’s books involve campy, Final Destination-like plots that are seriously addictive from page one. We love, love, LOVED The Final Girls and the author’s second book is just as binge-worthy. The book follows Emma Davis who, in a very Pretty Little Liars twist of events, realizes all of her BFFs have disappeared after playing a game of two truths and a lie at summer camp one night. It’s kind of like if all the Liars went missing and only Aria had to find out what happened to them (god help them). I’m telling you right now, once you start this book you won’t be able to put it down.
The ‘To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before’ Series by Jenny Han
Look, I’m not trying to be judgmental, but if you haven’t watched Netflix’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before THEN WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE. I’m sorry, that was aggressive. But really, I’ve never loved a teenaged boy more and I hate how that sounds coming out of my mouth but it’s the honest goddamn truth. If you watched the movie and have a pulse then you obvi fell in love with Peter Kavinsky. I’m telling you now, the books are even better. Plus there’s already three books out in the series so if you’re looking for some more Peter in your life you’ve got at least 900 pages worth of reading material. You can thank me in the comments.
When’s Happy Hour? By The Betches
Not a series, but you should read it anyways because it’s our third book and we wrote it and it will literally change your life. YOU’RE WELCOME.
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Summer is fucking here, and no I don’t care that it’s not June 21st or whatever. If it’s between Memorial Day and Labor Day, it’s summer. Anyway. With summer comes long days at the pool or beach (or stuck on the subway because Governor Cuomo can’t get his fucking act together. You may @ me). While you spend extended amounts of time on your ass, you’re going to need some new reading material. So I bring to you, the Betches summer 2018 reading list. The books on this list all offer something different, so you could legit buy each and every one of them. Actually, you probs should.
‘Text Me When You Get Home’ by Kayleen Schaefer
Look I am fully aware that I’ve sung the praises of this book too much already. But I’m just passionate, okay? This is a really good summer read to make you appreciate your friends. So just pick up a copy and you can finish it at the pool in like, a day. Just try not to cry in public.
‘Crazy Rich Asians’ by Kevin Kwan
Crazy Rich Asians came out in 2013, which might as well have been last century for some of you, but the movie is coming out this summer, so now you really are running out of time to read the book first. And trust me, with a cast like Constance Wu and Henry Golding, you’re gonna want to see the movie, ergo, you’re gonna want to read the book. Crazy Rich Asians is about an American Chinese girl named Rachel, who goes to Singapore to meet her boyfriend’s family. Only nobody warned her that her boyfriend, Nick, is well… crazy rich, and his family is crazy judgmental. It’s fun, it’s smart, and it’s chock full of sarcastic footnotes. How many books can you say that about?
‘Vox’ by Christina Dalcher
Vox is about a not-too-far-off future where women are given a quota of 100 words per day that they are allowed to speak. Any more, and they are punished with a series of painful shocks delivered to the device they are all required to wear around their wrists. Yeah. Not gonna lie, I don’t feel great that Christina Dalcher gave the Republican party an idea they will surely work into the 2020 election campaign, but for the time being this a thrilling, if terrifying, read that will hook you from page one. It’s basically the new Handmaid’s Tale.
‘The Kiss Quotient’ by Helen Hoang
The Kiss Quotient is a romance novel, and I just need you all to know before we proceed any further that “romance novel” is actually a euphemism for “sex book”. I did not know that, and thought I was genuinely opening up a love story, then proceeded to get annoyed (and ok, slightly aroused) by all the sex I was reading. Anywhooo, as far as romance novels go (yes this was my first, if you couldn’t tell), this one is pretty different. It’s about Stella, a super smart economist with Asperger’s, who hires Michael, a male escort, to teach her about sex. They both end up getting more than they bargained for, in more ways than one. Wink.
‘Tell Me Lies’ by Carola Lovering
It’s a classic tale of girl meets boy. Boy turns out to be a fuckboy. Fuckboy ghosts in and out of girl’s life throughout college and her 20s like a manipulative, lying Casper. This book is so relatable it’s upsetting. Plus, it takes place in New York, so it’s an extra-urgent must-read for all you New York betches. But what makes Tell Me Lies different from your diary is that we also get insight into the fuckboy’s perspective and his version of events. I’d advise you to delete that guy’s number before picking up a copy of Tell Me Lies—you know exactly which guy I’m talking about.
‘The Masterpiece’ by Fiona Davis
This fiercely anticipated novel that I am positive is going to be made into a movie follows two women, Clara Darden and Virginia Clay, during two different time periods, 1928 and 1974, respectively. Grand Central Station and art link these strangers together, when Virginia finds one of Clara’s old paintings and sets out to learn more about her. But Virginia’s not the only one who wants to know more about Clara Darden and the enigmatic painting. A little mysterious, a little historical, a little feminist, and a lot exciting, this is one book everyone in your book club will love.
‘The Favorite Sister’ by Jessica Knoll
The author behind Luckiest Girl Alive is back with her second thriller. This one’s about two competitive sisters who sign onto a reality TV show together, along with three other equally successful and jealous women. All want the spotlight. All have secrets to hide. And then somebody ends up dead. You’ve got to pick up this one before it becomes the next plotline of Unreal—hopefully not Bachelor in Paradise.
‘Into The Black Nowhere’ by Meg Gardiner
Full disclosure, this is part of a series, but I have a feeling you can pick this up on its own just fine. I read UNSUB by Meg Gardiner earlier this year, and I was fucking haunted for days. Into The Black Nowhere is the sequel, and it follows Detective Caitlin Hendrix of the Behavioral Analysis Unit (yeah, like in Criminal Minds) as she tracks an UNSUB who is hunting female victims, then posing them in white nightgowns, surrounded by Polaroids. It’s inspired by real-life serial killer Ted Bundy, and you’ll devour this faster than you can binge a season of your favorite crime TV show. Let’s just see if you’ll be able to solve the crime before Detective Hendrix.
‘Hey Ladies!’ by Michelle Markowitz and Carolina Moss
Y’all remember that book TTYL we all read in middle school that was told entirely through instant messages? Those were the days. Even though AIM is dead (RIP), we’ll get to relive the glory days with the new book Hey Ladies! It’s based on the column in The Toast of the same name, and it follows a fictional group of twenty- and thirtysomething women through one year of summer houses, disaster dates, brunches, breakups, and weddings. And the most interesting part: it’s told completely via emails, texts, DMs, and other forms of communication. I know, I kinda buried the lede there. Doesn’t it sound fun?
‘I Had A Nice Time And Other Lies’ by The Betches
If you haven’t read our dating advice book, you need to get on that shit before our third book comes out (v soon). We’ll give you the brutally honest dating advice your friends won’t and give you a no-bullshit guide to dating from figuring out if you’re ready to date to online dating to how not to sound psycho during the beginning stages and beyond. Trust us, your friends are sick of hearing you bitch about the last fuckboy who screwed you over.
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The holidays are coming up, and for most of us that means a significant amount of downtime where we have like, nothing to do. All the TV shows are on hiatus, and despite the stereotype, there are rarely ever any good movies to see on Christmas. (I would know, I was forced to go see Unbroken a few Christmases ago because nothing else remotely decent was playing.) That’s where this archaic invention called “books” comes in. There’s a book for every occasion and every person. Whether you’re book shopping for yourself or your friends and family, here are a selection of new releases for everyone in your life.
‘I’m Judging You’ by Luvvie Ajayi: For Your Sassy Friend
Listen up, judgy judges (so like, all of you if you read this site, I assume). I’m Judging You is probably the most entertaining book you will read all year. In a series of essays, culture critic and blogger Luvvie Ajayi slams basically every part of modern culture, from everyone’s godawful social media habits (no, it’s not okay when you do it) to organized religion to people in relationships and many other areas in between. She says everything you’ve ever thought while angrily scrolling through Facebook, only way funnier and more eloquently. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry… of laughter, you’ll fucking love this book and be gifted with a new set of vocab words with which to judge people. And you’ll (probably) be motivated to do better. The hardcover copy with a new bonus chapter just came out on November 21, so there’s even more comedic material to savor.
‘Dinner At The Center Of The Earth’ by Nathan Englander: For Your Woke Bae
If you have that one friend who won’t STFU about politics—and I’m not talking about your uncle when he has too many Scotches at any family meal, but I guess maybe him too—they would probably enjoy the latest from Nathan Englander. Basically, this novel centers around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but not in a pedagogical way. It’s a work of fiction, and all the characters’ lives are shaped by this conflict in varying ways—it’s at once political and an escape from the political. Does that make any sense? IDK.
‘Seven Days Of Us’ by Francesca Hornak: For Your Dysfunctional Family Members
If you liked The People We Hate At The Wedding from our summer reading list, the next stop on your dysfunctional family book train needs to be Seven Days of Us. If you thought your family was fucked up, just wait till you read about the Birches, a British family who is forced to quarantine themselves for seven days over Christmas when Olivia, the eldest daughter, returns from curing the HAAg virus in Liberia. Think of it like, if one of your family members was traveling to South Sudan at the height of the Ebola crisis. Yep. Stressful. And like any dysfunctional British family, everybody’s got their fair share of life-ruining secrets they’re trying to keep—not so easy to do when you’re cooped up in a house with only each other for a week.
‘The Broken Girls’ by Simone St. James: For Your Dead Inside Friend
If your friend is truly dead inside in every sense of the word, and a little bit indecisive, she will breeze through The Broken Girls. Set in a quaint town in Vermont where a creepy abandoned boarding school is located, The Broken Girls flips back and forth between 2014 and 1950. This book has a little bit of everything—murder, ghosts, corruption, and more—for whatever morbid cause she’s into.
‘Girl In Pieces’ by Kathleen Glasgow: For Anyone Who’s Going Through Some Shit
A fictional, more poetic Go Ask Alice, this heartbreaking book follows Charlie Davis, who, at 17, has already gone through more shit than I hope any of us will have to face in a lifetime. Along the way Charlie has developed some unhealthy coping mechanisms and picked up some bad influences, but setback after setback, you’ll nonetheless root for her from start to finish. Anyone who’s dealing with something tough—or really, anyone who’s human—will take comfort in reading this testament to human resilience. Or at the very least, it will be reassuring to know you could have it much, much worse.
‘One Of Us Is Lying’ by Karen M. McManus: For Your Angsty Little Cousin
Truth be told, this book is basically The Breakfast Club, but with murder. Are you sold? Because that’s all I’ve got—but really, it’s all you should need. Your angsty teenage cousin probably won’t know the difference, because they’re too young to think The Breakfast Club is anything other than the name of your brunch crew’s group chat. *Sobs* I am ancient.
‘We Were Liars’ by E. Lockhart: For Anyone Whose Life You Want To Fuck Up
Full disclosure, this book came out in 2014, but I only just read it this year and I was so affected by it that I keep recommending it to everyone I know at all times, regardless of the current topic of conversation. This YA novel is about Cadence, a 15-year-old who lives for the summers which she spends with her family on a private island off the coast of Massachusetts. Don’t be fooled by the YA categorization; the writing is stunning, almost like a series of prose poems, and will grab you by the collar and pull you in from the very first sentence. At the climax comes a revelation that will shake you—I’m not exaggerating when I say I had a visceral reaction to it. I almost cried; I almost puked; I was haunted for days afterward. Anyone who is the same after reading this book probably isn’t human, so gift it with caution and be prepared to ruin lives. In the best way, I mean.
‘I Had A Nice Time And Other Lies: How To Find Love And Sh*t Like That’ by The Betches: For Your Single Friend
Would it be a reading list if we didn’t include one of the best books ever? Hardly. This cuffing season (kill me), get your single friend a no-nonsense dating advice book. Let’s be real, she’s not doing anyone any favors by “being herself” or “waiting for love to come find her” like all the bullshit clichés suggest, so let us
violently push gently nudge her in the right direction.
Images: Ben White / Unsplash; Amazon (7)
If you went to some fancy pants high school not located in Idaho where they actually made you read books, you’ll probably be all too familiar with the titles on this list. You either begrudgingly drudged through most of these books, or you frantically tried to track down a Spark Notes summary 15 minutes before class so you could get the jist of what was going on. If you were really lazy, you just watched the movie so no reading had to be involved whatsoever. The struggle was real in 10th grade English class, amirite?! Also, if your favorite book from high school isn’t on the list 1) calm down, weirdo and 2) I probably didn’t read it and therefore I don’t think it exists.
9. ‘Animal Farm’
Props to every freshman English teacher for trying to get 14-year-olds to wrap their heads around the 1917 Russian Revolution. Especially consdiering their only other form of reference for this time period was Anastasia. Most freshmen think it’s supposed to be some more adult version of Charolette’s Web and they are sadly very mistaken. Basically the only similarity between the two books is that there are talking barn animals. I haven’t read Charolette’s Web since third grade, but I’m pretty sure Wilbur doesn’t go rogue and try to take over the farm. Shouts out to George Orwell for dropping this and 1984 so every kid in high school has to encounter your work at some point. Luckily for those of us who were too busy trying to figure out how to force your boyfriend into doing a Promposal or talking shit about literally every person you saw throughout the day, there was a cartoon movie version of this book that you could just watch on the DL and pretend you read the book.
8. ‘The Scarlet Letter’
Hester Pynne was kind of a betch for just doing what she wanted to do and hooking up with a dude when everyone wanted her to be a boring-ass seamstress and spend her whole life alone. She loses points for hooking up with a pastor, though. Like, gross. The good thing about TSL is that it probably prepares high schoolers for the fucked up fact that women will probably always be judged for their choices when it comes to sex, and dudes who do the exact same thing are praised for being studs. #Feminism. See also: The Handmaid’s Tale. The Scarlet Letter was pretty much boring AF, but it’s part of the cultural zeitgeist where, like, a shit ton of references about it pop up all the time. Like, how great is Easy A? Speaking of Easy A, The Scarlet Letter is basically responsible for Emma Stone. Like sure, she was in Superbad, but she really came into her own in Easy A. Honestly, can this review just be about Easy A? Thanks.
7. ‘Death Of A Salesman’
Despite what the main character tells you in this Arthur Miller play, this story isn’t about how important it is to be well liked, which is too bad because as a teenager, that’s like, a much more relatable moral. Spoiler alert: the super depressing life of Willy Loman is meant to prove that the American dream isn’t real. Shout out to Mrs. Foote for teaching me that. The whole thing is depressing. Loman is super shitty and cheats on his wife. His two sons are garbage people—one of whom is named Biff, which should really tell you all you need to know about him—and then our man Free Willy just offs himself because he can’t deal with responsibility and he thinks his family will get rich off of his insurance money. He doesn’t even leave any tapes behind for them to sort out or anything. He just like, dies. Not sure who’s a worse suicidal protagonist, Willy Loman or Hannah Baker. But hey, at least this book sets high school kids up to be disappointed with life as adults. Thanks for keeping it real, Death of a Salesman.
6. ‘The Stranger’
Albert Camus’ existentialist novel tracks the main character living in French Algeria from the time his mom dies until he murders a dude on the beach and then waits out an execution in prison. Like uh, that escalated quickly. Apart from the the shooting, it’s mostly just a lot of talking about how God isn’t real and human existence doesn’t mean anything. So, yes, to answer your question, it’s super French. The emo kids in your class fucking loved this one, and would always pretend they understood it more than you, as if your understanding of literature is in any way correlated to the amount of time you spend at your local Hot Topic. Sad.
5. ‘The Picture Of Dorian Gray’
All weird theater kids in high school are obsessed with Oscar Wilde, but you probably didn’t know who he was until you had to read The Picture of Dorian Gray or like, saw his quote that’s like “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken” and used it as justification to act like a complete freak all throughout high school. Anyway, this book is about a Victorian-era fuckboy whose friend paints a portrait of him and then that portrait starts aging in his place. So, think of it as Victorian era botox, only you don’t look like a wax figure. You just stay young and hot as you terrorize London, basically. TBH I loved reading this because Oscar Wilde is the king of sassy-ass remarks. If your GBF was a Victorian author and playwright, he would be Wilde for sure. The book tries to make it seem like there’s a downside to the whole stay-young-and-hot-forever-while-your-potrait-grows-as-old-and-rotted-as-your-soul thing, but I honestly still can’t see it. The whole scenario still sounds very legit to me.
4. ‘The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn’
If you read Tom Sawyer in elementary school, then you graduated on up to Huckleberry Finn in high school. It’s the quintessential American novel or some shit, right? You probably had a class debate on if you should say the N world while referring to the book in class. AWKWARD. (The answer is no, btw. Very hard no.) This book is way too fucking long and Mark Twain wrote it colloquially so it’s basically impossible to understand some of the shit being said unless you read it out loud. What the fuck, high school English teachers? Why are you putting kids through this? Then again, it’s not that bad of a story and at least there’s enough action to keep you somewhat entertained. Also, props to Mark Twain for trying to make people in the 1800s be not racist. It’s 2017 and we’re definitely still working on that.
3. ‘The Great Gatsby’
Ugh, this fucking book makes me irrationally angry because it inspired every fucking basic to throw a Gatsby themed birthday party for themselves. In reality, those parties are much more exciting than this book. In fact, the book is kind of weird and boring in comparison to watching Leonardo DiCaprio play a rich dude who throws dope parties with Jay Z music in the background. Sure, the roaring twenties seemed amazing, and everyone likes stories about rich white people with problems. I mean, that’s how the Real Housewives franchise has such a big following, right? But in reality, the book is the very depressing story of Gatsby, the world’s most delusional dater. Honestly, it provides a very vauable lesson, that delusional dating does not work, and you’ll just end up dying and embarrassing yourself. Shouts out to every English teacher who constantly reminded you that Nick was an unreliable narrator, making the book unreadable. Like, why am I going to waste my time reading this book when I can’t even believe anything written in this book? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills! This is the exact same reason I never listen to anything I hear from Ashley in gym class. It’s just unreliable.
2. ‘Lord Of The Flies’
Lord Of The Flies is a book about a group of young boys who buy tickets to a high-end luxury music festival promoted by Ja Rule, and end up stranded on an island with no food or water and have to eat each other. JK. But like, Fyre Festival definitely made this one relevant again #blessings. Anyone with even a D in high school lit could see the comparison. In reality, Lord Of The Flies is the fairly disturbing story of a group of British schoolboys who get trapped on an island (sans Ja Rule) and have to try to figure out what the fuck to do about it. Just like in actual high school, there’s one fat kid who everyone calls “Piggy” that gets shit on relentlessly by everybody as the group goes slowly insane. Unlike in high school, a boulder falls on his head and he dies. The whole thing is a big allegory for humans’ need for structure and order butting heads with their desire for power and control. Also, the dangers of being the fattest person in your friend group.
1. ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’
In a survey I did of randomly asking two people what their favorite high school read was, they both said To Kill a Mockingbird. So, I’m taking that as proof that it was the least terrible thing you were assigned to read. Also, Scout and Atticus are becoming a super popular hipster baby names so we know this book has had an impact on people. TKAM is about a little racist town in Alabama, shocker, where a black man is on trial for raping a white woman. Atticus Finch, Scout’s dad, is his lawyer and totally hot for a dad, or so I pictured. I know kids who I didn’t think could even read in high school, and yet they read this book. There was also a decent black and white movie to watch if you really couldn’t read or some shit. And Gregory Peck, who played Atticus in the movie, totally reaffirmed that Atticus was probably a hottie.