Happy Thanksgiving!

I’m extremely blessed, but for some reason, I always forget to be thankful for my books around this time of year. I think it’s because I’m too absorbed with my family and friends. And, of course, food. But when I really think about it, there are a lot of books that have made me who I am today, books that I am truly blessed to have read. Therefore, I thought I’d make a list of ten books that I’m thankful for. So, in no particular order, here it is:

1. Baby Angels by Jane Cowen-Fletcher
   When I was little, my parents read to me all the time, and this was one of the books that they read the most often. For some reason, I really loved it. It was just a cute little book about some angels that take care of a baby, but I absolutely adored it. We read it to all of my younger siblings, and we had to buy another copy after the original wore out. To this day, I can still recite the entire book. While that’s not a useful skill in most situations, it’s comforting. Simply knowing that I have that with me all the time reminds me that things don’t always have to be so complicated.

2. Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
   I read this book when I was about eight, and I really enjoyed it, but at that time, I’d never really had a book that I enjoyed enough to read over and over again. At least, not a chapter book. I first read it at school, but I liked it so much that my parents bought me a copy so I could read it again. When I found out there was a movie adaptation, I was all over that. I watched the movie too many times to count, because I loved every minute of it. I can’t explain why I loved this book; maybe I liked the storytelling, maybe I liked the names Opal and Winn-Dixie, maybe I liked the idea of a dog for a best friend (Clifford, anyone?), or maybe it was just the right book at the right time. Whatever the reason, this book dominated my life for a short while.

3. A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
   When I was in the fourth and fifth grade, these books were wildly popular at my school. Everybody wanted to read them, and I was lucky enough to have parents that bought them for me instead of making me put my name on the waiting list in the library. Because I was a fast reader, I was able to finish them before everyone else, and that gave me a certain sense of power when they begged me to tell them the ending of each book. The series was about the Baudelaire children, three orphans who were passed from one obscure family member to the next, enduring an unfortunate experience each time. I really related to the oldest child, Violet, because she was smart and inventive, and she had a younger brother and sister to take care of. I would often play in my backyard with my siblings, making them pretend to do silly little things while I invented something. I even spent about a year trying to tie a ribbon in my hair when I was working on anything. Unfortunately, my hair is too thick for that ever to work.

4. Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene
   I’m pretty sure every girl reads Nancy Drew, and I am proud to say I’m one of the ones that read every single book, even the ones they didn’t have in the school library. These books made me want to be a detective. I loved solving the mysteries, though I usually wasn’t as quick as Nancy Drew, and I tried to write my own mysteries based on the books, but it turns out that writing mysteries is actually really hard. I’m not positive, but I think these were the first books that made me want to be a writer. The idea that you could just create your own characters and stories was enticing to me, and the idea that I could have my own Nancy, Bess, George, and Ned sounded amazing. I never wrote anything as good as Nancy Drew, but this was the first time that I’d really poured my creativity into writing something, and the idea stuck (even if I don’t write as much as I’d like now).

5. Harry Potter by JK Rowling
   ‘Nuff said. Of course, Harry Potter is important to most everyone who’s read it. In addition to being a fantastic story, Rowling spins a web so detailed that you can’t help being drawn in. And with Rowling always releasing new information about the books, it’s impossible to escape the wizarding world. But really, who would want to? Harry Potter is the book (or rather, series) that taught me that the real world isn’t always the best, but it also taught me the value of friendship. Yeah, yeah, friendship, I know. But these books are truly the defining books for an entire generation of people, and I am so lucky to get to be a part of that generation. I believe that Rowling’s work has made us all a little more compassionate. It also added a little magic to the world, which is never a bad thing.

6. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
   This is another one of those books that I just can’t explain my love for. The first time I read it was on my Kindle, and I enjoyed it so much that I listened to the audiobook. Then, about six months later, I was bored at a family event, so I started reading it on my phone and ended up reading it in about two days. Oddly enough, I haven’t read it in actual book form yet, but it’s waiting patiently on my shelf. All of John Green’s books are fantastic, but this one is by far my favorite. I honestly don’t know what it is about this book that drew me in, but I love it, and I can’t wait for the next reading.

7. Bossypants by Tina Fey
   My first reading of this book was for a school project in which I had to choose a nonfiction book about gender. I love Tina Fey, and her book did not disappoint. It wasn’t just funny, like I thought it would be. The book deals with real gender issues in society, specifically in entertainment. She taught me that you can be whoever you want, regardless of your gender, and that you should never stop working toward what you want. The audiobook is also amazing because she reads it herself, but Tina Fey taught me what true confidence is: knowing that you are awesome, and owning that, in whatever way you want to own it. She taught me that the only person that can stop you is the one in the mirror, and even then, you can silence that pessimistic voice by simply embracing your awesomeness. (I also love Amy Poehler’s book, Yes Please, and I believe those two women should host everything forever.)

8. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
   I read this book in English class one year as part of a literature circle, and I enjoyed it the entire time, even though the writing style was a little different than what I was used to. As we read, no one else in the group seemed to be enjoying it as much as I was; they found it a little confusing and boring. I was appalled. I connected with this book because it was all about, well, books. As a group, we talked about the travesty of the lack of books and knowledge in their society, but I didn’t really appreciate the concept until later, when reflecting on the book. As someone who is constantly trying to learn, I value knowledge in all forms, but I especially appreciate knowledge that comes from books, so I relate to what the main character is trying to do. I believe Bradbury’s work should be required reading for all students, because the rest of my class didn’t get to read it, and therefore missed out on gaining another level of appreciation for the knowledge they have such easy access to.

9. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
   I read Fangirl at exactly the right time: I was just starting to grow out of some of my awkwardness, and I was realizing that most of the people around me were not ones I’d want to spend time with. I thought it was just that I was shy. Then I read this book, and I connected with Cath right off the bat. She is anxious and antisocial and doesn’t know her place. I can’t relate to having a twin, though that would be cool, but I understand the fear of trying to figure out where you fit in. I recently made a couple of my friends read this book and then I reread it, and I was thrilled to learn that they were feeling the same way about college. I just assumed I was the only one, but being able to share this with them made me realize that I’m not alone in being afraid of the future.

10. You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)
   I was hesitant to include this book because it’s had a similar influence on me as Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s books, but I decided that I shouldn’t leave it out just because I have multiple talented, smart female role models who wrote fantastic books. I read it just a few months ago, and it was everything I’d hoped it would be and more. Despite the fact that being a nerd is awesome, it doesn’t get much appreciation in high school. This book showed me that your ideas, no matter what they are, are awesome if you’re passionate about them. Not only that, but it taught me to follow those passions, even if they’re difficult, because they could lead you to some incredible things. Plus, listening to her narrate the audiobook was like listening to myself. Bottom line: Felicia Day is awesome, and she wants you to know that you’re awesome too.

P.S. The books in the photo were the only ones from the list that I could find at the moment.

What books are you thankful for this year?

   I’m doing something for this review that I don’t normally let myself do: write about the book as soon as I finish it. It’s harder for me to look at the book as a whole because I’m still caught up in the story. However, I just felt like I should write about it, so I am. This book has gotten a lot of mixed reviews, and I was a little hesitant to read it, but, like most every teenage girl in the world, I am a huge John Green fan, so I couldn’t resist.
   For about the first half of the book, I wasn’t all that interested. Green’s Grayson felt like a typical John Green character; he was smart and nerdy and awkward and a little bit charming. I’ve never read any of Levithan’s other works, but his Grayson was a little too intense for me at first. It was raw and authentic, which I felt okay about, because I’m a moody teenager too, but it was a little too much for me going from such a quirky character to such a straightforward one.
   After they met, though, I thought the book improved considerably, though the circumstances that brought them together were less than ideal. Once their lives overlapped, their characters changed, and they both became a little more bearable. Instead of switching between two massively different characters every chapter, it felt more like simply switching between two different points of view that just happened to have different views on life.
   Tiny, one of the topics in the book that causes the most discussion, was not my favorite character. Sure, he was lovable enough, but he wasn’t really all that likable. If I’d met him, I probably wouldn’t warm up to him the way everyone seems to in the book, simply because he seems a bit annoying and a little too “out there.” Also, he was a little too needy for my taste. He was obviously under a lot of stress, but he didn’t treat Will Graysons very well, and losing the important people in his life didn’t really seem to cause all that much more stress for him.
   The romances in this book were the only thing that seemed typically young adult novel-ish. They were fairly predictable and didn’t have much depth, but it didn’t matter much to the story as a whole because the rest of it was done very well. The characters seemed realistic for the most part, and once they got past the part where they all just felt bad about their lives, it was great.
   In the end, I enjoyed this book. I got really into it in the last hundred pages or so, and by the time it was finished, it had actually caused me to feel real human feelings, which a shocking number of YA novels seem to do. It also seemed to handle the controversial issues of depression and homosexuality rather well, especially compared to other books with similar themes. I ended up enjoying this book more than I thought I would, and I found that it made me think more than I expected it to. It’s worth reading if you’re interested in the subjects discussed, or if you just want to find an enjoyable, clever book written by two wonderful authors that comes from two radically different main characters who just so happen to have the same name.