This list is in no particular order, although I tried to rank them in order of which ones I read first. In terms of favoritism, they are in no particular order because they each added an element to my life that was otherwise missing prior to my reading. They gave me what I needed in times of pain, and taught me lessons between the spaces in the lines. They each have a purpose that is special to me and they are worth sharing with others in hopes that they will bring someone else as much love as they have shown me.
1. A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
This book inspired me to be a writer. I was only fourteen when I read it, but it gave me the courage to dive into writing head on, with no fear. Mattie was only two years older in the time frame of the book, but she was an amazing friend while I read through her story. She gave me courage and cultivated the writer within me. Without her, I wouldn’t be the writer I am today
2. Lock & Key by Sarah Dessen
After I read this book, I immediately found a vintage key, slipped it onto a silver chain, and wore it around my neck for two plus years. I was enamored with the idea that Dessen lay before her readers. I loved how a key was symbolic of the future and that with that key, I could unlock any door that got in my way, any door that led to where I wanted to be in life. I had the power as long as I possessed the key. That is a wonderful and powerful message, particularly for young girls. To remind us that we all have the power to achieve our goals and unlock the doors to everything we want in our lives.
3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I remember reading this in high school and marveling at how wonderful it was. So many kids in my class talked about how they hated it and how it didn’t have anything to do with their lives. Harper Lee has gifted us with a classic story that will always hold relevance in our world. It is about judgement, courage, humanity, and the chance to stand up for what you believe is right. With all the darkness in our world, it’s nice to know that there is a place with some light.
4. Anne Frank and Me by Cherie Bennett and Jeff Gottesfield
This book is almost as relevant as The Diary of Anne Frank. I say almost because Ms. Frank’s words can never be replaced by that of fiction, for her experience was real and honest. However, this book puts the reader in the mindset of a Holocaust victim. We assume the identity of a girl who meets Anne Frank in an unconscious state, going through every horrendous experience with her. It was a very important read, but also mentally and physically draining. For a middle school/ early high school audience, this book is a great start to understanding the tragedy and pain that millions of people endured.
5. Kissed by an Angel by Elizabeth Chandler
This is a heart-wrenching book. I remember sitting in my free period reading this with tears running down my cheeks. I was an emotional and gullible young woman, unfortunately the emotional part is still in existence, but this book stirred up a lot of emotions and thoughts about death, love, and life. I was maybe fifteen when I read this, so it’s not like I had an abundance of life experience under my belt, but this book caused me to think about love and death in serious terms. Several years after I read this, the author came out with a sequel and then maybe a three or so years ago the last book came out. I haven’t read that one yet, because I’m not sure I am ready for what will happen at the end. Regardless, it was a fantastic book that I think about often.
6. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I had to include this book because it’s important for everyone to realize that this trilogy is not about a love triangle. Yes, it is a part of the story, but it’s not the main point. The fact of the matter is, that in this fictional word, children are dying for political reasons. This story is about courage and rebellion, not about love. The only extremely important note on love is how much Katniss loved Prim, which sparked the entire storyline. With all that being said, I did have a preference for Peeta because he was the only one who would have understood Katniss post games. Only he could understand her nightmares and her fears, Gale would never have been able to fully understand her pain and her heart ache. Only Peeta, someone who was in the games with her, could have completely understood her mindset from then on. So yes, love is a theme, but it’s not the most important one. The media in the Capitol tried to use Katniss and Peeta’s love story to distract people from the uprising, surprise surprise that our media has done the same thing–play up the love story so that people will forget that innocent lives are being lost, not only in the story but all around the world. Love is not a distraction and the media should stop playing up that angle because Katniss is not a prize–she is the mockingjay.
7. The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
I wrote a book review about this quite some time ago, but I honestly love this book. I was going through a difficult time and I found hope in the pages. I was able to transport myself to Mullaby, North Carolina and sip sweet tea with Julia and Emily, forgetting all of my worries. It’s enchanting, wonderful, and magical. Just go read it.
8. The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud by Ben Sherwood
I remember finishing the last page of this book and just sitting in awe at how amazing it was. It was honest and vulnerable, but it made you think without being overbearing and difficult. Charlie is a wonderful character full of complexities and flaws, and he tries his best to live the hand that he was dealt. I’m not sure how else to describe why this is an amazing book, but it fills you with hope and gives you an understanding about death that is so unique that it feels so heartfelt and real.
9. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
If you haven’t read this series, then stop what you are doing and fix that. It’s beautifully written, woven with magic, mystery, love, and family. In life, we find aspects of darkness and light, and we often dwell in the darkness. In truth, there cannot be light without dark nor dark without light. Each is given a balance, and once that balance is tipped, one side gets bigger while the other shrinks. This series was so much more than the shitastic movie version that came out not too long ago. I sat in the theater astounded at how awfully the film was made and how the director had ripped apart the pages of my beloved book, ruining the characters and the setting that I had come to love. Do not watch the movie, read the book, it’s always better anyway.
10. Divergent by Veronica Roth
Be honest, you all knew this was coming. I love this series although we still cannot talk about the last book because it causes me to cry uncontrollably. I related to Tris in so many ways that I had never expected. She has given me the courage that I have lacked for several years. I remind myself everyday to be dauntless and remind myself that I can be like Tris, that I can find my way in the world. I have so much respect for what Tris stood for and the strong woman that she became over the course of the story. I miss reading about all the characters and I may just get three birds tattooed on my person. We shall see, I loathe needles and no amount of courage from Tris can change that, but she is a good reminder for my life everyday that I can change anything I want to when I put my mind to it. I am strong and Tris taught me that.