21 of my favorite books of all times in honor of turning 21

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Hello, friends!

Today, I turn 21 years old. I honestly feel like I’m still 15 and haven’t aged a single year since that, but unfortunately, I have. Unlike most people, I actually really dislike my birthday, which is why writing posts like these is an attempt to make this day a bit more fun & reflective for me, instead of all the negative vibes that hit as soon as the clock turns midnight.

For this year, I decided to compile 21 of my favorite YA contemporary titles. YA contemporary is my favorite genre, so it just felt fitting to choose this one. It’s going to be a long post, so bear with me!

21 IS FOR THE WICKER KING, BY K. ANCRUM

He would crave the burn until he was dead.

33158541I remember reading this book while in Math class, back in high school. The story was twisting my insides and making me feel so sad, and I still could not put the book down. K. Ancrum creates such amazing characters with an unique writing to show a relationship that is imperfect, but still so so so compelling.

☔️ rep: m/m romance, neurodiverse protagonist
🌈 own-voices: no
🌪 trigger warnings: toxic relationship, codependency, parental neglect, anxiety and panic attacks, use of ableist language

 

20 IS FOR SHE DRIVES ME CRAZY, BY KELLY QUINDLEN

I had yet to learn that being a nobody is supposed to bother me.

52516406. sy475 On a completely different vibe from the last book which is tragic and gritty, She Drives Me Crazy is the F/F romcom of my dreams. With the same vibes to 10 Things I Hate About You, this book touched on so many different topics, of friendship, family, sexuality, being an athlete and misogyny, while still being a fun and light-hearted story full of teen-com tropes.

☔️ rep: lesbian MC, indian-american love interest, f/f romance
🌈 own-voices: yes for the queer rep
🌪 trigger warnings: bullying and homophobia

 

19 IS FOR DARIUS THE GREAT IS NOT OKAY, BY ADIB KHORRAM

Everyone wants you here. We have a saying in Farsi. It translates ‘your place was empty.’ We say it when we miss somebody. Your place was empty before. But this is your family. You belong here.

44139389This book was able to deliver *so* much and make a story that is, objectively, quite far from my reality, feel relatable. Darius The Great tackles mostly identity and our protagonist learning more about his Persian roots, but even as someone who couldn’t see herself in that part of the story, the way the book tackles fatphobia inside your own family and the approach of mental health resonated with me very deeply.

☔️ rep: clinical depression, gay MC, fat rep and persian rep
🌈 own-voices: yes
🌪 trigger warnings: fatphobia, bullying, depression, suicidal ideation, terminal ilness

 

18 IS FOR WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI

You are beautiful. Lajawab. My only worry is that I might not be able to do you justice.

28458598I recently re-read this book and it was such a great experience. While I was able to notice a lot more of its flaws (such as the slut-shaming, internalized misogyny and the lack of actual plot), I still stand by the fact that Dimple and Rishi are one of the best couples I’ve ever read in YA. They push each other to be the best, truer versions of themselves and their interactions are always so mature, with great communication and support.

☔️ rep: indian-american protagonists, latinx side character
🌈 own-voices: yes
🌪 trigger warnings: misogyny, racism and bullying

 

17 IS FOR BIRTHDAY, BY MEREDITH RUSSO

We’ll always be Eric and Morgan. Nothing is ever going to change that.

39863399This is another one that I can definitely say has its flaws, but it’s one of the most compelling stories I’ve ever read. It’s extremely intense, and heartbreaking, and even though it is written in such an unique format, where you’re only spending one day each year with these characters, it’s so easy to connect and feel for them. It’s childhood-friends-to-lovers excellence and so, so, so well-written.

☔️ rep: trans protagonist
🌈 own-voices: yes
🌪 trigger warnings: domestic abuse, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempt, internalized transphobia, homophobia, bullying, death of a parent

 

16 IS FOR HERETICS ANONYMOUS, BY KATIE HENRY

Aren’t most wonderful things a little bit strange?

34659293. sy475 I do need to re-read this book urgently, yes. But I can only recall the good vibes I felt when reading this story. I love the representation, the dialogues, the humor, and our protagonist. Michael is not likable and he can come across as a privileged douche sometimes, but I really appreciate how the story did not deny that and yet acknowledged that his problems were also still valid.

☔️ rep: colombian-american side character, gay Jewish side character.
🌈 own-voices: no
🌪 trigger warnings: slut-shaming and homophobia

 

15 IS FOR DEAR JUSTYCE, BY NIC STONE

We find the families we were desperate for and learn different ways of going about things. Ways that sometimes land us in places/positions we don’t really wanna be in.

37829267This won’t be the last Nic Stone you see in this list, because I do love this author more than life sometimes. Dear Justyce is what I consider to be her best work: it tackles anxiety, PTSD and being in the prison system at a young age in a way that is so honest and raw, and yet so poetic and lyrical and absolutely beautiful. I love how Nic Stone allows her characters to be imperfect and most importantly to *grow*.

☔️ rep: black MC and side characters, PTSD
🌈 own-voices: yes
🌪 trigger warnings: PTSD and anxiety attacks, domestic violence, child abuse, gun violence, murder and incarceration

 

14 IS FOR CAMP, BY L.C ROSEN

I rock a tiara — but I can do anything he can do and be a princess while doing it.

52880287. sx318 sy475 I am still amazed by how this book was able to blow me away. I expected to enjoy it, but it was so refreshing to read a book that empowers queer people in a way that goes against everything the internet and pop culture have tried to tell me: there’s no one way to be queer and queerness can mean whatever it means *to you*.

☔️ rep: gay Jewish MC, gay korean-american love interest, asexual side character, genderqueer side character
🌈 own-voices: yes
🌪 trigger warnings: internalized homophobia, sexual content, toxic masculinity, homophobic slurs (challenged)

13 IS FOR LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR, BY STEPHANIE PERKINS

I know you aren’t perfect. But it’s a person’s imperfections that make them perfect for someone else.

22247695I’m pretty sure I’ve forced every single one of my friends to read this book at one point. I love it so much, I can’t help but want to spread its word. It has the most perfect pacing of any romance I’ve ever read – the perfect amount of sexual tension and slow burn. It also has amazing family dynamics, laugh-out-loud writing and unique characters that you would never see in real life, which I actually love.

☔️ rep: MC is adopted and has two gay dads
🌈 own-voices: no
🌪 trigger warnings: N/A

 

12 IS FOR RADIO SILENCE, BY ALICE OSEMAN

Everyone’s different inside their head.

30653843. sy475 I think it’s remarkable how Alice Oseman is able to write a story that is so deep going from a plot that is so basic: two best friends making a podcast together. If you have read Radio Silence, though, you know how it’s so much more than that. This book makes me wish for a friendship like Frances and Aled’s so bad. I love how their relationship is this safe space where they get to be the most authentic version of themselves.

☔️ rep: biracial queer MC, demisexual gay MC, depression
🌈 own-voices: N/A
🌪 trigger warnings: parental abuse, depression, suicidal thoughts, animal cruelty

 

11 IS FOR AMERICAN PANDA, BY GLORIA CHAO

I couldn’t go through life as a shadow.

35297380. sy475 Another book I need to re-read so bad. American Panda is one of those books where I fell in love with our main character so fast and just wanted to wrap her in a blanket forever. Mei is figuring out so much about herself and her future, and her journey to live as her true self is quite lonely. I really just wanted to become her best friend. I also adore the romance and the complex family dynamics that Gloria Chao creates here.

☔️ rep: taiwanese-american MC with OCD, japanese-american love interest
🌈 own-voices: yes
🌪 trigger warnings: toxic family relationship, OCD, discussions on STDS and mentions of suicide

 

10 IS FOR CONCRETE ROSE, BY ANGIE ROSE

I like to be reminded that beauty can come from much of nothing. To me that’s the whole point of flowers.

52822210I finished this book back in January and is one I’m still thinking about. Not only was this hilarious, but it also brings such an authentic perspective of being a black man in America. Maverick really is a rose trying to bloom from the concrete, trying to make the best decisions he can in a world that thrives on his failure. The sense of community also makes my heart so warm.

☔️ rep: black cast of characters, bisexual side character
🌈 own-voices: yes
🌪 trigger warnings: mentions of parental incarceration, death of a loved one, gang violence, gun violence, drug dealing, racism

9 IS FOR I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN, BY JANDY NELSON

We were all heading for each other on a collision course, no matter what. Maybe some people are just meant to be in the same story.

20820994This! freaking! book! Since the first time I read it, it’s one I still think about. I’ll Give You The Sun is an amazing story of characters that are incredibly flawed, but that you simply can’t help but root for. The way this book discusses family is so well done and how all characters are fated to be in each other’s life is absolutely beautiful. It also made me think a lot about the importance of art.

☔️ rep: gay MC, m/m relationship
🌈 own-voices: N/A
🌪 trigger warnings: death of a loved one, grief, sexual assault, bullying, discussions of addiction

8 IS FOR FAR FROM THE TREE, BY ROBIN BENWAY

They catch you before you fall. That’s what family is.

33830437. sy475 Another one that discusses family so well is Far From the Tree. The themes of this book are so incredibly well done: what family really means, how you can build a future without knowing about your past, how pregnancy changes a person and the importance of having a place where you know you belong. I cried quite a bit with this one too.

☔️ rep: mexican-american MC, lesbian MC
🌈 own-voices: no
🌪 trigger warnings: teen pregnancy, adoption, discussions of alcoholism, foster system

 

7 IS FOR TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE, BY JENNY HAN

Love is scary: it changes; it can go away. That’s the part of the risk. I don’t want to be scared anymore.

15749186Duh. Of course this one had to be on the list. I’m choosing the first one, even if it isn’t my favorite in the trilogy, because it is the one that starts it all. I’ll never shut up about how Jenny Han knows exactly how to use teen-com tropes and create stories that feel authentic and romantic at the same time. While the family in here is absolutely amazing, my favorite thing will forever be how great characters Lara Jean and Peter K are.

☔️ rep: korean-american MC
🌈 own-voices: yes
🌪 trigger warnings: N/A

 

6 IS FOR FURIA, BY YAMILE SAIED MÉNDEZ

I’d leave this house the first chance I got, but not by chasing after a boy. I’d do it on my own terms, following my dreams, not someone else’s.

49150990. sy475 I had to include this book in the list, as it was one of the first ones I could 100% see myself in. Camila is a much stronger and badass protagonist than I’ll ever be, but the way Furia tackles misogyny and the numerous times women have to endure things in order to stay *safe*, was so heart-wrenching to read about. I also loved the romance and the setting of Rosario, which felt so relatable as well.

☔️ rep: argentinian cast
🌈 own-voices: yes
🌪 trigger warnings: domestic abuse, allusions to femicide and violence against women, misogyny

 

5 IS FOR DEAR MARTIN, BY NIC STONE

If nothing in the world ever changes, what type of man are you gonna be?

24974996I said this wasn’t the last time Nic Stone would show up in the list. This was the first book I read by her and I love it so much. The writing is so interesting, but most of all, this book has really tough conversations about how black people are perceived, no matter who they are. The main friendship at the center of the story is also so sweet and Justyce is a phenomenal protagonist that I connected with so easily.

☔️ rep: black MC and side characters, jewish love interest
🌈 own-voices: yes
🌪 trigger warnings: death of a loved one, gun violence, police brutality, racism

 

4 IS FOR WHERE SHE WENT, BY GAYLE FORMAN

I find the need to remind myself of the temporariness of a day, to reassure myself that I got through yesterday, I’ll get through today.

8492825The amount of times I talk about this book is honestly worrisome. I can’t help but love it so much! I adore how much of an angsty narrator Adam is, how he feels things so intensely all the time, and how much music works in his life as a way to channel all these emotions. His growth is also so stunning to watch and, for one set in 24h, the development does not feel rushed at all.

☔️ rep: anxiety
🌈 own-voices: N/A
🌪 trigger warnings: anxiety and panic attacks, mentions of car accidents and grief

 

3 IS FOR ONLY MOSTLY DEVASTATED, BY SOPHIE GONZALES

Here walks Ollie Di Fiore. Master of his feelings, expert detacher, only mostly devastated.

45046743This book just makes me so effing happy. Honestly. It’s serotonin bottled in 300 pages. I never knew I needed a Grease re-telling, with a chaotic main character and a deeply relatable family dynamic, but here we are. I can see this becoming another one of those books I re-read every year just because I know it will never fail to put me in a good mood.

☔️ rep: gay MC, bisexual latinx love interest, wlw side character
🌈 own-voices: yes for the bi rep
🌪 trigger warnings: cancer, grief, bullying and internalized homophobia

 

2 IS FOR CALL IT WHAT YOU WANT, BY BRIGID KEMMERER

One choice doesn’t determine your whole future.

45164092Look, I didn’t mean to make this book my whole entire brand, but oh well. For a book I had no expectations when going into it, Call It What You Want most certainly made a number on me. I adore how the novel discusses morality: what does it mean to do a bad thing for a good reason, what is the line between good and evil, how do our actions define us. All that in an addictive, compelling story with an A+ romance. Brigid Kemmerer really did that.

☔️ rep: black gay side character
🌈 own-voices: no
🌪 trigger warnings: discussions of suicide attempt and abortion, student/teacher relationship (challenged)

1 IS FOR ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE, BY BENJAMIN ALIRE SÁENZ

The summer sun was not meant for boys like me. Boys like me belonged to the rain.

12000020Lmao. I feel like at this point, every single one of my posts mention this book. I’m sorry, I’m a basic girl. Ari & Dante is another book I pushed every single one of my friends to read because I just had to make sure everyone I knew was familiar with this masterpiece. I don’t think I’ll ever relate to anyone as much as I relate to Ari and I love him so much for that.

☔️ rep: gay and latinx main characters
🌈 own-voices: yes
🌪 trigger warnings: homophobia, assault, mentions of a transphobic hate crime, car accident

 

Friends: let me know in the comments, do you have one favorite YA contemporary of all times? Is it a part of my list as well?

14 comentários sobre “21 of my favorite books of all times in honor of turning 21

  1. Happy Birthday Lais 🥰🥰. Sending you best wishes for your 21st year 💚💚 this post is definitely worthy of celebration and I hope it helped with your bday.
    I loved reading this list and the way you set it up 😍😍(especially the quotes with each book), I haven’t read most of them though 🙈– the ones I have are a few of my favourite though. Darius 😍😍, radio silence, American panda and Ari and Dante (I’m slightly nervous about the sequel though 😅)!!
    I’m excited to check out far from the tree– I have it on my shelf and I’m intrigued to read it, especially as you say the themes are so well done. I love the sound of the themes too!!
    Furia, Camp (love the quote you shared for that one), I’ll give you the sun, concrete rose and she drives me crazy are all books I would love to read!! 🥰
    I don’t think I have any ya contemporaries recs that you haven’t read 🤣 I’m curious the see what you think to darius the great deserves better if you decide to pick it up though. Also so excited for Khorram’s next book, kiss and tell. 😍😍
    Amazing post as always 💚

    Curtido por 1 pessoa

    • Thank you sososo much, Sophie!
      The quotes were something I decided to add last minute, but I am glad I did. I feel like I don’t pay too much attention to quotes, so it allowed me to get to know some quotes from my favorite books.
      Hahah, I totally get that! I am glad I can be the one giving recs, though! (And yes I am too super nervous to the sequel of Ari and Dante, hence why I’ve been putting it off!)
      I think Kiss and Tell is going to be amazing! I definitely need to read the sequel to Darius the Great before that one comes out!
      Thank you so much for reading and for your comment! 🥰

      Curtido por 1 pessoa

  2. Happy belated birthday Lais! Even though you don’t really like your bday, I hope you had a wonderful day (such as yourself <3 ) and I hope that everything's been going well.
    This is such a great list!! I keep hearing only good things about The Wicker King and I have it on my TBR, I should probably read it asap :P

    Curtido por 1 pessoa

    • Thank you, Marta! My birthday this year went by kinda fast, but it was still a good day.
      The Wicker King can be a polarizing one, but I’d still encourage giving you a try! It’s definitely one that will make you feel *a lot*.
      Thank you so much for reading & for all the kind wishes! 🤍🤍🤍 (Sorry this reply came so late!)

      Curtir

  3. Happy (late) Birthday! ❤ I love that you decided to create your own positive vibes by talking about your favorite books 🥰 I’m super intrigued by Wicker King, I love books told in a mixed media format! I really need to read Concrete Rose 😅 I also love Darius the Great, When Dimple Met Rishi, Radio Silence, and of course Call It What You Want 💕

    Curtido por 1 pessoa

  4. Happy (late) birthday, Lais!!!❣ I hope this next year will bring you happiness and great moments!🤗

    I always love reading posts about people’s favourite books and I think it’s a great way to celebrate! (I also never feel like my birthday is that big of a deal – it’s like I know I’m getting older but damn me if I feel any older.) I got so many new recommendations for ya contemporaries from this post (and your posts in general). You’re really my source for those!

    Curtir

    • Thank you so much! (And please ignore me being a month late to get back to you hahah).
      I am happy to hear that I was able to give some good recommendations with this one! I definitely think my birthday this year went by even faster than it normally does and it was very bittersweet in a way. But I had fun and I am not that sad about turning 21 hahah
      Thank you soooo much for reading & for all your kind words! 😊

      Curtido por 1 pessoa

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