Hello everybody! Long time no see. I had an unplanned hiatus, for possibly the best of reasons: I found out in November that I was a YoungArts finalist in Novel and Short Story, and I’ve been busy planning for YoungArts week ever since. I also rewrote my book for NanoWrimo. (Plus I finished all my college applications. I wrote so many supplementary essays. SO MANY. The whole process is so weird and subjective, and I’m pretty happy to be almost done with it. If someone mentions the ACT one more time, I might throw a book at them.)
2018 certainly wasn’t perfect, particularly in regards to world news, but I became a better writer, travelled to new cities, and got bangs – obviously my most important life event. I’m going to be sad to see this year go, but I’m excited for everything that 2019 will bring, even if a lot of it will be big changes for me. (Going to college? Writing another book? Learning how to cook more things than eggs?? Anything could happen.) As Emily Dickinson once said, “I dwell in possibility.”
But right before I move onto 2019, here is 2018 in review.
I had my typical reading goal of 52 books, and I managed to surpass it with 61 books! This year, I finally embraced my love of middle grade novels – they have so much heart – reading 15 MG/Young Adult books. Contemporary & Historical Fiction was close behind, but I only read five poetry books this year. I also read my first ever graphic novel series. All in all, it was a pretty great year for books,
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
The Mothers by Brit Bennett
Circe by Madeline Miller
WOW. These are the books I refused to shut up about for a whole year. Her Body and Other Parties has been the book I’ve recommended to everyone. It’s totally influenced my writing, reading, and concept of feminism and genre. I wrote my first ever science-fiction story because of this collection! This book is the future. The Thing About Jellyfish reignited my love of middle grade, and The Mothers was so well-written that I refused to read it until I finished my own book so I wouldn’t be intimidated. Finally, I found a new favorite author with Circe. I didn’t think my love for greek mythology could grow anymore, and Madeline Miller took that challenge by sprinkling in what I always thought was missing in the myths: women’s perspectives. My favorite greek myth yet.
The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley
Let It Snow (DNF) by John Green Maureen Johnson , and Lauren Myracle
The Promise of Stardust just wasn’t for me. I thought it was going to be a moral family drama in the vein of My Sister’s Keeper, but I found it to be pretty preachy. If you have an eye for detail, you may have noticed Let It Snow wasn’t on my total list, because I didn’t finish it. It’s a collection of short stories, and centered around a broken down train and a bunch of cheerleaders in a Waffle-house. (Yes, this has John Green’s fingerprints all over it.) Speaking of John Green, it was during his story that I put the book down and didn’t pick it back up. This was a weird misognistic thing going on regarding the cheerleaders throughout the novel, but since I liked Green, I was particularly disappointed to read this fun line of dialogue from his female character: “If by that you mean that I dislike celebrity magazines, prefer food to anorexia, refuse to watch TV shows about models, and hate the color pink, then yes. I am proud to be not really a girl.” UGHHHHHHHHH. The whole thing is obviously “I’m not like other girls,” which is obnoxious in its own right. What’s so wrong about being a girl? What’s so wrong with the color pink? (Fun fact, pink was a boys color in the early 1900s. Y’all don’t hate pink. Y’all hate women.) But I can still forgive that, because a character’s dialogue is not an author’s opinion. However, referring to eating disorders as a “choice” that girls make is both dangerous and blatantly incorrect. Presenting a deadly disorder as something that is girly and weak is so messed up. I still think the first story by Johnshon is pretty cute, but I settled down for some cute snow tales and instead got hit with warped internal misogyny, so unfortunately this is the category where this book ended up.
The Wicked + The Divine, Vol.
No Slam Dunk by Mike Lupica
A World Without “Whom”: The Essential Guide to Language in the BuzzFeed Age
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
OKAY. This might seem like a weird medley of books, but hear me out. So, first, I picked up my first graphic novel volume, The Wicked and the Divine, and was hooked. 12 Gods from different religions are reincarnated as humans, but they only have two years to live. Isn’t that one of the coolest elevator pitches you’ve heard? No Slam Dunk was a book I read because of my awesome internship at a book publicity place. I underestimated how much I’d like it. In middle school, I thought “sports books” were probably poorly written, but now I realize like any genre fiction, it can be brilliantly executed. A World Without Whom was a book about copy-editing that I thought I’d skim through. Instead, I read every word. It changed my perspective on the power of language in a time where people’s words are limited by characters. Finally, I thought Slaughterhouse-Five would just be a book about war and gore, If someone said “So it goes,” I thought of the Taylor Swift Song. But wow. What an honest and brutal depiction of human suffering. I’m a total Vonnegut-convert.
Best Existential Crisis Books
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
My Private Property by Mary Ruefle
You know that feeling when you finish a book and you have to lie down on your back and stare at the ceiling and reconsider absolutely everything that you’ve previously taken for granted in your insignificant life? Yeah, these books will do that for you.
Books That Made Me Cry
How to Love the Empty Air by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
UGH. UGH. UGH. So, How to Love the Empty Air is basically the most eloquent sob-fest I’ve ever read. Do not trifle with it in public, but if you’re a writer, someone who loves their mother, or someone who likes crying, pick up a copy. I grew up with the Illiad, and I never thought a rewriting would make me cry, but Madeline Miller made me care about these characters like I never had before. Also, she made me cry. So there’s that.
Books That Made Me Laugh
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina
The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
I knew I was probably in for some laughs based off the titles alone, but I had no idea how much joy the narrators in these books would give me. These are not easy or necessarily funny stories; there’s violence and complication in both. However, despite it all, both of these novels made me actually laugh, because the main characters’ voices are just that authentic and compelling. It felt like a friend was telling me the story.
- The Mothers by Brit Bennett
- Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín
- The Storyteller’s Secret by Sejal Badani
- Three Blind Mice and Other Stories by Agatha Christie
- The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
- The Game We Play by Susan Hope Lanier
- Modern Lovers by Emma Straub
- The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin
- Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett
- Plainsong by Kent Haruf
- The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley
- Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories by Sandra Cisneros
- My Private Property by Mary Ruefle
- A Book on the Table: Flash Fiction by Celeste Ng, Grant Faulkner, and more.
- How to Love the Empty Air by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz
- Poems by Louisa May Alcott
- I’m So Fine: A List of Famous Men & What I Had On by Khadijah Queen
- One Secret Thing by Sharon Olds
- There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé by Morgan Parker
- The House On Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
- Hamlet by Shakespeare
- Metamorphosis and Other Stories by Franz Kafka
- Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
- Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
- The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
- Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
- A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
- Beloved by Toni Morrison
- Legendary Authors and the Clothes They Wore by Terry Newman
- Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
- Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton
- A Girl’s Guide to Joining the Resistance: A Feminist Handbook on Fighting for Good by Emma Gray
- Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) In Song by Sara Bareilles
- A World Without “Whom”: The Essential Guide to Language in the BuzzFeed Age by Emmy Favilla
- The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
- Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina
- The Unlikely Story of the Pig in the City by Jodi Kendall
- Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes
- The Big Crunch by Pete Hautman
- The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
- The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang
- Poison Ivy by Amy Koss
- Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
- Things You Either Hate or Love by Brigid Lowry
- This Impossible Light by Lily Myers
- No Slam Dunk by Mike Lupica
- Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson
- 500 Words Or Less by Juleah del Rosario
- The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
- The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 1: The Faust Act by Gillen, McKelvie, Wilson, & Cowles
- The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 2: Fandemonium by Gillen, McKelvie, Wilson, & Cowles
- The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 3: Commercial Suicide by Gillen, McKelvie, Wilson, & Cowles
- The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 4: Rising Action by Gillen, McKelvie, Wilson, & Cowles
- The Wicked + The Divine Vol. 5: Imperial Phase by Gillen, McKelvie, Wilson, & Cowles
- The Wicked + The Divine Volume 6: Imperial Phase II by Gillen, McKelvie, Wilson,& Cowles
- Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
- The Hawkweed Prophecy by Irena Brignull
- The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
- Circe by Madeline Miller
- The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
- Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep
- I started journaling again, which makes me feel like I have my life together. (I don’t. But doesn’t someone who journals sound like they have their life together? Fake it ’till you make it.
- My first book won a national gold medal in the Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards.
- I finished my second book, then rewrote it, then submitted it to YoungArts, and I became a finalist!
- I got to participate in two summer writing programs, where I wrote a ton of short stories and poems.
- After going to the New Jersey TeenArts festival, I came first in state for Creative Writing.
- I won 2nd Place in the Waltham Forest Poetry Competition with my poem Rome.
- My work appeared in the Asbury Park Press, Louisville Review, Poets Reading the News, Polyphony Lit, CrashTest Magazine, Bridge Ink, Blue Marble Review, and Navigating the Maze.
- Poets Reading the News nominated my poem, Learning, for the Pushcart Prize.
I want to end this blog post by looking forward. It was pretty tricky to make goals for myself this year, because I don’t know what state I’m going to be living in once fall rolls around. All the different schools I’m applying to are different directions my life could go. It’s almost unsettling that so much is unknown. However, I have a few resolutions that I plan to carry through no matter where I end up:
- Read 52 books.
- Blog at least once a week. (Fingers crossed for this year.)
- Pitch my second book to literary agents (!) and start drafting a third.
Here’s hoping that I’ll be able to accomplish some of these!
Thanks so much for reading. How was your year? What books did you read? Do you also pretend that you’re organized just because you journal every now and then? Let me know in the comments! Until next time, you can find me on Pinterest or Instagram.