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Being the main character: book recommendations to finally feel seen

“I think all the good parts of us are connected on some level. The part that shares the last double chocolate chip cookie or donates to charity or gives a dollar to a street musician or becomes a candy striper or cries at Apple commercials or says I love you or I forgive you.” – The Sun is Also a Star

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

This novel is the sun. It’s also a star. It explores science, fate, chances and that thing called the Universe. Natasha and Daniel; Daniel and Natasha. Two teenagers and polar opposites, but both filled with big sky dreams and unbridled rage. With everything they leave unsaid. They find solace in each other, in the core of New York City, in the space of a day. Life’s not fair and humans drift apart and the grit of it all gets caught in your eyes. And yet still, the novel crackles with the defiance of hope, whimsy. Love.

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

Pet is suffused with two things: honesty and hope. Like all stories, it asks: What if? What is so extraordinary is how it answers it. It imagines a utopian world in which all the monsters are slain – and surely none remain? Akwaeke Emezi wrote that “I wrapped hope up in a story – here is a world without prisons and police, in which a black trans girl is loved and cherished.” And Emezi’s ‘little spell’ grown large is a stunning novel. It does what good writing does: throws off the dust sheets of society and peels off the protective coating of people, to show you the truth.

Everything I never told you by Celeste Ng

A bracing, extraordinary portrayal of growing up bi-racial Asian in white picket fence, oh-so-perfect small town. “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” And so it begins, a novel that is less a thriller and more a tender, incisive exploration of the scars of suburbia; the joy and conflict of being bi-racial; the knots and thorns of a family just trying their best and getting it wrong. It’s beautiful and scorching and most of all, it’s an act of redemption.

 

City Beautiful by Aden Polydoros

A visceral, gorgeous and magic novel that immerses you into the Jewish community during the 1893 Chicago World Fair and gets into your bones. It follows Alter, named after an old man to cheat death, who is quietly trying to survive in a cruel world and attempting to bring the rest of his family together. But young Jewish boys are being brutally murdered, including Yakov, Alter’s friend, whose dybbuk (spirit) possesses Alter until he can find justice. It’s a poignant, exquisite story, where monsters are fought, fierce, euphoric queer love triumphs and unlikely friendships bloom.

 

By Mei Kawagoe

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