The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler
The Basic Eight is a psychological thriller in the vein of Fight Club and Gone Girl, only set in high school and full of even more black comedy. Written by Daniel Handler, a.k.a. Lemony Snicket, it’s one of the best portayals of dark, obsessive high school friendships I’ve ever had the pleasure of devouring. My friends and I passed this book around when we were in our early 20’s, and we all found it hilarious and deeply poignant. I think I might have to go reread it right now, just to sink back into Handler’s perfectly sinister clique and relive the shocking plot twists all over again.
Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis
I read this book in two feverish days, rapt and anxious about how the narrator, a hard-bitten girl named Lynn, would defend her meager water supply in a world where there’s not enough of the stuff to go around. The stakes here are impossibly high throughout, and everything feels so real because of how well McGinnis knows the techniques of wilderness survival. A gorgeous and all-too-plausible dystopia.
Here Where the Sunbeams are Green by Helen Phillips
This middle-grade adventure story is about so many things: endangered birds, a creepy fountain of youth, first kisses, volcanoes, magic, sleuthing. But it’s the sometimes-strained relationship between sisters Roo and Mad that made this one of my favorite books of last year. Roo and Mad each have their own path to hack through the jungle as they put together clues about their missing father and a scary eco-resort called La Lava, but in the end, we know they couldn’t possibly solve the mystery alone.
Bunheads by Sophie Flack
For anyone who’s into the dark underbelly of professional ballet, Bunheads goes way beyondThe Nutcracker and tutus. Sophie Flack was once a professional ballet dancer, so she nails all the juicy details—the starvation, exhaustion, passion, and broken bones—of her former life. This is the book I go back to when I need to re-immerse myself in the raw hunger of young women willing to do anything to survive in the cutthroat microcosm of a ballet company.
The Pure series by Julianna Baggott
I’m reading this action-packed series right now, and I’m so glad I finally picked it up. Baggott’s poetry background shows on every page—I’ve never seen such grotesquely beautiful imagery in a story told with so much heart. In Pure, detonations have altered people’s cellular makeup and fused them with objects, the earth, even each other. There’s a boy with birds stuck to his back, babies fused forever to their mothers’ hips, a man who joins the underside of a car engine. This book will leave you shaken and terrified and desperately wanting to know how the main characters, Pressia and Partridge, will survive and maybe even fix their post-nuclear world.