City of Edmonton Youth Council
Book Nook : Top 5 Books of 2021
Written by : Bayan Shayeb | Edited by : Sithara Naidoo
This year, I challenged myself to read 50 books. I didn’t meet this goal but with 44 books read, for a total of 15,874 pages, I did come close. Looking back on the year, my taste in books has evolved. 2021 may be only the beginning of my endless literary journey but it will be a year I will never forget because it introduced me to some of my favourite books.
5. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Eleanor and Park is the most adorable book I have ever read. It’s a love story about two high school students who meet each other on their school bus. They get closer each day and fall into a routine of sharing comics and music.
I read the first 200 pages of this book in one sitting because of how addicting it was. Short chapters, dual POV, fast-paced; I literally couldn’t put it down. This book was written in a way that created such a unique, warm atmosphere that enveloped me while reading. From the moment I read the first page, the nostalgia emanating from the pages trapped me in a bubble of wistfulness. Every single one of Eleanor and Park’s interactions quite literally had me grinning from ear to ear; this book was the perfect escape from reality.
If you liked The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon or The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, you’ll really enjoy Eleanor and Park.
4. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
The Bell Jar is a fictional autobiography written by Sylvia Plath that is based on herself as a young woman. Esther, the main character, moves to New York to work for a fashion magazine after university but during her time there she struggles with her mental health and her identity.
The Bell Jar is a little different than what I usually read. I had read it for school so it's definitely a bit more mature than my usual taste but it is still one of my favourite books of 2021. I didn’t expect much going in; it wasn’t a popular fantasy book that I had heard raving reviews about and it was written almost 60 years ago. To my surprise, the vocabulary was surprisingly easy to understand and the descriptions were extremely vivid. Sylvia Plath writes in such a subtly unique way by creating intricate analogies and metaphors and her skills as a poet are showcased in the language she uses to paint a picture in her readers mind.
The writing is what drew me in initially, but Esther’ relatability is what made me want to continue reading. She was gifted and bright but she felt overwhelmed by her unknown future. The portrayal of this common fear is one that I know will resonate with countless students, especially as their own looming futures near.
This is not a book that is simply read, but instead a story that one is immersed into.
3. Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Lightning Thief
This year I finally gave into the pressure and picked up a Percy Jackson book. I initially thought that I wouldn’t enjoy it since I had already watched the movie so I knew what happened, and since all of the main characters were way younger than me. However, I was wrong. After reading this, I finally understood all the hate that the Percy Jackson movies get. The books are truly so much better.
The Lightning Thief is the first book in the series and follows a young boy, Percy, who has had trouble staying at one school his entire life. When Percy turns 12, he discovers that his father, who he never met, is actually the Greek god of the sea, Poseidon. On the way to a special camp for children just like him, Percy’s mother is kidnapped, and he spends the rest of the book determined to get her back.
I was so surprised by The Lightning Thief. I always hear people say that the books are better than the movies and up until this point I chalked it all up to some kind of reader superiority complex because the movies didn’t seem so bad but reading PJO changed me. The movies left out so much of what made the book so good: the fight at the mattress store, Percy fighting Hades, and the Thrill Ride O’ Love. I had put off reading this book because I thought I was too old for it but PJO is timeless. It may be catered towards a younger audience, but I believe that people of all ages can enjoy it (and it’s a much better alternative to Harry Potter).
2. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
The Raven Boys might honestly be the strangest book I’ve ever read. It follows a teen girl, Blue Sargent, who comes from a family of psychics. Every psychic she’s ever seen has told her that she will kill her true love by kissing him. She then meets a private school boy, who her aunt tells her she will either kill or fall in love with, and goes on a hunt with him and his friends for a dead Welsh King that will supposedly grant them wishes.
The plot of this book is so weird and complex, which is what makes it so good. Just the utter eccentricity of the storyline is a masterpiece. I don’t know how Maggie Stiefvater came up with it but I’m glad she did because this book felt like a dream. It felt like the kind of incredibly vivid dream that you have every so often but for some reason can’t actually describe once you wake up; you remember everything that happened, but in a way that can’t be put into words. This is exactly what The Raven Boys is like but in the best way possible. So much happened in this book but the most unforgettable part is the main group of characters that this novel is about.
The dynamic between Blue and the rich private school boys she joins feels so natural, despite the obvious contrast. She does have issues with a few of them at first but she soon finds her place in their friend group and interacts with them as if they’ve known each other their whole lives. This “found family” trope is one that I know many people are fans of, especially when the characters are relatable. I was able to find myself in Blue Sargent, and I’m sure that other readers will feel the same way.
If you’re looking for a fun yet unusual book that is likely unlike anything you have read before, The Raven Boys is the way to go.
1. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Six of Crows follows Kaz Brekker, a seventeen year-old criminal from the fictional city of Ketterdam, who is offered a huge sum of money in exchange for pulling off a seemingly impossible heist with the help of five other criminals: a sharpshooter, a heartrender, a fugitive, a runaway, and a spy.
This is one of the very few instances in which a popular BookTok book actually lived up to the hype. In early 2021, I was seeing this book all over my social media and my English teacher kept on recommending it, so I finally caved in and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. SoC seems like it would be a very fast-paced book but Leigh Bardugo took her time telling the story by scattering flashbacks and new information throughout the entire novel. The amount of effort put into developing the characters is not something that is often seen in YA novels.
In my opinion, the main selling point for Six of Crows is the characters. Bardugo did an excellent job in writing such a diverse, well-rounded group of very unique individuals. The dynamic and witty-banter between the characters is what makes this book so good. While I was reading it, I kept wishing that I was there with them in each conversation they had. Tragic, yet suspenseful, backstories were given to all the characters and I often found myself forgetting that they were not much older than me because of how they acted. The characters in this novel do not feel like teenagers and this was intentional. The harsh society in which they live has forced them to grow up too soon, which is another one of the many great things about Six of Crows: the world-building.
Within the pages of the novel, Leigh Bardugo has fabricated an entirely new world, with different countries, histories, languages, cultures. Besides the character dynamic, the plot in itself was very captivating. Leigh Bardugo has a way of writing in which my attention never strayed from the words on the page. With every mishap or betrayal that occurred, I just wanted to keep reading more. The entire premise of an impossible heist pulled off by a group of teenage criminals had so much potential and not a bit of it was wasted.
My taste in literature will undoubtedly change in the coming years, but these books are so good that I know they will forever remain on my list of favourites.