I didn’t quite meet my Goodreads Challenge goal for 2019. I pledged to read 12 books and was just starting the last book of the year — The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern — a few days prior to ringing in 2020.
Yet, it was still a good reading year for me. I have an overflowing bookshelf at home and a renovated library in my city that I’ve been picking at to rekindle my love of reading. I’ve discovered a few new authors and favorite books, and I’ve realized the common threads between the majority of the books I’ve read this past year.
They’re Young Adult
I’m going to be 30 years old this year and I still opt to browse the young adult section of the bookstores and libraries. Granted, I believe anyone can read any genre of book they wish to, but young adult was always special to me. As a young teen, it was books in the young adult section that drew me to read.
I discovered Tamora Pierce, one of my favorite authors back in the day, as I wandered out of the children’s section and into the teens and young adult bookshelves at my closest Barnes and Noble one day. I grew up with J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, moving from the children’s section to the young adult shelves as the characters grew older with me.
While I’ve read stories from the adult section of the bookstores and libraries, they characters didn’t resonate with me as much as young adult protagonists did. Sure, sometimes I wonder where the parents of the protagonists in the teen and young adult books are, but those protagonists are usually full of so much hope, ambition, and dreams. I’m finding my step in my own dreams at this time, so reading about protagonists doing the same is comforting.
Fantasy was always one of my favorite genres. Sarah Gailey’s Magic for Liars and Rainbow Rowell’s Wayward Son both gave off some Hogwarts vibes, and Good Omens from Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman had god-like magic and power in common with Mackenzi Lee’s Loki.
Fantastic locations, improbably odds, strange creatures… It’s always lovely to escape to another world once in a while, especially with how turbulent our own world can be.
The most important of all, the majority of books I read have some sort of queer representation. I personally identify as asexual, so seeing characters who are LGBTQIA+ in more important roles is always exciting. While their orientation isn’t a defining characteristic of the characters, having that extra piece of representation to relate to is wonderful.
Three out of the four above books I mentioned — and, arguably, the fourth book as well if the fandom has anything to say about it — have or mention explicit characters who identify as something other than straight, mingling with characters who are the “default” orientation like it’s no big deal.
As a child, characters like that wouldn’t exist in the books I read and it was difficult to relate to any of the, shall we say, heavier romance scenes in stories. It wouldn’t be until 2016 that I realized I wasn’t quite wired that way, and I wonder how I could have avoided feeling like a piece of me was missing if I just had more role models than characters who had no problem tumbling into each other’s beds without much build-up. It took many years for me to realize why I enjoy the fluffier aspects of relationships but not the sex. More — and better — representation for other types of people are needed for all, and I am glad to have discovered some other wonderful characters who I can identify further with.
While I’m all for exploring more genres and types of characters in books for 2020, I’m pleased with my reading list from 2019. I most likely will not deviate from my little checklist of common threads in the types of books I enjoy the most.