Six Favorite Fiction Reads
I recently posted about Six Four-Star Mystery Reads I Loved Last Year, Six More Four-Star Mysteries I Loved Last Year, Six Four-Star Historical Fiction Reads I Loved Last Year, and Six Four-Star (And Up) Science Fiction Reads I Loved Last Year.
(And check out My Very Favorite Bossy 2022 Reads for my overall favorite reads from last year.)
Here are six of my favorite fiction reads from last year--with more lists to come.
If you've read any of these, I'd love to hear what you think!
I'd also love to hear about some of your favorite fiction reads, from last year or from this one so far.
01 Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart
Young Mungo offers a striking story of disappointment, abuse, Protestant-Catholic conflict, and a young, gay love forged in the intensely unforgiving climate of working-class Glasgow.
In his second novel, Young Mungo, Douglas Stuart offers the story of a working-class Glasgow family and particularly the life of sensitive, kind, dreamy Mungo, who was named for a saint.
The story of Young Mungo largely alternates between an intensely disturbing, extended situation involving abuse, neglect, and danger and the blossoming of a forbidden young love, exploring the vulnerability of allowing one's self to be seen for the first time, overcoming lifelong Protestant-Catholic conflicts, and forging a meaningful connection.
Young Mungo explores ideas of masculinity and loyalty, a gay relationship forged in an intensely unforgiving social climate, brutality, and revenge, and it offers surprises as well.
Douglas Stuart is also the author of Shuggie Bain.
For my full review, check out Young Mungo.
02 Now Is Not the Time to Panic by Kevin Wilson
Kevin Wilson's wonderfully odd 1990s coming-of-age novel centers around teens Frankie and Zeke, their mysterious artistic creation, and the work's ripple effect, which reaches well beyond what they ever could have imagined.
Sixteen-year-old aspiring writer Frankie is just trying to get through a late 1990s summer in Coalfield, Tennessee, where she's lived all her life. Despite her noisy, raucous household (she has triplet brothers and a busy single mom), she's used to being a loner.
But then a new kid, Zeke, moves into his grandmother's house with his mom, who's in Coalfield nursing a heartbreak. Zeke is an artist, also a loner, and he's fascinating to Frankie.
Frankie and Zeke want to create something--something strange, something people will notice, yet something that is all their own.
They come up with an original enigmatic phrase and add attention-getting artwork, then spread mysterious posters of their creation far and wide--causing speculation, alarm, and repercussions far beyond what they could have predicted.
As he did in a different way in his novel Nothing to See Here, in Now Is Not the Time to Panic, Wilson creates a fascinatingly odd situation, then offers characters' vulnerabilities and imperfections to bring the story to life.
For my full review, check out Now Is Not the Time to Panic.
03 Carrie Soto Is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid
In Taylor Jenkins Reid's newest novel, Carrie Soto is unapologetically driven and determined. I loved the tennis focus, the fast pacing, and the father-daughter relationship that drives the story.
Tough, talented Carrie Soto retired from tennis at the top of her game as the best player in the world and the greatest of all time.
Her cutthroat desire to win didn't make her the most popular player in the world. But Carrie and her father, her longtime coach, sacrificed everything to get her to the top, setting records that have cemented her place in tennis history.
Now retired, Carrie is a spectator at the US Open when she sees her record challenged by a young upstart.
No one returns to tennis at age 37. But with her fierce determination, her (rusty) skills, and her desire to be the best, Carrie is the perfect person to defy the odds. Carrie Soto is back.
I was curious about how Reid would craft the ending of this one, and I was satisfied with the character growth, the trajectory she sets up, and also with how in the end, nothing felt too easy.
I flew through this story--it was solidly a "right book at the right time" for me, and I also loved that the book's release coincided with the start of the US Open. I loved this one.
For my full review, check out Carrie Soto Is Back.
04 Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel
Vaishnavi Patel's debut is a captivating retelling of the Indian epic Ramayana, with immersive details and an irresistible feminist main character fighting for a voice and for power in a man's world.
In Vaishnavi Patel's debut novel Kaikeyi, the author reimagines the life of a fabled queen from the Indian epic Ramayana.
The retelling swirls with family drama, intrigue, bravery--all centered around a young woman determined to make her mark in a world run by men.
In an era when noblewomen are expected to submit to arranged marriages, endless needlework, and polite silences and averted eyes, Kaikeyi is an uncontainable force. She is smart, eager, passionate, and determined--and an irresistible main protagonist.
Kaikeyi turns to ancient texts for guidance, discovers magical abilities, and begins to understand that the gods' favor--endlessly important to each person's productivity, health, and blessings--will never be with her. She must forge her own path and find her own inner strength.
Patel's immersive detail of Indian fabrics, landscapes, and sights and sounds kept me enthralled. I found some of the final portion of the book's unraveling of who could be trusted, what would come to pass, and what the real story was to read somewhat slowly compared to the energetic pacing of the rest of the book. But the epilogue was gorgeous and a fitting bookend to the story.
For my full review, check out Kaikeyi.
05 The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin
Cronin's debut novel explores mortality, vulnerability, surprising moments of joy and reflection, an irresistible young protagonist, and a wonderful array of friends who are like family.
Lenni and Margot was one of my top twelve reads of last year.
Seventeen-year-old Lenni Pettersson lives in the terminal ward at the Glasgow Princess Royal Hospital. Her life expectancy isn't long, but Lenni still has a lot she wants to do and be.
In the hospital's arts and crafts class, she meets 83-year-old Margot, a spirited, rebellious new friend. Collectively they've been around 100 years, but this just doesn't feel like enough, and they each want to leave their mark on the world.
With the help of Father Arthur, the hospital chaplain, and a kind palliative care nurse, the friends make a plan to create one hundred paintings, one to represent each of their years of life. This goal adds structure to the novel, but the story is far richer than the characters' mission to create art.
If you're interested in books that explore mortality, you might want to check out Six Powerful Memoirs about Facing Mortality.
Another novel I loved that involves a precocious, wise, reflective, tough young protagonist is This Is All He Asks of You.
Click here for my full review of The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot.
06 The Change by Kristen Miller
The Change explores the power of menopausal women and the poignant strength of friendship; supplies satisfying revenge fantasies and camp; and winds it all through our middle-aged heroines' satisfying solving of a disturbing set of mysteries.
In Kristen Miller's novel The Change, set in Mattauk, Long Island, three women cope with various challenges surrounding aging, change, and unexpected new beginnings.
Nessa, Jo, and Harriet work together and use their newfound abilities to try to solve the mystery of a missing girl, along the way uncovering dark, disturbing patterns of abusive power and shining a light on the horrifically effective shields provided by money and privilege.
The tone of The Change is largely campy, as middle-aged women heroines unite against the book's sometimes caricature-like, purely evil bad guys by using their new-found fantastical powers. The revenge-fantasy element is particularly satisfying.
But what I loved most about The Change was the unapologetic embracing of the frequently fraught menopausal stage of life. Miller allows the frequently dreaded and bemoaned middle-aged shifts and changes to lead her female characters to realize their terrific strengths. Separately they're formidable, but together, they build a collective power that is the community's only hope to right terrible, horrible, longstanding wrongs.
Click here for my full review of The Change.