Top Contemporary Picks
Recently, I did a post detailing my favourite science fiction books. Also very recently, a friend finished the Lara Jean trilogy and asked for new contemporary recommendations. (Okay, maybe I offered. Okay, maybe I specifically brought it up so I could make this post. Shush.) So, being the overstressed turnip I am, I decided to combine these two things into one glorious post! Note: It’s slightly different than my other top picks post because us root vegetables must be open to change. Go with the flow.
Queens Of Geek by Jen Wilde
Oooooooh my god this is the cutest thing of ever! Well now I sound like a five year old but it’s okay because I would do anything for the adorableness that is Queens of Geek. I was so sad when I read the last page because I just wanted to stay in the world forever. Great and positive representation, by the way. Bisexual girls, social anxiety, POC, and another person who convinced me that not everyone called Taylor is evil. (The first person was Taylor Swift.) And all the cute and well written romance and friendship! There aren’t enough YA books with healthy and good friendships, but this one hits it right on the head. The friendships are splendid and aren’t sacrificed for the freaking romance thank the Lorde. I might have actually cried at how much I saw myself in Taylor and how amazing the bisexual rep was. Just leave me in my sad miserable / dying of the cute corner with my emotions thanks I’ll need 87 years to recover. Or maybe 86. Or maybe Jen Wilde could write a sequel.
Anna And The French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
This! This! This! Give me some time to recover from how adorable this book is. It’s set in Paris, which is amazing because I love France. (Except the slavery and imprisonment… Let’s just say the art and architecture is great there.) The romance in the story is so cute and so much fun to read about. I love Anna, she’s so lovely and a great main character. The film critic industry is one I haven’t read about before, and it was cool to get to read about that from her eyes as a person who wanted to join it. It’s always fantastic to find that the main character in a story is actually your favourite. Reader goals I promise. This story is the first one in a trilogy, but you can just read Anna And The French Kiss. Or you can stop at the sequel, Lola And The Boy Next Door. The third book makes me irrationally angry, we don’t talk about it here. The only reason I read it is to find out what happened to Anna and Étienne, my children. Yes they’re older than me, and dating. They’re still my children. It’s all very normal.
Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
Actually the second book on this list that deals with social anxiety, which is wonderful. It also normalizes and doesn’t glorify therapy. Double win! However, I thought it had a sliiiiiiiight “girl meets boy and mental illness is cured” sort of thing. But my feelings as to that are very slight, because Linus is only to catalyst to a journey Audrey undertakes herself. I found this book to be hilariously funny. I read it in the middle of the night and had to bite the pillow to keep from laughing because that was how goddamn funny I thought this book was. Do I have a terrible sense of humor? Yes. Does that make this book any less funny? Probably, but for the sake of my emotions, let’s pretend no. I sincerely recommend reading this (it’s quite short) but also remember! If someone who has social anxiety is explaining to you why they don’t like this book, please don’t shut them down. Always be respectful, especially when people have important things to say.
The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
This is the only book on this list that is outright sad, and it’s also the only one that doesn’t mainly feature romance. The Serpent King deals with sadness and grief, but it can also be very funny at times. All the characters have unique voices, and they feel fleshed out with their hopes, dreams, and desires. My favourite was Lydia, but I’m probably most like Travis. The funny scenes were balanced out super well with the sad scenes that broke my heart and also my toe because I dropped the book on it. I also think the undertones of religion were really well handled? I’m Christian (which is the main religion in this book) and I think it was treated quite well considering everything. Also, there’s a very funny joke about the Bible that I just find so damn funny and no one can figure out why. This book is the perfect read for when you want something contemporary but sadder, and also when you want to curse people who write such marvelous debuts that you can never get over them.
My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Let’s start out with a shoutout for big families that don’t feel like the Weasleys! Can I get a hell yeah? Anyway, this is a very cute very summery read. I can’t even read it in winter, it’s that much of a summer read. All the characters are so very aptly named and there is a fantabulous (Google says it’s a word) romance playing out through the whole story and I am absolutely in love with that. There’s also an actual serious plot, about money and guilt and a whOLE LOT OF OTHER THINGS I CAN’T SPOIL, SUSAN. The point here is that it’s an endlessly cute book with actual conflict and believable characters and fighting and it makes you sad on one page and squeal on the next. Very fluffy, and highly recommended for those who have just read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows or Lord of Shadows for the first time. Yes, my heart hurts too. But My Life Next Door is a wonderful balm for all that trauma and I really appreciate it! Shout out to writers who don’t want to murder me.
Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg
I love this book! Can I ever remember the title without scouring the interwebs with vague plot descriptions? No. It was so so so so cute! I died 47 times of the cute. Also, the whole friends to lovers is my favourite trope because you already care about that person and the author doesn’t have to show how the characters get to know each other. It’s just there and the foundation is there which is great. All the family stuff too and how it affects their lives, which is gloriously realistic for a change. *coughs* 90% of YA romance *coughs* I read this such a long time ago and now I’m recommending it and I want to freaking reread it but no. Tests. Assignments. I’m sad now. Forth! There are new settings (either Ireland or Scotland I can’t remember for the life of me) and sweet romance that has such a new spin and it’s amazing! It’s definitely a feel-good book, and it’s just the kind of adorable you can slip into any place, any time.
Amy And Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
Talk about original. The first book I have ever read that details a road trip and makes it interesting! (Sorry, John Green.) The author’s voice and the plot and the characters and I’m in love. One issue I have with a lot of romances is that the characters ditch all their friends to hang out with the other person. I understand why it happens (the author’s goal is to develop the romance) but that’s not healthy. How is that problem solved here? They’re on a road trip! They hang out with each other all day, every day. Flawless solution. The different locations and adventures in this story were so beautifully described that I really felt like I was travelling through the US with Amy and Roger. (I just misspelled Amy’s name as May. Who have I become.) The music stuff was so cool and like nothing I have seen in a book before. I definitely have to listen to some of those playlists eventually. No… I don’t want the book to be over it’s too cute I need more oh no I’m addicted.
Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Full disclosure: I didn’t realize Morgan Matson wrote Since You’ve Been Gone AND Amy And Roger’s Epic Detour until I checked on goodreads while writing this post. They’re so different that I couldn’t really associate them with each other, although I’m sure I knew they were by the same author at some point. Haha. Once you get over the contraction with “have” in the title (I’m so picky about this) it’s a sweet summer romance with lush and vivid imagery. (I still have not figured out whether the Kelly Clarkson reference is intentional.) The friendship is awesome, and I know a Sloane! Which is irrelevant but that is the name of one of the characters, and I get so excited when a character has the same name as a person I know. So lovely, so unique, and now I associate fifteen different things with this book that I never expected to. In an universe superior to our own, every person who liked contemporary would read this so I had someone to scream about it with.
All The Sarah Dessen
Personally, I have read Saint Anything, Just Listen, Keeping The Moon, Dreamland, Lock and Key, and by the time this post is published (I have 40 pages left) Once And For All. Sarah Dessen writes romances, but her love stories are always fraught with conflict and heartbreak but she just writes them so well that you don’t even care. None of her books are particularly cutesy, but I think that’s just fine. All of her books…. Yes this may be the rom-com loving Peraltiago shipping useless person in me, but Sarah Dessen is just so damn good. I recommend going into her books knowing next to nothing about them, it makes for a much more enjoyable experience. However, she does write about very serious topics, and you should check for trigger warnings. In conclusion, I love Sarah Dessen a lot, maybe more than cake, and I definitely recommend her books. (For reference, my favourite is Once And For All unless everything burns and crashes in the next forty pages.)
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
The fact that this wasn’t the first book on the list is honestly offensive. Who writes this stuff? Oh wait it’s me. Nevermind. Anyway, Fangirl is an amazing book about fangirl stuff! It’s definitely my favourite by Rainbow Rowell, and it’s a wonderfully relatable story. I mean, eating protein bars in your room for a week to avoid social contact? Me as heck. Humans are scary. *wards off with goblin powers*The Simon Snow stuff as an allusion to Harry Potter? Brilliant! (Although the reference to HP at the end confused me….) I think that the romance played out really nicely, and all the characters were very well developed, and I died ten times because of how much I was Cait. Am Cait. Is that her name. OH MY GOD IT’S CATH I’M GETTING HER CONFUSED WITH PAPERFURY. You should read this book! I really liked it! I can’t remember the main character’s name but I liked it! (Why am I allowed to human I ask you. It’s getting sad for all of us.)
Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
I will never ever ever stop screaming about how wonderful this book is and how amazing it is someone arrest me. Honestly! It’s got everything you could want from a contemporary. Cute moments, funny moments, Harry Potter references, food, well developed characters, a wonderful romance…. IT’S PERFECT. It does get kind of sad at times, but Becky Albertalli is a master at balancing out happy and sad, making for one hell of a novel. I grinned till my face fell off one page and wanted to smack half the characters the next. The story’s so good and it’s got amazing representation for YA - so y’all should definitely check it out. Run to your library, your bookstore, my shelf and read Simon (the only thing bad about it is the super long title) ASAP so you can come here and we can scream together about it. I read a lot of books, and this one might actually take the cake as being my favourite contemporary. Wait… I’ll have to get back to you on that. This is my midlife crisis ok.
Good golly, I gave you a lot of recommendations, didn’t I? That’s me, overcompensating for everything. Anyway, if you’re bored during the summer, you know what to read. Are there any books I missed? Are there any books on this list you positively hate? Please let me know! I wish you good reading and all the other good blessings normal people wish on others.