I completed my goal of reading 100 books in 2021 just under the wire! I read many books that I loved this year, and here are my favorites. Let me know below if you read any of them and enjoyed them as well.
You Have a Match by Emma Lord
- Summary: A new love, a secret sister, and a summer she’ll never forget. When Abby signs up for a DNA service, it’s mainly to give her friend and secret love interest, Leo, a nudge. After all, she knows who she is already: Avid photographer. Injury-prone tree climber. Best friend to Leo and Connie … although ever since the B.E.I. (Big Embarrassing Incident) with Leo, things have been awkward on that front. But she didn’t know she’s a younger sister. When the DNA service reveals Abby has a secret sister, shimmery-haired Instagram star Savannah Tully, it’s hard to believe they’re from the same planet, never mind the same parents—especially considering Savannah, queen of green smoothies, is only a year and a half older than Abby herself. The logical course of action? Meet up at summer camp (obviously) and figure out why Abby’s parents gave Savvy up for adoption. But there are complications: Savvy is a rigid rule-follower and total narc. Leo is the camp’s co-chef, putting Abby’s growing feelings for him on blast. And her parents have a secret that threatens to unravel everything. But part of life is showing up, leaning in, and learning to fit all your awkward pieces together. Because sometimes, the hardest things can also be the best ones.
- Why I liked it: Emma Lord’s books have a goofy charm that make them irresistable to me. You Have a Match has a compelling storyline and characters. I loved that the sister relationship was just as important to the story as the romantic relationships.
- Who I recommend it for: People who have sisters, fans of books with food in them, fans of friends to lovers storylines
We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This by Rachel Lynn Solomon
- Summary: A wedding harpist disillusioned with love and a hopeless romantic cater-waiter flirt and fight their way through a summer of weddings in this effervescent romantic comedy from the acclaimed author of Today Tonight Tomorrow. Quinn Berkowitz and Tarek Mansour’s families have been in business together for years: Quinn’s parents are wedding planners, and Tarek’s own a catering company. At the end of last summer, Quinn confessed her crush on him in the form of a rambling email—and then he left for college without a response. Quinn has been dreading seeing him again almost as much as she dreads another summer playing the harp for her parents’ weddings. When he shows up at the first wedding of the summer, looking cuter than ever after a year apart, they clash immediately. Tarek’s always loved the grand gestures in weddings—the flashier, the better—while Quinn can’t see them as anything but fake. Even as they can’t seem to have one civil conversation, Quinn’s thrown together with Tarek wedding after wedding, from performing a daring cake rescue to filling in for a missing bridesmaid and groomsman. Quinn can’t deny her feelings for him are still there, especially after she learns the truth about his silence, opens up about her own fears, and begins learning the art of harp-making from an enigmatic teacher. Maybe love isn’t the enemy after all—and maybe allowing herself to fall is the most honest thing Quinn’s ever done.
- Why I liked it: I fell in love with Rachel Lynn Solomon’s work this year, and I am so glad I did. Her work is filled with thoughtful discussion about Judaism and mental illness, both of which are close to my heart. Her writing is smart and funny, but she doesn’t shy away from discussing serious issues. You can read my full review of the book here.
- Who I recommend it for: People looking for Jewish representation, people looking for thoughtful portrayal of mental illness, fans of young adult romance
As If On Cue by Marissa Kanter
- Summary: A pair of fierce foes are forced to work together to save the arts at their school in this swoony YA enemies-to-lovers romance that fans of Jenny Han and Morgan Matson are sure to adore. Lifelong rivals Natalie and Reid have never been on the same team. So when their school’s art budget faces cutbacks, of course Natalie finds herself up against her nemesis once more. She’s fighting to direct the school’s first ever student-written play, but for her small production to get funding, the school’s award-winning band will have to lose it. Reid’s band. And he’s got no intention of letting the show go on. But when their rivalry turns into an all-out prank war that goes too far, Natalie and Reid have to face the music, resulting in the worst compromise: writing and directing a musical. Together. At least if they deliver a sold-out show, the school board will reconsider next year’s band and theater budget. Everyone could win. Except Natalie and Reid. Because after spending their entire lives in competition, they have absolutely no idea how to be co-anything. And they certainly don’t know how to deal with the feelings that are inexplicably, weirdly, definitely developing between them…
- Why I liked it: As someone who was a theater nerd in high school, this book spoke to me. I firmly believe that arts education is important, and I loved a story about two high school students fighting for their arts programs. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the story also centers around a musical that is inspired by Frozen (one of my favorite movies). You can read my full review here.
- Who I recommend it for: Theater fans, fans of the enemies to lovers trope
If the Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy
- Summary: After having just graduated with a degree in shoe design, and trying to get her feet on the ground, Cindy is working for her stepmother, who happens to be the executive producer of America’s favorite reality show, Before Midnight. When a spot on the show needs filling ASAP, Cindy volunteers, hoping it might help jump-start her fashion career, or at least give her something to do while her peers land jobs in the world of high fashion. Turns out being the only plus size woman on a reality dating competition makes a splash, and soon Cindy becomes a body positivity icon for women everywhere. What she doesn’t expect? That she may just find inspiration-and love-in the process. Ultimately, Cindy learns that if the shoe doesn’t fit, maybe it’s time to design your own.
- Why I liked it: I love Cinderella, and I was thrilled to see the character reimagined as a plus size woman on a dating show. This story really modernized a classic fairytale for 2021, and I couldn’t have asked for more. I can’t wait to continue reading this series. You can read my full review here.
- Who I recommend it for: Disney fans, fans of The Bachelor franchise, people looking for body positive stories
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
- Summary: Four famous siblings throw an epic party to celebrate the end of the summer. But over the course of twenty-four hours, their lives will change forever. Malibu: August, 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together, the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over—especially as the offspring of the legendary singer, Mick Riva. The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the center of attention, and who has also just been very publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud—because it is long past time to confess something to the brother from whom he’s been inseparable since birth. Jay, on the other hand, is counting the minutes until nightfall, when the girl he can’t stop thinking about promised she’ll be there. And Kit has a couple secrets of her own—including a guest she invited without consulting anyone. By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family’s generations will all come bubbling to the surface. Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them… and what they will leave behind.
- Why I liked it: Malibu Rising is dark, suspenseful, and compelling. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a master at character development. As a fan of her other work, I loved that she connected this story to The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. You can read my full review here.
- Who I recommend it for: Fans of old Hollywood, fans of suspense and mystery