Well, it’s the beginning of a new year, so I’m listing my favorites out of the books I read (for the first time) in 2016. Most of them were published in 2016, but not all of them were. These are sorted into YA, MG, and NA/Adult and listed in order alphabetically by author’s last name. For the books I’ve reviewed, I’ve linked the review. For the others, there’s a brief summary/recommendation, and I’ll eventually post a full-length review for them. Books marked with an asterisk (*) are #ownvoices books.
Of course, since I’ve been focusing my energies on reading books by Asian authors and to a lesser extent, other marginalized authors, my sample is skewed. Also, there are so many 2016 releases that are sitting on my TBR still, so this is not meant to be any sort of objective survey of all 2016 releases, just my favorites out of what I managed to read during the course of the year. Without further ado, here you go!
The Reader by Traci Chee* – I’m so excited for the sequel, The Speaker, which has an expected release date of September 12th, 2017. The Diverse Science Fiction/Fantasy Book Club has chosen The Reader as its book of the month for January 2017, so keep an eye on the #DSFFBookClub tag on Twitter on January 31st for a book discussion. 🙂
Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia*
Memories of Ash (The Sunbolt Chronicles #2) by Intisar Khanani – This is the second book in the Sunbolt Chronicles, which was intended to be a novella serial until Book 2 became bigger than expected. The Sunbolt Chronicles feature Hitomi, a resourceful heroine with penchant for getting herself into trouble while trying to do good and play hero. If you’re looking for diverse fantasy, check out Sunbolt (Book 1) and Memories of Ash! (I’ll be reviewing both eventually.)
The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury*
The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina* – Set in a post-apocalyptic world in which tectonic shifts have merged all land masses into one continent, this book focuses on Ashala Wolf (who is indigenous), a leader of a Tribe of young Illegals, children who manifest supernatural powers that are seen as a threat to the sacred Balance of the world. A mission gone awry results in Ashala’s capture, and she must resist the government’s attempt to forcibly take her memories from her to use against the Tribe and escape the clutches of people who see her as an abomination. Full of surprising twists and memorable characters, The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf is a fresh take on the question of humans vs. nature. I’m eager to read the sequel, The Disappearance of Ember Crow, and hoping the third book, The Foretelling of Georgie Spider, will have a U.S. release soon.
Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee*
Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee*
Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older* – If that cover hasn’t won you over, I don’t know what will. Daniel Jose Older has reclaimed urban fantasy for the people it truly belongs to: black and brown POC. This book isn’t just fluffy fantasy, it gets real about racism, covering gentrification, police brutality, colorism, and cultural appropriation (and probably more, but that’s what I can remember). Sierra Santiago is Afro-Latina, and her powers as a shadowshaper are grounded in her Caribbean, Puerto Rican heritage. Her magic calls on her ancestors and transforms paintings, music, and stories into extraordinary works brimming with life. I have the companion novella, Ghost Girl in the Corner, on my Kindle waiting to be read, and I’m looking forward to the sequel, Shadowhouse Fall, which has an expected release date of September 12th, 2017.
Sacrifice (Sequel to Serpentine) by Cindy Pon*
Timekeeper by Tara Sim
The King of Attolia (The Queen’s Thief #3) by Megan Whalen Turner – I’d heard amazing things about Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series for a while but didn’t get around to reading it until earlier in 2016. Full of high-stakes quests, political intrigue, and memorable characters, these books have left a deep impression on me. Also, I think I just like thief characters a lot, haha. The fifth book, Thick as Thieves, has an expected release date of May 16th, 2017.
The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon*
Unidentified Suburban Object by Mike Jung*
When the Sea Turned to Silver (Companion/Sequel to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Starry River of the Sky) written and illustrated by Grace Lin* – I was first introduced to Grace Lin’s books through The Year of the Dog, which I love dearly. I had a long reading slump from 2011-2015, so when I found out she had written 2 books for a fantasy series set in an alternate ancient China, I knew I had to read them. Then this third book was announced and I was super ecstatic because I left behind the first two hoping for more. Weaving together Chinese folktales and myths with her own original storytelling, Grace Lin creates memorable, enchanting tales about young protagonists learning and growing. Like her contemporary novels, WtMMtM and sequels use stories-within-stories to enrich the narrative. Familiar characters show up across all three books, sometimes where you’re not expecting them. Each chapter has its own custom header illustration by Grace Lin herself, and the text is interspersed with gorgeous full-color illustrations. In short, these books are truly works of Art. I’ll post a more detailed review later. 🙂
Saving Kabul Corner (Companion to Shooting Kabul) by N.H. Senzai – Set several years after the events of Shooting Kabul, Saving Kabul Corner focuses on Afghan American pre-teen Ariana. Ariana is a tomboy and feels like she has nothing in common with her feminine and traditional cousin Laila, who has just arrived in California from Afghanistan and is sharing a room with her for the time being. However, the two girls are forced to set aside their differences in order to unravel a mystery that has revived a generations-old feud with the family who has opened up a rival Afghan grocery market. This book celebrates female friendship and the resourcefulness of young people and makes for a suspenseful and fun read.
Ticket to India by N.H. Senzai*
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor*
George by Alex Gino – We need more trans characters written by trans authors, and George is a welcome addition to trans kidlit. The story is about a trans girl (birth name George, chosen name Melissa) who wants to play the part of Charlotte in her school’s theater production of Charlotte’s Web. Unfortunately, her school’s policing of gender means that she’ll have to be sly about making this wish come true. With the help of her best friend Kelly, she may just get the role and show her true self to the world. A quick but engaging read.
Wolf at the Door by J. Damask*
Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger
Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn* – Since Hollywood continues to disappoint us as far as Asian/Asian American superheroes go, Heroine Complex makes up for that by giving us not one, but TWO kickass Asian American superheroines. Evie Tanaka is used to playing the trusty sidekick to her best friend Aveda Jupiter (a.k.a Annie Chang), San Francisco’s local superhero and media darling. Aveda does the ass-kicking, and Evie handles the details, social media, public relations, branding, and so on. Unfortunately, the universe has other plans in mind for Evie, and a mysterious increase in demon attacks with a different manifestation than the usual pattern forces Evie to step up and take on a front-and-center role, testing her patience and control. Her latent firepower has been repressed for years, so she has to master them before she blows her top and lets loose a destructive inferno that could hurt more than just the demons she’s hunting. Juggling female friendship, sisterly bonds and troubles, unexpected sexy romance (warning: there are some intense makeout/sex scenes), and personal growth on top of action and mystery, Heroine Complex has it all. I’m pumped for the sequel, Heroine Worship, which set to release on July 4th, 2017.
Green Island by Shawna Yang Ryan*