2023 Book Wrap Up
BY LUCIA SABATELLI '26
It's the most wonderful time of the year! Winter is the perfect excuse to cozy up by the fire with a warm cup of cocoa. Although the winter break has passed, February vacation comes with more opportunity for devoted reading time. More importantly, I will be dusting off my Goodreads account and deciding my all-time favorites from the past year.
To begin, Skin of The Sea, a debut novel by Natasha Bowen blew me away. Intertwining traditional West African folklore with history, Bowen paints the tragic story of Simi, a young Mami Wata-a water spirit-tasked with collecting the souls of those lost at sea. Yet one day, Simi does the unthinkable: she saves a life. As the bond between Simi and Kola grows, trouble brews on the horizon for Simi as she struggles between her given identity and the life she yearns for. Typically, my personal preference strays away from fantasy books; however, Skin of the Sea captivated me from the opening line. Each character is richly developed, with personalities meld together for an enjoyable read. Bowen’s debut can be read as a stand-alone or accompanied with Soul of The Deep, the acclaimed sequel. Unfortunately, Soul of The Deep was not nearly as fleshed out compared to Skin of The Sea. Nonetheless, Skin of The Sea is a five-star book, perfect for readers who enjoy unique plots, stunning adventures, and bittersweet endings.
Next, Oh William! is rooted in the complex narrative of Lucy Barton, a divorcee struggling to confront her past and her complicated relationship with ex-husband, William. When William discovers his long-lost sister, Lucy agrees to accompany his journey to meet her. However, she is unaware that his sister lives in her hometown, reopening her past. Along the road trip, Lucy pieces together the demise of her relationship with William. Author Elizabeth Strout does not reveal the true inner thoughts of Lucy Barton within the first pages, but rather she forces the reader to develop an understanding of Lucy’s inner motives throughout the entire book. Strout’s style choice led to Oh William! possessing a startling sense of melancholy that crept up onto me; it was not truly unleashed until the last few pages. Further, the story delves into the psychological effects of one’s childhood, unpacking the impact of childhood abuse in adulthood. Oh William! left me speechless, and I found myself pondering the characters for days after finishing. Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout receives five stars, and it is recommended for readers who enjoy reflective novels grappling with complex questions.
Nothing Burns As Bright As You was my first (but definitely not my last) novel by Ashley Woodfolk. It certainly was not my first book in verse- poetry rather than paragraph form- as I truly adore verse’s range of emotions possible within a few lines. Nothing Burns As Bright As You brims with emotions, from infatuations to pure rage, and I was completely engrossed in the story. Woodfolk chronicles the rise and fall of a relationship between two girls, a poignant queer love story. One point that stood out to me is that Nothing Burns As Bright As You leaves the two characters unnamed, creating a sense of intimacy out of the reader’s reach. Because the narrator is struggling to piece together the remnants of her relationship, the story's structure is not linear. A messy, mesmerizing, and five-star story, Nothing Burns As Bright As You is a must-read for fans of Elizabeth Acevedo or books in verse.
Written by Jen Ferguson, The Summer of Bitter and Sweet addresses the rampant violence against indigenous women in Canada. Set against the lush landscape of a rural summer, Lou is an indigenous teenager grappling with unwanted attention in her isolated town, and she is also struggling to keep her family’s ice cream business afloat. Yet, with the reappearance of her childhood best friend King, all of Lou’s problems drip away. This euphoria is short-lived, as her father’s release from prison reopens her past that she strived to bury. Lou’s narrative is extremely raw and relatable due to her age, and it also furthered my understanding of aggressions against the indigenous community in Canada and across North America. Ferguson addresses serious topics, such as the rampant disappearances of indigenous women. Despite the heavy subjects, Ferguson intertwines light hearted banter between friends and strong bonds of family to paint a portrait of unconditional support, despite struggle. Overall, I gave The Summer of Bitter and Sweet five stars as it tackled heavy topics, while remaining a refreshing, perfect read for sleepless summer nights. The Summer of Bitter and Sweet engrosses all of the emotions of summer, making it perfect for lovers of coming-of-age novels.
Ultimately, I stepped out of my comfort zone for books in 2023 and was met with a wide array of five-star books. From poignant books in verse to stunning narratives, I highly recommend these books to any and all bookworms. Happy reading!