I read a lot of books reviews. I also get a lot of book recommendations from people who know me well. I know what genres I like and what authors I like. So it’s rare for a book to really surprise me on a meaningful level. Sure, some are pleasantly surprising by being better than I expected. And occasionally there’s something I wasn’t prepared for in the plot. But even with big twists, I usually know beforehand to expect a big twist, which does take away some of the surprise. But I’m happy to say that in 2013, I did read a few books that surprised me! I thought I’d share some of them here:
Allegiant by Veronica Roth. Yes yes, like everybody else, I knew before I read it to expect a major character death. But I was not expecting what happened, or how it happened. I have no other way to describe what reading this was like except that I had feelings. Lots of feelings. That took me a long time to sort out. I’m still not honestly sure what I think of Veronica Roth’s decision to write the book this way. But I do know that I was genuinely surprised by what she did.
Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry. I don’t read much romance. Nothing against romances, I know there are some really good ones out there, but they don’t tend to grab me. I like romance in my books, but generally if romance is the main theme, I’ll end up bored. But when Pushing the Limits was voted by teens as a Teens’ Top Ten pick through the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) I decided to give it a chance. Some of the book wasn’t surprising – the tortured boy, the damaged girl, their intense romance – but I was surprised by how gripping I found the book. Once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down. Even with extremely well-written romances that I genuinely like, I rarely get sucked into them as much as I did Pushing the Limits. I read it in about a day and a half!
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. There’s not a lot to say about this one except that I never in my life expected a scene as devastating as one near the end of this book. It featured a betrayal of trust so gut-wrenching and a death that, while almost inevitable at that point, was so heartbreaking I almost threw the book across the room. Patrick Ness is brilliant, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to read the other books in this series because I was so emotionally wrecked by this one.
I said before I don’t read much romance. But what I really don’t read much of is non-fiction. I do occasionally, and I really try. But especially books like this, the kind that are assigned for classes – I just can’t seem to get into them most of the time. But Understanding Comics was actually pretty awesome. I learned new things, I enjoyed reading it, and I barely had to force myself to keep reading. I never expected that an assigned non-fiction book could be this interesting, and on top of that, it made me understand comics and graphic novels in a much deeper way than I ever did in the past.
Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson. This book surprised me in two ways. First, by featuring an unconventional heroine. At the start of the book, Elisa is fat, non-athletic, and pretty unsure of herself. Some of this changes by the end of the book, but not all of it. I love me some Katniss as much as the next person, but it was refreshing to read about a different type of strong woman. And secondly, because when I picked up Girl of Fire and Thorns I definitely wasn’t expecting a book I would love this much, or a book that would become one of my favorites. Not that I’m complaining – that’s the best kind of bookish surprise!