To exist in the online book world is to always hear about the new books coming out. Deep down, I’m also always looking for something new, because isn’t a significant part of the drive to read born from curiosity? And while I can find “something new” in backlist books if I distract myself from new release hype for a moment, finding the motivation to reread books isn’t as easy.
I find this harder to do with YA books specifically. Maybe I’m afraid that the books I liked at 16 will be ruined for me if I read them now, despite having some evidence of the contrary from the few times I actually got through with those rereads – I still like most of them, just for different reasons. Or maybe it’s that I’m constantly being inundated with news about all the latest YA books, which means I’m more likely to reach for a new one when I just don’t have the energy to deal with the level of worldbuilding and complexity I want adult SFF to have. I don’t know.
But the thing is, from past rereads I know that every reread brings with itself something new. There are YA books I consider “favorites” that I liked without understanding why, because I read them at a time I didn’t have the tools to get into the reasons under “this made me feel a lot”. There are books that changed my life, and I want to know how that change will shape the experience of reading them. There are, on the opposite side, books I read at the worst possible time, but I only realized that in hindsight and now want to give them a fairer chance.
Today, I’m going to talk about five YA books I want to reread. Maybe that will help me motivate myself… at least, I hope.
Mirage by Somaiya Daud
I should probably add a disclaimer to this blog, “don’t trust anything that was written in 2018 too much”, but that’s especially true for everything I wrote in the fall of that year. I remember that my thoughts on Mirage were “this is great and one of the most original YA books I’ve ever read setting-wise, but something is missing and I’m not sure what”; now I know what was missing, and it was not about the book (for details, look for the Empire of Sand section). Two years later, I want to give this Moroccan-inspired sci-fantasy about colonization another chance, especially given how many amazing things I’ve been hearing about its sequel Court of Lions.
The Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Bérubé
While I believe in the importance of representation of marginalized groups in fiction, I’ve never really understood why so many of the conversations around it focused on “seeing yourself”, or “being seen” by a book. Then it happened to me once, and I agree, while it’s still far from the main reason I read diverse books, it is life-changing if you’ve never experienced that before. The Dark Beneath the Ice is a horror novel that uses a haunting as a metaphor for the most painful aspects of anxiety, while featuring a textually mentally ill character – it’s not a it was ghosts all along story nor a it was mental illness all along story. The two are one and the same, and it makes so much sense. The thing about “anxiety disorders” is that their very name feels like a dismissal. “She has anxiety” feels so much like a slightly heavier version of “oh, she’s just shy“, and I hate it so much – it feels completely inappropriate for the life-ruining well of isolation it actually is to me. This book gets it; I also feel haunted sometimes. I want to know how it feels to go into it knowing what it’s trying to do from the beginning. Also, horror season is incoming!
Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter
I don’t know why I liked this book so much! Or, I do, superficially – the whimsically strange writing coupled with beautiful, macabre imagery means I will never forget certain scenes, and the gay subtext with the literal manifestation of Night helped, but I know that there was more to it. I know. I’ve read Never-Contented Things by the same author last year, and what was on the surface a nonsensical, at times grotesque story about escaping the faery realm was actually about cycles of abuse and recognizing actual love from codependency or neglect. I strongly suspect that Vassa in the Night also has a similar thematic core – maybe about parental neglect specifically? I’m not sure – but at 16 I… didn’t exactly miss it, I absorbed it without recognizing what it was. After all, at the time I thought that a book having some sort of message had to mean that it was preachy. I’m glad 16-year-old me didn’t actually have a platform?
A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo
This is a corollary to an upcoming post about my next step in the journey of “trying to figure out what I like in the mystery/thriller genre”. I read A Line in the Dark in 2017, and since then, it has been the only book in the mystery genre I’ve actually ever given five stars. I remember loving the lesbian love triangle, and I remember loving how flawed and… horny the main character Jess was allowed to be, in a way that I just couldn’t find back then. I remember the cold, lost atmosphere; the complicated feelings the Jess had in regards to gender presentation in her Chinese-American family, and how this book grappled with the racism, subtle and not, Jess gets from her crush’s white friends. I don’t remember what I liked about the mystery. I should find out!
For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig
Another book I read in 2018! This is also a YA fantasy inspired by Southeast Asia during French colonialism, featuring a main character with bipolar disorder who is trying to survive being mentally ill and magical when her magic is tied to necromancy. This book has a portrayal of mental illness that really spoke to me back when I was going through one of my worst moments with it, despite it not being something I actually “related” to (different illness). Also, it’s a gorgeous mixed media fantasy (how rare is that as a format?) that includes plays and sheet music. I just want to go back to it & get to the sequels.
Do you reread books often, or do you also get distracted by newer things?