How It All Blew Up by Arvin Ahmadi
“The thing about bigots is they always go out of their way to acknowledge my fabulous existence, when I hardly notice theirs.”
Told through a dual timeline setup, Arvin Ahmadi’s How It All Blew Up follows a riveting journey of self-discovery. When Amir is faced with having to come out to his conservative parents, he decides to escape the situation entirely by catching a plane to Italy. While in Rome, Amir experiences a whirlwind summer of romance, friendship, and is able to just be be himself without pressure. Arvin Ahmadi’s beautiful storytelling that really brings Rome to life, and reading How It All Blew Up Feels makes you feel like you’re really there in Rome: sitting in the cafes or at the extravagant parties. Though the narration incorporates a humorous tone, it is a powerful masterpiece that balances just the right amount of serious beats and funny moments, and Amir’s journey of self-discovery is incredibly impactful. This is the perfect destination-fiction to experience travel without actually leaving your home.
My Last Summer With Cass by Mark Crilley
“Well, take it from me: Sometimes a friendship isn’t just like a work of art. It is a work of art. And it’s worth saving. It’s always worth saving.”
My Last Summer With Cass is a relatable graphic novel which explores the ramifications of friendship breakups, discovering your inner voice, and developing a unique art style. During one fateful summer, small-town girl Megan convinces her parents to let her stay with Cass in NYC. Megan feels like she doesn’t fit in, and the drastic differences between Cass’ lifestyle and her own. When Cass pushes Megan out of her comfort zone too far, their friendship falls apart over a devatasting betrayal. My Last Summer With Cass feels emotionally vivid and realistic in its depiction of losing a best friend. I also really liked the art style of the graphic novel, and especially the character expressions and the way that the panels were paced during the most emotional moments. The portrayal of Megan and Cass’ journey as artists also felt organic and real, and their art styles reflected their personalities instead of being a random hobby mentioned once.
To Kill A Kingdom by Alexandra Christo
“In my heart, I’m as wild as the ocean that raised me.”
Summer always reminds me of the ocean, and the most oceanic-themed book I could think of is definitely the fantasy standalone To Kill A Kingdom. A sweeping adventure story with pirates, sirens, and an enemies-to-lovers romance, To Kill A Kingdom is easily one of my top reads of last year.To Kill A Kingdom is a Little Mermaid retelling with a darker twist. The book follows Lira, a siren cursed to be human until she delivers the heart of Prince Elian to the Sea Queen, and Elian, a prince and siren hunter who feels more at home at sea than at home. The worldbuilding and magic system was unique and full of interesting lore, and it made the hundred kingdoms and seas feel so expansive. In addition, I really liked how the side characters also had individually compelling personalities. Alexandra Christo is also publishing a companion novel set in the same universe, titled Princess of Souls.
The Snow Like Ashes Trilogy by Sara Raasch
“Someday we will be more than words in the dark.”
The Snow Like Ashes trilogy is perfect to delve into over the summer because it’s a binge-able series, where all of the books are already published and each book gets consecutively better. This high fantasy series features an expansive world of four Rhythm kingdoms, which have regular seasons, and the four Season kingdoms, which only have one eternal season. Each Season kingdom – Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter – have distinguishing traits tied to their season inspirations and weather-based magic. The world of Snow Like Ashes is incredibly introduced over the course of the three books, and it keeps on getting more interesting and expansive. The trilogy’s titular first book follows Meira, a refugee from Winter, as she tries to fight for her broken kingdom, which was conquered by Spring. Full of political intrigue and lovable characters, Snow Like Ashes is most definitely one of my favourite books of all time.