The last decade was full of the most pivotal years of my life. I finished high school; started university; dropped out of university; started my first full-time job; then another; and then another; moved to England for my gap year; met the love of my life; and moved back to Australia. It was also the decade that I really got into reading. Yes, I had many long periods where I didn’t read at all but when I was focusing my time on books I found so many that really stuck with me. This is a list of the books that I read in the last 10 years that now, in 2020, still resonate with me. These are the books that were there for me in hard times, good times and that shaped the person I have become.
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
I’ve written a blog post already featuring Vampire Academy and my thoughts on the series (https://tormentedreader.com/2019/08/01/books-that-deserve-more-hype/) so head over there for more of a review. I started reading VA in 2010 and have since reread the series (and the spin-off series) at least once per year since then. I had just finished reading the Twilight series (no, that sadly won’t be included in this post because I actually read it in 2009) and was desperate for some more vampires. I loved the lore in the story and the use of the three different types of vampires (Dhampir, Moroi and Strigoi). To me, it was the first vampire book I had read with a female lead who was well and truly a badass and all I wanted was to be more like Rose. Any time I felt like life was knocking me down I would think to myself “what would Rose Hathaway do in this situation?”. In 2020 I still find that I’m asking myself the same thing.
The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta
The Lumatere Chronicles is a YA fantasy series set in a medieval world ruled by an impostor king. The story is about Finnikin and his friends trying to find the lost prince (Finnikin’s childhood friend) and restore him to his rightful place on the throne. This trilogy really stood out to me as it was my first “dark” fantasy story. Before I read these books I preferred a lighter style of fantasy. These books deal with death, rape, infertility, poverty, plague and many other topics. Even though the plot is set in a mystical world it opened my young eyes to a bunch of real issues that I really hadn’t read about before. I love the little details Marchetta throws in about characters, places and the magic system. Last year I reread the series and I find it’s still as good and relevant as it was when I read it 10 years ago.
Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta
After reading Finnikin of the Rock I was interested in reading more by Melina Marchetta (especially after discovering she is also Australian) so I picked up her debut novel Looking for Alibrandi. This is one of very few contemporary novels that I have truly loved. Looking for Alibrandi is about a seventeen year-old Italian-Australian girl in her final year of high school and the trouble she faces. Josephine Alibrandi is struggling to find her place in the world and partly blames this on the fact that she has never known her father. At this point in my life I had also not met my father and had this idea that when I finally did it would be this amazing pivotal moment in my life. When I read this book it kind of brought me back down to Earth and I found that I connected to Josie more than I had ever connected to a character. Throughout the book I laughed, I cried and I reread it the second I had finished it. Just before my 20th birthday I finally reached out and contacted my own father and that night I reread Looking for Alibrandi again for the first time in a few years. It gave me the confidence in my decision that I had been needing and made me realise that everything would be okay no matter what the future held.
Darkest Powers by Kelly Armstrong
The Darkest Powers is a paranormal fantasy about 15 year-old Chloe who can see ghosts. After freaking out in school when she discovers a particularly horrible phantom Chloe is sent to a home for “troubled teens”. It is soon discovered that most of the other members of Lyle House also have “issues” like magical abilities, telekinesis and one character is a werewolf! Chloe, along with her love interest Simon and his brother Derek, the aforementioned werewolf, run away from Lyle House and spend the three books discovering more about the dark secrets it hides, their pasts and their powers. This trilogy has a ton of twists and turns and I really can’t pin-point what made it such a memorable read but it’s always something that I recommend to everyone. Kelly Armstrong’s other series’ are all amazing as well but Darkest Powers just takes the cake for me.
If I Stay by Gale Forman
“What would you do if you had to choose?” is a question that has plagued my thoughts since I first read this series in 2012. If I Stay and Where She Went are two absolutely heartbreaking novels about love, loss and hard decisions. When Mia’s immediate family are killed in a tragic car accident Mia is left in a coma where she has an out-of-body experience. Mia is able to see and hear her family and friends around her as they deal with the knowledge that she is the only surviving member of the crash. The first book follows Mia through a series of pre-crash flashbacks and present-day in the hospital. The second book follows Adam (Mia’s now ex-boyfriend) three years after the crash as he grapples with life after Mia dumps him and he gains “rock star status”. The first book especially made me think long and hard about what I would do if I found myself in Mia’s situation. If I lost my mum and brother would I chose to stay alive for my grandparents and boyfriend or would I know that life would be too hard without them? I picked up both books at the very end of 2019 and I still find Mia’s decision to stay so incredibly brave. If you’re in the mood for a hard-hitting tearjerker then I would definitely recommend reading these books or watching the movie adaption (which is equally moving).
Stay tuned for part two of the books that defined the last decade for me!