There were so many books I loved in 2022, and it was quite the task to narrow it down. After much pondering, I settled on four books for my favorites list:
noun: a person or thing that precipitates an event or change
When Najwa Bakri walks into her first Scrabble competition since her best friend’s death, it’s with the intention to heal and move on with her life. Perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to choose the very same competition where said best friend, Trina Low, died. It might be even though Najwa’s trying to change, she’s not ready to give up Trina just yet.
But the same can’t be said for all the other competitors. With Trina, the Scrabble Queen herself, gone, the throne is empty, and her friends are eager to be the next reigning champion. All’s fair in love and Scrabble, but all bets are off when Trina’s formerly inactive Instagram starts posting again, with cryptic messages suggesting that maybe Trina’s death wasn’t as straightforward as everyone thought. And maybe someone at the competition had something to do with it.
As secrets are revealed and the true colors of her friends are shown, it’s up to Najwa to find out who’s behind these mysterious posts—not just to save Trina’s memory, but to save herself.
Summary: Death was everywhere. They all stared at me, bumping into one another and slowly coming forward.
Sixteen-year-old Zharie Young is absolutely certain her mother morphed into a zombie before her untimely death, but she can’t seem to figure out why. Why her mother died, why her aunt doesn’t want her around, why all her dreams seem suddenly, hopelessly out of reach. And why, ever since that day, she’s been seeing zombies everywhere.
Then Bo moves into her apartment building―tall, skateboard in hand, freckles like stars, and an undeniable charm. Z wants nothing to do with him, but when he transforms into a half zombie right before her eyes, something feels different. He contradicts everything she thought she knew about monsters, and she can’t help but wonder if getting to know him might unlock the answers to her mother’s death.
As Zharie sifts through what’s real and what’s magic, she discovers a new truth about the world: Love can literally change you―for good or for dead.
In this surrealist journey of grief, fear, and hope, Britney S. Lewis’s debut novel explores love, zombies, and everything in between in an intoxicating amalgam of the real and the fantastic.
Our Shadows Have Claws: 15 Latin American Monster Stories edited by Yamile Saied Méndez & Amparo Ortiz
Algonquin Young Readers || Audrey’s Review
Summary: Fifteen original short stories from YA superstars, featuring Latine mythology’s most memorable monsters
From zombies to cannibals to death incarnate, this cross-genre anthology offers something for every monster lover. In Our Shadows Have Claws, bloodthirsty vampires are hunted by a quick-witted slayer; children are stolen from their beds by “el viejo de la bolsa” while a military dictatorship steals their parents; and anyone you love, absolutely anyone, might be a shapeshifter waiting to hunt.
The worlds of these stories are dark but also magical ones, where a ghost-witch can make your cheating boyfriend pay, bullies are brought to their knees by vicious wolf-gods, a jar of fireflies can protect you from the reality-warping magic of a bruja—and maybe you’ll even live long enough to tell the tale. Set across Latin America and its diaspora, this collection offers bold, imaginative stories of oppression, grief, sisterhood, first love, and empowerment.
Strike the Zither by Joan He
Roaring Brook Press || Audrey’s Review
Summary: The year is 414 of the Xin Dynasty, and chaos abounds. A puppet empress is on the throne. The realm has fractured into three factions and three warlordesses hoping to claim the continent for themselves.
But Zephyr knows it’s no contest.
Orphaned at a young age, Zephyr took control of her fate by becoming the best strategist of the land and serving under Xin Ren, a warlordess whose loyalty to the empress is double-edged—while Ren’s honor draws Zephyr to her cause, it also jeopardizes their survival in a war where one must betray or be betrayed. When Zephyr is forced to infiltrate an enemy camp to keep Ren’s followers from being slaughtered, she encounters the enigmatic Crow, an opposing strategist who is finally her match. But there are more enemies than one—and not all of them are human.