Shining a Light on Some Early 2023 Books

Out of solidarity with HarperCollins workers, we held off on promoting or reviewing books during the strike, but we want to re-visit those titles now. Two of the books that were published in January caught my eyes and they are worthy of a first, second, and even third glance.

The cover is in bold colors and stylized artwork. The background is blue. It's dominated with red and orange. There is a young Asian American woman sitting on an escalator. She's wearing an orange button down, black pants and green shoes. Her hands are hanging between her knees and she is leaning back on the escalator wall. There are reflections of her on the walls.The Cartographers by Amy Zhang also @Theamyzhang on Tiktok

Struggling to balance the expectations of her immigrant mother with her deep ambivalence about her own place in the world, seventeen-year-old Ocean Wu takes her savings and goes off the grid. A haunting and romantic novel about family, friendship, philosophy, and love.

Ocean Wu has always felt enormous pressure to succeed. After struggling with depression during her senior year in high school, Ocean moves to New York City, where she has been accepted at a prestigious university. But Ocean feels so emotionally raw and unmoored (and uncertain about what is real and what is not), that she decides to defer and live off her savings until she can get herself together. She also decides not to tell her mother (whom she loves very much but doesn’t want to disappoint) that she is deferring—at least until she absolutely must.

In New York, Ocean moves into an apartment with Georgie and Tashya, two strangers who soon become friends, and gets a job tutoring. She also meets a boy—Constantine Brave (a name that makes her laugh)—late one night on the subway. Constant is a fellow student and a graffiti artist, and Constant and Ocean soon start corresponding via Google Docs—they discuss physics, philosophy, art, literature, and love. But everything falls apart when Ocean goes home for Thanksgiving, Constant reveals his true character, Georgie and Tashya break up, and the police get involved.

Ocean, Constant, Georgie, and Tashya are all cartographers—mapping out their futures, their dreams, and their paths toward adulthood in this stunning and heartbreaking novel about finding the strength to control your own destiny. [Read a Sample Here

My Thoughts: I’ve always loved maps and the idea of exploring the world so the title already had me from the start. Zhang delivers on the exploration, but while they do journey around the city, more of the journey is within. Ocean is trying to figure out a path for herself and is stumbling about a bit inside and out. She’s having growing pains and trying to find her footing, but loses her way more than once. The story is so full of emotions and wonderings that a reader almost has to start wondering things too. There are many struggles and tears to be found on the pages, but there is a little hope too.

The background is bright pink. There are stars, hearts, and calendar pages floating above the two young people sitting on the ground leaning on each other. He is Black and is wearing glasses. He has on plain gray tennis shoes, dark pants, and a gray coat. He is looking at the young woman leaning on him. She is lighter skinned than he is and has long brown curly hair. Her eyes are closed. There is a guitar case behind her. She is wearing a multicolored jacket blue pants and black and white checkered shoes.Reggie and Delilah’s Year of Falling by Elise Bryant

Delilah always keeps her messy, gooey insides hidden behind a wall of shrugs and yeah, whatevers. She goes with the flow—which is how she ends up singing in her friends’ punk band as a favor, even though she’d prefer to hide at the merch table.

Reggie is a D&D Dungeon Master and self-declared Blerd. He spends his free time leading quests and writing essays critiquing the game under a pseudonym, keeping it all under wraps from his disapproving family.

These two, who have practically nothing in common, meet for the first time on New Year’s Eve. And then again on Valentine’s Day. And then again on St. Patrick’s Day. It’s almost like the universe is pushing them together for a reason.

Delilah wishes she were more like Reggie—open about what she likes and who she is, even if it’s not cool. Except . . . it’s all a front. Reggie is just role-playing someone confident. The kind of guy who could be with a girl like Delilah.

As their holiday meetings continue, the two begin to fall for each other. But what happens once they realize they’ve each fallen for a version of the other that doesn’t really exist? [Read a Sample Here]

My Thoughts: This book had me smiling so many times. There are cute interactions all over the place and it was just what I needed to cheer me up. Reggie and Delilah are both trying to impress each other and avoid being truly vulnerable so of course there are issues, but nothing life or death level. They ultimately bring out the best in each other. This one made my heart happy and I’d hand it to anyone looking for a sweet read.