I’ve been on my own mini-Spring Break this week, tuning out and reading as many books as days I’ve taken off. And in case you have a much-needed trip on the horizon, too, I’ve rounded up some of my favorite Spring Break reading recommendations for this year.
The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi
The title of this book about a young man in Nigeria struggling with his identity tells us the ending right off the bat: Vivek Oji dies. We know that when the book starts, but we don’t know how or why or anything about the events leading up to the death that deposited his lifeless body on his parents’ doorstep until the very end.
Jumping back and forth through time—and told from the perspective of various narrators, including Vivek himself and his cousin and closest confidante Osita—The Death of Vivek Oji is simultaneously beautiful, enigmatic, heartbreaking and propulsive; after taking a couple days to get into it, I tore through this novel once it finally clicked. I hate how trite the description “coming of age” is, but that’s really the best way to summarize this novel: a coming-of-age novel crossed with a mystery as Vivek’s mother tries to get to the bottom of her only son’s untimely death.
The Roommate by Rosie Danan
Reader, if you are a prude, this is when I’m going to tell you to skip ahead to the next book, because I guarantee you that you will not like The Roommate. Like many books I’ve read recently, I added it to my list simply upon the recommendations of many online book clubs I’m a part of, without so much as skimming the cover description. That explains how this story about a Connecticut socialite who follows her teenage love out to Los Angeles for a summer, only for him to abandon her and sublet his room out on Craigslist—to an adult entertainment star—found its way into my Kindle.
I’ve never read any of the 50 Shades of Grey series, but I imagine this appeals to the same kind of reader (i.e. predominantly female), only it was actually a pretty good read if you could get past all the blushing you’ll inevitably do. If you’re looking for the ultimate summer romance with a side of feminist rhetoric, this is it.
The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll
I really hate to write unfavorable reviews in general, but this book was just plain not for me. It was also a DNF (did not finish) for mom and my book twin Lizzie, and all of us loved Jessica Knoll’s debut book Luckiest Girl Alive. So rather than bash The Favorite Sister, I’m going to point you to Knoll’s first book, which was riveting and a one-sitting read, instead.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
If Guillermo del Toro and The Haunting of Hill House were to birth a book baby, I imagine would turn out something like Mexican Gothic: beautifully haunting with plenty of unknown terrors lurking just beneath the setting’s surface, which in this case is an old manor in the Mexican countryside that was once the epicenter of silver mining (until everyone died of “the sickness,” that is). At the urging of her father, Mexico City socialite Noemí Taboada heads to High Place to check on her cousin Catalina, after the family receives news that she’s not well, which was followed up by a disturbing letter from Catalina that implies she’s going mad—and that there are ghosts in the walls.
It’s not long after Noemí arrives that she starts to suspect there’s something the Doyle family is keeping from her; only, she can’t quite put her finger on what (or who…) it is and if she, too, is in fact going mad. Halfway through, I was wondering how Mexican Gothic was classified as both horror and science fiction—neither of which seemed accurate at that stage in the book—but by the end, I unanimously agree with the critic who wrote that “after a slow-burn start Mexican Gothic gets seriously weird.” Not scary-weird, but definitely creepy-weird, and if you’re a wuss like me, trust me: You can handle this. It’s not horror in the traditional sense and is one of the best books I’ve read in some time.
Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner
I’m fairly certain I’ve read everything Jennifer Weiner has ever written—some are laugh-out-loud funny; others are easy plane reads—so I added this to my library list as soon as it came out. New York twenty-something Daphne Berg is building her brand as a body-positive influencer and on the cusp of becoming a respected online personality when a ghost from the past—her former best friend Drue Cavanaugh—waltzes back into her life and asks her to be in her summer wedding on Cape Cod.
From there, there are a lot of twists and turns with the book doing a complete 180 from chick lit to whodunnit midway through (that’s all I can give away without spoiling the big whammy). As someone who has worked in media and the online world for two decades, I much enjoyed the influencer storyline—there’s a whole lot of doing it for the ‘Gram—and while this novel isn’t going to win any awards, overall, it’s just a fun, indulgent beach read like its name would suggest.
The Last Time I Saw You by Liv Constantine
The Last Time I Saw You begins at the funeral of Dr. Kate English’s mother, a beloved philanthropist from a wealthy Baltimore family who was brutally and mysteriously murdered. As Kate’s estranged BFF, bestselling author Blaire Barrington, returns for the funeral and rejoins her childhood friend’s life, the pair try to crack the code of who murdered Lily—and who is threatening a similar fate upon Kate.
While this wasn’t my favorite novel by the writing duo who uses Liv Constantine as a pseudonym, I did find it entertaining if not pretty predictable (if you’ve read one Liv Constantine book, you’ll start to notice very similar patterns); I had several of the major plot points figured out by 40 percent in, though I never actually guessed who killed Lily, so that was a surprise at the end. If you haven’t read The Last Mrs. Parrish, put that one on your list first; then read The Last Time I Saw You next.
The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
I read this book in an afternoon, and despite it being a DNF for my mom—with whom I tend to share the same opinions about books—I just went for it, because it was a pretty fast-paced psychological thriller in which a couple’s baby is kidnapped in the opening chapter as they dine next door at their neighbors’ house, with the following chapters casting doubt on every major character as the police race against the clock to figure out who took baby Cora.
Ultimately, I wouldn’t recommend this book. So many other authors like Gillian Flynn and Mary Kubica write interesting thrillers with unique twists and turns that your time would be better spent reading those than this novel that feels like it was a poor attempt at an amalgamation of every thriller I’ve ever read.
Looking for more Spring Break reads? You can find all of my past book recommendations here.GET MY POSTS DELIVERED DIRECTLY TO YOUR INBOX
I started American Dirt, about a mother-son duo fleeing the narcos of Acapulco, this afternoon, and I’m nearly halfway done. Such a good book! I also have Caste, The Water Dancer, Shuggie Bain and Necessary People up next in my Kindle queue.
What books are on your Spring Break reading list?
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