What YA’ Reading: Rachael’s favorite books of 2021

2021 did not turn out to be the year I thought it was going to be. I was hoping it would be the year of light we all needed after the dumpster fire of 2020. Alas, it was just as difficult and my time spent reading reflected that. I didn’t have time to read as many books as I would have liked, which meant the titles I did read needed to be the ones I was most anticipating. Following are a few of my favorite, most anticipated reads of 2021.

Aurora’s End by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Aurora’s End is the third and final book in Kaufman and Kristoff’s Aurora trilogy. When we last saw squad 312, they were strewn across the universe, quite literally. We quickly learn that not only are our favorite space cadets spread across space but also across time. Zila, Fin and Scarlett stumble upon some life altering information and form relationships that have more impact than they can imagine. Kal and Auri are stuck in the future with the galaxy’s most hated villain and are faced with a dismal reality of what the future will be like if they fail. And Tyler is seeking alliances in places that he never could have expected.

This is the series finale I’ve been waiting for and it didn’t disappoint! This series has been captivating since page one. I saw some of the twists and turns coming but others slapped me right in the face and left me gasping or laughing out loud. This final book left me with such a feeling fulfillment. There’s no cliffhangers or ambiguous endings. However, I wouldn’t say it was nicely wrapped in a bow, Hallmark style. It was simply a satisfying ending to what was a great series.

A Queen of Gilded Horns by Amanda Joy

A Queen of Gilded Horns is the 2nd and final book in Joy’s fantasy series, which began with A River of Royal Blood. The series is a complex fantasy with elements of African landscape and culture. It follows Eva, the youngest princess of the Queendom of Myre. Myre is a kingdom that has been in place for around 200 years. The daughters of the queen fight to the death to determine who will be the next queen.

Eva’s Nameday reveals truths about her family. Now she is trying to find a way to save the people of her country. She’s also trying to honor the Indigenous peoples who were displaced when her ancestors ripped their power from them and forced them to the edges of society.

The first book in this series was extremely strong and while I did really like this book, it could have been extended into a third book. The author created such a great world that I would have liked her to expand upon some of the other Indigenous cultures and complex political relationships. I hope she writes more books based in this same world so we can hear the voices of those characters.

Lore by Alexandra Bracken

Lore lives in New York with her best friend. As a child her entire family was murdered during an ancient game of Greek bloodlines called the Agon. Years later, she wants nothing to do with the hunt, its Gods or the memories of Castor the only friend she had. This year the Agon is in New York and Lore tries everything she can to avoid. Then Athena, one of the few remaining original Gods, shows up wounded with Castor. Lore strikes a bargain to help her leave the Agon behind forever. Things don’t exactly go to plan and Lore unearths secrets and family history that impact all of humanity.

Alexandra Bracken is an amazing author! Lore was easily one of the best books I read this year. It’s a standalone novel that brings to mind Percy Jackson but much more mature and well thought out without any of the cliffhangers. The characters in this book are diverse and have incredible depth. It was fast past and came to a satisfying conclusion. You should definitely give this a read if Greek mythology fantasy is your thing.

Rachael is always listening to an audiobook or a podcast, usually while doing a mountain of housework that comes with having young kids. Her favorite genres include historical fiction, young adult fantasy and historical romances. In her off time she enjoys hand lettering, using power tools and watching heavy metal rock concerts with her husband. She purchases the young adult and juvenile fiction for the library.