by Sarah M. Chen
A couple posts back, I discussed the personality type that I most identified with: the extroverted introvert. Now I’m going to discuss another conflicting aspect of my personality—my book personality.
If anyone asked what type of books I liked to read, I’d automatically say crime fiction and the darker the better. It’s also what I love to write. Many years ago, I was still finding my groove and it wasn’t until I got a few published short stories under my belt did I feel comfortable enough to write what was lurking inside me: tales of regular folks who didn’t make the best decisions for whatever reason. Folks you’d meet at a bar or waiting in line at the DMV. It’s stuff I enjoy writing because I can relate to it.
However, I also love another genre just as obsessively. My collection is split equally between crime fiction and this other genre. My reviews and recommendations are split down the middle as well.
There are many people out there who read multiple genres. They read the gamut, from nonfiction to literary to supernatural. I do the same thing to a certain extent. I’m both a book lover and bookseller so I’ll occasionally pick up a memoir or re-read a classic. Books that aren’t crime fiction, I include among my all-time favorites, like TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and BLACK BEAUTY. But my go-to genre is dark crime fiction.
Yet this changed when I started reading YA several years ago. I was surprised that I loved it just as much as crime fiction. I adored it to the point where I wanted to write YA (and yes, I’m still struggling to finish my YA novel). I strongly identified with the angst, the loneliness, and the confusion of the teen protagonists. The overwhelming emotion and the life or death storylines (either figuratively or literally) are excruciatingly painful and lovely. Some YA fiction is even darker than many crime fiction novels I’ve read. They tackle heavy topics like incest, abuse, neglect, suicide, drugs, and gender/sexual/cultural identity with brutal honesty. Yet YA novels can also have a lightness and startling beauty to them. The teen voice is both world-weary and innocent, hopeful yet candid.
I also love Middle Grade fiction for entirely different reasons. I love the whimsy and eagerness of an MG book. I have a soft spot for middle grade mysteries and wish there were more of them out there.
As a writer/fangirl/bookseller, I’m learning both communities—the crime fiction world and the YA/MG world—are the most supportive enthusiastic bunch I could ever hope to know. There is also a lot of overlap and crossover (usually when the crime fiction authors begin having kids of their own). Now that I think about it, it’s not so hard for me to believe that I love both genres equally. They’re all stories told from the heart that touch us in some way, and isn’t that ultimately, what we’re looking for as readers?
And since many of us are doing our favorite books of 2015, I guess I might as well end this post with my own list. So here are my top 3 from both crime fiction and YA, in no particular order:
- THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins (crime fiction)
- STONE COLD DEAD by James W. Ziskin (crime fiction)
- CONCRETE ANGEL by Patricia Abbott (crime fiction)
- WE ALL LOOKED UP by Tommy Wallach (YA)
- CONVICTION by Kelly Loy Gilbert (YA)
- AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by Sabaa Tahir (YA)
I’ve provided links to my GoodReads or Mysterious Galaxy reviews for each title. It was hard to choose my favorites of 2015 but I’m pretty satisfied with this list. With that being said, I know I’m forgetting some outstanding novels. Here’s to a year filled with emotional, gut-wrenching, twisted, shocking, and uplifting fiction! I can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2016, but I already know there are some hugely-anticipated gems on the horizon.
Sarah M. Chen has worked a variety of odd jobs, ranging from script reader to private investigator assistant. Her crime fiction short stories have appeared online and in various anthologies, including All Due Respect, Akashic, Plan B, Shotgun Honey, Out of the Gutter, Betty Fedora, Vol. 2, and Spelk. Her noir novella, Cleaning Up Finn, is coming out May 2016 with All Due Respect Books, proving she can write something over 6,000 words. www.sarahmchen.com