The subjects of my 17 favorite fiction books from 2015 are all over the place, although I admittedly don’t read a lot of “feel good” books or “chick lit.” I tend to focus on more series topics and I enjoy reading crime and mystery novels with a “who dunnit” twist.
Despite my preferences, the topics of my favorite fiction books this year are diverse. I made this list by looking at which fiction books I gave perfect five-star ratings to during 2015. I obviously read a lot of great books this year! Here are the results, listed in the order in which I read them.
This book by M.O. Walsh is about how a community copes with the rape of a teenage girl in their neighborhood and how the rape changes them all.
Walsh’s storytelling was incredible. The characters were vivid. I just had to know how it ended, so much so that I stayed awake long after my bedtime reading until my eyes blurred. That’s my sign of a good book.
Here’s my full review.
Lex is struggling with the suicide of her teenage brother, Tyler, who she thought she knew so well. As she tries to fit her life back together, she wrestles with her lack of understanding of his motives and what to do about the secret she’s kept about the last text message Tyler ever sent her.
Cynthia Hand’s book is an interesting, vivid look at how teens understand life and cope with grief.
3. Saving Grace
The book, by Jane Green, is about novelist Ted Chapman and his trophy wife, Grace. The couple seems to live a fairy tale life, despite Ted’s rages that no one knows about. But, when Grace hires a new assistant, she finds herself questioning her marriage, her reputation and her sanity. The question becomes how much the new assistant, Beth, has to do with Grace’s problems.
I changed my mind about Grace’s issues several times while reading this book and still was surprised by the end. That’s some strong plot development.
Here’s my full review.
4. Lacy Eye
Joe and Hanna have two daughters who could not be more different.
Iris is the stereotypical beautiful, popular teen. She’s the daughter Joe and Hanna don’t have to worry about.
Dawn is plain, awkward and frequently teased at school. She’s the daughter that gives the couple constant worry.
The couple is happy when Dawn seems to be settling in at college, and they hope she’s finally found a place where she fits in. They are less-than-impressed when Dawn brings her boyfriend, Rud, home for her sister’s wedding. There is just something off about the first man in their daughter’s life, although they try not to focus the possibility that they can’t figure out why someone so handsome would be with Dawn.
After a Thanksgiving dispute among the four, Hanna and Joe are attacked in their home. Joe is killed and Hanna is beaten severely, causing a head injury and memory loss. Rud is convicted of the crime and, while Dawn initially is thought to be involved, she is not indicted by a grand jury.
When Rud is given an appeal, Dawn returns home to live with her mother, who desperately tries to remember what happened that night so she can keep Rud in jail and exonerate her daughter for good.
I read Lacy Eye in a single day. In a time when it seems like there are few new storylines, Jessica Treadway introduced one.
Here’s my full review.
5. Finding Jake
Simon Connolly doesn’t know what to think about his son, Jake. He responds in a frenzied panic when he learns that shots were fired at the high school his son and daughter attend. When he arrives at the school, he finds out that his daughter is safe, but teens are dead and Jake is the only living suspect.
Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon tells the story of the Connolly family (through the eyes of Simon Connolly) as they try to locate Jake before the police do and struggle with their beliefs of his guilt or innocence.
I wasn’t aware until after I finished the novel and gave it a perfect rating that Finding Jake is Reardon’s first novel. I was taken immediately with the quality of writing in the book.
Lisa Genova writes about Joe O’Brien, a 44-year-old Boston police officer and father of four. Joe is diagnosed with Huntington’s, a neurodegenerative disease with no treatment or cure. What’s worse is that each of his children has a 50 percent chance of also having the disease.
The book is the story of the O’Brien family and how they each learn to cope with Joe’s worsening health and the possibility of their own disease.
The book, by Tamara Ireland Stone, is about Samantha McAllister, a popular high school junior working overtime to keep up the careful facade she created. What no one but family (and her therapist) knows about Samantha is that she has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Her disorder causes repetitive, obsessive behaviors, but also abnormal amounts of worry, much of which is unfounded.
One of Samantha’s realistic worries is that her life-long group of popular girlfriends would ostracize her if they found out about her illness. So, Samantha obsesses about keeping them from learning the truth.
When Sam meets Caroline, she discovers that maybe she’s better off without the popular girls and that she can find real friends elsewhere. For the first time in her life, Sam begins to feel normal and connected with her new friends in Poets Corner. But Sam learns that her new best friend is anything but normal.
Being a teenager is difficult. I can only imagine that being a teenager with an emotional disorder is even more difficult. Sam was a relatable character. You want to see her “win” and rally for her throughout the book.
The book, by Jenny Milchman, had a plot that sounded similar to scary movies I’ve seen and episodes of Dateline that I’ve watched.
Sandy and Ben Tremont have just finished eating dinner in their secluded, state-of-the-art cabin when two escaped convicts walk into their kitchen. As Ben tries to fight the men, Sandy’s goal is keeping them unaware of the couple’s 15-year-old daughter, Ivy, who pouted in her room instead of joining them for dinner. But Ben is badly injured in the fight and Sandy can’t keep Ivy a secret for long, despite the other secrets we learn she has kept from her family.
Those secrets are the little plot twists that had me holding my eyelids up so I could stay awake and finish the book.
When I finished As Night Falls, I added every book Milchman wrote to my reading list.
The book, by Tammara Webber, is the first in the Contours of the Heart series. I don’t usually enjoy series, and I’m not sure I’ll read the other books, but I’m glad I read the first one.
I found Easy on a list of books about rape culture. It begins with Jacqueline, a college student, leaving a party and being attacked by her ex-boyfriend’s fraternity brother. That’s how she meets Lucas, the rebellious barista she’s never noticed in her economics class. He saves her from her attacker. Of course, we want Jacqueline and Lucas to get together right from the beginning. I mean, he saved her from the most terrifying thing most of us can imagine. But, in the end, we learn that they really have the ability to save each other.
Easy could be described as young adult, although the content is a bit mature for that genre. It reads in the adolescent tone of a YA novel. I loved this book because the characters are relatable and it’s about college students. It also addresses the difficult issue of rape and rape culture in a realistic, responsible way.
10. Remember Mia
Estelle Paradise wakes up in a hospital severely injured and missing and ear. As she comes to, Estelle remembers that her infant daughter, Mia, is missing. But she doesn’t remember anything aside from finding Mia’s crib empty and Mia and her things (diapers, clothes, bottles, etc.) gone.
Estelle, who suffered from postpartum depression that she tried unsuccessfully to hide, is the police’s primary suspect. Witnesses come forward who have seen her acting strangely toward the colicky Mia.
To clear her name and find her daughter, Estelle must recover her memory, but she’s not certain she wants to because the truth may be more than she can handle.
Read my full review.
11. Paper Towns
Quentin Jacobsen, 17, has been in love with his next-door neighbor, Margo Roth Spiegelman, since they were children. But Margo is one of the popular girls and Quentin is a nerd, making theirs one of those relationships that ended after childhood.
Margo shows up at Quentin’s window one night a few weeks before graduation and they spend a night playing pranks on the popular students who have wronged Margo.
Just when Quentin thinks things may have changed between them, Margo disappears. In his search to find her, Quentin discovers that Margo wasn’t as happy as he previously thought and he doesn’t know her as well as he believed.
I generally love John Green’s novels, so it wasn’t surprising that I liked this one too.
Tracy Crosswhite is tough. Being a detective doesn’t phase her because she’s already been through the most difficult experience she’ll ever have.
Tracy watched 20 years ago as her younger sister, Sarah, pulled away in her red truck, never to be seen again.
Edmund House, a convicted rapist, later was jailed for Sara’s murder. Sara’s body was never found, and the evidence used to convict House never sounded quite right to Tracy. She left her hometown filled with bad memories and became a detective, hoping to give other families the closure hers never got.
When Sara’s remains are discovered, Tracy is more convinced than ever that something isn’t right about the case against House. She fears the wrong man is in prison and her sister’s killer is running free.
As she searches for the truth, Tracy discovers that the heartache she experienced losing Sara was just the beginning.
My Sister’s Grave by Robert Dugoni was well written and had a unique storyline that kept me reading. I love it when I just consume a book because I can’t wait to know what happens next. I read Dugoni’s page turner in a single day, which says a lot about the story’s plot. If you like thrillers, you won’t want to miss this one.
Here’s my full review.
13. What We Saw
My favorite books typically are not light-hearted or funny, in case you haven’t noticed yet. What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler is not an exception. The book, inspired by the Steubenville rape case, looks at how a terrible crime divides a community.
Kate Weston doesn’t remember much about the party at high school star basketball player John Doone’s house. She remembers taking shots with Stacey Stallard. She remembers her lifelong friend and another star basketball player, Ben Cody, driving her home. That’s about it.
Kate has a terrible hangover when she wakes up the next morning, but it’s nothing compared to the headaches, heartaches and stomach aches she’s soon to experience.
A photo begins circulating online of Stacey passed out over another basketball player’s shoulder. Then Stacey claims that four of the basketball players raped her.
It may not even be fair to say the town is divided since everyone sides with the men. They’re good boys from good families. They couldn’t possibly have done what Stacey claims.
But when Kate uncovers a video of the night that most people thought had been deleted, she finds out the truth about what happened and who all was involved. Then she has to struggle with what to do with the information.
14. Pretty Girls
Claire and Lydia’s teenaged sister, Julia, disappeared more than 20 years ago. The two women haven’t spoken since. Claire is the beautiful trophy wife of a millionaire. Lydia is a single mother and former drug addict who dates an ex-con.
A secret brings the women back together after Claire’s husband is killed, but they never imagine it will led them to their sister’s murderer.
I could not put this book down. Karin Slaughter’s plot is original, creepy and so bothersome.
Julia Maxton can’t imagine anything worse than losing one of her three daughters—until Haley, 17, runs a stop sign, killing her younger sister Caitlin.
The family falls apart after the wreck until Julia decides to take the girls on a cross-country drive to pull them back together. During the trip, they learn what they all mean to each other and how to cope with an accident they all regret.
Colleen Faulkner’s book describes a parental nightmare and the lengths a mother will go to when she needs to save her children.
16. After You
Louisa Clark is struggling to live her life without Will Traynor. She works at a job she hates, lives in an apartment she doesn’t like and drinks too much. It seems she is just existing, not living.
When an accident forces Lou to return home and live with her family, she is back where she was before she met Will.
Then Will’s daughter appears and changes everything Lou thought she knew about love and family.
I really didn’t think JoJo Moyes could do it again. I loved Me Before You so much that it had me laughing and sobbing uncontrollably on an airplane. I’m sure I looked like a crazy person. After You didn’t go the way I thought it would, but it still was an amazing book. Moyes did it again.
17. A Dark Lure
Sarah Baker was abducted 12 years ago by the Watt Lake Killer. The killer sexually assaulted and tortured her for months before he set her free so he could hunt her. What the killer didn’t expect was for Sarah to escape.
Sarah has tried to move forward, changing her name to Olivia West and working on Broken Bar Ranch. But, as her scars finally begin to heal, Olivia begins receiving messages she thinks are from the Watt Lake Killer, even though the man arrested and convicted for her kidnapping hung himself in jail.
A victim, a killer, a cop, and handsome adventurer, and a teenage girl without a mother are just some of the characters involved in Loreth Anne White’s amazing story. It had me up all night reading again. I can’t wait to read more of White’s work.
The topics of my favorite fiction books this year are diverse, although not many are happy. I hope you find something here you enjoy.
As always, happy reading!