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When the world shut down last March, I suddenly found myself with a lot more free time than I knew what to do with. Especially once spring semester classes ended, I had a whole summer of social distancing ahead of me and nothing real to fill the time with. So, I turned back to my old favorite pastime: reading.

The library in my town was temporarily closed, but there’s an app called Libby that allows you to take out books on your phone for free, just like a library. And before I knew it, I was off: reading books faster than I had in years, feeling like elementary-school-me again, when I’d go to the library and come home with a pile of books I’d read in a day. Here’s five of my favorite books I’ve read this past year.

“The Last True Poets of the Sea” by Julia Drake

Violet moves to the town of Lyric to stay with her uncle for the summer, a town founded by her great-great-great-grandmother, the sole survivor of the shipwreck of the boat with the same name. After her brother Sam is hospitalized for attempting to take his life, Violet decides to embark on a journey to find the shipwreck of the Lyric that she and Sam dreamed of discovering when they were little. With the help of new friends and an eventual new love, Violet begins the ambitious adventure of finding something lost so long ago.

“If We Were Villains” by M. L. Rio

The story opens on the day Oliver is finally released from jail for a crime he may or may not have actually committed. Oliver tells the detective who helped put him there the real story of exactly what went down between the Shakespeare students at a small liberal arts college that one fateful night so many years ago. If We Were Villains will keep you guessing right down to the very last page.

“Field Notes on Love” by Jennifer E. Smith

This was one of the earliest books I read during this quarantine year, and it may quite possibly be my favorite. It’s the summer before his freshman year of college, and Hugo is planning on going long-distance with his girlfriend. But then she dumps him, leaving him with the train tickets for a cross-country trip they planned to take together before school. The problem? The tickets are booked in her name, and they’re nontransferable. Hugo puts out a long-shot advertisement for a replacement Margaret Campbell, and ends up going on the adventure with Mae, where the two of them take the last-minute leap in an attempt to escape their regular lives, and hopefully find something new along the way.

“Red, White, & Royal Blue” by Casey McQuiston

Alex, the first son of the President of the United States, and Henry, a Prince of England, have more of a hate-hate relationship than anything else. When their celebrity feud becomes public, their families stage some media damage control between the two, leading them to spend more, and more, and even more time together. Red, White, & Royal Blue answers the question you never thought to ask: what if the first son of the US and the Prince of Wales fell in love?

“We Used to Be Friends” by Amy Spalding

We Used to Be Friends is a story about a breakup, but not a romantic one. Told with half the chapters moving forward in time and half moving backwards, this novel tells the story of James and Kat: inseparable at the beginning of their senior year of high school, and hardly even speaking by the end of it. Readers are taken along the journey to discover just how the pair ended up growing up and growing apart.

Even being well into my sophomore year of college now, the pandemic has, as one small positive, given me enough time to return to the hobby I used to love so much. Once I started reading just for fun again, I couldn’t seem to stop. I really recommend getting started, whether it’s one of these five or some other book you’ve been meaning to read for forever.

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Gabrielle is a junior studying English at Boston University. When she's not writing for Her Campus, you can find her listening to Taylor Swift, reading (or writing!) a YA novel, or exploring new places in Boston. You can follow her on insta @gabriellepeck15.
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