Each month the RT editors select one book that is not only compelling, but pushes the boundaries of genre fiction. This book stands out from all the others reviewed that month. October 2017’s RT Seal of Excellence — the editors’ pick for best book of the month — is awarded to Colleen Hoover’s Without Merit.
Being a teen is hard enough without the constant familial turmoil Merit finds herself caught in. An eccentric at heart, I completely identify with Merit’s quirky hobby of collecting trophies. It’s exactly the type of odd thing I’d have done at her age (actually, at that time I was really into naming inanimate objects like Bert the makeup mirror). I totally get Merit. I also totally get how and why she completely shut down, feeling isolated from her family. Identifying with a character in pain is a powerful thing, making it that much more rewarding when Merit works through her issues and reaches out for help. I would recommend this book to both teens and adults. It’s important for us all to understand that even when we feel that all hope is lost, you are never truly alone. — Kristin Stec
Hoover delivers another addicting and complex novel in Without Merit. It’s hard not to feel for Merit, a teen who feels like an outsider in her own family. Serious themes of depression, suicide and abuse are handled tactfully, and the family mysteries beg to be uncovered. Hoover absolutely nails the unreliable narrator angle, and when this book kicks into gear, you won’t be able to put it down. You’ll probably be compelled to finish in one sitting, like me! Check out our QA with Colleen here. — Emily Walton
Holding a mirror to the moments when we put on a brave face but deep down just need a hug and kind word, Hoover has captured the insecurities that make us human in this unforgettable novel. Told through the brutally honest viewpoint of a teenager struggling to find her footing in the world, this captivating and poignant story delves into the complexities of living in a house filled with turmoil, secrets and mental illness, and the vulnerability it takes to lean on those we love in times of need. —Kaitlyn Kelly
And the other nominees are …
The sequel to Akata Witchis everything fans could want! Sunny Nwazue is learning more and more about the secret magical Leopard Society she has been folded into, and descriptions of the spirit world and the mysteries of her grandmother’s magical Nsibidi book are rich and delicious to read. Akata Warrior features more adventures you won’t want to miss, including a road trip! We chatted with Nnedi about the book here— Emily Walton
Anytime Maggie Stiefvater writes a book I will basically drop whatever I’m doing to read it — because her prose is always such a treat. Lately she’s delved into magical realism, one of my favorite favorite subgenres, and All the Crooked Saints reads like a fable wrapped in some riddles and set in a sparse, beautiful place I’d like to visit someday. The themes range from the price of miracles to personal responsibility to making your own happiness, and it’s all written in a lovely, dreamlike quality that seems like a present to book lovers everywhere. You’ll enjoy your trip to Bicho Raro, I am sure of it! — Elissa Petruzzi
It’s bittersweet to see the Sins of the Cities series ending — while An Unsuitable Heir is an excellent ending to an even better series, the cast of characters are so special, it’ll be hard to let go! Charles expertly tied up so many loose threads of the series-long mystery while also developing a sweet — if tenuous — romance between Pen and Mark. Pen’s struggle with gender identity and romance fell perfectly into place in a series that confronts the challenges of being LGBT in Victorian London. With all of the recurring characters and familiar settings, reading this last book felt like coming home. I can’t wait to see more from KJ Charles! — Alyssa Duspiva
Hoyt doesn’t hold back for the last book in her Maiden Lane series — Duke of Desire begins with the heroine in captivity after being kidnapped by the Lords of Chaos. Things only get tenser from there; from the unlikely romance that begins blooming between Iris and Raphael to the increasing danger presented by the Lords of Chaos. Raphael’s intensity is swoon-worthy, and the action kept me turning pages, convinced there wouldn’t actually be a happy ending — and when it did come, I won’t spoil anything, but it was so, so satisfying. — Alyssa Duspiva
Read our interview with Elizabeth to learn more!
Combine complex worldbuilding, enchanting historical fantasy, a diverse cast of protagonists, passionate romances, a dash of steampunk and dinosaurs, and you have the perfect formula that makes The Long Past. I haven’t seen a book that can so expertly combine and manage all of these elements while packing an emotional narrative to make truly unique stories. It’s so refreshing to see LGBT characters take the forefront of such an interesting fantasy world, and that they all get the happy endings makes it that much better. This world and its characters stayed with me for a while, and I can only hope that there will be more. — Alyssa Duspiva
There’s so much to unearth in this novel, and the emotional raggedness of the main characters is painful to read … but it’s equally rewarding to see these two recover and work towards a life of love. Both of our main characters have been abused in different ways, and readers should know that there are some upsetting scenes and personal history referenced. Both characters are able to work through their abuse to come out stronger, and Most of All You is a story you won’t want to miss. Check out Mia’s moving guest post about this book here. — Emily Walton
Congratulations to the winner and all of the nominees! You can also find all of our Seal of Excellence winners here.
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