WJ students’ top 2021 Reads


Photo by Liann Keren

Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse.

The Hunger Games. Harry Potter. The Selection. The Great Gatsby. The Fault in Our Stars. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Read that, read that, read all of it. You’ve been searching and searching and searching and now you don’t know what to read. What next?
Fear no more! I’ve done all the research for you and compiled a list of WJ students’ Top 2020 Reads. No matter what genre you read, I can guarantee that there’s a book here for you — non-fiction to historical fiction to adventure to classics to even compiled essays.
First off, honorable mention: The Percy Jackson & the Olympians series was mentioned by both sophomore Kendall Harris and senior Anushka Tandon.

“It’s kind of like a childhood book that makes me feel super good so I keep re-reading it. I’ve always been into Greek myths and Percy Jackson incorporated a lot of the Origin myths into a more easy and funny way of reading so I loved it,” Harris said.
“This is a comfort series of mine and rereading it made me happy with so much craziness in the world,” Tandon said.
Freshmen Picks:
Katie Orellana: Pride and Prejudice (romance) by Jane Austen — “My favorite part about the book was Darcy’s first marriage proposal and how Elizabeth rejected it.”
Toby Carr: Of Mice and Men (novella) by John Steinbeck — “I particularly loved this book because it was very meaningful and also quite entertaining to me.”
Dylan Steinberg: The Kite Runner (drama) by Khaled Hosseini — “I kind of connected with (it) since I have known most of my friends since kindergarten and we pretty much grew up with each other just like the main character and his friend in the book.”
Danielle Trachtenberg: Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina (autobiography) by Misty Copeland — “I love this book because Misty’s passion for dance has inspired so many other dancers like myself.”
Isa Schaefer-Fortier: Call Me by Your Name (romance) by André Aciman — “I really enjoyed this book because it’s a romance about these two men who kind of try and hide their identities because of the period, and they’re in Italy and part of their identity is that they’re Jewish and so am I so I found that very relatable.”
Gia Marciano: The Hobbit (fantasy) by J. R. R. Tolkien — “I liked this book because it was entertaining and I liked the main character, Bilbo, and the development he goes through.”
Sophomore Picks:
My personal pick: Girl in the Blue Coat (mystery) by Monica Hesse — The book follows the point of view of a girl around my age, so I found her very relatable. It was interesting to see how a normal teenage girl who wasn’t Jewish would have acted during the Holocaust, which is when the book takes place.
Matthew Ashman: A Dream About Lightning Bugs (autobiography) by Ben Folds — “It’s an autobiography about a rock pianist who is now a musical director at the Kennedy Center. It is an awesome look into a regular guy from the 90s who takes his 3 piece band to fame.”
Ryan Mulligan: Just Mercy (autobiography) by Bryan Stevenson — “The book just makes you see a different point of view about people, and about how good people can do bad things sometimes – it really makes you think.”
Ella Murray: The Summer of Broken Things (young adult) by Margaret Peterson Haddix — “I like it because it’s realistic and shows the hardships of having a family that isn’t quite as close as others are and it’s really tear-jerking.”
Mina Bennet: Girl With a Pearl Earring (historical fiction) by Tracy Chevalier — “The characters were really interesting people and it was a generally well written story.”
Megan Walker: When You Reach Me (mystery) by Rebecaa Stead — “When I first read it I really liked it because of how satisfying the ending is. Throughout the book there are a lot of unknowns and a lot of confusing things but the ending is perfect because it provides an explanation that explains things throughout the book. It remains one of my favorite books because it’s on an easier reading level and it’s on the shorter side so it’s really easy to favorite up and read especially if you aren’t that into reading in the first place, but it’s also a genuinely good book.”
Junior Picks:
Laura Howe: The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto (domestic fiction) by Mitch Albom — “The best aspects of the novel are the plot, its emotional appeal, and Albom’s writing style. The story is incredibly interesting and unique in all aspects, and Albom beautifully depicts love and relationships between people.”
Sydney Stein: About a Boy (romance) by Nick Hornby — “My favorite part about the book was the main character’s friendship with the younger boy who didn’t have friends. I really liked how he helped him come out of his shell and helped his mom who was struggling with mental health and taking care of her son.”
Ellie Tan: Six of Crows (fantasy) by Leigh Bardugo — “I enjoyed this book because it was very interesting… It follows a group of criminals as they plan a deadly heist that could change their lives forever. My favorite part was while they were in the middle of their plan because that’s when it was the most exciting.”
William Markey: The Catcher in the Rye (literary realism) by J.D. Salinger — “I liked reading into the life of a struggling and lost teenager, looking at what he does. It’s interesting reading about how he does things differently then we do today but they are still so similar.”
Grant Mateo: The Jungle Book (children’s literature) by Rudyard Kipling — “My favorite part about the book is actually each and every story itself. Kipling does a really amazing job of getting the reader to truly immerse themselves in the environment where the stories take place. My favorite Story in the book has to be Rikki Tikki Tavi.”
Yam Luger: The False Prince (fantasy fiction) by Jennifer A. Nielsen — “My favorite part of the book was the general struggle for survival the main character went through and shows how hard he worked.”
Tom Dubnov: The Autobiography of Calvin Coolidge (biography) by Calvin Coolidge — “I read this book for schoolwork but it turned out to be pretty interesting. It gives you a look into how a president thinks.”
Jenny Howe: The Song of Achilles (historical fiction) by Madeline Miller — “It’s beautifully written and it’s really fun to follow the relationship of the two main characters. It’s kind of a comforting book to me even though it’s kind of sad.”
Senior Picks:
Michael Ye: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (science fiction) by Haruki Murakami — “I thought it was really creative and had a super hallucinatory plot. A lot of the time it felt like I was reading through a fever dream and it was just unlike any book I’ve ever read before.”
Derrick Priester: Fall; Or, Dodge in Hell (thriller) by Neal Stephenson — “My favorite part is that it presents an extreme of our current social media climate and it is very interesting to think about how we got closer and closer to it as 2020 went on… Kind of like 1984 but for social media.”
Anna Finn: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (LGBT literature) by Taylor Jenkins Reid — “I love how the book explores differences between public and private lives. It also does a great job of covering sexuality in an honest way, while still developing characters and a plot that are incredibly intriguing. I couldn’t put this book down.”
Caroline Soler: We Were the Lucky Ones (biographical fiction) by Georgia Hunter — “We Were the Lucky Ones tells the story of many generations of Jewish people living in Eastern Europe during the Holocaust, who somehow all survive and reunite. It was really heart wrenching to read, unsure the whole time if anyone would survive. It was even more interesting to read the authors note that this was a true story, of her own family.”
Abby Matson: No One Asked for This: Essays (autobiography) by Cazzie David — “Her voice as a young author is intensely relatable, and the essay format makes it easy to read in shorter chunks over a longer period of time. I can read a chapter or two for a quick break without feeling the need to finish the book then and there.”
Rebecca Bennett: I Capture the Castle (romance) by Dodie Smith — “I read this during early quarantine (late March I think) and it was the perfect story for that time…the main character is incredibly relatable, the writing is beautiful, and the story is endearing but not too stressful.