READERS PLEASE NOTE: This article was published
Five amazing stories that you now have the time to read
The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer
This story is filled with classic fairytale characters for whom the author, Chris Colfer, decides to create new backstories. In the first book, our main characters Alex and Connor are sucked into a book called The Land of Stories. They face wicked and cruel characters such as Snow White’s evil stepmother while trying to piece together a spell to get back home.
The story does not shy away from the politics of fairytale kingdoms including highlighting their co-operation as well as rivalries. In a way, it’s reminiscent of the Shrek movie franchise. If you enjoy humour and adventure, this book is for you.
The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad
This story is set in the city of Noor, a fictional and lively city along the Silk Road. In its recent past, within a single day, Noor was massacred by the city’s enemy tribe, the chaotic shayateen djinn, and nearly everyone was killed except for three individuals. Our heroine Fatima was one of them. However, Noor quickly repopulated itself as traders and merchants brought back life to the city. It is now bustling with colourful fabrics splayed at every corner, melodious music winding down its streets and flavourful sweets offered for all the celebrations the city partakes in. The story follows Fatima as she unravels the twists and darkness of that bloody fate-altering day after her life is disrupted by the death of a prominent Ifrit.
The lush backdrop is enough of a reason to pick up this book. However, the importance and magic that this tale spins about a person’s name will keep you reading until the last word.
Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott
Stella Grant has suffered from cystic fibrosis her whole life. She has been keenly waiting for a lung transplant but it’s only natural after years that her hope falters. Stella will do anything to stay alive after her sister’s death took its toll on her parents.
Will is also a person with CF but he’s been diagnosed with B. Cepacia, a deadly lung infection. Will is on a drug trial because of his mother’s insistence, but he knows what he has is basically incurable. He isn’t taking his treatments seriously and instead is waiting until he turns 18 so he can check himself out of the hospital.
When Stella sees how reckless he is, she becomes desperate to see him make it through the trial. Though a serious and occasionally light-hearted read, the story emphasizes social distancing, making it very relatable in our current times. There is a cardinal rule between people with CF to mitigate the risk of bacterial infection, that they have to stay at least six feet apart. In spite of this, when Stella and Will become more than friends they close the distance until they’re only five feet apart.
The story was initially a screenplay that got turned into a movie, Five Feet Apart, and several months after the movie was filmed the book was released.
Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
Ayesha is starting her job as a substitute teacher so she can pay off her uncle. All the while, she dreams of becoming a poet and has to deal with her younger cousin Hafsa, who rejects proposals left and right like she’s on The Bachelorette. The last thing isn’t a problem except it’s a constant reminder that Ayesha isn’t married yet and, even worse, she’s not getting any younger.
Khalid dresses like he’s in seventh-century Arabia. Although he feels like his truest self with his full beard, others look down on him, believing him to be narrow-minded. This is especially the case with his new boss, who’s had a horrible experience being a woman in the Middle East.
When Ayesha and Khalid cross paths, it’s less of a whirlwind romance and more trying to sincerely understand each other despite their attraction. This is made all the more complicated when Ayesha hears that her flighty cousin Hafsa has decided to give up her quest to reject a hundred proposals and instead marry Khalid.
With a Toronto-centred background, this story richly encompasses Toronto’s boisterous South Asian Muslim community. It’s a great read, if you’d like a taste of Toronto’s culture and would like a read with minority representation.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Starr Carter witnessed her childhood friend, Khalil, being killed by a police officer. Now the whole world is pointing fingers, trying to justify the murder by saying things like Khalil was a drug dealer, a gangbanger and a thug.
The story delves into the tight-knit but low-income community that Starr is a part of, where many of her childhood companions have turned to a life of gang warfare and drug dealing for both money and protection. The golden rule in her community is ‘no snitching,’ but Starr has to speak up otherwise Khalil’s memory will be soiled. And if she doesn’t, how many more young black men will die unjustly at the hands of the police?
This is a story surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement and how difficult speaking up is, but how it’s also necessary.
If you’re unable to purchase these books, many of them can be found through Overdrive, a digital library app.