Cassie's 10 Books That Made Her Brain Produce One (1) Serotonin Molecule This Year

Let’s be honest: 2019 has been rough. It feels like at any given time, three seperate things are on fire and you only have one bucket of water. Our newspapers could double as horror stories. There is a horse loose in the hospital. With all this chaotic evil running rampant in our lives, it’s hard to find escape. Thankfully, books are an amazing escape. Many of them are even happy! Here are some books I read this year* that made my brain produce happy chemicals for longer than .5 seconds.

*While I read some books I absolutely adored this year - like WILDER GIRLS and THEY CALLED US ENEMY - I wouldn’t say they made me happy. This list is dedicated only to the books that gave me that sweet, sweet serotonin.


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Red, White & Royal Blue: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250316776
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: St. Martin's Griffin - May 14th, 2019

If you’ve stopped by the bookstore any time after May this year, you have heard me talk about this book. I’ve probably tried to sell it to you. This unapologetically queer escapist political rom-com is EVERYTHING I didn’t know I needed. Dive into an alternate universe where the son of the first female president of the United States, Alex, falls in love with his media rival, Henry, a.k.a. The Prince of Whales. Some of my favorite rom-com tropes are present (animal shenanigans, fake dating, enemies to lovers, a gratuitous karaoke moment) without shying away from politics. There’s a gerrymandering subplot! When I finished reading this book, I found myself crying from pure, unadulterated joy. You will not regret reading this book.

Intrigued? Check out the interview Joy and I had with author Casey McQuiston ( You’re welcome.

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The Gilded Wolves: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250144546
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Wednesday Books - January 15th, 2019

I read THE GILDED WOLVES way back in January, and I’m still talking about it. This heist novel with witty banter, magical mystery, decadent settings, and nerve wracking stakes is such a fantastic escape. Roshani Chokshi is an incredible writer (if you’re a middle grade fan, check out her ARU SHAH series, too) and I cannot get enough of her. Plus, I think this book series would make an amazing anime style TV series. If you’ve already read THE GILDED WOLVES, just know that the sequel, THE SILVERED SERPENTS, comes out September 2020 and I think it’s possibly better than the first.

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Once & Future Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316449274
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Jimmy Patterson - March 26th, 2019

There have been so many King Arthur retellings in film and literature this past year. Even the new “Aquaman” movie was a King Arthur story. I wonder what could possibly be causing this trend. It’s almost like we live in a dark and unstable political climate that could be changed for the better with a nice, good ol’ fashioned societal upheaval led by someone who actually cares about humanity as a whole…


ONCE & FUTURE is my absolute favorite of the King Arthur retellings. Honestly, it’s everything I’ve always wanted. Featuring a funny and heartfelt cast of characters (with queer, nonbinary, and ace rep - just the tip of this inclusive iceberg), a charismatic chosen one, OUTER SPACE AND MAGIC, you won’t want to put this book down. The last book in this duology, SWORD IN THE STARS, comes out in April, and it is just as amazing. You’ll love it.

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When Dimple Met Rishi Cover Image
ISBN: 9781481478694
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers - May 22nd, 2018

I cannot believe that it took me until 2019 to read something by Sandhya Menon. It felt impossible to choose between one of her books for this list, because I love every single one. WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI is what started it all, though, so I have to gush about it. Very rarely do I read a straight romance and enjoy myself. My complete adoration of Dimple and Rishi speaks to how incredible Sandhya Menon is at her craft.

When Dimple’s parents pay for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers, she thinks that her mother must have finally given it a rest with the whole “find a perfect Indian husband” thing. That’s when she meets Rishi. He’s also attending the summer program, and their parents know each other. It takes very little time for them to realize they’ve been set up. Opposites clash, rom-com tropes explode, and I could not stop smiling the entire time.

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Spellhacker Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062657701
Availability: Unlikely to Be Available
Published: HarperTeen - January 21st, 2020

This book. This book!!! It comes out in January, and I cannot wait for you to read it. I loved it so much. In our YA world of #ownvoices works and growing availability of LGBTQIA+ stories, SPELLHACKER is a must read. The female/nonbinary romance, found family, unique magic system, and heart of this novel left me completely spellbound. SPELLHACKER packs a fantastic one-two punch of comedic and emotional complexity that will grab you by page one.

Honorary shout out to MK England’s debut novel that came out this year, THE DISASTERS. It’s also excellent. Keep an eye out on our website for my interview with them closer to the SPELLHACKER release date!

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I Miss You When I Blink: Essays Cover Image
ISBN: 9781982102807
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Atria Books - April 2nd, 2019

I know what you’re thinking. “Cassie reads things besides Young Adult Lit??” Yes, I do, hush. There’s an essay for everyone in this collection. Philpott’s relatable voice makes the reader ask who she’s actually writing about: herself, or you? Bonus if you listen to the audiobook, available through our Libro.FM partnership (, because it’s read by the author herself!

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Full Disclosure Cover Image
ISBN: 9781984829955
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Knopf Books for Young Readers - October 29th, 2019

FULL DISCLOSURE is a roller coaster of a debut that makes my thespian heart soar. When the book begins, Simone is expertly navigating life at her new high school when the unthinkable happens - someone threatens to tell the whole school she is HIV+. This coming-of-age story features LGBTQ+ representation, the stress that comes with navigating new friendships and budding romance, and enough musical theater to get Rent stuck in your head for days to come.

Check out my interview with author Camryn Garrett!

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Frankly in Love Cover Image
ISBN: 9781984812209
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers - September 10th, 2019

It took me until 2019 to discover my love for sprayed edges on books, and I will never go back! The book itself is also incredible, which is just the cherry on top. One of my absolute favorite tropes is faking dating, and this book delivers. It’s also one of those novels that makes you rock yourself and cry, makes you laugh until your stomach hurts, makes you smile until your face aches. David Yoon uses this debut to ask questions about identity, first love, cultural and generational gaps, and more. It’s perfect.

Oh, and Bryan Washington loved this book, too. Do I need to say more?

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Loki: Where Mischief Lies Cover Image
By Mackenzi Lee, Stephanie Hans (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9781368022262
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Marvel Press - September 3rd, 2019

The story is set between Asgard and gritty 19th century London with a cast of characters both familiar and new. Follow our genderfluid God of Mischief as he learns the true potential of his powers, battling between who he wants to be and who fate says he must become.

Mackenzi Lee is one of my favorite writers, and I was lucky enough to interview her about LOKI and her other 2019 projects. Check it out!

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The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick Cover Image
ISBN: 9781335937803
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Hanover Square Press - March 5th, 2019

The last book on my list is an odd pick. It did the fun thing to my brain where it made me ANGRY, and then that anger turned into something more productive, which then led to joy. Mallory O’Meara was a teenager when she discovered that her favorite movie monster was created by a woman, NOT a man. After spending years wondering about Milicent Patrick’s story, O’Meara decided to find out for herself. This book is part biography, part narrative about the research process, and fully a manifesto on sexism in the film industry. This book will reignite the fire inside to use your voice and speak out. Everyone has a story, and they won’t be silenced.

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