I’m twenty-three books into 2016.
It's been a while since I have thrown myself into stories this way. The last time I felt the way I feel now about books was when I was fifteen and confident and proud of who I was; reading was the most important thing in my life in that quiet brush of time. Then, all of the sudden, I was eighteen and terrified to carry around the books I loved. I lost bits and pieces of myself each time someone whispered through their fingers about me.
I remember wanting to be more than just the reader.
I wanted to be a person people admired. A person no one would ever talk badly about. Someone who couldn't help but make people smile.
I wanted to be popular, and I wanted to be invited more than I wanted my stories.
I wanted to be more than a reader.
But I am the reader.
I look for stories everywhere I wander. I look for them in the people I surround myself with at work. I look for them in the grocery store, in the corners of the Starbucks where I meet my friend Rena on Thursdays to talk about words and characters, and in my head when I'm waiting for my own plot lines to sort themselves out.
And I can't believe the characters I've met this year. The stories that have swept me away. The books that have made me love reality even though I prefer fantasy.
I read Midnights by Rainbow Rowell during my Christmas vacation, and I wonder how Noel and Mags are, still. I think about them constantly, and I hope they know how loved they are.
Vengeance Road took me over rooftops and through mountains, reminding me of how tremendous adventures can be.
I bought Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo on a whim and my entire life changed. I was tossed back to my middle school bedroom where I was obsessed with pirates and creatures and loyal friends. Loyal friends are all you can ever ask for in this life.
I ended up buying two copies of A Gathering of Shadows because my preorder did not arrive on time, and I didn't want to wait any longer to see Lila and Kell and Prince Rhy. It had been a year since I had surrounded myself with them, but it felt as if they had never left my side.
The Captive Prince trilogy thrilled every part of my skipping heart, and I want all the love stories to be as crazy passionate as this one.
And I knew how When Breath Becomes Air ended before I bought it, but I still prayed and prayed and prayed that Paul would still be with me at the end. He helped me fall back in love with my days, and if there is one book you should read in your life then it must be this one.
I held myself together all the way through A Monster Calls until Conor understands why his monster has appeared, and I realized the reason he hated himself was the same reason I hated myself before my grandmother died, and I sobbed into my shirt because of how much I miss her and want her back in my life.
I wasn't going to read A Court of Mist and Fury because I had horrid feelings towards one of the main male characters in the previous book. I wasn't going to read this book. And then I did, and I realized that there are always going to be amazing adventure stories, fulfilling love stories, unbelievable stories of magic, but there are not always going to be stories that have all of those traits in one book.
But when you do come across one you will feel as though you're going to die after every beautiful page.
A Court of Mist and Fury has every single thing I love about stories. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to get over how much I love Rhysand for loving Feyre enough to let her save his life. To let her grow to be this person she loves.
The most magical thing that happened to me in the last year is realizing that not everyone gets this gift of loving stories and words the way some of us do. Not everyone feels what a reader feels when they secretly cry soft tears while devouring Neil Gaiman's Newberry acceptance speech under their desk at work.
And I'm not afraid to love all the books anymore.
I will continue to look for stories everywhere and in everyone.
And, on the corner of the Starbucks where I meet my friend Rena on Thursdays to talk about words and characters, I will continue to wonder about the violinist who plays the same set of songs each week. Somehow he always makes me feel like I'm hearing them for the first time.