My 2022 Favorite Book Recs

 Happy 2023!

Another year wrapped in the books – with weeks full of reading books of every genre. I’ve selected my five top favorites in middle grade and young adult. They are not all novels released in 2022, but from a variety of years, and in no particular order. If you have room on your 2023 reading list, I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

The Cats You Meet Along the Way by Nadia Mikail

It’s the end of the world. Seventeen-year-old Aisha hasn't seen her sister June for two years. With chaos looming and the end of times drawing near – maybe less than a year, Aisha and her mom reach for healing hearts in the troubled times and go find their kin. With Aisha’s boyfriend, Walter and his parents, and carryon Fleabag the Stray Cat, the van-full roadtrips through Malaysia in their artful campervan. It’s a time for reflection, release; time for small plans for the future wrapped in hope and acceptance. I found this to be a heart-echoing, moving and sweet family and loved ones story. Mikail’s debut hits with enough light-heart and soul at a dark time during an impossible time such as a full-on global apocalypse. I love books with cat antics!

A Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler

Admittedly, I am already a Schindler fan. I often save some of her winter and Christmas-themed novels towards the end of the year. For 2023, I chose it as a time to pick up the much-anticipated A Blue So Dark. Compelling and beautiful, A Blue So Dark was beautiful and emotionally raw. All the complications and tensions of being a teenager are difficult enough without the hardships of needing to care for an adored parent. Aura, 15, faces something so few young adults have - a parent with mental illness. I found it deeply touching on this view of schizophrenia, as well as the relationships Aura has with her father, best friend and school, as well as a boy and grandmother. The impact it carries throughout were a complex psychological study that is both sad and beautifully deep. It is a stunning, emotionally raw book that is heartbreaking and beautiful all at once, I felt.

The Orphan of Salt Winds by Elizabeth Brooks

 England, 1939. Virginia Wrathmell, age 10, walks into the gothic-beautiful house called Salt Winds. It’s a lonely, secluded house on the edge of a marsh. Here, Virgina will meet her adoptive parents as well as dependable Clem and mercurial Lorna. The marsh, with its moody and deceptive tides, makes for a stunning yet insecure and often threatening place. Virginia’s new parents’ are on walking wire tensions she doesn’t grasp, and their wealthy neighbor, Max, swings through far too much, taking an odd an unwarranted interest in the family. Still, Virginia begins to root in the old house, in the marsh and especially in Clem. She finds the true heartbeats and threads of “home.” The raging war feels far away marsh birds and wildlife, shifting tides and sands and thick understory. That is, until a German fighter plane goes down in the marsh. Brave, Clem heads to the mercy of the marsh to find and rescue the airman. A crime occurs – forever changing Virginia. Jumping ahead 75 years later, Virginia returns to the marsh only to recognize there her teenage self, still frozen in time from an unhealed and tragic past at Salt Winds. This was a beautiful and haunting read for me, one that led me to read more evocative work by the same author.

The Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Biracial, unenrolled tribal member and the outcome of a scandal, teen Daunis Fontaine has always felt split and found she never quite fit in -  either in her hometown or on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. A family tragedy hits, and Daunis finds herself putting aside her dreams to care for her fragile mom. It’s a dark time for the teen, who finds a warm light of hope in meeting newcomer Jamie, a new player on her brother’s hockey team. From bad to worse, Daunis witnesses a shocking and life-changing murder. Suddenly, Daunis is entrenched in a criminal investigation. Personally, she vows to solve it. Even as more deaths occur and threats hit too close to home. Deep and emotionally-tugging, I found this novel to be both deep with a touch of humor and sarcasm that kept it engaging and light amid the dark actions Daunis encounters. Having lived a couple of miles from an Ojibwe reservation, I recognized a few youth I met – those that crossed the lines of both on and off reservation life, those who fought to spend their lives living their Native American roots for life on the reservation, and those who wanted to leave. I feel that Boulley is clearly a voice of these experiences and life. This was a unique and what I found an authentic look into life for a young life dedicated to all angles of her family and own self.

The Boy With the Bird in His Chest by Emme Lund

Young boy Owen Tanner is just that – a boy. Though he has never met anyone else who has a chatty little lady bird in their chest, he is entirely used to his chirppy friend, Gail. Medical professionals call him a Terror. When Owen’s mom sees Gail between her son’s ribs, she knows she must hide him and his bird from the misunderstanding world. Feeling stuck and confined, Owen spends more than a decade in hiding and secret with Gail. Perhaps that’s what drives him to dive into a risky trip into the outdoors where he meets a forest fire, causing his life to overturn and change forever. Owen must flee home and hide in the open eye with his uncle and cousin on the upper west coast. Despite the upending, Owen finds friends amid family, of finally being able to share Gail with others and finally, feel accepted as a person and an alleged Terror. There’s also the tribulations of life and young love, heartbreak and true joy. This was such a different and touching novel that made me feel both afraid, understanding of being isolated, and the spark of life breaking the lines and fully living a life not quite the norm.

Happy Reading!

A.M. Peaslee


 (All images courtesy of



  1. Hey! That's Blue! Also, I just saved ALL these titles in Scribd. I can't wait for The Boy with the Bird in His Chest!

  2. Thanks for these recommendations. Definitely checking out THE ORPHAN OF SALT WINDS..


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