Author Kelly Loy Gilbert joins our continuing coverage of the Best Books of 2021.
On our second Best Books episode, YA phenom Kelly Loy Gilbert discusses When We Were Infinite (Simon & Schuster, March 9), one of Kirkus’ Best YA Books of 2021. This stunning novel tells the story of California high school senior Beth Claire, who cherishes her close-knit group of high-achieving friends—Brandon, Grace, Jason, and Sunny—above everything. She wants them all to stay close through graduation and beyond, but a series of crises challenge them as a group—and as individuals on the cusp of adulthood.
Kirkus calls When We Were Infinite “beautifully, achingly cathartic.” Here’s a bit more from our starred review: “The story is told retrospectively by an older Beth, whose tenderness toward her younger self contrasts with high school Beth’s critical and self-effacing demeanor. Her desire to be enough—competent enough, Chinese enough, accommodating enough—is described with the clarity of hindsight and vivid emotion, particularly when it comes to Jason, who was able to see past Beth’s carefully cultivated mildness to understand her in a way that the others do not.”
Gilbert and host Megan Labrise talk a bit about the book’s plot and Gilbert’s view of spoilers; the idea of turning points in a character’s life; Gilbert’s gratitude for the work of authors who paved the way in representing different Asian American experiences; how happy they are that Malinda Lo won the National Book Award for Last Night at the Telegraph Club; the “Dear Reader” note and trigger warning at the beginning of the book; parents’ dreams for their kids versus kids’ dreams for themselves; and much more.
Then young readers’ editor Laura Simeon joins Megan to highlight some of her favorite titles on our 2021 Best Books YRL lists: picture books, middle grade, and YA.
Ten Little Dumplings by Larissa fan, illus. by Cindy Wume (Tundra Books)
Born Behind Bars by Padma Venkatraman (Nancy Paulsen Books)
The Swallows’ Flight by Hilary McKay (McElderry)
American Jaguar: Big Cats, Biogeography, and Human Borders by Elizabeth Webb (Twenty-First Century/Lerner)
Also mentioned on this episode:
We Are Still Here: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know by Traci Sorell, illus. Frané Lessac (Charlesbridge)
A Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz, illustrated by Cátia Chien (HMH Books)
Beasts of Prey by Ayana Gray (Putnam)
Feminist AF: A Guide to Crushing Girlhood by Brittney Cooper, Chanel Craft Tanner, and Susana Morris (Norton Young Readers)
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You Be You by Richard Brehm
Fully Booked is produced by Cabel Adkins Audio and Megan Labrise.