Friday, February 19, 2021


by Jenny Milchman

Did anybody else have those carnation campaigns around Valentine’s Day in high school? I think they were a student council fundraiser, maybe to pay for prom. The fact that I don’t really know shows my relationship to the carnation sales (and also to high school). I didn’t even go to prom, and I was never the one getting carnations delivered in every single period, standing up in a for me? dance over and over again. My best friend and I had each other’s carnation backs, saving the other from being flowerless.

Point being, Valentine’s Day can be tough. As a teenager who has yet to experience romance. And as an adult in myriad ways. Plus February is about much more than Hallmark. So I thought I would share some thrilling reads that each embrace a different kind of love.

Love for a Twin Sister

Speaking of Summer
by Kalisha Buckhanon

Anybody who has a sister will relate to the love that infuses this dark literary mystery. Autumn’s twin sister, Summer, disappears one snowy night from a rooftop in Harlem. There is only one set of footprints in the snow, and the door from the building is locked. Intriguing setup—but the strong, beating heart of this story is the lengths to which Autumn will go to find out what happened to her sister, and the tangled, twisted bonds of sisterly love.

Love for a Cause

Don’t Turn Around
by Jessica Barry

I know, there’re two Jessica Barry novels on this list. She’s, like, [cue tween-y voice] my new #faveauthor This book frightened me to my very toes, as in, I had to stop reading at one point and go stalk around the house to put me back in the Now instead of the terrifying world Barry creates where society is divided, and you can almost (note that I did say almost) see the other’s point of view. In those shades of gray, which Barry delves into furiously well, true terror lies.

More Twin Love

The Vanishing Half
by Brit Bennett

Another twin sister disappearance novel, dealing with the topics of identity, race, and the dark legacy men leave on women. Is it possible to grab hold of another life, even if it means never seeing your family or going back home again? When Stella Vignes stumbles almost accidentally upon the chance to live as a white woman married to a wealthy businessman, she takes it, although it requires abandoning all that she loves. And then one day, her stack of lies is threatened.

Mother/Daughter Love

by Jessica Barry

The love a mother has for her daughter propels this wilderness thriller. When a small plane crashes in the Rockies, there are no survivors. Or are there? Because even though Maggie Carpenter hasn’t spoken to her daughter in years, knows nothing about her life, job, or her impending marriage, she can’t believe that Allison perished in that fiery crash. And as Allison makes her way home, her journey places the mother who won’t give up on her in grave danger as well.

Can’t We Just Be Friends Love

The Lost Night
by Andrea Bartz

The love friends have for each other can be as deep as any other. But the flip side is how intense the hatred and rivalries and betrayals can also run. A group of friends has grown up; it’s been ten years since they left their drunken, partying days behind, with one key member dead. But when one of the living starts to wonder why her memory of the last night they spent together is so cloudy, everything else has to be questioned too. Hipster Brooklyn and millennial life are put vividly on the page, as well as the reality of what happens when we leave our youth behind with secrets still buried.

Love for a Child Who Isn’t Your Own

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

How much must you love kids to be a professional nanny? Arguably, Emira Tucker behaves more lovingly to her three year old charge, Briar, than does Briar’s snooty, entitled mom. But when Emira is accused of kidnapping little Briar in an upscale grocery late one night after her employers have leaned on her to work extra hours, all you-know-what breaks loose in the upper crust neighborhood where the Chamberlains live, on the media, and in mom Alix and nanny Emira’s lives. Especially because Emira is in no way a kidnapper, and Alix doesn’t know her three year old at all.

Love for an Era

Confessions in B-Flat by Donna Hill

This is the most traditional love story of my selections. Will Jason Tanner, a new arrival to New York City at the height of the civil rights movement, who comes bearing the anti-war message of Dr. Martin Luther King, woo beat poet, Anita Hopkins, a devotee of Malcom X? But this novel is also a love letter to an era, one we in many ways need to revisit, rediscover, and reboot now, as we seek to build new and loving binds with each other.

Love for a Stranger

Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner

Frankie Elkin is Lisa Gardner’s new heroine, a woman who seeks and finds people who’ve been forgotten to the world, their lives, even their own families. There are so many people truly alone in the world, or who feel alone in it, and that’s why everybody needs a Frankie: fierce, dogged, and brave. Because this is a Lisa Gardner novel, we know the character will come riddled with flaws that make her relatable and real. But you also know you’ll find in Frankie a heroine for the times, along with the truest message of love, which is: Never, ever give up.

What's on your Valentine's month reading list? Let us know! 


  1. Quite a list! Thanks. I just read All the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny. It’s set in Paris. The setting alone is great for Valentine’s Day but it also plays a role in the Gamaches’ relationship as a family.

  2. These sound fabulous!!! I’m especially intrigued by the nanny one...perhaps because that’s a job I could never do!

  3. Thank you Jenny! Such a modern, eclectic compilation of allllll the possibilities now.

  4. What a diverse and super interesting list of novels! My night stand is gong to be overloaded!...Karna Small Bodman

  5. And yes, I look back in wisdom on my role in the V Day carnation delivery shame game as a 4-year HS class president who gave the class distinction of always raising the most prom or trip money, but at an obvious cost I finally questioned myself for looking past... :(

  6. I mean it's "going" to be overloaded! .... Karna

  7. Thanks for the great comments, everyone! I personally vouch for every single one of these reads. If not for carnation sales, HS, or prom :)