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YA Book Reviews by Amy: Books with Cottagecore Vibes

Cottagecore is a popular aesthetic among young adults. It especially became popular during the pandemic with wholesome images of baking bread, activities such as wearing flower crowns while isolated in a field, gardening, picnicking or having tea, picking up a new hobby like sewing or knitting, or even listening to the last few Taylor Swift albums.

This trend became popular due to idolizing country life, being out in nature, and the process of being ‘unplugged’. This want of a simpler time has been on the minds of many. It is the process of making a home cozier and more comfortable. It can be something as simple of having this nature-based theme in one’s pictures or fashion, but it can become a life-style or even feeling as though you’re a part of a community.

For me the cottagecore aesthetic in novels are based on nature, a feeling of a home (whether it is with family or a found family), and a little bit of magic.

Here are some YA books that I think fit the cottagecore theme!


The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill

This graphic novel follows Greta, a young girl that is a blacksmith’s apprentice. Following in her family’s trade, she realizes how important her job will be. One day, Greta finds an injured creature known as a tea dragon; when she takes the dragon to be taken care of by an expert, Greta meets new friends and finds a new place that she belongs in beyond her family and work.

An incredibly enchanting graphic novel that has some of the most beautiful art work that I have ever seen. The complete sense of community and comfort comes through the pages like magic. It will want you picking your own tea dragon! I know I want one! The cottage of Hesekiel, the tea maker, encompasses all the cottagecore vibes.

Available on Hoopla and at the library* for checkout.


Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

A family of only girls live on the grounds of La Pradera and have tended to the garden. These sisters and cousins are isolated from the rest of the world. They have had affections the same person, but as legend is told, none of these girls shall ever love someone, or the loved one will disappear forever.

Magical realism at its best. This is a very distinct tale about love and nature; Anna-Marie McLemore writes very flowery (pun-intended) and the descriptions of this world, particularly the garden, are stunning. I could picture it in my head perfectly.

Available at the library* for checkout.


This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron

Briseis has the powers to make seeds spring to life and plants grow, something that she struggles to learn to control. When Briseis’s aunt dies, her home is left to Briseis and her family. They decide to spend a summer there, rebuilding the home and where Briseis can learn how to control her powers. Although, the house has secrets including a walled in garden which has a dark past.

I have not read this book yet! It is on my TBR (T0-Be-Read) list, but I have enjoyed Kalynn Bayron’s debut novel Cinderella is Dead and enjoyed her writing. I also heard that this is a book that is loosely based off of The Secret Garden, one of my favorite classics. Just the cover and description give a beautiful view of magic of nature and wonder about the world that cottagecore is all about.

Available as an eBook on Overdrive and at the library* for checkout.


The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Mary, a neglected, but spoiled young girl, becomes an orphan when her parents die in India of cholera. She is sent to the moors in England to her uncle that she has never met, only for him to not be at his large estate. Mary hears of a secret garden that was locked up and hidden after her uncle’s wife passed. Determined to find it she has help from some of the staff and new friend, Dicken. While she hunts for the garden during the day, at night she hears strange crying that no one seems to address. Mary must learn to be a better version of herself as she learns she is not alone and that she is loved.

I had to mention the original! This book is honestly for readers of all ages! The magic that is found in nature is beautifully written, and Mary’s character development is one to root for. She truly grows alongside the garden she is tending. This is another book that is about found family! I would be lying if I said it didn’t make me tear up.

Available on OverdriveHoopla, and at the library* for checkout.


Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Sophie believes her destiny is written for her since she is the eldest sister: she will never succeed. Sharing the family business of selling hats causes her trouble one day when a witch turns Sophie into an old woman. Sophie finds freedom from the confines of life and decides to leave and work as a cleaning lady for the mysterious and infamous magic user—Howl. To return to her youthful state, she must break the bond holding Howl and Calcifer, a demon, without knowing the terms. Will Sophie make the right decisions for herself?

A magically charming tale that was a lot of fun to read. I did watch the movie first! The movie is so sweet and beautifully made, but the source material is just as special too. A mix of magic, with a pinch of destiny, and a whole lot of love, makes this feel like it has the cottagecore aesthetic!

Available on Hoopla.


Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Four sisters live together with their mother while their father is off fighting in the Civil War. Meg, the oldest, is kindhearted, but vain at times; she would like to live more like their family did before the war, but they are falling onto hard times. Jo, tomboyish and a creative writer, finds ways to gather her sisters together (even if it’s just to preform one of her plays). Beth, sweet and quiet, tries to help those less fortunate than the her. And youngest, Amy, is spoiled and stuck up but has moments of compassion when needed. When Meg and Jo meet their new neighbor, a boy named Laurie, their little family grows.

This story reads like little vignettes of lessons and character growth. Readers get to watch these little women grow and learn about life. The closeness between the sisters and the way they lead their lives give cottagecore vibes.

This title is available on Overdrive, Hoopla, and at the library* for checkout.


Willa of the Wood by Robert Beatty

Willa is a night fae, a not-so-human creature that is able to blend into nature. She works as a thief for her clan during the day; stealing from humans to survive. One day, Willa is injured and stuck in the day-world in which a man helps her heal. This human man shows her kindness and treats her well, unlike the rumors and stories she has heard. After getting a taste of the human world, when she returns to her people, she realizes there may be corruption where she never saw it before.

This middle grade tale might not be quite YA, but I think it can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. Willa is such a strong character that is truly a part of the nature surrounding her. I loved her found family and really thought this book gives off the perfect cottagecore feelings with the aspects of nature, being a historical fiction book, and that it is about a closeness that is developed that later became a family.

Available as an eBook on Hoopla and at the library* for checkout.

*check the link for available copies or to place on hold

Amy

Hello everyone! I’m Amy and I am a Youth Services Librarian at the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County. When I’m not trying to reach my reading goal for the year, I like to talk about what I’m reading to my family, friends, and coworkers. You could say I am a little obsessed with reading Young Adult books. I enjoy most genres, but my favorites include: Westerns, Historical Fiction, Contemporary, Fantasy, and Mystery. I am always looking for the next great book that makes me connect to its characters and hits me in the feels.