By Alice Hoffman
This was the first book I remember reading for pleasure after I got out of college, and I fell in love with Alice Hoffman's writing. A young single mother is murdered in her apartment, and suddenly her baby goes missing. It turns out that Keith, a 12-year-old described as "the meanest boy in Verity," also happens to disappear. This story has a driving plot and memorable characters, but what makes it special to me is what she does with magical realism; she takes characters you could have run into at the grocery store, then mixes in bits like ficus bushes bursting into flame and angels who hang out in front of Burger King. When you start adding elements like that, the reader thinks, "You know, in life, anything can happen." That, to me, is the whole point of fiction.