I read a lot of review copies in 2016. I had 32 total galleys between Netgalley, Edelweiss, and author mailing lists. At one point during the year, I stressed myself out pretty badly by accidentally signing up for an author’s ARC team. I’m still not even sure how it happened! I was getting flooded with (rather rude) emails with PDFs attached, demanding that I read and review within the week. Needless to say, I cut all ties with that author and even ended up taking a little break from reviewing. But overall, I read a ton of really great books from really awesome authors. Here are my top fifteen, in absolutely no order whatsoever.
Happy Top Ten Tuesday! Whether it be higher ratings, more exposure, or just more appreciation, today’s theme is all about those books that just deserved better. I had to go back to 2015 for this topic since I didn’t read too many underrated books in the last year.
Take a look through my choices and let me know which underrated books you’ve enjoyed recently, or if you disagree with any of my picks.
Sometimes people don’t want to read books because of the themes. Sometimes they even go so far as to rate them really low without even reading them. I don’t understand this, but it’s pretty common on Goodreads. So here are four books about social issues that I think deserve either a much higher average rating or much more exposure.
What We Sawis a retelling of sorts. Much like the Steubenville rape case, the teens in this book have witnessed the sexual assault of their classmate while standing by and doing nothing. Was it her fault? She was drinking, after all. She had been flirting with the boys. But she never said yes. The teens in this book dissect the issue of consent in what I think is honestly a brilliant way.
Joyridedoesn’t seem like it’s going to be one of those “issue books,” but then it sneaks in there. I think that this book is even more relevant now than it was back when I read it in 2015, with our President-elect’s impending inauguration on Friday. This book is about two siblings trying to fly under the radar after their parents’ deportation. Although the children are both citizens, without an adult to raise them, they run the risk of being sent to foster care until they’re of age.
It’s pretty common knowledge that a lot of adults are freaked out by the idea of teenagers having sex, even if they themselves had a lot of sex when they were teenagers. The thing is, I think it’s really important to expose teenagers to sex-positive attitudes so they don’t see their feelings as dirty or wrong, and so that they know how to handle them.
Cherryis about four teenage friends who make a pact to lose their virginity. But that’s not really what it’s about. It’s more about an open, honest, frank discussion between four girls about consent, masturbation, LGBT relationships, and figuring out when you’re ready for that next step.
Firsts, on the other hand, is about a teenage girl who does her male classmates a “favor” by helping them get over their first, fumbling, awkward time between the sheets, in hopes that they might give their girlfriends a nice first time. This book has a whole discussion of this behavior without ever settling on a position. Is it good? Is it bad? It’s up to the reader to decide.
Originally I was just looking for books with a low average rating, but then I stumbled across some books with despicably low review counts. I thought I might as well include these obviously hidden gems.
You’re probably really sick of me talking about Seven Ways to Lose Your Heart. I mean, it’s been on like every list I’ve posted for the last two months. (I’m probably exaggerating, but at this point, I’m not even sure.) I just can’t believe that a book this amazing only has 45 ratings on Goodreads. Please, please, please go read this book. It’s so good!
The Queen of Bright and Shiny Thingswas one of my favorites of 2015. I remember very little of the plot, but I do remember very clearly how it made me feel. More people deserve to feel that way, and I am shocked that this book only has about 2500 ratings on Goodreads.
From the cover, you’d think that The Listis one of those stereotypical new adult books in which the girl falls for a dark, daring, mysterious jerk. It’s really not. It’s about an extremely sheltered young woman who heads to college and is encouraged by her roommate to try new things. Somehow, less than 300 people have read this gem of a book. I blame the cliched cover.
Finally, here are four books that deserve much better average ratings than they have. I think this is the true spirit of today’s topic, but I haven’t read too many books recently that I thought deserved much higher ratings than they got.
The Last Boy and Girl in the Worldis a great story of a town that floods and how its teenage residents deal with it. When I read this ARC, it seemed like everybody was hyping it up. I thought the book was amazing, but somehow it only has 1700 ratings and a paltry 3.4 average on Goodreads. It deserves better.
Clearly, the problem with Armadais that everybody expected and anticipated a sequel to Ready Player One. And I get that, I really do. But Cline made it clear that Armada was its own story, and I think that a lot of people were disappointed by that. Yes, RPO was great. But so is Armada, in its own way. It’s certainly better than its 3.4 average rating would have you believe.
And, lastly, we have You Know Me Well. One of my favorites of 2016, it’s about a teenage boy and girl near the end of their high school experience who unexpectedly meet up over a weekend and find they have much more in common than they would have thought. And it’s not a romance! I just can’t believe that a book by an author as well-known as David Levithan only has 4700 ratings. And not only that, but also that a book this great doesn’t have at least a 4-star average.
I really like books that are real. And by that, I don’t mean nonfiction or biographies or whatever. I mean books that show the characters having realistic emotions. Books where the teenagers don’t talk like they’re fifty years old. Books where the characters make mistakes and behave realistically (even when that’s not reasonably). And that’s what we have here.
Finally. A book about teenagers in which the characters actually act their age.
Aberdeen is going under. The ground never fully thawed before the spring rains started, so there was nowhere for the water to go. Homes were destroyed – just washed away with the floods. The governor is talking about building a dam, relocating the entire town, doing nothing to prevent flooding. Just letting it happen.
Keeley and her friends have lived in Aberdeen for their entire lives. Their parents, grandparents, even great-grandparents were born and raised in this small town. When they hear about the relocation efforts, they don’t really know what to think. But Keeley’s always been the funny girl, the one who can make light of any situation, the one who makes everybody forget about the bad stuff. So Keeley feels like she has to keep up that persona. While her friends are crying, she’s cracking jokes. She might as well make the most of the time they have left, right?
This attitude causes a lot of problems for Keeley. Her friends feel like she isn’t taking their problems seriously. They don’t understand why she’s carrying on like nothing’s changing when literally everything will change in a matter of days.
But her attitude also opens some new doors for her. Her lifelong crush, Jesse, takes notice. As one of the biggest jokers in the school, Jesse is known for his pranks and his hilarious videos. He starts involving Keeley in his plans. Before long, they’re hanging out one-on-one. Then they’re dating, sort-of-maybe, in that way that teenagers do.
When I finish reading a book that’s made a big impression on me, I like to scroll through the reviews, both positive and negative, to see what other people thought. It seems to me that for this book, the overwhelming majority of people who didn’t like it complained about Keeley’s attitude. It’s funny because that’s one of the things that I liked most about this book.
Keeley’s response to the events in this book could be anybody’s response. She so clearly does not know how to handle what’s happening that she just defaults to what’s normal for her. None of these kids have been in this situation before. There’s no handbook for what to do when your town goes underwater. None of them know the right thing to say or do. They’re all dealing with it in their own way. I was so happy that these kids acted like kids. Imagine this book if all these teenagers had known exactly what to say and do – it would have been painfully boring.
I feel like I’ve just done a lot of rambling here about how much I enjoyed this book, but I hope that you’ll take that as a sign that you should read it!
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the free copy!
April is almost upon us, and there are three books coming out that I’m really excited for!
Meet Scarlett Epstein, BNF (Big Name Fan) in her online community of fanfiction writers, world-class nobody at Melville High. Her best (read: only) IRL friends are Avery, a painfully shy and annoyingly attractive bookworm, and Ruth, her weed-smoking, possibly insane seventy-three-year-old neighbor.
When Scarlett’s beloved TV show is canceled and her longtime crush, Gideon, is sucked out of her orbit and into the dark and distant world of Populars, Scarlett turns to the fanfic message boards for comfort. This time, though, her subjects aren’t the swoon-worthy stars of her fave series—they’re the real-life kids from her high school. Scarlett never considers what might happen if they were to find out what she truly thinks about them…until a dramatic series of events exposes a very different reality than Scarlett’s stories, forever transforming her approach to relationships—both online and off.
Dolssa is an upper-crust city girl with a secret lover and an uncanny gift. Branded a heretic, she’s on the run from the friar who condemned her mother to death by fire, and wants Dolssa executed, too.
Botille is a matchmaker and a tavern-keeper, struggling to keep herself and her sisters on the right side of the law in their seaside town of Bajas.
When their lives collide by a dark riverside, Botille rescues a dying Dolssa and conceals her in the tavern, where an unlikely friendship blooms. Aided by her sisters and Symo, her surly but loyal neighbor, Botille nurses Dolssa back to health and hides her from her pursuers. But all of Botille’s tricks, tales, and cleverness can’t protect them forever, and when the full wrath of the Church bears down upon Bajas, Dolssa’s passion and Botille’s good intentions could destroy the entire village.
What if your town was sliding underwater and everyone was ordered to pack up and leave? How would you and your friends spend your last days together?
While the adults plan for the future, box up their possessions, and find new places to live, Keeley Hewitt and her friends decide to go out with a bang. There are parties in abandoned houses. Canoe races down Main Street. The goal is to make the most of every minute they still have together.
And for Keeley, that means taking one last shot at the boy she’s loved forever.
There’s a weird sort of bravery that comes from knowing there’s nothing left to lose. You might do things you normally wouldn’t. Or say things you shouldn’t. The reward almost always outweighs the risk.
It’s the end of Aberdeen, but the beginning of Keeley’s first love story. It just might not turn out the way she thought. Because it’s not always clear what’s worth fighting for and what you should let become a memory.