While I know Tuesday has come and gone, I loved this week’s post to much to just let it slide. Underappreciated books are, well, one of the most underappreciated bookish topics out there. If a book is mind blowing, fantastic, and juts all around fantastic it deserves recognition. But oftentimes we don’t give special shout outs to those stories who made need a bit of extra love. So in honor of that, the ladies at The Broke and the Bookish have challenged bloggers to find ten books they loved with under 2,000 ratings on Goodreads. Easier said than done! I managed though to find ten books that fit the bill, and came up with some amazing books lost to time in the process. May we all unite in giving underappreciated books the boost to stardom they need!
1.Going Over by Beth Kephart
I know, I know. I mention Beth Kephart’s Going Over every single time the topic of underappreciated books comes up. It’s just so good, and so much less loved than it should be! Quite literally the plot has everything for every reader; from great atmosphere (the Cold War setting is one of the best I’ve ever read), to a sweeping romance, to action, and amazing characters to boot. The only logical explanation is that pesky historical fiction prejudice I’ve been ranting and raving about lately. Book discrimination is the worst, yo. And going along with this theme of repeating things I’ve already wasted breath on; just read it! The story is a mere 250 pages that fly by like nothing, and you’ll only expand your reading horizons by checking it out. As Ms. Kephart’s self proclaimed publicist, do this for the both of us!
2.A Death Struck Year by Makiia Lucier
Makiia Lucier is an author I hope strikes gold with one of her books. Her debut, A Death Struck Year, is one of those rare books that holds cross generational appeal. It’s fast paced and a bit juvenile for a book featuring an 17 year old protagonist, while still delivering top notch writing and an interesting look not only at the influenza outbreak, but women’s suffrage as well. There’s lots of references to little known figures of the movement, and a fascinating take on prejudices/stereotypes/misconceptions of the time. This just may be the most feminist YA book I’ve ever read! But despite all that, Cleo Berry’s tale of life as a Red Cross nurse in 1918 holds only 289 ratings. Hopefully this post can remedy all that, and bring the 3.94 star average even higher!
- The Girl with the Wrong Name by Barnabas Miller
I know exactly why more people haven’t read The Girl with the Wrong Name. That cover is horrible (hello 2003 fashion, anyone?) and the synopsis is a spoiler ridden mess. Heck, I almost sent it back to the library unread for those very reasons. Fortunately I didn’t, and heretofore have decided to make it my mission for more readers to check out this book. There are just so many people I could imagine loving this tantalizing thriller; from reluctant readers, to adults looking for a mature young adult pick. But more than anything I would say this book is perfect for that one indie reviewer out there looking to brand the next Gone Girl before it was cool. And trust me, I think with the proper amount of Goodreads love this one can easily manage to earn that distinction. It’s psychological thriller at the finest, with three interwoven mysteries running concurrently as readers try to separate fact from fiction as protagonist Theo Lane’s narrative becomes increasingly muddled and unreliable. A well crafted story for even the nontraditional mystery readers out there.
- The Detour by S.A. Bodeen
I’m always surprised by how few people have read S.A. Bodeen’s The Detour. It’s obviously not Shakespeare; the general plot has a lot of holes and relies on the reader extending their belief in a major way, but the entertainment factor is sky high. There’s also some technical merits I’d like to give credit too, starting with the spine tingling writing that Bodeen nailed. It is truly a mark of talent when I can feel the hairs on my own neck stand up from the palpable tension and fear spiking in the room upon entrance of the antagonist. Likewise, it would major skills for any author to get me to like bratty protagonist Liv, yet alone care about her well-being. Case in point; through some creative flashbacks, inner monologues, and self reflection I very much wanted her to make it home. A great weekend read and one I would highly recommend to a junior high/ high school library.
- Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez
Out of Darkness has to be the most emotionally draining book I read all of 2015. The plot is just like sucker punch and sucker punch right to the feels from page one to the epilogue. All the abuse to my tear ducts came largely from Ashley Hope Perez’s beautiful writing prowess. Perez clearly has a talent for making readers feel all the feels, and I only appreciated it more as an aspiring writer. By the stories penultimate chapter even a description of the arid Texas landscape was enough to send me into fits of sadness. I knew this safe haven for characters I’d come to love was quickly about to be incinerated. I felt deeply not just for the beautiful love of Wash and Naomi, but the moving sibling dynamic Naomi, Beto, and Cari share as well; the knowledge this would soon be gone was deeply heartbreaking from the get go. This great character and conflict development was only furthered by the introduction of a historical setting meticulously researched and presented with much love by Perez. I nominate this one as Best Drama in hypothetical underappreciated bookish Oscars. It’s a lucrative title.
- The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsberg
I have no recollection of how, when, or why I was drawn to The Porcupine of Truth way back in September of 2015. Bill Konigsberg’s second novel has never found notoriety on Booktube, nor is it a staple among the blogging community. Not to mention that few things stand out about the synopsis, cover, or blurbs to really draw me in. So really, I understand why this one isn’t exactly flying off the shelves. But nevertheless I’m forever indebted to funny man Konigsberg for opening my eyes up to what great characters, great plot, and a great message look like in all their unabashed glory. It’s one of those rare gems where few people will ever actually pick it up (not another John Green rip off again, am I right?) but those who do can expect a bond to form with this one of a kind novel. If nothing else reading Porcupine will likely give you a card holding membership to the Underappreciated Book Lover club.
- Rodzina by Karen Cushman
Karen Cushman is an extremely well known middle grade author, yet my favorite book of hers, Rodzina, is decidedly unknown. It has all the recognizable aspects of a classic Cushman book- her quick wit, snappy dialogue, and a heartfelt message-but just never reached notoriety. And that, I think, is sorely disappointing. The number one reason why I feel more kids could benefit from this story in their life is Rodzina herself. She’s a big boned, brazen, and brash Polish immigrant looking for a home. Don’t let that fool you though, she’s also strong and independent, refusing to fall for a traditional happy ending. Rodzina has an unconventional journey on the Orphan Train, and only a story as unconventional as this one can do it justice. Get it for your grade school reader stat!
- The Naked Mole Rat Letters by Mary Amato
Another middle grade novel I absolutely adore, Mary Amato’s The Naked Mole Rat Letters. I discovered this gem via my state’s elementary reading list way back in the day, and I still remember enjoying every second of it (after I got over the rat on the cover, of course). Another interesting tidbit, this was the first book little Megan ever read in epistolary format- spurring an everlasting love for the writing style. Beyond that though I loved how quirky this story is (as books featuring naked mole rats usually are), and how decidedly different it was from other books I read before. Upon recollection I can also appreciate the strong pro step-parent relationship this book built between our protagonist and her father’s girlfriend. It was refreshing and heartfelt, a story line that will ring true to lots of young readers. Though I may have went into the book reluctant, I came out with an underappreciated book rec to push on everyone.
- Positive: A Memoir by Paige Rawl
Many a memoir I have read come across as preachy. A cash grab by washed up, has been celebrities. When done right though, they continually blow my mind at the grasp of emotional punch they pack to a reader. Positive: A Memoir, by the truly inspirational Paige Rawl, was one such masterful attempt. Geared for middle grade and young adult readers it tells two separate, but concurrent, stories in Rawl’s life; her lifelong battle with HIV and the bullying she has endured because of it. Educating grade school bookworms in an approachable way on the truths and myths of HIV, it also offers a highly personal look at the journey Rawl has taken to be at ease in her skin. Not nearly enough people have read and recommended this awe inspiring book. It is a must have on the shelves of all libraries and classrooms. Let it be my civil service duty to get you to pick it up!
- Hear My Sorrow by Deborah Hopkinson
Is this cheating? My little trip down memory lane (aka the Goodreads archives) brought my favorite childhood series to the forefront of my mind. That being Scholastic’s Dear America compilation, of course. It’s a series of thirty+ books all written by different authors, following different character in different historical periods. Deborah Hopkinson’s contribution Hear My Sorrow happens to be one of the only installments with under 2,000 ratings. So obviously I needed to use that loophole to discuss why everyone should read every book in this fantastic series! For starters, they make history fun. If it weren’t for these books I seriously doubt I would be the historical fiction aficionado I am today. And that’s because, while each book is meticulously researched, the stories themselves never read like a textbook rendition of war, poverty, or immigration. Not to mention the characters- each one is unique and spunky and pretty much the embodiment of girl power. Huzzah! Do me a favor and just read one (any one you choose) pronto.
What are your favorite underappreciated reads? Have you checked out any of the books I mentioned? Let me know in the comments!
-Keep Calm and Read On