I’ve been toying with the idea behind this post for quite some time, trying to figure out how to best do it. What defines an underappreciated book? A book that deserves way more love in the YA community than it has been getting? A book that isn’t known by everyone, but everyone should read? In the end, I decided on the following “definition”: a book that has less than 30,000 ratings on Goodreads and deserves 100,000 more. If you haven’t read a book on this list, do not hesitate any longer! (Look at me being all dramatic today.)
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
I honestly thought this book was hyped a few years back, but with only little over 26,000 ratings, it really isn’t as popular as thought. While it should be. This book is one of the most spectacular atmospheric novels you will ever read.
Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird.
In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naïve to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the Summer Solstice celebration.
That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo.
S. by J.J. Abrams & Doug Dorst
One of the most original and aesthetically beautiful books ever written, and yet only 15,000 ratings? I CANNOT let this stand. It’s so difficult to explain this book, as you have the story of the actual book, and the notes that two different people added in the margins that tells a whole different story. This is truly, without a doubt, an ode to all booklovers in the world and how books can change someone’s life.
A young woman picks up a book left behind by a stranger. Inside it are his margin notes, which reveal a reader entranced by the story and by its mysterious author. She responds with notes of her own, leaving the book for the stranger, and so begins an unlikely conversation that plunges them both into the unknown.
THE BOOK: Ship of Theseus, the final novel by a prolific but enigmatic writer named V. M. Straka, in which a man with no past is shanghaied onto a strange ship with a monstrous crew and launched onto a disorienting and perilous journey.
THE WRITER: Straka, the incendiary and secretive subject of one of the world’s greatest mysteries, a revolutionary about whom the world knows nothing apart from the words he wrote and the rumours that swirl around him.
THE READERS: Jennifer and Eric, a college senior and a disgraced grad student, both facing crucial decisions about who they are, who they might become, and how much they’re willing to trust another person with their passions, hurts, and fears.
S. , conceived by filmmaker J. J. Abrams and written by award-winning novelist Doug Dorst, is the chronicle of two readers finding each other in the margins of a book and enmeshing themselves in a deadly struggle between forces they don’t understand. It is also Abrams and Dorst’s love letter to the written word.
The Deviants by SJ. Skuse
236 ratings? Seriously? This thriller left me at the edge of my seat and the intrigue destroyed every nail I had.
Growing up in the sleepy English seaside town of Brynston, the fearless five – Ella, Max, Corey, Fallon and Zane – were always inseparable. Living up to their nickname, they were the adventurous, rowdy kids who lived for ghost stories and exploring the nearby islands off the coast. But when Max’s beloved older sister Jessica is killed, the friendship seems to die with her.
Now years later, only Max and Ella are in touch; still best friends and a couple since they were thirteen. Their lives are so intertwined Max’s dad even sponsors Ella’s training for the Commonwealth Games. But Ella is hiding things. Like why she hates going to Max’s house for Sunday dinner, and flinches whenever his family are near. Or the real reason she’s afraid to take their relationship to the next level.
When underdog Corey is bullied, the fearless five are brought back together again, teaming up to wreak havoc and revenge on those who have wronged them. But when the secrets they are keeping can no longer be kept quiet, will their fearlessness be enough to save them from themselves?
And I Darken by Kiersten White
26,000 ratings? 26,000 ratings? This series should be compulsory reading for every highschooler in the world. The genderswapped horrific and brutal story of Vlad the Impaler, filled with nods to sexism, racism, homophobia and Islamophobia completely caught me by surprise. And will catch you too.
No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwyla likes it that way.
Ever since she and her brother were abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman sultan’s courts, Lada has known that ruthlessness is the key to survival. For the lineage that makes her and her brother special also makes them targets.
Lada hones her skills as a warrior as she nurtures plans to wreak revenge on the empire that holds her captive. Then she and Radu meet the sultan’s son, Mehmed, and everything changes. Now Mehmed unwittingly stands between Lada and Radu as they transform from siblings to rivals, and the ties of love and loyalty that bind them together are stretched to breaking point.
The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers
Oh my, how do I even start to describe Moers’ work. 13,000 ratings is way too little to honor this picture book for adults (I’m guessing that the drawings are deterring people to pick it up, but I can’t understand why) is an ode to books and about as imaginative as a book can get. Utterly enthralling.
Optimus Yarnspinner, a young writer, inherits from his beloved godfather an unpublished short story by an unknown author. His search for the author’s identity takes him to Bookholm–the so-called City of Dreaming Books. On entering its streets, our hero feels as if he has opened the door of a gigantic second-hand bookshop. His nostrils are assailed by clouds of book dust, the stimulating scent of ancient leather, and the tang of printer’s ink.
Soon, though, Yarnspinner falls into the clutches of the city’s evil genius, Pfistomel Smyke, who treacherously maroons him in the labyrinthine catacombs underneath the city, where reading books can be genuinely dangerous…
Only Ever Yours by Louse O’Neill
What, 10,000 ratings for the YA Handmaid’s Tale? I can’t allow that! This book should be mandatory reading for all teenage girls and I refuse to see it any other way.
In a world in which baby girls are no longer born naturally, women are bred in schools, trained in the arts of pleasing men until they are ready for the outside world. At graduation, the most highly rated girls become “companions”, permitted to live with their husbands and breed sons until they are no longer useful.
For the girls left behind, the future – as a concubine or a teacher – is grim.
Best friends Freida and Isabel are sure they’ll be chosen as companions – they are among the most highly rated girls in their year.
But as the intensity of final year takes hold, Isabel does the unthinkable and starts to put on weight. ..
And then, into this sealed female environment, the boys arrive, eager to choose a bride.
Freida must fight for her future – even if it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known. . .
What do you think of the books that ended up on my list? Which books do you think deserve more love? Let me know in the comments!