In today’s episode of “I make a book list out of pettiness”…
There have been some people in the book community complaining about “underrated books” that no one else has read… and then those books turn it out to have 100k ratings on Goodreads and are NYT-bestselling books. So today, I thought I would talk about books that actually haven’t gotten as much hype as they should have that I really wish more people read!!
Most of these have under 5,000 ratings on Goodreads, and it was so depressing to see that some of my absolute favorites had only 2-3,000. And even then, there are many books on my TBR that have less than 700 ratings—which is why this list is more about books I want more people to read versus underhyped books (since there are books that are more underhyped than these).
You might have already seen these books mentioned on my blog before, because I’ve talked about quite a few of them many times before and no one listens to poor me… but hopefully now that will change!!
(Fun fact: most of these feature books about/by QPOC! Aka read more QPOC!!)
This Thai book of my heart deserves so much more love than it is getting. I say this not just because it’s Thai, but because it truly is written so perfectly, from its characters to its story to its messages! A Les Miserables retelling set in a Thai-inspired world, this book manages to convey social themes and character growth in a way that speaks to younger and older readers alike.
I think some people might not be interested in this one because it’s a Middle Grade book, and for some reason there’s this weird superiority complex when it comes to MG… But I promise that even if you don’t usually read MG, you will love this one! It’s all around absolutely fantastic, and not “juvenile” like many older readers describe some MG books.
Representation: Thai-coded cast
Content warnings: death, fire, drowning
ANNA-MARIE MCLEMORE’S BOOKS
I haven’t read all their books yet (though I’m about 15% of Dark and Deepest Red, the only one I haven’t read!), but I’ve read enough to know that Anna-Marie McLemore is one of my favorite authors and it is a travesty that not everyone has heard of them or been blessed with their books. Their writing is truly some of the best in YA, in my opinion, and their fairytale-like storytelling is like no other, though I do understand that it can be a bit too flowery for some people.
My personal favorite is When the Moon Was Ours, but I truly do love all of their books! (The Weight of Feathers is the one I don’t care for as much as the others, though.)
Representation: all of their works center on Latine/x characters, trans & non-binary characters, and queer characters in general
Content warnings: if you’re looking for some for a specific book, feel free to ask me! but overall, some things I’ve seen across multiple books include transphobia, abuse, racism
This was one of my top favorite books last year; it was genuinely so amazing that I still get shocked (and sad) every time I remember how few people have read it? If you know me, then you know I give full 5-star ratings out very rarely and particularly—so you know what it means when I say that I didn’t hesitate to give this 5 stars.
While definitely tackling heavier topics related to mental health (check CWs below!), this book is ultimately, to me, a story of identity, family, and discovery. It’s so hard to describe what this book is about, and I guess I will mention that there’s a bit of a “mystery” feel to it with the uncovering of secrets in the main character’s family’s past. But I think the best way to go into this book is to not know much at all, and to become utterly transfixed by its pages.
Representation: Chinese gay MC, Taiwanese mlm LI, Chinese and Taiwanese side characters, side character with depression
Content warnings: depression, suicide, car accident, death of loved one, immigration fears, child trafficking
It genuinely hurts me so much to see that this book has so few ratings on Goodreads. Like, logically I know that these ratings are not indicative of the actual number of people who have read this book, but still… ONLY 2K??
I know I’ve talked a lot about this book on my blog, so I may sound repetitive, but what more could you want from a book? Sapphics, space, found family, sibling love, gorgeous writing, and an ending that will make you cry! Actually, let me take a quote from my review: “It’s the beautiful narrative of a girl who didn’t fight for herself until the last moment, and the people who helped her see it was okay to stand for herself, and the girl who promised she would come for her and she did.”
Representation: almost all POC and/or queer cast, Black lesbian MC, half-Black wlw LI, Black mlm character with selective mutism (?), side polyamory rep
Content warnings: alcohol and drug use, mention of parental death, mild violence, mention of suicide, mention of homophobia
Following two Black girls, one who was forced to move to the US after her mother discovered her with another girl, one whose life changes when she’s diagnosed with terminal cancer, this is the story of the love that bloomed between them, written so gorgeously in a way that made me ache.
This book is just… an otherworldly experience. I’ve described it that way before, and I’ll describe it that way again, because there are so few words I can use to express what reading this felt like. Not to quote myself again, but a line from my review that I think sums up my feelings pretty much: “Everything about [this book] feels like it was a gift to this world that I wasn’t worthy of experiencing.”
Representation: Black Trinidadian lesbian MC, Black wlw MC, Black (incl. Trinidadian) side characters, Black (incl. Trinidadian & South African) wlw side characters
Content warnings: homophobic violence, homophobia, parental abuse death (off-page) and themes of dying, leukemia/terminal cancer
A masterful exploration of grief and trauma, this book just… makes you ache. The main character, an immigrant from El Salvador, joins an experiment where someone else’s grief is transferred to her, and she ends up developing a relationship with that person while also working through her own trauma.
I know I keep saying I’m upset that so few people have read these books, but: I’m upset!! This book is just such a masterpiece, and I’m sorry for all the people who haven’t gotten the chance to experience its beauty for themselves. However, it is a heavy and difficult book to read. I promise that there is a happy ending for the gays, but I definitely recommend taking a look at the content warnings I listed below!
Representation: El Salvadoran lesbian MC, wlw LI, El Salvadoran side characters
Content warnings: on-page suicide attempt, violence (murder), death of loved one, xenophobia & racism (immigration-related), depression & PTSD, lesbophobia (incl. slurs), bombing, drug use, medical abuse, depiction of trauma & grief, threat of rape
Another day of being extremely saddened that only a handful of people I know have read this book, when I know so many others would absolutely fall in love with it. This book features QPOC, found family, prophecies, heists, and absolutely excellent plot twists (the ending was… truly an experience)—what more could you want!
From what I remember, I feel like the book’s strong point is its characters, which worked out perfectly for me as I absolutely fell in love with them. It’s also a standalone fantasy, which I know a lot more people are looking for nowadays!
Representation: POC bisexual MC, POC MC, POC fat asexual MC with anxiety, gay MC
Content warnings: death, murder, torture, abuse, captivity, medical experimentation, loss of loved ones, depictions of grief/trauma, panic attacks
This book took me by surprise when I read it earlier this year. My Goodreads pre-review says “can’t believe a m/f romance made me Yearn this much” and I think that says it all.
But, speaking more seriously, I think this contemporary is one of those stories on the softer, quieter side that leaves a profound impact on you. The character work in here is so strong and I adore all of them, and the author manages to portray being a teen in such an authentic way (which makes sense, considering how young she is!). It’s also an important book, telling the story of someone with HIV, and I definitely feel that this is something everyone should read.
Representation: Black bisexual MC with HIV, Black LI, lesbian side character, asexual side character, two dads (one Latine/x)
Content warnings: blackmail, HIV prejudice & stigma, racist microaggressions & fetishization (thank you, Fadwa!)
I think the average rating for this book on Goodreads (3.38) might scare off some people, but I… honestly have no idea how it is that low? I guess I don’t read a lot of mysteries or thrillers, so you could take my opinion with a grain of salt, but I truly found this twisting, addictive book to be so intriguing.
Told in alternating timelines, this follows Remy after her boyfriend was murdered by her best friend, tracing back to the development of the relationship between her and her best friend. It’s an obsessive, co-dependent, toxic friendship, and the book messed with my mind in the best possible way. Definitely take a look at the CWs to know what you’re getting into, but this was a highly entertaining, unputdownable read in my opinion!
Representation: Chinese MC, wlw (?) character
Content warnings: abuse (emotional & physical), domestic violence, manipulation, alcohol use, smoking, death, murder, frequent mentions of a gun, blood mention, suicidal ideation, intense & distressing familial conflict (thank you CW!)
This poignant YA contemporary was my top favorite book of 2018! If you were around back then, you’ll remember how I constantly talked about it, but lately I’ve slacked on hyping it so… here we go again! This follows the story of a girl whose twin brother rapes her best friend, and she is forced to navigate this atrocity while also dealing with her own trauma. It’s difficult and heartbreaking to read (absolutely check CWs first), but so, so powerful, beautifully written, and one of the most important books I’ve ever read.
I’m putting this last on my list, since it does have a significantly higher number of ratings than the other books. But I still feel like there’s such a small amount of people who’ve read this book, and it goes along with the title and theme of this post: I sorely want more people to read this!!
Representation: bisexual MC with anxiety, genderqueer LI
Content warnings: rape, sexual abuse and assault, pedophilia, victim blaming, depictions of trauma, anxiety/panic attacks
have you read any of these yet? (if not… knife emoji) what are some books you want more people read?