Goodbye 2020: My Least Favorite Books of 2020

Last post I gave you positivity, this time I give you negativity!

I’m very excited to bring you the finalized list of my least favorite books of the year and ruin your holiday spirit. I accidentally got very rant-y and this ended up being almost 2k words so. you’re welcome!!

Usually I like to stick my worst (and best) books into one long post about my whole reading year, but I don’t get to talk about the books as much as I want. So this year, both because I can’t shut up and also because I’m running out of content ideas, I decided to make this its own post!

Standard disclaimer that these are all my opinions, and you’re entitled to your own beliefs as I am entitled to mine! If you adore these books, I respect you. I might question you, but I respect you. Please don’t act as if I’m insulting you as a person because I insult these books!! I’m glad you could find joy in these when I could not.

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6. LIKE A LOVE STORY

Like a Love StoryThis is the only book on this list that I don’t want to completely trash or diminish, because it holds a lot of valuable messages and talks about a very painful time in history. It’s set during the AIDS crisis in the 70s, and it’s a story about activism and survival for the gay community, written by a gay man (of color).

First of all, I just hated 2 of the 3 main characters with POVs, which meant there was no way I could like the book on an entertainment level. One particular thing I really despised was how the female main character’s development went from girl hate and “not like other girls” to… not hating other girls. It felt odd coming from a male writer, and especially when this was the only prominent female character!

Overall, I didn’t like how a story about queer rights activism did a disservice to trans people and queer activists (by leaving out trans people/activists, even deadnaming a trans character, and focusing on Madonna). Honestly, if this were written by a cis white gay man, I wouldn’t hesitate to say that this had a very cis white gay perspective. I don’t want to overstep, because I am not a mlm POC, so if you’re interested in reading more, here’s an excellently written review by a mlm POC (I specifically want to draw attention to the parts about the book not feeling like a QPOC perspective and ignorance of trans people).

I don’t want to scare anyone away from reading this, because I think it’s a story that still has a lot of importance, and most people I know adore this book (oops…)! I did tear up over it, and there are so many heartbreaking moments that made me emotional. It covers an often overlooked period in history, and I don’t want to devalue that! But I just feel like… this could have been written so, so much better.

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5. LOVEBOAT, TAIPEI

Loveboat, Taipei (Loveboat, Taipei, #1)This book could have been everything: exploring the expectations of Asian American kids’ parents with an Asian American dancer (like me)? Sounds fantastic. And while I do think that Ever had nice character growth, and the scenes depicting Taipei and all its culture were wonderful, there was just so much… bad that overshadowed everything.

There were quite a few things in this book that made me feel uncomfortable. At one point, a character leaks the main character’s nude photos without her consent as a revenge act, but then all is forgiven in the name of friendship. Another character threatens suicide if their partner breaks up with them, and it’s completely glossed over and not called out as abuse. And, if I’m remembering correctly, there was some cheating going on as well (if not physical, then emotional) and I don’t think it was challenged?

Beyond all of these concerning things, the book was simply not written well. It was slightly addicting in the way that I’m sure dating shows are addicting (I wouldn’t know because I don’t watch them)—the drama is ridiculous and unnecessary, but you can’t tear your eyes away—but it all got so annoying at one point that I closed my eyes to shut it all out and promptly fell asleep. I appreciate books about teenagers being messy, but so much of the mess in this book 1) annoyed me to no end and 2) was written so, so poorly.

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4. THE WITCH DOESN’T BURN IN THIS ONE

The Witch Doesn't Burn in This One (Women Are Some Kind of Magic, #2)I think this was so bad that my mind has blocked most of it from memory, but there are two particular parts I want to talk about from this book that made me want to end it all.

First, this awful quote: “protest → potest → poetst → poett → poetr → poetry.” I want to say that this was an entire poem? Which sounds so utterly ridiculous that I’m like, I have to be remembering wrong, there’s no way this is it, but I think I’m right. I know there’s a lot of bashing of modern poetry these days and honestly I don’t care enough to have an opinion, but this specific “poem” was the WORST thing to come from modern poetry, I am pretty sure.

Second, I read half of this as an ebook and half as an audiobook (though it was very short, its terribleness drained my energy rather quickly and I had to resort to the audiobook), and there was one point where the words “you have to eat” was written like 50 times. I remember laying in bed and hearing those words play into my ear, over and over, thinking, “Okay, surely this is the last time.” BUT IT WASN’T. Yes, eating is important. No, repeating four words 50 times does not a (good) poem make.

Anyway. I could also talk about how tired I am of all these so-called feminist books written by white women that aren’t adding much more to the movement beyond “grr I hate men” (like, so do I, but why is this being touted as the ultimate feminist poetry collection). But honestly this is all I have to contribute! I think I actually could have just posted screenshots of the two parts mentioned above as my reasoning for hating this and that honestly would have been enough for you to understand!

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3. RUNNING WITH LIONS

Running With LionsThe main reason why I didn’t like this book was because I did not care about what was going on in the book, as a result of my indifference towards the main characters. It’s very character-focused, so not caring about the characters meant I just didn’t care about the book overall. But I also really despised the writing: It tried so hard to be funny and failed miserably, and so many random phrases were stuck in and did nothing to further the scene. Example: “Maybe someone should create a new hashtag: ‘Life’s complicated, but so is math.'”

This book features a soccer team, and (obviously) on this team there are multiple people. However, it’s written like it’s supposed to be a close-knit, extremely supportive little found family, but I can’t even tell you one of the teammates’ names and many of them either had one personality trait or zero. In my review, the traits I listed out for the characters were: gay, speaks Spanish, asshole, bigger asshole, freshman, and ally. And that’s pretty much the only development they get.

There was also another thing that I hated. The one female character gets treated like trash by a guy for the whole book, only for it to be revealed that—surprise!—the guy actually had a crush on her the whole time! I think the point was to be like “this guy isn’t an asshole like his abusive dad because we are not our parents, he’s just an asshole because he likes the girl!” Like… I don’t know how to break it to you but… that’s not much better. (And then later on it says that maybe the girl can do the guy some good, because, you know, that’s what girlfriends are for.)

I think this story has some nice themes: I love the idea of a sports team that acts as a safe space for queer kids where they can be supported, and I think the body image struggles that the main character had were written well. But unfortunately, every time I opened this book, I just wanted to be done with it.

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2. COME TUMBLING DOWN

Come Tumbling Down (Wayward Children, #5)I honestly don’t have much to say about this book (because there is literally nothing to talk about), except that it felt like a completely useless addition to the series. All my burning hatred for this book boils down to that one thing, the fact that save for maybe one scene, NOTHING happened.

I read this book as an audiobook, and at one point while listening, I curiously opened the app to see how far I’d gotten into it. I’d expected to see like 25% or something, because surely I couldn’t be any more than a fourth through it if nothing had happened yet, and instead found a big fat 70% staring back at me. It was one of the most jarring moments of my life; I literally was like (and I’m quoting my past self), “How the hell have I gotten 70% through this and absolutely not one notable event has happened??”

I truly thought there was no point to the book, minus the climax scene (that lasted like maybe a minute. maybe). It felt very repetitive and basically just summarized the events of previous books. It’s actually really sad, because it follows my favorite character of the series, so I expected to enjoy it a lot! But I’m reassured knowing that this book wasn’t the favorite of many fans of the series either, and I’ll be warily continuing the next books in the series.

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1. WHERE DREAMS DESCEND

Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles I wish I had the same experience as everyone who says this was exciting and kept them on the edge of their seats, because this was genuinely one of the most boring books I’ve ever had to force myself to read. It promised intrigue, it promised thrill, but every single time an exciting thing happened, the characters panicked for about two pages before returning to walking around the city and poorly flirting with each other or something equally mind-numbing.

The focus on the characters wouldn’t have been particularly frustrating if not for the fact that they were completely bland and uninteresting. If you forced a gun to my head right now and told me to tell you the names of both main characters, I would be dead. I would literally be on the floor, bleeding out. The main character has a little bit going for her, because she’s powerful and ambitious and I am unfortunately very in love with girls like that, but the love interest? A sack of flour. A literal sack of flour.

There was one specific thing that blew my mind with its ridiculousness, though. The book is about a magic competition, the stakes of which are increased when the competitors start to go missing. But what is supposed to be interesting if I don’t know a single thing about the other competing magicians? I just don’t understand how I can care about a competition if I only see the main character perform, or how I can care when the magicians mysteriously disappear if I don’t even know their names.

On top of all of this, the worldbuilding was genuinely nonexistent—it didn’t explain anything about how the magic works even though it is literally a book about a competition involving aforementioned magic. The writing was very choppy, the romance was the equivalent of a stale cracker, and it took me an entire (very long and torturous) month to finish reading this book. The only good part was the last 5%, when things finally got interesting. But unfortunately, it ended! And I will not be reading the next book to find out what happens next! 


shall we chat

what are your least favorite books of the year? have you read any of mine? what are your thoughts on them? if you suffered like me, please complain with me in the comments <33

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52 thoughts on “Goodbye 2020: My Least Favorite Books of 2020

  1. Omg I did not like The Witch Doesn’t Burn In This One at all… I thought I was alone in the world. I feel so SEEN. It was low-key terrible. I had to unfollow the author bc they were whining so much about the criticism they were receiving.

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  2. This is an interesting list!
    I read Like a Love Story a few years ago and honestly, well, younger me didn’t judge books as harshly as me now does (actually I still don’t judge books very harshly ha ha). It has a pretty color though!
    Okay honestly, I see that you disliked “Running With Lions” but it’s a book about a sports team with queer characters…yeah, I need this book. I just…love sports and love the LGBTQ+ community (of which I am a part of) and when they connect I need that. We’ll see what I think of it!
    Wow, it’s true that I have heard a lot about Where Dreams Descend so it’s fascinating that you don’t like it!
    Great post!
    Easily my least favorite book of the year was “The Future Was Now” by JR Harbor – it’s the only goodreads giveaway that I have ever won and wow that thing was A W F U L. It just–well maybe I’m judging it too harshly but it was bad. And a VERY fun rant post to write https://yabookswithwings.wordpress.com/2020/11/05/the-future-was-now-by-jr-harber-book-rant/ (if you want to check it out, you don’t have to).

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    1. like a love story’s cover is really pretty indeed! i almost bought it because i thought i’d want to own a book with a cover like that but i’m glad i didn’t 😭

      i hope you like running with lions more than i did! i’ll say that you shouldn’t expect a focus on any queer characters on the team beside the two main ones and a friend though ://

      sorry to hear that you didn’t enjoy the future was now! i’ve never heard of it and from what you’re saying about it, maybe it’s good that i haven’t 😭

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      1. Ooh, yeah, guess that goes to show you should never judge a book by its cover!

        Hmm, okay…well, it is good to see queer characters in sports books, but that’s a little disappointing.

        YES PLEASE NEVER PICK IT UP.
        ITS A BADLY PLANNED BOOK FIRST OF ALL
        THE CLIMAX IS ABOUT FIVE SECONDS LONG
        THE BACKSTORIES ARE REPEATED SEVERAL TIMES BUT ADD NOTHING TO THE PLOT
        THE ENTIRE TIME, THE MAIN CHARACTER WHO IS MALE TALKS ABOUT HOW BEAUTIFUL THE LOVE INTEREST IS, NEVER ABOUT HOW SMART SHE IS OR ANYTHING–ITS LIKE HER ONLY QUALITY IS HER BEAUTY
        AND THERES POSSIBLY A HOMOPHOBIC COMMENT (though it was probably unintentional, it was still not great).
        Thank you for coming to my Tedtalk (ha ha, sorry about ranting in your comments)

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  3. I enjoyed Where Dreams Descend, and I’d say my least favorites are Rebel Rose (did not finish, it was very slow paced and it didn’t interest me at all), Late to The Party (others will like this one, but I didn’t like the pacing), Storm From the East (slowest book ever, can barely remember the names of the characters), Foul is Fair, and The Shadows Between Us (again, very slow and the mc doesn’t even kill, so how am I supposed to believe she’s looking to gain power/take over the world).

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    1. i’m glad you enjoyed where dreams descend! i wish i could say the same 😔😔 ooh i haven’t been particularly interested in late to the party but i know a bunch of others who’ve loved it, so good to know about the pacing issues you had with it! and i’ve heard eh things about the shadows between us too, glad it’s not on my tbr haha!!

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  4. I’m sorry you didn’t like those. I’ve heard so many positive things about all of them so far, so it’s good to read another opinion :) I actually liked Loveboat, Taipei when I read it but for me it’s one of those books that get worse the longer I think about them… I really didn’t like Live Like Legends by Kate Cornell and a book that really disappointed me was Stalking Jack the Ripper. I just expected so much more and then it was just kind of boring and foreseeable?

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    1. i wish i’d loved some of these more! but i guess i’m bound to have a few unpopular opinions 😭 and i have a few friends who feel the same way about loveboat, taipei! i’m glad you liked it at first though haha. and ooh, i’ve never been interested in stalking jack the ripper but i know it’s a pretty well-loved one! glad to know that it not being on my tbr was a good choice :))

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  5. Aww, Loveboat Taipei sounded like something I’d read, but now I’m not excited about it anymore. I’m so sorry all of these disappointed and I’m also glad I haven’t picked any of them up. Lol, I’m still trying to make sense of the protest to poetry “poem” 😂
    The cover of Where Dreams Descend is so nice, and I wanted to read it but I don’t think I can survive a fantasy where nothing is explained and the MC is bland enough that you can’t even remember her name. That’s another level of boring lol.
    My least favorite books of the year are The Wicked and The Just by J. Anderson Coats and Our Wayward Fate by Gloria Chao. The MC of the former was just so rude and highly annoying and I could not care any less about her.
    Our Wayward Fate was annoying because a cute “bad” Asian guy finally showed up at the mc’s school making her realize that the racism she’s facing has got to stop so finally stands up for herself, and they fall in love, but the mc’s mom is against it and sends her to China (I think, can’t remember exactly) and things eventually work out obviously but it was just so ehh. And the characters were bland. I described Chase (the love interest) as “whatever” in my semi review lol.

    Anywayyy, loved reading this as always May!! ✨❤ I really hope you read a lot of better books next year!

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  6. god i dislike lovelace’s poetry so much and i remember back in the tumblr days how people loved it and how i tried to do the same but alas I hated it

    I loved reading this post, but I am sorry these were not good, so I hope all of your 2021 reads are amazing!

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  7. this post gave me the life i needed!!! the only one on this list i’ve read is running with lions, and i definitely agree with you. i liked emir a little more?? but honestly, part of that was the whole ‘i read it in a day’ thing hehe. my least favourite book of the year was the memory book….. i wish i had never read that. i don’t know what i was expecting from white cishets. wishing you a wonderful end of year may! x

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    1. i’m glad to know i’m not alone in my feelings about running with lions! it seems like most other people enjoyed it 😭 and ooh i haven’t heard of the memory book (probably because of it being about white cishets :p) but i guess i’m not missing out on much! hope you’re having a good few last days of 2020 💞

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  8. I’m sorry, but “protest → potest → poetst → poett → poetr → poetry.” killed me, it truly did. Like you, I don’t have anything to add to the discourse about modern poetry – I don’t even like poetry, lmao – but whatever that was, I wouldn’t call it poetry. 💀 I was undecided about reading Like a Love Story and it was your review that convinced me to ignore it, haha. Great post, May! :)

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    1. i’m so glad someone else understands the pain of that “poem” 😭😭 i try to respect other readers, i really do, but i just want to know how they loved that book with that part in there lmao. and ooh, i’m glad i could help you be more decisive about like a love story! i wish i’d loved it 😔

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  9. Ooop I loved Loveboat Taipei but low-key agree with everything you said lmao. probably just because I’m a Taiwanese dancer too lol I focused on the parts I loved and pretended to not see all the problematic stuff… *looks away awkwardly* that’s too bad you didn’t like Where Dreams Descent, I’ve been meaning to read it since it came out, hopefully I won’t hate it haha.

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    1. that’s totally fine! i know tiffany @ read by tiffany also loved the taiwanese dancer parts while still seeing the other messier parts, don’t feel bad 💓💓 and i hope you love where dreams descend a lot more than me! i seem to be in the minority so 😭

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  10. ugh i agree 100% with everything you said about LIKE A LOVE STORY. i also read that this year and was so disappointed?? it totally did a disservice to trans and queer people! and i hated the female mc, she was so bland and annoying. and i also hate how much fatphobia was in there? and how they tied everything up nice and neat with the main mc’s cousin after he was such a fatphoobic, homophobic asshole.

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    1. god i’m so glad someone else agrees with me on like a love story! literally everyone loves it so i thought i was reading too much into it but 😭😭 and AAAHHH NO i completely forgot about that part with making the guy who made fatphobic comments about judy all the time judy’s boyfriend, i am literally convinced this author hates women or something jdshfhsdh

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  11. I loved reading the Wayward Children series this year, but Come Tumbling Down irritated me so much. It was such an unnecessary addition, and while I love the characters, I wish it had focused on someone new instead of rehashing so much from book 1 😔 I hope the next book will be better! 🙏

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  12. lmaoooo the way your least favourite book is on my favourites list 😂 but yeah I’m definitely going to be avoiding a few of these lmaoooo. also wowwww thinking about it I read some bad books this year hgfdgfdf—the worst had to be the extraordinaries of course, but that steaming mess aside, I really couldn’t stand We Are Lost and Found by Helen Dunbar or Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone, which was very sad because I had very high hopes for all of them :((

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    1. I AM VERY SORRY!! i know so many people who loved where dreams descend so i’m just sitting here like… haha… and omg thank you again for bringing the copaganda in the extraordinaries to my attention, the amount of people i’m seeing love the book is yikes!! and ahh i’ve heard some so-so things on we are lost and found so i guess i’m not missing much 😳

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