Top 5 Wednesday: Biggest Surprises of the Year

This is such a perfect time of the year to start looking back on some of the best and worst books that I’ve read so far this year. In some ways, it feels a tiny bit too early since there’s still about three weeks total left until the end of the month, so there is plenty of time to find new favourites. Even more than favourites or least favourites, one of the things that I really love to look back on are the books that really took me by surprise. I’ve become pretty good at predicting what books I’m going to enjoy, but there are still some that really manage to surprise me! In most cases, it’s a surprise in a positive way, where a book ends up much better than I expected. This year, I had quite a few books that I ended up loving more than I thought I would, and it was a real struggle to decide which of these would make this list without being too repetitive with an upcoming best books of the year post. Actually, I would consider all of these books favourites of the year as well, so consider these an addition to that list!

Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.

1) Sadie by Courtney Summers

34810320. sy475 I was so hesitant to pick this one up, because I’d previously been disappointed by the last book I read that had a similar premise. I read Mindy McGinnis’s The Female of the Species a few years ago expecting to love it, but I just couldn’t connect with it. I thought this one would be along the same lines, and it ended up blowing me away! I literally could not put this one down. For those who don’t know, this book is about a teenage girl who is looking to avenge the murder of her younger sister. Her journey is followed in a podcast by West McCray, a radio personality who has become obsessed with her case. This book is literally everything that I expected from The Female of the Species and more, and I’m so glad I decided to give it a try! It was one of those books that I literally saw everywhere, and decided to see if it lived up to the hype. I read the physical copy, but have also heard that the audio version is even better. I’ve actually gone ahead and already bought a copy of this one from Book Outlet recently because I loved it so much (although I was a tiny bit disappointed that my copy came with a slice to the spine).

2) Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson

25566675I didn’t expect too much from this book because I’d always seen it labelled as middle grade, although I’m not entirely sure why this since the character is in her later years of high school. It is about an African-American teenage girl named Jade who has been offered the opportunity to take part in Woman to Woman, a mentorship program for “at risk” teens. Jade is assigned a mentor who is meant to help expose her to new opportunities and provide her with the support her school assumes she needs due to her race and where she lives. I don’t read a lot of middle grade so I went into this one expecting very little, and ended up thoroughly enjoying it. Jade was a very interesting main character to follow, and I loved the commentary that the author included about race and class, and especially about the kinds of microaggressions Jade faces that others might not notice. I loved the writing style and thought that it really brought the characters to life. This book was so much more interesting than I expected, and I hope others don’t skip it because of the middle grade label.

3) Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

30653843. sy475 I’d been hearing about this book for so long and with almost universally excellent reviews, but it was one that I kept putting off because there were always others that I wanted to try more. I finally decided to give in to the hype and give this one a try, and I’m so glad that I did! This book is about a high school senior named Frances who is obsessed with a podcast called Universe City, and soon finds out that it is created by Aled, a boy who lives near her who also happens to be the brother of her former best friend. Given the opportunity to do some artwork for the show, Frances and Aled quickly bond and develop a strong friendship, but everything is put to the test when their identities are revealed to fans of the show. This was such an intriguing, understated kind of book and I love that it touched on issues of academic pressure and anxieties around what to do after high school, which are topics that are so rarely addressed in YA books. I loved all of the character dynamics, and found this book so much more powerful than I expected. Of all the books here, it was probably the least surprising since I expected to enjoy it, but I didn’t realize quite how strong it would be.

4) Verity by Colleen Hoover

41957126. sy475 I’d never read a Colleen Hoover book until this one, and the main reason that I picked it up is because it seemed like such a departure from her usual romances. This book is about a struggling writer named Lowen who receives an opportunity to finish off a bestselling series by famous author Verity Crawford, who is unable to complete it due to an accident that has left her in a coma. Lowen moves into Verity’s home to go through her notes, and soon finds herself falling for Verity’s husband, Jeremy. Among the notes, Lowen also discovers a disturbing manuscript that appears to be Verity’s journal, the contents of which would devastate Jeremy. With feelings growing between them, Lowen is left to decide what to do with this newfound information and its potential consequences. I’d always heard very mixed things about Colleen Hoover’s writing so I went into this one with very low expectations. To be honest, the first chapter or two didn’t really hook me right away, but it didn’t take long for me to get fully immersed in the creepy atmosphere. I ended up really loving this book and I’m curious to see if I’d like any more of Colleen Hoover’s writing.

5) The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed

28096541. sy475 This was actually a book that I was very late to add to my challenges this year, and it was such a good decision! Like Sadie, this was another case where I went into it not expecting too much because I’d previously been disappointed by a very similar story. I read Moxie, which I enjoyed but not as much as I thought I would, and I expected this book would be along the same lines. Both have to deal with girls taking action to tackle sexism and rape culture in their schools, but I think this one took it a few extra steps further. This book was so well-written and it drew me into the story and the characters immediately. I loved the way this one addressed such a variety of topics, and more importantly, a variety of perspectives on those topics from the many female characters. This book really highlights a lot of real and relevant issues and I especially loved the character Erin, who was on the autism spectrum. This book wasn’t even really on my radar at the beginning of the year, but I’m glad I decided to squeeze it in since it has definitely become a favourite.


2 thoughts on “Top 5 Wednesday: Biggest Surprises of the Year

  1. Pingback: Top 10 Tuesdays: Favourite Books I Read in 2019 | Abyssal Librarian
  2. Pingback: Top 10 Tuesday: Freebie – Best Books I Read in the First Half of 2020 | Abyssal Librarian

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