Technically, this week’s post was supposed to be about my favourite books of 2020, but given that I’ve already made a list of my favourite books in the first half of the year, it only seemed fair to make a similar list for the second half. For some reason, I had a strangely hard time picking out books that I would really strongly consider my favourites. It was even a much more difficult time than I had in the first half of the year! I have rated well over 40 books 5 stars in this half of the year, yet somehow not too many of them really jumped out at me. I was especially surprised to realize just how many of my favourites in this half of the year were YA books, although I guess it’s not unexpected considering I read so many YA books overall. These books are listed in chronological order by when I read them, not in order of preference.
Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.
1) King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo
This is my second Leigh Bardugo book to make it to my list of favourites this year, after Ninth House made my list for the first half. To be fair, I think Ninth House may be in the running for a favourite of the whole year overall. I was very excited to pick this book up and revisit several of my favourite characters from the Grishaverse, especially Nikolai and Nina. I was a bit nervous going into it because I didn’t remember too much detail of the original Grisha trilogy, especially when it came to Zoya’s storyline, so I had to reread a quick summary before I picked this one up. I absolutely loved this book because of the amazing character dynamics, including the introduction of new characters like Hanne and Isaak. I also loved how this book offered a bit more backstory for both Nikolai and Zoya and even the Darkling. I was a bit surprised to see that Zoya’s story seemed to take a bit more precedence than Nikolai’s considering the series is named after him, but I loved the friendship that has developed between them. It took a little time for me to get into this one, probably because it had been so long since I’d read the previous books in the series, but it didn’t take too much to catch back up and I ended up loving the overall direction and especially the fast-paced ending.
2) Tweet Cute by Emma Lord
I’m sure it’s no surprise that this book made it to my favourites list since I’ve been raving about it all year! I picked this one up mostly because of all the hype surrounding it, and I’m so glad that I gave it a chance. This book is about teenagers Pepper and Jack who are each in charge of the Twitter account for their family’s restaurants, and get involved in a tweet war after Pepper’s family seems to have stolen Jack’s grandma’s secret grilled cheese recipe to sell as their own. I was immediately drawn in by the writing and I loved both characters and thought they were so well-developed, both as individuals and in their relationships with their friends and families. I also loved the unexpected subplot about academic pressure for Pepper, since this is a topic I’d love to see addressed more often in books, and Jack’s development of the anonymous Weazel app, which allowed students to chat with each other. I also loved how the author addressed the topic of future plans for both Pepper and Jack, with both feeling pressured to stay on a specific path, and loved the focus on how college may not be right for everyone. I also loved the dessert blog that Pepper ran with her sister, which was a really fun addition to the story. This book easily had some of the best character dynamics of any YA book I read recently, and I’m so glad I bought into the hype!
3) Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed
I think this is the only other book I read this year that could rival Tweet Cute in terms of it’s adorable character dynamics, not to mention its desserts! I’m not a huge fan of reading books with a focus on politics, but it’s been such a common backdrop lately, and I really love the way these authors handled it. This book is about two teenagers, Jamie and Maya, who bond while spending the summer canvassing in their neighbourhood for a local politician. I absolutely loved the friendship and eventual relationship that developed between the two of them, and especially appreciated that it wasn’t as immediate as the romances in many other similar YA books. I loved that this book had so many great references to popular culture, including current favourites like Angie Thomas’s books as well as older video games like Mario. I also loved how both main characters felt so realistic and so relatable, and the emphasis that was given to their relationships with friends and family as well as with each other. This book was so much fun to read, and also brought up some very relevant and important topics.
4) Beach Read by Emily Henry
This was another book that I picked up mostly because of the hype, and I might not have been too motivated to try it so soon otherwise, especially after I read another book by this author earlier in the year and didn’t love it. Luckily for me, this one was a completely different experience and I am so glad I gave it a fair chance! This book is about January and Augustus, two authors who are spending the summer in neighbouring beach houses. They are each dealing with writers block, and decide to challenge each other to write a book in each other’s genre as an attempt to break out of it, including giving each other a crash course in their respective research processes. I was immediately engaged by the writing style of this one, and I loved the dynamics between January and Gus. I thought their chemistry leapt off the page, and they both felt so realistic and fleshed out. I especially loved how the two of them would write and hold up notes for each other at the window while the were working, and the “dates” they took each other on to research for their books. I also loved how the author incorporated some deeper topics for both characters as well, and was surprised by how much I also enjoyed the side characters. I also really loved the small amount of commentary about the writing process and publishing. I thoroughly enjoyed this book right from the first pages, and loved the relationship that developed between the characters.
5) Clap When You Land and With the Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo
I wasn’t too surprised that these books made it to my favourites, since The Poet X was also on my list for 2019. I was originally going to just include Clap When You Land and leave With the Fire On High as an honourable mention, but I realized I couldn’t really choose between them. Clap When You Land is about two sisters who discover that their father had been living a double life after he dies in a plane crash, and With the Fire On High is about a teenage single mother named Emoni who dreams of becoming a chef, and gets the chance to try out her skills with her school’s new culinary arts program which includes a trip to Spain. Even though the two books are so different, I loved them both for very similar reasons. Both are beautifully written, and both had very compelling and memorable characters. I loved how both tackled topics that are so different from the typical YA contemporary books, and both are books I can easily see myself rereading many times, along with The Poet X. I can’t wait to see what Elizabeth Acevedo comes out with next.
6) The Folk of the Air series by Holly Black
I just had to include this entire series because I was blown away by how much I ended up enjoying it. This was another case where I was apprehensive to even pick it up because I didn’t love the previous book I read by this author (The Coldest Girl in Coldtown). This one is about a teenage girl named Jude who is taken to live in Faerie with her sisters and the murder of their parents. Jude desperately wants to fit into this world despite the fae’s hatred of mortals, and also wants to earn a place for herself in the High Court. I went into the series with such low expectations, so I was pleasantly surprised with how quickly I was drawn into the series and that it kept my attention so easily throughout. I loved the way the world was brought to life, and especially enjoyed the incorporation of both the fae and mortal worlds. I especially enjoyed Jude’s relationships with her sisters, and all the court intrigue throughout the series. I loved the way the story unfolded across all three of the books. My only small disappointment was learning that there was a Barnes & Noble exclusive version of the third book that included copies of the letters Cardan wrote to Jude, which were not in my copy! I hate when there are version exclusive things like this, especially when they add so much to the story, but luckily I was able to find photos of the letters pretty easily online. I also loved the focus throughout the series on the fae’s inability to lie and the need for carefully worded bargains to get around it. I’m so happy I gave this one a chance!
7) Slay by Brittney Morris
I was so excited to read this book because it had such a unique and interesting premise, and I was very glad to see that I loved it as much as I expected. This book is about a teenage girl named Kiera who is secretly the creator of a popular online video game, SLAY, which is designed for Black people only. When a teen is murdered over a conflict involving the game, SLAY comes to mainstream attention and questions arise over whether it is racist. I thought this book opened up so many very interesting discussions about racism, discrimination, and safe spaces. I loved Kiera as a main character and especially loved the way she talked about her game and the way it was designed to celebrate Black culture and offer a sense of community, while dealing with some of the challenges of gaming while Black. I was also very interested by Kiera’s boyfriend Malcolm’s views on what is needed for Black people to be successful, and loved the way the differences between their views played into their relationship and Kiera’s processing of her feelings for Malcolm when she does not agree with him. I found the entire concept of the game so interesting and loved the way Kiera created the cards that were used for in-game powers. I also loved the chapters interspersed throughout the book about other players and the impact the game had on their lives. This was by far one of my favourite YA books this year, and definitely one of the most memorable.
8) Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
Considering how obsessed I was with this book ever since I saw the synopsis last fall, I am so glad that it lived up to all my expectations! This book is about a woman named Maggie who does not believe the story her father published about her childhood home, which claimed it was haunted, and she sets out to discover the truth while renovating the house to prepare it for sale. I was a little hesitant to pick this one up because I’m a huge coward when it comes to ghost stories, but I ended up loving it. I especially loved the way the author alternated between Maggie’s investigation in the present and chapters from her father’s book telling the story of their three weeks in the house, and I thought it was very interesting to see where and how the two stories overlap. I was especially interested to see how Maggie searched for direct evidence to confirm or refute the events her father wrote about, and I loved how Riley Sager kept a great balance of both, which kept me guessing what was really happening. I also loved the creepy atmosphere that was built throughout, and all the twists that were introduced. I especially loved the fast-paced ending and the ultimate explanations offered for everything. I absolutely loved this book, and it was definitely one of the best thrillers that I read all year.
9) Harley in the Sky by Akemi Dawn Bowman
This is another book that I wasn’t too surprised to see make my favourites list, since her debut Starfish made my list for 2018, and Summer Bird Blue very narrowly missed my list for 2019 although it was a 5 star read too! This book is her most recent release, about a teenage girl named Harley who dreams of becoming an aerialist, and decides to run away to a rival circus after a big fight with her parents, who are circus owners themselves, due to their insistence on her going to university instead. I was immediately drawn in by the writing and loved Harley’s passion for the circus and the way she described the way being part of a troupe and performing made her feel. I did not expect this book to have such a focus on mental health, but ended up loving the attention given to Harley’s mood disorder and the impact her behaviour had on the people around her. I also loved the emphasis on the relationship between Harley and her parents, as well as the very sweet romance that develops between her and another performer. Like Elizabeth Acevedo, I tend to love Akemi Dawn Bowman’s books because they are a bit different from the typical YA plotlines, and because of the beautiful writing and amazing characters, and this book was no exception.
10) Loveless by Alice Oseman
I was excited to try this one because of how much I loved Radio Silence last year, and was glad to see that this book had so many of the same elements that I loved. This book is about an 18-year-old university freshmen named Georgia who has never been in love nor even had a crush, and decides that her first year of university will be her opportunity to change that. Georgia soon starts to question why falling in love seems so difficult for her when it is so easy for everyone else, and begins to come to terms with the possibility that she might be asexual and/or aromantic. I love how Alice Oseman’s books, at least the two I’ve read so far apart from the first volume of Heartstopper, have such a focus on friendship and on post-secondary students, rather than high school. I found Georgia so relatable and especially loved the dynamics between her and her best friends, including her new roommate. I also loved how Georgia questioned and explored her identity throughout the course of the book, and the support she found from the Pride Society as well as her friends. This was one of the first books I’ve read that put such a focus on asexuality and a character recognizing that it might fit her, and I thought it handled the topic so well.
These are a few of the other books that I absolutely loved this year, and that I’d strongly considered adding to this list:
Eight Perfect Murders
I’ve heard so many good things about Slay.
I read TWEET CUTE this year and loved it! Such a fun, upbeat book. I’m glad you enjoyed it and all these others.
Such a fun list of books. Clap When You Land is definitely on my TBR!