You know those books that you love so forcefully, that you shove onto everyone and you still feel like you are the only one who thinks about it on a daily basis?
Well, if you don’t, I certainly do. Here are 20 books I feel don’t get as much attention as they could.
Shortest summary: Bisexual Brooklyn Bruja
One sentence summary: Alex is a bruja who tries to expunge her magic and instead makes her whole family disappear, and to get them back she has to journey to Los Lagos (Wonderland + Limbo?).
Y’all. I love this book. I think it’s so uniquely beautiful and the worldbuilding is killer. Alex is an incredible, bisexual heroine who is tasked with being the most powerful in a generation and is like “nah.” I cannot wait for the next book.
Something Strange and Deadly
Shortest summary: Philadelphia Victorian Ghostbusters
One sentence summary: Eleanor Fitt’s search for her missing brother leads her to a team of Spirit Hunters who keep the supernatural forces of the city at bay.
This book will always have a special place in my heart because it was released on my eighteenth birthday. But also because it’s awesome. I’ll be the first to tell you that I hate books with zombies, but these are necromancy zombies rather than walking dead virus zombies. This series goes from Philadelphia to Paris to Egypt, and is super unique and I love it and please read it.
Shortest Summary: Twisty Sci-Fi Thrill-Ride
One sentence summary: In a future where the rich have their punishments given to in-debt proxies, two boys (one rich, one his proxy) have to work together after one is in an accident and the other escapes a death sentence.
This is one of those books that is so easy to handsell (seriously, I sell this all the time) and it’s because it has a little bit of everything. It has a lot of cool tech stuff, it has a lot of action, it has a mystery element. Importantly, it has two very different boys who have only existed as a fact in the others mind (knowing the other exists, but never coming face to face). (Also if you are looking for LGBT+ SFF, one of the main boys is gay)
Court of Fives
Shortest Summary: Fantasy American Ninja Warrior
One sentence summary:A girl born to a high class father and a commoner mother competes in an epic masked athletic competition and tries to keep her family together when a scheming schemer pulls them apart.
There are a lot of super cool interlocking elements in this book. Firstly, there’s a whole socio-political layer of the world building that deals with class. There’s the whole layer that deals with the competition, which is super cool. And the second book is even better than this one and GAH I cannot wait for the third.
Written in the Stars
Shortest Summary: Required Reading
One sentence summary: Naila’s deal with her parents was she could be her own individual self as long as they got to arrange her marriage–but when she falls in love with a boy at school, she is taken by her parents to Pakistan, and she finds herself trapped.
I mean it when I say this is required reading. This book will make you so empathetically angry. If you want a star-crossed love story that packs a punch, this would be your book (and I feel weird writing that sentence because it is SO much more than that, but it ties into the title and the fight to find each other and Naila trying to find herself when her identity is swallowed and UGH this book is so good)
Shortest Summary: Girl rediscovers her best friend after her death
One sentence summary: Caitlin is dealing with the loss of her best friend, Ingrid, to suicide, and rediscovers her friend through the journal she left behind.
I do think Nina’s books are breaking out a bit more (but all of them are still pretty underrated). However, I chose Hold Still because it was the first I read, as well as one of my first advanced reading copies I ever owned. That advanced reading copy was lent to a friend, who enjoyed it almost as much as her dog did (so she bought me the hardcover when it came out). Plus, I used this book in my independent study for my Psychology degree, so it’s pretty close to my heart. Nina’s books are filled with heart and hope, and this one is also filled with the ever-evolving nature of friendship.
The Boy in the Black Suit
Shortest Summary: 17 year old gets job at funeral home
One sentence summary: After his mother’s death, Matt gets a job at the local funeral home, starts wearing a black suit all the time, and meets a girl who seems to be handling a separate grief a lot better than he is.
Disclaimer: I am low-key swoony-eyed over Jason Reynolds. So it’s no surprise that I’ve got a book of his on here. I know that he’s a National Book Award finalist and all, but I think this book hardly got the attention it deserves. It manages to deal with grief and still be funny, and charming, and a book that makes you nod your head when you finish it because YES.
Hold Me Like a Breath
Shortest Summary: Black Market murder mystery Princess and the Pea
One sentence summary: This book follows the daughter of one of the three major crime families who trade human organs, Penelope, who has an autoimmune disorder that makes it easy for her to get hurt, as she searches for a killer.
This is a rare fairy tale retelling where the only magic is the MAGIC OF READING. I love this book, I think it very much balances out being a family-driven story and a mystery-driven story very well. The crime families make it so much more interesting than “girl has to pass a test she isn’t informed about to be able to marry a dude she doesn’t really know”
Lucy and Linh
Shortest Summary: Fresh Off the Boat meets Gilmore Girls meets Mean Girls
One sentence summary: In a letter to Linh, Lucy describes life at her new exclusive private school (which she is a scholarship recipient at) and life with her Chinese/Vietnamese immigrant family.
If you enjoy the pacing of Gilmore Girls, this is definitely for you. I think it is a very unique read (plus like zero romance), and I just really don’t feel like anyone heard about this book when it was being released, so I do my best now to make up for that. Because I think a lot of readers will really love it.
Shortest Summary: Sherlock Holmes, Girl Watson, Supernatural
One sentence summary: British Abigail comes to 1892 New England and gets a job as the assistant to an investigator of crimes of the slightly supernatural variety.
I love this series. It’s so clever. And the landlady is a GHOST. And there is a lovely detective (Charlie Cane, see my 26 Crushes post) but there is little to no romance, especially in the first book. If you love mysteries with just a hint of otherworldliness, try Jackaby.
Shortest Summary: Greek God(esse)s dying & at war!
One sentence summary: Athena and Hermes search for allies in a war between the gods, and find themselves with a teenager who was originally a prophetess during the Trojan War.
I feel like we get to points in publishing where we say “nope you can’t write that it’s already been written” but if we only let Rick Riordan write Greek myths, we would never have this glorious series. I love Kendare’s books, I think they bring a darkness to YA even those who love happy stories with HEAs (aka me) adore. I love Antigoddess because it’s very much a story where there is a seemingly eternal legend dying and a girl who just wants normalcy and all these figures of mythology keep popping up everywhere (herself included)
These Shallow Graves
Shortest Summary: Aspiring reporter seeks truth of father’s murder
One sentence summary: An aspiring reporter in 1890 New York has to prove not only who killed her father, but that it was murder and not suicide or an accident.
I think historical mysteries are some of the most fun, and Jo is definitely a heroine worth following. She is very much aware of the life she is risking by searching for a killer no one believes exists, but she does it anyways.
The Cure for Dreaming
Shortest Summary: Suffragette is hypnotized, sees true natures
One sentence summary: Olivia’s father has just enough money and influence where he does not want his daughter to be a suffragette, so he hires a hypnotist to rid her of her rebellion–but instead she develops the ability to see peoples true natures.
Cat Winters is one of my favorite authors–historical books set in Oregon with just a tinge of a fantasy element. This is probably my favorite of her books, if only because I think this heroine is so fiercely determined to do right.
Yes I suppose this is technically two books, but they work so well as a whole story
Shortest Summary: Two teens on opposite sides of the Boxer Rebellion
One sentence summary: A boy who finds a place with the Boxer Rebellion and a girl who finds a place in Christianity tell their stories from opposite sides of the war.
This graphic novel set is impeccable. Boxers was actually the first graphic novel I ever read, and what a way to start out. Both characters have a cultural icon who guides them, making it a teensy bit historical fantasy. These books are something really special, and I wish more people would read them.
Tell Me Three Things
Shortest Summary: 1. New school 2. emails 3. waffles
One sentence summary: Two years after her mother’s death, Jessie is at a new school in a new city and gets an email from a mysterious SN who becomes her personal guide to the new school.
This book is a delight (and Julie is too!) I super enjoyed figuring out who SN was (and waiting for Jessie to figure it out too!) Honestly this book is just a feel-good read.
Shortest Summary: 1844 Scottish Buffy the Vampire Slayer but Faeries
One sentence summary: Ailena is the last in the line of warriors who hunt and kill faeries–and she will use those skills to track down the faery who killed her mother.
This series is killer. I read the third recently and it knocked me dead. It’s steampunk, it’s historical fantasy, it’s SCOTLAND, I mean I don’t know what else a person could need.
The Memory of Light
Shortest Summary: Vicky recovers from suicide attempt
One sentence summary: (I am taking this directly from the blurb on Goodreads, because it says what I want to say better than I could) “[It’s] about living when life doesn’t seem worth it, and how we go on anyway.”
This is one of those super raw stories that is so incredibly written. There’s a reason it was on our Mock Printz list last year at the bookstore.
Last Seen Leaving
Shortest Summary: Boy and girl fight, girl goes missing, boy discovers himself while looking for her.
One sentence summary: Flynn’s girlfriend goes missing after they have a big argument and he finds himself on the suspect list–and he also finds out things about himself and about his sexuality while trying to help search for her.
I love Last Seen Leaving because it’s a mystery for those who don’t read mystery and a love story for those who don’t read love stories. Plus, January (who goes missing) is a super interesting character.
Shortest Summary: BFFs with illusionary powers face betrayal/danger
One sentence summary: In 1919, two best friends, Ada and Corinne, with different powers of illusion work onstage at a nightclub, until Ada is imprisoned in an asylum and broken out by Corinne–and they realize they are in danger.
This book is so interesting. There is a romance element but it is not anywhere close to the forefront–the historical world, the fantastical element, the FRIENDSHIP; those are what matter.
Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future
and also everything else A S King has written
Shortest Summary: Girl inhales visions of the future
One sentence summary: Glory has always been worried she will follow in the footsteps of her mother, who committed suicide when Glory was 4, but one night she develops the ability to see a person’s infinite past and future, and she writes all of it down.
This book is incredible. Seriously, if you haven’t read any A S King book you need to change that, because she writes some of the most interesting things being published today. This book presents terrifying futures, and a girl who doesn’t believe she has one who becomes determined to make them not come true.
Have you read any of these? What are some of your favorite underrated YA books? LMK in the comments!