I recently did a post recommending 5 under-hyped 2019 releases, and I figured: why not go back through the years and pull up some backlist books to add to your TBR? Although it feels like I’ve been in the blogging scene for years, I’ve actually not been here very long at all, which means that a lot of my ‘older’ favourites have never been mentioned…. Until now.
I obviously have a lot of books I’d want to highlight that released in 2018, but I wanted to really point out some of the less ‘screamed about’ releases that honestly deserve ALL THE SCREAMING.
Recommendation 1: American Panda by Gloria Chao
If the release of ‘P.S: I Still Love You’ has left you with a HUGE void in your life, like it has mine (and a severe craving for something soft to fill that hole), American Panda is the perfect read for you. This ownvoices story about Taiwanese-American Mei is sickly-sweet, gut-wrenchingly adorable and kinda heartbreaking. As in, nothing will ever compare to the peak of greatness that this one reaches. I listened to the audiobook for this one and it had a really great knack for immersing me completely in the story, allowing me to stand along side the character’s every step of the way. Sure, there are a few common tropes here (parents pushing children towards the career that they want for them, rather than waht the child wants for themselves) and ‘I love him but my parents wouldn’t approve’ – but honestly? The way this is done is… glorious. Like all that cheese is mixed up perfectly with macoroni, making an addictively tasty dish all around.
Recommendation 2: People Like Us by Dana Mele
This is one of those ‘out of my comfort zone’ books that completely blew me away. It released early Februray and kind of slipped into a comfortable place of familiarty, with a few ARCs cropping up all over the place and a few mentions by some of the big bookish names. But now? Almost a year later? Nothing. No one is raving about this one and that honestly hurts. If you love murder-mysteries and boarding schools and strong female characters, this is the one for you. It gives you the same kind of thrills and shivers as Sadie – a similar book that has managed to stay in the spotlight. People Like Us has so much depth to it – so much expansion of world and characters and everything is well thought out and perfectly slotted into place. We have a very queer, very interesting cast and a slow build up before the tension breaks into a thousand pieces and it is a perfect explosion in a gorgeous night sky. PLEASE DON’T SLEEP ON IT. LET THE FIREWORK WAKE YOU UP! Let this be the firework.
Recommendation 3: Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Ever read a book that just tears you apart? Starfish is about abusive and absent parents, a ridiculously talented artist struggling to find her place in the world and of course, an adorable and hot love interest that makes me swoon. This one really delves deep into the difficult stuff, challenging the expectations of how parents are suppose to be have and really highlighting the importance of recognising emotional abuse. It’s hard to come to terms with realising that people who you are supposed to love and trust are the ones manipulating you and holding you back. I won’t lie to you, Starfish is not an easy book. It’s a contemporary and it’s a ‘quick read’ but it is one of the most emotionally challenging, heartbreaking stories that I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. It will make you cry. And laugh. And it will break your heart a thousand times over with every new line. But the journey that you go through and the things that get challenged – it is beautiful. Truly beautiful. It made me grow as a person and I will be ever thankful and shout this one’s name from the rooftops. FOREVER.
Recommendation 4: Bring Me Their Hearts by Sara Wolf
This was a complete cover buy for me initially. I loved the art work, I loved the title and I didn’t need to know anything other than it would look gorgeous on my book shelves – but in judging it by something so controversial, I found an absolute GOLD mine of a book. From an immortal servant of a witch to a broody Prince and vibrant imagery, this one truly hooks you in for a wild ride. Our main character has to take the hearts of people in order to survive and this didn’t use to be a problem… until she developed a conscience. I can’t say too much more without spoiling it but let’s just say… WOAH. Nothing is comparable to this splendidly written book and I really wish everyone in the YA community had read it already, like, yesterday.
Recommendation 5: Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri
Now this one I’ve actually talked about a tonne. But not recently, and I want to amend that. Once a year has passed books tend to get swept under a rug in terms of hype and this one deserves to STOMP on the rug and set fire to it. It deserves to reign forever. Empire of Sands is an own-voices Mughal inspired fantasy with blood sacrifice, dancing in the sands and an “empire built on the dreams of enslaved Gods”. It’s seriously kick ass and the description is truly wonderous and I find it hard that someone can be THIS TALENTED. Tasha Suri is an adorable UKYA author who loves her readers and loves what she does – and it shows. So please help me return that adoration by picking up her book and it’s sequel, Realm of Ash?
So those are my top 5 kind of ‘under the radar’ books. Some are bigger names than other, but none of them really compete with the popular 2018 releases like Children of Blood and Bone or The Belles. Now THOSE books got all the love, which is awesome as it was a big turning point for black authors in YA and I’ve talked about each quite a bit, but I just really wanted to focus on some awesome books that you may have missed.
I hope you like my recommendations and please let me know if you’ve read any as I have a need to talk about them! Some are actually due for a reread (such as Bring Me Their Hearts as I’m getting the sequel this month) and Empire of Sand – so let me know if you’d be interested in a readalong or buddy read, preferably on the Byzans app (like Goodreads and Facebook Messenger COMBINED).