I wish I had something poignant and clever to say about this whole quarantine business, but I feel I run the risk of being the straw that broke the camel’s back by mentioning it. Then again, to not mention it is to become a cultural anathema at this point, so what to do? I guess I’ll have to make some wisecrack at my own expense, like stating the fact that I’m always in quarantine because I work from home and therefore never leave the house. So, for me at least, the only thing that’s changed is now I have a nation full of people who can finally relate to me.
Okay, in all seriousness, I really am endeavoring to stay positive about this whole thing, and I firmly believe that it will get better soon. But I’m not doing a whole post about the thing, not directly, anyway… but since we’re all stuck at home with “nothing to do” (though I hardly think that’s the case for most people), might as well recommend some books, right?
Actually, I’ve been wanting to do a post like this for a while, so the circumstantial backdrop really just augments the whole thing. And by the way, sorry if my writing sounds more formal and pretentious than usual… I’ve been reading Jane Austen and I always tend to start writing like her when I do, mostly involuntarily. But hey, she’s kind of known for being a good writer, so maybe I should read her more often.
Anyways, here are my top 5 underrated books that I’ve read over the years. They’re not underrated because they’re considered bad by others, (except one, I think,) but rather because they’re not the most popular reads. You may or may not have heard of them, and it’s unlikely that you’ve seen these on the shelves at Barnes and Noble. It’s also worth noting that most of these fall squarely into the YA fantasy/fractured fairytale category. I guess I have a type.
the princess of the midnight ball series by jessica day george
I’m already cheating because this is actually a trilogy, but I couldn’t mention one without mentioning the others–the series as a whole is just so good.
The Princess of the Midnight Ball is a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses that involves a curse, a shadow king, and a man who knits… which is to say, all good things. The author keeps the essence of the fairytale while giving the princesses more depth and the story darker themes. The imagery is beautiful and the romance is charming. 10/10 Beccas would recommend.
Book Two in the series–Princess of Glass–is a retelling of Cinderella that, once again, keeps the essence of the fairytale but gives it a darker, more nuanced twist. The romance is adorable and full of wit.
Princess of the Silver Woods is kind of a Red Riding Hood/Robin Hood crossover because the “wolves” are actually bandits that steal from the rich. (Clever, eh?) However, this one has, arguably, the best male protagonist of the series (though Galen, from the first book, almost takes the cake simply because he knits… but I digress).
It’s been a long time since I’ve read this series, but they’ve always stuck with me. I think about them often, and I will praise them all the day long. If you like fractured fairytales with a lovable cast of sisters and swoon-worthy love interests (that actually act like human men, by the way), you’ll love these.
Shoutout to my middle sister for getting me hooked on this series way back when! You’ve always had an eye for good books, a talent of which I’ve always been just a little jealous!
mind games by kiersten white
I read this book a long time ago, but it’s another one that always stuck with me. The funny thing is, it has horrible reviews on Goodreads. And maybe it is horrible, but I enjoyed it. Maybe if I reread it I wouldn’t enjoy it as much, but here’s why I included it: because we all love books that suck, or that other people think suck. (Defensive rant in 3… 2… 1…)
Hell, half the shit that’s popular in YA these days sucks, and lots of people like those. And while we can all get judge-y and criticize each other for liking mediocre stories with less-than-fabulous writing, at the end of the day, we all have guilty pleasures. Sometimes you just need to get off your stupid ego trip and let people enjoy things for the sake of enjoying them. It’s okay to like something that’s shitty simply because it makes you happy.
In fact, I would like anyone reading this to comment below with something you love that others hate or criticize. I know it all depends on who you ask, too, but just think about whose opinions you’ve heard. Here, I’ll go first: I enjoyed The Hobbit movies, and I know they’re shit. I should do a whole post on guilty pleasures. Maybe that’s what this is.
Anyways, now that I’ve adequately shielded myself against criticism, I’ll actually tell you what the book is about: a girl who’s blackmailed into being an assassin to protect her sister, who’s blind but also has the power to see the future. Her target is a boy her age, but she can’t bring herself to kill him… launching a whole string of conundrums as she tries to save her sister. It’s pretty succinct and works as a stand-alone book, even though there’s a sequel (that I haven’t read). Anyways, if you read it and it sucks, I won’t be offended. All I remember is that I liked it when I read it–I think that above all, it shared a lot of similarities with something I was writing at the time, so I did a lot of mental comparison afterwards.
this song will save your life by leila sales
This is another book that has never left my noodle, mostly because it’s the first and only book I’ve read that centers around the weird, obscure indie music that I got into in high school because that’s what my friends were listening to, and that’s how music works when you’re an adolescent.
The plot: a social outcast who’s at the end of her rope stumbles across an underground indie nightclub, makes some friends, and becomes a DJ. She experiences love, friendship, and the power of music all to the tune of The Strokes, The Smiths, and The Talking Heads. It’s great coming-of-age story about social awkwardness, rejection, and finding yourself. And as an added bonus, this one actually does have good reviews on Goodreads.
sun and moon, ice and snow by jessica day george
I’m back to this author because, well, personally I just love her writing style. I haven’t read all her works but I’ve definitely read more by her than probably any other YA author aside from Eoin Colfer (shoutout to the Artemis Fowl series, and at how a part of me may die inside if the movie sucks). Also because, apparently, (realizing this as I’m writing,) I really love fractured fairytales.
Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow is basically a Beauty and the Beast retelling, but I hardly think that’s fair, because I think Beauty and the Beast is more or less a retelling of the Norwegian folktale that this book is based on. A girl who can talk to animals is given an offer she can’t refuse by a mysterious polar bear: if she goes and lives with him in his castle, he’ll make her family rich. She goes willingly, only to discover that the polar bear is actually a prince who’s been cursed by a troll. Bum, bum, bum!
dragonfly by julia golding
Oh, lord, it’s been ages since I’ve read this, but my best friend recommended it to me when we were about in middle school, and I never forgot it. She’s another one who’s always had a good taste in media.
Princess Taoshira is ordered to marry Prince Ramil to secure an alliance amongst a brewing war, but their cultures are dynamically opposed and they hate each other instantly. Then, they’re both kidnapped–and have to work together in order to get back home. As you may suspect, this is an enemies-to-lovers romance that has (from what I can remember) rich world-building and a colorful cast of characters. I should really reread this one.
Have any underrated books you’d like to recommend? Drop ’em in the comments!