Which books haven’t been talked about as much or haven’t been marketed as strongly that you think deserve some recognition?
Or “books I always scream about, but I don’t feel like enough people are screaming about them and that’s A Problem”.
The Dark Beneath the Ice
The Dark Beneath the Ice is a YA horror book that just came out in August. I started reading it the day it was released, because I couldn’t not read a horror book with a f/f relationship in it, and now it’s one of my favorite books. It’s a story about being a mentally ill teenage girl, but told through paranormal metaphors. I loved the representation of mental illness here – it’s a story about self-hate and how toxic avoidance can be as a coping mechanism – and the romance was really sweet too, which was a warm note in a very creepy, dark book. The atmosphere was also wonderful – I felt cold in the middle of August! – and I can’t believe I haven’t heard many people talk about this.
A Spark of White Fire
I know A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna just came out, but it’s getting very little hype and I don’t want this genre-bending space fantasy gem to remain hidden. This retelling of the Mahabharata is probably the best YA space opera I’ve ever read – not only because I love genre-bending books and this is a fantasy story set in space, but also because it’s a young adult book that gets political intrigue right. There are no good and bad people, everyone is wrong and probably wants the throne, and war may or may not be unavoidable.
Nicky Drayden’s debut, The Prey of Gods, isn’t that well-known either, but at least I had heard some people talk about it (or I wouldn’t have found it). I haven’t heard much about Temper, however – which is a shame, because this is even better and one of the most imaginative SFF I’ve read in a while. Temper is set in a alternate universe Cape Town in which colonialism didn’t happen, and it’s a genre-bending story involving demonic possessions, the conflict between religion and science, and one of the weirdest magical schools ever. Temper is set in a society where there are four different genders one person can be assigned at birth, which was really interesting. Also, all-black cast!
The Gallery of Unfinished Girls
The Gallery of Unfinished Girls is my favorite YA standalone and the definition of a hidden gem, which is also why I’m always talking about it. This is a coming-of-age magical realism story following a bisexual Puerto Rican painter, Mercedes Moreno, as she struggles with artist’s block and perfectionism. I have never read another story that captured so well the awkwardness and magic of being a teenage girl. It’s a nostalgic, hopeful book about moving on, and about the fact that life is worth living even with all its imperfections. It’s a beautiful story and I can’t believe that it’s been a year and it still has less than 500 ratings on goodreads.
Dominion of the Fallen series
The Dominion of the Fallen series is a historical fantasy series about feuding fallen angels set in post-apocalyptic Paris, with a diverse cast – between the first two books, we have addiction rep, many main characters of color (mainly Vietnamese), and many queer characters (established f/f couples, in the second book also a m/m couple and a trans main character). It’s now one of my favorite series. It’s very atmospheric and dark and it has the best political intrigue.
Witchmark is a paranormal murder mystery with steampunk aspects which reads like a really sweet m/m romance. Its premise is unlike everything I had read before, and it’s one of those stories that use typical romance tropes in a way that makes the journey really enjoyable even if you already know the ending. It came out in June 2018 and I haven’t heard many people talk about it, which is a shame because this is a beautiful story and why would you want to pass on a m/m romance between a human and a paranormal fae-like creature when there’s also murder involved?
Under the Pendulum Sun
Do you like Gothic fantasy? Do you like to read stories about the fae? Do you like fae stories even though when you read them you always feel like they never go far enough – because the fae are never creepy enough or as messed up as inhuman creatures would certainly be? Read Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng, it’s about Victorian missionaries in fairyland and everything that can possibly go wrong does. And yes, the sun is literally a pendulum.
Three Sides of a Heart
I usually say that all short fiction is underrated, and I still think this, but most of the time YA anthologies aren’t too underhyped. But after Three Sides of a Heart was released, I’ve heard almost no one talk about it.
This is my favorite YA anthology, because it shows the still unexplored potential of the love triangle trope: even if that trope is overused, there are so many kinds of love triangles you’ve probably never seen in YA books. My favorite stories were Before She Was Bloody by Tessa Gratton (f/f/m polyamory, my all-time favorite YA short story), Vega by Brenna Yovanoff (a triangle between a girl, a boy and a city) and Unus, Duo, Tres by Bethany Hagen (m/m/f polyamorous vampires).
The Wicker King
Do you want to read something really short and really weird that kind of has a fairytale vibe and it’s about messed up teenagers and will give you too many emotions you didn’t ask for? Read The Wicker King by K Ancrum. Also, it has a polyamorous m/m/f relationship in it (even though it focuses more on the m/m side of it) and that’s very uncommon in YA.
This book isn’t that well-known but almost all my goodreads friends who read it loved it and if you haven’t read it yet you should! It’s the weirdest and I promise that you won’t forget it easily.
A Line in the Dark
A Line in the Dark is a very weird, genre-bending underrated book. It follows Jess Wong, a Chinese-American lesbian, and it’s a story about toxic friendships, the line between love and obsession, and the messiest f/f/f love triangle ever. No wonder it involves murder.
The first half of this book is told in first person and it’s a quiet, kind of creepy slice-of-life story, the second half is a murder mystery told in third person. It’s the kind of story I couldn’t stop reading, and I always love when books involving mysteries are addicting. [Also, it’s an evil murder book but no lesbians die.]
Have you read any of these? Are they on your TBR? Do you have any recommendations for books that are underrated/underhyped?