Everywhere you look, you see people blogging or filming about the popular books they haven’t read yet. I have my own list, one I posted on Books Amino (as jillianbutterfly21), and I can do one here if you want to see it. However, for this post, I’m writing about books that you don’t see often on blogs or Booktube or Instagram. The ones that flew under the radar I want to read.
Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
This book got some buzz when it first came out March of 2015, but not the kind of attention A Court of Mist and Fury or Harry Potter and the Cursed Child got. Although, given the content of the book, I feel it should get more recognition.
Based on William Shakespeare’s lesser-known play, The Winter’s Tale, Exit, Pursued by a Bear is the story of Hermione Winters, a popular high school cheerleader who is raped at cheerleading camp and becomes pregnant as a result. Only she refuses to be someone’s cautionary tale.
From what I have heard of this book, it is more about friendship, as Hermione’s primary support system is her best friend Polly. It is supposed to be an empowering read, about finding strength within oneself. Of all the books on this list, Exit, Pursued by a Bear is the one I am making sure I read first.
The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley
Set in Cornwall, an English seaside town, Eva Ward travels to the house she spent her summers as a child to spread her sister’s ashes. She goes to stay with family friends while visiting, except her friends are not the only ones living in that house. Eva starts travelling between present time and 100 years before, where she falls in love with a dashing stranger. But can she really live in two different worlds?
I saw this in my local library and meant to add it to my TBR pile. Then, Sasha Alsberg mentioned it on her YouTube channel. Not surprising, considering the story is reminiscent of Outlander. I liked Outlander, didn’t fall in love with it, and I haven’t seen the TV show yet. Still, I think there is a chance I will like The Rose Garden as well.
Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse
I’m surprised Girl in the Blue Coat hasn’t gotten a lot of attention, especially given the popularity of WWII books thanks to Ruta Sepetys and Marcus Zusak.
Set in Amsterdam circa 1943, the story follows Hanneke, a young Dutch woman, who works in the black market as a way to support her family as well as rebel against the Nazis after her boyfriend is killed at the front. Then, a client makes a shocking request: she asks Hanneke to find a Jewish teenaged girl she’s been hiding in her attic that disappeared without a trace.
I had checked out Girl in the Blue Coat from the library months ago, but I haven’t gotten around to it again yet. Although, since January is my birthday month, and I think I might really like this book, I kind of want to buy it.
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
I had heard of this book years ago and I saw it again on a video by Thoughts on Tomes. According to her, it is a loose retelling of Hades and Persephone, although it does not stay true to certain elements of the original story.
From the synopsis, a stranger kidnaps a teenaged girl in a cornfield and two brothers try to find her, it does sound like Hades and Persephone. But there are also mentions that other people in the same town, Bone Gap, have gone missing and that strange things have happened over the years. To me, that sounds a lot like magical realism, which reminds me of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton. However, also considering the fact that the other townspeople’s lives play a role, reminds me an awful lot like Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone, a book I was excited for but was disappointed by. Regardless, I’m still curious to read Bone Gap.
Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
From what I heard about Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer, it takes inspiration from The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I read The Bell Jar two years ago and I loved it.
This novel, Belzhar, is supposed to be about a teenaged girl, still reeling from the untimely death of her boyfriend, who is sent to a therapy camp in Vermont to deal with her grief. While there, she becomes fascinated with the works of Sylvia Plath. But she also becomes more consumed by her memories and grief than ever. Except now she has to move on—if she can face the truth.
I have wanted to read this book for over two years and came close to buying it several times. I almost bought a YA Quarterly Literary Box because it had this book in it (I was interested in the other books in the box, too, of course). I still want to buy it, but given my local library is five minutes away from me, I think we all know what the better option is.
Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
Vengeance Road is a young adult Western that came out in 2015. Disguised as a boy, an eighteen-year-old girl goes in search of the man who killed her father, aided by two brothers and an Apache girl.
The only Westerns I watch are Clint Eastwood’s old films and my favorite is one of the more comedic adaptions, Two Mules for Sister Sarah. I don’t lean towards anything so dark in Westerns such as the plot of Vengeance Road. But this is the kind of story you don’t see often in young adult literature, so I want to give it a chance.
Revenge and the Wild by Michelle Modesto
Another Western young adult novel on this list, this one with more magic and steampunk, Revenge and the Wild follows Westie, an inventor’s adopted daughter with a robotic arm, that teams up with her father’s assistant to prove a wealthy family that recently hired the scientist to build wards to protect the city are the same cannibals that killed Westie’s biological family years ago.
Western, a disabled but badass female lead, magic clashing with science, revenge, and cannibals: what more could you want from a book?
These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
After reading Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco, I have developed a weakness for young adult historical fiction mysteries, particularly ones with a strong female protagonist from a wealthy family that rejects society’s expectations of her to pursue her own ambitions. These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly seems to fall into that category.
Jo Montfort, a smart, wealthy heiress about to graduate finishing school, wants to become a reporter at her father’s newspaper rather than be married off to some rich guy. Then, her father suddenly dies after accidentally shooting himself with his own gun. Only Jo knows her dad well enough that he would never do something so dumb. So, she sets out for answers with, of course, the help of a mysterious boy with a few secrets of his own.
I’ve never read anything by Jennifer Donnelly and everything in the plot sounds kind of trope-y. But I need something to hold me over until I get my hands on Hunting Prince Dracula, the sequel to Stalking Jack the Ripper, coming out September 2017.
Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit
Anna and the Swallow Man reminds me a lot of The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. A little girl named Anna living in Poland during WWII, witnesses her father, a professor of languages, be taken by the Nazis. Then, she meets the Swallow Man, a magical being that takes her into the woods and protects her. But even he cannot be trusted in Nazi-occupied Poland.
I checked this book out of the library months ago and I started reading the first few pages. I think I liked what I read. Problem was, I hit a reading slump and I had a pile of library books due back way too soon. I have every intention of picking this book up again, which is why I asked for it for my birthday (if my dad saw I emailed him my Amazon wish list).
The Memory Book by Lara Avery
Another young adult contemporary on the darker side, The Memory Book focuses on Sammie, a teenaged girl with a rare genetic disorder that takes away her memories. She keeps a journal to record all the important moments of each day, as a way to remind her future self all the goods things she can’t remember.
I happened upon this book at my local library and intended to read it (sensing a theme here?). I never got around to it, but I don’t see it anywhere on bookish social media. That is kind of surprising; I figured quite a few people would gravitate towards this kind of topic, considering there is another popular YA novel floating around with a similar plotline isn’t there?
Tangled Webs by Lee Bross
Tangled Webs is set in London, circa 1725. Lady A, aka Arista, is a notorious blackmailer keeping the secrets of London’s rich and powerful. Except she’s only 16 and everything she’s doing, she’s doing under the orders of an abusive guardian. After her guardian tries to hurt her, she teams up with the master thief of London in order to collect enough funds and get herself out of the city for good. But when she meets a new guy that gives her hope, Arista begins to wonder if she can really leave her past behind altogether.
I don’t remember how I found out about this book. But, as with the reason behind These Shallow Graves, I need a good YA historical fiction with a badass female until I get my hands on Hunting Prince Dracula.
The Blood Between Us by Zac Brewer
The Blood Between Us is a YA mystery/thriller novel about Adrien, the adopted son of two scientists that died in a lab fire, who returns home after years away to attend a boarding school where his sister, Grace, is also a student. Though he struggles to reconnect with her, Grace has made it clear she wants nothing to do with the boy her parents took in. Then, Adrien discovers that his sister might know more about their parents’ death than she lets on and to find the truth, he could risk putting himself in danger.
I heard about this book from Emma of emmmabooks on YouTube months ago. She raved about it and how much she liked the author, except I haven’t seen it anywhere else since. This is also one of the books I’m apprehensive about. I’ve learned in recent months that, while the plot can sound absolutely amazing, the book itself could turn out to be a flop.
The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee
One of the few adult novels on this list, The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee is based on historical events. The story centers on Lilliet, a beautiful and talented American-born opera singer living a successful life in Paris. When she is offered the chance of a lifetime, she is shocked to discover that part of the performance is based on something from her own past she desperately wants to conceal. But who would do such a thing to her and what do they want?
I really, really want this book for my birthday. The Queen of the Night has been on my radar for a while now. I know they have it in my local library, but the book is over 500 pages and I want to take my time with it. Both hardcover and paperback editions are pretty, although more so the paperback for its simplicity and the hardcover for its spine. The book also reminds me a lot of a favorite book of mine, The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova, another story inspired by events in French history.
Fiendish by Brenna Yovanoff
Clementine, a girl with magical powers, is trapped inside a cellar for ten years pinned down by willow tree roots. She has no idea who put her there or why, just that everyone in her small town is afraid of her and people like her, the ones with special gifts. When a boy saves her from her prison, Clementine sets out to find who locked her away. Only her search for the truth awakens a dark magic hiding within the town.
I read another book by Brenna Yovanoff, The Space Between, years ago. It’s about the daughter of Lilith and Lucifer who falls in love with a human boy—it is one of my favorite books ever. I want to read all of her other books and Fiendish is the one I plan to start with.
Made You Up by Francesca Zappia
Made You Up is about Alex, an eighteen-year-old girl with schizophrenia, who is struggling to tell the difference between illusion and reality. Aside from her younger sister, the only friend she feels she has ever had is a boy she met when she was eight years old in a supermarket. A boy her mother told her was an illusion. Then, at the start of her senior year, Alex meets Miles, the boy she met all the years ago she thought was made from her imagination.
Another book raved by Emma, I haven’t seen or heard much of this book otherwise. It reminds me a lot of The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter, in that a teenaged girl with a mental illness is trying to get a hold of her life, but being normal after all she’s been through is harder than she thought it would be.
Whisper to Me by Nick Lake
Supposedly written in letter form, Whisper to Me tells the story of Cassie, who is writing to the boy whose heart she broke, trying to explain why she pushed him away as well as what happened to her one fateful summer. That is all I need to know and my brain is already wracking with what could have happened to this girl. There is also a journey of self-discovery, and how love of your family, friends, significant other, and yourself can save you.
Reading the synopsis, it reminds me a lot of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. Will I get to this book soon? I don’t know, but I want to.
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
Set in 1987, Tell the Wolves I’m Home is about fourteen-year-old June, whose uncle Finn, an artist that is the only person she felt understood her, dies. She meets a friend of Finn’s named Toby, who helps her through her grief while she helps him through his. But this friendship leads June to question what she knew about her uncle, her family, and even herself.
Every time I go to Target, I see this book and I always want to buy it, yet I never do. The cover always catches my eye, but I try not to let that be the motivation, no matter how intriguing the plot is. I’ve been disappointed by pretty books before. Thankfully, I can get this out of my local library.
The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler
Young librarian Simon Watson lives alone in his family home, a house on the cliffs overlooking the sea. His parents are both dead—his mother in fact drowned—and his sister ran off to join the circus as a mermaid. Then, he receives an old book from an antique dealer inscribed with his grandmother’s name. With the help of his friend and co-worker, Alice, Simon sets to unravel his family’s hidden history before his sister meets the same fate as their ancestors.
A plot heavy with magical realism, books, and hidden history reminds me a little of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin or The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton. I gave The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry a 3 star rating, but I think I would have enjoyed it more than I did if I wasn’t in the middle of a reading slump. I think I will enjoy The Book of Speculation, though.
Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan
Daughter of Deep Silence, a young adult thriller about a girl out to get revenge against the people she thinks murdered her loved ones, got some buzz when it first came out. Carrie Ryan, from my understanding, is better known for her other book, The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Of the two, Daughter of Deep Silence interests me the most.
The plot reminds me a lot of Cruel Beauty by Rosamond Hodge, in that the protagonist, Frances, falls in love with the boy she intended to kill in her revenge plot. Only what she thought happened to her best friend and her parents might not be the truth after all. And she has more to lose than she thought she did.
Pretending to be Erica by Michelle Painchaud
Pretending to be Erica is a book with a plot I’m amazed Booktube is not raving about. Violet, the daughter of a notorious Las Vegas crime boss, has spent her whole life becoming Erica Silverman. Erica, an heiress, was abducted at the age of five and never seen again, and Violet’s father plans to turn his daughter into Erica. After years of surgery and blackmail, seventeen-year-old Violet appears to the Silverman family as Erica, complete with totally faked PTSD. But Violet has a mission: steal a legendary painting owned by the Silvermans. The only thing is, can she go through with it?
I don’t want to get my expectations too high for this one. According to Goodreads, the book is only 272 pages. How the author plans to tell a story like this in so few pages, I don’t know. But, thankfully, there is always the library.
What underrated books have you read or that you want to read in 2017? Has anyone read the books on this list?