Hello fellow readers! Recently I have been moving my bookshelves around and began thinking whether I wanted to organise them by authors, colour, genre, or by favourites (we all know the struggle). Well, I may have decided to go with genre but a few reads stood out to me for how underrated they are and so here we are; a list of my top 5 underrated favourites.
Don’t Look Back – Jennifer L. Armentrout
So if you have no clue what this book is about it follows Samantha, who has just emerged battered and bruised after being missing for four days with absolutely no memory of what happened. Now this at first may get your deja vu senses tingling BUT theres an extra layer that Armentrout has weaved into the fold; and that is although Samantha has been found, her best friend Cassie is still missing. This then makes the entire plot not only a contemporary – fit the jigsaw pieces together – mystery but also a thriller. Coupled with Armentrout’s engaging writing style I simply could not put this book down and raced through the pages. What I was particularly impressed with was how the book kept me guessing throughout and yet I still did not see the reveal coming- it took me by complete surprise and I loved it. Another surprise was the character of Samantha; often it’s easy for a main character to be ‘the golden girl’ but she most definitely has faults. It was actually rather heartwarming to see her admit them and try to better herself along the way.
This is Where it Ends – Marieke Nijkamp
I will not lie this book is quite a marmite read (you either love it or you hate it) and the little comments I have read about it have been equally divided. This is Where it Ends is a first person, in the moment, telling of a school shooting and is ultimately an extremely heavy reading experience. Many other readers, who I am inclined to agree with, seem to have an issue with the antagonist (the shooter) in that his motives, reasoning, and overall development are extremely lack lustre and fall quite flat. However, I decided to include it on this list because there are some amazing qualities of this book that does make it underrated. Firstly, I love that the chapters are from multiple character perspectives; in a novel with a setting such as this I think it really adds to the personal factor when the reader can feel the weight and the consequences of everyone rather than just one individual. It makes it feel more real and the ultimate connectedness of the characters translates to the reader and really makes you question ideals of community and what matters to you. Another reason I feel this book is underrated is the inclusion of a lesbian relationship that is presented in a natural and wholesome way; it definitely feels LGBTQ inclusive as a means of representation and not of baiting the community.
If you do enjoy books that deal with settings and themes of this nature then I would also recommend Hate List by Jennifer Brown as an honorary mention. This book is interesting in the portrayal of guilt as an aftermath of the event and is definitely worth a read!
I’ll Give You the Sun – Jandy Nelson
I first read this book as an advanced reading copy and it was the first time I read anything of Jandy Nelson. However, I enjoyed it so much I was then sent her first book The Sky is Everywhere so I could devour more of her words. Despite the wonderful flow of her writing style and the dynamic characters that I fell in love with, this book is on this list because of its unique structure. The novel follows twin siblings Noah and Jude and each chapter changes to the corresponding perspective. What’s different about this is Jude tells her side of the story from the perspective of the present day whereas her brother Noah’s chapters are from years previously. I found this really intriguing because the reader knows an event has happened that has separated them; we know the consequence because of Jude and we get all the anticipation and build up from Noah. Its such a uniquely fascinating way of keeping the reader guessing and sometimes feels like you get two stories in one. Another reason I personally adore this book is the chapter configuration feels almost symbolic of the characters coming together again; which I ultimately craved and loved because i’m a sucker for all things poetic.
My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece – Annabel Pitcher
This was such a tough decision for me to place this book first or second because I nearly cry just thinking about it. Now don’t get me wrong this book is not a ball your eyes out, purposefully sad book, but theres such a sense of childhood innocence that translates so well it just warms my heart and makes me teary. This book is from the perspective of 10 year old Jamie (and wow does the author do a fantastic job of making this FEEL like the voice of a child). His elder sister died during the London bombing and her urn sits on the mantlepiece whilst the rest of his family struggles with the aftermath years later.
The themes in this book could have been represented so much darker and heavier if it weren’t for Jamie and ultimately the author Annabel Pitcher. This story isn’t about grief but about friendship, loyalty and essentially humanity. One of the biggest things I took from this book was Jamie’s friendship with Sunya as it showcases how people overcome and form their own opinions even at such a young age when we are said to be the most impressionable. Sunya is a muslim girl who wears a hijab and due to how Jamie’s sister’s died his father has begun to nurture islamophobic ideals and doesn’t want them to be friends. The reader really gets to see Jamie try to process what’s right and wrong, being a good friend, and a good son and the raw and honest portrayal is great to see. If you haven’t read this book I will not spoil things for you but please watch out for two things; The Superhero shirt and Rodger the cat (if you have read this book then you’ll know).
Under Rose-tainted Skies – Louise Gornall
My number 1!! This book has an idealistic slow burn love story, a supportive mother daughter relationship, AND most importantly an accurate representation of mental health. It truly is refreshing to see. Under Rose-tainted Skies follows the life of Norah, who is agrophobic with OCD and anxiety, as she watches life from the safety of her window, until Luke arrives and changes her own perspective on self-care and mental health. I want to be really clear here, although the romance is quite fanciful it is most definitely NOT a relationship that sets out to fix Norah and her mental health, prior to meeting Luke she attends therapy and counselling and her dialogue about her conditions is as open at the start as it is at the end.
It’s this representation of MH that really makes this book shine; the author herself deals with the same conditions as Norah which just makes her character feel even more real. I may be biased in that I connected with Norah so heavily as I am also diagnosed OCD and anxiety. However, it wasn’t until reading this book that I realised some of the things I did or thought was apart of my personality, was actually an attribute of my conditions. I have been officially diagnosed with OCD for 5 years now and I can honestly say I have never read a more realistic interpretation that doesn’t fantasise MH than in Gornall’s novel. Despite it being just a heartwarming and enjoyable contemporary read, I will always recommend this book to anyone that would want to know what my brain feels like or just MH in general.