Top 5 Wednesday: Favourite Underrated Books

Top 5 Wednesday is a Goodreads group hosted by Lainey from Ginger Reads Lainey and Samantha from Thoughts on Tomes. Every Wednesday of the month, readers and bloggers present their Top 5 Wednesday choices for a specific topic. Today’s topic is a pick of five favourite underrated books which, much like the last topic, presents an opportunity to alert you guys to books you would’ve maybe overlooked. The books are ordered by release date and clicking on the book title will direct you to the respective Goodreads page. Speaking about underrated books gives us the chance to shine the spotlight on books that somehow got pushed to the back by the hyped and popular books, even though they’d deserve the same recognition. So, here are my top five underrated books I’d like to push on you!

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

Though I’m not sure I’d still give it as high a rating as 5 stars, Girl in Translation was one of the best YA contemporaries I read in my youth. Based on her own childhood experiences as a migrant from Hong Kong, Jean Kwok tells the story of young and exceptionally intelligent Kimberly Chang who finds herself doing the splits between a life in Chinatown, wasting away as a sweatshop worker and living in a run-down apartment, and striving for a successful career at a fancy private school. This book is so authentic from a cultural perspective, too, that I recommend you give this a try if you’re looking for diversity in your YA fiction. Girl in Translation is such an insightful debut about immigration, hardship, and striving for education and success against all odds – enveloped by a tentative love story.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Though popular in terms of ratings, Still Alice is a book I cannot push on people enough, especially on an audience that prefers to stick their noses in Young Adult fiction. Don’t get me wrong: I love YA novels. But every once in a while, I need me some good adult fiction, preferably with a splendidly portrayed mental health issue, and this is one of the finest books of said category. Written by a neuroscientist, Still Alice masterfully balances fiction and science (and you can bet on the science being correct in this one, too). The plot focuses on a successful Psychology professor who gets early onset Alzheimer’s and follows her journey of continuous short-term memory loss. Now, you’d think this book was depressing, but I didn’t think so. Genova gives her main character Alice a powerful voice, and even as her disease progresses, the point of view never changes. Above all, this book is touching, powerful, and sends a message about the strength that can be found in a family’s love. Highly recommended!

Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine

The original Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare has over one million ratings on Goodreads, whereas this brilliant retelling of the same story has only 1’556. Now, take my word for it that this isn’t entirely fair. Rachel Caine did a tremendous job with Prince of Shadows – a tale of starcrossed lovers, bloody family feuds, and social injustices in the historical city of Verona, Italy. Told from the perspective of Benvolio Montague, this novel puts the tragic love story in a whole new light, underpinned by beautiful, poetic writing. Prince of Shadows offers a refreshing narrator, a love story in the shadow of Romeo’s and Juliet’s, and an imaginative twist. Benvolio is a dreamboat and the tragedy of this storyline gave me all the feels. It’d be a shame to miss this epicness!

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

Why isn’t this book talked about more, I ask? Stephanie Oakes did a stellar job with The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly. She manages to touch upon sensitive topics, such as the abuse suffered in sects, and weave in a subtle romance and wrap everything in a murder mystery. That’s what I call multitasking! To be honest, I don’t think I would’ve ever picked up this book if my friend and co-blogger Chantal hadn’t pushed it on me. I borrowed a bunch of books from her and this was one of the last ones of the pile I picked up – and I wanted to kick myself, because this book was so, so good! The story is torn between the present and flashbacks, but manages to keep everything neatly untangled. Besides Minnow’s authentic voice, I really enjoyed how the author handled religion and beliefs, female friendships, and critique of the justice system. So, I think this book deserves all the credit it can get!

Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

Western settings are so underrepresented in YA if you ask me, so I was delighted to see Vengeance Road published. Once again, I cannot believe this book isn’t getting a lot of attention, judging by the small amount of ratings on Goodreads, at least. Set in a historical Arizona, Vengeance Road takes you on a wild ride featuring saloons, shootouts, and gold rush. The authentic lilt in the writing lends a certain spark to the narration. Now, I’ve said this times and times again, but I love books featuring girls disguised as boys, and this is one of them. When her father is brutally murdered by a feared gang, half-Mexican Kate Thompson becomes “Nate” and pursues the criminals to bring them to justice. And justice is best served with a colt in one hand and a rifle in the other. This is a quest-based book, so if a lot of riding and camping isn’t your thing, this book might not be your cup of tea, either. However, there’s a ton of action and romantic tension and, of course, Kate’s little secret to keep you entertained. This is a quick but delightful read – recommended!

So, these were my Top 5 Underrated Books! Did you recognize any of your favourites on my list for which you’ve finally found someone to gush about? Which are your favourite underrated books? I’d love to discover some hidden gems, so feel free to talk to me in the comments! 🙂

3 Comments

  1. I’ve only read Vengeance Road and totally agree that it’s a highly underrated YA western. I sincerely think we need more of such funny and light reads. Also, looking forward to Prince of shadow! Heard a lot of good stuff about it :)) Among other underrated books, well the ones I think are underrated, I’d choose These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly. It’s YA mystery/historical, and I think one of the best books in the genre. And Alice by Christina Henry. Granted, it’s not a book for everyone, because it’s really harsh and full of triggers, but also it’s one of the best adult fantasy/retellings, imo.

    • nina

      January 25, 2017 at 9:38 PM

      Thank you so much for commenting, Nastya! I agree with you: Next to all the dense fantasy novels and contemporaries tackling severe real-life issues, I appreciate these entertaining, light adventure books so much! I hope you’ll enjoy Prince of Shadows (I think you will 😉 ). I’ve had These Shallow Graves on my TBR for quite some time – moving it up, then! Will check out Alice, too! Thanks for your recs 🙂

      • Thank you for this amazing post, Nina! And I hope you’ll like TSG and Alice if you decide to read it 😉

        Definitely agree about the light reads! They save me these days when I have a lot on my plate to deal with 😀

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