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Emily's 2020 Favorites
Hey Dear Readers!
One of my great joys as a bookseller is the ability to discover and read so many amazing books.
Here are my top picks from the year 2020. I can't pick just one YA, so I picked my top ten.
I also picked my favorite fantasy novel, my favorite romance novel, and my favorite middle grade novel.
I hope you find as much joy in these books as I did.
A glorious fever dream of a novel.
I am 1000% here for the gender-swap of the Rake trope! More women in positions of sexual power, please!
A great STEM-inspired novel about a girl mechanic and the super smart robot cat she repairs, featuring friendships, secret tech schools, mech battles, mega-corporations, and a twisty mystery. Get book two (Unleashed) at the same time- Jinxed ends in a wicked cliffhanger!
A great YA mystery with an important allegory. I'm not ususally a mystery reader, but this one kept me hooked! I read it in under 24 hours. Meredith Tate is a former resident of St. Louis, and she has a new book coming later this year- SHIPPED, releasing May 18th!
I have been waiting forever for an unabashedly ambitions and unrelenting heroine, and Tricia Levenseller has delivered. Alessandra is ruthless and driven, willing to utilize every aspect of her personality to get what she wants- and she couldn't be aiming higher. Her plan: get the Shadow King to fall in love with her and take her as his queen, then kill him and take his kingdom for herself. No big deal. I loved Alessandra's drive and belief in her own power- she understands that her worth is not contingent on her purity or on being deferential. She was an absolute breath of fresh air, and I cheered on her every cunning move. I read this book in one day- I couldn't help it.
SEVEN ENDLESS FORESTS is another rich, decadent novel from April Genevieve Tucholke. She brings us back into her amazing Old English inspired world and introduces us to Torvi and her sister Morgunn, alone at their homestead after plague claims their mother. When Morgunn is kidnapped by a vicious band of wolf-priests, Torvi sets out to rescue her, accompanied by a mysterious druid and a band of singing, storytelling Butcher Bards. Along the way, Torvi learns of a sword stuck in a stone tree, seeks a long-lost kingdom, and proves herself as brave and as Vorse as they come. I've wanted to return to Vorseland since the end of THE BONELESS MERCIES, and SEVEN ENDLESS FORESTS was exactly what I was looking for.
Liz Lighty is convinced that she's inherently WRONG for the title of Prom Queen. She's always felt too poor, too black, too queer, to really shine in her prom-obsessed town. But when a make-or-break college scholarship falls through, Liz has no choice- run for prom queen and nab the sizeable scholarship that comes with the crown. The only thing that makes the awful run-up to the dance bearable is the new girl in school, a fellow competitor, who Liz kind of sort of starts to crush on. But falling for the competition won't get her closer to the crown... will it? YOU SHOULD SEE ME IN A CROWN is a super fresh, fun, delightful, righteous story that feels like a warm hug from your best friend from start to finish. I loved every second of this book, and can't wait to shout from the rooftops: #lizlightyforpromqueen
Whew! What a wild ride Goddess in the Machine is. From the very beginning, Andra's struggle to orient herself after waking up from cryo-sleep and finding herself on a brand new planet is felt acutely- and that's nothing compared to her shock at waking up 1000 years after she is supposed to.... and learning that the people of this planet think she's a goddess. With the help of a man (jerk) named Zhade, she journeys to a domed city to try to figure out what exactly happened while she was asleep. Meanwhile, she must keep her goddess facade up, so the ruler of the city and all its citizens don't do to her what they did to the last two goddesses that awoke... Goddess in the Machine is a truly original story that features some incredible twists that I never saw coming. I'm a fantasy lover at heart, but this sci-fi gem has definitely won a place on my shelf.
A breakneck fantasy adventure with the most kick-butt heroine I’ve read in months. Princess Amarande was everything I needed in this novel, and I loved her dedication to her people, her determination to be her own person, and her drive to change the rules of succession in her kingdom. Her love for Luca, her childhood friend and stableboy, however, was the most satisfying- her mad dash to rescue him from kidnappers just set my heart aflame. Swoony romance, sword fights, a great cast of characters and some clever parallels to a story about another princess who won't be made a bride makes The Princess Will Save You a strong contender for my favorite novel of 2020.
Downton Abbey meets Frozen in this wonderfully original YA novel set in 19th century Denmark. Splinters of Scarlet is beautifully atmospheric, and paints a gorgeous picture of a young woman striving to protect her only family. Marit Olsen, an orphan seamstress, employs magic sparingly, as each use causes an ice-like build up in her veins called the Firn. When a girl Marit views as a sister is adopted by a famous ballerina, Marit vows to keep the girl safe by any means necessary- the woman belongs to the family that owns the mines where Marit's father died in an accident. This is a wonderful, decadent novel that makes you want to curl up by a crackling fire with a hot beverage.
A super fast paced sci-fi race around the galaxy, remeniscent of Firefly, Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Wars, and The Amazing Race.
High School Senior Cordelia Koenig is set to finish high school with ease- all she has to do is use her DNA/genealogy test results to explore her roots though poetry. It'll give her time to focus on her old crush, Kodiak, and give her some breathing room in her small Alaskan town, never mind the fact that she's always felt like the .5 kid in her perfect Alaskan family. But that feeling explodes when her test results reveal that her father isn't actually her father. Cordelia reaches out to the man who shares 50% of her DNA to try to find a place in a world that seems to be falling apart around her. Written in verse and pulling no punches, THE TRUTH PROJECT is a gorgeous, exploratory novel, tackling questions of identity, betrayal, and self-discovery. Going far beyond that sense of being un-moored as you turn 18 and graduate high school, this book asks the true hard-hitting question: "Who am I, really?"
SOULSWIFT is an emotional gut-punch of a novel. It shines a bright light on the perils of rigid beliefs while also gently but firmly reminding us that there are two sides to every faith, if only we cared to listen. This book broke my heart, but ultimately gave me hope for a brighter future.