Hi! Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam@Thoughts on Tomes over on Goodreads. This week’s theme is: Hidden Gems in Your Favorite Genre. My favorite genre is fantasy, but for some reason most of the books that spring to mind when I think of hidden gems happen to be YA contemporaries. So I decided to go ahead and do both!
5. Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert, 2,480 Ratings
This is actually my current read and the first book that popped into my head when I thought of hidden gems. Little & Lion is about Suzette aka. Little coming home to L.A for the summer after spending a year, against her will, at boarding school on the East Coast. She’s excited to be back, but also aware that everything’s changed. Her brother Lionel aka. Lion was recently diagnosed with Bipolar 2 and their bulletproof relationship hasn’t been the same since she left, she’s feeling things for her childhood friend Emil she hasn’t felt before, but she’s also attracted to a new girl in her friend group. I’m so excited about this book, I love how diverse it is and how it keeps calling out all the bimisia, racism, sexism etc.
4. American Street by Ibi Zoboi, 4,228 Ratings
Fabiola is excited to be emigrating from Haiti to the US with her mother. But when her mom’s detained at the airport in Detroit, Fabiola is forced to adjust to her new life in a new country alone. She does have her aunt and cousins – but they’re as strange and unfamiliar to her as America itself. This is one of the most beautiful books I’ve read – Ibi Zoboi’s prose is so evocative and the elements of magical realism woven through gives the story a haunting atmosphere. But like a lot of beautiful books, it’s also really sad and they ending will break your heart.
3. Nina is Not OK by Shappi Khorsandi, 1,685 Ratings
Nina doesn’t have a drinking problem, she just loves a night out and if she sometimes blacks out – it’s ok, cause her friends are always there to fill in the gaps. Until the night someone sexually assaults her, at least she thinks it was assault, but can she really call it that – when she doesn’t even remember what happened? This is such an important book. It deals with so many topics I’d love to see more YA books explore like sexual assault, victim blaming, sexism, addiction and toxic relationships. Despite dealing with some heavy topics Nina Is Not OK is a very warm book with a lot of heart and heroine it’s impossible not to love – despite all her flaws.
2. Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga, 560 Ratings
Sixteen year old Taliah has never met her father, indie rockstar Julian Oliver, so it’s a bit of a shock for her when he shows up on her doorstep out of the blue. But it’s an even bigger shock when he tells her his father is dying and that he would like her to come back home with him to meet her family – and say goodbye. Taliah knows her mother, who’s in Paris, would never approve – she’s never even told Taliah who her father is. But her curiosity won’t let her say anything but yes. Here We Are Now is a beautiful coming of age story about family, friendship and finding yourself – as well as a love letter to indie rock.
1. Wing Jones by Katherine Webber, 1,153 Ratings
Wing’s brother Marcus is the golden child of the family and the star of the football team. When Marcus gets into a drunk-driving accident, killing two people and ending up in a coma – Wing’s life changes dramatically. Her family struggles to pay for Marcus’s medical bills and people at school are saying he deserves to die for what he’s done. To deal with everything – Wings starts running and she discovers Marcus isn’t the only athlete in the family. This is the best YA contemporary I’ve ever read and I don’t understand why it’s not more popular. It has everything: family relationships, friendship, romance, awesome girl athletes, swoony romance and brilliant side-characters.
5. The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst, 4,137 Ratings
The Queen of Blood came out in 2016, but reads like a much older fantasy novel in a lot of ways – and that’s not a bad thing. In the vast sea of YA fantasies about girls with magical powers this one truly stands out. It’s set in a world where people live in treetops and everything has a spirit. The spirits hate humans and the people rely on their Queen to keep them safe. She alone has magic strong enough to command them, but sometimes she fails. Daleina learned that the hard way when her whole village was slaughtered by spirits leaving only her family unharmed – thanks to her own blossoming magic. Haunted by what happened in her village Daleina’s determined to train at the academy, so she too can learn how to protect her people from the viscous spirits.
4. Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett, 1,132 Ratings
Even the Darkest Stars is set in a kingdom inspired by ancient Nepal and follows a girl names Kamzin, who’s grown up in a mountain village and dreams of becoming a Royal Explorer. When River Shara, the greatest explorer ever known, comes to her village looking for guide – Kamzin is desperate to be chosen. I can’t seem to shut up about this book and I don’t understand why it isn’t more popular. It’s such a solid YA fantasy with a original plot and amazing world building. If you like books about explorers or books set in snowy mountains – you need this one on your tbr.
3. Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor, 6,516 Ratings
Akata Witch is about a 12 year old Nigerian albino girl names Sunny. All Sunny wants is to play football and get through another day of school without being bullied, but when she befriends Orlu and Chichi, she discovers she is one of the Leopard People, people with magical powers, and is plunged into their world. Like the Wizarding World in Harry Potter, the society of the Leopard People exists secretly alongside our own world and has it’s own culture, traditions, education system and even sporting events. Akata Witch is a must read if you’re looking for a fantasy novel that’s not inspired by Western myths and folklore.
2. In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente, 5,606 Ratings
Catherynne M. Valente is my favorite author – I’ve read 14 of her books and usually assume she’s a household name. While that’s mostly true in my little corner of the bookish internet, outside of it I mostly encounter people who’ve never heard of her, which is a shame since everyone deserves the wild and magical experience of reading a Valente novel. In the Night Garden is one of her lesser known books, but also one of my favorites. It’s a re-imagine of a thousand and one nights filled with stories about shape-shifting witches, living stars, snake gods and white bears all told by the mysterious orphan girl whose eyelids are tattooed with the tales themselves.
1. Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near, 842 Ratings
Isola Wilde sees a lot of things other people don’t. Like a dead girl in a birdcage in the woods. She also sees fairies, mermaids and other magical creatures- all seemingly lifted from the pages of her most prized possession, a beautiful book of French fairy-tales. When the dead girl shows up outside Isola’s window threatening her, all of Isola’s magical friends want to protect her – but that might not be enough. If she wants to appease the girl’s spirit, Isola has to find out what happened to her. If you’re into fairytales – you simply have to read this books. It has everything you could possibly want: a mysterious forest, a book within a book, magical creatures, beautiful illustrations and amazing twists.
What’s your favorite genre to read? And what are you favorite hidden gems?