The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinion of Byte or Byte’s editorial board. As 2020 comes to an end, I realized that even though I have spent more time inside this year than just about any other person, I have yet to read a book. I then decided that my mission for the last month of the year was to read the top books of 2020. I originally planned to space out the reads throughout the month, but due to schedule changes I spent most of the week before Christmas completely immersed in books. I struggled to find a list of top books that I found to be both interesting and credible. I finally stumbled upon the Goodreads Choice Awards 2020. I felt that this reader-based list would be unbiased and reflect the true best reads of the year as it took into account how readers think about the books. When looking through, I found the Young Adult Fiction list to be not only the most interesting to me but it also had all of the books available at my local library. The books seemed to feature both diverse stories and perspectives. I love experiencing a new perspective through the pages of someone else’s story.
Clap When You Land[caption id="" align="alignright" width="229"] Image from Amazon[/caption] The winner of the Young Adult Fiction book for 2020 with 39,335 votes was Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo. From the very beginning, the book stood out for its writing format. Clap When You Land is a verse novel, which is a book written using poetry. This was hard for me to adjust to at first as I do not read a lot of poetry, but the rhythm of each girls’ voice grew on me. The book is written from the perspective of two young ladies who live very different lives but have one very important thing in common: their father. One of them is from New York and the other is from the Dominican Republic. The differing perspectives created an easy compare and contrast of not only their day-to-day lives, but also how they each grieve for their father. I found the book to be pretty sad, but can definitely see why it was voted as the highest of the young adult fiction category as it was my favorite book that I read on the list. It was a story that felt real and connected the reader with the characters while also presenting a unique writing style and diverse perspectives. And though I won’t spoil it, I enjoyed the ending a lot more than I thought I would.
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder[caption id="" align="alignright" width="234"] Image from Amazon[/caption] The second book on the list with 36,285 votes is A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson. This is a story of a young girl, Pip, who decides to investigate a murder from five years before as her capstone project. The murder involved the disappearance of a high school girl and then her boyfriend’s dying days later. The murder was pinned on him, but Pip does not think that the evidence adds up. Pip and the alleged murderer’s younger brother, Ravi, team up to investigate. I enjoyed how the author presented certain parts of the book as though the audience is reading her project logs and interview transcript. As for the plot, I was less impressed. I enjoyed the build of the book but found the ending to be a little disappointing. As a “whodunit” mystery, I was hoping the reveal would be satisfying, but I found it to be a little bit of a stretch for me. I was surprised that it was so high up on the list, but that could be due to the characters, who I found quite enjoyable.
One of Us is Next[caption id="" align="alignright" width="234"] Image from Amazon[/caption] One of Us is Next is the third book on the list with 34,540 votes, written by Karen M. McManus. As this was the sequel to One of Us is Lying, I chose to read that book first. After reading the first book I was not looking forward to reading the second one. The first book was from the perspectives of four students who witnessed another student die and are then considered suspects for his murder. It follows the four students and what becomes of their lives after these traumatic events and through the investigation. I felt specific parts of the ending were a little too much of a stretch for me. Luckily though, the second book was a lot better. The second book is told from the perspectives of three more students from the same high school years later. All three of them were featured in a school-wide truth or dare game where an anonymous individual targets people and threatens to tell everyone their secrets. I enjoyed all three of the narratives given and found the characters a little more relatable. The plot also felt less predictable compared to the first. I also loved that part of the second book was from Mauve’s perspective who is the sister of Bronwyn, one of the main characters in the first book. It was a nice transition that allowed the books to flow from one to the next. Personally, this book should be above A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder on the ranking.
Felix Ever After[caption id="" align="alignright" width="227"] Image from Amazon[/caption] The fourth book on the list is Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender with 24,077 votes. This book is written from the single perspective of Felix and follows him through his struggles of applying for college, navigating love, and accepting himself. I thoroughly enjoyed the viewpoint of the book as I have never read a book from the perspective of a black, queer, transgender teen. The ups and downs of his search for self-discovery were presented with great balance that showed the true turmoil individuals go through when trying to figure out who they are. Though the book didn’t have a lot of action, it wasn’t missed that much. It was one of the slower reads on the list, but it was a read that I felt made me put myself in someone else’s shoes, and therefore felt was worth it. I completely understand why this book was on the list and would rank it higher than fourth.
You Should See Me in a Crown[caption id="" align="alignright" width="235"] Image from Amazon[/caption] Last but not least, You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson came in fifth with 22,779 votes. This book follows a teen, Liz, who is trying to chase her dream of becoming a doctor after her mother died and her brother was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia. Throughout the book, she is striving to become prom queen, not for popularity, but for a scholarship to be able to go to college. Throughout the book, the reader sees character growth as she climbs the ranks to become the prom queen. This book also is based in Indiana which added a fun connection for those of us from the Hoosier state. The book was enjoyable and took its time to cover many issues that are present and relevant to high schoolers. The book had very few slow points which helped to keep me interested. Though it was aimed at a younger audience than college students, I thought it was a worth-it read.
In conclusion...I was surprised by how diverse the reads on the list were. From mystery to realistic, the list was well rounded. It also had perspectives from different genders, sexualities, and races. As a reader, I felt that it gave any reader the opportunity to experience something they would never be able to themselves. Though some of the books fell below my expectations, the list as a whole was well-rounded and a fun way to fill the end of my 2020 year.
Sources: Goodreads Images: Amazon Featured Image: Audible