Book Recommendation · Bookish List

Recommending My Favorite Underrated Books

Hello friends! I’m here with a recommendation post today – which, honestly, is not surprising as I love writing these types of post – but the format I’m using is a bit different from usual; I used bullet points instead of writing one or two paragraphs for each book. This way, I hope you can easily find your next read based on the tropes, themes, favorite details, and content warnings I’ve highlighted for each book. I’d love to hear your feedback on which type of post you prefer – longer descriptions or bullet points? 👀

I think we all have favorite books – or book we enjoyed a lot – that, quite frankly, deserve so much more hype than they’ve received. Today, I’m sharing some of mine and afterwards I’d love to hear about yours too, I love discovering little known books. 🙂

It Sounded Better in My Hear
Nina Kenwood

When her parents announce their impending divorce, Natalie can’t understand why no one is fighting, or at least mildly upset. Then Zach and Lucy, her two best friends, hook up, leaving her feeling slightly miffed and decidedly awkward. She’d always imagined she would end up with Zach one day―in the version of her life that played out like a TV show, with just the right amount of banter, pining, and meaningful looks. Now everything has changed, and nothing is quite making sense. Until an unexpected romance comes along and shakes things up even further.

It Sounded Better in My Head is a compulsively readable love letter to teenage romance in all of its awkward glory, perfect for fans To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Emergency Contact.

💙 age / genre: YA Contemporary

💙 tropes / themes: romance with best friend’s brother, there’s only one bed

💙 content warning: anxiety

💙 why you should read: I don’t even know where to start! It Sounded Better in My Head felt like a warm hug; it has awesome friendship, a banter-filled romance, and a heroine who has struggled with cystic acne and is now trying to deal with the self-esteem issues she has because of that. A captivating, lovely contemporary novel that lovers of the genre should not miss out on.

Miss Meteor
Tehlor Kay Meija and Anna-Marie McLemore

There hasn’t been a winner of the Miss Meteor beauty pageant who looks like Lita Perez or Chicky Quintanilla in all its history. But that’s not the only reason Lita wants to enter the contest, or why her ex-best friend Chicky wants to help her. The road to becoming Miss Meteor isn’t about being perfect; it’s about sharing who you are with the world—and loving the parts of yourself no one else understands. So to pull off the unlikeliest underdog story in pageant history, Lita and Chicky are going to have to forget the past and imagine a future where girls like them are more than enough—they are everything.

Witty and heartfelt with characters that leap off the page, Miss Meteor is acclaimed authors Anna-Marie McLemore and Tehlor Kay Mejia’s first book together.

💜 age / genre: YA Magical Realism

💜 tropes / themes: friends to lovers, ex-best friends finding their way back to each other

💜 content warning: racism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia

💜 why you should read it: I loved the way Miss Meteor focused on friendship, even as it had two – yes, you read that right, two – adorable friends to lovers romances. Beautiful novel about standing strong in the face of hatred and bullying. On a slightly different note, the audiobook gave me such a fantastic reading experience! The narrators were perfect.

The Girls I’ve Been
Tess Sharpe

Nora O’Malley’s been a lot of girls. As the daughter of a con-artist who targets criminal men, she grew up as her mother’s protégé. But when mom fell for the mark instead of conning him, Nora pulled the ultimate con: escape.

For five years Nora’s been playing at normal. But she needs to dust off the skills she ditched because she has three problems:

#1: Her ex walked in on her with her girlfriend. Even though they’re all friends, Wes didn’t know about her and Iris.

#2: The morning after Wes finds them kissing, they all have to meet to deposit the fundraiser money they raised at the bank. It’s a nightmare that goes from awkward to deadly, because:

#3: Right after they enter bank, two guys start robbing it.

The bank robbers may be trouble, but Nora’s something else entirely. They have no idea who they’re really holding hostage…

❤️ age / genre: YA Contemporary, Thriller

❤️ tropes / themes: friends to lovers, found family, con artist heroine

❤️ content warning: domestic abuse (physical and emotional), sexual assault (against a child)

❤️ why i loved it: If you’re looking for a YA thriller that will keep you captivated from start to finish, this one’s for you. Bonus points for how lovely the friendship / found family aspect of the novel was.

Last Night at the Telegraph Club
Malinda Lo

“That book. It was about two women, and they fell in love with each other.” And then Lily asked the question that had taken root in her, that was even now unfurling its leaves and demanding to be shown the sun: “Have you ever heard of such a thing?”

Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu can’t remember exactly when the question took root, but the answer was in full bloom the moment she and Kathleen Miller walked under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club.

America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall in love, especially not in Chinatown. Red-Scare paranoia threatens everyone, including Chinese Americans like Lily. With deportation looming over her father—despite his hard-won citizenship—Lily and Kath risk everything to let their love see the light of day.

🖤 age / genre: YA Historical Fiction

🖤 tropes / themes: friends to lovers, figuring out one’s sexuality

🖤 content warnings: homophobia, racism

🖤 why you should read it: The Last Night at the Telegraph Club screams “well-researched,” Malina Lo has obviously gone to great lengths to make this novel as accurate as possible, which is something I really love and appreciate. Another thing I appreciate was how soft and tentative the romance was between Lily and Kathleen – I was rooting for these girls so hard.

The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling
Wai Chim

Anna Chiu has her hands pretty full looking after her brother and sister and helping out at her dad’s restaurant, all while her mum stays in bed. Dad’s new delivery boy, Rory, is a welcome distraction and even though she knows that things aren’t right at home, she’s starting to feel like she could just be a normal teen.

But when Mum finally gets out of bed, things go from bad to worse. And as Mum’s condition worsens, Anna and her family question everything they understand about themselves and each other. 

🖤 age / genre: YA Contemporary

🖤 tropes / themes: friends to lovers, focus on the family

🖤 content warnings: depression, discussion of suicide

🖤 why you should read it: The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling is easily one of the best contemporaries I’ve ever read and it deserves so much more support and love than it has gotten. It’s a heartfelt contemporary about mental health and family, and to top it all off, it also has a lovely romance. Seriously, read this!

The Boy Who Steals Houses
C.G. Drews

Can two broken boys find their perfect home?

Sam is only fifteen but he and his autistic older brother, Avery, have been abandoned by every relative he’s ever known. Now Sam’s trying to build a new life for them. He survives by breaking into empty houses when their owners are away, until one day he’s caught out when a family returns home. To his amazement this large, chaotic family takes him under their wing – each teenager assuming Sam is a friend of another sibling. Sam finds himself inextricably caught up in their life, and falling for the beautiful Moxie.

But Sam has a secret, and his past is about to catch up with him.

💙 age / genre: YA Contemporary

💙 tropes / themes: found family, friends to lovers, focuses on the love between two brothers

💙 content warning: domestic abuse, physical violence, anxiety attacks

💙 why you should read: I’ve read few novels that concentrated on brotherhood to the extent that The Boy Who Steals Houses does and I loved that aspect of the book so much! These boys have gone through so much, so it was obviously painful to see them suffer and argue, but I closed to book feeling hopeful about their situation. If you love the found family trope, this one’s for you.

The How & the Why
Cynthia Hand

Today Melly had us writing letters to our babies…

Cassandra McMurtrey has the best parents a girl could ask for. They’ve given Cass a life she wouldn’t trade for the world. She has everything she needs—except maybe the one thing she wants. Like, to know who she is. Where she came from. Questions her adoptive parents can’t answer, no matter how much they love her.

But eighteen years ago, someone wrote Cass a series of letters. And they may just hold the answers Cass has been searching for.

Alternating between Cass’s search for answers and letters from the pregnant teen who gave her up for adoption, this voice-driven narrative is the perfect read for fans of Nina LaCour and Jandy Nelson. 

💚 age / genre: YA Contemporary

💚 tropes / themes: adoptive parents, imperfect friendship

💚 content warning: racism, heart condition, hospital

💚 why you should read: If you are looking for an honest, poignant YA contemporary where a protagonist is trying to find out who her real parents are – even though she loves her adoptive parents so much – then this one is for you.

Sick Kids in Love
Hannah Moskowitz

Isabel has one rule: no dating.
It’s easier–
It’s safer–
It’s better–
–for the other person.
She’s got issues. She’s got secrets. She’s got rheumatoid arthritis.
But then she meets another sick kid.
He’s got a chronic illness Isabel’s never heard of, something she can’t even pronounce. He understands what it means to be sick. He understands her more than her healthy friends. He understands her more than her own father who’s a doctor.
He’s gorgeous, fun, and foul-mouthed. And totally into her.
Isabel has one rule: no dating.
It’s complicated–
It’s dangerous–
It’s never felt better–
–to consider breaking that rule for him.

💙 age / genre: YA Contemporary

💙 tropes / themes: friends to lovers, “i will NOT get into a relationship”… and then she does 🤭

💙 content warning: hospitalization, chronic illness, ableism (challenged)

💙 why you should read: I loved the tentative way these two were building their friendship and their relationship. Isabel did NOT want to get into a relationship, but it was so lovely to see her put her worries and fears aside for Sasha as these two made the loveliest couple.

Let’s chat!

What are YOUR favorite underrated novels? Do we have any in common? Do you want to read any of these?

36 thoughts on “Recommending My Favorite Underrated Books

  1. I haven’t heard of ANY of these! It Sounded Better in My Head sounds super cute. The Girls I’ve Been sounds interesting too! Thank you for sharing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I read Miss Meteor quite recently and I loved the pageant premise! It was a cool move away from what I typically know about pageants. I thought the setting was really cool too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. These sound so good! I added It Sounded Better to my TBR just based on a character with cystic acne. I struggled with that in high school and I feel like this is the first YA book I’ve seen with a character who did also. I want to read that for teenage me.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I read four of those books, and they were spectacular hits for me. One thing I loved about Sick Kids is that it was about Sick Kids who don’t die or won’t die from their illnesses. The insight into what’s it’s like living with chronic illness was something I really appreciated. The How & the Why was another “window” book for me, and Hand told that story beautifully. And that ending! Just got chills. Good Dumpling, Sounded Better in My Head both fantastic as well. Great list!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great list! I loved Miss Meteor and It Sounded Better In My Head. I am so so excited to read Sick Kids in Love and Last Night at the Telegraph Club! I’ll add the others to my TBR too!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great Post!! ❤ I saw It Sounded Better in my Head as the first book on your list and immediately got excited as it was one of my faves of last year!! The story was so relatable to me and I wish more people would read it! 🥺 I also plan on reading Miss Meteor, Sick Kids in Love, and The How & the Why, so I’m happy to see that you liked them 🥰

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I feel bad, I was totally sure I’d have read at least one of these books and I’ve read a total of zero. I even have some of them on my TBR but just haven’t got around to reading. I’d not heard of Last Night at the Telegraph Club before so I will definitely be adding that to my TBR and I still need to pick up The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. great post and love these recs!! i added The How and the Why to my TBR – it sounds like a really emotional read and i can’t wait to pick it up 💕 and i absolutely loved It Sounded Better in my Head, it was such a lovely contemporary and the main character Natalie felt SO relatable for me 🥺

    Liked by 1 person

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