2020 was the year for strong female characters! This year has been a work in progress as far as rebuilding the habit of reading and relearning how to read for fun. That being said, I had no trouble reading these books, some of which I was able to get through in one or two sittings. While I read other books with a variety of characters, I always go back to women that I can relate to on some level. These are the only books that I rated 5/5 on my Goodreads page, (follow me to see all the books I read) which made narrowing down my top 5 pretty easy. For a synopsis on each book, I have included a link to the Goodreads page for each. Now without further ado, my ranking of my favorite reads of 2020.
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
By: Hank Green
This is the light and breezy sci-fi that I didn’t know I needed. Sci-fi is a genre that I am usually intimidated by usually because of the extensive world building that comes along with it. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing strikes the perfect balance between unbelievable sci-fi happenings and grounded characters in a universe that I recognize. The main character, April May, is unapologetic and stubborn to a fault. She is reluctantly thrown into the public eye due to her discovery of an alien being and she provides an uncensored view of influencer life. I think that Hank Green did a great job at capturing the uncertainty of life as a twenty-something just trying to figure things out, while also crafting a compelling mystery. The overall tone of this book was unusual in the sense that the narrator is addressing the reader directly. This allowed for some funny moments as well as some much needed introspection from April May. I was a bit dissatisfied at the end due to the massive cliff hanger, but that just means I will be readingA Beautifully Foolish Endeavour in 2021.
Where the Crawdads Sing
By: Delia Owens
This novel was a buzzy book that I had heard tons of people raving about. Not only was it a Reese Witherspoon book club pick, but it was also a book that I read in my book club. This book has it all, murder mystery, coming of age, a touch of romance, marsh science, and betrayal. The writing in this novel was so beautifully done. Throughout the novel we follow Kya from her childhood all the way through old age and the writing style changes to mirror her development. There were time jumps that allowed the reader to really get invested in Kya as a character while evidence for the murder is slowly revealed. I loved how this book tackled heavy themes while still remaining true to Kya’s experiences and allowed the reader to learn about prejudices and injustices in the community along with Kya. I do think that this book suffered a bit with some pacing, especially toward the end where it seemed like the author just sped through a large portion of important details. However, I still cried my eyes out and rated it as my first 5 star read of 2020.
The Hate U Give
By: Angie Thomas
Full disclosure: I had attempted to read this novel many times and did not finish it many times. I think I had checked it out from the library in various forms ever since it was released in 2017. The racial unrest in the U.S. this year made it apparent that I needed to read this book. Starr serves as the perfect lens for viewing racial injustices because she attends a predominantly white school but lives in a predominantly Black neighborhood. Her struggles with code switching, covert racism, and being in a relationship with a white boy were all crucial to her figuring out where she belonged. It allows for the reader to learn along with her. Her perspectives about injustices and identity showed bravery where bravery seems impossible. The part of this book that really resonated with me was the Author’s Note at the end. Angie Thomas talks about representation and when she saw that there were very few books featuring Black girls, she wanted to write about Black girls who are powerful and use their voices to inspire change.
Know My Name
By: Chanel Miller
This memoir is unbelievably poignant and heart breaking. Everyone should read this book. While I expected details of Chanel Miller’s trial to be disturbing and horrific, I did not expect how incredible the writing was. She expertly describes her experience as a victim and her experience reclaiming her identity after being widely known as “Emily Doe” in the media when the Stanford rape case became public. Chanel discusses difficult topics such as victims rights, victim blaming, and PTSD. She is able to recall anecdotes from her life to help her describe how she was feeling throughout the duration of the trial without them feeling out of place or trite. This book is so important for everyone to see how truly difficult it is for rape victims to have to relive their trauma in court for only a fraction of hope for justice. Her writing is poetic and inspired and she is able to articulate traumatic memories with such eloquence that it often left me speechless. Truly a remarkable memoir.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
By: Taylor Jenkins Reid
I went in to this book expecting a fun novel about Old Hollywood glamour and while this novel certainly delivered on that front, it also was a devastating coming of age story that dealt with whitewashing in Hollywood, LGBTQ+ erasure, and the calculation of Hollywood tabloids. I both loved and hated Evelyn Hugo. This novel works by Evelyn telling her story to a reporter. I loved this framing because it allowed the reader to take in Evelyn’s story at a slower pace. The reporter, Monique, served as a great way to ground the reader and bring us back to the real world and all of the outside perceptions that we have about celebrities. There were also tabloid articles, blog posts, and social media posts sprinkled in to show the differences between what the public knew and saw about Evelyn’s life and what actually happened according to Evelyn herself. This novel handles a number of difficult topics without it feeling forced and without losing any sincerity. Both Monique’s and Evelyn’s character arcs throughout the novel were satisfying and believable even when their paths crossed through a shocking twist. This book gave me everything I wanted from a protagonist not once, but twice.