Sometimes, you finish a book and all you want to do is talk about it with someone else. In some cases, it’s pretty easy – books like The Hunger Games or The Lightning Thief are so widely read that pretty much anyone can contribute to a conversation on them. However, there are other times when it’s hard to find a fellow reader. You’ll be lucky to find someone else who’s even heard of the book, let alone read it.
I’ve encountered this problem more times than should be allowed. It can be lonely to read a book that has completely blown your mind and yet have no one to talk to about it. These underrated books deserve recognition though, and today, I’d like to share a few of my “little-known” favorites that you should definitely add to your to-be-read list.
1) The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Sage is an orphaned troublemaker living in a kingdom full of tension (read more about why Sage is one of my favorite YA heroes here). He’s recruited by Conner, a nobleman who needs someone who can impersonate the long-lost prince of the kingdom in order to claim the throne after the royal family’s deaths. Sage is one of four boys that Conner chooses, and each of them must do their best to play the part of a royal heir or be killed instead.
Without giving too much away, I love this book because it kept me guessing. Alliances between characters change constantly, and even though the story’s told from a first-person point of view, the narrator doesn’t reveal everything to the reader at once.
If you like witty and clever protagonists, mysteries, and fantasy worlds, I highly recommend this book.
2) Savvy by Ingrid Law
Mississippi “Mibs” Beaumont belongs to a strange family. Her grandfather can move mountains, her brother creates storms, and her mother always does everything perfectly. Everyone in the Beaumont family has a “savvy,” a supernatural power that manifests on their fourteenth birthday. Just as Mibs reaches her big day, her father is in a terrible car accident a few towns over. Mibs believes that her new savvy can save her father’s life, and so she stows away on a bus to get there. However, the journey is anything but a straight line.
Savvy is an interesting take on superpowers, which I love. It’s not even really a superhero book, per se, it’s just a family with these crazy abilities. I also love Mibs as a character – she’s a kid trying to figure out what she’s supposed to do, and doesn’t fall into a lot of the traps that MG/YA heroines often do. The interactions with her and her brother, Fish (yes, that’s his name) are really well-written too. Plus, her father is presented as a positive and caring figure, which I love to see!
I recommend this book if you’re interested in magical realism, or just want something that will make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.
3) Things Not Seen by Andrew Clements
Bobby Phillips has been living a normal life – that is until he wakes up one morning and can’t see himself in the mirror. Unfortunately, it’s not just a bad dream. Bobby is invisible. His parents tell him to stay inside and away from other people until they figure out what to do. Despite his parent’s wishes, Bobby does sneak out one day and meets Alicia. Alicia is blind, and so Bobby feels comfortable trusting her with his secret. Between the two of them and their families, they must find a way to “cure” Bobby of his invisibility, because people are starting to wonder what happened to him.
I read Things Not Seen all the way back in middle school and re-read it again more recently. It’s a short read, but I love it so much. Clements avoids many of the tropes that plague YA/MG novels, and he makes Bobby’s struggle very relatable. Sure, most of us have probably never been physically invisible, but Clements draws parallels between Bobby’s physical invisibility and the social invisibility that so many people experience (including Alicia). The book also features adult characters who actually impact the plot, and it even won the Schneider Family Book Award for its representation of a person with disabilities.
Recommended if you like realistic fiction with science-y elements, relatable main characters, and books that make you think without you even realizing it.
4) Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George
Creel wants to pursue her dream of becoming a seamstress, but her aunt has other ideas – sacrifice her to a dragon so that she can be rescued by (and consequently, married to) a chivalrous knight and solve their family’s financial needs. When Creel meets the dragon, however, she decides she has other plans – she takes a pair of slippers from his hoard of shoes and travels off to the city. Little does she know, however, that there’s more to these slippers than meets the eye.
Kiara actually recommended this book to me a while back (she also helped me with the summary, because let’s face it, my memory is taken up by meaningless things like video game trivia), and I loved it so much. Creel is a refreshing break from the typical YA heroine – she’s no damsel in distress, but she doesn’t look down on other female characters, either. I also love George’s take on dragons. They’re not quite what you’d expect (one, for example, hoards stray dogs instead of gold or jewels).
If you like strong female characters that don’t disparage femininity, dragons, and unique fantasy kingdoms, this is the book for you.