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Must-Reads You Likely Haven't Seen on BookTok

Culture

Are you tired of seeing the same books over and over on BookTok? Since the BookTok community was formed in 2020, the same books keep reappearing even today. You have most likely already heard of the most popular recommendations that keep popping up on my For You page, which range from "The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue" by V. E. Schwab, "The Love Hypothesis" by Ali Hazelwood, "The Song of Achilles" by Madeline Miller, to "Verity" by Colleen Hover, and "The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo" by Taylor Jenkins Reid.

I admit that many of these books are incredible and deserve the praise they get. "The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo" is personally one of my favorites. However, there are so many other must-reads out there that don't get the recognition that they deserve, and I would like to see those books on BookTok, rather than always seeing the same ones. So here are some of those must-read novels that you most likely haven't heard about on BookTok, but certainly should have!

via GIPHY

"Little Universes" by Heather Demetrios

TW: loss of parents, death, addiction, depression, cheating, drug use, abortion, suicide attempt, overdose, grief

Low-resolution image (fair use), via Goodreads

I read this Young Adult fiction book around a year ago, when quarantine was still around in our lives, and finished it in one setting. Goodreads has rated this novel 4.28 stars, and the age rating is 14 years old and up. Little Universes contains a lot of heavy topics that may be difficult for some readers, so please check the trigger warnings before reading it. It is, however, much more than that. This standalone is about sisters, sorrow, love, and self-esteem. It is about learning that you are enough, even if you don't feel like you are, and that not everything has a solution or can be fixed. I especially enjoyed how the author included the aspect of space in the sisters' lives. This book is a must-read, even if you do not have a sister yourself!

One wave: that's all it takes for the rest of Mae and Hannah Winter's lives to change. (Goodreads)

Mae and Hannah Winters are two sisters that lost their parents unexpectedly to a tsunami. The comfortable lives that they once lived were turned around after that insurmountable loss. They were forced to move to Boston to live with their aunt Nora. While Hannah, a secret poet, is fighting depression and opioid addiction, Mae, being adopted, is trying to figure out how she belongs in the Winters family and if she should pursue her dream of becoming an astronaut and risk losing her only family left. The wave that changed their lives has torn them apart, rather than bringing them closer in a time of grief.

"Pachinko" by Lee Min-jin

TW: violence, mentions of abuse, mentions of war and bombing, pedophilia, suicide, racism, sexism

Low-resolution image (fair use), via Goodreads

Lee Min-jin's Pachinko is a historical fiction standalone that takes place in the early 1900s in Korea and Japan. You will follow four generations of a Korean family as history unfolds around them, putting them through many hardships. It has earned 4.31 stars on Goodreads and if you decide to pick it up, I recommend being at least 14 or 15 years old because it has heavy themes and, while it has valuable information and meaning, it can be a very sad novel. Nonetheless, don't let that discourage you; reading Pachinko is a brilliant and heartbreaking experience that you will likely never forget! A small hint: understanding the meaning behind the term Pachinko will help enrich the reading.

In the early 1900s, teenaged Sunja, the adored daughter of a crippled fisherman, falls for a wealthy stranger at the seashore near her home in Korea. He promises her the world, but when she discovers she is pregnant — and that her lover is married — she refuses to be bought. Instead, she accepts an offer of marriage from a gentle, sickly minister passing through on his way to Japan. But her decision to abandon her home, and to reject her son's powerful father, sets off a dramatic saga that will echo down through the generations. (Goodreads)

"Girls Made of Snow and Glass" by Melissa Bashardoust

TW: abuse, mentions of suicide/self-harm, violence, death, grief

Low-resolution image (fair use), via Goodreads

Frozen meets The Bloody Chamber in this feminist fantasy re-imagining of the Snow White fairytale. (Goodreads)

Girls Made of Snow and Glass uncovers the relationship between two young women, sixteen-year-old Mina and fifteen-year-old Lynet, who are condemned to being rivals from the very start.

Mina is motherless, and her father is a magician. Her heart is silent, yet she believes it is entirely normal, even if it has never beaten at all. She would never have guessed that her ruthless father had cut her heart out and replaced it with one made entirely out of glass. Years later, she moves to Whitespring Castle and forms a plan when she sees the king; she will win the king's heart with her beauty, become queen, and hopefully, finally, know what love feels like. On the other hand, Lynet, the daughter of said king, looks just like her mother. One day, she discovers that the reason is that her father had ordered a magician to create her out of snow in the image of the late queen. Despite looking exactly like the dead queen and her father's expectations of her having the same fragile elegance as her mother, she would much rather be as fierce as her stepmother, Mina. Her father then makes her queen of the southern territories and Mina, who Lynet considered her mother, starts to look at her with hatred.

Lynet must decide what to do—and who to be—to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all. (Goodreads)

This fantasy standalone has achieved 3.8 stars on Goodreads and is appropriate for anyone from 12 years old and upwards. If you are like me and love retellings, then I would highly recommend giving this book a try!

"When the Moon Was Ours" by Anna-Marie McLemore

TW: transphobia, abuse, misgendering, homophobia, death

Low-resolution image (fair use), via Goodreads

This is a brilliant must-read novel about a boy with prior secrets, a girl hiding the truth, and four sisters who are willing to ruin them both. It has 3.92 stars on Goodreads and is recommended for readers aged 12 and up. When the Moon Was Ours is a Young Adult fantasy that follows two characters: Miel and Sam. Miel has roses blooming out of her wrist and legend has it that she spilled out of a water tower when she was a child. Sam, on the other hand, is well-known for his moon paintings and for hanging out in trees, but little is known about the life he had before he moved to town. Even so, these two friends knew a lot about each other; Sam knows about the weight the roses had on his friend, and Miel is aware of how Sam only desired to be a boy who would become a man. Even if everyone considers them to be weird, they also stay away from the four Bonner sisters, who are rumored to be witches.

Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up. (Goodreads)

"Vespertine" by Margaret Rogerson

TW: anxiety, self-harm, suicide, abuse, disordered eating, trauma

Low-resolution image (fair use), via Goodreads

If you are reading this article, then you have probably heard of the popular "Sorcery of Thorns" and "An Enchantment of Ravens" novels. Well, Margaret Rogerson, the author of those two books, also published Vespertine, a fantasy novel for readers 14 years and upwards, with a rating of 4.12 stars!

Artemisia is training to be a Grey Sister, to prepare dead bodies for their final rest alongside the other nuns at the convent. She enjoys working with the dead, compared to the living, who only enjoy whispering rumors about her scares and her past. Suddenly, her convent is attacked by possessed soldiers and the only way she can defeat them is to awaken an ancient spirit; a malicious spirit that threatens to possess her the moment she lets her guard down.

As she unravels a sinister mystery of saints, secrets, and dark magic, her bond with the revenant grows. And when a hidden evil begins to surface, she discovers that facing this enemy might require her to betray everything she has been taught to believe—if the revenant doesn’t betray her first. (Goodreads)

"Red Thread of Fate" by Lyn Liao Butler

TW: death, grief

Low-resolution image (fair use), via Goodreads

On Goodreads, Red Thread of Fate is rated at 3.67 stars and the appropriate age rating for this book is 12 years old and up. The book follows Tam Kwan after the sudden death of her husband, Tony, and his cousin, Mia. Still in shock, she ends up becoming the legal guardian of Mia's five-year-old daughter. Furthermore, she contemplates whether to complete the adoption that she and Tony had started and bring home the son waiting for her at a Chinese orphanage.

As Tam begins to unravel the events of Tony and Mia's past in China, she discovers the true meaning of love and the threads that bind her to the family she is fated to have. (Goodreads)

"She Drives Me Crazy" by Kelly Quindlen

TW: homophobia, bullying

Low-resolution image (fair use), via Goodreads

She Drives Me Crazy is a queer Young Adult Book that has 4.05 stars on Goodreads. It is a cute sapphic sports rom-com standalone between two high school nemeses, which is suitable for anyone 12 years old and up. If you enjoy the enemies-to-lovers and the fake dating romance tropes, then this book is perfect for you! Be aware that there are a few trigger warnings, including homophobia, but they are shown in a negative light.

After losing spectacularly to her ex-girlfriend in their first game since their break-up, Scottie Zajac gets into a fender bender with the worst possible person: her nemesis, the incredibly beautiful and incredibly mean Irene Abraham. (Goodreads)

Things only worsen when their mothers force them to carpool together until Irene's car is repaired. When she gets an opportunity to get back at her ex-girlfriend, she bribes Irene into pretending they are dating. What could go wrong?

"Onyx and Ivory" by Mindee Arnett

TW: death, violence

Low-resolution image (fair use), via Goodreads

This book is appropriate for readers 12 years old and up and Goodreads' rating is 3.84 stars. Onyx and Ivory is the first book of a duology: the Rime Chronicles. It is an amazing choice of reading, especially if you love hidden magic and the lovers-to-enemies-to-lovers trope!

Kate Brighton, mostly called Traitor Kate due to her father's attempt to assassinate the high king, lives as an outcast and works as a Relay for the imperial courier service. Only the best can be a Relay, especially since the towns are surrounded by deadly creatures. However, Kate has a hidden secret; she can use magic to influence the minds of animals. This magic leads her to an attacked caravan, where the only survivor is her first love, her childhood friend, the boy who broke her heart. Corwin Tormance is the king's second son. He has never minded not being the first son since he was never a fan of leading. But he can't escape his duties, so he goes on a peacekeeping tour where he gets too much time to contemplate his life. He can't stop thinking about the night he saved his father's life, from the father of the girl he loved. It was the same night where he lost said girl, only to be saved by her years later.

With their paths once more entangled, Kate and Corwin have to put the past behind them. The threat of drakes who attack in the daylight is only the beginning of a darker menace stirring in the kingdom—one whose origins have dire implications for Kate’s father’s attack upon the king and will thrust them into the middle of a brewing civil war in the kingdom of Rime. (Goodreads)

"What the Fireflies Knew" by Kai Harris

TW: death, sexual assault, racism, drug abuse, depression

Low-resolution image (fair use), via Goodreads

While reading this coming-of-age novel, you will follow Kenyatta Bernice, or KB, as she tries to find herself a different identity and her voice. With over 6300 ratings, it has earned 3.87 stars on Goodreads. What the Fireflies Knew is written from the perspective of an eleven-year-old child, KB, as she tries to live her summer with her sister and her estranged grandfather, after the death of her father and the mysterious disappearance of her mother. It is a powerful and captivating read, but I wouldn't recommend this book for young readers since it does contain heavy themes.

Over the course of a single, sweltering summer, KB attempts to get her bearings in a world that has turned upside down--a father who is labeled a fiend; a mother whose smile no longer reaches her eyes; a sister, once her best friend, who has crossed the threshold of adolescence and suddenly wants nothing to do with her; a grandfather who is grumpy and silent; the white kids across the street who are friendly, but only sometimes. And all of them are keeping secrets. (Goodreads)

"Yolk" by Mary H.K. Choi

TW: disordered eating, body dysmorphia, bulimia, bullying, illness, substance use, slut-shaming, racism, miscarriage, infertility, abandonment

Low-resolution image (fair use), via Goodreads

Mary H.K. Choi's novel Yolk is an emotional story about two estranged sisters who switch places and commit insurance fraud to save one another. The age rating for this fiction book is 14 years old and up. Additionally, it has earned 4.04 stars on Goodreads.

Jayne Baek is barely getting by. She shuffles through fashion school, saddled with a deadbeat boyfriend, clout-chasing friends, and a wretched eating disorder that she’s not fully ready to confront. But that’s New York City, right? At least she isn’t in Texas anymore, and is finally living in a city that feels right for her.

On the other hand, her sister June is dazzlingly rich with a high-flying finance job and a massive apartment. Unlike Jayne, June has never struggled a day in her life. Until she’s diagnosed with uterine cancer.Suddenly, these estranged sisters who have nothing in common are living together. Because sisterly obligations are kind of important when one of you is dying. (Goodreads)

"The Year After You" by Nina de Pass

TW: guilt, homophobia, suicide, mental illness

Low-resolution image (fair use), via Goodreads

With over 2900 ratings and 390 reviews, The Year After You has 4.06 stars on Goodreads. This Young Adult fiction novel follows a young girl, Cara, who is consumed by grief and guilt after a New Year's Eve accident where she lived, but her best friend, G, didn't. Her mother sends her to a boarding school in Switzerland, where she hopes Cara will be able to have a fresh start. Even if Cara is determined to keep her past a secret, her new classmates, Ren and Hector, insist on breaking down her walls.

The problem is that the closer Cara gets to Hector, the more G slips away. If moving on means letting go of the past--and admitting what she did that night--Cara's not sure she can. (Goodreads)

"Girl in the Blue Coat" by Monica Hesse

TW: violence, abuse, death

Low-resolution image (fair use), via Goodreads

Monica Hesse's Girl in the Blue Coat is a historical fiction novel that reveals the horrors people in occupied territories, such as the Netherlands, had to endure during the Second World War. It has earned 4.04 stars on Goodreads. In Amsterdam, 1942, the protagonist, Hanneke, spends her days procuring black-market goods for customers, while she tries to hide her job from her parents. She also spends every waking moment mourning her dead boyfriend, who was killed on the Dutch front lines when the Germans invaded.

On a routine delivery, a client asks Hanneke for help. Expecting to hear that Mrs. Janssen wants meat or kerosene, Hanneke is shocked by the older woman's frantic plea to find a person - a Jewish teenager Mrs. Janssen had been hiding, who has vanished without a trace from a secret room. Hanneke initially wants nothing to do with such dangerous work, but is ultimately drawn into a web of mysteries and stunning revelations that lead her into the heart of the resistance, open her eyes to the horrors of the Nazi war machine, and compel her to take desperate action. (Goodreads)

"The Weight of Our Sky" by Hanna Alkaf

TW: death, racism, violence, panic attacks, OCD, gore, anxiety

Low-resolution image (fair use), via Goodreads

The Weight of Our Sky is a Young Adult fiction novel that is suitable for ages 14 and up. On Goodreads, it has received 4.23 stars. If you decide to give this book a try, you will follow a music-loving sixteen-year-old with OCD, Melati Ahmad, who is trying to find her way back to her mother during the historic race riots in 1969, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Not only will you follow Melati's experiences with racism and violence, but also her experiences of being mentally ill in 1969.

With a 24-hour curfew in place and all lines of communication down, it will take the help of a Chinese boy named Vincent and all of the courage and grit in Melati’s arsenal to overcome the violence on the streets, her own prejudices, and her djinn’s surging power to make it back to the one person she can’t risk losing. (Goodreads)

"Last Star Burning" by Caitlin Sangster

TW: violence, death

Low-resolution image (fair use), via Goodreads

Last Star Burning is the first book of a trilogy and has 3.65 stars on Goodreads. This dystopian fiction shadows Sev, who was branded with a star on her hand — the mark of a criminal. This is her punishment for being the daughter of the woman who betrayed their entire country. She is then forced into labor, to prove that she's more valuable alive than dead. However, when a horrific bombing occurs, they run to blame her. So, she must find a way to escape the city, alive.

Unimaginable dangers lurk outside the city walls, and Sev’s only hope of survival lies with the most unlikely person—Howl, the chairman’s son. Though he promises to lead her to safety, Howl has secrets, and Sev can’t help but wonder if he knows more about her past—and her mother’s crimes—than he lets on. (Goodreads)

"Ash Princess" by Laura Sebastian

TW: violence, death, abuse, mentions of sexual assault

Low-resolution image (fair use), via Goodreads

Ash Princess is the first YA fantasy book that belongs to the Ash Princess trilogy. It is followed by Lady Smoke, and then Ember Queen. Its rating on Goodreads is 3.89 stars. It does contain a few descriptions of violence, so I suggest following the age rating and being at least 14 years old. However, don't let that discourage you; this is a thrilling three-book story for you to sink into and follow.

Theodosia, the main character, was six when her kingdom was invaded, and her mother was killed right before her eyes. The man who took everything from her, even her name — the Kaiser — crowned her as the Ash Princess. The meaning behind the title is that her country will never rise from the ashes that it now is.

For ten years Theo has been a captive in her own palace. She's endured the relentless abuse and ridicule of the Kaiser and his court. She is powerless, surviving in her new world only by burying the girl she was deep inside.

Then, one night, the Kaiser forces her to do the unthinkable. With blood on her hands and all hope of reclaiming her throne lost, she realizes that surviving is no longer enough. But she does have a weapon: her mind is sharper than any sword. And power isn't always won on the battlefield.

For ten years, the Ash Princess has seen her land pillaged and her people enslaved. That all ends here. (Goodreads)

"The Book Eaters" by Sunyi Dean

TW: violence, abuse, gore, horror

Low-resolution image (fair use), via Goodreads

Did you ever enjoy a book so much that you wished you could taste the story? Well, in The Book Eaters, as the title suggests, people live in a world where they do eat books. Furthermore, they retain all the knowledge from the pages they eat.

To them, spy novels are a peppery snack; romance novels are sweet and delicious. Eating a map can help them remember destinations, and children, when they misbehave, are forced to eat dry, musty pages from dictionaries.

Devon is part of The Family, an old and reclusive clan of book eaters. Her brothers grow up feasting on stories of valor and adventure, and Devon—like all other book eater women—is raised on a carefully curated diet of fairytales and cautionary stories. (Goodreads)

Devon soon learns about the unique trait her son has — he does not enjoy devouring books but rather human minds. The Book Eaters is a fantasy and horror novel that has 4.18 stars on Goodreads. If you are interested in reading this novel, I suggest being at least 14 or 15 years old.

via GIPHY

There are so many more underrated books that don't appear on BookTok, but these are some. These novels are brilliant, captivating, and emotional reads that you should make sure to give a try!

Daria Daliri

Daria is a high school student from Canada. She has a passion for writing and science. She also enjoys reading, learning new languages, swimming, and drawing.