It’s time for my last post of 2020! I can’t believe that it’s the end of the year already – I’m relieved but kinda scared at how fast time is going by!
While 2020 was a really awful year, lockdown and not being able to socialise much was actually a blessing for us bookworms out there. Being stuck at home for most of the year meant that we could catch up on our TBR list and read books that would have otherwise been stuck on our shelves. Many of us were able to extend our Goodreads Challenge Reading Goal as we had lots of unexpected time off work. I set myself the task of reading between 40 and 50 books in 2020, and I managed to exceed that by completing a grand total of 52.5 books – 21.5 more books than I read in 2019!
I read such a fantastic range of books in 2020, starting with Sarra Manning’s You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me in January and finishing with The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Jenny Bayliss in December. As with previous years, pretty much all of the books I read in 2020 fell into either the YA, New Adult, Chick-lit, Romance and Historical genres. Trying to narrow down my top books of 2020 was no easy task, but I eventually settled on 13 books that I’ll share with you in this post.
1. The Confession – Jessie Burton
I loved The Miniaturist and The Muse, so it comes as no surprise that I adored The Confession too. It’s a beautiful novel that touches on female identity and relationships, and is told in dual timelines: the 1970s – 1980s and the present day. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about both timelines, and they flowed together seamlessly. The Confession is quite a hefty book, with over 400 pages, but I was completely swept up in the story and managed to finish it in a few days, which proves how good it is. You can read my full review of The Confession here.
2. Fairytale – Danielle Steel
Long time readers of this blog will know how much I love retellings (especially those of Cinderella), so when I spotted a copy of Fairytale in a local bookshop, I just had to buy it. Fairytale can basically be summed as “Cinderella for older readers”. As you’d expect from a Cinderella retelling, Fairytale has a female protagonist (named Camille) who lost both her parents and is treated badly by her stepmother (Maxine) and stepsiblings (who in this case are male). There’s also the fairy godmother figure (Maxine’s mother Simone) who is eager to help Camille. I could go on and on about what I loved about Fairytale, but I think it’s best summarised in my full review.
3. The Prom – Saundra Mitchell
I didn’t know much about The Prom prior to reading it, other than that it’s based on a musical, but when I heard that Netflix was adapting it into a film with big names like Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman, I immediately added it to my TBR list. The Prom is a quick read that I devoured in no time. It centres on a gay teenager who is eager to take her girlfriend Alyssa to prom. Unfortunately, Alyssa isn’t exactly out of the closet yet – thanks to her conservative mum – and the other students at her school aren’t very LGBTQ-friendly either. After failing Broadway stars Barry and Dee Dee find out about Alyssa’s situation, they are outraged and decide to help her, in the hopes that it will boost their image.
The Prom is a fun, light-hearted romcom that will appeal to fans of YA LGBTQ books and musicals. The film is worth a watch too.
4. Regretting You – Colleen Hoover
I have yet to read a book by Colleen Hoover that I didn’t enjoy, so of course Regretting You would be one of my top books of 2020. It focuses on a mother and daughter who have quite a close relationship until a tragic accident occurs. Morgan doesn’t want her daughter Clara to repeat the same mistakes she did, but this proves difficult when ‘bad boy’ Miller enters their life. Regretting You is a touching story that successfully tackles grief and the changing relationship between a mother and daughter. I’d highly recommend Regretting You to fans of Colleen Hoover and New Adult books.
5. How to Be Happy – Eva Woods
Next on my list of the top books of 2020 is How to Be Happy. I absolutely adored this book, from start to finish, and I’m sure that I’ll pick it up again sometime in the future. If you’re in a bit of a reading slump, How to Be Happy is the book for you. It’s an easy read, but at the same time the kind of book that’ll make you appreciate life more, and the underlying message is that you should give people a chance as you never know the impact they’ll have on you. Head over to my Mini Book Reviews #10 for my mini review of How to Be Happy.
6. Twenties Girl – Sophie Kinsella
Twenties Girl is a thoroughly entertaining book from the queen of chick-lit herself, Sophie Kinsella. It may be longer than Sophie Kinsella’s other books, but don’t let that put you off. Twenties Girl is fast-paced and you’ll easily whizz through it. The book focuses on a young woman called Lara who is sent on a wild goose chase when the ghost of her great aunt Sadie pays her a visit. The supernatural element is the first of its kind in Sophie Kinsella’s book, but it makes Twenties Girl a fun read, and I enjoyed reading about Sadie’s life during the 1920s, when vintage dresses and formal parties were all the rage. I have a few criticisms of Twenties Girl, but they’re very minor, and don’t stop it from being one of my top books of 2020.
7. Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng
How could I not include this book in my list of the top books of 2020?! Little Fires Everywhere is a phenomenal book, and I don’t think I’ve heard a single bad thing about it! Celeste Ng has created an engrossing novel that is full of multi-layered characters and a unique plot. Little Fires Everywhere is a thought-provoking domestic noir that weaves together family dynamics, racism and identity. Teenager Pearl moves to Shaker Heights with her mother Mia, who is very secretive about Pearl’s father. Pearl starts hanging out with the Richardson family and everything seems to be going well until both families become entangled in a custody battle involving a Chinese-American couple and their baby. As with The Confession and Regretting You, Little Fires Everywhere is another novel that centres on relationships, particularly that between mothers and daughters. If you haven’t read Little Fires Everywhere, I urge you to do so ASAP. Oh, and watch the TV adaptation too!
8. The Flatshare – Beth O’Leary
The Flatshare is one of the top feel-good books of 2020, and it definitely lived up to the hype. The book has an odd concept – it’s about 2 strangers (one man and one woman) who decide to share a bed together to save on rent – but it works. The Flatshare is predictable, but it’s an enjoyable read and I liked the alternating chapters between Tiffy and Leon. Despite being a chick-lit novel, The Flatshare does have some hard topics (TW: emotional abuse and stalking) that I didn’t expect prior to reading it. I’m looking forward to reading The Switch and The Road Trip next year!
9. Lessons in Love – Clarissa Carlyle
I read 6 teacher x student books in 2020, and along with My Dark Vanessa and Unteachable, Lessons in Love was one that stood out the most. It follows a high school girl called Alex who is hiding something from her past that threatens her future. When Alex meets her new teacher Mark, she is able to open up for the first time and come to terms with the traumatic event from her past. Okay, so the whole teacher x student element of Lessons in Love is problematic, but if you look past that, Clarissa Carlyle has written a moving story that has a lot more substance than other books with that trope. There’s no doubt that I’ll be reading the sequels at some point in 2021.
10. My Dark Vanessa – Kate Elizabeth Russell
My Dark Vanessa is one of the most difficult books I read in 2020, but at the same time it was also one of the books that stuck with me long after I read it. In My Dark Vanessa, Kate Elizabeth Russell examines the long-lasting consequences of an inappropriate relationship between a teacher and student. While Vanessa realised that Jacob had been abusing her while she was a teenager, she still loved him and wanted to protect him when other allegations against him came out over 15 years later. Most books that focus on teacher x student relationships seem to glamorise it, but My Dark Vanessa highlighted just how much of a predator Jacob was: he clearly took advantage of Vanessa’s innocence and the fact that she didn’t have many friends. My Dark Vanessa is such an important book in the era of the #MeToo movement. It’s long and uncomfortable, but all in all a powerful read.
11. Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares – David Levithan and Rachel Cohn
I just loved Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares so much! It’s a cute YA romance set in New York during the festive season, and centres on two teenagers who meet by chance after one of them stumbles upon a red notebook full of challenges that the other left in a bookshop. The notebook travels between the pair as they set each other dares and learn more about each other, and eventually meet up in person. I love how different Dash and Lily are: Dash is a bit of a Scrooge, claiming that Christmas is “the most detestable time of the year”, while Lily is super excited about Christmas. Despite this, Dash and Lily connect through their obsession of books and the fact that they are both separated from their parents over the holidays.
Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares is such a page turner, and I managed to read it in a couple of sittings. It’s predictable, but sometimes you need that. Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares is guaranteed to bring you joy in such a terrible year. It’ll leave you feeling warm and cosy, which is exactly what a Christmas book should do. Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares will appeal to fans of John Green, Jenny Han and other YA Christmas novels like Let It Snow and My True Love Gave To Me.
12. Hopeless – Colleen Hoover
As I mentioned in my full-length review, Hopeless exceeded my expectations. It has fantastic characterisation and is full of unexpected plot twists that made me unable to put it down. Hopeless is part romance, part thriller, and tackles tough issues such as (TW) rape, suicide and kidnapping. As with the other books I’ve read by Colleen Hoover, Hopeless is really vivid and made me cry. Like A LOT. I was a blubbering mess by the time I reached the last few pages. Since I loved Hopeless so much, I also added the other three books in the series (Losing Hope, Finding Cinderella and Finding Perfect) to my TBR list. I can’t wait to read them!
13. What Happened to Goodbye – Sarah Dessen
What Happened to Goodbye is a must read for fans of Sarah Dessen and anyone who loves YA. I read 3 Sarah Dessen books in 2020, and while I enjoyed all of them, What Happened to Goodbye was my favourite. It has all the things I love in a Sarah Dessen novel: a likeable protagonist, a compelling plot, and intriguing secondary characters. As with Sarah Dessen’s other protagonists, Mclean comes of age as the book progresses and is able to forgive her mother for leaving her father. Mclean is keen to help everyone around her, especially her father who is struggling with the restaurant he has been tasked with managing in Lakeview, and Deb, who joined the town’s high school not long before Mclean did and found it hard to settle in. Although there is some romance in What Happened to Goodbye, it’s not the main focus of the novel, and Mclean is more family-oriented than other girls her age. I know I’ll want to pick up What Happened to Goodbye again sometime in the future.
Honourable mentions: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, One of Us is Lying, Beach Read, No Judgments and Christmas Ever After.
Wow, that was a really really long post – I actually think it’s the most I’ve ever written for my blog! Well done to anyone who managed to read the whole thing! What are your favourite books of 2020? Did you manage to achieve your Goodreads Challenge?