Best and Worst of 2020



First Place:            The Shadows Between Us        Tricia Levenseller

In this intimate second-world fantasy, Alessandra Stathos sets out to woo (and subsequently kill) the infamous Shadow King. Full of courtly scheming and conniving characters, Levenseller creates a world and a cast both witty and captivating. Though her characters may not grow and change throughout the narrative to any great extent, they nonetheless provide an absorbing and entertaining form of escapism. 

Runner-Up:         Ruinsong                                            Julie Ember

In this sweeping second-world fantasy, Cadence must reconcile her position as queen's torturer with the dreams she and her childhood friend Remi had for themselves long ago. With positive LGBTQ+ representation, Ember manages to delicately render a new fantasy world that is as balanced as it is convicting. Though the pages are riddled with gore, Ember's characters are complex and her world engrossing in a way that made the book feel too short--in a good way. 

Runner-Up:         Loveboat, Taipei                            Abigail Hing Wen

In this contemporary coming-of-age story, Ever Wong uses the last summer before college to break out of her restrictive childhood and learn who she is outside of her family's rules. With a first generation Asian-American girl at the forefront, Wen consciously eliminates stereotypes in this romantic Bildungsroman. Using Taipei as a colorful backdrop, some descriptions feel a bit superficial, but the story of Ever coming into herself shines through nonetheless. 


First Place:             The Queen's Assassin                Melissa de la Cruz

In this cliché second world fantasy, runaway Shadow must convince the Queen's Assassin himself, handsome Caledon Holt, to take her on as apprentice. Complete with a boring (double) prologue, repetitive worldbuilding, and difficult-to-follow writing, de la Cruz fails to create a compelling addition to the genre. Though this piece has great building blocks, de la Cruz does nothing new with the tropes she includes. 

Runner-Up:           Infinity Son                                    Adam Silvera

In this fun urban fantasy set in an alternate universe, brothers Emil and Brighton are thrust into a world of superheroes and magic on their eighteenth birthday and wrestle with the new roles they have to fill. Though full of casual diversity and interesting fantasy elements, Silvera's newest novel ultimately falls short of the high bar set for YA fantasy. The pacing is too quick, the characters and fantasy terms are too abundant, and the tropes are too much of a crutch throughout this work.

Runner-Up:             All Your Twisted Secrets        Diana Urban

In this contemporary suspense, what reads like an updated cast for The Breakfast Club have to work together or die trying when they are all trapped in a room with an active bomb. Though Urban's concept should be entertaining, ultimately, the reveals are too quick, and the actions taken are too dramatic, even in light of the dramatic situation at hand. Though the non-linear timeline helps Urban create some mystery, it also causes the plot to drag, and a pacing problem like this is the ruin of good suspense. 


  1. Best bioluminescence of 2020: All the Stars and Teeth


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Sky's End / Marc J. Gregson / Book Review

Most Ardently: A Pride & Prejudice Remix / Gabe Cole Novoa / Book Review

Best and Worst of 2023