Well friends, we’re *finally* nearing the end of 2020. In a year full of upheaval, my reading certainly took a beating…but I’m still going to come at you with top 10 lists again this year, compiled of books I read on a variety of topics!
This year I narrowed it from 10 lists to 7 lists – I think y’all will be understanding! First up, my top 10 books that were published in 2020.
How to Be Ace by Rebecca Burgess
Summary: Growing up, Rebecca assumes sex is just a scary new thing they will ‘grow into’ as they get older, but when they leave school, start working and do grow up, they start to wonder why they don’t want to have sex with other people.
In this brave, hilarious and empowering graphic memoir, we follow Rebecca as they navigate a culture obsessed with sex – from being bullied at school and trying to fit in with friends, to forcing themself into relationships and experiencing anxiety and OCD – before coming to understand and embrace their asexual identity.
Giving unparalleled insight into asexuality and asexual relationships, How To Be Ace shows the importance of learning to be happy and proud of who you are.
Thoughts: Though this year has been one of great struggles, it’s also been a year of a growth in asexual representation. This graphic novel, recommended to me by my Ace Space group on Instagram, was absolutely lovely and so closely portrayed my experiences growing up and discovering my asexual identity. The illustrations are lovely, and I’m so thankful to have this story told in the graphic novel format!
Readalikes: Ace by Angela Chen, The Times I Knew I Was Gay by Eleanor Crewes, Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe
Ace by Angela Chen
Summary: What exactly is sexual attraction and what is it like to go through the world not experiencing it? What does asexuality reveal about consent, about compromise, about the structures of society? This exceedingly accessible guide to asexuality shows that the issues that aces face—confusion around sexual activity, the intersection of sexuality and identity, navigating different needs in relationships—are conflicts that all of us need to address as we move through the world.
Through interviews, cultural criticism, and memoir, Ace invites all readers to consider big-picture issues through the lens of asexuality, because every place that sexuality touches our world, asexuality does too.
Thoughts: If you follow me on Instagram, you know I haven’t been able to shut up about this book since I received an advanced reader’s copy earlier this year. Truly this is the book I want to hand each of my friends and family to give them a glimpse into my and other aces’ experiences, and I’m so thankful that people who are questioning their identity (especially teens) have this one as a reference point. I couldn’t be more grateful for Angela Chen and her work on this.
Readalikes: How to Be Ace by Rebecca Burgess, The Invisible Orientation by Julie Sondra Decker, Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe
Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade
Summary: Marcus Caster-Rupp has a secret. While the world knows him as Aeneas, the star of the biggest show on TV, Gods of the Gates, he’s known to fanfiction readers as Book!AeneasWouldNever, an anonymous and popular poster. Marcus is able to get out his own frustrations with his character through his stories, especially the ones that feature the internet’s favorite couple to ship, Aeneas and Lavinia. But if anyone ever found out about his online persona, he’d be fired. Immediately.
April Whittier has secrets of her own. A hardcore Lavinia fan, she’s hidden her fanfiction and cosplay hobby from her “real life” for years—but not anymore. When she decides to post her latest Lavinia creation on Twitter, her photo goes viral. Trolls and supporters alike are commenting on her plus-size take, but when Marcus, one half of her OTP, sees her pic and asks her out on a date to spite her critics, she realizes life is really stranger than fanfiction.
Even though their first date is a disaster, Marcus quickly realizes that he wants much more from April than a one-time publicity stunt. And when he discovers she’s actually Unapologetic Lavinia Stan, his closest fandom friend, he has one more huge secret to hide from her.
With love and Marcus’s career on the line, can the two of them stop hiding once and for all, or will a match made in fandom end up prematurely cancelled?
Thoughts: When this cover was unveiled, I immediately put it on my Goodreads to-be-read. A swoony cover with someone who looks like me- sign me up! And thankfully, the contents were just as beautiful as the cover- this was a cute romance I could NOT put down and reminded me of my past days as a member of many fandoms! Truly Olivia Dade is becoming one of my favorite authors and I can’t wait to see what’s next from her.
Readalikes: Conventionally Yours by Annabeth Albert, Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert, One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London
Apple: Skin to the Core by Eric Gansworth
Summary: The term “Apple” is a slur in Native communities across the country. It’s for someone supposedly “red on the outside, white on the inside.”
Eric Gansworth is telling his story in Apple (Skin to the Core). The story of his family, of Onondaga among Tuscaroras, of Native folks everywhere. From the horrible legacy of the government boarding schools, to a boy watching his siblings leave and return and leave again, to a young man fighting to be an artist who balances multiple worlds.
Eric shatters that slur and reclaims it in verse and prose and imagery that truly lives up to the word heartbreaking.
Thoughts: This has been on my radar since it was announced as one of the first books to be published by the new imprint Levine Querido, and let me tell you- I was intimidated by it because it’s both poetry and nonfiction, both areas I don’t read often. However, Eric Gansworth delivers a relatable, enlightening memoir of his life growing up on the rez and what it means to be Indigenous in America. Truly a life-altering read.
Readalikes: Good Friday on the Rez by David Hugh Bunnell, Enchanted Air by Margarita Engle, An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo
Rick by Alex Gino
Summary: Rick’s never questioned much. He’s gone along with his best friend Jeff even when Jeff’s acted like a bully and a jerk. He’s let his father joke with him about which hot girls he might want to date even though that kind of talk always makes him uncomfortable. And he hasn’t given his own identity much thought, because everyone else around him seemed to have figured it out.
But now Rick’s gotten to middle school, and new doors are opening. One of them leads to the school’s Rainbow Spectrum club, where kids of many genders and identities congregate, including Melissa, the girl who sits in front of Rick in class and seems to have her life together. Rick wants his own life to be that…understood. Even if it means breaking some old friendships and making some new ones.
Thoughts: This is the first middle grade I’ve read with ace rep and it blew me away! Of course I read George before by the same author and adored it- I was happy to see a Rick redemption arc and that a book like this is being published now- it makes me hopeful for young ones like me exploring their identity have representation at an early age!
Readalikes: Hazel’s Theory of Evolution by Lisa Jenn Bigelow, Zenobia July by Lisa Bunker, The Best at It by Maulik Pancholy
Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert
Summary: Danika Brown knows what she wants: professional success, academic renown, and an occasional roll in the hay to relieve all that career-driven tension. But romance? Been there, done that, burned the T-shirt. Romantic partners, whatever their gender, are a distraction at best and a drain at worst. So Dani asks the universe for the perfect friend-with-benefits—someone who knows the score and knows their way around the bedroom.
When brooding security guard Zafir Ansari rescues Dani from a workplace fire drill gone wrong, it’s an obvious sign: PhD student Dani and ex-rugby player Zaf are destined to sleep together. But before she can explain that fact, a video of the heroic rescue goes viral. Now half the internet is shipping #DrRugbae—and Zaf is begging Dani to play along. Turns out, his sports charity for kids could really use the publicity. Lying to help children? Who on earth would refuse?
Dani’s plan is simple: fake a relationship in public, seduce Zaf behind the scenes. The trouble is, grumpy Zaf’s secretly a hopeless romantic—and he’s determined to corrupt Dani’s stone-cold realism. Before long, he’s tackling her fears into the dirt. But the former sports star has issues of his own, and the walls around his heart are as thick as his… um, thighs.
Suddenly, the easy lay Dani dreamed of is more complex than her thesis. Has her wish backfired? Is her focus being tested? Or is the universe just waiting for her to take a hint?
Thoughts: I knew I was going to love this one, as I loved Get a Life, Chloe Brown, but wowee I might have loved this one more?! One thing’s for sure: I bagsied Zaf as my perpetual book boyfriend and he will stay that way for the forseeable future- also Talia Hibbert only writes bangers!
Readalikes: A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole, Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade, Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai
All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
Summary: In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys.
Both a primer for teens eager to be allies as well as a reassuring testimony for young queer men of color, All Boys Aren’t Blue covers topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy. Johnson’s emotionally frank style of writing will appeal directly to young adults.
Thoughts: When the cover of this debut was unveiled, I was left in awe- from there I knew I had to read it! This is honestly a unicorn of a memoir for teens- George’s family is supportive of their queerness, and they are candid and honest about their experiences, their sexuality, and their life. Truly George is a talent to watch, and readers will be able to see a TV adaption of this one soon!
Readalikes: The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta, How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones, Here for It by R. Eric Thomas
Snapdragon by Kat Leyh
Summary: Snap’s town had a witch.
At least, that’s how the rumor goes. But in reality, Jacks is just a Crocs-wearing, internet-savvy old lady who sells roadkill skeletons online. It’s creepy, sure, but Snap thinks it’s kind of cool, too.
Snap needs a favor from this old woman, though, so she begins helping Jacks with her strange work. Snap gets to know her and realizes that Jacks may in fact have real magic–and an unlikely connection to Snap’s family’s past.
Thoughts: Kat Leyh is my ace superhero so when I saw she had come out with her first solo graphic novel, I had to have it…and boy it DELIVERED. Snapdragon is the sassy, full-of-life heroine I love to see, and the story was both quirky and beautiful. This is one I wish I could read for the first time again, and I’m excited to see what comes next from Kat.
Readalikes: The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag, Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brooke A. Allen, & Grace Ellis, Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker & Wendy Xu
The Low, Low Woods by Carmen Maria Machado & Dani
Summary: When your memories are stolen, what would you give to remember? Follow El and Vee as they search for answers to the questions everyone else forgot.
Shudder-to-Think, Pennsylvania, is plagued by a mysterious illness that eats away at the memories of those affected by it. El and Octavia are two best friends who find themselves the newest victims of this disease after waking up in a movie theater with no memory of the past few hours.
As El and Vee dive deeper into the mystery behind their lost memories, they realize the stories of their town hold more dark truth than they could’ve imagined. It’s up to El and Vee to keep their town from falling apart…to keep the world safe from Shudder-to-Think’s monsters.
Thoughts: I picked this up immediately after devouring In the Dream House by the same author, and this hit me hard in a different way. I love horror films but don’t always love horror comics, but this one had me hooked from page one. The social commentary subtext made me love it even more, and I sincerely hope this isn’t Carmen Maria Machado’s last foray into the comics world!
Readalikes: Gideon Falls by Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino, & Dave Stewart, The Memory Collectors by Menton3, Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, & Matt Wilson
The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo
Summary: With the heart of an Atwood tale and the visuals of a classic Asian period drama The Empress of Salt and Fortune is a tightly and lushly written narrative about empire, storytelling, and the anger of women.
A young royal from the far north is sent south for a political marriage. Alone and sometimes reviled, she has only her servants on her side. This evocative debut chronicles her rise to power through the eyes of her handmaiden, at once feminist high fantasy and a thrilling indictment of monarchy.
Thoughts: I’m going to be real with you, I picked this one up based on its cover…and it did not disappoint. Though this is a tiny, less than 150 page, book, it packs a PUNCH! The world-building is world class, and I’m itching to pick up the sequel as soon as I can get my hands on it! I feel this one was an underappreciated debut, so please… don’t sleep on this one.
Readalikes: The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang, Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan, The Black Tides of Heaven by Neon Yang
*this list has been updated to correct a mistaken author name. apologies!*
What 2020 releases did you read and love? Share them in the comments below!
Tomorrow I hope to share my top 10 romances, so until next time…