Worst Five Books of 2020

While on the whole I would describe 2020 as a good reading year for me quality-wise, I still had the misfortune of reading some books this year that, for whatever reason, I didn’t end up enjoying. The reasons why I didn’t enjoy these books vary, but the end result is that I would’ve been better off not picking these ones up in the first place, and for the most part would generally recommend that other people avoid them too.

I’ve already posted a round up of my top five books of the year, so it makes sense to do a round up of my personal top five worst books of the year as well. Without further ado, and in no particular order, here’s the list!

Some Laneys Died by Brook Skipstone

This is the only book on this list where I ended up listening to what my gut wanted me to do and dnf’d it. I started reading this book because I think that time travel and/or alternate realities are really cool, and the concept of a girl who develops the ability to travel between different versions of her own life where she’d made different choices sounded really interesting to me! Unfortunately, this book contains a pretty big squick of mine (step-siblings are still siblings, and while it is possible to handle this kind of plot line well, it wasn’t handled at all well here), is overtly sexual to the point that my suspension of disbelief was shattered, and it wasn’t interesting enough to make me want to stick it out despite these things.

A Deadly Education (The Scholomance #1) by Naomi Novik

I’d been looking forward to reading this one, and that it ended up the way it did was such a disappointment. I picked it up because it was advertised as a dark academia magic school with more diversity than a certain other magic school series we all know of, and while that description did turn out to be accurate, the diversity in this novel was very poorly handled to say the least, and also it’s difficult to care about a world or the characters in that world when the bulk of the novel in which they appear reads more like a textbook explaining things than a story with its worldbuilding weaved in. This book had its moments, and there were some good ideas in there, but ultimately it wasn’t worth reading the whole way through and I won’t be picking up the sequel.

Domino: Strays by Tristan Palmgren

I’ll openly admit that I only knew Domino from Deadpool 2, and knew nothing of her origin story from the comics, which turned out to be fine as this book seems to have been written with people who don’t know the character’s origin story in mind. However, the exploration of Neena’s background was interspersed with two other storylines, which had the unfortunate end result of none of them getting the room to breathe that they really needed and deserved. I probably would’ve enjoyed this more if one of the storylines had been cut out or if the book had been a lot longer so that things could be more developed. As it was, I wasn’t given good enough reasons to care about any of the characters, which for me is the death-knell for enjoying a book. Also, pointless footnotes in prose fiction are the work of the devil. Not once have I been happy to see footnotes in fiction. Only once have I not been actively annoyed by them, and this was not that time. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this book was bad, I just didn’t enjoy it.

The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant

This book is a Les Misérables retelling centered on Eponine, who is reimagined as a cat burglar who’s heavily involved with Paris’ criminal underworld, and her relationship with her adopted younger sister Cosette. It should’ve been right up my alley! Unfortunately Grant managed to do some things that are guaranteed to make me dislike a book. If a book is in first person, and there isn’t any discussion of how the first person narrator is telling the reader their version of events, and so therefore the fourth wall is solidly in place and intact, then there is zero excuse for the narrator to straight up lie to the reader. The narrative making sense was sacrificed for the sake of a plot twist and that’s just bad writing. Also, switching genders in retellings can be interesting, but not when the purposes of that gender switch is just so that when you erase that character’s complex motivations and replace it with them just being a spurned lover you don’t then have to make it gay. If you’re going to strip away the moral ambiguity like that then at the very least don’t be a coward about it. The rest of the book was lackluster as well, though not as overtly infuriating as these two points. I’ve read worse books than this, but I wouldn’t recommend this book either.

A Place Called Zamora by L.B. Gschwandtner

This is without a doubt the worst book I read in 2020, and it’s quite possibly the worst book that I’ve read ever. It’s homophobic, ableist, fatphobic, Christan-centric and obsessed despite not being advertised as such, its worldbuilding is terrible, its writing is terrible, and it contains so much victim blaming for sexual assault that it makes me feel sick. As I said in my full review, this book is a masterclass on how to get everything wrong, and it’s frankly embarrassing for everybody involved that it was ever able to see the light of day. And that isn’t something that I say lightly. Who approved this? Why didn’t anybody sit Gschwandtner down and gently let her know that she needed to go back to the drawing board? Who let this happen? At least I can take some solace in the knowledge that practically nobody else has put themself through this mess, and of those poor souls that have it looks like a lot of them had the sense to dnf it early. I, unfortunately, read the whole thing, mostly because I needed to know if Gschwandter was only going to acknowledge that queer people exist in the context of pedophilia, which uh. Yeah. She did. Again, who let this book happen?

And that’s it for this list! I can’t wait to never think about these books ever again!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? What are some of your worst books of the year?

About The Blogger

El is a 21 year old university student from the UK who loves to read and loves talking about what they read. They particularly like to focus on books featuring lgbtq+ main characters.

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