I don’t normally do a list of my least favorite books of the year.
Everyone on BookTube was doing it, though, and it looked really fun.
I disliked quite a few books this year, so narrowing this list down to ten was a REAL CHALLENGE.
I managed, though.
I had a minor change of heart about one of these books – I’ll get to that in a bit.
These are the books I hated most in 2020.
by Jeanette Winterson
(CW: rape, transphobia, misgendering)
Perhaps you’ve heard about Sia and her disastrous attempt at autistic representation.
The first-time director tried to write a “love letter” to the autistic community with her film Music and ended up relying heavily on harmful stereotypes.
Winterson did the exact same thing with her “daring” (read: transphobic) novel Frankissstein.
Protagonist Ry is a plot device, their identity solely a vehicle for discussing artificial intelligence.
They are raped, misgendered, and mistreated throughout the novel for the sake of…drama?
WHY WAS THIS BILLED AS A COMEDY???
I hated this book so much, I unhauled the author’s debut Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.
I can’t trust Winterson after this.
Trans people deserve better.
Serpent & Dove
by Shelby Mahurin
(CW: assault, victim blaming)
I feel genuinely enraged when I see how popular this book has become.
HOW does this book have a 4.1/5 rating on Goodreads? It’s NOT GOOD.
The worldbuilding is so inconsistent and the novel tries to BOTHSIDES the main conflict.
I love that the witches in this book were reduced to “patriarchy but make it ladies!” NOT HOW WITCHCRAFT HAS HISTORICALLY FUNCTIONED, MAHURIN.
Also, I DESPISED Reid. He rivals Matthias Helvar for Worst YA Love Interest. You can’t make one character a misogynist and one an oppressed minority and try to EQUATE THOSE THINGS.
I JUST REMEMBERED THAT REID ASSAULTED LOU IN PUBLIC AND EVERYONE BLAMED LOU FOR “RUINING REID’S REPUTATION?”
Blackbird, Vol. 1
by Sam Humphries, Jen Bartel, Paul Reinwand, Triona Farrell, Jodi Wynne, Dylan Todd, and Jim Gibbons
I talked myself out of buying Blackbird, Vol. 1, even though I loved the artwork more than life itself.
I finally succumbed and was unbelievably excited.
Yeah, I regret that initial excitement.
If I had to pick my least favorite element of this book, I’d go with the dialogue.
It felt dated and not in a charming way.
The people in Nina’s life called her “crazy baby,” which is not a thing someone would ever say.
Also, why did the “romance” happen SO FAST? They went from hating each other to kissing in two pages!
I hated this book when I wanted to love it so much.
Queer Magic: LGBT+ Spirituality From Around the World
by Tomás Prower
Prower insisted that he wasn’t appropriating spiritual practices…
…while encouraging readers to appropriate spiritual practices.
Excuse me, sir, do you know what “appropriate” means?
Also, his grasp on transness was weak at best. He misused terminology and misgendered various trans figures multiple times.
For a book published in 2018, this is inexcusable.
Cis gays, do better.
You, Too?: 25 Voices Share Their #MeToo Stories
edited by Janet Gurtler
(CW: rape, sexual harassment, victim blaming)
I see the intent behind this anthology and am therefore even angrier about the execution.
From what I can tell, this book intended to teach teens about rape myths.
Unfortunately, the authors in this anthology proliferated the very same rape myths they claimed to be challenging.
HOW can you claim to be instructing teens when you’re spreading the same misinformation that has contributed to rape culture and victim-blaming in the past???
Also, from what I remember, the contributors included one cis man, one trans person, and one Black person. The rest were cis white women (most of whom were 40+.)
This is NOT inclusion!
A book published in 2020 should be better than this.
(Update: I was wrong about the contributors in this book! Per the anthologist, You, Too? features contributions from Black, Asian, queer, and disabled voices. I was going off of memory and definitely should have double-checked.)
by Whitney Gardner
(This section is full of spoilers and I’m not sorry about it.)
I hated this book so much, I wrote an essay about it.
If I could summarize this book’s moral: “STAND UP FOR WOMEN’S RIGHTS…unless doing so hurts men’s feelings.”
I touched on the book’s transphobia in my essay, so I’ll skip it here.
This book decided the way to fix hostile environments was for women to try harder to fit in.
THE PROTAGONIST LITERALLY DID THIS AND IT DIDN’T WORK.
I GUESS SHE DIDN’T TRY HARD ENOUGH AND NEEDS TO BE BETTER.
THANKS, I HATE IT.
UGH, I’m still so mad about the twin storyline.
Stop me when this starts sounding ridiculous:
“It’s not fair that that boy has a crush on you. You should come clean about being a girl so he can have a crush on ME instead.”
Not how crushes work, but nice try!
I can’t stop thinking about how those D&D boys defended their misogynist friend.
HE DOESN’T INTEND TO BE MEAN, SO WE CAN’T CALL HIM ON ANY OF THE HATEFUL THINGS HE SAYS, SORRY.
I knew several men in college who would say the MOST disgusting things about women (and queer people!) and my friends would make excuses for them.
I can’t believe this “feminist” book is doing the same thing.
I want to set it on fire.
by Louisa May Alcott
I almost had an embolism reading this book.
Alcott employs a spiritual logic to suffering that I absolutely despise.
To summarize: God wants people to suffer, so suffering people should be glad for their suffering.
Hey, friends…did you know the Biblical passage that this logic references was specifically referring to persecution and imprisonment, not LOSING YOUR SISTER TO A HORRIFIC DISEASE???
Unlike in the movie, Professor Baehr criticizes Jo’s writing not because it’s bad, but because he thinks it’s MORALLY WRONG.
He can’t believe Jo is MAKING MONEY writing SENSATIONAL STORIES when she should be writing MORALISTIC PABLUM like a GOOD GIRL.
He prefers Jo when she’s poor and therefore less independent.
At the very end (and this is in the text), God punishes Laurie and Amy for surviving the book relatively unscathed by giving them a sick baby. CAN’T BE TOO HAPPY!
Anyway, count yourself lucky if you die of scarlet fever and remember: spirited bitches get stitches.
The Year of the Witching
by Alexis Henderson
(CW: pedophilia, rape)
I realized something about this book that I can’t talk about without spoiling the end, so spoilers for The Year of the Witching.
(Seriously, avert your eyes.)
It finally hit me that perhaps the forest witches were meant to represent white feminism
If that is the case, I understand why the author didn’t require her Black protagonist to exact complete justice and Save Everyone.
I still didn’t enjoy reading this book.
I also still take issue with the mercy shown to the Prophet.
Dude literally raped children, executed an innocent man, and let one of his wives die. He’s gotta go.
When I think about it, my problems with this book are similar to my problems with Serpent & Dove.
I don’t agree that taking revenge makes people “just as bad” as their oppressors.
Women who were unjustly murdered aren’t “just as bad” as the pedophilic patriarch who sent them to their deaths.
Again, if the intent was to show how white feminists use Black women to achieve their ends, that idea could have been conveyed so much better.
Cinderella is Dead
by Kalynn Baron
This novel is beloved by most.
I didn’t like it.
I thought the message was stronger and more developed than any of the narrative elements…and it was a pretty basic message of “Patriarchy is bad.”
Also, and this is a big spoiler…
(SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER, PLEASE LOOK AWAY)
…when the characters raised Cinderella from the dead, my soul left my body.
At that point, I had no idea what I was reading.
(SPOILERS END HERE)
This book was not for me.
That said, I can still recommend it even though I didn’t like it.
I want more queer Black protagonists, fairy tale retellings, and sapphic love triangles.
Get on it, publishing.
The Art of Racing in the Rain
by Garth Stein
Hey, which trope did 2008’s bestselling novel about dogs NOT need?
A FILLE FATALLE.
The dual messages of “teenagers target adult men” and “you can cure your own cancer with positivity” pissed me right off.
I’m still so mad that e v e r y character in this novel engaged in slut-shaming and even argued, “Well, we ALL know she’s not that innocent.”
WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU, GARTH STEIN???
When I started this book, at NO POINT did I think it would be about A CUSTODY BATTLE COMPLICATED BY A RAPE ACCUSATION.
REMIND ME WHY THE DOG IS THERE AGAIN.
This was the worst book I read all year and I’ll never be over it.
Apparently I had a lot of pent-up feelings.
Anyway, I hated these books.
I wish I hadn’t read them.
I DID have favorites – look for that post next Tuesday!