It’s inevitable that sometimes books disappoint you. I don’t like to be negative on this blog, but I’m always going to be honest and critical — which is why if I can save you some time on reading books that will leave you going, “Oh, is that all?” then I will. This post is going to be all about those books that I was really excited for only to feel underwhelmed when I ended up reading them.
1. The Map from Here to There by Emery Lord
It’s senior year, and Paige Hancock is finally living her best life. She has a fun summer job, great friends, and a super charming boyfriend who totally gets her. But senior year also means big decisions. Weighing “the rest of her life,” Paige feels her anxiety begin to pervade every decision she makes. Everything is exactly how she always wanted it to be–how can she leave it all behind next year? In her head, she knows there is so much more to experience after high school. But in her heart, is it so terrible to want everything to stay the same forever?
RELEASED: 7 January 2020
WHY? This book serves as the sequel to The Start of Me and You — one of the few contemporaries that I wholly adore. However, this sequel also took FIVE YEARS to come out, meaning I entered with very high expectations. Overall, it felt like an unnecessary continuation with senseless conflict for the sake of another book, ignoring the actual dynamics and development established in the first book.
2. A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer
Find the heir, win the crown.
The curse is finally broken, but Prince Rhen of Emberfall faces darker troubles still. Rumors circulate that he is not the true heir and that forbidden magic has been unleashed in Emberfall. Although Rhen has Harper by his side, his guardsman Grey is missing, leaving more questions than answers.
Win the crown, save the kingdom.
Rumored to be the heir, Grey has been on the run since he destroyed Lilith. He has no desire to challenge Rhen–until Karis Luran once again threatens to take Emberfall by force. Her own daughter Lia Mara sees the flaws in her mother’s violent plan, but can she convince Grey to stand against Rhen, even for the good of Emberfall?
The heart-pounding, compulsively readable saga continues as loyalties are tested and new love blooms in a kingdom on the brink of war.
RELEASED: 7 January 2020
WHY? Another sequel, ugh. Of course sequels tend to be hit or miss, but AHSFAB (try saying that ten times fast!) was disastrous. After Kemmerer created such a rich fantasy world and ended A Curse So Dark and Lonely on a cliffhanger, she opted to introduce new characters, new plots and barely resolved anything whilst making the characters we loved in the first book either fade into the background or become a source of conflict in this book, thus making me hate them. Not to mention the pacing was extremely slow.
3. The Upside of Falling by Alex Light
It’s been years since seventeen-year-old Becca Hart believed in true love. But when her former best friend teases her for not having a boyfriend, Becca impulsively pretends she’s been secretly seeing someone.
Brett Wells has it all. Being captain of the football team and one of the most popular guys in school, he should have no problem finding someone to date, but he’s always been more focused on his future than who to bring to prom. When he overhears Becca’s lie, Brett decides to step in and be her mystery guy. It’s the perfect solution: he gets people off his back for not dating and she can keep up the ruse.
Acting like the perfect couple isn’t easy though, especially when you barely know the other person. But with Becca still picking up the pieces from when her world was blown apart years ago and Brett just barely holding his together now, they begin to realize they have more in common than they ever could have imagined. When the line between real and pretend begins to blur, they are forced to answer the question: is this fake romance the realest thing in either of their lives?
RELEASED: 24 February 2020
WHY? This book wasn’t bad necessarily, but it was rushed — the romance, the plot, even the writing! The reason for the fake relationship between the characters barely made sense and it was perhaps the fastest fast burn I’ve ever read. I was really excited for The Upside of Falling because I enjoy the fake dating trope, but everything about the book was underdeveloped and surface-level. There was a meagre attempt at diving into the characters’ family issues, only for the writer to ultimately shy away from anything too angsty or gritty.
4. The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller
Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power:
1) Woo the Shadow King.
2) Marry him.
3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.
No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it.
But Alessandra’s not the only one trying to kill the king. As attempts on his life are made, she finds herself trying to keep him alive long enough for him to make her his queen—all while struggling not to lose her heart. After all, who better for a Shadow King than a cunning, villainous queen?
RELEASED: 25 February 2020
WHY? The Shadows Between Us promised me an enemies to lovers Slytherin romance and all I got from it was endless dress descriptions (because the main character was so quirky she could kill a man and like fashion!) alongside a predictable, unmemorable plot. The enemies to lovers aspect was poorly executed too, there was no pining or slow burn or . . . actual reason for them to be in love with each other. I can’t even remember their names, which should tell you how lacklustre the entire book was. This was another one with potential, but the average writing and lack of development got the best of a good idea.
5. House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas
Bound by blood.
Tempted by desire.
Unleashed by destiny.
Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.
Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.
As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.
RELEASED: 3 March 2020
WHY? This is probably my most controversial pick, but I thought it was unnecessarily long and slow. Hunt is by far my least favourite love interest of Maas’ and elements of Maas’ work are starting to feel repetitive. It took until around 80% in for anything remotely exciting to happen. You can read my full review here.
My whole world changed when I stepped inside the academy. Nothing is right about this place or the other students in it. Here I am, a mere mortal among gods…or monsters. I still can’t decide which of these warring factions I belong to, if I belong at all. I only know the one thing that unites them is their hatred of me.
Then there’s Jaxon Vega. A vampire with deadly secrets who hasn’t felt anything for a hundred years. But there’s something about him that calls to me, something broken in him that somehow fits with what’s broken in me.
Which could spell death for us all.
Because Jaxon walled himself off for a reason. And now someone wants to wake a sleeping monster, and I’m wondering if I was brought here intentionally—as the bait.
RELEASED: 6 April 2020
WHY? With reemergence of vampires in YA, Crave was easily my most anticipated read of the year. However, I was left frustrated when I found it to be a middle-aged woman writing about teenagers with no clue how they actually behave whilst churning out a flimsy plot that I could have found on Wattpad in 2013 for free. In addition, this was another book with a main character that wasn’t ‘like other girls’ (because the shame of liking similar things to people your age!) and had a plot that was dragged out for a few hundred pages too many. You can read my full review here.
7. The Betrothed by Kiera Cass
When King Jameson declares his love for Lady Hollis Brite, Hollis is shocked—and thrilled. After all, she’s grown up at Keresken Castle, vying for the king’s attention alongside other daughters of the nobility. Capturing his heart is a dream come true.
But Hollis soon realizes that falling in love with a king and being crowned queen may not be the happily ever after she thought it would be. And when she meets a commoner with the mysterious power to see right into her heart, she finds that the future she really wants is one that she never thought to imagine.
RELEASED: 5 May 2020
WHY? The Betrothed, alternatively titled ‘The Selection With Name Changes,’ consisted of characters that I didn’t care for and empty romances. Someone on Twitter replied to my tweet saying Cass wrote this for those who were on Team Aspen, which I’m inclined to agree with. I was mainly disappointed by the author’s lack of growth from The Selection — a book released eight years ago. Once more, Cass wrote a book with basic writing, a weak love triangle, an annoying protagonist and next to no world building.
Let me know if you’ve had any book disappointments this year in the comments below.
read it and weep,
2 replies on “7 Book Releases in 2020 that Left Me Feeling Underwhelmed”
Great post! I definitely agree with your thoughts on AHSFAB – it would have worked as a spin off but definitely not a sequel. I missed Harper and Rhen so much! I enjoyed House of Earth and Blood but I can see your issues with it!
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God, I missed Harper and Rhen too! I definitely think Rhen’s character was more antagonistic this time around and I didn’t like that. And I didn’t dislike HoEaB, but definitely had higher expectations.
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