Top Ten Tuesday is a regular feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which I count down my top ten choices on a particular theme. This weekly event is hosted by Jamie at The Broke and the Bookish.
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is: Top Fourteen Underappreciated Books I Positively Adore.
I’ll be the first to admit that today’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt posed a bit of a challenge for me, primarily because the idea of an ‘underrated’ or ‘underappreciated’ book is extremely subjective. After all, it’s not something that’s easy to measure or quantify. That said, all but four of the books on today’s list have fewer than 300 reviews on Goodreads, and are all stories that hold a very special place in my heart. While I rarely see them discussed on social media or featured on other blogs, these are among the first books I will eagerly press into the hands of friends, family members and unwitting strangers when they ask me for a recommendation. There’s nothing that brings me greater joy than helping a reader find the right book for them, and this always feels particularly gratifying when it’s a story that often doesn’t get the attention or recognition it so richly deserves.
As always, these choices are listed in no particular order.
There’s something about asking for Impossible Things. For one little second, they feel Possible.
Take two sisters making it on their own: brainy twelve-year-old GiGi and junior-high-dropout-turned-hairstylist DiDi. Add a million dollars in prize money from a national cooking contest and a move from the trailer parks of South Carolina to the North Shore of Long Island. Mix in a fancy new school, new friends and enemies, a first crush, and a generous sprinkling of family secrets.
Twelve-year-old AJ is dreading spending the summer with her uber-strict grandmother — that is, until she’s recruited to join Grandma Jo’s heist club — in this hilarious and quirky twist on a summer vacation story.
AJ does not, under any circumstances, want to spend an entire month living with her strict Grandma Jo. Not only does her grandmother tell her how to walk, what to eat, and which rooms she can enter, she fills all of AJ’s free time with boring sewing lessons! Grandma Jo wants nothing more than to transform her adventurous, fun-loving granddaughter into a prim and proper lady…and AJ hates it.
But AJ’s dull summer takes an exciting turn when she discovers that her grandmother’s “bridge group” is actually a club of crooks! And when Grandma Jo offers to teach AJ lock picking instead of embroidery in exchange for help with a few capers, AJ is thrilled to join her grandmother’s madcap band of thieves who claim to steal only for ethical reasons.
But even the most respectable ladies can hide some truly surprising secrets, and AJ must decide for herself what it truly means to be one of the good guys.
Odette Zyskowski has a list: Things That Aren’t Fair. At the very top of the list is her parents’ decision to take the family on the road in an ugly RV they’ve nicknamed the Coach. There’s nothing fair about leaving California and living in a cramped Coach with her parents and autistic brother, sharing one stupid cell phone among the four of them. And there’s definitely nothing fair about what they find when they reach Grandma Sissy’s house, hundreds of miles later.
Most days it seems as if everything in Odette’s life is far from fair. Is there a way for her to make things right?
Twelve-year-old Howard Wallace lives by his list of rules of private investigation. He knows more than anyone how to work with what he’s got: a bathrobe for a trench coat, a makeshift office behind the school equipment shed, and not much else — least of all, friends. So when a hot case of blackmail lands on his desk, he’s ready to take it on himself…until the new kid, Ivy Mason, convinces him to take her on as a junior partner. As they banter through stakeouts and narrow down their list of suspects, Howard starts to wonder if having Ivy as a sidekick — and a friend — is such a bad thing after all.
Nine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute — she sneaks out to join him.
So begins a new adventure of Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan — and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?
Meet Gladys Gatsby: New York’s toughest restaurant critic. (Just don’t tell anyone that she’s in sixth grade.)
Gladys Gatsby has been cooking gourmet dishes since the age of seven, only her fast-food-loving parents have no idea! Now she’s eleven, and after a crème brûlée accident (just a small fire), Gladys is cut off from the kitchen (and her allowance). She’s devastated but soon finds just the right opportunity to pay her parents back when she’s mistakenly contacted to write a restaurant review for one of the largest newspapers in the world.
But in order to meet her deadline and keep her dream job, Gladys must cook her way into the heart of her sixth-grade archenemy and sneak into New York City — all while keeping her identity a secret! Easy as pie, right?
Sneak out. Make out. Rock out.
Riley and her best guy friend, Reid, have made a pact: they’ll help each other pursue their respective crushes, make something happen, and document the details in a shared notebook.
While Reid struggles with the moral dilemma of adopting a dog to win over a girl’s heart, Riley tries to make progress with Ted Callahan, the guy she’s been obsessed with forever. His floppy hair! His undeniable intelligence! But between a chance meeting with a fellow musician in a record store and a brief tryst with a science-geek-turned-stud–not to mention Ted’s own tentative attentions–cute guys are suddenly popping up everywhere. How did she never notice them before?! As their love lives go from zero to sixty in the blink of an eye, Riley and Reid’s pact may prove to be more than they bargained for.
When Rebecca Rivers lands the lead in her school’s production of The Crucible, she gets to change roles in real life, too. She casts off her old reputation, grows close with her four rowdy cast-mates, and kisses the extremely handsome Charlie Lamb onstage. Even Mr. McFadden, the play’s critical director, can find no fault with Rebecca.
Though “The Essential Five” vow never to date each other, Rebecca can’t help her feelings for Charlie, leaving her both conflicted and lovestruck. But the on and off-stage drama of the cast is eclipsed by a life-altering accusation that threatens to destroy everything…even if some of it is just make believe.
Honor receives her brother’s last letter from Iraq three days after learning that he died, and opens it the day his fellow Marines lay the flag over his casket. Its contents are a complete shock: concert tickets to see Kyra Kelly, her favorite pop star and Finn’s celebrity crush. In his letter, he jokingly charged Honor with the task of telling Kyra Kelly that he was in love with her.
Grief-stricken and determined to grant Finn’s last request, she rushes to leave immediately. But she only gets as far as the driveway before running into Rusty, Finn’s best friend since third grade and his polar opposite. She hasn’t seen him in ages, thanks to a falling out between the two guys, but Rusty is much the same as Honor remembers him: arrogant, stubborn…and ruggedly good-looking. Neither one is what the other would ever look for in a road trip partner, but the two of them set off together, on a voyage that makes sense only because it doesn’t. Along the way, they find small and sometimes surprising ways to ease their shared loss and honor Finn – but when shocking truths are revealed at the end of the road, will either of them be able to cope with the consequences?
“Don’t believe anything they say.”
Those were the last words that Annie spoke to Alice before turning her back on their family and vanishing without a trace. Alice spent four years waiting and wondering when the impossibly glamorous sister she idolized would return to her – and what their Hollywood-insider parents had done to drive her away.
When Annie does turn up, the blond, broken stranger lying in a coma has no answers for her. But Alice isn’t a kid anymore, and this time she won’t let anything stand between her and the truth, no matter how ugly. The search for those who beat Annie and left her for dead leads Alice into a treacherous world of tough-talking private eyes, psychopathic movie stars, and troubled starlets – and onto the trail of a young runaway who is the sole witness to an unspeakable crime. What this girl knows could shut down a criminal syndicate and put Annie’s attacker behind bars – if Alice can find her first. And she isn’t the only one looking
What if your town was sliding underwater and everyone was ordered to pack up and leave? How would you and your friends spend your last days together?
While the adults plan for the future, box up their possessions, and find new places to live, Keeley Hewitt and her friends decide to go out with a bang. There are parties in abandoned houses. Canoe races down Main Street. The goal is to make the most of every minute they still have together.
And for Keeley, that means taking one last shot at the boy she’s loved forever.
There’s a weird sort of bravery that comes from knowing there’s nothing left to lose. You might do things you normally wouldn’t. Or say things you shouldn’t. The reward almost always outweighs the risk.
It’s the end of Aberdeen, but the beginning of Keeley’s first love story. It just might not turn out the way she thought. Because it’s not always clear what’s worth fighting for and what you should let become a memory.
Ten years ago, God gave Braden a sign, a promise that his family wouldn’t fall apart the way he feared.
But Braden got it wrong: his older brother, Trey, has been estranged from the family for almost as long, and his father, the only parent Braden has ever known, has been accused of murder. The arrest of Braden’s father, a well-known Christian radio host has sparked national media attention. His fate lies in his son’s hands; Braden is the key witness in his father’s upcoming trial.
Braden has always measured himself through baseball. He is the star pitcher in his small town of Ornette, and his ninety-four mile per hour pitch already has minor league scouts buzzing in his junior year. Now the rules of the sport that has always been Braden’s saving grace are blurred in ways he never realized, and the prospect of playing against Alex Reyes, the nephew of the police officer his father is accused of killing, is haunting his every pitch.
Braden faces an impossible choice, one that will define him for the rest of his life, in this brutally honest debut novel about family, faith, and the ultimate test of conviction.
Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble; it has been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.
Maybe that was always beside the point.
Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect him to pack up the kids and go home without her.
When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.
That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts…
Is that what she’s supposed to do?
Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?
Lydia Netzer, the award-winning author of Shine Shine Shine, weaves a mind-bending, heart-shattering love story that asks, “Can true love exist if it’s been planned from birth?”
Like a jewel shimmering in a Midwest skyline, the Toledo Institute of Astronomy is the nation’s premier center of astronomical discovery and a beacon of scientific learning for astronomers far and wide. Here, dreamy cosmologist George Dermont mines the stars to prove the existence of God. Here, Irene Sparks, an unsentimental scientist, creates black holes in captivity.
George and Irene are on a collision course with love, destiny and fate. They have everything in common: both are ambitious, both passionate about science, both lonely and yearning for connection. The air seems to hum when they’re together. But George and Irene’s attraction was not written in the stars. In fact their mothers, friends since childhood, raised them separately to become each other’s soulmates.
When that long-secret plan triggers unintended consequences, the two astronomers must discover the truth about their destinies, and unravel the mystery of what Toledo holds for them — together or, perhaps, apart.
Now it’s your turn! Which books do you love and feel are underappreciated? Let me know in the comments – I would love to hear from you!