All right, here is another wonderful Wednesday with a great topic. I have a couple of authors and books that I feel are underrated. However, this is my personal perception. So I am not always going by amount of Goodreads ratings or reviews, but by me absolutely missing these books in any discussions on BookTube or on Bookish Blogs. Also: This is basically an LGBT+ books recommendations list.
Wonders of the Invisible World by Christopher Barzak
745 ratings and 172 reviews on Goodreads
Christopher Barzak is one of my absolute favourite authors, which is kind of the reason why he is featured on this list twice. I am in love with his writing and his characters. His stories are mostly contemporary, just about always feature gay protagonists, and have supernatural or magical realism elements to them. In short: His books are perfection and I love them!
One of my absolute favourites and basically the reason I wanted to join in on this Top Five Wednesday, is Barzak’s book Wonders of the Invisible World. It’s about Aidan who feels like he has been half asleep his whole life. He is a loner and the memories of his past are hazy. For example, he cannot remember when he and his old friends stopped talking to each other all together. One day Jarrod, his former best friend, moves back to town and changes everything. Aidan’s story begins to be rewritten.
This books has supernatural and magical elements to them, plus a beautiful story of an over-protective mother, a dysfunctional but loving family, and a wonderful wonderful love story between two boys. This is one of my absolute favourite books and I feel like it’s so so underrated! I have never seen any of Barzak’s books on any LGBT+ book recommendation lists and I don’t know why. You need to read them! If you enjoy Adam Silvera, I am pretty sure you’ll enjoy Christopher Barzak.
Sporting Guide: Los Angeles, 1897 by Liz Goldwyn
49 ratings and 12 reviews on Goodreads
Sporting Guide: Los Angeles, 1897 is a fascinating book! It’s kind of a history book, but told from different points of view, such as the Madam of a brothel, a prostitute, and a young male prostitute. I love history and I love history that is not usually spoken about.
This book is, as the title suggests, a guide to Los Angeles’s brothels 1897. The book features maps of Los Angeles, real photographs, old articles, and documents. It is history, but told in the form of a novel. And it is short! It is fascinating and entertaining, and it makes you feel like you are actually witnessing what it was like back then.
As you can see it has very few ratings and reviews on Goodreads so far and I have yet to see it recommended anywhere. I love this book and even if you are not big on history, I am sure you will enjoy this! It is fantastic!
The Love We Share Without Knowing by Christopher Barzak
474 ratings and 87 reviews on Goodreads
The Love We Share Without Knowing is my second Christopher Barzak book on this list, because it is fantastic! By the way, all these books are not in any specific order. This books takes place in Japan, where Barzak himself lived and taught for a long time. He tells the stories of a variety of people, some of whom are linked to each other, while others aren’t. It doesn’t only feature gay protagonists, but also. It features Japanese myths and legends, which I want to say are handled respectfully and in a teaching way, not as plot devices. However, I am not Japanese, nor am I familiar with Japanese culture or myths, so I cannot judge it properly.
This book has multiple POVs and is immensely interesting and wonderful. Again, you feel like you are transported to Japan and are witnessing the stories he describes. His writing is whimsical and just perfect for the kinds of stories he writes. It’s absolutely beautiful. He is the only author whose books I read without skipping anything. Lots of whimsical books have pages with very little white space and I do tend to skip a couple of things in those books, but never in Barzak’s books. They’re just so good and the information is never redundant or repetitive.
How to repair a mechanical heart by J.C. Lillis
1796 ratings and 379 reviews on Goodreads
How to repair a mechanical heart by J.C. Lillis is a relatively lighthearted young adult, contemporary story about two boy who fall in love while travelling the country to follow a travelling convention dedicated to their favourite TV show. It’s highly contemporary in that it deals with fandom and fanfiction as well.
If that makes you feel unsure about this book, trust me: I was too. I rarely like books that include fandom (for example, I have no intention to ever read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell), but I absolutely fell in LOVE with this book! It is contemporary and it is relatively lighthearted. It features a fun road trip, fandom, and just has loads of summer vibes. But it also deals with religion and with being gay and growing up in a highly religious environment. It deals with self-loathing and internalised homophobia, and it does it in a beautiful way. I feel it is really respectful toward the experience and deals well with it. At the same time, however, it stays lighthearted and never makes you feel hopeless.
This book is so so so much more than what it says on the tin! Honestly, you should definitely definitely read this book and I have been dearly missing this one on LGBT book recommendation lists. Also: The cover is amazing!
Captive Prince Series
23759 ratings and 3244 reviews on Goodreads
Now, I am not sure if this series is underrated, but I just needed to include it because it gets a whole lot more shit than it deserves! I do want to say this: Slight discussions of rape themes, sexual themes, and pedophilia themes, however nothing explicit.
Granted, it is not the best-written series in terms of style and some of the plot, but it is not the abomination some people make it out to be. Read any historic books about the ancient Rome or Greece. Read any books set in that era. The timeline of this book is most obviously based on ancient Rome and/or ancient Greece.That means it at times features flimsy clothing, it features certain crude aspects, and it features sex. And I am saying sex(!) not rape!
People have been bashing this series for overly sexual and rape-related themes and that is just plain wrong! I feel like the amount of sexual content it does have is being seen as more outraging solely because it’s homosexuality and not heterosexuality. Because nobody seems to complain about other books that feature such themes (“That’s just how it is in such times/settings”). The series does feature certain explicit scenes, but these books are also part of the adult fiction category, not young adult. It is for grown-ups, not children! Even so, it does not feature a lot of explicit scenes. Sex is hinted at more than it is actually “shown”.
But let’s get to the worst accusation: Too much rape. I don’t get it and I find it highly insulting that some people throw this out there like it’s nothing, like a throw-away comment, because that is a very delicate topic! There is maybe one rape scene in the first book, which is not at all explicit, merely hinted at, and which is also called out as wrong and disgusting!
There is one scene that is rape and which is not appropriately told or dealt with, agreed! However, that is one scene, not the abundance of scenes people claim there to be!
There is another scene which is described as one slave raping another, however it seems to be more the illusion of rape than an actual act of rape. I am saying this carefully, however, because that is merely my personal interpretation of the scene and I don’t know the exact intention of it. Again it is called out as wrong and disgusting, and the protagonist witnessing this act is scandalised and appalled.
I also want to add that yes there is implied pedophilia in this series, which is confirmed in the second or third book. However, it is also addressed and again, called out as wrong and disgusting! This is not a society that simply is fine with pedophilia! It is a society with an oppressing King-sit-in, who is a pedophile and of whom the people are too scared to oppose him!
Let me know if you guys know any of these books and/or what you think about them. What books do you think are underrated?