I received complimentary copies of some of these books for honest reviews, which you’ll find in the posts I’ve linked to.
I look forward to these awards all year! As my blog is all about hope and inspiration, these are the books that most fit that bill for me in 2020 and that I highly recommend to fellow readers. You’ll find them listed in the order I read them.
To the authors of the winning books, if you’d like a medal for making the list, see the bottom of this post.
Broken Strings by Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer
Middle Grade Fiction
Her grandfather’s old violin is tied to a tragic family secret. This middle grade novel addresses a dark subject (evidenced by the barbed wire and Star of David on the cover) without having the depressing overall texture/mood of dry gloom that I find in other books that go to such painful places. The read becomes richer as it goes along, taking history and the need to recognize the value of all humanity, weaving it with the young heroine’s personal journey and heritage, and culminating in a beautiful, redemptive finish that tugged on my soul.
Monster by Walter Dean Myers
Young Adult Courtroom Drama
He’s young. He’s Black. And he’s on trial in a murder case. What I appreciate most about this story is that it isn’t the oversimple, “hot social issue“-driven tale it could have been. Yes, it relevantly takes a social climate into account, but it isn’t merely using that to spin a drama together, nor is it just a ride or a race to figure out whodunit. Rather, this is a story of lost innocence. It’s a story of reflection, of questions. Haunting questions. And its value is in its inherent challenge to readers, especially (but not only) young adults, to form a habit of reflecting, of seriously thinking about what’s important before trouble demands it.
Come Juneteenth by Ann Rinaldi
Young Adult Historical Fiction
She never thought of her beloved sister as a slave, but now that isn’t enough. Wow. Knowing the kind of hard-hitting and poignant young adult stories Rinaldi can deliver, I probably should have been better prepared emotionally for this story of injustice, violence, and human relationships. The novel depicts flawed human beings and shows what happens when you have to face where you, and other people in the place you fondly call home, have been profoundly wrong. Yet, this tragic story has glimmers of hope for healing and for learning from the past.
The Bruised Princess by A.G. Marshall
Fantasy, Short Story
A young woman on the run. A place of sanctuary. And a strange trap? Admittedly, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot when I jumped into this short, fairy-tale reimagining of The Princess and the Pea. But, my, what a well-spun story this romantic read is! What I like most is that, yes, although the heroine is a victim, this is more than a tale of a damsel in distress getting saved. She has more to offer to play a purposeful, active part in the course of her life—and the course of another’s. It’s a thrill when stories I stumble upon far exceed my expectations.
Petrified Flowers by Joiya Morrison-Efemini
Christian Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Six young sisters. A devastating tragedy. And what it takes for them to bloom—written as a novel-in-verse. This author writes with the deft and nuanced hand of a true poet and novelist combined, illustrating through selective, lyrical language how verbosity isn’t required to tell a deep, complex, and hard-hitting story. The book addresses a number of issues through a cast of diverse, convincingly flawed characters, and I was awed here, cut to the core there, and in for some surprises. Whether readers are within or past their YA stage of life, many would do well to read this poignant, sobering, beautiful, brilliantly written novel.
For Beautiful Black Boys Who Believe in a Better World by Michael W. Waters, illustrated by Keisha Morris
Children’s Fiction, Social Issues
He’s a kid with hard questions about real-life events… I looked at all of the awesome illustrations in this book first, feeling the tug of tears before I even read a word. Then I started over and read the words, appreciating this serious and accessible story of perplexity, grief, frustration, love, and compassion. A poignant story that’s handled with respect, wisdom, and an inspiring measure of hope. Children of all colors and backgrounds need stories like this, so that they don’t end up as teenagers or adults who are uninformed—or misinformed with a lot to unlearn. Oh, and there’s a detailed guide in the back of the book to help with starting these important discussions in the classroom or at home. Excellent!
The Hero Feat of Hannah Helstrom by J. Philip Horne
Middle Grade Fantasy, Short Story
The Guild of Sevens’ worst superhero has to use what she’s got—now. First off: WOW to this! It’s pretty amazing because even though it was no shock for me to find out what Hannah’s big moment would be, her journey to get there and the way she navigates through it is still so compelling. Hannah’s training, mettle, heart, unselfishness, and quick thinking come into play in the face of an incredibly daunting task. Yet, she’s so down-to-earth (with a little edge of dry humor) that she keeps the story real instead of corny. An awesome read from the Guild of Sevens series.
My Dearest Dietrich: A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Lost Love by Amanda Barratt
Christian Biographical Fiction
He’s a German pastor, plotting against the Nazi regime. And falling in love. The sensitive and nuanced way the author develops the main characters kept me engrossed in this sober, heartrending novel. It has wonderful imagery, and its scattered moments of joy are earned. The romance here has a slow burn of emotional depth made more intense through ever-lurking peril. I ached at times through the tragedy and beauty of this story. And reading it impressed upon me the more how crucial it is for us not to merely romanticize history but to purposely learn from it—and to remember it in the midst of our critical present.
Entries for 2020’s Favorite Reads giveaway are now closed, but comments on the post are remaining open.
Now is a great time to pick up copies of two more of my personal favorites: Eubeltic Descent and Eubeltic Quest. The series is available for purchase at Amazon, or read the books free with Kindle Unlimited.
Congratulations, authors, and thank you for writing your books! If I’ve selected yours as a Favorite Read this year, you’re welcome to a complimentary medal to display on your website, blog, social media—wherever you wish. Click the image below and contact me to receive a full size PNG medal. Thanks again!