Must-Read Hidden Gems of 2020 That Deserves More Love

Jan 4, 2021

must read hidden gems 2020

Happy 2021, friends and readers alike! ✨

Despite the pandemic and book release pushbacks last year, there were still plenty of phenomenal books that released in 2020. Among the big bestsellers that many have loved (or hated), there were also some amazing books that flew under the radar. In this post I will be sharing some hidden gems that I've enjoyed which deserves more love. Books in this post will range from YA to Adult, across genres from contemporary to SFF, mostly written by marginalized authors. Without further adieu here are some hidden gems of 2020, so sit back and get your TBRs ready - it's a long one.


run rebel manjeet mann
Run, Rebel by Manjeet Mann

When Amber runs, it's the only time she feels completely free - far away from her claustrophobic home life. Her father wants her to be a dutiful daughter, waiting for an arranged marriage like her sister Ruby.

Running is a quiet rebellion. But Amber wants so much more - and she's ready to fight for it. 

It's time for a revolution.

hijan and red lipstick yousra imran
Hijab and Red Lipstick by Yousra Imran

Being a teenager isn't easy. And it doesn't help when you have a mega strict Egyptian dad who tells you that everything is "haram" a.k.a. forbidden. All Sara wants to do is experiment with makeup, listen to the latest Destiny's Child single and read fashion magazines, but her dad's conservative interpretation of Islam makes it impossible. 

Hijab and Red Lipstick is told from the perspective of a young British Muslim woman growing up between London and the Middle East. It is a tale of a young woman’s difficult quest to find herself, offering an unusual and unique insight into life in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE, where people’s personal lives, relationships and coming of age experiences are rarely spoken about.

delight moras dela paz
Delight by Moras Dela Paz

You think you know someone...Serena and Eli have known each other for as long as they can remember. Their parents are good friends and all but that doesn't necessarily mean they have to get along as well. Serena always thought that being a basketball prodigy destined for the pros has made Eli obnoxious and she finds his inflated ego out of this world. However, with failing grades hindering Eli's road into the pros, Serena helps him out of kindness and goodwill.

As the two of them spend more and more time together, they learn that even if they've known each other their whole lives there are some things about the other that is just a delightful surprise.

misunderstanding mr. popular by dane luna

Sebastian Reed. Part of the jujitsu team. Six feet tall and a hunk and a half. Struts along the hallways of Welton Prep like he owns the place. The whole school has fallen for his charms. 

But just because everyone likes Mr. Popular doesn’t mean Oli Park can’t hate him. 

Because Oli Park hates Sebastian Reed. And there’s nothing that can change her mind. [My Post]

the chanter's blade by aa lee     
The Chanter's Blade by A.A. Lee  

Tasked to complete the seven blades, Makanas has traversed many lands, spending countless gold and waging wars. But when the last chief he has to face isn't blinded by gold nor fear the blade, Makanas employed his last weapon—deceit to infiltrate his household. Just when he thinks his plan is going well, colonizers who now rule the land uncover the chief's traitorous plan. Lin-ay, the chief's secluded daughter awakens the blade to protect her family—something Makanas has trained for and failed. 

To defeat the giant moon eating serpent, he must get Lin-ay to the bolo warrior village, but first, she must trust him. Inspired by Bakunawa from Philippine mythology, The Chanter's Blade is perfect for fans of Shadow of the Fox.

god storm by coco maGod Storm by Coco Ma

Everything has a price. 

In the kingdom of Axaria, a darkness has fallen. After defeating the evil mother who summoned an immortal demon to kill her, newly coronated Queen Asterin Faelenhart should have every reason to celebrate. Her kingdom is safe, forbidden magic eradicated, and her friends are alive. Except Asterin’s triumph has come at a devastating cost - forced to choose between a lifelong friend and true love, she’s lost both. But the shadows in Axaria have begun to stir once again, and no one is more starved for vengeance than Asterin.... 

But in a world of magic, not everyone is always as they seem. When shocking discoveries threaten everything and everyone Asterin has sworn her life to protect, she won’t be the only person forced to make a choice...a choice that will change the mortal world forever. 

And maybe even destroy it.

the porangi boy by shilo kinoThe Porangi Boy by Shilo Kino

Twelve-year-old Niko lives in Pohe Bay, a small, rural town with a sacred hot spring – and a taniwha named Taukere. The government wants to build a prison over the home of the taniwha, and Niko’s grandfather is busy protesting. People call him porangi, crazy, but when he dies, it’s up to Niko to convince his community that the taniwha is real and stop the prison from being built. With help from his friend Wai, Niko must unite his whanau, honour his grandfather and stand up to his childhood bully.

corwning soul by sahira javaidCrowning Soul by Sahira Javaid

Be swept away in this unique fantasy debut from Sahira Javaid. A spellbinding adventure of belonging, finding hope and where the price of a soul is another soul’s fate. Perfect for fans of InuYasha, Children of Blood and Bone and The Candle and The Flame. 

Nezha Zaman considers her gift to control fire a dangerous secret. A secret that unravels when she encounters a vengeful shadow jinni in a maze garden that has been stalking her family, and knows about her power. Weeks after seeing the demonic being, Nezha is torn from her world through her backyard pond and transported to another dimension which sought out the light inside her heart. 

Nezha learns from two unicorns that the dimension is her family’s roots, and the light is a fragment of an angel’s shattered soul. The three must work together to find the soul’s shards in a land teeming with shape-shifting jinn. If Nezha fails to stop the corrupted Iron Prince, the malevolent jinn at his side will shatter her soul next.

like spilled water by jennie liuLike Spilled Water by Jennie Liu

Nineteen-year-old Na has always lived in the shadow of her younger brother, Bao-bao, her parents' cherished son. Years ago, Na's parents left her in the countryside and went to work in the city, bringing Bao-bao along and committing everything to his education. 

But when Bao-bao dies suddenly, Na realizes how little she knew him. Did he really kill himself because of a low score on China's all-important college entrance exam? Na learns that Bao-bao had many secrets and that his death may not be what it seems. Na's parents expect her to quit her vocational school and go to work, forcing Na to confront traditional expectations for and pressures on young women.

Anna Chiu has her hands pretty full looking after her brother and sister and helping out at her dad’s restaurant, all while her mum stays in bed. Dad’s new delivery boy, Rory, is a welcome distraction and even though she knows that things aren’t right at home, she’s starting to feel like she could just be a normal teen. 

But when Mum finally gets out of bed, things go from bad to worse. And as Mum’s condition worsens, Anna and her family question everything they understand about themselves and each other. 

A nourishing tale about the crevices of culture, mental wellness and family, and the surprising power of a good dumpling. [My Post]

The time to enter the dark waters has come. 

But who will venture there, and who will make it out alive? 

Currently in Lýon, O’Asia and Prince Zale are oblivious to the dragonfish attack on the hounds. Until the waters arrive carrying a terrifying scream that sends Odessa and Royalty into panic. 

Will O’Asia get to them before any lives are lost, and more importantly, what will the consequences of it be going forward? So far, Calder appears immune to all Odessa’s attempts to build their relationship, but with loyalties being laid by others and O’Asia unwilling to give up, his walls may be just a little too hard to keep up. 

And the ultimate question this time around is, amongst the secrets, revelations, and the heartbreaks, can the waters be perfect again?

rebelwing by andrea tangRebelwing by Andrea Tang

Business is booming for Prudence Wu. 

A black-market-media smuggler and scholarship student at the prestigious New Columbia Preparatory Academy, Pru is lucky to live in the Barricade Coalition where she is free to study, read, watch, and listen to whatever she wants. But between essays and exams, she chooses to spend her breaks sweet-talking border patrol with her best friend, Anabel, in order to sell banned media to the less fortunate citizens of the United Continental Confederacy, Inc. 

Drawn into a revolution she has no real interest in leading, Pru, Anabel, and friends Alex and Cat become key players in a brewing conflict with the UCC as the corporate government develops advanced weaponry more terrifying and grotesque than Pru could have ever imagined.

unconquerable sun by kate elliotUnconquerable Sun by Kate Elliot


Princess Sun has finally come of age. 

Growing up in the shadow of her mother, Eirene, has been no easy task. The legendary queen-marshal did what everyone thought impossible: expel the invaders and build Chaonia into a magnificent republic, one to be respected—and feared. 

But the cutthroat ambassador corps and conniving noble houses have never ceased to scheme—and they have plans that need Sun to be removed as heir, or better yet, dead. 

To survive, the princess must rely on her wits and companions: her biggest rival, her secret lover, and a dangerous prisoner of war.

finding my voice by marie myung-ok leeFinding My Voice by Marie Myung-Ok Lee


Seventeen-year-old Ellen Sung just wants to be like everyone else at her all-white school. But the racist bullies of Arkin, Minnesota, will never let her forget that she’s different—the youngest member of the only Korean-American family in town. At the start of senior year, Ellen finds herself falling for Tomper Sandel, a football player who is popular and blond and undeniably cute…and to her surprise, he falls for her, too. Now Ellen has a chance at life she never imagined, one that defies the expectations of hanging out with her core group of friends or pleasing her parents. But is her romance with Tomper strong enough to withstand hometown bigotry and her family’s disapproval?

spell starter by elsie chapman
Spell Starter by Elsie Chapman

The Sting meets Fight Club in this magical, action-packed sequel to Caster by Elsie Chapman. 

Yes, Aza Wu now has magic back. But like all things in her life, it has come at a great cost. After the tournament, Aza is able to pay off her parents' debt to Saint Willow. Unfortunately, the cost of the gathering spell she used to strip Finch of his magic has put her permanently in the employ of the gang leader. Aza has been doing little errands using real magic -- collecting debts, putting the squeeze on new businesses in the district. But that had never been the plan. Saint Willow is nothing if not ambitious and having Aza as a fighter is much more lucrative than as a fixer. Especially if she can control the outcome. Aza is going to have to put it all on the line again to get out of this situation!

vlog like you love me by clarisse davidVlog Like You Love Me by Clarisse David

Got dumped? Get even. 

Seventeen-year-old vlogger Bianca Dominguez has the perfect life. She lives in a picturesque house with a white picket fence, and her boyfriend Ray’s face is made for garnering likes. 

There’s no denying it. 

Bianca is poised to be the next Internet sensation...until Ray dumps her in the most humiliating way imaginable. 

Suddenly, Bianca’s life isn’t so perfect anymore. The beginnings of her social media empire crumble before her very eyes. 

Enter one nerd who glowed up. 

Will a pretend relationship save them from humiliation?

Will it make their exes regret everything?

Will they fall in love?

the assignment by liza m wiemerThe Assignment by Liza M. Wiemer

Senior year. When an assignment given by a favorite teacher instructs a group of students to argue for the Final Solution, a euphemism used to describe the Nazi plan of genocide of the Jewish people, Logan March and Cade Crawford are horrified. Their teacher cannot seriously expect anyone to complete an assignment that fuels intolerance and discrimination. Logan and Cade decide they must take a stand. 

As the school administration addresses the teens’ refusal to participate in the appalling debate, the student body, their parents, and the larger community are forced to face the issue as well. The situation explodes, and acrimony and anger result. What does it take for tolerance, justice, and love to prevail? 

In the vein of the classic The Wave, this riveting novel explores discrimination and antisemitism and reveals their dangerous impact. Inspired by a true incident, The Assignment will remind readers that they have choices—and those choices can make a difference.

vampires of portlandia by jason tanamorVampires of Portlandia by Jason Tanamor

When Marcella Leones relocates her family of aswang vampires from the Philippines to Portland, Oregon, she raises her grandchildren under strict rules so humans will not expose them. Her only wish is to give them a peaceful life, far away from the hunters and the Filipino government that attempted to exterminate them. 

Before she dies, she passes on the power to her eldest grandchild, Percival. He vows to uphold the rules set forth by Leones, allowing his family to roam freely without notice. After all, they are aswangs. 

It's then they discover that there are other breeds of aswangs—werebeasts, witches, ghouls, and viscera—who have been residing in Portland for years. 

Based on Filipino folklore (aswang), “Vampires of Portlandia” is a fantastical tale of different monsters coexisting in the weirdest city in America.

dangerous remedy by kat dunnDangerous Remedy by Kat Dunn

Camille, a revolutionary's daughter, leads a band of outcasts – a runaway girl, a deserter, an aristocrat in hiding. As the Battalion des Mortes they cheat death, saving those about to meet a bloody end at the blade of Madame La Guillotine. But their latest rescue is not what she seems. The girl's no aristocrat, but her dark and disturbing powers means both the Royalists and the Revolutionaries want her. But who and what is she? 

In these dangerous days, no one can be trusted, everyone is to be feared. As Camille learns the truth, she's forced to choose between loyalty to those she loves and the future.



all the words unspoken by serena kaurAll the Words Unspoken by Serena Kaur

Things are not going well for Maansi Cavale. 

Her depression is worsening, she barely passes her university exams and she winds up stuck at home, full of regret and unable to find a job. She'd do anything for a way out. 

Though Maansi previously considered arranged marriage an outdated tradition (only to be agreed to if you're in your mid-forties and unable to bag anybody yourself), a chance meeting at an Indian wedding party changes everything. Desperate to escape the shackles of monotony and unemployment, she agrees to marry the handsome and wealthy Aryan Alekar. She convinces herself a new lifestyle and wealth will lift her out of the pit. She secures the marriage, but not before serving up a few lies about herself... 

All the Words Unspoken is a fresh, new voice from debut British-Asian author, Serena Kaur. It is a love story that challenges our preconceptions of relationships and shows us that the choices we make have implications and ramifications far beyond the horizon we can see.

kill three birds by nicole givens kurtzKill Three Birds by Nicole Givens Kurtz

Sent to investigate a string of murders in a quiet remote egg, can Hawk Tasifa find the killer before she becomes the next target? 

Prentice Tasifa is an investigative hawk whose been deployed from The Order to the small egg of Gould, a mountain village. A missing girl had been found dead. Hawks investigate strange and difficult situations throughout the Kingdom of Aves. They can “see the unseen,” by accessing a unique ability to activate hawk-like vision, a trait they carry through their bloodlines. 

If you love goddess worship, winged humans, mystery, and magic, this story is for you.

opium and absinthe by lydia kangOpium and Absinthe by Lydia Kang

New York City, 1899. Tillie Pembroke’s sister lies dead, her body drained of blood and with two puncture wounds on her neck. Bram Stoker’s new novel, Dracula, has just been published, and Tillie’s imagination leaps to the impossible: the murderer is a vampire. But it can’t be—can it? 

Tillie can’t bring herself to believe vampires exist. But with the hysteria surrounding her sister’s death, the continued vampiric slayings, and the opium swirling through her body, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for a girl who relies on facts and figures to know what’s real—or whether she can trust those closest to her.

the henna artist by alka joshiThe Henna Artist by Alka Joshi

Vivid and compelling in its portrait of one woman’s struggle for fulfillment in a society pivoting between the traditional and the modern, The Henna Artist opens a door into a world that is at once lush and fascinating, stark and cruel. 

Escaping from an abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone to the vibrant 1950s pink city of Jaipur. There she becomes the most highly requested henna artist—and confidante—to the wealthy women of the upper class. But trusted with the secrets of the wealthy, she can never reveal her own…

conjure women by afia atakoraConjure Women by Afia Atakora

A mother and daughter with a shared talent for healing--and for the conjuring of curses--are at the heart of this dazzling first novel 

Conjure Women is a sweeping story that brings the world of the South before and after the Civil War vividly to life. Spanning eras and generations, it tells of the lives of three unforgettable women: Miss May Belle, a wise healing woman; her precocious and observant daughter Rue, who is reluctant to follow in her mother's footsteps as a midwife; and their master's daughter Varina. The secrets and bonds among these women and their community come to a head at the beginning of a war and at the birth of an accursed child, who sets the townspeople alight with fear and a spreading superstition that threatens their newly won, tenuous freedom. 

Magnificently written, brilliantly researched, richly imagined, Conjure Women moves back and forth in time to tell the haunting story of Rue, Varina, and May Belle, their passions and friendships, and the lengths they will go to save themselves and those they love.

the unconquered city by k.a. dooreThe Unconquered City by K. A. Doore

The final volume in K. A. Doore's critically-acclaimed assassin fantasy series 

Seven years have passed since the Siege — a time when the hungry dead had risen — but the memories still haunt Illi Basbowen. Though she was trained to be an elite assassin, now the Basbowen clan act as Ghadid's militia force protecting the resurrected city against a growing tide of monstrous guul that travel across the dunes. 

To protect her city and the realm, Illi must travel to Hathage and confront her inner demons in order to defeat a greater one — but how much can she sacrifice to protect everything she knows from devastation?

the death of vivek oji by akwaeke emeziThe Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi

What does it mean for a family to lose a child they never really knew? 

One afternoon, in a town in southeastern Nigeria, a mother opens her front door to discover her son's body, wrapped in colorful fabric, at her feet. What follows is the tumultuous, heart-wrenching story of one family's struggle to understand a child whose spirit is both gentle and mysterious. Raised by a distant father and an understanding but overprotective mother, Vivek suffers disorienting blackouts, moments of disconnection between self and surroundings. As adolescence gives way to adulthood, Vivek finds solace in friendships with the warm, boisterous daughters of the Nigerwives, foreign-born women married to Nigerian men. 

Propulsively readable, teeming with unforgettable characters, The Death of Vivek Oji is a novel of family and friendship that challenges expectations--a dramatic story of loss and transcendence that will move every reader.

the vanished birds by simon jimenezThe Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez

A mysterious child lands in the care of a solitary woman, changing both of their lives forever in this captivating debut of connection across space and time. 

"This is when your life begins." 

Nia Imani is a woman out of place and outside of time. Decades of travel through the stars are condensed into mere months for her, though the years continue to march steadily onward for everyone she has ever known. Her friends and lovers have aged past her; all she has left is work. Alone and adrift, she lives only for the next paycheck, until the day she meets a mysterious boy, fallen from the sky. 

A boy, broken by his past.

phoenix extravagant by yoon ha leePhoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee

Dragons. Art. Revolution. 

Gyen Jebi isn’t a fighter or a subversive. They just want to paint. 

One day they’re jobless and desperate; the next, Jebi finds themself recruited by the Ministry of Armor to paint the mystical sigils that animate the occupying government’s automaton soldiers. 

But when Jebi discovers the depths of the Razanei government’s horrifying crimes—and the awful source of the magical pigments they use—they find they can no longer stay out of politics. 

What they can do is steal Arazi, the ministry’s mighty dragon automaton, and find a way to fight…

seven of infinities by aliette de bodardSeven of Infinities by Aliette de Bodard

Vân is a scholar from a poor background, eking out a living in the orbitals of the Scattered Pearls Belt as a tutor to a rich family, while hiding the illegal artificial mem-implant she manufactured as a student. Sunless Woods is a mindship—and not just any mindship, but a notorious thief and a master of disguise. She’s come to the Belt to retire, but is drawn to Vân’s resolute integrity. 

When a mysterious corpse is found in the quarters of Vân’s student, Vân and Sunless Woods find themselves following a trail of greed and murder that will lead them from teahouses and ascetic havens to the wreck of a mindship--and to the devastating secrets they’ve kept from each other.

All’s fair in love and prank wars 

For barista and café owner Sari Tomas, Christmas means parols, family and no-holds-barred karaoke contests. This year, though, a new neighbor is throwing a wrench in all her best-laid plans. The baker next door—“some fancy boy from Manila”—might have cute buns, but when he tries to poach her customers with cheap coffee and cheaper tactics, the competition is officially on. 

And Baker Boy better be ready, because Sari never loses. 

It’s winner takes all this Christmas. And more than one competitor might just lose their heart for the holidays.

From the critically acclaimed author of Rainbirds comes a novel of tragedy and dark histories set in Japan. 

University sophomore Miwako Sumida has hanged herself, leaving those closest to her reeling. In the months before her suicide, she was hiding away in a remote mountainside village, but what, or whom, was she running from? 

Expanding on the beautifully crafted world of Rainbirds, Clarissa Goenawan gradually pierces through a young woman’s careful façade, unmasking her most painful secrets.

the royal abduls by ramiza koyaThe Royal Abduls by Ramiza Koya

Ramiza Shamoun Koya reveals the devastating cost of anti-Muslim sentiment in The Royal Abduls, her debut novel about an Indian-American family. Evolutionary biologist Amina Abdul accepts a post-doc in Washington, DC, choosing her career studying hybrid zones over a faltering West Coast romance. Her brother and sister-in-law welcome her to the city, but their marriage is crumbling, and they soon rely on her to keep their son company. Omar, hungry to understand his cultural roots, fakes an Indian accent, invents a royal past, and peppers his aunt with questions about their cultural heritage. When he brings an ornamental knife to school, his expulsion triggers a downward spiral for his family, even as Amina struggles to find her own place in an America now at war with people who look like her. 

With The Royal Abduls, Ramiza Koya ignites the canon of post-9/11 literature with a deft portrait of second-generation American identity.

burning roses by s.l. huangBurning Roses by S. L. Huang

When Rosa (aka Red Riding Hood) and Hou Yi the Archer join forces to stop the deadly sunbirds from ravaging the countryside, their quest will take the two women, now blessed and burdened with the hindsight of middle age, into a reckoning of sacrifices made and mistakes mourned, of choices and family and the quest for immortality. 

Burning Roses, a gorgeous fairy tale of love and family, of demons and lost gods.


black cranes the girl and the goddess by nikita gill silk & steel a queer anthology unspeakable a queer gothic anthology fairest a memoir by meredith talusan

Black Cranes: Tales of the Unquiet Women, edited by Nadia Bulkin, Rin Chupeco, Elaine Cuyengkeng, Grace Chan, Geneve Flynn, Gabriela Lee, Rena Mason, Lee Murray, Angela Yuriko Smith, Christina Sng and foreworded by Alma Katsu

Silk & Steel: A Queer Speculative Anthology, edited by Arkady Martine, Claire Bartlett, J.Y. Yang, Aliette de Bodard, Jennifer Mace, Django Wexler, Ellen Kushner, K.A. Doore, Amal El-Mohtar, Janine A. Southard, Yoon Ha Lee, Freya Marske

Unspeakable: A Queer Gothic Anthology, edited by Celine Frohn, Ryann Fletcher, Lindsay King-Miller, S.T. Gibson, Eliza Temple, Jude Reid

Fairest: A Memoir by Meredith Talusan

vampires never get old please pick me by reina regina foreshadow a phoenix first must burn muslim women are everything 
say her name by zetta elliott

Vampires Never Get Old: Tales With Bite, edited by Natalie C. Parker, Rebecca Roanhorse, Zoraida Cordova, Mark Oshiro, Samira Ahmed, Dhonielle Clayton, Victoria Schwab, Julie Murphy, Kayla Whaley, Laura Ruby, Heidi Heilig, Tessa Gratton

Please Pick Me by Reina Regina

Foreshadow: Stories to Celebrate the Magic of Reading and Writing, edited by Emily X.R. Pan, Nova Ren Suma, Adriana Marachlian, Gina Chen, Joanna Truman, Nora Elghazzawi, Tanya Aydelott, Flor Salcedo, Tanvi Berwah, Rachel Hylton, Maya Prasad, Desiree S. Evans, Sophie Meridien, Linda Cheng, Mayra Cuevas

A Phoenix First Must Burn, edited by Patrice Caldwell, Elizabeth Acevedo, Dhonielle Clayton, Somaiya Daud, L.L. McKinney, Ibi Zoboi, Rebecca Roanhorse, Ashley Woodfolk, Justina Ireland, Danny Lore, Karen Strong, Amerie, Jalissa Corrie, Charlotte Davis, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Danielle Paige

Say Her Name by Zetta Elliot, Loveis Wise

I hope this helped add more books onto your TBR!
Have you read any of these titles? Are there any that
are not on this list? Comment your faves down below!

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