Welcome to the first annual Book Razzies! The Razzies are an annual award show for the worst movies of the year. I’m adopting that model to share my worst books of 2020 with you!
I got this idea after seeing several creators, including Gerry of The Book Nook UK, do something similar last year. I thought it seemed like a fun, fresh way to share my year-end bookish superlatives.
I will be giving awards to the worst and most disappointing books of 2020. I’ll also be giving awards to a few particularly odious DNFs. I’ve been planning this list all year, coming up with fun awards to give each book that made my 2020 worse. (Well, minus a couple exceptions– you’ll see).
Here to present the first award of the post (and all the other awards) is me! Take it away me!
As a YA book, this would be average. As the adult novel it’s purported to be, it’s awful. The character motivations are messy, the romance horribly built up, and the writing juvenile. It was supposed to be Skrutskie’s answer to Finnpoe, but instead it’s hot garbage.
The narrative shies away from the ugliest parts of having your home invaded by a foreign empire, only addressing it on a very surface level. Skrutskie pays mere lip service to the trauma the citizens of the former Archon Empire have endured. In fact, nothing seems to have major consequences. Even their blasters are set to stun, never kill. Despite the fact that most of the characters are military soldiers. I read this in January and I’m still reeling from the disappointment for how bad this book is. Check out my full review here!
I knew going into this book that I wouldn’t like it, but I let FOMO get to me. I DNF’d it for all the reasons I knew it wouldn’t work for me. I don’t like SJM’s writing style or her characters. This book, as much as it tries to pretend it’s something new, is just more of the same.
But honestly? I feel like this book is worse than SJM’s other series. The info-dumping here is so unnatural. SJM pays lip service to calling out the alpha males that plague her books without actually changing anything. There’s a character that literally only exists to insert girl hate into the book. Seriously, a member of Danika’s pack is mentioned once as someone who hates Bryce for no discernable reason and then she dies.
I got to just under 200 pages into this book before I accepted I’d only continued reading because, as much as I didn’t like what I was reading, it’s addictive. But I’ve decided I’m not going to waste time on a book I know I’m going to give 1 star. On the upside, I was able to return the book and get my money back.
Okay, this one is one of my first exceptions. I gave this book 4 stars, after all. But it just hasn’t stuck with me throughout the year. This book very heavily relies on the fact that these are the children of the Infernal Devices characters. I wish Clare would write about Shadowhunter families aside from the usual suspects. Honestly, that’s probably why this book didn’t emotionally impact me the way the previous Shadowhunter books have.
The book does get good, but not until the second half. For a book that Clare has been working on for years, it sure has some serious growing pains. It’s just so… same-y and done before. Will I continue the series? Yeah, but I’m not as hyped for it as I once was. This was one disappointing series opener. Check out my full review here!
I went into this book fully expecting to love it. Max Gladstone co-wrote This is How You Lose the Time War, which was one of my favorite books of 2019. But I guess it was Amal El-Mohtar’s influence that made it good because I DNF’d this a few chapters in.
Vivian feels aggressively like a stereotypical Woman Written by a Man. There wasn’t anything that seemed particularly objectifying in the bit I read, but the vibe was still there. I also just don’t really want to read about a billionaire Chosen One. I want to eat the rich, not read about them. I quickly realized this book wasn’t going to be for me and noped out. At least I got it on sale.
The further I got into this book, the further it fell in my esteem. First of all, it took me way too long to get through. Probably because I eventually stopped caring. Every character is more interesting than Csorwe. The world-building is confusing and incomplete. The plot has no clear end goal. The whole thing is a goddamn mess.
It genuinely feels like Larkwood made it up as she went along. The major plot twist is literally only possible because a character just forgot a major aspect of their life. I’m not kidding! Do you know how devastating it is to go into a book you think is going to be a new favorite and it pulls this shit? Absolutely soul crushing. And it started out so well too. Check out my full review here!
I fully expected this book to become a new favorite, but it simply doesn’t jive with me. Something about the writing style just doesn’t work for me. But my main problem is how heavy-handed the feminist agenda is here. There’s absolutely no nuance. Every man is irredeemably horrible, there only to say Men Bad and Women Good. It’s reductive.
After I DNF’d this book, I started seeing more criticism for Newitz’s other book.. I’ve heard such good things about this one, I’d been second guessing myself. Maybe Another Timelines gets better as it goes on, but somehow I doubt it when Newitz’s other book has similar issues. At least the cover is pretty.
This is the other exception. I gave this book 4 stars, but damn if it wasn’t remotely what I thought it would be. Honestly, that’s entirely because of how poorly marketed it was. All the promo heavily implied this was a twisted story where a girl sells her soul to the devil and eventually falls in love with him. Given how dark Schwab’s other series get, I was expecting something with a lot more consequences.
Another issue is the somewhat repetitive nature of the story. Each chapter trades back and forth between modern day and Addie’s history. And the chapters covering Addie over the past few centuries largely follow an unchanging pattern. It feels like nothing’s happening, which isn’t as forgivable when you’re not fully attached to the characters. As a thematic read, it’s incredible. As a character study, it’s really good. But it’s just missing that special something. It really disappointed me. Check out my full review here!
Look, I liked this story and I cared about these characters. But in a lot of ways, it felt like trauma porn. Jude’s life has been so excruciatingly awful. Yes, there probably are people who have lived a life like Jude’s and I feel for them. But it was frustrating to read, especially due to Jude’s refusal to get help and, in many ways, lack of sustained character development.
I also find it odd that the summary emphasizes that this is the story of four friends, but Malcolm and JB (but especially Malcolm) are largely irrelevant to the story. Why bother creating a Core Four at all, if this is basically The Jude and Willem Show.
I had more positive feelings for this book upon finishing it, but it’s kind of soured in my esteem since then. It reads like the author is trying to make you cry by giving Jude the saddest life imaginable. I’m not going to cry just because you try super hard to make me. It also absolutely did not need to be as long as it is. And the ending pissed me off. So, despite giving it 3 stars, it’s still the most disappointing book of the year.
I really wanted to love this book. The MC is a chaotic lesbian thrust into the position of antihero. Emanuela is written to be an unlikeable character, but unfortunately that’s all she is. She’s not even unlikeable in a well-written, interesting way like Rin from The Poppy War. She’s just mean— including to her so-called best friend!
While the story itself is decent, I just couldn’t keep reading about a main character I hated so much. I had to DNF. Everyone else seems to love this book, though, so maybe I’ll give it another chance someday. But today is not that day.
What were some of your least favorite books of 2020? What awards would you give them if you could? Tell me in the comments!