It’s hard to define what makes a book “hyped.” Does this mean a book was nominated for or won awards? Was being breathlessly chattered about in the book blogging world? Was getting big marketing dollars or a huge advance from its publisher? Was on many “most anticipated books of X” lists? Had glowing early reviews? Based on an author’s previous work? Everyone in your real life was reading and loving it? My 2017 Books that Deserved the Hype list landed mostly in the awards and marketing dollars from publishers categories.
Sadly, I said a big, fat “UGH” when I finished compiling my 2017 Books that Deserved the Hype list. There were so many more books that didn’t deserve the hype than those that did. My trust in the traditional media and publishers for book recommendations is waning fast. I’ll be delving into this a bit more (numerically!) in 2018, but suffice it to say that the books that caught my eye this year were generally not the ones that the serious literary critics and publishers thought everyone should / would love.
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Six 2017 Books That Deserved the Hype
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (review)
Goodreads Choice Award Winner for Fiction, Book of the Month Book of the Year Nominee, 5 Week New York Times Bestseller (combined print and e-book), tons of regular reader buzz, and Amazon, Esquire Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, Pop Sugar, and Refinery29 Best Book of 2017
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
O Magazine and Pop Sugar Best Book of 2017, Goodreads Choice Award Winner for Debut and Young Adult, #1 New York Times Bestseller, National Book Award Longlist for Young People’s Literature
You’ll be hearing more about most of these books later, so no commentary just yet!
…and Eight That Didn’t
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough (spoiler discussion)
Accolades: Massive pre-publication hype (i.e. #WTFthatending hashtag campaign), Book of the Month Book of the Year Nominee, Pop Sugar Best Book of 2017
My Take: Completely outlandish ending and a ridiculous key to the story (see spoiler discussion for more details).
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (review)
Accolades: Tons of regular reader buzz, Book of the Month selection
My Take: Kind of cheesy in rom-com way and a major piece of the ending felt like a cop-out.
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Accolades: Kirkus Best Literary Fiction of 2017, New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2017, and Amazon, O Magazine, New York Times, Esquire Magazine, Time Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar Best Book of 2017
My Take: I certainly appreciated parts of this book (i.e. the writing), but the story petered out by the end and overall I was left with a “meh” feeling.
Final Girls by Riley Sager
Accolades: Stephen King called it the “first great thriller of 2017”, Book of the Month Book of the Year Nominee, and Pop Sugar Best Book of 2017
My Take: The ending was outlandish and completely jumped the shark, which is the death-knell of thrillers for me.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (review)
Accolades: National Book Award Winner for Fiction, Kirkus Best Literary Fiction of 2017, New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2017, Book of the Month Book of the Year Nominee, and Publisher’s Weekly, Washington Post, New York Times, Time Magazine, Pop Sugar, Refinery29 Best Book of 2017
My Take: I could objectively see the elements that have the critics falling all over themselves. But, something didn’t quite connect with me, I kept zoning out while reading, and I was never dying to pick it up. Also, the ghost element absolutely did not work for me.
The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas (review)
Accolades: Kirkus Best Debut of 2017, tons of pre-publication buzz
My Take: The inclusion of “stories within the story” (in this case, Joan’s own writing) added at least a hundred unnecessary pages to an already overly long book and pulled me out of the central story.
What We Loseby Zinzi Clemmons (review)
Accolades: Kirkus Best Debut of 2017 and Esquire Magazine, Elle Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, Refinery29 Best Book of 2017
My Take: Written in vignettes that felt jumpy, preventing me from focusing on the story.
Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin (review)
Accolades: Tons of pre-publication and regular reader buzz
My Take: The last part of the book is a Choose Your Own Adventure story…except it’s a fake one. Enough said.
And, those are just the books I actually finished. I abandoned (i.e. DNF’d)…
- Artemis by Andy Weir
- Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
- My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent
- The Leavers by Lisa Ko
- The Windfall by Diksha Basu.
All of these books were nominated for or received literary awards and/or appeared on numerous “Best Books of 2017” lists from publications like Kirkus, New York Times, Time Magazine, Pop Sugar, and Refinery29.
What books do you think deserved their hype this year? Which ones do you think didn’t?