Six 2017 Books That Deserved the Hype…and Eight That Didn’t

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

2017 Books that Deserved Hype

Anything Is Possible
 by Elizabeth Strout (mini review)
New York Times 100 Notable Book of the YearEsquire Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar Best Book of 2017

Beartown by Fredrick Backman (review)
Amazon Best Book of 2017, tons of regular reader buzz

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong (review)
O MagazineEsquire Magazine and Refinery 29 Best Book of 2017

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (review)
Goodreads Choice Award Winner for FictionBook 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 AmazonEsquire MagazineHarper’s BazaarPop 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

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugoby Taylor Jenkins Reid (review)
Pop Sugar Best Book of 2017, Book of the Month Book of the Year Nominee, tons of regular reader buzz

You’ll be hearing more about most of these books later, so no commentary just yet!

…and Eight That Didn’t

2017 Books That Didn't Deserve Hype

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 NomineePop 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 AmazonO Magazine, New York TimesEsquire Magazine, Time MagazineHarper’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 WeeklyWashington Post, New York Times, Time MagazinePop SugarRefinery29 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 MagazineElle MagazineHarper’s BazaarRefinery29 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)… 

All of these books were nominated for or received literary awards and/or appeared on numerous “Best Books of 2017” lists from publications like KirkusNew York Times, Time MagazinePop Sugar, and Refinery29.

What books do you think deserved their hype this year? Which ones do you think didn’t?

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  1. I always love your lists since it’s pretty much how I decide what contemporary fiction to read 🙂 This time I’ve actually already read Andrew – I liked Behind Her eyes. That ending was like woah! Final Girls was just okay like you said – certainly not Stephen King blurb worthy.

    Posted 12.8.17 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Awh – that’s so sweet! I know, right?! Totally out there! And I’ve stopped paying attention to King’s blurbs…

      Posted 12.8.17 Reply
  2. Wendy wrote:

    I am so excited to finally be reading Little Fires Everywhere and yes, it’s a good one!

    I don’t remember anything about The Leavers but I know I read it. Ok, and I actually got a kick out of The Windfall. It was kind of entertaining…

    Posted 12.8.17 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Well that tells me what you thought about The Leavers! Ha! I just got annoyed with The Windfall after awhile though it sounded like it would be up my alley.

      Posted 12.8.17 Reply
  3. renee wrote:

    You and I are on the same book wavelength this year!! I would have the same list as you of the ones I’ve read except I did really like Young Jane Young. I would add Seven Days of Us to my DNF pile but otherwise ours looks the same (I didn’t try The Leavers though). I have to say I don’t trust the publishers and critics anymore either, the 2018 hyped books I’ve read so far aren’t living up to the hype. Perhaps book bloggers are the future for trusted recs

    Posted 12.8.17 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Yay bloggers!

      Posted 12.8.17 Reply
  4. I loved The Hate U Give and just saw that a school district in Texas has banned it. I loved Eleanor Oliphant too, though.

    Posted 12.8.17 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Yep, I saw that. Kind of amazing.

      Posted 12.8.17 Reply
  5. This is a fun post, Sarah. I mostly agree with you, but I’d have put Goodbye, Vitamin on the other list. It definitely was forgettable for me. Beartown, Little Fires, Evelyn…yes! I think I’m going to read The Hate You Give before the end of the year. I feel like I can’t ignore it any longer.

    On the books that didn’t deserve the hype, one is on my best books of the year list and another one I really loved. I agree – Young Jane Young, What We Lose and Manhattan Beach were SO over-hyped!

    Posted 12.8.17 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I think you’d love Hate U Give!

      Posted 12.8.17 Reply
  6. I love your take on this. I’ve been feeling the exact same way and had a ton of dnf that I thought we supposed to be really good. Total bummer.

    Posted 12.8.17 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I know…sigh. I’m reworking how I pick books for next year!

      Posted 12.8.17 Reply
  7. The only one of these I’ve read is THUG, and I liked it. Some of the others are on my TBR list. I try really hard to ignore hype. I tend to be disappointed by the books people rave about. Great list!

    Posted 12.8.17 Reply
  8. Tara wrote:

    I love that we both did this post today; it was a fun one to put together, especially since I had to go back and look at some of the books I’d read earlier in the year. I still laugh when I think about Behind Her Eyes; that story was so crazy! Hope you have a great weekend, Sarah!

    Posted 12.8.17 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I love putting this post together every year…it’s definitely the most fun one for me…maybe b/c I can get snarky!

      Posted 12.8.17 Reply
  9. Carrie wrote:

    Super interesting. Glad to hear about the ones that lived up to the hype (especially the TJR one, I have a tendency to love anything she writes).

    Posted 12.8.17 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      This is the only book I’ve read by her and now I want to read some more! But, I did hear this is a departure for her, so I wonder if I’ll like her others as much.

      Posted 12.8.17 Reply
  10. Anita wrote:

    Such a fun post! I’ve read two of your favorites and only one of your not worth the hype.. OMG how I hated the ending of Behind Her Eyes. I wanted to throw the book against a wall!! I know there are many books we all miss each year, this is a great way to see some to go back and pick up. thanks

    Posted 12.8.17 Reply
  11. I’ve read exactly one book you mention here, and I read it because you recommended it: Beartown. I completely agree that it deserves every bit of hype it has received so far.

    Posted 12.8.17 Reply
  12. Andi wrote:

    Wooohoooo! I knew this would be a great list. I see some surprises on both sides of the fence, and I see quite a few I have on my own TBR. Thanks for weighing in, Sarah! I’m with you on waning trust in the media/pubs.

    Posted 12.8.17 Reply
  13. I definitely need to read THUG as soon as possible. Great post!

    Posted 12.8.17 Reply
  14. Great list, Sarah (as always). I’m currently reading Little Fires Everywhere and listening to Evelyn Hugo and loving them both.

    You convinced me earlier this month to put Vitamin on my TBR.

    Of the eight that you felt overrated, I had not put one on my TBR list – either because of reviews or content.

    I guess we’re of very similar minds on our reading!

    Posted 12.8.17 Reply
  15. I’m with you on Exit West. I still need to read Little Fires Everywhere. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo also looks intriguing.

    Posted 12.8.17 Reply
  16. Gabby wrote:

    With you on The Leavers, which I continued to be flummoxed by the popularity of. Hype is a tricky thing…you need enough of it to make it onto people’s radar, but too much makes for a feeling like The Hate U Give gave me…it was very good, but I was expecting face-melting awesome and so it felt ever-so-slightly disappointing even though rationally I know that’s not fair, you?

    Posted 12.8.17 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      That was 4 stars for me. Very, very good, but not a 5 star read. But, it’s really tough for me to love a YA novel, so THUG overcame that at least.

      Posted 12.15.17 Reply
  17. Akilah wrote:

    I’ve only read one of the books on your list (THUG), and I agree with you about it being worth the hype. I am still interested in reading Young Jane Young, though who knows when I’ll get to it.

    Posted 12.9.17 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I know some people loved YJY…just some off elements weren’t for me.

      Posted 12.15.17 Reply
  18. Heather wrote:

    Oh no about Artemis! Loved The Martian and just picked up the Audible version of Artemis. Hopefully it’s still enjoyable. Can’t wait to get to Bear Town I’ve heard all the things. Great list!

    Posted 12.9.17 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      The banter worked for me in The Martian but just seemed like cheesy overkill in Artemis 🙁

      Posted 12.15.17 Reply
  19. iliana wrote:

    Enjoyed seeing your list! I haven’t read any of these but have certainly heard a lot about most of them!

    Posted 12.9.17 Reply
  20. Madeline wrote:

    Great post!

    I’ve become very wary of “hype” in all its forms.

    I HATED Little Fires Everywhere. But went back and read Everything I Never Told You and thought it much better. (My beef with LFE is trying to create 7+ characters in 250 pages. The kids were merely icons: pretty/smart/popular, jock, nerdy, goth … etc. etc.)

    I am in that small cabal that really loved the spine tingling, woooohhhhh, feeling of Behind Her Eyes.

    Loved Beartown. So much different than his other works. An exceptionally well crafted tale of a difficult yet important story, with fully realized characters. (Unlike LFE) Definitely hype-worthy.

    Of yours that didn’t deserve the hype, the one I most agree with is Exit West. I found it brutally stupid. While I agree that Eleanor Oliphant and Young Jane Young weren’t hype worthy, they were, at least, entertaining.

    Posted 12.9.17 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Hype is such a double-edged sword. I really liked Little Fires Everywhere…wasn’t 5 stars for me, but was a solid 4. I just love her writing style so much.

      I almost didn’t read Beartown b/c I’d DNF’d Ove…then I heard it was different from his others and so glad I did! Did you know there’s a sequel coming this summer? I’m always nervous about sequels, but I hope this one lives up.

      Posted 12.15.17 Reply
  21. Michelle wrote:

    Okay. Artemis is next on my list of books to read. I will be curious to see where it falls for me.

    TOTALLY with you on Sing, Unburied, Sing. I still wonder why that book is winning awards and why people are falling all over themselves about that book. Same with Final Girls. SO, so not a fan.

    I wonder how many people who review books as a hobby have their reviews influenced by hype, regardless of its origins – i.e. awards, publicity, etc. How many readers feel that they should like a book because it wins a major award or makes multiple Best of lists? How many people force themselves into believing that a book is better than it is because of outside influence? When I see books that I did not enjoy getting such rave reviews from others, including from friends and other bloggers with whose opinions I normally agree, I often wonder just how critical others are in their reading. Do we like a book because it is genuinely good or do we like a book because others do? No easy answer but it is one I always ask myself in such situations.

    Posted 12.11.17 Reply
  22. Lauren R wrote:

    So glad I’m not the only one who wasn’t impressed by Sing Unburied Sing! I couldn’t get through it (or the Leavers). I also saw The Keeper of Lost Things on a few best of the year lists and I thought (what I read) was terrible. Have you read that one?

    Posted 12.12.17 Reply
  23. Lindsay wrote:

    I totally agree that Artemis and Young Jane Young were total letdowns, and I was soooo excited for Exit West, but like you said, the second half of the book was pretty weak. On the other hand, I did love Eleanor Oliphant!

    Posted 12.14.17 Reply
  24. Glad to see BearTown on your good list. It’s our book club’s pick for January. Happy Holidays Sarah.

    Posted 12.14.17 Reply
  25. Lauren wrote:

    Oh boy, I love these lists, even though it’s often hard to say something isn’t worth the hype. I’m with you on many of your “nots,” though I think I will still give Eleanor and Sing, Unburied, Sing a shot. I’m in line for library audio, so might as well take a flier. I did not get the love for Exit West, but I do love the fact that so many people adored it. Vive le difference when it comes to reading.

    Agree wholeheartedly re Vitamin, Hate and Fires, those all knocked my socks off. Of the others I’ve read, only Beartown was a bit of a letdown, though I think that might be partially due to the fact that I listened on audio and I never “get” as much out of audio (I’m not a very good listener, apparently). I think it would have been a better print read.

    Bummed about the DNF for Artemis, curious to see how that one hits me when I get to it. SO with you on Absolute Darling. That was one of my most anticipated titles of the year and I tried to get through it twice and couldn’t find enough to keep me going.

    Posted 12.15.17 Reply
  26. Tina wrote:

    Go ahead and add Into the Water to the undeserving hype list…

    Posted 5.12.18 Reply
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