Top 10 Middle-Grade Books of 2020

As I started my career as an elementary school librarian, I had access to almost any middle grade book I could wish to read, as well as a good reason to prioritize middle grade literature. And y’all, I’m so glad I did. I’ve fallen in love with MG books all over again, and I like them SO MUCH MORE than I ever liked YA. Which is saying something, because I read and enjoy plenty of YA.

I can’t begin to express to you how poorly this list represents some of the AMAZING MG books I’ve read this year. Narrowing it down to ten was easy in June, when I started this list, but as I went through the year and watched book after book get knocked off, I fully appreciated just how wonderful the MG literature being written right now really is.

So for those of you with kids or who want to dive back in to MG literature, here are my Top 10 of 2020.

Please note that this is books I personally read in 2020, NOT books published in 2020.

1. Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan

The writing is so lovely, the characters fully realized, and the story so full of hope. Maybe my favorite MG book ever.

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Top 10 of 2020

HOLY SMOKES! What a great year for books I’ve had! This is, hands’ down, the best reading year I have ever had. Ever. I know I say that every year, but there are eight, count ’em, EIGHT five-star books on this list. YOWZAH!

In all seriousness, I’m so excited to share this list with you all.

1. The Mirror & the Light

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Utterly brilliant historical fiction. Captivating and compelling.

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5 “Bad” Books I Actually Really Like

I’m going to start by saying I don’t know that there is such a thing as a “bad” book. While definitely some books are better than others, and for sure the writing in some books is just terrible, I don’t know that a book can be “bad”.

Okay, I take it back, there are some books that are DEFINITELY bad in every way.

But I don’t think you have to only like things that are “good.” I mean, for one thing, good/bad is so subjective! But for another thing, your enjoyment of a thing isn’t necessarily tied to its quality. I have definitely experienced movies/TV that are so bad I can’t enjoy it, but most of the time I can like something even when I can tell it’s not awesome if it’s achieving whatever it set out to do. This book was supposed to make me laugh, and it did. Yay!

Okay, glad I got that out of the way.

This list are books that the book community on the whole has determined are terrible, and that I to some extent agree are not awesome, but I still love them anyway.

1. Twilight

I resisted Twilight for a LONG time. By the time the movie came out literally everyone I knew had read it except for me, and then I saw the movie which was terrible, and so I refused to read it. Until I did. And yes, it was just as bad as everyone says. The dialogue is particularly awful. But … I have still read the whole series. More than once.

I don’t know what it is that makes me keep reading. It’s not the romance. Maybe it’s the melodrama? It’s definitely at least part the Pacific Northwest setting. Whatever it is, so many people enjoy this book that I’m done criticizing it or apologizing for liking it.


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Why I don’t knock people for what they love to read

So you love Twilight. Yeah, you know it isn’t the best book, yeah, you know the relationships are low-key abusive, and yeah, in hindsight the whole thing is pretty melodramatic. But why are you apologizing for it? Why is it your “guilty read”? Why … do people criticize you or make fun of you or call you not a “real reader”?

I feel the same way about pretty much every book, btw. Fifty Shade of Grey? You do you. Harry Potter still? Hey, if it’s your favorite it’s your favorite. Everything by Sarah J. Maas? We don’t see eye to eye on much, but at least we both love to read!

Okay, but Katie, they can’t read Harry Potter because its author is transphobic and trash.

Just, hear me out. I was ten when Harry Potter became like, super popular. I devoured it in a weekend, and I loved it so much I started reading it to my little brother, who was eight. Now, my brother could read just fine, but he never did. He didn’t like books, didn’t like reading. But after I read the first three Harry Potter books to him and stopped because the fourth book was too dang LONG to read aloud, he picked it up himself. He was nine, and he read that book ALL THE WAY to the end. Then, suddenly, he started picking up other things. He became a reader. These days he’s reading freaking Colson Whitehead. Without Harry Potter, no The Nickel Boys. I don’t think he’s still a big HP fan, but so many people with similar stories ARE. Who am I to tell them that the book that made them a reader is too problematic for them to continue to love?

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Review: Black Sun

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Series: Between Earth and Sky
Genre: Fantasy
Maturity Level: 5-
View on Goodreads
Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.

Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.


WOW WOW WOW!!!! I was expecting something special from Black Sun because Roanhorse is such a fantastic writer, but all of my expectations were completely blown out of the water. This book is exciting, smart, unique, and so. dang. GOOD.

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Review: Truly Devious

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Series: Truly Devious
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery
Maturity Level: 3+
View on Goodreads
Rating: ⋆⋆

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place,” he said, “where learning is a game.”

Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym “Truly, Devious.” It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder. 


I was so excited for my first Maureen Johnson book, and this sounded so interesting, and I really *wanted* to love it, but I was just so indifferent to Truly Devious.

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How to know when your TBR is too long

Looking at your tbr gives you anxiety.
Books are supposed to make us feel happy and relaxed! If your tbr makes you anxious, it’s probably because there are too many books on it, my friends.

You look at some of the books and think “I’ve never even seen that book before!”
I think we all have books on our tbr that we can’t remember the plot of or why we added them. But if you’re looking at a book and you don’t even RECOGNIZE it, the problem is either a cover change or you have so many books you can’t even remember them all.

There’s not enough room on your shelves for all your unread books.
When books are falling on the floor, when you can bathe in the pile of books on the floor, your tbr is probably too long.

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Discussion: Do you read seasonal books?

IT’S ALMOST HALLOWEEN!!!! I love Halloween, mostly because I love dressing up in costumes with my family. ❤ But I have to say I enjoy October in general, and I love Halloween/fall decorations, especially pumpkins. It’s just such a fun time of year!

I also always enjoy seeing lists of spooky books for spooky season. I even did one of my own, once. But the thing is, I almost never read spooky books in October. Partly because I don’t enjoy scary/spooky books, but partly because I rarely think of it.

But this isn’t the only time of year I see seasonal lists. At Christmas it’s inevitable to see lists of Christmas-themed romance novels. It’s like the Hallmark channel, but in book form. In the summer I see lists of beach reads, some of which are romance novels with middle-aged women in bikinis under an umbrella, others of which are cling-to-the-edge-of-your-seat thrillers. In early January I tend to see self-help lists, or at least books about people getting their lives together.

But, I never read in this way.

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The Anonymous Bookaholics Tag

I like this tag because it’s a little different, asking questions about my bookish preferences rather than giving me prompts in which I will, let’s be honest, probably choose the same books I always pick. This gives me a chance to tell you all a little about me, perfect since I don’t think I’ve done anything like this in a while.

Thanks to Em at Ember Revision for tagging me. She’s relatively new around here, so take a minute to check out her blog. 🙂

1. Do you have a favorite bookshop?

No, not really. There aren’t a lot of indies around here (two, to be exact) and they aren’t anywhere near me. If I go to the book store it’s usually Barnes & Noble, mostly because my mom is always sending gift cards. I have been buying from The Dock Bookshop in Fort Worth as much as possible, but they have a very small stock that doesn’t align much with what I read (mostly YA and SF/F), so everything I get from there has to be ordered.

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Classic Remarks: Favorite Time-Period

This week Krysta and Briana at Pages Unbound are hosting the discussion: Do you have a favorite time period for classic literature? 

DEFINITELY. As in, it’s not even a contest. I love Romantic literature. In particular I tend to enjoy French Romantic literature more than English, but as long as it isn’t Dickens I’ll read pretty much anything from the time period.

The Romantic era is a pretty big umbrella that covers a lot of different literary styles. It lasted from approximately 1790-1850. That means that both Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters are Romance authors, and they’re just about as different as they come. I’m sure I could google characteristics of the Romantic era, but I personally associate Romance novels with being long, melodramatic, and emotional. Some of the novels that epitomize Romantic literature for me are Jane Eyre, Les Miserables, and Great Expectations.

What I personally love about Romance novels is the feeling and emotion they are written with. Since mot of the classics I read in school were from the Romantic era or later, when I was first introduced to the Classical era through Tom Jones or Candide, I was surprised at how … aloof the novels seemed. In Romantic novels you get to really know the characters, their thoughts and feelings. This is taken to the nth degree by Charlotte Bronte in Jane Eyre when she wrote *gasp* in the first person.

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