Novel Approach: Five fictional 2020 reads you might have missed that are worth your time

Many of us did a little extra reading this year, given that the COVID-19 pandemic required those of us who are nonessential workers to remain housebound during the early stages of the pandemic. Now 2020 was a weird year for publishers and authors as their typical marketing plans were thrown for a loop when authors were unable to physically tour around to meet with readers and promote their books. It was also a strange time where publishing dates were moved up, pushed back and essentially the publishing houses were playing the hokey pokey with their new book releases. Despite all of that, 2020 published a spectacular number of books this year and unfortunately I only can review so many in my column. Here are five spectacular books that were published in 2020 that I read this year and couldn’t put down.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

If you haven’t read “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue” and you’re someone who enjoys fantasy or snarky gods or art I wholeheartedly recommend this book. It's a captivating tale about a young woman who makes a desperate bargain with a god to live forever...only to find out that she’s cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets. After 300 years, she stumbles across a young man and is perplexed by his ability to remember her.

It is an achingly beautiful meditation on memory, identity and loneliness. Readers might also enjoy Scwhab’s “Shades of Magic” trilogy.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

“The Vanishing Half” explores how a pair of Black twin sisters go on to lead extraordinarily different lives after they leave their small community in the 1950’s. One sister decides to use her ability to pass as a white woman to leave her past and family behind while the other winds up back in the hometown she strove to escape.

This book is a compelling tale about race and identity as it examines how others’ perceptions define how we see ourselves. Readers might also enjoy Bennett’s book “The Mothers.”

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Readers who need a little more chills in their lives or still find themselves hung up on “Jane Eyre” will find themselves quickly ensnared in “Mexican Gothic.” When a young woman goes to visit her recently married cousin, she discovers that her cousin’s new family is not quite right. The English family have managed to bring the gothic England to their Mexican estate and they are nothing like the polished and wealthy group they present themselves as. When the protagonist begins to hear and see things in the house she wonders if it's the house or the family that’s driving her mad.

Readers might also enjoy Moreno-Garcia’s thrilling fantasy “Gods of Jade and Shadow.”

Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu

Written in the structure of a script, “Interior Chinatown” paints an imaginative tale about a man who sees himself as a background actor within his own life. All he dreams of becoming is transcending his role as Generic Asian Man to become Kung Fu Guy, but when he gets his shot at fame he stumbles upon secrets about Chinatown and his own family.

Yu examines assimilation, immigration and pop culture in this clever novel, which won the 2020 National Book Award.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

For those looking for a comforting and cozy read, “The House in the Cerulean Sea” is here to offer up a warm sweatered hug. When a social worker goes to investigate the status of an orphanage housing the devil’s child and other magical children, he finds himself in over his head. As the rule abiding social worker learns more and more about the found family at the orphanage, he finds himself inclined to break the rules and live a little.

This book is such a charming and enchanting LGBTQ+ read about prejudice and love.