Friday, June 15, 2018

Underrated Books I Read & Loved As a Kid

I've been thinking of doing an underrated books post for a while, but then when I was looking through some books I got the idea to focus it more on underrated books I read as a kid that I loved, but never saw people talk about. So we're taking a step back from current releases and books that I've been reading more recently and going back in time to look at some older books. I want to note that not all of these are categorized as kid's books, but are merely books that I read as a kid. I read these probably between the ages of nine/ten-fourteen or so, but I'm really just guessing on that. All I know for sure is I read these before high school. Let me know if you've read any of these and whether or not you liked them because I'm dying to hear other people's thoughts on these books!


Cathy's Book by Jordan Weisman
This book sort of blew my mind as a youngster. It was probably the first mixed media book I'd ever read and I just thought it was the coolest thing ever.
"Things weren't so peachy in Cathy's life before Victor broke up with her. Her father died unexpectedly, she's failing school, and her best friend is mad at her. But when Cathy decides to investigate Victor's reasons for ending their relationship, things suddenly go from bad to very, very, very bad as her findings produce more questions than answers. For instance, what does the death of Victor's co-worker, the strange mark that appeared on Cathy's arm, and the surreal behavior of several Chinese elders have to do with it?Through Cathy's unique and irresistible voice-and lots of proof in the form of letters, photographs, date book entries, telephone numbers readers can call, websites they can access, as well as secrets only a careful reader will be able to decipher-readers will enter a strange and fascinating world where things often aren't how they appear."

Dr. Franklin's Island by Ann Halam
This book was mental. I distinctly remember sitting weirdly curled up in like the doorway of my room (?) for hours while I read the entire thing. If I did that now, I wouldn't be able to walk for days. Regardless, it was phenomenal. It's one of those that as much as I want to re-read it, I don't know if I ever will because I don't ever want its memory to be lessened in my ind.
"Semi, Miranda, and Arnie are part of a group of 50 British Young Conservationists on their way to a wildlife conservation station deep in the rain forests of Ecuador. After a terrifying mid-air disaster and subsequent crash, these three are the sole survivors, stranded together on a deserted tropical island. Or so they think. Semi, Miranda, and Arnie stumble into the hands of Dr. Franklin, a mad scientist who’s been waiting for them, eager to use them as specimens for his experiments in genetic engineering."

The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow
I remember reading this and being so impressed with it, but I've never seen it mentioned anywhere. People are pretty crazy about WWII-era books, so I thought this one would for sure be a hit, but apparently not. If you like boxing and WWII books, then you should still check this one out.
"Sydney Taylor Award-winning novel Berlin Boxing Club is loosely inspired by the true story of boxer Max Schmeling's experiences following Kristallnacht."
Amazon | Book Depository

The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas
I don't remember a lot about this one to be honest, but I do remember it being a bit weird, but also really interesting. I actually wouldn't mind checking this one out again someday.
"A cursed book. A missing professor. Some nefarious men in gray suits. And a dreamworld called the Troposphere? Ariel Manto has a fascination with nineteenth-century scientists--especially Thomas Lumas and The End of Mr. Y, a book no one alive has read. When she mysteriously uncovers a copy at a used bookstore, Ariel is launched into an adventure of science and faith, consciousness and death, space and time, and everything in between."
Amazon | Book Depository


Severance by Robert Olen Butler
Okay, so.. this isn't a children's book. At all. But that's when I found it and that's when I read it. It's actually pretty interesting.  I was a weird kid, okay?
"The human head is believed to remain in a state of consciousness for one and one-half minutes after decapitation. In a heightened state of emotion, people speak at the rate of 160 words per minute. Inspired by the intersection of these two seemingly unrelated concepts, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Olen Butler wrote sixty-two stories, each exactly 240 words in length, capturing the flow of thoughts and feelings that go through a person's mind after their head has been severed. The characters are both real and imagined: Medusa (beheaded by Perseus), Anne Boleyn, a chicken (beheaded for Sunday dinner, Alabama, 1958), and the author (decapitated, on the job, 2008)."

Pendragon: The Merchant of Death by D.J. McHale
I loved this series so much and I still never see anyone talking about it. Come on, guys, this was the best introduction to portal types of fantasy and I have no idea if it still holds up today, but middle school me loved it to death.
"Bobby Pendragon is a seemingly normal fourteen-year-old boy. But there is something very special about Bobby. He is going to save the world. And not just Earth as we know it. Bobby is slowly starting to realize that life in the cosmos isn't quite what he thought it was. And before he can object, he is swept off to an alternate dimension known as Denduron, a territory inhabited by strange beings, ruled by a magical tyrant, and plagued by dangerous revolution."

The Fall (The Seventh Tower Series) by Garth Nix
I think Nix fans were sleeping on this series, but I remember being totally into these books when I was in fifth grade. I also distinctly remember setting it out on my desk and for some reason thinking it was so cool (???) when honestly, it really wasn't (I was also a really shy child that didn't like to show people what I was reading, so that's also odd to me). I remember so many random images from this book and somehow I've never forgotten that the main character's name is Tal. Oh, and there's a tower. That's about it.
"Tal has lived his whole life in darkness. He has never left his home, a mysterious castle of seven towers. He does not see the threat that will tear apart his family and his world. But Tal cannot stay safe forever. When danger strikes, he must desperately climb the Red Tower to steal a Sunstone. He reaches the top... ...and then he falls into a strange and unknown world of warriors, ice ships, and hidden magic. There Tal makes an enemy who will save his life and holds the key to his future."

Comes a Horseman by Robert Liparulo
This was probably not at all appropriate for an eighth grader, but what are you going to do? I remember my eighth grade math teacher seeing it and asking me if I was reading that, me confirming, and him giving me an odd look and saying, "well, it's a really good book." I still wonder what he was thinking.
"The ancients saw Death as a blazing figure on horseback, swift and merciless. Those facing the black chasm often mistook their pounding hearts for the beating of hooves. Now, two FBI agents pursuing a killer from a centuries-old cult realize they have become his prey."


The Torn Skirt by Rebecca Godfrey
The description for this book seems to perfectly sum up young teen angst, but it was written in a really lyrical manner that completely drew me in as a young kid who hadn't really read anything like that before. It was also the first book I read that didn't use quotation marks and was written in that very 'literary' style, which was so crazy to me. I was definitely always surprised at how underrated this one is, but now that I'm older I can see how it's not exactly everyone's cup of tea. Regardless, it will always hold a special place with me.
"I was born with a fever, but it seemed to subside for sixteen years. . . . And then as I turned sixteen and stopped smiling, the fever returned though my skin stayed pale and sure, showing no sign of the heat inside me. 
At Mt. Douglas (a.k.a. Mt. Drug) High, all the girls have feathered hair, and the sweet scent of Love's Baby Soft can't hide the musk of raw teenage anger, apathy, and desire. Sara Shaw is a girl full of fever and longing, a girl looking for something risky, something real. Her only possible salvation comes in the willowy form of the mysterious Justine, the outlaw girl in the torn skirt. The search for Justine will lead Sara on a daring odyssey into an underworld of hookers and johns, junkies and thieves, runaway girls and skater boys, and, ultimately, into a violent tragedy."
Amazon | Book Depository

House of Dark Shadows by Robert Liparulo
This was a young adult-geared series by Robert Liparulo, so at least it was slightly more appropriate for my age. I loved how this took the regular 'haunted house' idea and turned it into so much more. 
"When the Kings move from L.A. to a secluded small town, fifteen-year-old Xander is beyond disappointed. But he, David, and Toria are captivated by the many rooms in the old Victorian fixer-upper they moved into--as well as the heavy woods surrounding the house. They soon discover there's something odd about the house. Sounds come from the wrong directions. Prints of giant, bare feet appear in the dust. And when David tries to hide in the linen closet, he winds up in locker 119 at his new school. Then the really weird stuff kicks in: they find a hidden hallway with portals leading off to far-off places--in long-ago times. Xander is starting to wonder if this kind of travel is a teen's dream come true . . . or his worst nightmare."
Amazon | Book Depository

City of the Dead by T.L. Higley
T.L. Higley wrote a lot of historical fiction novels that I just devoured as a kid. I have wonderful memories of T.L. Higley not only for her great, but also because I remember her posting something online about sending her an email and she would send you a souvenir from one of the places she visited while researching for her books. So, naturally, middle school me did just that and she actually this really neat little mini-pyramid figure from Egypt! I thought that was the neatest thing an author had ever done, and I still set it out on my bookshelf.
"Up from the sands of Egypt rises the Great Pyramid, where Hemiunu, Pharaoh’s Grand Vizier, commands the historic building project as he orders his life—with justice, truth, and precision. But when a series of murders at the site threatens chaos, Hemi must abandon his legacy to hunt down the killer who may be closer than he would like to think. Can he restore justice to the city before his careful life and work are destroyed, or will a mysterious people and their strange God uncover the secret past that Hemi has tried to forget?"

Bottled Up by Jaye Murray
The thing that I loved about this book was how real it was and how it handled a lot of the issues that Pip dealt with. I don't remember specific aspects of this book, but this is definitely one that I think would still hold up fairly well today.
"Pip's desperate to escape his life - he's been skipping classes, drinking, getting high. Anything and everything to avoid his smug teachers, his sweet but needy little brother, his difficult home life. Now he's been busted by Principal Giraldi and given an ultimatum: either he shows up for all his classes and sees a counselor after school, or he's expelled. Pip's freaked out; not because he might get kicked out of school, but by the thought that Giraldi might call his father. Because Pip will do anything to avoid his father."
Amazon | Book Depository

Have you read any of these books? What underrated books did you read as a kid? Let me know (I'm very curious)!


  1. I actually haven't heard of ANY of these! I don't think I read a lot of underrated books when I was a kid. My sister and I loved series, so we were into the Babysitter's Club and Goosebumps. As standalones, I loved The Phantom Tollbooth and Jacob Have I Loved.

    1. I never read The Phantom Tollbooth, but I hear so many wonderful things about it that I really wish I had!

  2. I like looking back at books from childhood! So many good memories. :) Dr. Franklin's Island sounds like something I would have LOVED.

    1. There really are some good memories--simpler times. :) Oh man, that book was so good, I feel like you probably would have!

  3. I loved Severance, too! I read it in college, though. I think I would have been confused and creeped out by it as a kid.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. Yeah, I'm not even sure why I grabbed it. College sounds like a much wiser time to read it, I feel like there's more to get from it at an older age also, haha. Pretty excited to see you've read it, though!

  4. Oh, I have never read any of these! For the past years I've been searching for a children's book about porcelain dolls living in a dollhouse, who fear living and exploring the outside (aka their owner's house) but the main doll goes out because their uncle (i think) goes missing and she must look for him. Something like that. I so want to know which book this is, but can never seem to find it. *cries*