Best Pop Fiction of 2020

A girl with a louding voice, a bawdy observer, a woman making her own happy ending. The best pop fiction novels published in 2020.

See all of our 2020 Best Books lists

 

Daré, Abi. The Girl with the Louding Voice. Dutton. ISBN 9781524746025.      

Adunni, 14, attends school and takes care of her father and brothers in a Nigerian village. Her life is uprooted when her father sells her as the third wife to an older man, and again when she’s sold as a servant to a wealthy family in Lagos. She confronts these hardships with her louding voice, which will resonate with readers long after they finish this fiercely moving debut.

 

Dillon, Alena. Mercy House. Morrow. ISBN 9780062914804.

Unconventional Sister Evelyn runs Mercy House, a refuge for women escaping violence. She is a one-of-a-kind creation, achingly real, funny, yet willing to look at her own flaws and those of her religion. Dillon’s debut is a stirring indictment of the Catholic Church, a respectful portrayal of faith, and a beautifully written story of women recovering from great trauma.

 

Gallen, Michelle. Big Girl, Small Town. Algonquin. ISBN 9781643750897.

The “big girl” of the title is Majella, an autistic, often bawdy observer who keeps track of all that goes on in her small Irish town through her work at the local chip shop (the Catholic one, she’d never enter the one run by Protestants). As she navigates her own personal troubles, she tracks how everyone else in the town is faring in dispassionate and darkly hilarious terms.

 

Hadlow, Janice. The Other Bennet Sister. Holt. ISBN 9781250129413.

Hadlow’s debut mines the Austen oeuvre and hits gold with the story of bespectacled, plain Mary Bennet, middle sister of Lizzy, Jane, et al. Once Mary moves from under the shadow of her dazzling sisters and family expectations, she finds fulfillment, friends, and a rosier future than that offered in Pride and Prejudice. Though definitely of her era, Mary is a heroine modern readers will cheer for.

 

Medie, Peace Adzo. His Only Wife. Algonquin. ISBN 9781616209155.

In this charming coming-of-age story, a young woman in Ghana discovers that her happy-ever-after doesn’t come with marriage, but with all the choices she makes after that. It’s only when Afi begins to think for herself that she discovers what she wants in life and how she’ll achieve her own happy ending.

 

Pooley, Clare. The Authenticity Project. Pamela Dorman: Viking. ISBN 9781984878618.

Everybody lies about their lives. What happens if you share the truth? As the Authenticity Project notebook gets passed from person to person, strangers become friends and their small acts of kindness bloom into larger connections among themselves and the world around them. Multiple narrators and character points of view add to the charm of this funny and poignant book.

 

Reid, Kiley. Such a Fun Age. Putnam. ISBN 9780525541905.

This book lives up to all the attention it has gotten. It’s a critique of the unconscious (and sometimes conscious) bias of white liberals, as well as an engaging coming-of-age story of a Black young woman trying to establish herself in a world that is often hostile, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

 

Stein, Leigh. Self Care. Penguin. ISBN 9780143135197.

A sharp satire of online culture, companies like GOOP, and white feminism, Stein’s book is very much of the now. While readers may not always like these characters, they definitely have met them before and will appreciate this subtle takedown of them as well as of wellness culture and the commodification of female vulnerability.

 

Tedrowe, Emily Gray. The Talented Miss Farwell. Custom House: HarperCollins. ISBN 9780062897725.

A heroine who spends 20 years robbing her small town to support a more exciting life in the art world spends as much time conning herself as she does her friends, coworkers, and family in this nuanced portrayal of just how a “good” person goes bad.

 

West, Catherine Adel. Saving Ruby King. Park Row: Harlequin. ISBN 9780778305095.

A beautiful debut that expertly balances complicated themes of secrets, family, love, and forgiveness, as well as the weight of generational pain and suffering. The multiple points of view, including congregants from the Calvary Hope Christian Church and the building itself, add layers of nuance and richness to an already incredible narrative.

 

See all of our 2020 Best Books lists

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