If 2020 taught us anything, it was to prepare for the unexpected! This applied to our #TBR lists, too. There were many books that took us by surprise, either because we don’t typically read that genre and loved it anyway, or because the story stuck with us long after we finished.

Thousands of votes were cast in our annual She Reads Awards, and here are the nominees and the winner for Best Surprise Hit of 2020.


The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

This surprise hit is full of magic and mystery. Linus Baker always follows the rules, and when he’s tasked with deciding whether or not a group of children are dangerous and about to end the world, it leaves him shook. He quickly realizes that his priority is to keep the kids safe, even if that means suffering severe consequences.

Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore

Oona Out of Order is a clever cross between Back to the Future meets Benjamin Button. On New Year’s Eve of 1982, Oona goes to bed conflicted about her future and wakes up as a much older version of herself. As this continues throughout the pages and her life, this unexpected hit will take you on an incredible journey through time.

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

Addie LaRue has been cursed by her greatest wish. On a whim, she asked to live forever but now she is destined to be forgotten by every single person she meets…until one day, someone knows who she is. This incredible story made the list for its ability to equally capture the leading lady’s endless adventures, as well as her darkest days of desperation.

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

Don’t sleep on this one – or rather – don’t sleep at the Sun Down Motel. This story caught us by surprise in the best way, with its ability to scare us senseless, all the while rooting for Carly to finally solve the mystery of what happened to her aunt back in 1982. When you put this one down for the night, you’ll probably be leaving the lights on.

They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman

Anything can happen when socialites go savage. It’s senior year in Gold Coast, Long Island, and while the kids are trying their best to move on from a murder of one of their own, secrets from the crime start to bubble up to the surface.  In this surprising page turner, our girl Jill vows to get to the bottom of it, but that means she might go down, too.

When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole

Something shady is happening in Sydney Green’s beloved Brooklyn neighborhood. People are moving out, new buyers are coming in, and the revitalization efforts appear to have a sinister side. This nominee will keep you guessing as Sydney navigates through conspiracy versus reality in this page-turner.

Writers and Lovers by Lily King

This one was nominated for its relatable storylines, lovable protagonist, and the reminder that we can reach for our dreams at any age. Casey’s life is full of complexity and we are rooting for her, even when she finds herself falling for two lovers at the same time. This feel good novel will take you to that terrifying but beautiful space between what has happened and what hasn’t happened yet.

The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi

The Death of Vivek Oji surprised us on so many levels. Introducing unforgettable characters, navigating the choppy waters of family dynamics, and seeking solace in friendships, this book has it all. Set in Nigeria, this colorful novel will take you on an unforgettable journey through love and loss.

One to Watch by Kate Stayman London

Don’t be surprised if you read One to Watch in one day. This story tackles the indulgence of finding love on reality TV while also dealing with the fact that there is extraordinarily little body diversity included. That all changes when plus-size blogger, Bea Schumacher, gets a shot at love and realizes that this is much more than just a game.

And the winner of the She Reads Awards for Best Surprise Hit of 2020 is…

Beach Read by Emily Henry

Nominated novel Beach Read gives us everything we need when it comes to an opposites attract situation. Bonding over writer’s block, two authors who randomly end up as summer neighbors exchange ideas and challenge each other to write as the other would. What comes next is not only unexpected, but delightfully endearing.

Click here to see the rest of the She Reads Best Books of 2020 Winners

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