In case you didn’t know, I am the self-proclaimed Queen of 3-star Reads.
And I have a lot of feelings toward 3-star reads. In the long ongoing “Is 3 stars a good or bad rating” debate, I am a firm member of the “good” side. If I rated a book 3 stars, I still liked it and recommend it! Maybe I just didn’t enjoy it enough to rate it higher or there were some flaws that served as a detriment to my enjoyment. But bottom line, it’s a good rating for me. And today I’m going to recommend 10 books that I gave 3 stars.
In addition to why I recommend these books, I’m also going to tell you why I didn’t like them, because I love that 3-star reviews allow us to see both the good and bad side of a book! Plus, some of these books I rated 3 stars simply out of preference.
A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer
Why should should read it: This is a classic YA fantasy complete with a fairytale-esque kingdom and political intrigue. The three main characters are all lovable and well-written, and though there are many opportunities for the romance to get insta-lovey, it stays deliciously slow burn. Also, the protagonist has cerebral palsy, which is representation we almost never see in literature, and a lot of reviewers with CP have praised the rep!
Why I didn’t rate it higher: I feel like this story didn’t do much to set itself apart from the numerous other Beauty and the Beast retellings in the market. Additionally, the plot and characters didn’t grip me enough that I would consider reading the sequels.
Heartstopper: Volume One by Alice Oseman
Why you should read it: If you look up the word, “cute” in the dictionary, a picture of this book will show up!! Its story and length make it so easy to breeze through in under an hour! Plus, it has lovable main characters, adorable art, and a diverse cast.
Why I didn’t rate it higher: For me, this book didn’t carry much substance—it was just cute and fluffy. This reasoning 100% stems from just preference though!
Tarnished Are the Stars by Rosiee Thor
Why you should read it: This is one of those books that you know isn’t perfect, but love with your whole heart anyway. Reading about these characters finding friendship with each other and fighting against a corrupt government is guaranteed to warm your heart. Also, it’s a love letter to queerness, and if you’re queer, you absolutely have to read it! There’s ace and aro rep, along with a delightful sapphic romance.
Why I didn’t rate it higher: Again, this book isn’t perfect. The character and plot development could use some work, but I feel like Rosiee Thor simply fell into a lot of debut author traps. I’m excited to see what she does in the future.
Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali
Why you should read it: There’s literally no reason not to unless you’re Islamophobic or a bigot! In which case, stop reading my blog! This book is a testament to how powerful #ownvoices books can be. It’s unapologetically Muslim and unapologetically happy. If you want a diverse love story that will leave a smile on your face, pick this book up.
Why I didn’t rate it higher: Even though I know it was intentional, this book was still a little too cheesy for me at times. And since it’s a contemporary that follows a lot of “mundane activities,” if you will, I did get bored while reading it.
The Passengers by John Marrs
Why you should read it: This book puts the “thrill” in thriller! Okay, that was sort of a terrible joke. But I kid you not, it is physically impossible to put this book down at times. The plot is so intense, and some of the twists left me shook for days. I’ve truly never read anything like it.
Why I didn’t rate it higher: I was incredibly disappointed by how the people of color were treated. Some characters were too caricature-like for my taste, and the plot got a little convenient and convoluted towards the end.
Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen
Why you should read it: In the same vein as To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, this book is an exploration of identity and what it means to be Asian-American set against the backdrop of first love and teen drama. Also, this is getting an adaptation! So you should totally read it before it becomes world-famous!
Why I didn’t rate it higher: A character in the book did something horrible, and what they did was simply… brushed off? They were forgiven WAY too easily, and I wanted the book to highlight the fact that what they did was wrong more. Also, I will keep on yelling from the rooftops that this didn’t need to be 400 pages. 😪
Jade City by Fonda Lee
Why you should read it: This is one of those books that you don’t realize is so good until a certain point and maybe months after finishing it. The worldbuilding, character development, and plot? Nothing short of masterful.
Why I didn’t rate it higher: I guess I just wasn’t smart enough for this book, because I lost about half my brain cells to its denseness and slowness.
Hungry Hearts: 13 Tales of Food & Love, edited by Elsie Chapman and Caroline Tung Richmond
Why you should read it: If you love food (which, of course you do), you have to pick up this anthology, which is chock-full of mouthwatering food descriptions! Since many authors of color’s short stories are featured here, you’ll be reading about a variety of diverse cuisines. Every story is set in the fictional Hungry Hearts Row, so some of the characters and short stories are interconnected. Plus, the stories are in a wide variety of genres—fantasy, thriller, horror, contemporary, etc.
Why I didn’t rate it higher: As every anthology seems to be, some stories are weaker than others. And I found many of the weak stories towards the end of the anthology.
Prom and Other Hazards by Jamie Sullivan
Why you should read it: This is literally only 35 pages, so if you end up hating it… Well, you won’t be losing a lot. It’s an adorable story about a lesbian who’s had a crush on her bi best friend for a long time, and, as the title suggests, they just might finally get together at the school prom.
Why I didn’t rate it higher: Much like Heartstopper, this was simply a cute and short read—not much else to it.
Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Why you should read it: Beautiful writing! Hawaiian setting! Angry girl protagonist! Explorations of grief through music and song-writing! A sweet cinnamon roll named Kai! Questioning aro/ace main character! Nuanced discussion on labels!
Why I didn’t rate it higher: This book could get so. Darn. Repetitive with the way it explored Rumi’s grieving process. Maybe that’s how it is in real life, but there must’ve been some way to make the story less repetitive.
Ah, I highly recommend writing a post like this! It’s so fun to shine a spotlight on books you didn’t love as much, but know other people could love more than you did! (Also, if you know me, I’m very hard-to-please, and 3 stars from me might as well equal 4 stars.)