2020 Review. Or: How I stayed sane in a literal dystopia

Page Three


Clipart of a large poinsetta with sprigs of holly, ivy, and fir tree needles stretching out on either side.

The following are my Top Four Books I Did Not Finish.

Cover of The Babysitters Coven, by Kate Williams.

I discussed this book at greater length in my Peppermint Mocha Book Tag. The gist is that it had a terrible portrayal of mental illness for the sake of drama, and a very cliché high school setting in which only the protagonist and her best friend are portrayed as worthwhile human beings. I gave up after the first few chapters.

Cover of the Carniepunk anthology.

This was the book that inspired my Summerween post, but other than the Seanan McGuire story, it did NOT live up to its promise of creepy-in-a-fun-way carnival stories. I gave up after the first two tales because they were so gratuitously grimdark. The first one features a “noble” demon who only steps in to stop a violent pedophile when he threatens someone the demon allegedly cares about (I say allegedly because guess whose safety this upstanding citizen doesn’t care as much about. His love interest’s underage sister!).

The second story baited me with bright lights and adorable romance and then pulled the enchanted rug out from under me, switching to a tale of attempted suicide that both glorifies and dismisses the real pain behind mental illness.

According to the Goodreads summary of the other stories, most of them are just more of the same with a dash of trans-mysoginy. Turns out McGuire’s mermaid tale is one of the very few oases in this very un-enchanting wonderland (the other exception, from what I hear, is Jennifer Estep’s “Parlor Tricks”).

Cover of Rolling in the Deep, by Mira Grant

There isn’t anything actually wrong with this one. Mira Grant (a.k.a. Seanan McGuire) knows how to write fascinatingly fierce finfolk, so I trust that I would enjoy this book if I tried it again. I was just not in the mood, back in the early months of 2020, for such a grim story. I got about as far as the submarine’s first day underwater before I switched to McGuire’s more upbeat novellas.

Cover of Girl of the Limberlost, by Gene Stratton-Porter

This one also isn’t a DNF because it offended me in any major way. As with McGuire’s novella, I have mixed feelings about Stratton-Porter’s book. On the one hand, I got bored after the first few chapters and couldn’t quite relate to a protagonist who’s supposed to be such a paragon of virtue.

Elnora is long suffering, self-sacrificing, ultra humble and far too good for this world…except for this weirdly self-serving moment that felt uncomfortable rather than refreshing. After giving away her lunch to a hungry boy, Elnora is quick to announce her good deed to her classmates when they notice her empty lunch box. Because heaven forbid anyone should think she’s greedy or impatient enough to eat all that food on the way to school.

On the other hand, Elnora’s humble-bragging results in her classmates banding together to find the boy a more long-term solution to his hunger. If she had insisted on being totally altruistic and hiding her act of kindness, it would have been a mere bandaid over a gaping wound. By telling others about the hungry child, she ended up giving him a more stable source of food.

I also did like how complicated Elnora’s mother is. She doesn’t want Elnora to go to school, and she refuses to do the one thing that could lift both herself and Elnora out of poverty…but that one thing would be to sell the woodland she took over from her late husband to an oil company. I can absolutely understand her unwillingness from both a sentimental and environmental perspective.

It’s possible I’ll try this one again sometime, when I have more patience. Plus, I’ve added the Limberlost itself — now known as the Loblolly preserve — to my literary travel bucket list, since it’s just about an hour south of me.

Poinsetta clipart

What do you think, Bookwyrms? Should I give any of the above books another try? Any memorable DNFs of your own this year? What books, on the flip-side, do you most highly recommend, and what were your best mental health strategies for 2020? And, finally, what are your biggest plans for when we actually get to start this bright new decade?

I’ll leave you with this very sea-sonal TikTok video by yours mer-rily.

Merry Fishmas to all and to all a Very Happy New Year!!!


Poinsetta clipart from Clipart Library.


  1. I hope 2021 treats you better than this year did! So sorry to hear you had such a rough time.

    I definitely engaged in some literary escapism as well. Also: great list of stratagems! You did a lot of cool stuff this year despite the 2020ness of it all.

    • Thank you! Same to you! The silver lining, I suppose, is that I’ve had much better resources to help me deal with the depression crash this year. And I have a better idea now of what I can and can’t push myself through, work-wise.

  2. I know it was a crap year, but this was an awesome take on it! Loved the recap. I forgot several of those books and had to do a quick look to see what they were about again 😛

    • Thank you! This is one of my favorite posts to do each year. Your blog has been awesome this year, too! Thank you for doing the Hallotober tag! 🎃

  3. I love reading your posts. You’ve managed to share your low points while still focusing on the good things and how you’re coping! I also love the way you always bring up nostalgic books from my past (Sweet Valley High was a staple for me). This is such a great wrap up post for the dumpster fire that was 2020, and I hope that 2021 is better to all of us. 💕

    • Thank you so much!!! I have loved reading your posts, too! They always give me something to look forward to and something fun to think about. You’ve inspired a bunch of awesome book tags, including the caffeinated holiday special that I definitely wrote with you and Kristy in mind. 🤗 I hope you’re having a peaceful, restful day and amen to a better New Year!

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