The best six underrated contemporary realistic fiction novels of 2021; underrated books.

6 Underrated Contemporary Realistic Fiction Novels of 2021

Not all good books have to be rooted in fantasy. Here are some great, lesser-known reads to round out your end-of-the-year list.
November 15, 2021
6 mins read

It goes without saying that fantasy and science fiction are two of the most popular book genres; each allows readers to escape into an entirely different universe full of magic, mythical creatures and futuristic scenarios. People often read to transport their minds into a different setting and really immerse themselves in the story. And although there is an undeniable appeal in this, the massive success of fantasy and sci-fi leads to an entire genre getting overlooked: realistic fiction. There are so many amazing realistic fiction books that get cast aside just because they are not set in a fantasy world or lack futuristic elements. Unfortunately, realistic fiction books — no matter how many copies are sold in bookstores — tend to be extremely underrated in popular culture.

Underrated Book #1: “The Forever Girl” by Jill Shalvis

Bestselling romance writer Jill Shalvis is back with the next installment in her “Wildstone” series. The books follow life in the fictional small town of Wildstone, California, and each book focuses on a different character. The books do not need to be read in order, as the stories are not connected by anything other than the setting, making each book stand alone. “The Forever Girl” tells the story of Maze, who returns to Wildstone for her estranged best friend’s wedding whom she hasn’t seen since a tragedy caused them to go their separate ways.

Underrated Book #2: “Imagine Summer” by Shelley Noble

Shelley Noble, New York Times bestselling author of “Whisper Beach,” returns with yet another summer read. “Imagine Summer” follows Skylar Mackenzie, who owns a toy and bookstore in a coastal Rhode Island town. Skylar’s world is turned upside down when her estranged sister shows up on her doorstep along with the man who broke Skylar’s heart years ago. Her sister returns to set things right, but Skylar wonders if she can really trust her.

Underrated Book #3: “People We Met On Vacation” by Emily Henry

Emily Henry, another New York Times bestselling author, recently released a new novel titled “Beach Read.” Two people with nothing in common manage to become friends after a shared car ride home from college one semester. Poppy and Alex live their separate lives for most of the year, but during the summer they take a week-long vacation together. That is, until they have a falling out. Eventually, Poppy convinces her friend to take one more vacation together in an attempt to make things right again.

Underrated Book #4: “It Happened One Summer” by Tessa Bailey

The first installment in Tessa Bailey’s “Bellinger Sisters” series follows Piper Bellinger, a celebrity with a reputation for being a bit wild. After she gets arrested at an out-of-control party, Piper’s stepfather cuts her off and sends her to Washington to learn some responsibility. As soon as she arrives, she meets Brendan, a sea captain who insists that Piper can’t last a week outside of Beverly Hills. However, she is determined to prove to everyone, especially her stepfather, that she is more than just a pretty face. Everywhere she looks, she keeps running into Brendan, and her time spent with the sea captain makes Piper question whether the glamorous life is what she really wants.

Underrated Book #5: “Malibu Rising” by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Set in 1983, this book follows four famous siblings who attend a party that changes their lives within the course of 24 hours. Supermodel Nina Riva throws her annual end-of-summer party, and everyone wants to attend just to be around Nina’s brothers Hud (a renowned photographer) and Jay (a championship surfer). The only person not looking forward to the party is Nina, who never wanted to be the center of attention. By the end of the night, the festivities spin out of control and lots of family secrets are revealed, forever changing the lives of everyone involved.

Underrated Book #6: “Beth and Amy” by Virginia Kantra

The second part of Virginia Kantra’s modern-day retelling of the classic “Little Women” follows Beth and Amy March. Amy is an up-and-coming designer in New York’s fashion scene, and Beth is a talented singer-songwriter going on tour with country music star Colt Henderson. The two are forced to return home for their older sister Jo’s wedding, and the March sisters must learn to lean on each other as they face the changes life brings about.

With these extraordinary underrated books in mind, consider diversifying your bookshelf and checking out some of these fun and realistic reads!

Noir Galvin, Arcadia University

Writer Profile

Noir Galvin

Arcadia University
English and Creative Writing

I am a senior at Arcadia University graduating in December 2021. When I’m not in class or studying, I can be found working on an art project or writing short stories for fun.

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