Top 5 Wednesday – Favourite Hopepunk Books of 2018

“Top 5 Wednesday” is a weekly meme currently hosted on Goodreads by Sam of Thoughts on Tomes in which you list your top 5 for the week’s chosen topic.

This week’s a freebie so I made up my own prompt: Favourite hopepunk books of 2018.

And I kind of chose it to showcase books that I didn’t include in my Best of 2018 list (which is coming, I swear!) So think of it as a Special Mentions list.

Now, the term “hopepunk” was coined by SFF author Alexandra Rowland via Tumblr. You can read the entirety of her glorious post here, but the gist of it is that hopepunk is the antithesis of grimdark. A celebration of human resilience and empathy and love in the face of darkness. Giving apathy the middle finger as you ride off in your beat-up car bedecked with rainbows and protest stickers.

Because life is fhard and scary and lonely. And we need more reminders that, yes, it’s worth it.

(You can click on the titles for the full reviews. The ones that have them, anyway.)


Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers

Record of a Spaceborn Few

I’d never been more engaged with a book that has so little plot and external conflict as I did with Chambers’ third Wayfarers book. I call it This is Us crossed with Mass Effect. It’s got the alien interactions and the cultural exchanges, but it’s also got the cozy, small-scale family stories and conflicts. Really, the story is just about a group of people who are trying to live their lives as best as they can through uncertainties and horrific tragedies. Human connections are at the heart of this book and Chambers shows so beautifully how they can bring a community together.


Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton

Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe

This contemporary, maybe-speculative-maybe-not YA follows Cliff Hubbard, resident loner of Happy Valley High, as he tries to deal with the aftermath of his brother’s suicide. He’s joined by Aaron, resident cool kid, who went into a brief coma and got a personal mission from God (allegedly): make Happy Valley High more kind and, well, happy. And he can’t do it without Cliff’s help.

It’s ridiculous, it’s hilarious, and most of all, it’s such a heartfelt love letter to all the good we’re capable of doing–the changes we can make, the lives we can touch.

The last 40 pages is basically just a long rib-crushing hug (a Krogan hug, for you Mass Effect fans), and there’s this one particular passage that I want to bottle up and string around my heart like Christmas lights. Here’s a snippet:

“I’m not going to sugarcoat the situation. High school is messed up. Life is messed up. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do something about it. And even WHEN you can’t, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Always try. Because the alternative is a world where people don’t. A world where people see no good, and they have no hope. They exist because that is the default state of life, and then they die because that’s what happens next. All the while, they let the world rot and fall apart around them.

But life is more than just existing. And its more than just a door with death and nothingness on the other side. Life is a series of doors. Every moment, every decision, is a door. And by opening them and stepping into the unknown, we are expanding and illuminating a world that we never knew existed. But if we don’t open those doors? If we stay put? We’ll be living in a world of walls.

Don’t you want to know what’s on the other side?”

Yeah. Just…yeah.


How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

How to Stop Time

How to Stop Time is a lovely, introspective story about a man with a medical condition that allows him to live for a very long time (we’re talking many centuries here). And there are many like him in the world–collectively they’re called the Albatross Society. And the First rule of Albatross Society? Don’t fall in love.

Through a time-hopping narrative Haig reminds you that yes, the world can be foreign and frightening, but at the same time he dares you–very gently–to take a chance and rise above that fear and see what wonders you can accomplish.

And, just as it only takes a moment to die, it only takes a moment to live. You just close your eyes and let every futile fear slip away. And then, in this new state, free from fear, you ask yourself: who am I? If I could live without doubt what would I do? If I could be kind without the fear of being fucked over? If I could love without fear of being hurt? If I could taste the sweetness of today without thinking of how I will miss that taste tomorrow? If I could not fear the passing of time and the people it will steal? Yes. What would I do? Who would I care for? What battles would I fight? Which paths would I step down? What joys would I allow myself? What internal mysteries would I solve?

How, in short, would you live?


In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan


The only non-2018 book on the list, In Other Lands is part subversive portal fantasy and part coming-of-age tale starring a teenage boy named Elliot. And Elliot happens to be one of the most brilliant YA protagonists I’ve come across in the last handful of years–awkward, lonely and decidedly unhappy, but trying to hide all of that under a prickly exterior. And for most of the book, nothing’s really easy for him. On one side of this magical border is a world he never felt he belonged to, and on the other is one that seems hell-bent on perpetuating war and animosity. And on top of that, he’s having dealing with all the messy complications of relationships, romantic or otherwise.

But things do get better, if not easier. And I found his journey, of finding peace and belonging in a world that’s so often confusing and hostile, to be such a rewarding one.


A Conspiracy of Truths by Alexandra Rowland

A Conspiracy of Truths

Oh heeeeey, Alexandra. Fancy seeing you here!

A Conspiracy of Truths is a brilliant fantasy about a grumpy old storyteller who finds himself accused of various crimes (witchcraft and treason to name a few) and has to rely on his storytelling abilities to free himself. There’s politics, sweet lovestruck apprentices, and female characters who mean business. Ultimately, though, it’s about the power of stories to change worlds–like dismantling governments and getting to know another person better (and both are equally important)–and I can’t think of anything more hopepunk-y than that.

“People are not the same everywhere. They are astoundingly, elaborately, gloriously different.”


What are some of your favourite hopepunk books you read in the past year?

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0 comment

embuhlee January 30, 2019 - 1:57 pm

This is a such a neat topic! I’m doing a bingo challenge this year where one of the squares is a hopeful spec-fic, and this is just the post I needed for ideas. 😀

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky February 4, 2019 - 8:34 am

Aww nice! (for r/fantasy I’m guessing?) Glad to be of help! 😀

embuhlee February 4, 2019 - 2:20 pm

It is!

Tammy January 30, 2019 - 2:58 pm

This is my first time hearing the term hopepunk, and I like it! In Other Lands is definitely on my list to read😊

stayshoti January 30, 2019 - 3:04 pm

Awesome topic and set of 5. Book number 2 got me intrigued! Hopefully I find a copy of that here!! But I’m definitely listing it on my goodreads as To-Read!! 😀

Paul's Picks January 30, 2019 - 3:52 pm

I really like that term! I can get bogged down in the dark themes of fantasy and these titles will be put on my TBR to balance things out. Thanks!

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky February 4, 2019 - 8:32 am

Wohoo, glad to hear! And while I do love grimdark, it’s always nice to have a balance of the two.

Aurora Librialis January 30, 2019 - 8:21 pm

This is such a lovey choice of topic ❤️ I love the term hopepunk, It makes positivity sound badass.

I haven’t read any of these books, but I loved the first to Wayfarer books, so I’m super excited to read Record of a Spaceborn few. It’s buried somewhere in my massive TBR pile, but I’d love to get to it soon.

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky February 6, 2019 - 2:53 am

I know right??? I think it might be my favourite “-punk” subgenre name. And I still need to check out the first two Wayfarer books! I just went ahead read the third one b/c I heard it was a standalone.

Gemma January 30, 2019 - 9:47 pm

Never heard of hopepunk before but I love it. Tired of all the grimdark! Definitely going to use that in the future!

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky February 1, 2019 - 10:04 am

Out of all the “-punk” subgenre names, this one’s definitely my favourite! Though silkpunk is a close second. 😀

sjhigbee January 31, 2019 - 12:14 am

What a fabulous term – hopepunk! I’m going to be using this one for sure as I regularly fumble to describe something that ISN’T grimdark, which I regularly can’t cope with – Becky Chambers is on my list of TBRs this year – and I’ve just added A Conspiracy of Truths…

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky February 1, 2019 - 9:37 am

Isn’t it so wonderful?! It somehow manages to sound charming and fierce at the same time. And since Granny Weatherwax is a favourite of yours, I have a feeling you’ll like the main character in Conspiracy of Truths…:D

sjhigbee February 1, 2019 - 12:26 pm

It’s gone onto my TBR, Kathy:)).

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky February 1, 2019 - 11:10 pm

Music to my ears! <3

Kaya @ afictionalbookworm January 31, 2019 - 2:23 am

This is so cool!! I haven’t read any of these, but they’re now on my list!😄

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky February 1, 2019 - 9:32 am

Haha mission accomplished, then! 😉

24hr.YaBookBlog January 31, 2019 - 4:50 pm

I’ve seen A Conspiracy of Truths around the SFF book community & it sounds really good! After reading your thoughts on it, I definitely want to give it a read! ^_^

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky February 1, 2019 - 9:22 am

I’m so glad to hear that!! I actually haven’t seen it talked about much in the blogverse (I guess I live under a rock :P) so it’s great to know it’s not as underrated as I thought it was. 😀

24hr.YaBookBlog February 1, 2019 - 3:04 pm

Very true! 😂 I haven’t seen it around the blogosphere too much either– I’ve mainly heard about it through book twitter ✨

Daniela Ark January 31, 2019 - 8:06 pm

oh I’m so glad to hear NEANDERTHAL OPENS THE DOOR TO THE UNIVERSE is good, I have the ARC and have not been motivated to read it! How are you liking Black Leopard??? I have that ARC too but it’s a physical ARC and I’m super intimidated by the size LOL

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky February 1, 2019 - 9:12 am

Oh, you should SO read Neanderthal! It’s one of those books that I’ll be rereading whenever I’m feeling down. And oh boy, there’s a lot going on with Black Leopard! 😀 Short answer: I’m loving it. The writing style is so different (and stylish) from anything I’ve read recently and I love the imagination that’s crammed into it. It does have a lot of sex (like, a LOT) in case that’s something you’re not into reading!

Nicole Evans January 31, 2019 - 11:22 pm

Okay, so I’ve never heard of hopepunk before and now I’m finding myself wanting to read a lot in that genre?! I mean, I’m also a sucker for darkness, but I think I could use some balancing out between the two, for sure. This makes me even more excited to read The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet!

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky February 6, 2019 - 2:27 am

Woot! I still need to check out Small Angry Planet too because I’m a goof and skipped the first two books in the series. 😛 And remind me to go on a ramble one day about I think the best grimdark stories are also hopepunk and not just about death, gloom, and misery!

Nicole Evans February 7, 2019 - 4:49 am

Oh, did you accidentally read the last book!? That’s fantastic. 😛 I have it on my bookshelf, so I definitely need to make it a priority! YES, please! I would love that!

PerfectlyTolerable February 1, 2019 - 9:32 pm

Oooh I have never heard “hopepunk” before but I like it! I’m sure I have read stuff in this category before but I am not exactly sure if they qualify? Is it just that the main character stays optimistic? Or does the book have to be more lighthearted too?

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky February 6, 2019 - 2:24 am

The author cited The Handmaid’s Tale and The Lord of the Rings as an example, and those aren’t exactly the most lighthearted stories, so I think it just means the characters have to stay optimistic!

waytoofantasy February 2, 2019 - 3:58 pm

Love this topic! I’m so into hopeful books lately, the only one of these I’ve read is Chambers, will have to look into the others.

Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky February 10, 2019 - 9:11 am

Me too! That warm and fuzzy feeling I get with these kinds of books is just SO addicting.

Sunshine Blogger Award #8 – Perfectly Tolerable February 2, 2019 - 6:02 pm

[…] Pages Below the Vaulted Sky […]

@lynnsbooks February 3, 2019 - 9:54 am

I like the look of all of these but the Matt Haig and Sarah Rees Brennan particularly shout out to me. Hopepunk is a great phrase – I must say grimdark has become a bit overused imho but then I say that and bandy the phrase around myself. I tried to come up with a couple of different ones to add to the pot – such as grimsnark,
Lynn 😀


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