Did you think you’d take a quick reading break after rushing to discover all the literary wonders you wanted to get to before the end of 2016? You thought wrong. January kicks off 2017 in style, with a pack of thrilling new releases that includes a hotly anticipated debut fantasy, a heartbreaking story of unwanted reality TV stardom, and a sophomore novel we’ve been waiting over a year to get our hands on. Here are 23 must-reads in a month that’s full of them.
The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett, by Chelsea Sedoti (January 3)
Hawthorn is a misfit girl whose imagination leads her down some wild paths—but now, it just might help her solve a mystery. When former high school popular girl Lizzie Lovett goes missing, Hawthorn finds herself increasingly drawn to find out what happened to her and why, drifting into the orbit of the life Lizzie left behind. Taking over the missing girl’s abandoned restaurant job and getting involved with her ex-boyfriend leads Hawthorn not only toward increasingly frightening hypotheses about what happened to her—could her ex be a murderer?—but also to confounding revelations about Lizzie’s post–high school fate.
Life in a Fishbowl, by Len Vlahos (January 3)
Vlahos’s gift for writing blackly comic heartrenders was made clear in his debut The Scar Boys, and his latest promises to do it again. Jackie’s still reeling from her father’s terminal brain cancer diagnosis when her family is hit with another blow: in a last-ditch effort to support them before he’s gone, her father auctions off his life on eBay. A ghoulish cast of characters are drawn in by the promise of a “human life…to control,” including the eventual winner: a reality TV exec who sees it as the premise of his next hit show. As her family life becomes a fishbowl, Jackie works behind the scenes to derail the network at every step.
Maresi, by Maria Turtschaninoff (January 3)
Turtschaninoff’s dark fairy tale, translated from Finnish, opens in the heart of the Red Abbey, where girls and women who’ve survived abuse and misfortune learn to move on from their dark pasts—or hone their desire for revenge. Maresi tries to escape her fears by focusing on her happy, bookish new life in the abbey, but newcomer Jai hungers for retribution against the father who killed her sister. When the demons of her former life encroach on the abbey’s safety, its inhabitants and their triple-aspect goddess must fight back or lose their way of life.
Freeks, by Amanda Hocking (January 3)
As the daughter of a performer in a mystical traveling carnival, Mara is accustomed to a life lived against the backdrop of magic. When she meets a cute boy named Gabe in the Louisiana town where they’ve set up camp, getting to know him gives her a peek at the normal life she craves. But there’s something lurking in the atmosphere, a darkness that sets off the radar of the carnival’s performers and eventually explodes into violence. In order to save the ones she loves, Mara must come into the powers she has long suppressed.
Love and First Sight, by Josh Sundquist (January 3)
In YouTuber Sundquist’s debut novel, blind teen Will Porter has a rocky start at his new high school—but it all seems worth it when he meets Cecily. The two seem destined for romance, but an experimental surgery changes everything: for the first time, Will can see, and readers, too, will see the world fresh through the eyes of someone who was born blind. When he learns both Cecily and his friends were dishonest about her appearance, his response is a complicated blend of disappointment, guilt, and anger at his blindness being taken advantage of.
Under Rose-Tainted Skies, by Louise Gornall (January 3)
Norah’s OCD and agoraphobia have cut her off from the world outside her house, but when the boy next door catches her trying to tug groceries in off the porch, he wants to know more about her—and she starts letting him into her life. Slowly, painfully, she shares herself with him, warts and all. But romance isn’t a cure-all, and their love story is just one part of her journey toward self-acceptance and, maybe, a better relationship with the world outside.
Wayfarer, by Alexandra Bracken (January 3)
In Bracken’s Passenger, modern-day teen violinist Etta is shunted back through time, becoming a hostage on an era-hopping ship. She quickly learns she’s a member of one the remaining few families with the ability to time travel, and forms a dangerous alliance with the ship’s captain and her abductor, former slave Nicholas. The two travel across a patchwork globe of different time periods to retrieve an artifact hidden by Etta’s mother—but at the start of sequel Wayfarer, Etta is separated not just from her mother and Nicholas, with whom she has fallen in love, but from the era she was born to. Nicholas and Etta fight their way back to each other, across a crinkled timeline that takes them to places around the globe and across history.
RoseBlood, by A.G. Howard (January 10)
Howard’s first book since completing the Splinter series is a haunting take on The Phantom of the Opera, set at contemporary arts school Roseblood. New student Rune has a double-edged gift: she’s compelled to sing, producing music that’s unearthly in its beauty, but each performance leaves her sick and depleted. Her mother sends her to Roseblood in the hopes of helping her, but it’s there that her gift may have deadly consequences. The school has alleged connections to the phantom of Gaston Leroux’s original book, and when Rune meets a mysterious masked boy named Thorn, she believes she has found the legend. But the truth is more complicated, and far more dangerous, in this tale.
Frostblood, by Elly Blake (January 10)
As one of the few remaining firebloods in a world ruled by frost, Ruby lives in semi-isolation with her mother, concealing her untrained fiery abilities. But a raid by the wicked Frost King’s men ends with her mother dead and Ruby a prisoner. After months of grief and detainment, she’s rescued by a contingent of rebels seeking to depose the king, and finds herself navigating a world of questionable allies and corruption as she learns to wield her abilities. But the king’s forces are on her trail, and she may play a larger part in the rebellion than she realizes.
Poison’s Kiss, by Breeana Shields (January 10)
Marinda is a perfect assassin: a visha kanya, or poison maiden, whose natural toxicity has been nurtured till even her kiss is fatal. Ordered by her land’s raja to kill off his enemies with a touch of her lips, she’s reluctant but obedient until ordered to kiss the wrong boy. Marinda knows Deven doesn’t deserve to die, and even while being blackmailed into acquiescence by way of her younger brother’s medical needs, his innocence forces her to question what she’s doing and why. This series starter is set in a fantasy world touched with Indian myth and culture.
Windwitch (Witchlands #2), by Susan Dennard (January 10)
Truthwitch introduced friends and allies from two very different worlds: Safiya, a noblewoman who fled a comfortable life in order to conceal her abilities as a Truthwitch, able to suss out deceit, and Iseult, a lowborn Threadwitch, who can discern the emotional bonds between people. On the eve of a dangerous war, with a violent Bloodwitch on their heels, the two girls, “Threadsisters” bound by affinity and love, find themselves battling their way across a broken empire in pursuit of freedom. In Windwitch, titular Windwitch Merik, believing his beloved Safi to be dead, takes on the mantle of a hero from legend, while Bloodwitch Aeduan enters a doomed alliance with Iseult as they seek the missing Safi.
The Last Harvest, by Kim Liggett (January 10)
A school football star and scion of one of his town’s founding families, Clay Tate once had it made. Then his father, locally infamous for accusing the powerful Preservation Society of satanic worship, dies under strange and bloody circumstances on the ranch of one of the society’s most prominent members. A year later, Clay’s life has become a pressure cooker: the society wants him to join their ranks, his crush wants him to restart their romance, and he’s seeing frightening things that make him believe he’s crazy…or that his dad’s claims of devil worship were truer than he knew.
Carve the Mark, by Veronica Roth (January 17)
Roth’s sci-fi fantasy novel, her first book set outside the world of the Divergent series, takes place in a distant galaxy where everyone develops a different power known as a currentgift. Cyra is the sister of the tyrannical ruler of the Shotet people, and Akos is her brother’s latest hostage. Cyra’s unwanted currentgift subjects her to intense pain flares that she’s able to transfer to others with a touch; her brother uses her as an instrument of torture. Akos has the ability to disrupt other people’s currentgifts, which allows him to both relieve Cyra’s pain and touch her without fear. The two become unlikely allies despite rising tensions between their people, and the fates hanging over their heads.
History Is All You Left Me, by Adam Silvera (January 17)
I’ve been waiting for a sunny day to read Silvera’s sophomore novel (after 2015’s gorgeous More Happy Than Not), because I know it’s going to break my heart. After the drowning death of his first love, Theo, Griffin’s grief is complicated by the fact that Theo had moved on before he died—first to college, and then to a new relationship. The first-person narrative is addressed to Theo, and skips between past and present, exploring the bond they built and Griffin’s burgeoning OCD tendencies and attempts to understand what happened and why.
After the Fall, by Kate Hart (January 24)
Raychel and Matt have long been best friends, and Matt’s biding his time till he reveals he wants more than just friendship—but it’s his younger brother Andrew who she ends up kissing. While Raychel is self-described “white trash,” Matt is an upper-class kid heading to a good college, and despite his affection for her, he’s clearly aware of the divide. After a nonconsensual sexual encounter at a party, Raychel’s relationships with both brothers go haywire, as lines of communication break down and Raychel struggles with anger, guilt, and confusion.
Allegedly, by Tiffany D. Jackson (January 24)
When Mary was 9 years old, she was thrown into “baby jail” for a hideous, headline-making crime: the savage killing of the infant in her and her mother’s care. Now Mary is 16 and living in a group home, taking it day by day and trying to stay away from the raw memories of what she’s alleged to have done. But when she becomes pregnant, everything changes. Suddenly she has someone else to worry about, and the terror of having her baby taken away drives her to do something she never dared before: fight back against her mother’s claims that it was Mary who killed baby Alyssa all those years ago. What unfolds from there is a savage tale of vengeance and absolution, that keeps spinning the twists till the final page.
Dreadnought, by April Daniels (January 24)
Closeted transgender teen Danny’s life is transformed when superhero Dreadnought drops to earth and dies in her arms. In doing so, Dreadnought transfers both her powers and her female form to Danny. Now Danny’s body fits her identity, but her parents’ enraged response, as well as the ethical questions raised by the Legion of Superheroes (Danny isn’t yet 18), stand between her and claiming the gender and the mantle of heroism she’s ready to take on.
The You I’ve Never Known, by Ellen Hopkins (January 24)
Two girls seeking freedom from their current circumstances—Ariel is a closeted bisexual under the control of a hate-mongering father, and 17-year-old Maya chose motherhood and marriage with an older man in order to escape an abusive mother—find their stories colliding in unexpected ways in Hopkins’ latest, a blend of poetry and prose. Ariel has always believed her mother abandoned her years ago, and is left reeling when she learns her father may instead have kidnapped her. Meanwhile, Maya starts to realize her escape route may be as unbearable as the life she ran from.
City of Saints and Thieves, by Natalie C. Anderson (January 24)
Tina, a Congolese refugee living in Kenya, was 12 when her mother was murdered while working as a maid for a wealthy family. At 16, Tina has spent the past four years on the streets, plotting revenge against her mother’s employer and former lover, whom she’s sure was also her murderer. As part of the Goondas gang, Tina has the backing she needs to bring rich Mr. Greyhill down—but after reconnecting with his son, her childhood friend, during a failed break-in, what she thinks she knows falls apart. With the help of Tina’s tech genius pal Boyboy, the two race toward the truth, which may be darker and more complicated than Tina’s thirst for vengeance allowed.
Caraval, by Stephanie Garber (January 31)
This fantasy debut (and duology starter) is a synesthetic delight, carrying readers away to a dream city of luminous magic and dark secrets, all seen through an enchanted haze that blurs the lines between real and make-believe. Scarlett Dragna is the abused daughter of a brutal man living on an island in a distant world. She sees marriage to the mysterious count with whom she has been exchanging letters as her only chance for escape—but her wild younger sister, Tella, has different ideas. The sisters have always longed to attend Caraval, a floating annual game in which participants navigate a fantastical arena in pursuit of a supernatural prize. A pair of free tickets from Caraval’s elusive ringmaster, Legend, leads the sisters into the heart of the game, where one will go missing and one will risk losing herself to Legend’s dangerous enchantments.
The Edge of Everything, by Jeff Giles (January 31)
As a blizzard rolls in one winter night, Zoe sets off in pursuit of her little brother, Jonah, who wandered off in the snow. What she finds will change her life: while hunkered down in a neighbor’s empty house, Zoe and Jonah are attacked by a man so evil hell itself—imagined here as the Lowlands, a place where the world’s most despicable criminals are pressed into service as bounty hunters of their own kind—has sent an agent to claim him. That agent is X, a man who committed no crime, yet lives his life out in underworld servitude. When Zoe stops him from reaping her attacker, it sets off a chain of events that leads to first love, terrible peril, and, maybe, a change in X’s world order.
Fire Color One, by Jenny Valentine (January 31)
Life with a criminally self-absorbed mother leaves Iris desperate for an outlet, which she finds in setting fires. But one act of arson too many sends them across the Atlantic, from America to London, where the father Iris never knew is dying on his massive estate. Iris grew up believing he abandoned them, but the truth is far more painful. As the two fight to fit a lifetime of love into the days they have left, connecting over art and pain and a shared longing for true family, Iris’s mother cases the place, ready to inherit the breathtaking art collection her ex is leaving behind. But Iris’s father may yet find a way to save both himself and his daughter, even as his time is ticking down.
Our Own Private Universe, by Robin Talley (January 31)
Aki knows she’s bisexual, but she has never had a chance to bring it out of the hypothetical and into the literal. Then a church service trip takes her to Mexico for a month—and she and her best friend make a hookup pact before they go—and Aki meets Christa, a closeted pansexual who just might become her female first. Talley’s latest promises to take on questions of first times, faith, coming out, prejudice, and new love, with a diverse cast and plainspoken exploration on how a girl might proceed in sexually educating herself.
Wires and Nerve, by Marissa Meyer (January 31)
Meyer returns to the world of her bestselling, beloved Lunar Chronicles, this time with a story told in graphic novel form. Android Iko takes center stage, banding together with a royal guard to fight back against a military threat to Earth and Luna’s uneasy peace. Other favorites, including Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter, make appearances, so don’t miss your chance to see them in illustrated form.