Spring is coming, and with it a whole barrel load of YA books so good I’d tramp through a late-season blizzard in flip-flops to get to them. The month’s most exciting releases include stellar debuts, tricky thrillers, stories of loss and healing, and a fairy tale–inflected beauty that’ll mess with your head. Find a comfy chair and get to reading.
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A Study in Charlotte, by Brittany Cavallaro (March 1)
Okay. Okay, ready? Charlotte Holmes, descendant of literature’s most famous detective (in a slightly altered world in which he’s real, and Conan Doyle was his literary agent), and James Watson, descendant of literature’s most famous put-upon sidekick (and delightful weirdo in his own right), meet in an east coast boarding school, and are promptly presented with a murder to solve—lest they take the fall, in what’s shaping up to be an elaborate frame job. Take Watson and Sherlock’s inimitable chemistry, shave just a bit off the top of Sherlock’s inability to emotionally connect, and add a fresh, open-ended take on the possibilities of the friends-to-love trope, and you’ve got the most ridiculously fun character-driven mysteries I’ve read in ages.
The Lifeboat Clique, by Kathy Parks (March 1)
Social pariah Denver dares to crash a ritzy Malibu beach party, and gets way more facetime with the cool kids than she bargained for: a tsunami hits, sweeping the party out to sea. Denver finds herself trapped in tiny lifeboat alongside her mean girl former best friend, two of her flunkies, and a very cute boy. As survival seems less and less likely, social status stops mattering (as much), and Denver and her former bestie are forced to finally face the bad blood between them. I’m getting some awesome Breakfast Club vibes off this premise, but darker and with more mortal terror.
Seven Black Diamonds, by Melissa Marr (March 1)
Wicked Lovely author Marr returns to Faerie at last, with the story of a half-fae, half-mortal girl whose dangerous connection to both worlds threatens to undo her. Marr imagines two realms separated by war and mutual hatred: the fae world, led by the vengeful Queen of Blood and Rage, and a futuristic human world decimated by woeful environmental policy, and so unfriendly to fae that even a drop of faerie blood running through a human’s veins will result in imprisonment. In two converging stories that start to bridge a seemingly impossible divide, Eilidh is the queen’s daughter who longs for more than war, and Abernathy the half-fae who discovers she has been embedded in the human world as one of the queen’s Black Diamonds, a sleeper cell charged with destroying her earthly foes.
Beyond the Red, by Ava Jae (March 1)
An alien queen and a half-human, half-alien rebel soldier find themselves thrown together and on the run after being framed for an attempted assassination. Queen Kora faces mistrust, anger, and assassination attempts as she tries to lead a patriarchal people, and soldier Eros is hated for being half-blood, and grieving the destruction of his people by Kora’s forces. The safe choice would be to throw themselves on the mercy of the high court, but Eros’s volatile secret identity, and their uncovering of a heinous plot against rebel humans, binds them in their efforts to save their world from terrible violence.
Into the Dim, by Janet B. Taylor (March 1)
When Hope Walton’s academic mother disappears in the rubble of an earthquake overseas, homeschooled, deeply claustrophobic Hope’s world shrinks even smaller. Until her mother’s sister, whom she’s never met, invites Hope to her Scotland home. There, Hope discovers her mother isn’t dead, but trapped in time: part of a band of time travelers, she’s lost somewhere in 11th-century England. Hope joins the mission to save her, washing up in a dangerous ancient time in the days just before Eleanor of Aquitaine is crowned queen of England. Hope and her allies battle time and a ruthless rival band of time jumpers to save her mom. A thrilling cast of historical characters and the secrets of Hope’s own past thicken the plot.
Girl Last Seen, by Heather Anastasiu (March 1)
Kadence and Lauren were best friends and musical collaborators rocketing to YouTube stardom when a throat infection sidelined Lauren…and Kadence grabbed the opportunity to go solo. Then Kadence goes missing, and her rabid public refuses to believe Lauren had nothing to do with it. Lauren pairs up with an unexpected ally who may or may not be trustworthy, and through shared narration, Kady’s video diary entries, and Lauren’s detective work, a dizzying, internet-powered mystery emerges, in which neither girl is exactly what they seem to be.
You Were Here, by Cori McCarthy (March 1)
Five years after her reckless brother’s death on the day of his high-school graduation, Jaycee is facing down her own graduation while still saddled with a raft of unresolved guilt and grief. The discovery in his room of a map marked with the sites of his urban explorations kicks off her own pilgrimage, tracing her brother’s steps alongside a motley crew of friends who share narration with Jaycee. McCarthy explores multiple storytelling formats, including graphic novel passages and the incorporation of graffiti-style illustrations.
Burning Glass, by Kathryn Purdie (March 1)
Sonya is an Auraseer in the kingdom of Riaznin, able to sense and even take on others’ emotions. After a tragedy in the Riaznin palace, she’s sent to serve as the emperor’s protector, reading the intentions of those around him to keep him safe. But Sonya isn’t immune to the feelings she accesses, and finds she has secret sympathies for the emperor’s brother, the crown prince—though an alliance with him could be her undoing. As rebellion looms, she’s forced to make a dangerous choice.
In Real Life, by Jessica Love (March 1)
Hannah Cho has more-than-friends feelings for her bestie, Nick Cooper…which is even more complicated than it sounds, considering the two have never met in person. Since meeting online in the eighth grade, they’ve shared a friendship powered by endless phone calls, Skype sessions, and mailed gifts, but zero literal face time. Then, fresh off the disappointing crash of her senior trip plans, Hannah makes an impulsive decision: to road trip to Vegas with her sister and her IRL female best friend, where she’ll finally meet Nick and confess her feelings. But it turns out Nick hasn’t told her everything about him there is to know, and his unexpected girlfriend isn’t the only complication to her plans. Over the course of one rule-breaking night, Hannah must decide whether the possibility of more is worth fighting for.
Map of Fates, by Maggie Hall (March 8)
In this follow-up to 2015’s The Conspiracy of Us, Hall’s violet-eyed heroine finds herself ever more deeply enmeshed in the strange world that is her birthright: that of secret society the Circle, their ancient enemies the Order, and the kind of earth-shaking wealth and influence possessed by people who party with top-tier politicians and can shut down a couture store for a day of shopping. In book one, Avery learned her mother’s secrecy and itinerant ways were in the service of protecting Avery from the power struggles of the world she was born into. Here, Avery grapples with an impending match with a boy she doesn’t love, feelings for one she can’t have, and a desperate search for her kidnapped mother, which will involve untangling the location of Alexander the Great’s tomb.
On the Edge of Gone, by Corinne Duyvis (March 8)
Duyvis’s sophomore novel promises the same blend of diversity, excellent world-building, and high-stakes drama as 2014’s Otherbound. In 2035 Amsterdam, autistic teen Denise is counting down the days to the arrival of the comet that might speed the end of the world. Her family’s only chance of survival lies in making it to a shelter outside of town, but Denise’s sister is AWOL and her mother’s drug addiction makes her a liability. When chance delivers her (temporarily) to a ship carrying escapees of Earth to build new colonies in space, she’s desperate to keep her spot but fears the worst: that, on a vessel with room only for the most useful, a girl with autism and her family will never find a place.
The Serpent King, by Jeff Zentner (March 8)
This soul-tugging southern-set debut is about the things that imprison you and the things that help you escape. Dill Early is the son of a zealous Pentecostal preacher and snake handler, unrepentant despite his imprisonment for a sickening crime. His best friend and secret crush, Lydia, is a proud outsider in their small town, a fashion blogger who plans to ride her self-created fame the hell out of Dodge after graduation. The third member of their tiny tribe is Travis, a gentle giant with an abusive father, who escapes into an internet relationship and the world of his beloved fantasy series every chance he gets. Over the course of their senior year, the three grapple with impending separation, and the struggle to define and declare themselves in the face of other people’s expectations.
Save Me, Kurt Cobain, by Jenny Manzer (March 8)
When a string of clues unveils a tantalizing connection between her long-vanished mother and dead icon Kurt Cobain, Nico, a lonely, Nirvana-obsessed Canadian teen, starts to question her own past. And when, on a ferry between Canada and Seattle, she meets a lean, blue-eyed blond man, she believes the impossible: that he’s Kurt Cobain, and her estranged father. Impulsively, she follows him into the woods, embarking on a dangerous, downbeat journey toward the truth about herself. A melancholy paean to music’s role in self-discovery, to its connective power, and to an idol who died too soon.
The Steep and Thorny Way, by Cat Winters (March 8)
Like Shakespeare’s play, this Prohibition-era riff on Hamlet opens with (rumor of) a ghost: Hank Denney, father of 16-year-old Hanalee, who died in a drunk driving accident. But the boy who allegedly killed him has another story, in which the doctor who treated African American Hank murdered him in order to marry Hanalee’s white mother. In a rural Oregon steeped in superstition, bigotry, and danger, Hanalee sets out to discover what really happened, even if it requires chasing her father’s ghost.
Burn Baby Burn, by Meg Medina (March 8)
During the hot, violent summer of 1977, New Yorker Nora Lopez deals with a disintegrating family life, a new crush, and the desire to make a clean start on life when she turns 18. Against the backdrop of a city under siege by serial killer the Son of Sam, Nora fears a murderer who targets girls who are out after dark. But while she’s on high alert for peril from without, she might be ignoring a worse threat close to home. I can’t wait to read Medina’s take on a vanished, gritty New York.
A Tyranny of Petticoats, edited by Jessica Spotswood (March 8)
With a subtitle like, “15 Tales of Belles, Bank Robbers & Other Badass Girls,” there’s no way we’re not going to love this book. Editor Jessica Spotswood has gathered stories from female authors including Marie Lu, Elizabeth Wein, and Kekla Magoon, whose heroines fight, flee, cross-dress, and sweet talk their way around settings ranging from the wild frontier to mid-century Los Angeles to Alaska in the 1700s. The anthology promises loads of feminist adventure, narrative magic, and a touch of the supernatural.
Rebel of the Sands, by Alwyn Hamilton (March 8)
Hamilton combines a hardbitten western setting and hardboiled narrative style with eastern myth and a restrictive, patriarchal social structure. Amani is a brilliant sharpshooter, an orphan who lives unwanted amid the casual violence of her aunt and uncle’s home. When a horrific arranged marriage looms, she realizes she can’t wait any longer to escape. She sets out with a fugitive stranger, on the back of a magical horse, to the distant promise of the capital city of Izman, encountering rebellion, romance, and the worth-anything taste of freedom for the first time in her life.
Lady Midnight, by Cassandra Clare (March 8)
Clare kicks off her hotly anticipated new Dark Artifices series, set in the world of the Mortal Instruments, with Lady Midnight, centering on the Los Angeles Shadowhunters and bringing in characters old and new. Bound Nephilim warriors Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn, grieving the tragedies of their pasts, must navigate both new supernatural challenges and old grudges in a deadly, alluring world readers are itching to return to.
The Forbidden Orchid, by Sharon Biggs Waller (March 8)
On the verge of poverty and the end of life as she knows it, Elodie, the oldest of 10 sisters, stows away with her plant hunter father on a dangerous mission to restore their fortunes. They leave their England home for China in 1861, seeking a rare orchid he owes a collector. Elodie braves culture shock, defies convention, and finds romance—and learns she may prefer a dangerous explorer’s life to the corseted existence waiting for her back home. This sounds like a perfect follow-up to Waller’s A Mad Wicked Folly, another story of a young woman seeking a bigger life than she was born to.
Seven Ways We Lie, by Riley Redgate (March 8)
Redgate’s searching debut centers on seven teens, each prey to one of the seven deadly sins, who play a part in the drama surrounding a high-school scandal. With rumors of a student-teacher affair spreading like wildfire, the seven join the gossip mill, struggle with their own issues, and rally to protect the student half of the affair after their accidental discovery of the teacher’s identity—regardless of the cost to themselves. Redgate envisions an entire high school ecosystem with an ingenious narrative structure.
The First Time She Drowned, by Kerry Kletter (March 15)
Cassie’s rage at and longing for the mother who first emotionally abandoned her, then responded to her rebellion by institutionalizing her, are braided together like a rope. Fresh out of an institution and embarking on the college career her mother, confusingly, has paid for, Cassie struggles with the cruel tenets she was raised to believe: that she’s unloved. That she’s unwanted. That anyone who sees her true self will hate her. And when her mother starts pushing her way back into Cassie’s life, nobody—not a new friend, a school therapist, or the boy who just might like the real her—can decide for Cassie that it’s time to push away the woman who both made and destroyed her.
Yellow Brick War (Dorothy Must Die #3), by Danielle Paige (March 15)
In the conclusion to Paige’s delightfully gritty Dorothy Must Die trilogy, Kansas girl Amy Gumm must complete her mission to take down sweet-faced interloper turned warped tyrant Dorothy Gale, before Oz’s magic is lost forever. And now more than Oz is at stake: Dorothy has found a way to connect her adopted land with the Kansas cornfields of her birth, and threatens to destroy them both. With the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked at her back, Amy sets out to defeat Oz’s good guys-turned-bad, and finally kill the girl in gingham.
Exit, Pursued by a Bear, by E.K. Johnston (March 15)
In a riff on Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale (and taking its title from its most famous stage direction), Johnston recasts an unjustly shamed queen as a teenager, Hermione, who finds herself riddled with doubt and fear after a sexual assault. Following her drugged rape by an anonymous assailant at cheerleading camp, Hermione finds herself dealing with a painful aftermath of unexpected triggers, cruel gossip, and a positive pregnancy test. With the help of a fiercely supportive best friend, her beloved sport, and her own inner resources, Hermione attempts to move on, but Johnston never shorts the ramifications of her heroine’s trauma.
Wink, Poppy, Midnight, by April Genevieve Tucholke (March 22)
Tucholke’s sophomore novel is deliciously strange and utterly beguiling, mashing up the summertime world at the edge of childhood with the realm of fairy tales. If steadfast Midnight is the hero, and hardhearted femme fatale Poppy is the villain, what does that make Wink, the storyteller who lives in a tumbledown house by the woods? Fleeing an ill-fated, on-again, off-again fling with Poppy, Midnight falls into Wink’s world, one of stories and strawberry eating and escapes to the family’s big barn with her kid siblings. Soon Midnight finds himself as much under Wink’s influence as he was under Poppy’s, and as he’s drawn further and further into the strange narratives that she lives by, he finds himself questioning whether he is, in fact the hero—and whether Poppy is really the wolf.
This Is Where the World Ends, by Amy Zhang (March 22)
Best friends and next-door neighbors Micah and Janie are two halves of one piece—despite Janie’s insistence that their friendship remain a secret. After a night of binge drinking, Micah wakes up in the hospital; he’s told Janie’s house burned down the night before, but struggles to remember what part, if any, he may have played in what happened. Janie’s narration of their story pre-fire entwines with Micah’s accounting of what happens after, creating a picture of a deeply complicated friendship, a girl irrevocably changed after a violation, and a boy driven by a dangerous obsession.
The Great American Whatever, by Tim Federle (March 29)
Before the car accident that killed his sister and creative collaborator Annabeth, Quinn was a driven aspiring filmmaker and dedicated smartass. Six months after the accident, he’s so weighed down by grief, he can barely leave his room. But when his best friend, Geoff, drags him to a party, Quinn meets intriguing boy Amir, whose requited interest might be key to helping him rejoin the world. In dealing with the loss of not just his sister but the deadbeat dad who walked out on the family, Quinn’s sense of humor never flags, and his narration is full of the kind of unabashed cinema geekery that helps ensure he’ll eventually find his way back to himself, and his moviemaking dreams.
The Winner’s Kiss, by Marie Rutkoski (March 29)
Rutkoski’s gorgeous, sharply intelligent, meltingly romantic trilogy concludes this March with The Winner’s Kiss, in which, if the universe be not cruel, disgraced Valorian general’s daughter Kestrel and Herrani slave-turned-rebel leader Arin will finally get together for good. When last we saw them, in 2015’s nigh perfect The Winner’s Crime, Kestrel had fallen far from her unwanted status as fiancée to the Valorian emperor’s son, exiled from his palace for treason, and Arin was dallying with strange and dangerous new allies in a distant corner of their world. Let’s watch how Rutkoski brings them back together!
Dark Energy, by Robison Wells (March 29)
Alice Goodwin, daughter of a NASA director, is forced to uproot her life and enroll in a Minnesota boarding school after a UFO crashes and skids across the midwest, leaving thousands of casualties in its wake. The alien survivors, or “Guides,” indistinguishable from humans, are mostly housed in a pop-up town near the crash site, but two are enrolled at Alice’s school. She and her new alien classmates form a friendship that breaches interspecies lines, but soon it becomes clear that all is not as it appears, and the seemingly benevolent “Guides” might not be the only interstellar visitors with Earth in their sights.