Writing about YAs releasing from independent publishers is one of my favorite things, because you get to see so many premises and so much representation you rarely get from the bigger guys. What’s exciting us this year? Everything from historical time travel to an opinionated Twitter caricature come to life to 9/11 Truthers to pot farmers to unusual addictions. Indie YAs dig into territories corporate publishing is often afraid to tread, and our shelves are so much better for it.
Want even more indie glory? Check out our previews posts on LGBTQIAP YA (including Not Your Villain, by CB Lee, The Tiger’s Watch, by Julia Ember, and Echo After Echo, by Amy Rose Capetta), sequels (including Sovereign, by April Daniels, and Chainbreaker, by Tara Sim), fantasy (including The November Girl, by Lydia Y. Kang), and sophomores (including All the Wind in the World, by Samantha Mabry).
See all 2017 previews here.
Truthers, by Geoffrey Girard (August 1, Carolrhoda)
When Katie’s dad has a breakdown and is institutionalized, she knows it’s up to her to prove his sanity if she wants to bring him home. But doing so isn’t so simple. Her dad is a 9/11 Truther, someone who believes tthe attack was a massive government conspiracy, and to free him, she’ll need to help prove this theories aren’t so out there. But others have theories of their own, some placing her father at the heart, and it’s up to her to prove his innocence and get him back.
The League of American Traitors, by Matthew Landis (August 2, Sky Pony Press)
How do you pass up a book billed as National Treasure meets Hamilton? Clearly you don’t, which is why I’m dying for this debut about a teen named Jasper who learns that not only was father actually murdered, but they’re descendants of notorious American traitor Benedict Arnold, and that fact played no small role in the killing. Jasper is an unwitting combatant in a war between the descendants of Revolutionary heroes and those of traitors, and if he can’t clear Arnold’s name by his eighteenth birthday, as his father had been attempting to do, he just might be the next casualty.
Starswept, by Mary Fan (August 29, Snowy Wings Publishing)
It’s the middle of the 23rd century, a hundred years after the Adryil race of telepathic humanoids first made contact with Earth, and Iris is reaping the benefits of the ensuing relationship by attending a prestigious performing arts school made possible by their technology. But with no money to her name, Iris’s best shot after school is finding herself a wealthy Adryil patron…and beating out her competition. When an Adryil boy draws her attention and is arrested for trespassing shortly thereafter, Iris thinks she’s going insane from the pressure when she continues to hear his voice. But in fact, it’s him contacting her via telepathy, and as their relationship deepens, it also plunges them both into a more dangerous situation than she could’ve imagined.
The Girl With the Red Balloon, by Katherine Locke (September 1, Albert Whitman)
You may already know the name Katherine Locke from one of my favorite romance novels, Second Position, but this young adult debut is worlds away from ballet academy…literally. This gorgeous YA debut starts in the present day as Ellie Baum is on a class trip in Berlin, despite the fact that her Holocaust survivor grandfather hates the idea of her visiting Germany. Then she grabs hold of a red balloon and suddenly finds herself transported back to an alt 1988 East Berlin and the world of the balloonmakers and runners who use magic in order to save residents by sending them over the wall. Between trying to stay safe on the USSR-controlled side and hoping for a brilliant mind to figure out how to send her back home, Ellie can’t help falling for Kai, the Romani runner tasked with helping her do both. But when a sinister plot makes itself known, they’ll both have to run for their lives, and doing it in the same direction may not be an option. Warning: this book may make you bawl like a baby. Or maybe that’s just me. (But I don’t think it’s just me.)
Prince of Pot, by Tanya Lloyd Kyi (September 5, Groundwood Books)
Nothing about Isaac’s life is ordinary. His parents secretly grow pot for a living, his best friend is a bear named Hazel who guards their property, and now he’s falling for the daughter of a cop. Sam turns him into a different guy, one who’s considering leaving his family and the Rockies behind in order to pursue his art once they graduate high school. But Sam’s got her own needs and goals, and her own family issues that threaten to be Isaac’s downfall.
Devils Within, by S.F. Henson (September 5, Sky Pony Press)
Violence isn’t new to Nate; growing up in white supremacist compound the Fort means physical brutality has been part of his life since he was eight years old. But it was murdering his father, the Fort’s leader, in self-defense at fourteen, that changed the course of his life. Now he’s living with an uncle who doesn’t want him and attending school under a fake name, struggling against his learned tendency toward bigoted violence in order to function peacefully in a racially diverse setting for the first time and evolve into the decent human being he wasn’t raised to be. There, he clicks with Brandon, a guy the Fort would’ve had him hating on sight, and realizes he can never share that part of his past. But when tensions escalate, he may have no choice, even if it costs him his new life.
The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths and Magic, by F.T. Lukens (September 7, Duet Books)
Bridger Witt’s new job isn’t exactly traditional, but beggars can’t be choosers, and at least being surrounded by the supernatural pays well…even if it means getting yanked around by mermaids and embarrassing himself in front of his crush. Then he learns it’s only the beginning, because his new boss is none other than an intermediary between myths and the human world, and creatures like pixies and werewolves are about to become his new normal. But can he help keep the rest of the real world from finding out about this other one? And what do they stand to lose if he can’t?
Rebel Seoul, by Axie Oh (September 14, Tu Books)
The year is 2199, and East Asia is in tatters after the Great War. The East Pacific is ruined, and the only way to get ahead in Neo Seoul is to be the best in combat. That’s exactly what Jaewon is aiming for, especially after growing up in the slums without the father who abandoned him. But then he meets and falls for Tera, a trainee who’ll be piloting a powerful death machine. He’s supposed to be reporting on her, but as his feelings grow, so does his reluctance to take part in the large-scale violence his future promises. He’ll have to decide who he’s going to be eventually: one of the soldiers, like he always planned? Or one of the rebels who takes them down?
Brooding YA Hero, by Carrie DiRisio (October 3, Sky Pony Press)
You may already know him from Twitter, but YA’s most famous brooding hero appears here in mastermind DiRisio’s debut like you’ve never seen him before: in well over 140 characters. Broody talks readers through becoming a main character themselves while poking some delightful fun at prevalent YA stereotypes and also digging up some of the very real issues they cause and propagate. “Why am I laughing so hard while also learning about how the cliched inclusion of an irredeemable villainess who wants my man is harmful to other girls?” you may ask. The magic of Broody, my friend. The magic of Broody.
Inevitable and Only, by Lisa Rosinsky (October 10, Highlights Press)
Cadie has always had a great relationship with her father, which is why the bombshell that he has another daughter absolutely destroys her. Elizabeth is only six months older, which means she’s a betrayal of Cadie’s parents marriage as well…which makes it even harder to take the fact that Elizabeth is moving in with them. How is Cadie supposed to call someone family when she’s a symbol of everything wrong with the one she had? And how is she supposed to share a life with her?
The Temptation of Adam, by Dave Connis (November 7, Sky Pony Press)
Porn is more than a sporadic entertaining pastime for Adam. Ever since his mother took off, taking his sister with her, it’s been more like an addiction…and not one he’s having much luck keeping secret. When it’s discovered, Adam is forced to join the Knights of Vice, a support group that helps its members through addiction. It may not be where he wants to be spending his time, but it quickly becomes clear it’s where he needs to, especially when his sister returns and he meets a compelling new girl. If he’s going to get his life back on track, he’s going to need to do some serious soul-searching.
Being Fishkill, by Ruth Lehrer (November 14, Candlewick)
Fishkill has always been independent; her upbringing has necessitated it pretty much since birth. But when she meets Duck-Duck, a sweet blond “gang member” who shares her lunch and pulls Fishkill into her family along with her single mom, she finally has people in her corner for the first time. Then her mother reappears, tragedy strikes, and Fishkill’s tenuous new world is shattered. Poet Lehrer’s YA debut is a beautifully written and authentic look at rural poverty, and a great choice for fans of Kody Keplinger’s Run and Sarah Nicole Lemon’s Done Dirt Cheap.