There are so many paths to publishing books, and even within those paths, there are others. One that so often yields excellent books that don’t get nearly the publicity they deserve is that of traditionally publishing through an independent publisher—one that isn’t affiliated with a larger corporation and therefore doesn’t have quite the same financial backing as the big guys. These books are far more likely to go under the radar, but often they also take more risks, feature more diversity, do more new things, and introduce fabulous new names to watch. Here are 12 of the indie-publisher books on our radar for the first half of the new year.
See all 2016 previews here.
This Song is (Not) For You, by Laura Nowlin (January 5)
Sam and Ramona complete each other—as bandmates, as best friends, and as…more than friends, even if they don’t know it yet. Or at least they think they complete each other. Then they meet Tom, and realize he’s what they hadn’t even known they’d been missing, in all their relationships. But how do you fit a third into a space that isn’t really there? How can Sam and Ramona include Tom in their lives without ruining what they already had and could still have? The book itself is fun and romantic, but it’s the thorough exploration of asexuality that makes it a must-read this year.
Bookishly Ever After, by Isabel Bandeira (January 12)
Books have always been the loves of Phoebe’s life, so when she learns cute clarinetist Dev might have a crush on her, she’s not exactly equipped with the moves to handle it. Or is she? With the help of her favorite literary heroines, Phoebe attempts to turn herself into the kind of girl who can land The Guy. But when another girl beats her to it, Phoebe will have to decide whether she’s ready to go back to being a secondary character in her own life story, or whether she’ll fight for her happily ever after.
Beyond the Red, by Ava Jae (March 1)
Kora’s alien people haven’t had a female monarch since well before her lifetime, and when she rises to power, she isn’t welcomed with open arms. Instead, it’s her younger twin brother they want. Kora knows his bloodlust makes him a poor choice of ruler for their territory, and she’s determined to stay in power. But when she and a rebel soldier are framed for a crime neither one committed, they realize they might be the only ones who can keep her people alive.
You Were Here, by Cori McCarthy (March 1)
Jaycee misses her dead brother, and she can think of no better way to memorialize him than by emulating him, right down to the dangerous stunts that got him killed in the first place. After all, staying alive isn’t exactly a top priority now that he’s gone. But what sounds like the ultimate solo act becomes a group endeavor when she finds a group eager to help her with her quest, and the story explores each of their perspectives through a combination of prose, verse, and graphics, examining the underlying feelings and emotions bringing them all together.
Seven Ways We Lie, by Riley Redgate (March 8)
Seven deadly sins correspond to seven points of view, each narrated by a different junior of the same high school class. Redgate’s debut revolves around one of my very favorite YA subjects—examining the moral choices we make and how, when, and why they get a little gray—and does so around a student-teacher relationships, abandonment issues, and sexual identity. (Number of times I have already recommended this book for being the first YA in which I’ve seen a pansexual character identify as such on the page? Infinity.)
Liars and Losers Like Us, by Ami Allen-Vath (March 15)
Bree Hughes isn’t used to being a standout, so it’s hard to say what’s a bigger shock—the guy she likes reciprocating, or her landing a spot on the Prom Court. But the latter comes with an explanation: the spot freed up when it was declined by Maisey Morgan, who was voted in as a joke. And despite Bree’s attempt to reach out to her and make things right, there’s too much darkness in Maisey’s life to make room for an offer of light, and the girl Bree barely knew commits suicide…and leaves her a note explaining why. Haunted by Maisey’s death and the secret behind it, nothing in Bree’s life is quite the same, and she’ll have to seek the help to get through it or risk losing herself to her newfound fears and pain.
Divah, by Susannah Appelbaum (March 15)
Eloise meets Rosemary’s Baby is quite the comparison, and honestly, how can you not be intrigued already? When Itzy moves into New York City’s Carlyle hotel for the summer, she has no idea her new local crowd will include a fallen angel, demons, and the Queen of the Damned (aka the Divah, who happens to be none other than Marie Antoinette). Now it’s on Itzy to save humanity, but can she do that when she herself is possessed?
Don’t Get Caught, by Kurt Dinan (April 1)
Speaking of intriguing comparisons, Ocean’s 11 meets The Breakfast Club? Yes, please! YA doesn’t have nearly enough books straight-up centered around hilarious antics and laugh-out-loud fun times that come with living high school life to its fullest, even if you’re not doing it according to everyone else’s definition. Main character Max is an average (maybe a little below, even), under-the-radar student, but getting pulled into a prank war might be exactly what he needs to leave his nondescript identity behind.
Future Shock, by Elizabeth Briggs (April 1)
Elena Martinez has done her best to hide her special skill—an eidetic memory—her entire life, but when she and four other teens with their own unique talents are selected for a top-secret project by a large corporation, she realizes she hasn’t hidden it quite as well as she thought. The five teens each have their own reasons for agreeing to the project, which sends them thirty years into the future, but when they break their only rule and find themselves in danger, they’ll have to band together to get back home before it’s too late.
A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry (April 12)
Lucas has grown up hearing all about Isabel, the cursed green-skinned girl who can grant your wish or kill you with a touch, during summers in Puerto Rico spent with his father. He wants to believe all the rumors are true, especially when his girlfriend disappears the same day letters from Isabel begin appearing in his room. As Lucas and Isabel become further entangled, the danger to his own life grows greater, along with the question of whether Isabel is in fact a blessing or indeed the curse of island lore.
Jerkbait, by Mia Siegert (May 3)
Robbie and Tristan are identical twins, but they’re not exactly the “sharing a brain” kind. Then Robbie attempts suicide, and it changes Tristan’s entire view of his brother, who finally understands Robbie’s potential future in the NHL is marked with anxiety about what it’ll be like to be gay in the world of pro sports. Faced the prospect of losing Robbie, Tristan never wants to go through it again, so when Robbie proposes a plan to run away with a guy he has been talking to online but has never met, Tristan has a huge choice to make: betray Robbie’s trust for his safety and risk losing him that way, or go along for the ride, no matter what potential dangers may lie ahead.
Lessons in Falling, by Diana Gallagher (June 21)
Gymnastics were Savannah’s life, until she blew out her knee and killed her shot at a professional future. Not that she has to avoid the sport as wholeheartedly as she is, but with her best friend, Cassie, calling the shots, at least she’s guaranteed to have fun in the new, altered version of her life. She even finds a romantic interest in wrong-side-of-the-tracks Marcos. But then Cassie tries to kill herself, and the girl who returns from the hospital doesn’t like any of the ways Savannah is moving forward—not with Marcos, even though he saved Cassie’s life, or with her considering a return to gymnastics. Keeping Cassie happy is important to Savannah, especially now that she knows how much her best friend had been suffering in silence, but moving forward fmay just be impossible with Cassie at her side.