October means mellowcreme pumpkins, finding five bucks in the pocket of last year’s coat (and spending it on more mellowcreme pumpkins), and BOOKS, BOOKS, BOOKS! From the first fantasy YA of a favorite author to a Gilded Age thriller to retellings of “The Wild Swans” and the Orpheus myth, here are 20 of the month’s most exciting releases.
Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell
We first met teen mage Simon Snow as the hero of a beloved fictional fantasy series in Rowell’s 2013 novel Fangirl. Protag Cath obsessed over Simon, his magical world of mages, and his possibly evil roommate, Baz, writing them into a fanfic love story that appeared, along with chapters of the “real” Simon Snow series throughout Cath’s contemporary story. And now we get to read Rowell’s version of Simon Snow, the “worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen”; his brilliant best friend; his absent mentor; and, of course, his Baz. (Because yes, Rowell has confirmed her Simon and Baz are in love.)
Illuminae, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Kady just broke up with her boyfriend, Ezra, but boy does she have bigger problems coming. Her tiny, icy planet is at the center of a massive war between two rival corporations, leaving its inhabitants fighting for a spot on an escape ship. Once aboard, things get rapidly worse, as disease spreads, the ship’s AI breaks down, and an enemy ship follows on their heels. In a trilogy starter told through a wide range of classified documents, Kady goes deep to untangle the mysteries behind her people’s flight—and swallows her pride to collaborate with the ex she wants nothing to do with.
These Shallow Graves, by Jennifer Donnelly
Jo Montfort is a beautiful finishing-school girl in Gilded Age New York, looking down the barrel of a stifling life as a society wife despite her dreams of becoming a reporter. But everything changes when her father, a newspaper and shipping tycoon, is found dead of an apparent accident. When she teams up with a handsome young reporter to investigate what really happened, Jo knows she’s risking her reputation—but quickly realizes, as they dig into some very dark dealings, that she’s also risking her life. Just try to guess the ending on this one, anchored by a resourceful, believably rebellious heroine.
The Rose Society (Young Elites Series #2), by Marie Lu
In empowering series starter The Young Elites, Lu introduced a dangerous monarchic world in the years after a blood fever swept its population. Adelina Amouteru survived the fever, but it left her with an eerily altered appearance and abilities beyond her understanding. While fleeing her cruel father, she’s rescued by similarly gifted survivors the Young Elites, who are vulnerable to two warring sects: the king’s Inquisition Axis, which wants to see the Young Elites dead, and the Dagger Society, which claims to want to protect them. In book two, Adelina, now known as the terrifying White Wolf, is on the run with her sister, hoping to build up a force to strike back against the Inquisition Axis. Powerful, untrusting Adelina fears her own emergent viciousness, but must give into it in a world intent on tearing her apart.
The Rest of Us Just Live Here, by Patrick Ness
Ness takes on the teens living at the fringes of paranormal romance stories, the ones just trying to get through their day without being noticed by the local vampire population or sucked into an ancient curse, and ends up with four extraordinary characters anyway. Mikey’s struggling with OCD and a painful crush, Mel is in eating disorder recovery, Henna still thinks about her ex, and Jared, well, is part god. Unfolding outside of their story (and encapsulated in brief at the start of each chapter) is the high-stakes drama of the “indie kids,” who have supernatural adventures the normals just try to steer clear of. The stories run parallel and occasionally collide, in a refreshing, fascinating story about how everybody is out of the ordinary when you look close enough.
What We Left Behind, by Robin Talley
Toni and Gretchen were their high school’s most indestructible couple, but they’re in college now. Toni heads to Harvard, Gretchen goes to NYU, and soon the cracks start to show. Toni meets a group of fellow genderqueer students who offer her a kind of understanding even Gretchen can’t—and Gretchen finds herself struggling to forge an identity outside her role as Toni’s girlfriend, and moved by a new friend’s rhetoric to question her partner’s exploration of gender identity. Soon they have to confront the unthinkable: the possibility that, after two incredible years, they might grow apart for good.
A Thousand Nights, by E.K. Johnston
This lush retelling of the Thousand and One Nights opens with a different kind of love story: knowing a murderous king is going to take away her beloved sister, the beauty of their desert community, an unnamed narrator fools him into taking her instead, to be murdered in her sister’s place. But, like Scheherezade’s husband in the original tale, Lo-Melkhiin doesn’t kill his new wife as planned. Instead, a magical connection grows up between them, as she comes into strange new powers. There’s more to her new husband’s cruelty than she can imagine, and it will come down to her to break the horrific curse that has made him into a murderer.
Spinning Starlight, by R.C. Lewis
In this hypermodern spin on classic fairy tale “The Wild Swans,” media magnet Liddi, a futuristic tech heiress who hates the spotlight as much as it loves her, gives up her voice in order to keep her brothers alive. They’re trapped in the interplanetary ether, and she’s stuck on the little-known eighth planet, wearing a vocal cord implant that will end their lives if she speaks a word. Which is why it’ll take all the wit she can muster to convince intriguing dignitary Tiav to help her save her family, as well as the seven other worlds that hang in the balance.
A Madness So Discreet, by Mindy McGinnis
Thrown by her monstrous father into an asylum in order to hide his own crimes against her, 19th-century girl Grace welcomes the oblivion of a lobotomy…but is saved when the doctor set to perform the operation sees in her a possible ally. Dr. Thornhollow believes she can partner with him to sniff out murderers, but she has to pretend insanity to secure her safety. Grace’s is an unimaginably dark story, leavened by rays of hope and a score of fascinating characters.
Underneath Everything, by Marcy Beller Paul
Mattie had her reasons for trading in popularity by the side of her cruel, charismatic best friend for safe social oblivion, but when senior year hits she finds those reasons hard to recall. Soon she’s drawn back into queen bee Jolene’s toxic orbit, subjecting herself to the high highs and deadly lows of obsessive friendship with a dangerous girl, despite its costs on the independent life she built herself.
Truly Madly Famously, by Rebecca Serle
In Famous in Love, budding actress Paige Townsen is chosen at an open call to play the girl at the center of a literary love triangle, in the adaptation of a white-hot book series set largely on a magical island. Art mirrors life, and by book’s end she finds herself torn between the boys playing her two love interests. In follow-up Truly Madly Famously, she’s faking bliss with boyfriend Rainer Devon, while secretly pining for troubled costar Jordan Wilder. Worse yet, the scandals dogging her threaten to deep six her nascent career, and she finds herself unsure of who in her life she can trust.
Monster: A Graphic Novel, by Walter Dean Myers
A black-and-white adaptation of Myers’ indelible 1999 classic. Monster follows African American teen Steve Harmon through his arrest, detention, and trial as an adult for allegedly serving as an accomplice to murder. A cinephile, Steve translates his terror into manageable terms by presenting the trial in the form of a screenplay, capturing the stark surreality of his entire fate being decided before his eyes. Its unique format makes it ripe for the graphic novel treatment, and this retelling faithfully captures the dark force of the original. (This month also marks the release of Myers final work, Juba!, an ebullient historical telling of the life of dancer William Henry Lane.)
Dreamstrider, by Lindsay Smith
Smith once again enters the fascinating world of spycraft, this time against the backdrop of vivid fantasy realm the Barstadt Empire. There, former peon Livia is promoted to the powerful role of dreamstrider, exploiting her ability to enter and navigate people’s sleeping minds and briefly inhabit their bodies. In the course of her work she discovers an invasion plot, the kind of information that could earn her the freedom of citizenship. But danger always lurks, and Livia juggles her fear of becoming trapped in the Nightmare Wastes with persistent feelings of unworthiness and an inconvenient love for the wrong man.
No True Echo, by Gareth P. Jones
Just when life in his small British hometown seems like it couldn’t get any duller, beautiful redheaded Scarlett shows up on the school bus one day, and rips the fabric of Eddie’s reality apart. Not to mention reality in general: Scarlett is a time traveler, Wellcome Valley houses a doomed mad scientist, and owing to events that transpired before he was born, Eddie is part of the whole mess, now trapped in a time loop that continually repeats the day he met Scarlett. Combined with the story of the scientist’s murder, told in flashback by the local detective who investigated it, No True Echo is a layered, mind-bending puzzle box of a book.
The Devil and Winnie Flynn, by Micol Ostow and David Ostow (Illustrator)
Just months after her mother’s suicide, Winnie Flynn finds herself exploring supernatural phenomena as a production assistant on her aunt’s New Jersey–based reality show, Fantastic, Fearsome. The “devil” refers to the mythical Jersey Devil, a terrifying creature said to lurk in the state’s Pine Barrens. And after Winnie receives a mysterious hint that her mother’s death wasn’t a suicide, she bands together with a group of Devil Hunters to uncover her own very personal link to the supernatural world. A mashup of horror thriller and addictive insider’s look at the world behind reality TV.
A Song for Ella Grey, by David Almond
This take on the Orpheus tale is told from the perspective of an outsider: Claire, the girl Orpheus didn’t pick, who watches from the sidelines as he falls into an all-consuming love affair with her best friend, Ella Grey. Claire introduces Ella to Orpheus, letting him play her his mesmerizing music over the phone, and soon she’s helping Ella plan their elopement. But anyone familiar with the myth knows tragedy will inevitably follow. Set in (and below) the Tynedale, England, of Almond’s youth, this otherworldly story is told in a mashup of hypnotic prose and working-class dialect.
A Step Toward Falling, by Cammie McGovern
High schooler Emily questions everything she believes about her own decency after doing nothing to stop an attempted sexual assault on a special needs classmate. Alongside football player and fellow bystander Lucas, she’s made to repay the debt by volunteering at a course for developmentally disabled adults. In alternating chapters, assault victim Belinda relies on the wisdom of her beloved Jane Austen to help her heal after the attack, and to brave a return to school.
Trust Me, I’m Trouble, by Mary Elizabeth Summer
In this sequel to crime caper Trust Me, I’m Lying, grifter Julep Dupree has new, powerful protectors (and a new, female love interest), but also faces new dangers. While tracking down a man whose wife fears he has been taken in by a cult, Julep discovers a link between the case and her own family’s past. Hairpin twists, double crosses, and double-time banter keep the story sailing along, as Julep continues to develop into a complex schemer we can’t help but root for.
The House, by Christina Lauren
Gavin and Delilah are falling for each other, despite their very different backgrounds: Delilah was raised, sort of, by distant parents who packed her off to boarding school for six years of her life. And Gavin was raised by House, a sentient, caring structure that tends to his every need. House provides him with food and shelter, music lessons and warmth—and House doesn’t want its attentions to be displaced. As Gavin and Delilah become close, House gets angry, until Gavin realizes escape might be his only option. But escaping is going to be harder than he, or the reader, can imagine, in an imaginative horror story that keeps tightening the screws.
An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes, by Randy Ribay
Four friends, avid Dungeons & Dragons players, face seismic changes as they embark on senior year. Dante has a secret, Archie’s parents are splitting up, Mari just got heartbreaking news…and Sam just got dumped, occasioning a road trip in pursuit of his ex. The diverse foursome finds trouble, adventure, and a newly cemented bond on the road.