February is the kind of month that makes a YA lover skip their own birthday party/doctor’s appointment/dog’s wedding in order to have more reading time, and use up all their lunch money for book buying. The month’s epic stack of upcoming releases includes a book for every reader, whether you’re a sucker for fantasy, contemporary, sci-fi, historical fiction, or those awesome oddballs that blur genre lines. Good thing it’s a leap year—we’re gonna need a bigger month to get all this reading done.
Salt to the Sea, by Ruta Sepetys (February 2)
Master historical fiction writer Sepetys returns to World War II for the first time since Between Shades of Gray. Narration is shared among three refugees—a pregnant, undocumented Polish girl; a Prussian boy with a secret; a guilt-stricken Lithuanian nurse—and Alfred, a German soldier dreaming of a girl he left behind. The refugees meet when attempting to evacuate on Alfred’s ship, the ill-fated Wilhelm Gustloff. Just hours after the ship leaves shore, it’s torpedoed by Soviet fire, kicking off a new struggle to survive. Through four distinct voices, Sepetys highlights a significant but little-known chapter of WWII maritime history.
The Forbidden Orchid, by Sharon Biggs Waller (February 2)
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.
Symptoms of Being Human, by Jeff Garvin (February 2)
Riley Cavanaugh is a gender fluid teen who finds purpose and connection after their blog—filled with funny rants on gender (it’s not a switch, it’s a dial), rude questions (no, you can’t ask how a gender fluid person has sex), and life in all its anxiety-inducing glory—goes viral. Suddenly Riley has not just online friends but an audience, ready to be mobilized. But nothing is that simple; Riley still faces IRL bullying, a confusing crush object, and pressure from a politician father and supportive but image-conscious mother. And with great power comes great responsibility: Riley’s advice to the desperate can have dark consequences. When someone at school discovers who’s behind the blog, Riley must decide whether to pull the plug or brave the fallout. Garvin expresses the deep, disorienting itch of gender dysphoria with visceral clarity, through the story of a sharp, conscientious teen whose birth certificate gender is never revealed. (Because it’s none of your business!)
Unhooked, by Lisa Maxwell (February 2)
Maxwell’s Peter Pan update follows contemporary girl Gwen from disillusionment in London, where her itinerant mother has taken her, to a darkly reimagined Neverland, where she learns her mother’s delusions of being stalked by nightmarish creatures might be based in reality after all. A changeable Pan and alluring Captain Hook vie for her attentions, as she tries to figure out who, if anyone, she can trust. A secondary narrative follows two brothers during World War I, whose connection to Neverland slowly comes clear.
Assassin’s Heart, by Sarah Ahiers (February 2)
Lea Saldana is a trained assassin, a member of one of nine families in the kingdom of Lovero for whom murder is legal. But when an act of late-night arson kills her family and destroys her home, she knows exactly who’s responsible: the rival Da Via clan, whose son she secretly loved. Reeling from the betrayal, she demands retribution from her king and is denied. So she sets out to reunite with a long-estranged uncle and exact revenge on her own terms, but may find a new life path on the way.
Burning Midnight, by Will McIntosh (February 2)
Sully lives in a world transformed by the mysterious arrival of the spheres, gemlike objects that randomly appeared in hidden places around the world. Burning them imbues their owner with gifts ranging from quick healing to singing ability to an extra inch of height, with each color representing a different gift. The sphere market is dominated by brutal billionaire Alex Holliday, but Sully deals in small-time spheres at a flea market. There he meets gifted sphere finder Hunter, and teams up with her to search for their hidden quarry. When they find a previously unheard of Gold sphere, it’s a stroke of incredible fortune that could be the death of them, as Holliday will stop at nothing to take it away.
Revenge and the Wild, by Michelle Modesto (February 2)
Westie is the hide-tough adopted daughter of eccentric inventor Nigel Butler, in the no-account wild west town of Rogue City. There, supernaturals and humans live uneasily side by side, the magical wards of the Wintu tribe keep the peace between races, and Westie plots her revenge on the cannibals that took her family and her arm. Then a family of investors hits town, ready to fund Nigel’s most vital invention—one with the power to produce pure magic. But they may be the very cannibals Westie has been hunting down for years, and her thirst for vengeance may become her downfall.
The Abyss Surrounds Us, by Emily Skrutskie (February 8)
In a distant future of genetic modification and unified government, teenaged Cas Leung is in the family business: the training of sea monsters to protect ships against pirates. Then Cas is kidnapped by a pirate queen, who wants to use her to train a sea monster pup…as a weapon for the pirates. Trained to opt for death over giving up her family’s training secrets, Cas nevertheless chooses life over duty, and proves to be a formidable foe to her abductors. A fresh story led by two diverse women, set in the watery blue yonder of a futuristic world.
Glass Sword, by Victoria Aveyard (February 9)
In Red Queen, 17-year-old Mare Barrow’s red blood made her a member of the powerless peasant class, in a world where the silver-blooded have both position and supernatural powers—until she’s revealed to have immense abilities of her own, despite the red in her veins. Aveyard’s sequel picks up right where its predecessor left off: reeling from a brutal betrayal and covered in the blood of battle, Mare Barrow sets out to recruit an army of her own, to fight back against her people’s Silver oppressors.
These Vicious Masks, by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas (February 9)
In a Regency sphere of stuffed-shirt suitors, boring balls, and a mother with a nose for a man with prospects, Evelyn has zero interest in becoming a bride. She takes solace in her brilliant, medically gifted younger sister, Rose; the company of the intriguing Mr. Kent; and thwarting her mother’s desire that she be agreeable. But when Rose goes missing the night after a ball—a night in which she was approached by two strange characters in need of her…extraordinary medical abilities—Evelyn doesn’t believe for a moment that she has run away. Soon Evelyn finds herself descending into a hidden world of strange people with stranger abilities in pursuit of her sister. Masks is stylish and smartly observed, with delightfully Jane Austen–worthy dialogue.
Blackhearts, by Nicole Castroman (February 9)
Before he was notorious pirate Blackbeard, Edward Drummond was the son of a rich British merchant, set to inherit a landlocked life he despised while hungering for a return to the sea. His tempestuous romance with Anne, a maid-turned-ward in his house, puts his loveless betrothal to a fellow aristocrat at risk—and the cracks in his and Anne’s relationship speeds his spiral into becoming the infamous Blackbeard.
Where Futures End, by Parker Peevyhouse (February 9)
In five linked novellas hopscotching forward through time, Peevyhouse imagines the effect on humanity of the discovery of a parallel world lying just beyond our own. As earth’s atmosphere sickens, and social media sharing advances to the point that privacy is a relic and transient online stardom the best way to make a buck, her characters dream of the Other Place, intersect with its people, and grapple with the mystery of its existence. Facing the challenge of making readers care afresh for each new narrator and their increasingly desperate plights, Peevyhouse grips you every time.
Little White Lies, by Brianna Baker and F. Bowman Hastie (February 9)
High achiever Coretta White adds another win to her arsenal when her confessional Tumblr, Little White Lies, goes viral. But Coretta has a secret: she has been farming out some of the blogging—in the voice of a 17-year-old girl—to a fortyish male ghostwriter, and when she cracks and reveals what she has done, the fallout is huge. First her life falls apart, followed by that of her ghostwriter, until the two of them team up to beat the rolling scandals. A pop culture–peppered, dual narrative story that experiments with format and voice.
The Shadow Queen, by C.J. Redwine (February 16)
Redwine retells the story of Snow White and her Huntsman on an epic scale in this pitch-black fairy tale. Nine years after her father died at her evil stepmother’s hands, Princess Lorelei and her younger brother are still on the run, disguising themselves and using Robin Hood tactics to help feed their kingdom’s starving people. Kol is a newly crowned king in a neighboring kingdom, naive to the evil Queen Irina’s crimes, who swears to kill Lorelei in exchange for Irina’s royal guidance. Instead, Lorelei and Kol band together, facing Irina’s brutal, gloriously imagined magic to save their kingdoms from terrible threats.
Rebel, Bully, Geek, Pariah, by Erin Jade Lange (February 16)
Four teens that slot not-so-neatly into four social archetypes spend a life-changing night together after the party they’re at is busted by the cops. Hitting the road in a stolen cop car, the foursome—bad girl Andy, nerdy Boston and his tough brother, York, and Sam, a girl who has made invisibility into an art—heads for a cabin in the woods, where they fight, connect, and get deeper into irrevocable trouble with every passing hour.
Take the Fall, by Emily Hainsworth (February 16)
In one horrible night, Sonia loses her best friend, Gretchen; her security; and her credibility, after an attack in the woods leaves her with an unclear memory and Gretchen dead at the bottom of a waterfall. Everyone believes she knows more than she’s saying, so when Gretchen’s detested ex, Marcus, asks for Sonia’s help in getting off the police’s prime suspects list, she agrees in order to get close to him—in the hopes of proving his guilt. But as her investigation uncovers more twists and more secrets about her best friend than she imagined, she starts to realize Marcus isn’t the only one who might’ve wished Gretchen dead.
The Girl from Everywhere, by Heidi Heilig (February 16)
Heilig’s intricately plotted, lushly sensory debut filled the “time traveling pirate ship” hole in my heart and bookshelf that I didn’t even know was there. With her gifted, addicted captain father at the helm of the Temptation, and a motley crew of fellow shiphands onboard, teenaged Nix travels through time and space, between fantasy and reality, by way of hand-drawn maps. So long as the map is original, signed by its creator, and has never been used before, the ship can navigate to whatever realm it has frozen in time, whether it be real or purely mythical. Then the Temptation docks in Hawaii in the waning years of the Hawaiian monarchy, with a mission in mind that threaten’s Nix’s very existence. Lush writing, a plot that effortlessly weaves together past and present, a high-stakes heist, and a completely earned love triangle round out a fantastic fantasy I wish was a series. (Take heart—it is a duology!)
Bluescreen, by Dan Wells (February 16)
With comparisons to M.T. Anderson’s Feed and a promises-to-be-deliciously-tangled plot, this one is high on my must-read list. In a 2050 Los Angeles of dark tech and dangerous criminals, everyone worth knowing has a djinni, a brain implant that allows them to live permanently in a virtual world. Marisa is the daughter of well-off restaurant owners, but in the digital world that matters, she’s a member of girl gamer group the Cherry Dogs. There she tries virtual drug Bluescreen, the effects of which are so scary she starts investigating its real world origins with the help of a sexy dealer. Their hunt draws the attention of the drug’s inventors, whose creation is even more dangerous than Marisa knows, just as gang warfare breaks out in her real world L.A. neighborhood.
Ascending the Boneyard, by C.G. Watson (February 16)
Caleb is being crushed under the weight of a shattered family, guilt, and abandonment. His only escape from his dark reality is computer game the Boneyard, where he can take control in a virtual landscape. But as Caleb relies more and more on the game, the lines between pixels and reality start to blur. Birds fall dead from the sky, his phone fills up with malevolent texts, and he encounters people as unreliable as his own mind. His fractured present is interwoven with flashbacks to the past, including the accident that had permanent consequences for his brother.
Riders, by Veronica Rossi (February 16)
Aspiring U.S. army ranger Gideon Blake has always known he wants to serve, but he didn’t think it would be like this. After a fatal freak accident, he’s resurrected with a confining bracelet on his arm, a mystical healing ability, and a whole new identity: he has become the physical embodiment of War, joining Famine, Death, and Conquest to make up the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. They’re banding together to save all of humanity from an ancient supernatural evil. But it’s after they’ve failed to do so that the stakes really climb, as Gideon tries to convince military intelligence forces of the dangers they face…
Kill the Boy Band, by Goldy Moldavsky (February 23)
God help the boy bander who underestimates his fans. Moldavsky’s debut is equal parts twisted love letter to fandom—the incendiary heat of their devotion, their insatiable thirst for knowledge, images, and access—and cautionary tale. Four girls, each as distinct as the members of their beloved boy band the Ruperts, take a room at the hip NYC hotel where the boys are staying. And then fate delivers unto them a boy bander: Rupert P., widely agreed to be the worst Rupert, who’s soon trussed up in their hotel room while they figure out what to do next. Betrayal, bad decisions, and general mayhem follow, in a hilarious, dangerous story that makes me want more in the strange new microgenre I’m calling fandom noir.
The Smell of Other People’s Houses, by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock (February 23)
In a vividly evoked 1970s Alaska, Hitchcock sets hardscrabble poverty and domestic violence against transcendent natural beauty and the secret riches to be found in an unforgiving landscape. Her characters are fighting to build good lives amid harsh circumstances—Ruth is an almost-orphan grappling with a terrible secret, Dora is terrified she’ll be forced back under her violent father’s roof, Hank and his brothers have no choice but to escape, and Alyce doesn’t know how to claim her future without losing her past. All take a circuitous path toward finally making the connections they need to survive.
Longbow Girl, by Linda Davies (February 23)
Modern girl and skilled archer Merry Owen is the inheritor of her family’s centuries-old legacy: a promise to protect the Crown. After her ancestor saved the king’s life in battle, they were gifted the land Merry’s family’s still lives on, but it’s under constant threat from the nearby Earl de Courcy—even though his heir, James, is Merry’s best friend. When Merry finds a valuable ancient book on her land, she follows its intriguing clues and prophecies to a portal that leads her and James back to 1537, where she has to rely on her archery skills to win a contest whose outcome will protect her family’s far-off future.
Thanks for the Trouble, by Tommy Wallach (February 23)
In Wallach’s sophomore novel, Hispanic teen Parker Santé, left mute and traumatized after witnessing his father’s death, tells the story of a girl who changed his life. He meets Zelda in a hotel lobby where he isn’t a guest, and is drawn in first by her beauty, then by her wad of unattended money, and finally by her story: she claims to be 246 years old, incapable of aging, and looking to spend her last five grand before jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. In the days that follow, the two set off on a wild bucket list adventure, in a story about loss and connection with a supernatural twist.
The Bitter Side of Sweet, by Tara Sullivan (February 23)
Amadou and his younger brother, Seydou, work in indentured servitude on west Africa’s contemporary Ivory Coast, harvesting the cacao pods he hopes will eventually buy them the freedom to reunite with their aunt and uncle. Tricked into working in horrible conditions, without any real hope in sight, their focus is squarely on survival. Then Khadija arrives in their camp, a girl who refuses to take her imprisonment without a fight. As the bosses work their hardest to break her, Amadou’s old fighting instinct resurfaces, and soon the brothers and the girl are pinning their hopes on one last effort to take flight. a reality-based story meant to enrage and illuminate, and including info on Sullivan’s research.
Firstlife (Everlife series #1), by Gena Showalter (February 23)
In Showalter’s new Everlife series, your mundane earthly existence is considered your “firstlife,” inferior to the everlasting Everlife waiting for you beyond the grave. The Everlife realm is controlled by two rival realms, Troika and Myriad, each dead set on recruiting Ten Lockwood to their side. But numbers-obsessed Ten, imprisoned for over a year for the crime of not allowing her parents to decide the fate of her afterlife, doesn’t know who to trust and what to choose…and only has until the fast-approaching end of her life to decide.
The Forbidden Wish, Jessica Khoury (February 23)
Jinni Zahra has been waiting in her lamp for 500 years, in the buried ruins of a lavish palace, when the boy Aladdin finds her. She’s a prisoner who craves freedom, a supernatural slave who somehow maintains an affection for her human masters. Their magical desert world is evoked in vivid sensory detail, as boy and jinni become allies in two very different goals: he seeks revenge on his parents’ murderer, she seeks freedom. But soon Zahra finds she must make an impossible choice—seize the liberty she craves, or be true to the human she’s falling in love with.
After the Woods, by Kim Savage (February 23)
One summer day Julia and best friend Liv go running in the woods, but only one of them comes out. Liv is attacked by a stranger; when Julia stops to help her, Liv escapes, leaving an injured Julia behind. Julia escapes two days later, her attacker is jailed and later commits suicide, but her PTSD—and the fractures in her relationship with Liv—persist. When, nearly a year later, a body is found in the woods where she was taken, Julia stops trying to escape the past, instead working with unexpected new allies to uncover the truth behind what happened to her, and what her best friend might be hiding.
Behold the Bones, by Natalie C. Parker (February 23)
In haunting Southern Gothic Beware the Wild, Parker introduced the sultry world of Sticks, Louisiana, and the dangerous swamp at its heart. After an argument, Sterling Saucier’s brother, Phin, stormed off into the swamp…and a new “sister” came out, an insidious girl named Lenora May who only Sterling can remember was never part of her family at all. Follow-up Behold the Bones focuses on one of Sterling’s best friends, Candy, who has a contrary relationship to both the town’s ghosts and its “Shine,” or permeating magic, repelling it without meaning to. She enters the swamp in the hopes of setting things right, but ends up soaking up more Shine than she bargains for—and attracting the attention of a ghost-hunting band of outsiders in the process.
The Last Place on Earth, by Carol Snow (February 23)
When Daisy’s best friend, Henry, disappears along with his family, she worries it’s because of the friendship-endangering moment they shared the night before—but when she finds a note he left behind, reading “SAVE ME,” she realizes she didn’t know all of his secrets after all. Along with her brother, she sets out to find him, encountering some very creepy signs of a much larger problem along the way…which might have everything to do with Henry’s sudden departure.