I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a month start off with a bang like this March does, and the hits just keep on coming until the very end. Get your fill of incredible debuts, mindblowing fantasy, beautifully quiet contemporary, an anthology of unforgettable girls, and books guaranteed to shatter your heart.
Honor Code, by Kiersi Burkhart (March 1)
Going to Edwards Academy is a dream come true for Sam; it’s by far her best shot at getting into Harvard. But while she was prepared for academic rigor, she didn’t expect the hazing and humiliation that comes for all newbies. Then her tormentors make it even worse by pairing her with an entitled older guy, and in one horrible night, everything changes for Sam. Can she both speak up and hold onto her future? Told from three different perspectives on both sides of the night, this meditation on privilege, rape culture, and the ways in which they feed each other is a particularly timely read.
Inkmistress, by Audrey Coulthurst (March 6)
Asra has the power to dictate the future by writing it with her blood as ink, and it isn’t a power she takes lightly. But she loves her girlfriend, Ina, and so when the latter asks her to use it to help her find her manifest—the animal whose shape she’ll be able to take as part of her passage into adulthood—Asra can’t say no. Neither of them could’ve foreseen the death and destruction that follow, and Ina has no idea it was Asra’s power that destroyed her family. So when she taps into her rage, it’s all at the king who didn’t help her village, and there’s nothing Asra can do to correct it without making Ina despise her. But when Ina takes it too far, manifesting as a dragon with a plan to destroy the king, Asra has no choice but to do everything she can to stop her, even as the journey gets messier, and the truth increasingly complicated.
Hardcover $15.19 | $18.99
Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi (March 6)
The disappearance of magic changed everything for Zélie. When the maji were killed, she lost more than her mother; she lost the ability to hope that anything might topple the evil monarchy. But when Zélie finds a way to restore magic to Orïsha and potentially get rid of a king who all but destroyed her people, she knows she must pursue it, no matter what it entails or who she has to fight. She has strong allies in her quest, and she herself is gaining increasing power…power she may not have the ability to control, to go with emotions she can’t seem to, either.
More Than We Can Tell, by Brigid Kemmerer (March 6)
Kemmerer’s deeply touching Letters to the Lost‘s companion centers around Rev, a boy with a deeply scarring past who has found new hope in a wonderful adopted family. When his abusive father gets back in touch on Rev’s 18th birthday, it brings back unwanted memories he never wanted to revisit nor ever felt he could share. Then he meets Emma Blue in a churchyard, and she feels like the first person he can really talk to. Emma, meanwhile, has her own issues with an overly critical mother, a disinterested father, and unwanted attention from the players in an online game she’s creating that she hopes will please both her parents.
The Wicked Deep, by Shea Earnshaw (March 6)
In the cursed town of Sparrow, three sisters were drowned after being found guilty of witchcraft. Two hundred years later, the sisters return each summer to steal girls’ bodies and get their revenge by luring boys to their watery deaths. But while the town has accepted the curse by this point, the arrival of a new boy named Bo forces local girl Penny to grapple anew with the danger he has no idea lies ahead.
A Kiss in the Dark, by Gina Ciocca (March 6)
Macy’s got a mystery on her hands when she’s kissed in the dark during a football game and narrows the identity of the kisser to one of three guys. Was it Noah, the hot transfer student who’s taking credit for it? Was it Joel, her old crush? Or was it Ben, who might’ve been an almost once-upon-a-time, back before everything fell apart? And how does the mystery tie into the events of the previous year, that turned everything upside-down? You’ll have a whole lot of fun guessing in this delightfully twisty, messy romance.
The Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo (March 6)
Fans of novels in verse had better throw this one on top of their reading lists—Xiomara Batista is a rhymer you won’t soon forget. She’s an Afro-Latina teen who’s tired of feeling simultaneously overlooked and overly looked at, and the only time she feels she has a voice is when she writes in her leather notebook. Then she gets a chance to put sound to those words by joining a slam poetry club. Her mother would never allow it, but can Xiomara possibly resist it?
The Midnights, by Sarah Nicole Smetana (March 6)
Susannah so badly wants her former rock star father’s attention, but he’s too fixated on his glory days to see how hard she’s trying to enter his world and make his past her future. Then he dies unexpectedly, uprooting everything she dreamed of and leaving her in the position of carving out an independent identity for the first time in her life. Moving to a new city provides the perfect backdrop for necessary reinvention, until secrets threaten to tear her new life apart.
The Beauty That Remains, by Ashley Woodfolk (March 6)
If you love reading with your heart in your throat the entire time, let me introduce you to your new favorite YA author, who uses three distinct POVs to beautifully capture grief, love, and changing relationships. Autumn, Shay, and Logan have each recently lost someone who helped define their worlds, and they’re all struggling with their grief. When a band helps bring them all together, they find in one another the necessary strength to mourn their loved ones and look toward to the future.
The Final Six, by Alexandra Monir (March 6)
This near-future thriller follows teens Leo and Naomi to the International Space Training Camp, where fame awaits as they compete with twenty-two other teens for two of the six slots to travel to Jupiter’s Moon Europa to establish a new colony. Leo’s completely cool with leaving Earth behind; he lost his family, and having a mission that will allow him to start a new life is exactly what he needs. But Naomi’s wary after a similar mission via the ISTC failed. She doesn’t know what awaits them on Europa, but she doesn’t trust it’s anything good. As the two proceed through the competition, the once-in-a-lifetime experience draws them closer. But as they move toward the final six, the big question remains: do they want to make it, and what does it mean for them if they do?
Blood Water Paint, by Joy McCullough (March 6)
This knock-your-socks-off novel in verse will establish McCullough as a serious author to watch, drawing readers back into the joy, pain, talent, and trials of Artemisia Gentileschi, an artistic master of the seventeenth century. Forced to paint for no credit as her father’s apprentice, Artemisia longs to create her own beautiful work rather than her father’s commissions. And so she does, bringing a new perspective to the stories of Susannah and the Elders and Judith and Holofernes, painting them in a more feminist light. But not all who claimed to respect her talent truly did, and she was raped in her own studio and forced to choose between staying silent and accusing her attacker in a time when it was almost impossible for a woman to be believed, and unclear whether she had any allies at all.
The Case for Jamie, by Brittany Cavallaro (March 6)
Bless Cavallaro for this awesome Holmes-inspired series, and bless publishing for the fact that this one-time trilogy ender is now actually the third book in a quartet. It picks up a year after the death that rocked Charlotte and Jamie, a year in which they haven’t spoken since everything, especially Charlotte’s lies, blew up. Now Jamie has a new girlfriend, Charlotte has a dangerous mission, and they’re both doing their best to keep the other out of their heads and hearts. But then Jamie becomes a target, and with Lucien Moriarty still on the loose, the danger (and their feelings) may be too great for them to stay apart.
Hero at the Fall, by Alwyn Hamilton (March 6)
The final book in the Rebel of the Sands trilogy sees Amani Al’Hiza leading a revolution against the Sultan of Miraji, after he imprisoned the Rebel Prince Ahmed in mythical Eremot. She, her gun, her Demdji powers, and her rebel crew are headed on a desert rescue mission into the impossible: a place even maps can’t find. Is she really ready to take charge against both enemy soldiers and ghouls, or are they all headed to certain death?
Boomerang, by Helene Dunbar (March 6)
When he left town five years ago, he was Michael Sterling. Now he’s back, he’s Sean Woodhouse, and all he wants is to collect his promised inheritance and use it to save Trip, the boy he got entangled with while he was gone. But returning means learning what he’s missed and who everyone’s become while thinking he was kidnapped. It means seeing that maybe the people he left behind aren’t quite who he thought they were, and neither is the life he’s been living ever since. Dunbar’s work is beautifully crafted and criminally underread, and this newest might be her best yet.
After the Shot Drops, by Randy Ribay (March 6)
The author of An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes is taking on multiple perspectives again in this fraught friendship novel about changes, choices, and consequence. Bunny and Nasir are at an impasse. They’ve been best friends for years, but when Bunny gets a basketball scholarship at a private school and starts dating the girl Nasir wants, they suddenly couldn’t be further apart. Bunny’s killing it on the court and trying to fit in with his new wealthier classmates, and Nasir’s hanging out more with Wallace, his cousin who can’t seem to catch a break and is facing eviction. When Wallace’s attempts to dig himself out of debt have him betting hard against Bunny, it’s Nasir who gets torn in two.
The Unbinding of Mary Reade, by Miriam McNamara (March 6)
Things have never come easily or kindly to Mary Reade, but life as a hired sailor aboard a Caribbean merchant ship, disguised as a boy, promises a more fulfilling, if less honest, existence than the one she’s been living. Then the ship is attacked by pirates, and Mary’s stunned to find there’s a way a girl can be herself onboard a ship. She turns traitor, joining the pirates and taking her first shot at true freedom. But her desire for the captain’s mistress may be taking her a step too far for her safety.
In Sight of Stars, by Gae Polisner (March 13)
Klee’s entire life turned upside down when his father passed away, ending their weekly trips to museums and moving him out of the city and into the suburbs with his mother. It’s a difficult change, but meeting Sarah in art class helps a lot. Soon, she’s the only bright spot in his life, until that, too, is ripped away, sending Klee on a spiral that ends in a psychiatric hospital for teens.
The Radical Element, ed. by Jessica Spotswood (March 13)
Girls on the margins of American history remain in the margins no more: ten authors (including yours truly) push them into the spotlight in this followup to Spotswood’s marvelous A Tyranny of Petticoats. Beginning in 1838 Savannah with the Orthodox Jewish Rebekah, thirsting for an education beyond her female station, and climbing through Mormon history, Buck v. Bell, Hollywood, WWII, and more, female spies, musicians, actresses, comedians, pageant hopefuls, and other stunners take you on a fascinating and very welcome journey through American history.
Nothing Left to Burn, by Heather Ezell (March 13)
A life-changing wildfire coincides with a life-changing night in Ezell’s debut about a girl who’s whisked to safety from her endangered home the morning after she loses her virginity. While waiting it out, Audrey reflects on her relationship with her volunteer firefighter boyfriend, Brooks, and comes to realize not everything is as it seemed. With the fire coming closer and closer to her door, there’s a lot to think about, including where the most pressing danger lies.
Hardcover $17.99 | $19.99
Obsidio, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (March 13)
If you fell even half as hard for Illuminae as I did, this trilogy capper needs no introduction. Kady, Ezra, Hanna, and Nik are now living with thousands of other refugees on a container ship, with no choice for survival but to return to hostage planet Kerenza. But none of them know what it will look like now, so many months after its invasion, and there are new relationships both resurfacing and being torn apart as battles are waged and lives are risked—or cut short.
Fire Song, by Adam Garnet Jones (March 13)
Shane’s grieving the loss of his sister, Destiny, who died by suicide, but he can’t seem to find anyone to grieve with him. His mother’s pulled away, his girlfriend’s more interested in her own issues, and…well, there’s David, but their relationship is a secret. Shane doesn’t want it to stay that way; he’s desperate to get off the rez and move to Toronto for a different and better life. But David won’t follow, and it’s unlikely their relationship will survive the distance.
Chaotic Good, by Whitney Gardner (March 13)
Cameron dreams of getting into the CalArts costume design department, but when she wins a competition and starts getting major attention for her cosplay designs, angry, abusive comments from male fans come with it. Now she just wants to finish her portfolio while remaining under the radar, but in order to do that, she has to go to the town’s only comic shop, which happens to be run by exactly the kind of guy she’s been trying to escape. Her twin brother comes up with the perfect solution: disguise herself as a boy, and voila, instant acceptance. It works, but perhaps a little too well—now she’s got a whole new crowd, thanks to joining a D&D campaign, and one of the guys is getting too close for comfort. (Not to mention that she’s barely touched her portfolio.) If Cameron doesn’t reveal herself soon, she may lose everything she’s been working toward.
12 Steps to Normal, by Farrah Penn (March 13)
Kira’s life got turned upside-down when her father entered rehab for alcoholism, so she’s pretty pissed when she returns from a year of living with her aunt to find he has moved three of his rehab friends into their house. It’s like he isn’t even trying to reconnect with her, which stings all the more when she learns her friendships aren’t where she expected them to be, one of her former best friends is dating her ex, and she’s still struggling with school. The only person she can talk to is Alex Ramos, who used to have a big crush on her, and maybe still does…but her ex is the guy she wants, isn’t he? After all, that’s part of the twelve-step program she made to get her life back to normal. But maybe normal isn’t right for her anymore. Maybe her normal was never that great to begin with. And maybe her new life, including the unwanted guests in it, are a better fit than she imagined. This quiet, lovely, strong debut shows that forgiveness is a lot of things—powerful, healing, and worthwhile—while never making it look easy.
Along the Indigo, by Elsie Chapman (March 20)
Quiet, raw, and lovely, Chapman’s newest drags you along the banks of the Indigo River, where suicide has claimed far too many souls, especially for a girl who wants to protect her little sister from all the harshness in the world. But that’s an epic challenge when you live near the Indigo and in a brothel, and Marsden knows she’s fighting a losing battle. All she needs is to collect enough money to get both herself and her sister out of town for good, even if the only way she can get it is to steal from the dead bodies by the river. But she doesn’t expect to see her classmate, Jude, there, struggling in the wake of his brother’s death, and she doesn’t expect them to have so much in common. Or to fall for him.
Tyler Johnson Was Here, by Jay Coles (March 20)
It started as a fun party. It ended with a shooting, a police raid, and the disappearance of Marvin’s twin brother, Tyler. Then Tyler’s found dead, and a video reveals he was killed by a cop. For Marvin, no stranger to harassment from the police, it feels like an impossible thing to mourn Tyler and seek justice, especially when his mother is falling apart. But in the face of police brutality and having had his other half taken from him, how can he do anything but demand justice and his right to live without constant fear?
The Heart Forger, by Rin Chupeco (March 20)
The Bone Witch introduced us to bone witch Tea, who was struggling with her newfound skill in necromancy. Now that she’s polished her abilities, she’s determined to return from xile, control the daeva, and get revenge against the murderous royals. But her rare gift in black magic makes her both a tool and a target, and there’s war on the horizon…
The Astonishing Color of After, by Emily X.R. Pan (March 20)
Leigh’s mother died by suicide, then turned into a bird. And now that Leigh is in Taiwan, meeting her maternal grandparents for the first time, she’s determined to find her. But her search isn’t leading her so much to a big red bird as it is into a deeper relationship with her grandparents, and introspection about the day her mother died and the fact that Leigh was spending it kissing her best friend. Pan brings a beautiful new voice to YA in her debut about grief, depression, culture, and love.
The Pros of Cons, by Alison Cherry, Lindsay Ribar, and Michelle Schusterman (March 27)
In this utterly charming joint venture, three girls brought to the same convention center by different interests will find each other and click into friendship just as each one needs it most. For Callie, joining her father at the World Taxidermy Championships is the only way she can think to preserve the bond between them, that seems to have crumbled since her mother left for another man. But he doesn’t seem to view her as anything more than an assistant, and when she learns the secret he’s been keeping, she might just be done with him for good. Phoebe’s there to show off her skills at the Indoor Percussion Association, but the band’s lack of funding, her hookup with her bandmate, and a fight with her best friend over his girlfriend are getting in the way. And Vanessa’s just psyched to be at the We Treasure Fandom Convention (aka WTFCon), not least because it means finally meeting her online girlfriend, Soleil—but soon she’s unsure whether they’re really on the same page, and whether they’re truly meant to be. With all three girls feeling out of sorts, the accidents that bring them together will be the best part of their trips.
And She Was, by Jessica Verdi (March 27)
When Dara sees her birth certificate for the first time at eighteen, she’s stunned to see names she doesn’t recognize listed as her parents. Confronting her mother, Mellie, leads to some shocking news for Dara: her mother’s transgender, and the name listed as her father’s was Mellie’s name prior to transition. The name listed as her mother’s, however, is a total mystery. Angry at Mellie for keeping this a secret her whole life, Dara needs to get away from her for a while, and what better trip to take than one to find the family of her deceased biological mother? Off she goes, along with her best friend, Sam, to get the story…or the part of it the family is willing to provide. Filling in the rest is Mellie herself, via a series of emails she sends to her daughter, sharing everything from the brutal truths of her battles with abuse and suicidal ideation to the beautiful reason behind her name choice. By the end of her journey, everything Dara thought she knew about herself and the relationships in her life has been shaken, but it’s what she does with what she’s learned that’ll matter most.
Emergency Contact, by Mary H.K. Choi (March 27)
Penny’s new to college, leaving behind a tepid life of mediocre friends, a mediocre boyfriend, and a single mother who barely knows how to parent. Sam is fresh off a bad breakup, working as a baker barista, and trying to figure out his future. When Penny happens upon Sam on a bad day and saves him, they become each other’s emergency contacts, which quickly turns into becoming each other’s closest confidants. For two people who struggle with getting close to others, the distance afforded by texting is perfect. But it’s becoming more and more difficult to deny that their relationship is changing, and making out is a tough thing to do with only emojis.
I Have Lost My Way, by Gayle Forman (March 27)
Forman’s latest brings three teen strangers together in Central Park, just as each needs friends and a listening ear more than ever. Freya is struggling with losing her voice in the process of recording her debut. Harun needs to find the boy he loves, and will give up anything, even home, in his pursuit. Nathaniel is grieving and dealing with a family tragedy that left him alone across the country. Together, over the course of a single day, the three will find empathy in one another, as well as the courage to handle the future.
The Way the Light Bends, by Cordelia Jensen (March 27)
If you’ve already read Jensen’s debut, Skyscraping, then you know how beautifully she writes a novel in verse. Thankfully, she’s back with another one, about a girl struggling to find her place in the world as she drifts from the “twin” who used to anchor her. Though they aren’t actually twins, Linc was born biologically to their mother just four months after Holly was adopted from Ghana, so they were always extremely close. Then Holly gets a boyfriend while continuing to excel at school and everything else, while narrator Linc struggles in every area but one: the photography passion her parents don’t support. When Linc makes a choice that pushes Holly even further and puts her on thin ice at school, she convinces herself there’s only one way to fix everything…but it requires making some questionable moves first. She’ll have to prove to everyone she knows her own path best, and hopefully reconnect with those she cares about in the process, if the truths she learns as she tries don’t shred her heart first.
Reflection: A Twisted Tale, by Elizabeth Lim (March 27)
This take on Mulan answers the question of what would happen if the titular heroine had to travel to the Underworld (aka Diyu) to save the mortally wounded Captain Shang from certain death. There, King Yama insists on holding onto Shang, but Mulan will not be so easily bested. Together with Shang’s lion guardian, Mulan (disguised as Ping) must travel through Diyu, find Shang’s spirit, and escape by sunrise if she’s to avoid becoming the king’s prisoner forever. Meanwhile, she must decide whether to reveal her true identity to Shang, taking into account all it might mean for their future…assuming they can both get out alive.