September marks the start of true reading weather, the crisp and cozy kind that fills your head with visions of sweaters and benches and paper cups of cocoa, and stacks and stacks of books to stay indoors with. Publishers have identified our weakness for September reading, and are releasing a metric ton of glorious new reads accordingly. Here there be rich fantasies set everywhere from faerieland to the streets of Brooklyn, immersive near-future visions, and thrillers to bring in the season of early sunsets.
The Girl with the Red Balloon, by Katherine Locke (September 1)
Ellie Baum, granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, finds herself transported from modern-day Berlin to the divided city circa 1988 in this magical time-travel tale. All it takes is the touch of a red balloon to carry her back to the era before the fall of the Berlin Wall, where she meets two of the people behind the time-jumping balloons: Kai and Mitzi, part of an underground group using them to help rescue people from East Berlin. The tale of Ellie’s grandfather’s own escape from a concentration camp in 1942 is told in interstitial chapters, in a book combining fascinating magic with threads of Europe’s past.
Genuine Fraud, by E. Lockhart (September 5)
We can’t wait to get our hands on E. Lockhart’s first novel since 2014’s We Were Liars—a tricky emotional thriller with a troubled heart and a secret—which boasts an irresistible title and an intriguingly elliptical cover. A psychological thriller centering on a deeply unreliable heroine, Genuine Fraud pays homage to genre classics such as Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley. It opens on Jule, a girl on the run from some unnamed thing, and is told in reverse, each chapter uncovering another facet of what she’s hiding, how she got to where she is, and what, exactly, happened to her vanished best friend, a flighty heiress.
A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares, by Krystal Sutherland (September 5)
Sutherland’s sophomore novel is very funny and deeply sad, deftly combining a broken family history that evolves into a supernatural curse with the satisfying trope of a bucket list. Esther’s family is cursed with mortal fears, each developing a debilitating terror of the very thing that will one day kill them. She believes that by cataloguing every potentially scary thing and avoiding it forever, she might be able to dodge the grip of the Big Bad Fear that will destroy her life, but changes her tune when she reunites with childhood friend Jonah. Soon the two are facing down her fears one by one, with Jonah as cameraman. But Esther remains on the lookout for Death, as embodied by the ageless reaper her grandfather met during the Vietnam War, a run-in that kicked off the curse. The book is an appealing love story that takes on darker themes, including the costs of mental illness on families, rendered in beautiful prose.
Girls Made of Snow and Glass, by Melissa Bashardoust (September 5)
This lovely feminist retelling of Snow White humanizes the two women at its heart, adding context to the tropes of the evil stepmother and the fairy-tale innocent. The true evil in this story is the stepmother, Mina’s, cruel sorcerer father, who gave his own daughter, Mina, a heart of glass and created for the grieving king Lynet, a daughter made of snow, in the image of his dead queen. Longing for her first taste of real love, despite her cold glass heart, Mina captures the king but finds she can’t keep his heart, which belongs to his daughter and buried wife. Meanwhile, Lynet forges a first-love bond with Nadia, a royal surgeon. Mina and Lynet are doomed to hate each other, set up by the rules of the oldest storytelling for a showdown that will end in somebody’s death—but together, they may have the power to rewrite that tale.
They Both Die at the End, by Adam Silvera (September 5)
Rufus and Mateo meet on the last day of their lives, in a near-future world where a public service called Death-Cast calls everyone slated to die on the morning of their passing. Each is alone—Mateo because his sole family member, his father, is in a coma, and because he lived a life too small to have many other connections, and Rufus because he’s an orphan on the run from the cops after his vindictive beatdown of his ex’s new boyfriend. They meet through the Last Friend app, which pairs “Deckers” waiting to die. Each challenges the other throughout their day together, as the excitement of new friendship tips sweetly into love. Their story is punctuated by brief narratives of other New Yorkers facing or affected by last days, making the city into a moving tapestry of final moments, seized or wasted.
Feral Youth, edited by Shaun David Hutchinson (September 5)
In this riff on The Canterbury Tales, 10 authors take turns narrating the stories told by a diverse group of teens on a mandatory wilderness retreat. Miles away from camp, weighed down with survival gear, and with only each other to rely on, they have three days to find their way back to civilization. In the meantime, they share their stories, with YA heavy hitters including Stephanie Kuehn, Marieke Nijkamp, and Robin Talley giving voice to kids who run the gamut from the haves to the have nots, and whose tales sometimes include noirish or fantastical genre notes.
Even the Darkest Stars, by Heather Fawcett (September 5)
Though she’s stuck in her older sister’s shadow, Kamzin still harbors dreams of her own: to become a royal explorer, half cartographer, half spy. When legendary explorer River Shara comes to her village, Kamzin is shocked to learn he wants not her sister, Lusha, but Kamzin herself to join him on his next expedition. His mission, to retrieve a magical object from a treacherous peak, may prove deadly, and is soon complicated by the mission of a rival explorer…whose forces include Lusha.
Welcome Home, edited by Eric Smith (September 5)
The work of twenty-nine YA authors, including Mindy McGinnis, C.J. Redwine, and collection editor Eric Smith, are gathered into this diverse tapestry of tales exploring adoption from every angle. The stories are moving, wide-ranging, and in some cases tinged with genre elements, touching on the search for birth parents, the decision to give up a child for adoption, and more. Many of the included authors speak from experience with some facet of the adoption and fostering experience, giving the collection a crucial #ownvoices backbone.
Right Where You Left Me, by Calla Devlin (September 5)
Charlotte’s father is a fearless journalist who chases down stories amid disasters across the globe, leaving her and her emotionally reserved mother behind to navigate the distance between them. But when he’s captured in the Ukraine following a devastating natural disaster, the two must connect in order to survive whatever happens next. Devlin’s sophomore novel is enriched by a San Francisco setting and references to the rich Russian folklore of her mother’s homeland.
Night of Cake and Puppets, by Laini Taylor (September 12)
Karou and Akiva’s love story is the heart of Taylor’s epic, enchanting Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, but the headlong romance between Karou’s bestie, Zuzana, and her “violin boy,” Mik, is pretty irresistible itself. Now Taylor’s novella tracking their magic-tinged first date—starting with a dreamlike scavenger hunt—is available in print for the first time. With a little help from Karou’s tiny-wish-granting scuppies (which look just like beads), Zuzana leads secret crush Mik across their beloved Prague, to where she waits to admit her feelings in grand form. The tale is a sweet, charming companion to one of YA fantasy’s best series.
Odd & True, by Cat Winters (September 12)
Trudchen was raised on her sister, Odette’s, tales of their mother’s monster-hunter exploits, but her belief fades as she grows older and Od leaves her behind on their aunt’s farm. Then Od reappears after two years away and carries Tru—now dealing with the physical costs of polio—on a quest across the country, where all the dark things she grew up believing in just might be waiting for them. Winters moves among the sisters’ past, their quest to find their mother and locate their own magic, and the truth behind the years Od spent far from Tru.
The Grave Keepers, by Elizabeth Byrne (September 12)
In a tiny town in upstate New York, in a slightly altered world, the living have a very different relationship with death, tending to and spending time in their graves long before they’re committed to them. Athena and Laurel are the children of cemetery owners, whose loss of their eldest daughter left them scarred and fiercely overprotective: the girls are raised in near isolation, with only their graves and the ceremonies surrounding grave-keeping as solace. But in one life-changing season, older sister Athena navigates the alien agonies—and unexpected joys—of public school, while Laurel forges a bond with a mysterious boy who shows up on their property. An odd and lovely story with magical realistic touches.
Warcross, by Marie Lu (September 12)
Lu’s latest series starter drops us into a tech-saturated future, where people live half in the real world and half in the virtual landscapes of Warcross, an addictive game with a rabid global fanbase. Emika Chen is a Warcross bounty hunter, who makes ends meet by delivering gamer criminals to the authorities. But when her latest bounty falls through, leaving her facing homelessness, she makes a desperate move, hacking into the Warcross championships—but getting caught has an unexpected outcome. The game’s young billionaire creator, Hideo Tanaka, invites her to join the games, with a secret mission in mind: infiltrate in order to uncover a security issue. But Emika finds herself deep in a conspiracy that goes far beyond a security breach, in a high-octane tale that carries readers from a futuristic Tokyo to the strange vistas of a virtual world.
Shadowhouse Fall, by Daniel José Older (September 12)
In this follow-up to 2015’s Shadowshaper, Sierra has embraced her Shadowshaper destiny, creating street art animated by Brooklyn’s spirit population. But the arrival of a strange gift changes her path: a playing card from the mystical Deck of Worlds, featuring an image of a creature known as the Hound of Light. When the hound starts prowling the streets of Brooklyn in pursuit of Sierra, it heralds a coming supernatural battle, unfolding against the backdrop of a community under siege by forces of real-world oppression.
Nyxia, by Scott Reintgen (September 12)
In Reintgen’s high-stakes sci-fi thriller, Emmett Atwater is trading in a hardscrabble life in Detroit for a mystery-shrouded new existence among the stars, recruited for unknown ends by the Babel Corporation. It’s his best chance at supporting his family, so he takes it, finding himself one of a team of ten who all have an unsettling thing in common: troubles back on earth, that money may or may not solve. Emmett learns they’re headed to a mining expedition on a secret planet, but there’s far more to Babel and the mission than they’re being told…
Fireblood, by Elly Blake (September 12)
In last year’s Frostblood, Blake introduced heroine Ruby, one of the few remaining firebloods in a world ruled by frost. She lived in semi-isolation with her mother, concealing her untrained fiery abilities, until a raid by the wicked Frost King’s men ended with her mother dead and Ruby a prisoner. After her rescue by a contingent of rebels she played a crucial role in deposing the old king, and in sequel Fireblood she’s settling into royal life under a new one. But her book one victory unleashed a powerful evil force, and the frostbloods she’s surrounded with refuse to accept her. When an intriguing fireblood emissary offers her passage to an unheard-of homeland for her own kind, it’s an offer she can’t refuse…whether or not she can trust him.
Before She Ignites, by Jodi Meadows (September 12)
Meadows kicks off her new Fallen Isles trilogy with this tale of a girl who stands as a symbol for her people—having been born on the day a crucial treaty was signed—but who sacrifices her revered position in order to speak truth to power. For sharing what she has uncovered about governmental corruption, Mira is imprisoned in the treacherous Pit, where she faces off against the absolute power of a vindictive jailer and fights for an escape that will allow her to advocate for her beloved dragons, and to save the allies her new life is bringing her face to face with.
Landscape with Invisible Hand, by M.T. Anderson (September 12)
In Anderson’s latest dark futuristic vision, the vuvv, a super-advanced alien race, have taken over Earth, bringing with them impossibly efficient medicine and technology that renders most human skill sets obsolete. In the resulting world order, human haves live in beautiful buildings floating above the wasted landscape, while the have-nots suffer and die from treatable diseases, unable to scrape together the money to support themselves or pay for vuvv medicine. To save his family, talented teen artist Adam is exploiting one path out of poverty: performing as half of a 1950s-style pay-per-view couple with his new girlfriend Chloe, complete with doo-wop and chaste kisses, for the midcentury-obsessed vuvv overlords. But when their real-life romance goes south, he has to rethink his survival plan, in a pitch-black tale that’s nevertheless deeply funny and infused with hope.
You Bring the Distant Near, by Mitali Perkins (September 12)
Perkins era-crossing saga is told in the voices of three generations of women and girls, from one family of Indian American immigrants, beginning in 1965 with sisters Sonia and Tara Das and their tradition-bound mother, Ranee. The girls must balance parental expectations with the excitement and challenges of being new-minted New Yorkers, and their rebellions and ambitions lead to both rifts and redemption. The book progresses into the ’90s girlhoods of Sonia and Tara’s own daughters, Anna and Chantal, who have both their own stories to tell and a deep impact on the final chapter of their grandmother’s.
When I Cast Your Shadow, by Sarah Porter (September 12)
Ruby’s troubled brother, Dash, has died of an overdose, and now he’s shadowing her dreams instead of her waking life. She’s dangerously drawn in by the return of her charismatic, beloved sibling in any form—but Dash has become entangled with terrifying forces on the other side of death, and his return could spell her doom. It’s up to her twin, Emmett, to save her from a supernatural threat wearing the face of the manipulative brother she nevertheless loved.
Rebel Seoul, by Axie Oh (September 14)
In the dystopic Neo Seoul of 2199, Lee Jaewon is a gang member–turned–ambitious young pilot outrunning a violent past and childhood in the slums. Recruitment into a weapons development arm of government seems to be the key to advancement, but being ordered to report on his mission partner, budding supersoldier Tera, becomes complicated when their working relationship shades into love. Soon he finds himself at a crossroads between continued devotion to the regime, or rebellion against the brutality it stands for.
Jane, Unlimited, by Kristin Cashore (September 19)
Graceling author Cashore’s first standalone novel is a genre mashup with an intriguing setup: Jane is a grieving 18-year-old whose Aunt Magnolia, her de facto mother, has recently died while working in Antarctica. Just before the trip, her aunt delivered an odd final request: that Jane accept any invitation she receives to the grand estate Tu Reviens. Soon a chance encounter leads Jane to the massive, Frankensteinish house, where she finds herself amid a cast of variously shady characters on the eve of a gala. At the end of the book’s first section, Jane is at a crossroads: she can follow one of five paths, each of which may help her answer a burning question, from determining what’s behind other guests’ strange behavior to untangling her aunt’s connection to Tu Reviens. Across the five ensuing segments, Jane’s story skates among genres, including mystery, horror, and portal fantasy, each building in some way on the last. It’s an epic performance from one of YA’s best fantasy authors.
Release, by Patrick Ness (September 19)
Ness’s take on Mrs. Dalloway follows Adam, the semi-closeted gay son of an Evangelical pastor, through one eventful day, as he grapples with familial bigotry and hypocrisy, sexual harassment, the dread of losing the friend-family he truly counts on, and the looming prospect of saying goodbye to his first love. In alternating chapters Ness relays a surreal narrative that follows a figure revealed to be the spirit of a dead girl seeking revenge on her killer, haunting Adam’s rural hometown and injecting a layer of weird into his often raw, real-time narrative.
Moxie, by Jennifer Mathieu (September 19)
Inspired by the zine culture and Riot Grrrls of her mother’s youth, a girl whose high school turns a blind eye toward sexist male misbehavior starts a grassroots revolution. Vivian’s teachers send girls home for minor bending of dress-code rules, while boys get away with murder, up to and including hallway “bump ‘n’ grabs,” which are just as gross as they sound. Fighting back begins with the creation of Moxie, an old-school zine she distributes anonymously in school restrooms, and grows from there. Soon girls are fighting back with strategic clothing choices, fundraisers, and by raising their voices, all the while facing the very real threat of expulsion. Vivian is both proud of and unsettled by her position at the secret center of this growing resistance, facing the specter of disapproving family and friends, as well as navigating a sweet romance with a boy who is, insightfully and realistically, not as woke as he thinks he is.
One Dark Throne, by Kendare Blake (September 19)
Last year’s Three Dark Crowns introduced the island kingdom of Fennbirn and the ruthless tradition that rules it. To each generation a set of royal triplets is born, each daughter possessing one of three kinds of magic: control of the elements, the ability to withstand any poison, and power over flora and fauna. On the princesses’ 16th birthday, their battle for the crown begins, and it won’t end until just one remains to take the crown. The balance of power has shifted in sequel One Dark Throne, which pits princesses Katharine, Arsinoe, and Mirabella against each other as they try to survive their dark and deadly Ascension Year.
Speak Easy, Speak Love, by McKelle George (September 19)
George’s Shakespearean retelling transplants Much Ado About Nothing to a ramshackle Long Island estate, where acid-tongued Beatrice has become a boarding-school dropout and virginal Hero is now the proprietress of a speakeasy run out of her father’s basement. They’re joined by a quartet of other teens in their efforts to stage a party to save the speakeasy, including rich kid and wannabe writer Benedick, who just can’t seem to stay out of Beatrice’s way. It’s a sparkling, fast-paced charmer with depth.
Hunting Prince Dracula (Stalking Jack the Ripper #2), by Kerri Maniscalco (September 19)
Last year’s Stalking Jack the Ripper introduced us to Audrey, a Victorian lord’s daughter who feels more at home in the mortuary than the drawing room. Cutting up corpses and analyzing crime scenes is her passion, and it lures her right into the heart of a criminal investigation into the infamous Jack the Ripper murders. In sequel Hunting Prince Dracula, she has fled London for Romania, where the former castle of Vlad the Impaler is haunted by copycat killings mimicking the dreadful acts of a real-life Dracula…
A Poison Dark and Drowning, by Jessica Cluess (September 19)
In series starter A Shadow Bright and Burning, we met Henrietta, a downtrodden servant whose life is changed after she unleashes her illegal pyrotechnic magic in order to to save a friend. She’s declared the Chosen One, and whisked away for training to a sorcerers’ school in the heart of Victorian London. In this sequel, she’s dealing with the tricky revelation that she’s not the Chosen One, and hiding it in order to protect both herself and her beloved childhood friend, whose poisoning is transforming him in supernatural ways. To attempt to fend off war, she’ll go on a dangerous quest for new weapons, with allies old and new.
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The Language of Thorns, by Leigh Bardugo (September 26)
Bardugo’s latest missive from the Grishaverse, first explored in the Shadow and Bone trilogy and Six of Crows duology, is a collection of dark supernatural tales, the kind Grisha might’ve told each other by a campfire. They promise magic and mermaids, haunted places and deadly bargains. We can’t wait to take another trip through one of YA fantasy’s richest worlds with Bardugo as our guide.
A Short History of the Girl Next Door, by Jared Reck (September 26)
Matt has loved Tabby, the “girl next door,” for as long as he can remember, since they were babies being raised side by side. But he’s only been in love with her since one long, lovely, grade-school summer day, when all his feelings fell into place over baseball and Star Wars. Fast forward to freshman year, and he may have missed his shot, as Tabby starts falling for the school’s most popular senior. In prose that’s insightful, funny, and realistically profane, Reck charts Matt’s unfolding heartbreak—then blows up his life with a tragedy that throws the book onto a new course midway through. Present, clearly drawn parent and grandparent characters round out this bittersweet heartbreaker.
An Enchantment of Ravens, by Margaret Rogerson (September 26)
One of the best fantasies you’ll read this year, Rogerson’s debut follows a young portrait artist specializing in painting the dangerous Fair Folk deep into the fairy-tale woods. Isobel lives in the enchanted town of Whimsy, at the edge of fairyland. There, she practices her Craft alongside other artisans, all of whom trade their creations for fey enchantments, ranging from the foolish (bright eyes at the cost of an early death) to the practical (in Isobel’s case, inexhaustible eggs and firewood). When she makes the mistake of painting human sorrow into the eyes of Rook, the Autumn Prince, he drags her away to stand trial for the crime. But on the way to his court they encounter even more-deadly threats, from faerie beasts to the promise of immortality granted by the Green Well, where the fey’s favored craftspeople drink. And the most dangerous threat of all? Falling in love, which would make their lives forfeit.
Invictus, by Ryan Graudin (September 26)
Since childhood Farway has had one dream: to follow his mother, a legendary and long-missing member of the Corps of Central Time Travelers, into the business, and use his credentials to find her. But when an act of sabotage sinks his entrance exam, he’s left adrift—until a mercenary makes him an offer he can’t refuse: his own ship, his own team, and free rein to travel throughout history retrieving artifacts to sell to the highest bidder. All is well until he meets a mercurial fellow time traveler while attempting to steal a book off the sinking Titanic, who pulls him into a terrifying conspiracy combining the mind-bending dangers of time travel with his own highly unusual family history.
Starfish, by Akemi Dawn Bowman (September 26)
Kiko Himura is half-Japanese but feels disconnected from from her heritage; she’s an artist but has recently been rejected by her dream art school; and she’s the daughter of a woman who makes no effort to make her feel like somebody. When an abusive uncle returns to the family home, Kiko needs an escape more than ever, and finds it in the invitation of a newly rediscovered childhood friend to come stay with his family while checking out west coast art schools. Without the dangerous, restrictive influence of her mother, Kiko is free to stretch her wings, and to figure out who she is when she’s the one doing the defining.
There’s Someone Inside Your House, by Stephanie Perkins (September 26)
Perkins’ new creepfest kicks off with a skin-crawling chapter in which small, insidious details—a strange item left on a porch, a dirty dish moved by unseen hands—preface the murder of a high school theater girl, sending her town into a panic. Soon the murders are stacking up and becoming increasingly baroque, and new girl Makani, along with her two BFFs and her new maybe-boyfriend, Ollie, are searching for any threads that might connect the victims. But when Makani finds herself in the killer’s crosshairs, she doesn’t know who to trust, or how to shake the feeling that, owing to a dark secret in her past, she might not be totally undeserving of pain. Even when the book switches from a whodunit to a whydunit, Perkins keeps the stakes high.