The Best New YA Books of May

Fantasy, sci-fi, and contemporary fans have so much to love this month, with new offerings from Stephanie Garber, Victoria Aveyard, Claire Legrand, and the amazing duo that is Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. Two highly anticipated debuts, by Hafsah Faizal and Helena Fox, will blow readers’ minds, and a Cinderella reimagining that focuses on the “ugly” stepsisters, a 9/11-related coming-of-age, and a semester abroad round out this marvelous May.

We Hunt the Flame, by Hafsah Faizal
This highly anticipated debut set in an ancient Arabia–inspired fantasy world comes from an author to watch. Nasir and Zafira may be on opposite sides of a pending war, but both have learned to do whatever it takes to survive. The son of a domineering sultan, Nasir murders his father’s enemies in a bid to stay on his father’s good side, while accomplished hunter Zafir disguises herself as a boy lest her starving people reject the food offerings of a female. While seeking an object of great power for cross-purposes, Zafira and Nasir clash in ways they never could have anticipated—and soon discover their true enemy lies elsewhere. This looks to be a magical, awe-inspiring ride.

How it Feels to Float, by Helena Fox
Just like its protagonist, Elizabeth “Biz” Grey, How it Feels to Float refuses to be categorized, which makes for a beautiful and truthful coming of age story set in Australia. This is a book with zero interest in pretending everything’s okay. No, it wants something better for its lead character, and the readers who follow Biz’s heart wrenching journey: the idea that even when things are not okay, life is still worth fighting for. Though the subject matter is tough—an achingly real look at dissociative disorder—the book is full of life. The unexpected relationships Biz forms with an elderly photography student, Sylvia, and Sylvia’s grandson Jasper, are so precious you’ll want to cradle them in your hands to keep them safe.

Finale, by Stephanie Garber
Told in the dual perspectives of sisters Scarlett and Tella (with an emphasis on Tella’s POV), the imaginative conclusion to the Caraval trilogy will make you gasp. Picking up two months after the events of Legendary, in which the Fates were freed, we find find Tella hellbent on preventing Legend’s coronation. If you thought the games from the first two books were intense, prepare yourself for a new style of competition: Scarlett decides to pit two suitors against each other to win her hand, without fully comprehending how dangerous it remains to be Paloma Dragna’s daughter.

Broken Throne, by Victoria Aveyard
This short story compilation is part of the Red Queen collection and promises readers new information about the aftermath of War Storm. Five novellas (including three brand-new ones), journal entries, maps, and bonus scenes complete this gorgeous companion book, and diehard Aveyard fans will be thrilled to learn that the B&N Exclusive Edition is signed by the author.

Aurora Rising, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
The dynamic duo behind the mesmerizing Illuminae Files is back with a futuristic sci-fi adventure starring the recent graduates of the intergalactic Aurora Academy. Tasked with putting together a team for his inaugural mission, A+ student Tyler Jones finds himself stuck with the snarky, hotheaded, unpredictable misfits nobody else wanted—and that’s before he inadvertently rescues a girl who’s been trapped in a cryo-freezer for two hundred years and may just jumpstart a long-simmering war. With a tagline like, “They’re not the heroes we wanted. They’re just the ones we could find,” expect plenty of laughs in this action-filled space caper.

Nocturna, by Maya Motayne
Finn Voy’s faceshifting magic keeps her safe in myriad ways, enabling her to hide behind other peoples’ features whenever she needs to. But when she’s captured by a mobster, her only recourse is to steal an infamous treasure from the royal palace or lose her abilities forever. Meanwhile, the target of her theft, Prince Alfie, is still recovering (i.e., not at all recovering) from his older brother Dez’s murder, which makes him the heir to the throne, a position he doesn’t feel he deserves. Perhaps learning necromancy will help? When his world and Finn’s collide, an ancient god of darkness awakes in this gripping trilogy opener inspired by Latinx culture.

Again, But Better, by Christina Riccio
Popular booktuber Riccio has written a fanciful debut with a lot of NA and adult fiction crossover appeal. The story centers on Shane, an aspiring writer whose big hopes for college fail to materialize until she takes off for a semester abroad in London. So far, so good on the other side of the pond, until her parents find out she deceived them about pursuing pre-med. Years down the road, on the eve of becoming a doctor, Shane gets a chance to redo the past—but until she admits to herself where her passions truly lie, how can she fix her future?

Hope and Other Punchlines, by Julie Buxbaum
Abbi Hope Goldstein is known the world over as Baby Hope, the girl rescued while celebrating her first birthday when the Twin Towers fell on 9/11. Her image, complete with balloon and birthday crown, provided an incongruous moment of solace for many who viewed it. Now sixteen years old, she’s treating herself to a summer of anonymity as a day camp counselor a few towns over, surrounded by little kids who have no reason to recognize her. But fellow counselor Noah needs help identifying a different person from Abbi’s iconic photo, and if they can work together interviewing other 9/11 survivors, maybe he can get his own much-needed closure after that fateful day.

Stepsister, by Jennifer Donnelly
In this brutally eloquent reimagining of Cinderella, the “ugly” stepsisters get their due. Isabelle would rather practice her fencing, seek treasure, and ride her horse than succumb to her abusive mother’s insistence that she steal stepsister Ella’s happily ever after. Ostracized by the other villagers after Ella’s escape into royal marriage, and with zero prospects left, Isabelle finds herself embroiled in a fairy tale of her own, involving a contest between Fate and Chance. This looks to be an empowering exploration of what it means to be true to oneself in a society that values beauty above all.

Kingsbane, by Claire LeGrand
In Furyborn readers learned that Rielle and Eliana, living one thousand years apart, are each destined to become either the heralded Sun Queen or the deadly queen of blood, bringer of destruction.In Kingsbane, Rielle has been anointed Sun Queen, but if you think that means she is the Sun Queen, you’re in for some wicked misdirection. A century later, bounty hunter Eliana discovers the truth about her identity, and what it means for all of humanity. With impossible choices ahead of her, Eliana must fight against the possibility that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

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