28 of February’s Best New YA Books

February may be the shortest month but it’s chock-full of amazing new YA books. I’m not saying you should try to read one per day, but I’m not NOT saying that, either. With new books from Angie Thomas, Bill Konigsberg, Kasie West, and Shaun David Hutchinson to name a few, it’ll be pure pleasure to dive in to your TBR list.

 On the Come Up, by Angie Thomas (February 5)
Thomas’s debut The Hate U Give has spent its entire shelf life (yep, eighty-some weeks) on the NY Times Bestseller list, and the film adaption continues to wrack up accolades, so the anticipation is sky-high for the author’s sophomore effort. Rest assured, Thomas is more than up to the challenge, and so is Come Up’s protagonist, aspiring performer Brianna Jackson. As a young black woman accustomed to being underestimated, profiled, and dismissed, Bri knows she’ll have to do “double the work to get half the respect” if she’s going to make it as a rapper. She pours everything she’s feeling—about her life, her neighborhood, her family’s struggles, and problems at school—into lyrics so good you’ll wish the book came with a soundtrack.

A Danger to Herself and Others, by Alyssa Sheinmel (February 5)
I’m always down for good new mental health fiction, and this one is high on my radar. Hannah knows everyone will eventually realize institutionalizing her was a mistake, that she absolutely did not purposely hurt her roommate at her summer program. It’s fine; she’ll wait it out with good behavior and whatnot, and get her freedom back in time to enjoy her senior year with everyone else. But then the one person who can force Hannah to confront what she’s doing in the institution shows up, forcing her to consider whether her presence there is a mistake after all.

The Antidote, by Shelley Sackier (February 5)
Ophelia and her best friend Crown Prince Xavi have spent ten long years inside the castle of Fireli after a deadly plague forced the kids into quarantine. For Fee, the isolation meant training to become a healer. It also meant never acknowledging or using the magic that lives inside her—in the kingdom of Aethusa, the use of magic brings a death sentence. But if she doesn’t step forward, Xavi could die from a mysterious illness that’s more sinister than the original epidemic that ravaged the land.

Lady Smoke, by Laura Sebastian (February 5)
In Ash Princess, princess turned prisoner Theodosia was pushed too far by the Kaiser who orphaned and tormented her. Newly empowered, she set out to reclaim her kingdom. In Lady Smoke, which picks up immediately following the events of book one, Theo has both her royal title and a prisoner of her own: Prinz Soren. Far from her oppressed people and her throne, Theodosia petitions her aunt, Dragonsbane, to help raise the army she needs at her back. But can she trust Dragonsbane, an infamous pirate with her own agenda?

Enchantee, by Gita Trelease (February 5)
In this glittering historical fantasy set in the days before the French Revolution, orphaned Camille and her sickly younger sister are on the edge of eviction, grieving their parents’ deaths, and unable to free themselves from the abusive addict brother who is gambling their savings away. Reluctantly, Camille turns toward the magical ability her mother taught her to hone: magie ordinaire, which can temporarily turn objects into money, and the more dangerous magie bibelot, which allows her to transform into a card-playing baroness and infiltrate the decadent, dangerous court at Versailles. But Camille’s reliance on magic, and the dual identity it affords her, provide dangers of their own; perhaps her brother isn’t the only addict in the family.

Courting Darkness, by Robin LaFevers (February 5)
In this duology starter, a companion to LaFevers’ His Fair Assassin series, and set in 1489 at the tail end of the French-Breton War, two assassins from St. Mortain’s convent are embedded deep within the French court. When assassin Sybella learns she’s in danger, she knows her fellow assassin nun, installed years before her, is equally at risk. She must uncover her identity and get her out if both are to live…but elder assassin Genevieve, tasked with protecting the Duchess of Brittany, is already upending things on her own.

The Weight of Our Sky, by Hanna Alkaf (February 5)
It’s 1969 and best friends Melati and Safiyah are living in Kuala Lumpur during a tumultuous moment in history. Melati, who adores the Beatles, suffers from a pernicious obsessive-compulsive disorder that takes the form of a djinn who’s convinced her that her rituals are the only thing keeping her mother safe. When a race riot separates the teen from her mother, it’s Melati’s worst nightmare come to life. Malaysian author Alkaf immerses readers in both the time period and her protagonist’s head in this thrilling and important historical debut.

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss, by Kasie West (February 5)
Prolific fan favorite West returns with another excellent contemporary YA. A companion novel to Love, Life, and the ListKiss centers on up-and-coming actress Lacey Barnes as she acclimates to her first big role in a high-profile film. Unfortunately, Lacey’s about to find out real life looks nothing like the movies. First off, Lacey’s young tutor, Donovan, is super cute but has somehow managed to make math even more boring than it was before. Next, the romantic lead of the flick, who’s in need of a comeback, doesn’t exactly shoot sparks with Lacey. And worse, a series of mishaps behind the scenes point to possible sabotage of Lacey’s burgeoning career. As she spends more time with Donovan, though, she realizes his straight-arrow, boy scout persona could be exactly what she needs.

No One Here is Lonely, by Sarah Everett (February 5)
The author of Everyone We’ve Been knows how to both break and repair some hearts, and she’s back to do it again with the story of Eden, a girl who goes from two incredibly close relationships to none when her boyfriend, Will, is killed and she and her best friend, Lacey, drift apart. But there’s one way to reclaim Will, and that’s to engage with the account he made with a service that effectively creates a digital companion. The more Eden clings to this digital Will, the more life passes her by, until a flesh-and-blood option she’d never been able to consider before is suddenly right in her face: Lacey’s twin, Oliver. Eden finally has the chance to find real love again, but only if she can let the traces of her last one go.

Watch Us Rise, by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagen (February 12)
Rare is the author who writes about self-empowerment and finding your voice as a teenage girl, and especially a Black teenage girl, with the skill and care that Watson does, and it has made her one of my absolute favorite instabuy authors (and a New York Times bestseller). In her third YA, she’s partnered up with poet Ellen Hagen to bring us the story of teen activist best friends Jasmine and Chelsea, who start a Women’s Rights Club at their high school and make waves when they post their work online. When trolls inevitably target their increasingly popular club, Jasmine and Chelsea refuse to be silenced, no matter the risk.

The Black Coats, by Colleen Oakes (February 12)
There’s just something so compelling about an all-female revenge squad story, and I’m hyped for this one, about a girl named Thea who joins an established vigilante group after her cousin Natalie’s killer goes free. Thea wants revenge so badly she can taste it, but life in the Black Coats isn’t quite what she imagined it would be, and their methods cross a line that even Thea in her deepest grief will not. She wants justice, yes, but at any cost?

Bloodwitch, by Susan Dennard (February 12)
Dennard’s fourth installment of her Witchlands series (I’m including the standalone Sightwitch here because of course I am!) focuses on Bloodwitch Aeduan. Dennard slays it with multiple character POVs and a deep dive into the fantasy world readers know and love. Raiders are converging on a monastery that must be protected, and the unlikely trio of Aeduan, Iseult, and the magical Owl are its best chance at surviving the coming horde. But in order to complete their task, Aeduan must face the ghosts of his past…including his own father.

Comics Will Break Your Heart, by Faith Erin Hicks (February 12)
Eisner-winning graphic novelist Hicks (Friends With Boysand the forthcoming Pumpkinheads with Rainbow Rowell) uses her comics background to perfect effect in her first prose book. Miriam is “geek royalty” considering her grandfather created the insanely popular TomorrowMen series. One problem: Granddad sold the rights to his co-creator back in the 1960s, and Miriam’s family hasn’t seen a penny of their rightful fortune. When an intriguing, “terribly cute” tourist enters the Emporium of Wonders comic shop where Miriam works, she finds herself giving him major heart-eyes, until she discovers who he is: the filthy rich grandson of the co-creator who took Miriam’s grandfather for all he was worth. Will love conquer all, or is their romance doomed to crash and burn before it begins?

The Triumphant, by Lesley Livingston (February 12)
The final book of The Valiant trilogy finds Celtic warrior Fallon, having survived her encounter with the Sons of Dis and the Amazons, turning her attention toward her beloved Cai, who’s been stripped of his rank as a Decurion and needs her help securing his freedom. And when Caesar himself, the man responsible for Cai and Fallon’s lives as gladiators, is murdered, Fallon’s allegiance shifts to that of Queen Cleopatra. Ancient Rome and Egypt come alive in this action-packed conclusion.

Nick and June Were Here, by Shalanda Stanley (February 12)
Nick, an aspiring artist whose dad is in prison, and whose mom isn’t around, reluctantly enters the family business—stealing cars—to make ends meet for him and his aunt. Meanwhile, his best-friend-turned-girlfriend, June, yearns to escape her life in small-town Arkansas, but her schizophrenia has other plans. When Nick’s criminal behavior catches up to him, and June’s mental health takes a dangerous turn, the couple decides to skip town. But no amount of running will fix what’s hurting them until they confront the truth about themselves in this fraught and tender love story.

Crown of Feathers, by Nicki Pau Preto (February 12)
It’s sister vs. sister in this fiery debut fantasy, book one in a new series about mythological Phoenix Riders. Sixteen years ago, the Riders were charged with treason for their part in a family battle for the throne. Now, two orphaned siblings, Veronyka and Val, are desperate to find some increasingly rare phoenix eggs and join the fight for their rights as animages—people with the magical ability to communicate with animals. A shocking betrayal forces Veronyka to shift course: disguising herself as a boy and joining an all-male squadron of Riders.

The Blood Spell, by C.J. Redwine (February 12)
Each book in the Ravenspire series takes on a different fairytale, and this time, it’s Cinderella’s turn. Blue de la Cour has a secret: she can turn metal into gold, a gift she uses to help the city’s homeless. No one can know of the power she hides in her blood, and when her father is killed and an evil woman takes custody of Blue, it becomes more important than ever to keep her secrets under wraps. The only person who can help her is Kellan, Crown Prince of Balavata and greatest object of Blue’s disdain, but he’s back from boarding school and now in need of a bride. With darkness looming, their relationship changing, and disappearances haunting Balavata, the two must work together, no matter what it costs.

Awake in the World, by Jason Gurley (February 12)
In his YA debut, literary fantasy author Gurley (EleanorThe Movement trilogy) tells the emotionally earnest story of two California teenagers who seem to inhabit different worlds. Down-on-his-luck, fatalistic Zach longs to pursue a life of art, but ever since his father drowned working on an oil rig off the coast, his family is counting on him to keep them afloat. Vanessa, whose father abandoned the family, plans to attend Cornell and study astronomy like her hero, Carl Sagan. When the two embark on a relationship, they want the best for each other—but will that be enough to make their dreams come true?

The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried, by Shaun David Hutchinson (February 19)
I don’t know how Hutchinson has kept up his pace of a queer book a year for so long, but I am so, so glad and grateful that he has. Death and the mysteries of life have been at the heart of most of his latest work, and as you may guess from this glorious title, that continues with his newest. It stars Dino, whose life is all about deaththat’s just how it goes when your parents own a funeral home. But he didn’t expect the dead to suddenly include his former best friend, July, or for July to return as a zombie. Now that she’s back, they have a chance to figure out both what the heck is going on and why their friendship fell apart.

The Art of Losing, by Lizzy Mason (February 19)
When she catches her younger sister Audrey kissing her boyfriend Mike at a party, Harley understandably ditches them both. Mike’s decision to drive Audrey home while he’s drunk ends in tragedy. With Audrey in a coma, Harley’s left with all the anger and guilt in the world, and no place to put her feelings. Well, almost no place. An unexpected reunion with her neighbor Raf, a friend from childhood dealing with his own addiction recovery, provides solace for Harley. She’s wary of their new connection, but if she learns to trust herself again, she may find a light at the end of the tunnel.

Immoral Code, by Lillian Clark (February 19)
Heist books are always in demand, and this one’s got it all: hacking and other cyber-criminality, an excellent cast that includes a great moral balance presented in a nuanced way, a little revenge for some lousy fathering, and, yes, aroace representation. Reese is among a cast of five who decide to commit the ultimate heist when one of their own, Bellamy, is denied financial aid for her dream school because of her father’s obscene wealth…even though none of it is going to her tuition. It’s Nari who comes up with the plan, brilliant hacker that she is, but each has a role to play in skimming a little off the top of all of Bells’ father’s financial transactions. What really makes this book shine is the moral compass of the character in perhaps the most precarious position: Nari’s boyfriend. This is one of those debuts that lands the author squarely on the “I’m down for whatever you write next” list.

Honor Bound by Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre (February 19)
Last year’s delectable sci-fi thriller Honor Among Thieves found petty criminal Zara inducted into an elite team of humans called the Honors who were charged with exploring the far corners of the universe aboard the Leviathan (sentient alien spaceships). Now, battle-weary co-pilots Zara and Beatriz are on the run with the rest of their crew, and their best chance at survival means taking refuge on the Sliver. So what’s the problem? Oh, just that the Sliver is a hideout for alien criminals who happen to be on the wrong side of the war Zara and Beatriz would rather not be fighting. No big!

The Afterward, by E.K. Johnston (February 19)
Johnston might be YA’s most prolific genre-jumper, and she’s at it again with the gay epic fantasy of your dreams. The Afterward should be set in a golden age; that’s what was supposed to come after the godsgem cured the king of Cadrium. But it’s not much of one for apprentice knight Kalanthe Ironheart, who needs money more than she needs a heroic reputation, and is headed into an unwanted marriage in order to get it. And it isn’t one for thief Olsa Rhetsdaughter, either, who can no longer pull off her old tricks now that she’s too famous to hide in the shadows. They both want independence, and they both want love. (Yes, with each other. Yay for the gay!) But when it turns out the godsgem isn’t quite done with its task yet, their future is anything but set in stone.

Just for Clicks, by Kara McDowell (February 19)
What becomes of the kids featured in popular mommy blogs once they grow up? For twins Poppy and Claire, seniors in high school, it means reaping the benefits and the horror of living their entire lives as Internet Famous in this timely, entertaining debut. Poppy is more than happy to build her own brand, but Claire is sick of living her life for public consumption. And when she does a deep dive into her mom’s old journals—you know, the handwritten ones Mom DIDN’T post online?—her perception of reality gets exponentially more complicated.

 Four Dead Queens, by Astrid Scholte (February 26)
The kingdom of Quadara is ruled by four queens, and it’s not a spoiler to say their reigns have a very short shelf life in this fantasy debut. After all four are murdered, two very different Quadaran citizens find themselves embroiled in the chaos surrounding the assassinations and resulting power vacuum. Keralie is a skilled thief working on behalf of a dangerous man. Varin is her latest mark, who faces dark consequences after she steals from him a package worth more than his life. The two band together to solve the mystery of the four dead queens.

The Deceiver’s Heart, by Jennifer Nielsen (February 26)
Book Two in the bestselling Traitor’s Game series brings a shift in purpose as Kestra Dallisor, now possessed of the Olden Blade, appears to have triumphed over the evil Lord Endrick. But the tyrannical ruler survives her assassination attempt and uses magic to erase Kestra’s memory. Luckily, servant-turned-rebel Simon is determined to bring “his” Kestra back to the fold—and the fight. But without memories of the past uniting them, how can the star-crossed duo fully trust each other?

Sorry Not Sorry, by Jaime Reed (February 26)
Friendship between teen girls can be complicated enough, but when it turns out you’re the only one who can save your best friend-turned-enemy? Whole new levels. That’s the situation Janelle is in when her ex-bestie Alyssa collapses and it turns out Janelle’s got exactly what she needs. But with the distance between them as Janelle moved toward social justice and activism and Alyssa became a full-on Mean Girl, Janelle’s not sure she wants to be mending any fences, whether or not she steps in. Is the friendship they once had worth saving?

The Music of What Happens, by Bill Konigsberg (February 26)
Max may be doomed to spending his summer working, but when he gets an offer to drop the job he’s dreading in favor of working on his classmate Jordan’s ailing mother’s food truck, he immediately takes the opportunity to help out the grieving family in need. Max and Jordan might be polar opposites—the social jock and the emo boy who hates sports, respectively—but with Max feeling buried by the memory of his sexual assault at a frat party and Jordan struggling to keep things together while his mother continues to fade, the boys find that leaning on each other might finally be the salvation they both need.

We Set the Dark on Fire, by Tehlor Kay Mejia (February 26)
Dani Vargas has a secret: she isn’t from the side of the wall her papers claim she is. But no one can know that if she’s to fulfill the dream her parents set for her. The Garcia family would never accept her as the Primera, the wife on equal footing, of their son Mateo if they knew the truth. And certainly Segunda Carmen, Dani’s greatest rival from the school that bred them for their wifely roles, would never let her forget it. When Dani’s secret is threatened, she has no choice but to accept a position as a spy in the Garcia house, a dangerous and compromising role. But her heart yearns to help those suffering under the boots of the wealthy, and what begins as a reluctant task sets off a spark inside her. She’s also developing feelings for Carmen, who may or may not be trustworthy. Rife with both political relevance and girls kissing, Mejia’s debut is sure to make its mark, both for those who fell in love with her writing through her stories in All Out and Toil & Trouble and those reading her for the first time.

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