October 2019 is the month that simply will not let up when it comes to all-consuming reads, which is exactly what I want as the weather grows colder and I’ve got more and more reason to stay inside and tucked under a blanket. This week satisfies with everything you want from autumn, from college freshman romances to spooky titles involving vampires, necromancers, and a dystopia that hits way too close to home, so let’s get reading!
By Any Means Necessary, by Candice Montgomery
For my money, Montgomery (who debuted with Home and Away) is rocking one of the very best voices in YA right now, and I fell in love with gay Black beekeeping college (yes, college) freshman Torrey from page one of this sophomore novel. It’s impossible not to feel for him immediately, when he gets a phone call while still in orientation that his beloved bee farm, left to him by a family member who meant so much to him, is in danger of foreclosure. Now Torrey’s thinking of picking up and moving home to fix things, but he doesn’t want to leave college, his new friends, or his new potential boyfriend behind. Can he handle it all? And should he even try, for a community that doesn’t seem to love him back?
In the Hall With the Knife, by Diana Peterfreund
Like many readers of a certain age, I grew up on both the board game and the movie Clue, so you can imagine my sheer unfettered joy at learning that a YA version was upon us! This modern version is set at Blackbrook Academy, a Maine prep school attended by none other than Beth “Peacock” Picach, Vaughn Green, Finn Plum…see where this is going? When a storm strands the whole colorful crew at school with their headmaster, and then he’s found dead, each and every one of them is a potential suspect, complete with a motive. So whodunnit? Can’t wait to find out!
Look Both Ways, by Jason Reynolds
One of the best things I read this year was Reynolds’s short story in Black Enough, about a group of boys dreaming of the perfect sandwich, and he’s already back to rock some worlds again with his newest, which has already been named a finalist for the National Book Award and is told over the course of a ten-block walk. (If the aforementioned short story isn’t enough to convince you of how powerful Reynolds can be with a tiny space of time, by the way, Long Way Down should definitely have that covered.) It’s a slice of life, or really of a bunch of lives, about what happens as you’re living, the detours and the conversations and the truth and the connections, and to make it even better, it’s an illustrated work, with art by Alexander Nabaum.
A Kingdom for a Stage, by Heidi Heilig
The music of For a Muse of Fire dances back into your soul this fall with a sequel starring Jetta, who now finds herself a wanted outlaw in danger of being charged for treason against the crown. There’s also the small matter of the magic that runs through her veins, allowing her to animate whatever she likes (including weaponry) that make her way too attractive to both the army and the rebels. But Jetta doesn’t want to use her power for evil; she’s already seen it corrupt and she won’t fall prey to the same trap, especially not when she’s already done and lost so much. But to save her country, she may not have a choice.
The Grace Year, by Kim Liggett
Anyone who thinks YA is over Dystopian novels had better get their head straight with this newest book by notable author Liggett, which has already been optioned for film. The titular year refers to the taboo sixteenth year in a girl’s life, where in Garner County, they’re banished in order to release the energy of their feminine wiles, the very power emitted by the essence of their youth, so that they may then return in a pure state for matrimony. It’s a year not every girl survives in the wild, and as the time nears for Tierney, it becomes clear that not everything that ultimately presents as danger lies among that they’ve been taught to fear. Sometimes, the most dangerous and toxic enemies are those you thought were safest.
Our Year in Love & Parties, by Karen Hattrup
Cleverly told over the course of four parties, this sophomore tells the story of two teens, Tucker and Erika, over the course of four parties set during a single year. Tucker is just coming out of a confusing relationship that wasn’t quite a relationship (but is definitely ending) when he bumps into his former coworker, Erika, who’s now in college, at a party at their old haunt. The reconnection is fast and furious, but so are the misunderstandings, miscommunications, and the lives that go on around them as they drift apart and back together over and over again over the course of the year. The characters grow both together and apart, and as Erika hits bumps along the road to recovery from a cruel incident that changed her life, Tucker’s trying to learn how to be there for her and for himself when he was never well taught how to process emotions. It’s a lovely, quiet book despite the title, and one that’ll have you rooting for this pair to finally figure their stuff out so they can kiss and make up and kiss again.
Rogue Heart, by Axie Oh
This companion to Rebel Seoul is set in Neo Beijing in 2021, two years after the Battle of Neo Seoul, where Ama works in a cafe by day and as a lounge singer by night. The telepath is enjoying her anonymity, until PHNX, a resistance group, approaches her to expose a government experiment. Having escaped one herself, Ama can’t say no, and soon she’s putting her powers to work as a rebel spy. But she could never anticipate what turns out to be her most complex mission yet: to infiltrate the base of the Alliance’s new war commander…who happens to be Alex Kim, the boy who betrayed her. The boy she loved. The boy who is almost certain to recognize her if he catches her posing as one of his officers. The boy who could send her to her death, no matter what feelings she may still have.
Into the Crooked Place, by Alexandra Christo
The author of To Kill a Kingdom returns to kick off a duology about four magical outsiders struggling to survive. There’s Tavia, a busker with a collection of dark magic who dreams of leaving Creije and her criminal past behind her. There’s Wesley, a gangster with ambitious dreams that will drive him to do just about anything. There’s Karam, a warrior by day and underground fighter by night. And there’s Saxony, a resistance fighter hell bent on revenge. When Tavia makes a mistake and accidentally delivers dark magic, it explodes into a conflict that threatens to destroy the world as they know it. Can four of the least trustworthy people in the land learn to trust one another if it’s the only way to save themselves, their home, and the world?
The Beautiful, by Renée Ahdieh
Does anything sound more sultry and glamorous than life and death among vampires in 1872 New Orleans? It certainly enraptures Celine, a young dressmaker from Paris who’s been forced to flee her home and find safety in the Ursuline convent during Carnival. From there, it’s only a matter of time until the city’s dark and deadly underworld grasps her in its clutches, especially after Sébastien, leader of the group La Cour des Lions, makes her acquaintance. Celine’s attraction to Sébastien is impossible to fight, but when one of the girls from the convent is found dead in his lair, both fear and guilt tear her apart. As the body count rises, it becomes clear there’s a serial killer in the city, and Celine has become a target.
The Athena Protocol, by Shamim Sarif
Hello, and can I interest you in a YA debut thriller about an all-female top secret agency named Athena that trains women in all things from coding to weaponry and stars Jessie, a lesbian whose mother is one of Athena’s leaders? Haha, that was a joke, because of course I can. Though Jessie may not stay at the agency for long after her latest screw-up, which is so bad that it threatens the agency’s secrecy. While her mother may not be keen to see Jessie stay on, Jessie herself is determined to stay at Athena and regain everyone’s trust, and what better way than by launching her own investigation into the human trafficking kingpin in Belgrade the entire agency is tackling? Except when Jessie does the find the truth, there’s no one around to help her, and no one to stop her from letting extremely ill-advised romantic feelings get in her way.