New Releases: Complicated Friendships, Classics Made Modern, and So Much Murder

It’s rare that a release day this late in the month is so jam-packed, but this May is just the month that keeps on giving. Today brings another seventeen (!) books to shelves near you (and, conveniently, to the internet you’re currently using), and the theme of this week is definitely “messy secrets.” If that sounds like your thing as much as it is mine, then just start at the top of this list and keep on going—you won’t be sorry.

Let Me Hear a Rhyme, by Tiffany Jackson
This Weekend at Bernie‘s–esque story of three friends who team up to create a powerhouse hip-hop career for their slain best friend/brother by using boxes of his old tracks they found after his murder may seem like a departure from Jackson’s earlier work, and in a way it is—it’s definitely more comedic, it’s got multiple points of view, and the passion for music and hip-hop culture flows so strong, it’s easy to get lost in the rhythm and rhymes, especially if you happen to know every track referenced throughout. But fans of her first two novels will recognize both the way the plot is driven by headlines and the book’s focus on those so often forgotten by the media and the rest of the world, their lives treated as disposable. Jackson’s care, knowledge, and passion shine through everything she does, and it’s clear that however much her work changes it up, it’ll always be worth a read.

Birthday, by Meredith Russo
The Stonewall Award–winning queen of trans girl YA is back with a sophomore novel that once again has a romance between a trans girl and cis boy at its heart, and offers rare perspectives and even rarer connection, heart, loyalty, and love. Morgan and Eric were born in the same hospital on the same day, and they’ve been best friends and each other’s saviors from their families ever since. Told from both perspectives over the years from their thirteen to their eighteenth birthday, it reveals the ties that bind them, the moments of romance that confuse them, the secrets they keep, the adversaries they face, and everything else that builds toward determining who they will become independently and what roles they will play in each other’s futures.

No Place Like Here, by Christina June
Contemporary twists on fairytales are June’s bread and butter, and modernizing Hansel and Gretel (complete with a habit of leaving inspirational quotes everywhere as “breadcrumbs”) is a wildly fun choice. After the last year at boarding school, all Ashlyn wants is a relaxing summer at home. Then her dad is arrested, her mom goes to rehab, and Ashlyn is shipped off to work with her cousin at a wilderness retreat center. Maybe she could still cope, if things weren’t a confusing and frustrating mess. Now Ashlyn has to find the courage to stand up to her father if she’s ever going to make her way back home.

Keep This to Yourself, by Tom Ryan
To say I devoured this book would be a serious understatement; it’s the kind of book the word “unputdownable” was created for. It stars eighteen-year-old gay teen Mac, whose world is turned upside down when he discovers a note left for him by one of his best friends, Connor…a year after Connor was murdered by the notorious Catalog Killer, who ravaged their previously sleepy town. Confident that the note is enough to get the unsolved case reopened, Mac is furious when the cops don’t see it that way. When he takes matters into his own hands, he finds one of the victim’s cousins is every bit as eager as he is to investigate, but the rabbit hole they fall down comes with twists, turns, secrets, betrayal, and regret. (And kissing.) Whenever you think you’ve figured something out, be prepared to be proven wrong on the very next page.

The Boy Next Story, by Tiffany Schmidt
The second title in the Bookish Boyfriends series turns its eyes to Little Women, inspiring the story of a girl named Rory, who likes a boy named Toby…who likes Rory’s sister, Merrilee, who’s dating Toby’s friend Fielding. Never a dull romantic moment at Reginald R. Hero High, home to a thousand launched literary fantasies! Or, you know, at least two, with more to come. Either way, this is the perfect series for literary romance lovers, especially those who love their lit on the lighter side.

Kingsbane, by Claire Legrand
Furyborn fans, rejoice! The follow-up to Legrand’s New York Times-bestselling fantasy is here, bringing us back to the worlds of Rielle and Eliana after they’ve each been named Sun Queen, a thousand years apart. Rielle is tasked with gathering the tools necessary to repair the Gate and keep the angels out, in addition to spying on the angel Corien. But the latter is a charmer full of compelling promises, which threaten to pull Rielle over to the wrong side. Meanwhile, in Eliana’s time, she’s desperate not to fall prey to the same corruption Rielle did, and it’s making her power volatile. With a friend to save and a target on her back, will Eliana finally embrace her power and properly wear the crown?

Girl Gone Viral, by Arvin Ahmadi
Genre-jumping from his contemporary coming-of-age road trip story in Down and Across, Ahmadi’s sophomore features a coder named Opal who attends a boarding school for technical prodigies, the perfect place to hone her skills and avoid the fact that her father’s long vanished. Opal has all but given up hope she’ll ever again see the man who disappeared after her tenth birthday leaving nothing but a cryptic note, until an opportunity surfaces in the form of a contest whose winner will get to meet the billionaire founder of the world’s biggest virtual reality platform. But he’s more than just a tech superhero to Opal; he’s the guy who worked with Opal’s dad, and her best hope of finding out what happened to him. He may also be the guy who killed him.

Missing, Presumed Dead, by Emma Berquist
Helllooo, bisexual urban fantasy! Lexi can tell how and when someone will die just by touching them, and it’s ruining her life. How can she possibly be with anyone when a mere touch foretells the thing she least wants to know about them? But when she meets Jane, who’s already dead, that becomes a nonissue. The only problem is that Jane’s only around to find out who killed her, and once she solves that mystery, she’ll be off to the afterlife. How can Lexi help the girl of her dreams when success means losing her forever?

Hold My Hand, by Michael Barakiva
Yes, yes, this is a companion to the very, very cute One Man Guy, though it does stand alone, and explores the effect of cheating on relationships. When Ethan cheats on Alek with his ex—and immediately understands he made a mistake and ruined the best thing he’s ever had—Alek has to decide whether he can forgive and forget. Can there be trust and a future after a breakup brought on by cheating? The pair is about to find out.

Amelia Westlake Was Never Here, by Erin Gough
This Aussie import by the author of Get it Together, Delilah! combines so many of my favorite things: a private school setting, an agenda of justice, and a romance its two leads never saw coming. Harriet Price is a dream student, in sharp contrast to justice-seeking troublemaker Will Everheart. But the two girls are at their best-worst when they find themselves teaming up to expose the coverup of their swim coach’s inappropriate behavior, creating a fake student named Amelia Westlake as cover for the havoc they wreak in the name of truth and justice. Eventually, the truth must come out; how long can Harriet and Will put that off, and what will they manage to squeeze in before then? Perhaps a little romance?

The Pursuit of Miss Heartbreak Hotel, by Moe Bonneau
There’s no love lost between Lucy and Eve, best friends until Eve got hot and popular and left Lu behind. Lu doesn’t need Eve anymore; she’s happy with the life she has, the friends she has, and her college-bound future. Then a chance reconnection throws them back into each other’s lives, throwing Lu for a loop, and before she knows it, they’re thick as thieves again. But things feel different, and the chemistry between them has Lu forgetting all about her old crush and wondering whether there’s something other than friendship between them.

We Are the Perfect Girl, by Ariel Kaplan
Cyrano retellings can be tough to pull off without making someone look like a horrible lying liar, but Kaplan (one of my favorite underrated writers in contemporary YA) nails it in this story of a girl who starts it off as an accident and continues the ruse in order to help her beautiful but frequently tongue-tied best friend. Aphra’s got the personality, Bethany has the brains, and they love each other to pieces, but they also both like Greg. When Bethany and Greg start dating while he and Aphra start texting (sort of, accidentally, and without him knowing that she’s the one he’s talking to), things become a mess…but only Aphra knows it. What Bethany knows is that Aphra’s coaching her on what to say is going great, and what Greg knows is that even while Bethany can sometimes be awkward, the chemistry they have when they text is great, so who cares? But when the truth comes out, will everything Aphra’s been doing for her friend prove she wants to the best for her, or tear them apart? And where does that texting chemistry leave Greg and the girl he’s really falling for?

Bright Burning Stars, by A.K. Small
Super intense books about female friendships and ballet are a unique YA niche, and this debut is the latest in the microgenre. Marine and Kate are best friends who’ve trained together at the Paris Opera Ballet School since they were kids. They’ve always had their eyes on the prize, but when a student’s body is found in the dorms just before their final year at school, it’s time to think about how far they’d go for the grandest prize of all: the opportunity to join the Opera’s corps de ballet, which selects only one girl. One thing that just might help is cozying up to the Demigod, aka the most talented boy at school, but as both girls do, the competition grows so fierce it just might tear them apart.

Going Off Script, by Jen Wilde
It’s one of my most fervent YA wishes that Jen Wilde return with another awesomely adorable and wildly fun queer book every year, and I’m so thrilled 2019 is one of those years. This one stars Bex, a superfan of TV’s Silver Falls who’s psyched when she lands an internship on the show. The internship isn’t quite as fun as she imagined, forcing her to take matters into her own hands and draft a script. But when she shows it to the head writer, only to have him turn around and not only steal it but straightwash it, it’s time to make a splash…with the help of her very first girlfriend, a YouTube star who knows a little about just how messy the industry of celebrity can be.

Brave Face, by Shaun David Hutchinson
Hutchinson is already a staple of queer YA, including a novel releasing just three months before this one. But this shows a whole new side to the writera memoir that recounts his battle with depression and how it nearly brought him to take his own life. His story is composed of a million little moments that led him to where he is today, and is a reminder that some of our greatest struggles can be pieces of what later become our greatest triumphs.

Happily and Madly, by Alexis Bass
Bass had one of my favorite debuts in recent memory with Love & Other Theories, and I’m thrilled to see her return this month with her third title, a suspenseful mystery set in a wealthy beach town. It stars Maris, who’s on the verge of her eighteenth birthday—the very same birthday foretold as the year she’d die. The other thing she’s been told about her future? That she will fall happily and madly in love. It’s unclear where that love will come from, since the only local option who intrigues her, Edison Duval, is with Maris’s new stepsister. But the more Maris learns about Edison and what he’s hiding, the more intrigued she gets, and the more fulfilling the beautiful half of her destiny seems worth fulfilling the tragic one.

Practically Ever After, by Isabel Bandeira
The third book of the Ever After companion series stars Grace, a girl who has got it all: great friends, acceptance to her first-choice school, and the perfect girlfriend, Leia. And why shouldn’t her life be perfect? Lord knows she’s spent plenty of time working out how to get it that way. But as high school comes to a close, things start to fall apart, from school projects to her soon-to-be long-distance relationship. As someone who calculates every decision, Grace knows the “right” choice is to break up with Leia, but what happens when your heart just won’t follow your head?

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