Today is the kind of new release day that makes you want to swing around on a bookstore ladder singing. Finally (finally!) get your hands on some of the best debuts of the year; the sultry follow-up to a thrilling 2014 Southern Gothic; and a lush reimagining of a beloved eastern myth. Here are 10 books you’ll want to drop everything for. (Unless you’re currently holding a birthday cake, give in!)
Kill the Boy Band, by Goldy Moldavsky
God help the boy bander who underestimates his fans. Moldavsky’s debut is equal parts twisted love letter to fandom—the incendiary heat of their devotion, their insatiable thirst for knowledge, images, and access—and cautionary tale. Four girls, each as distinct as the members of their beloved boy band the Ruperts, take a room at the hip NYC hotel where the boys are staying. And then fate delivers unto them a boy bander: Rupert P., widely agreed to be the worst Rupert, who’s soon trussed up in their hotel room while they figure out what to do next. Betrayal, bad decisions, and general mayhem follow, in a hilarious, dangerous story that makes me want more in the strange new microgenre I’m calling fandom noir.
The Smell of Other People’s Houses, by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
In a vividly evoked 1970s Alaska, Hitchcock sets hardscrabble poverty and domestic violence against transcendent natural beauty and the secret riches to be found in an unforgiving landscape. Her characters are fighting to build good lives amid harsh circumstances—Ruth is an almost-orphan grappling with a terrible secret, Dora is terrified she’ll be forced back under her violent father’s roof, Hank and his brothers have no choice but to escape, and Alyce doesn’t know how to claim her future without losing her past. All take a circuitous path toward finally making the connections they need to survive.
Longbow Girl, by Linda Davies
Modern girl and skilled archer Merry Owen is the inheritor of her family’s centuries-old legacy: a promise to protect the Crown. After her ancestor saved the king’s life in battle, they were gifted the land Merry’s family’s still lives on, but it’s under constant threat from the nearby Earl de Courcy—even though his heir, James, is Merry’s best friend. When Merry finds a valuable ancient book on her land, she follows its intriguing clues and prophecies to a portal that leads her and James back to 1537, where she has to rely on her archery skills to win a contest whose outcome will protect her family’s far-off future.
Thanks for the Trouble, by Tommy Wallach
In Wallach’s sophomore novel, Hispanic teen Parker Santé, left mute and traumatized after witnessing his father’s death, tells the story of a girl who changed his life. He meets Zelda in a hotel lobby where he isn’t a guest, and is drawn in first by her beauty, then by her wad of unattended money, and finally by her story: she claims to be 246 years old, incapable of aging, and looking to spend her last five grand before jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. In the days that follow, the two set off on a wild bucket list adventure, in a story about loss and connection with a supernatural twist.
The Bitter Side of Sweet, by Tara Sullivan
Amadou and his younger brother, Seydou, work in indentured servitude on west Africa’s contemporary Ivory Coast, harvesting the cacao pods he hopes will eventually buy them the freedom to reunite with their aunt and uncle. Tricked into working in horrible conditions, without any real hope in sight, their focus is squarely on survival. Then Khadija arrives in their camp, a girl who refuses to take her imprisonment without a fight. As the bosses work their hardest to break her, Amadou’s old fighting instinct resurfaces, and soon the brothers and the girl are pinning their hopes on one last effort to take flight. a reality-based story meant to enrage and illuminate, and including info on Sullivan’s research.
Firstlife (Everlife series #1), by Gena Showalter
In Showalter’s new Everlife series, your mundane earthly existence is considered your “firstlife,” inferior to the everlasting Everlife waiting for you beyond the grave. The Everlife realm is controlled by two rival realms, Troika and Myriad, each dead set on recruiting Ten Lockwood to their side. But numbers-obsessed Ten, imprisoned for over a year for the crime of not allowing her parents to decide the fate of her afterlife, doesn’t know who to trust and what to choose…and only has until the fast-approaching end of her life to decide.
The Forbidden Wish, Jessica Khoury
Jinni Zahra has been waiting in her lamp for 500 years, in the buried ruins of a lavish palace, when the boy Aladdin finds her. She’s a prisoner who craves freedom, a supernatural slave who somehow maintains an affection for her human masters. Their magical desert world is evoked in vivid sensory detail, as boy and jinni become allies in two very different goals: he seeks revenge on his parents’ murderer, she seeks freedom. But soon Zahra finds she must make an impossible choice—seize the liberty she craves, or be true to the human she’s falling in love with.
After the Woods, by Kim Savage
One summer day Julia and best friend Liv go running in the woods, but only one of them comes out. Liv is attacked by a stranger; when Julia stops to help her, Liv escapes, leaving an injured Julia behind. Julia escapes two days later, her attacker is jailed and later commits suicide, but her PTSD—and the fractures in her relationship with Liv—persist. When, nearly a year later, a body is found in the woods where she was taken, Julia stops trying to escape the past, instead working with unexpected new allies to uncover the truth behind what happened to her, and what her best friend might be hiding.
Behold the Bones, by Natalie C. Parker
In last year’s haunting Beware the Wild, Parker introduced the Southern Gothic world of Sticks, Louisiana, and the dangerous swamp at its heart. After an argument, Sterling Saucier’s brother, Phin, stormed off into the swamp…and a new “sister” came out, an insidious girl named Lenora May who only Sterling can remember was never part of her family at all. Follow-up Behold the Bones focuses on one of Sterling’s best friends, Candy, who has a contrary relationship to both the town’s ghosts and its “Shine,” or permeating magic, repelling it without meaning to. She enters the swamp in the hopes of setting things right, but ends up soaking up more Shine than she bargains for—and attracting the attention of a ghost-hunting band of outsiders in the process.
The Last Place on Earth, by Carol Snow
When Daisy’s best friend, Henry, disappears along with his family, she worries it’s because of the friendship-endangering moment they shared the night before—but when she finds a note he left behind, reading “SAVE ME,” she realizes she didn’t know all of his secrets after all. Along with her brother, she sets out to find him, encountering some very creepy signs of a much larger problem along the way…which might have everything to do with Henry’s sudden departure.