New Releases: Dystopian Disneyland, a Japanese Jaunt, and Covenly Love

Listen, May. You have given us way too many good books, spent way too much of our money, and now you wanna end with a release day this good?? HOW DARE. Have the decency to include at least one boring title, will you? At least one book that doesn’t beg an “Oh my God I must read this immediately!!” But no, you couldn’t even give us that, May, you life ruiner. Well, all right. I suppose we should check out these titles that end this month with a serious bang.

These Witches Don’t Burn, by Isabel Sterling
It has been glorious to see witches coming back to queer YA, and this debut full of elemental magic and romance and heartbreak is such a fun, romantic, high-stakes take. Hannah is fresh off a terrible breakup with Veronica, made all the more brutal by the fact that they’re elemental witches in the very same coven. But her romantic torture is pushed to the back burner when the remnants of a blood ritual are discovered at an end-of-year bonfire, signaling the terrible threat of a Blood Witch. Her coven may not believe that’s what’s going on, but Hannah sets out to prove it, even if it means relying on Veronica to help her. Then again, if being on the case means meeting sweet girls like new-in-town Morgan, maybe this won’t be so bad. Can Hannah and Veronica find the Blood Witch and save the coven while putting their feelings behind them for good? Or is disaster inescapable?

I Love You So Mochi, by Sarah Kuhn
Who doesn’t love celebrating May with sweet new romances, especially if those romances happen to be delicious and set in Japan? Good luck not craving Japanese cuisine at every turn of this YA debut from established graphic novel and SFF author Kuhn, which follows fashion-obsessed Kimi on an only somewhat voluntary trip to visit her grandparents in Japan. When Kimi’s mother learns her budding artist daughter has been lying to her, she thinks a spring break spent with her grandparents might be the thing to bring her back on track. The idea of reconnecting with her family and taking in some new scenery is nice, but it’s still painful for Kimi to have a rift with her mother, in addition to leaving her friends behind and bailing on their plans. One thing making it better? Meeting Akira, who helps her see and connect with the country that was once her mother’s home, creating a brand-new relationship while repairing some very important older ones.

Riverdale: Get Out of Town, by Micol Ostow
This second book in Ostow’s series set in the Riverdale universe is an original story (not seen on the show) that brings the whole gang together to help prove Archie’s innocence when he’s framed by Hiram Lodge. Betty, Veronica, and Jughead travel to Shadow Lake, the scene of the murder that saw Archie arrested, in the hopes of finding evidence that’ll prove he’s not behind killing the boy who bullied them. But plenty of danger still lurks, and tracking down proof isn’t going to be enough if they never make it back to Riverdale with it.

The Voice in My Head, by Dana L. Davis
Davis already made a name for herself with her beautiful handling of both family dynamics and mental health issues in debut Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now, so I’m thrilled to see her returning with a novel that again centers on both. This time, the relationship at the core is a sisterly one, with Indigo facing a life that doesn’t include her twin, Violet, who’s terminally ill and on the verge of dying. When Indigo begins to hear God’s voice telling her that there is a way to save Violet, if only she brings her to a remote rock formation in the desert, she knows her brain must be playing tricks on her. But Violet agrees to go if the whole family will make the trip from Seattle to Arizona together—and as much as Indigo struggles with the rest of her family, there’s no disagreeing with a dying request. The trip is a mess in so many ways, but it has its worthwhile lessons, too, including how to deal with the voices that plague her.

Switchback, by Danika Stone
You’ve seen Stone before in cute pop culture-centric romantic contemporaries, but you’ve never seen her like this. Best friends Vale and Ash are dreading their school’s overnight hiking trip, but neither of them could’ve anticipated just how bad it would really get. When a storm separates them from their classmates in the Canadian wilderness, they’ll have to use their wits to survive the treacherous weather and wildlife and make it home.

The Wise and the Wicked, by Rebecca Podos
Following up on  her Lambda-winning Like Water, Podos leaves contemporary behind for a fantasy story that’s no fairy tale for Ruby. She grew up with the lore of how the women in her family once possessed the power to keep death at bay, till they were run out of their native Russia by men who sought to destroy them. She might think it were make believe, if not for the fact that a little magic still runs through their veins, just enough to show each woman in her line a coming-of-age vision of who they’ll be when they die. Then Ruby’s great-aunt dies in a way that doesn’t match her vision at all—and Ruby realizes that if her end isn’t as predictable as she believed, maybe her life doesn’t have to be either.

Fake it Till You Break It, by Jenn P. Nguyen
Long titles and adorable fauxmances are Nguyen trademarks, as seen in The Way to Game the Walk of Shame and now in this tale of Mia and Jake, two teens who can’t stand each other but are constantly pushed together thanks to their moms being best friends. They’ll never have their own romantic lives if their moms won’t stop sabotaging them in the hopes that they’ll end up together, and the only way to stop it? Pretend they’ve tried dating, and then let it blow up spectacularly, so their mothers will finally understand they aren’t meant to be. But it throws a wrench into their plans when their fauxmance proves that maybe their moms were onto something after all.

The Kingdom, by Jess Rothenberg
I had the added joy of devouring this sophomore YA at a Disneyworld hotel, which was a truly magical experience when you consider I kept describing it as “the Disney Dystopia from Hell.” Ana is a Fantasist, one of seven human-robot hybrids designed to look like and act like the Disney princess of your dreams. She and all her sisters are taken care of by Daddy and his team, and are never to question that care…or the fact that they can never go outside, have phones, or enjoy any other basic freedoms. And then there’s her sisters’ newly weird behavior and her growing attraction to one of the park’s maintenance men, it’s becoming clear that something is rotten in the state of the Kingdom. But all that’s history: when the book opens, said maintenance man has been murdered, and Ana is sitting on trial for his killing. This book is fresh, fun, and creepy in all the best ways, and the skillful interweaving of the trial and the events leading up to it make it one of those books you’ll want to read in a single day.

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