In case you haven’t noticed, this month has been an incredible one for YA, and it’s absolutely going out with a bang. Diverse fantasy and hard-hitting contemporary make this a glorious day, so let’s get to it!
A River of Royal Blood, by Amanda Joy
This North African-inspired fantasy debut stars Eva, a princess born with a dark and dangerous magick no one has seen in Myre in ages. In fact, the last person known to practice it was Queen Raina, best known for massacring thousands (including her sister) in the process of overthrowing the native royal government, which kicked off the tradition of the Rival Heir. It’s that tradition that now sees Eva facing off against her sister, Isa, in a battle for the Ivory Throne that will see the winner become queen and the loser take her final breath. But before the battle can even take place, Eva is attached by an assassin, and learns Isa isn’t the only one who wants to see her dead. She’ll have to enlist the help of a fey instructor and a native prince to help her grow her magick and take the crown.
All the Things We Do in the Dark, by Saundra Mitchell
Mitchell’s back for the second month in a row, this time with a thriller centered around Ava, a girl who’s a lot of things: pansexual, a child rape survivor, a girl who seems to be losing her best friend, and someone who’s falling in love for the first time. Unfortunately, the object of her affection is the daughter of the cop next door, who can’t know that Ava’s found a woman’s body in the woods and decided to solve the murder by herself, rather than going to police. When she finds a boy who’s equally determined to find the killer, Ava reluctantly teams up, and is forced to come to terms with her own needs, limitations, and the past she’ll never quite shake, but also her own resilience. With a sharp-as-nails voice and effective fourth-wall breaking, this one hits hard and will undoubtedly hit home for readers who’ve faced similar trauma.
Beyond the Black Door, by A.M. Strickland
Kamai is a soulwalker, just like her mom, which means they can visit other people’s souls while they sleep. And while souls take on different forms, some of which are gorgeous and some of which are terrifying, there’s one constant for Kamai: the black door. It’s in every soul she sees, and she has no idea what’s behind it, because she’s always listened to her mother when she said to leave it be. Until now. When Kamai makes the mistake of touching and listening at the door, she’s lured into doing the only thing she’s forever been told not to, and she is not prepared for the dangers that await her and her soul on the other side.
Gravemaidens, by Kelly Coon
This duology opener set in the walled city-state of Alu follows three maidens chosen for the greatest honor it has to offer: joining its ruler in the afterlife. With the ruler currently on his deathbed, the time has come, and while Nanaea embraces the tradition, Kammani sees it as nothing but a death sentence, and one she isn’t ready for her or her sister to pay. She’d been studying to become a healer before her family was cast out of Alu, and her plan now is to use those skills as she plots her way into the palace, aiming to heal the ruler so that there will be no death begging for their accompaniment. But the palace yields far more secrets than she ever anticipated, and may be ever bit as much of a threat on her life if she uncovers them.
Full Disclosure, by Camryn Garrett
This story, about an adopted HIV-positive girl falling in love and wanting to learn about sex for the first time, while also questioning her bisexuality as she reflects on the girl who broke both her trust and her heart, feels like it was written by a (brilliant, insightful) teen in all the best ways: it’s sharp, authentic, funny, romantic, real, and bursting with personality. Simone Garcia-Hampton has walked on eggshells as much as anyone with her directorial talent and bold personality can, but now she’s at a new school and she’s tired of putting life on hold, even if she has to work harder than ever to keep being positive a secret. When sparks ignite between her and Miles, Simone is thrilled to finally get to experience romance again for the first time since she was betrayed by someone she trusted. Then it threatens to happen all over again as a blackmailer warns Simone that if she doesn’t tell Miles about her status soon, they will. Now Simone has to decide who she can trust, what relationships are worth saving, and when it’s time to let go and live on your own terms.
I’m a Gay Wizard, by V.S. Santoni
Don’t you just love when books can completely sell you with their title alone? Gay wizards are shockingly underdone in YA for how many exist in Harry Potter fanfiction, so seeing Santoni’s debut among the very first Wattpad Books is thrilling on several levels. Johnny is the titular gay wizard, a boy so into the idea of magic that he and his best friend, Alison, spend the summer messing with it. But when what should be a harmless pastime leads to them unleashing an earthquake, it stops being fun and games and starts drawing the attention of the Marduk Institute. Johnny and Alison look like perfect candidates for an organization that molds young wizards, and they don’t exactly have a choice; there’s no returning to normal life. Now Johnny and Alison have to get used to a life of monsters, magic, mayhem, and mayhaps even a couple of cute fellow students.
The Light at the Bottom of the World, by London Shah
Set in the final days of the twenty-first century, Shah’s debut sees humankind struggling in a ruined London, surrounded by sea creatures swimming through unfathomable depths and hoping that some day they’ll reach the surface again. Among those humans is Leyla McQueen, a submersible racer who’s determined to compete in the city’s annual marathon in order to win the Prime Minister’s promised prize of whatever they wish, which she plans to use to save her father from false imprisonment. But then Leyla discovers secrets and lies she was never meant to learn, and together with a…difficult companion, she’ll have to fight the powers that be if she’s going to save her father, and herself.
The Bookworm Crush, by Lisa Brown Roberts
This spinoff of Roberts’ The Replacement Crush sees Amy forced to face her shyness in order to compete for the opportunity to interview her notoriously press-averse favorite author. Her eye is on the prize; all she needs to do now is learn how to compete and be in the spotlight, and she knows exactly who to enlist in order to teach her. Only problem? That person is Toff Nichols, her crush and a celebrity in his own right, not to mention a major player. He’s definitely got confidence down, but can he help her feel it too, or is the fact that he makes her tongue-tied gonna be her downfall?