February may be the shortest month, but this final week is jampacked with new reads from both newbie authors and longtime favorites. Morris Award-winner Jeff Zentner returns with a contemporary about two girls who host a public access show devoted to cult horror films; Tanaz Bhathena (A Girl Like That) is back with a thoughtful and sweet romance; and Addie Thorley’s debut brings together a bastard prince and a poisoner in pre-Revolutionary France.
Four Dead Queens, by Astrid Scholte
The kingdom of Quadara is ruled by four queens, and it’s not a spoiler to say their reigns have a very short shelf life in this fantasy debut. After all four are murdered, two very different Quadaran citizens find themselves embroiled in the chaos surrounding the assassinations and resulting power vacuum. Keralie is a skilled thief working on behalf of a dangerous man. Varin is her latest mark, who faces dark consequences after she steals from him a package worth more than his life. The two band together to solve the mystery of the four dead queens.
The Deceiver’s Heart, by Jennifer Nielsen
Book Two in the bestselling Traitor’s Game series brings a shift in purpose as Kestra Dallisor, now possessed of the Olden Blade, appears to have triumphed over the evil Lord Endrick. But the tyrannical ruler survives her assassination attempt and uses magic to erase Kestra’s memory. Luckily, servant-turned-rebel Simon is determined to bring “his” Kestra back to the fold—and the fight. But without memories of the past uniting them, how can the star-crossed duo fully trust each other?
Sorry Not Sorry, by Jaime Reed
Friendship between teen girls can be complicated enough, but when it turns out you’re the only one who can save your best friend-turned-enemy? Whole new levels. That’s the situation Janelle is in when her ex-bestie Alyssa collapses and it turns out Janelle’s got exactly what she needs. But with the distance between them as Janelle moved toward social justice and activism and Alyssa became a full-on Mean Girl, Janelle’s not sure she wants to be mending any fences, whether or not she steps in. Is the friendship they once had worth saving?
The Music of What Happens, by Bill Konigsberg
Max may be doomed to spending his summer working, but when he gets an offer to drop the job he’s dreading in favor of working on his classmate Jordan’s ailing mother’s food truck, he immediately takes the opportunity to help out the grieving family in need. Max and Jordan might be polar opposites—the social jock and the emo boy who hates sports, respectively—but with Max feeling buried by the memory of his sexual assault at a frat party and Jordan struggling to keep things together while his mother continues to fade, the boys find that leaning on each other might finally be the salvation they both need.
We Set the Dark on Fire, by Tehlor Kay Mejia
Dani Vargas has a secret: she isn’t from the side of the wall her papers claim she is. But no one can know that if she’s to fulfill the dream her parents set for her. The Garcia family would never accept her as the Primera, the wife on equal footing, of their son Mateo if they knew the truth. And certainly Segunda Carmen, Dani’s greatest rival from the school that bred them for their wifely roles, would never let her forget it. When Dani’s secret is threatened, she has no choice but to accept a position as a spy in the Garcia house, a dangerous and compromising role. But her heart yearns to help those suffering under the boots of the wealthy, and what begins as a reluctant task sets off a spark inside her. She’s also developing feelings for Carmen, who may or may not be trustworthy. Rife with both political relevance and girls kissing, Mejia’s debut is sure to make its mark, both for those who fell in love with her writing through her stories in All Out and Toil & Trouble and those reading her for the first time.
Last of Her Name, by Jessica Khoury
Star Wars meets the fall of the Romanovs in Khoury’s latest, an action-filled space caper. Stacia Androva is a budding mechanic living on Amethyne, a nowhere planet in a universe once ruled by the autocratic Leonovas. Sixteen years ago, the entire family was killed (or so everyone believes…) to make way for a new government that’s of the boot-stamping-on-throat variety. Stacia and her two besties, Clio and Pol, are stunned to learn that Stacia’s true identity is that of Princess Anya Leonova–youngest daughter of the Leonovas. When the shock settles, Stacia decides to fight for her birthright. After a daring escape from Amethyne, Stacia vows to rescue Clio, who’s at the mercy of the Union, before waging war on her family’s killers.
The Beauty of the Moment, by Tanaz Bhathena
As the new girl, overachieving Susan has a tough time acclimating to Toronto. Most of her family, including her father, remain in Saudi Arabia, and it’s taking a toll on her parents’ marriage. Navigating a co-ed school for the first time isn’t easy, either. Her troubled classmate, Malcolm, also has family issues; his new stepmother isn’t exactly his favorite person, and he’s still coming to terms with his mother’s death. When their worlds collide, romance seems both inevitable and impossible between the Malayali Christian good girl and the Parsi Canadian bad boy. An illuminating family drama and a compelling love story rolled into one.
Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee, by Jeff Zentner
The Morris Award-winning author of The Serpent King is back with another Southern-set coming-of-age story about life-defining friendships during senior year of high school. Josie and Delia host Midnite Matinee, a weekly public access TV show of so-bad-they’re-amazing cult horror movies. The films were left behind by Delia’s dad when he abandoned the family a decade ago, and Delia’s most fervent wish is that he’ll one day he’ll see her show—if it can become popular enough—and decide to reconnect with her. Josie, meanwhile, can’t figure out if she wants to pursue a degree and a “real” TV career far away, like her family is hoping, or stay close to home with Delia and the boy she’s falling for, Lawson. With their futures and fortunes on the line, the girls will need each other more than ever when news of Delia’s dad finally surfaces.
Pretend She’s Here, by Luanne Rice
After Emily’s best friend, Lizzie, passed away from cancer, Lizzie’s family left town in a haze of grief. A year later, Emily agrees to accompany Lizzie’s sister and parents to Lizzie’s grave to pay their respects. Instead, she finds herself drugged and kidnapped, ferried across state lines, and forced to begin a new life as her late friend. Enrolled in a new school, and convinced all hope is lost, Emily befriends Casey, a legally blind boy who promises to help her find a way out of her nightmare. Pretend looks to be a suspenseful page-turner that also examines the different ways in which people respond to tragedy.
Tell Me Everything, by Sarah Enni
In this smart contemporary debut from a journalist and podcaster, introverted Ivy is thrown for a loop when her best friend Harold heads to camp, leaving her alone for the entire summer break before sophomore year. She finds camaraderie—of sorts—on an app called VEIL in which anonymous users post revealing art that gets wiped off the site each Sunday. Unprepared to put her own creations online, Ivy can’t resist speculating about which of her classmates are responsible for which projects, and decides to shower the artists with kindness. When one of her assumptions backfires in a big way, however, it may be the perfect time to shift from observation-mode to active participant.
An Affair of Poisons, by Addie Thorley
As a member of the secretly treasonous Shadow Society, run by her mother, Mirabelle is a skilled alchemist just like her father before her. When one of her concoctions enables the murder of King Louis XIV, she’s horrified at the role she unwittingly played in the Sun King’s death, especially when all of Paris is thrown into chaos as a result. Perhaps the king’s bastard son, Josse, can help her put right the sins of the past? This debut historical fantasy set in 1700s France will keep readers on the edge of their seats.