New Releases: Life-Changing Journeys, Competition in the Kitchen, and Brujas Behaving Badly

Pack a release date much, publishing?? You can’t click in this post without hitting a major must-read title, from magic-filled fantasies to fun romances of fancy to serious, heart-stopping contemporaries, to works that blur genre lines. But there’s far too much to see here to waste space on me blathering, so let’s get to it!

Bruja Born, by Zoraida Córdova
As a diehard Labyrinth Lost fan, I’ve been on the edge of my seat waiting for this followup, and not only does it not disappoint, it might even surpass my wild love for the first Brooklyn Brujas fantasy. There’s just something about oldest sister Lula, a healer who makes a reckless choice when tragedy strikes and accidentally sort of maybe turns her (ex?) boyfriend (and a whole lot more people) into a murderous zombie, forcing everyone in her family to put their lives on the line (again!) in order to clean up her mess and set the process of death back to rights.

The Last Summer of the Garrett Girls, by Jessica Spotswood
If you’re a fan of Spotswood’s historical fantasy series, you know the magic she can weave with sisters, and if you’re a fellow Wild Swans fan, you know what she can do with quiet, romantic contemporary. Take those skills, her consistent feminist bent, and a Stars Hollow–esque setting and you’ll have her sweet and charming newest, which follows four orphaned sisters through a summer that changes everything. There’s Des, who’d like to focus on something other than taking care of her family and their bookstore for once, and finds the perfect person to inspire her to do it; Vi, who’s got a crush on the (taken) girl next door (who doesn’t like girls…does she?); Kat, whose idea of coping with her ex and his new girlfriend is to embark on a fauxmantic revenge scheme that seriously messes with her heart; and Bea, whose future has always been carved in stone…and who’s finally facing the fact that it isn’t the one she wants anymore. The summer will change their lives, their loves, and what comes next.

Whisper of the Tide, by Sarah Tolcser
The sequel to the critically lauded Song of the Current brings us back to Caro and Markos after a brutal tragedy has taken place. They’re painfully aware of the target on Markos’s back, and it doesn’t help that he utterly lacks a military. So when the offer of one comes, it seems like Markos’s only option is to accept the Archon’s offer…though it comes with mandated marriage to his daughter. Which means Markos has to make a choice: his and Caro’s love? Or his people and throne?

Social Intercourse, by Greg Howard
Beck is by no means psyched to see his dad dating star quarterback Jaxon’s mom. For one thing, wasn’t she a lesbian? But more importantly, Jaxon used to bully Beck—pretty low-hanging fruit when it comes to an out-and-proud gay kid in South Carolina. Jaxon isn’t exactly thrilled about it either; he’d like to see his moms get back together. Whether they want to or not, the two boys will have to work together if they wanna split their parents up, even if being near each other brings up some inconvenient feelings. Like how wildly attractive Beck finds Jaxon, while also learning he’s more than a meathead. Or like the fact that Jaxon’s attracted to guys, which is something Beck decidedly did not know, especially since Jaxon’s dating the hottest girl in school. Or the fact that they are completely falling for each other, and while they might be meant to be, whether or not their parents are still remains to be seen.

The Opposite of Here, by Tara Altebrando
Natalie’s still grieving her boyfriend’s death, so she’s not really in the mood to be on a birthday cruise, no matter how well-meaning her parents might be in gifting it to her and her three best friends. But her attitude changes almost immediately when she meets a guy on the ship and has instant chemistry…only to have him disappear on her as soon as she heads back to her cabin to grab a bathing suit. Natalie’s afraid he might have jumped, but no one else shares her concern; they think she’s overreacting. Is she? Or does the ship’s captain calling for a headcount mean something happened after all? And what can she possibly do to find him when she never even got his name?

The Bird and the Blade, by Megan Bannen
You know what’s really underdone in historical YA fiction? The Mongol Empire. But that’s why we love debut voices, isn’t it? In this debut, which sounds particularly freaking awesome, Bannen takes on the 13th century with the story of Jinghua, a slave who gets a chance at freedom when the khanate is overthrown, and escapes with Prince Khalaf in his fugitive party, disguised as a boy. Her plan is to return home, but her growing feelings for the prince won’t allow her to leave his side, even though a strategic alliance hinges on him marrying Turandokht, the daughter of the Great Khan. But Turandokht’s requirement that a suitor answer three questions in order to marry her, with the threat of death on the line for failure, and Jingua knows she’s the only one who can help, even if it means delivering the guy she loves into someone else’s arms for good.

Dear Rachel Maddow, by Adrienne Kisner
Rachel Maddow is Brynn’s guiding light, a fact that was cemented not just by watching her show daily, but by the fact that when she wrote to Ms. Maddow for a school project, the TV host actually responded. Now writing to her has become how Brynn deals—with her breakup with Sarah, with her brother’s death, with her academic struggles, and with her overly passive parents. She doesn’t send the letters, but just writing them helps her cope. Then the time comes for her to take action, even though it puts her personal life at risk, and the time for dealing with things quietly and at the comfort of her own desk is over. It’s time for her to imagine Rachel Maddow’s advice, and, for once, run with it.

Sweet Black Waves, by Kristina Pérez
This take on Tristan and Iseult focuses on orphaned Branwen, best friend and lady-in-waiting to Princess Essy of Iveriu. Branwen’s loyal to the crown, of course; it’s utterly by accident that she saves a guy from the enemy kingdom. And she certainly didn’t mean to fall for him, especially given how powerful he is. But fallen for him she has, despite his being of the people who killed her parents. When political planning twists both him and Essy in its grasp, Branwen has her own feelings to contend with as she manipulates the situation using both trickery and her newfound magic. Will Branwen stand by Essy? Will she follow her heart? Will she put peace above all? Only one way to find out.

Little Do We Know, by Tamara Ireland Stone
Hannah and Emory were neighbors and the best of friends until a brutal argument tore them apart. Now, though it has been months since they last spoke, they need each other more than ever as Emory prepares for college without her boyfriend, Luke, and Hannah struggles with a crisis of faith brought on by their fight. Then one night changes everything: Hannah finds Luke in his car outside her house, having just had an accident, leaving all of them with questions whose answers may further tear their world apart.

The Art of French Kissing, by Brianna Shrum
Kissing, cooking, and competition: that’s what some of my favorite books are made of. Shrum goes hard with the enemies-to-lovers romance between aspiring chefs Carter Lane and Reid Yamada, who are fighting to the death over a culinary scholarship at a summer competition in Savannah. But all the snark and sabotage in the world can’t hide the chemistry between these two, and it’s every bit as delicious and delightful an experience as you want it to be.

Invisible Ghosts, by Robyn Schneider
Rose doesn’t only believe in ghosts, she communicates with one every day. Being able to see her brother Logan again, even if it means putting the rest of her social life on hold, is a gift she never expected—not since an accident took him at fifteen. But when Jamie moves back to her town, back into her friend group, back into her life, Rose becomes increasingly aware of what she’s been missing, and the life she could have if she stopped clinging to Logan’s ghost. Which one is she more prepared to give up? If you’ve read Schneider’s previous work, you know this one’s probably gonna rip all our hearts out, but isn’t it worth the pain?

Fat Girl on a Plane, by Kelly DeVos
Would I buy this book based on the title alone? Absolutely I would. Does it get all the more intriguing when you learn it’s told in alternating timelines, one in which the main character is a fat fashionista struggling to gain acceptance in a world that seeks to shame her and one set after the humiliating event behind the book’s title pushes her to lose weight in order to force the world to treat her like an actual person? Sure does, especially as the main character finds skinniness can’t quite buy happiness. (Though it sure does seem to get lots of other stuff.)

The Summer of Us, by Cecilia Vinesse
If you mashed up Anna and the French Kiss with Wanderlost and made it half really gay, you’d have Vinesse’s fun, angsty, dramatic sophomore novel told from the perspectives of two best friends traveling around Europe. As if making trains and sharing hostels isn’t enough, the rest of their party consists of Jonah, Aubrey’s boyfriend who just not quite doing it for her anymore; Gabe, who unfortunately kinda is, or at least that’s what their kiss before the trip would suggest; and Clara, with whom Rae is unfortunately madly in love, despite being certain she’s straight. It’s tricky situations all around for gallivanting through some of the world’s most romantic cities, but romantic relationships aren’t the only ones on the line, especially with Aubrey and Rae preparing for some serious physical distance.

Always Forever Maybe, by Anica Mrose Rissi
Rissi’s made a name as both a children’s lit author and the editor of some of my favorite YAs, but this is the first time she’s mashed those skills up into authoring a YA herself, and I am extremely ready for it. Betts and Aiden have instant chemistry, the kind that makes everything else in the world disappear behind the hearts in their eyes. It’s even sending Betts’s best friendship with Jo to the back burner. And how could it not? Jo obviously wouldn’t understand the nuances of their relationship; she’d read way too much into Aiden’s possessiveness and jealousy. And really, things are just fine there…aren’t they?

City of Bastards, by Andrew Shvarts
Like Shvarts’ debut, Royal Bastards, this sequel is fun as hell. Life should be chill for Tilla now, or at least as chill as it can be when your father is the greatest traitor of all time, your brother is dead, and you’ve had to leave home. The safety of returning to Princess Lyriana’s home and getting to start university, not to mention having her boyfriend, Zell, local, sure isn’t bad. But when her friend is found dead in what Tilla is certain is a staged suicide, she wants answers. Unfortunately, those answers are dangerous, terrifying, and deadly, and if Tilla and her friends thought they knew betrayal and destruction before, what happens next will blow both their minds and yours. The stakes are jacked all the way up in this sequel, while still maintaining Tilla’s fabulous voice, and I am counting down the minutes until book three.

Save the Date, by Morgan Matson
Charlie’s thrilled her sister’s wedding is uniting all four siblings again, especially since their family home is about to go up for sale: it’s the perfect distraction from everything she’s looking to avoid. But nothing pans out as she’d hoped or expected, and the magical reunion is turning into something of an unmitigated disaster. It’s three days of misery, but it also may be exactly what Charlie needs to move on with her life, embrace her future, and accept that things changing might not be the worst thing. Oh, and yeah, there’s a cute boy, because Morgan Matson would never let us down in that regard, God bless.

Summer of Salt, by Katrina Leno
In this witchy, magical, atmospheric book, Georgina and her twin sister, Mary, have one summer left on the island of By-the-Sea with their widowed mother, and they’re ready for the annual celebration of Annabella, the world’s rarest bird, at 300 years old. Then Annabella doesn’t show up on the island as she has for generations, and when they discovered she’s been slaughtered, blame turns to the magical Mary. Georgina wants to get to the bottom of the unthinkable crime no matter who the killer is, and she also wants to get to know cute, sweet visitor Prue.

Mariam Sharma Hits the Road, by Sheba Karim
Mariam, Ghaz, and Umar need a change of scenery to escape a breakup and oppressive parents and hit up an Islamic convention down in New Orleans. But their simple road trip takes untold numbers of twists and turns as they add finding Mariam’s deadbeat father to the mix, not to mention everything they experience along the way. This isn’t your average road trip novel; it’s the marginalizations of the characters and the ways they fit into their varied new contexts, as well as the issues they bring with them, that really make the story. Well, that, and the fact that it’s probably one of the raunchiest YAs I’ve ever read.

The History of Jane Doe, by Michael Belanger
It’s hard to find a 2018 book that sounds more perfect for fans of John Green than this one about a history-loving boy named Ray who’s obsessed with the new girl in town, whom we’ll just call Jane Doe. He’s dying to learn everything there is to know about her, to file the facts of her away the same way he’s done with his hometown of Burgerville forever. She’s a tough nut to crack, but Ray persists, until a romance blossoms between them and he’s sure he finally knows her. But does he? Or is he doomed for heartache?

What You Left Me, by Bridget Morrissey
Four years of high school failed to ever bring Martin and Petra together, but then one fateful graduation does it, and things just click. But what should’ve been the first step in a perfect future is stopped in its tracks by a car accident that puts Martin in a coma. Their connection, though, is real enough that Martin starts to visit Petra in her dreams, and in his friends’ dreams too. While they wait for him to wake up, they bond in the hospital, over Martin’s visits and more. But it’s a secret of Petra’s that may hold the key to his waking up.

Smoke in the Sun, by Renée Ahdieh
The sequel to the New York Times–bestselling Flame in the Mist revisits Mariko as she has no choice but to put herself in grave danger in order to rescue Okami after his arrest in the Jukai forest. With a few well-placed lies intimating the Black Clan took her against her will, she uses her position as Raiden’s fiancé to spy within Heian Castle and uncover who might have wanted her killed. While everyone else sees a young girl deeply involved in her own wedding planning, Mariko digs deeper and deeper into the castle’s secrets. But it’s a more tangled web than she imagined, and the more she learns, the greater the threat to her, Okami, and the entire empire at large.

Running With Lions, by Julian Winters (June 7)
This fun, delightful, inclusive romance is a bit of a cheat, since it doesn’t actually release for another couple of days, but I’m just so excited it’s almost here! Sebastian is extremely ready for his senior year, and for another year spent as soccer goalie. But he’s as shocked as everyone else to see a new member on the team this year—Emir Shah, whom Sebastian knows from childhood. The guys don’t expect him to be particularly good, and while he surprises them with his talent, he’s still too prickly for them to befriend. But Sebastian won’t give up trying, and the more time they spend together, the clearer it becomes that there’s something sparking between them.

Neverworld Wake, by Marisha Pessl
If you’ve read Pessl’s adult stuff, you know she can go brilliantly, wonderfully weird, so it’s a pleasure to welcome her to YA with a suspenseful psychological thriller about a girl named Beatrice who’s returning to the scene of so many high school memories a year after graduating, hoping to get some closure regarding her boyfriend Jim’s death. But Bee and her friends haven’t quite journeyed to their planned destination. Rather, they’re stuck in Neverworld, a plane between life and death, where they all hang in the balance, reliving the same day over and over again a la Groundhog’s Day (or, to put it in YA terms, Before I Fall), which will end only when they make the cruelest of decisions: who among them will survive. It’s a last chance for Bee to find out what really happened around Jim’s death, but it turns out to be only one of several secrets hanging in the air, and of course, there’s the small matter of survival at hand…

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