Descendant of the Crane, by Joan He
In this Chinese-inspired fantasy debut, a reluctant princess takes the throne under dark circumstances. Princess Hesina’s father has been murdered, and her inherited kingdom is in turmoil. She turns first to a soothsayer to guide her in finding his killer—though magic was long ago outlawed—then to a prickly investigator with his own criminal past.
In the Neighborhood of True, by Susan Kaplan Carlton
You might not think a book set in 1959 could feel wildly relevant, but wow does this Atlanta-set YA set exploring anti-Semitism in the south feel incredibly on point. In both cases, the synagogue was specifically targeted for being not just a place of worship for Jews but for being active participants in the eternal American fight against racism. In the case of Carlton’s poignant novel, the rabbi at Shir Shalom is a strong advocate for integration, something protagonist Ruth feels she wants to advocate for too, in any way she can. But she’s already a secret outsider in the south, keeping her Judaism a secret from her new friends and especially her new boyfriend, who assume that she’s as Christian as her mother, who was once their town’s social queen. They don’t know her mother converted to Judaism later, or that her recently deceased father was Jewish, and Ruth, who’s finally learning to be happy again since losing her father, knows telling them means risking everything. But then the synagogue is bombed, and Ruth thinks she knows who did it. She’ll have to pick a side, but which one will it be and what will she lose in choosing it?
Through the White Wood, by Jessica Leake
Katya is banished from her village because of her ability to control freezing magic, left to the mercy of Kiev’s terrible Prince Sasha. Except the prince becomes an unexpected ally, sharing his own power—to summon fire—and teaching her how to control and celebrate hers. But enemies are approaching the walls of Kiev, and the pair will soon learn whether fire and ice combined will be enough to turn them away.
In the Key of Nira Ghani, by Natasha Deen
Nira Ghani hates being the only brown girl in a sea of white kids at her high school, and her Guayanese parents can’t begin to understand what she’s going through. They also can’t understand that she wants to be a musician, not a doctor or scientist. If she’s going to prove to them she’s talented enough to pursue music for real, her school’s jazz auditions are the place to do it. On top of that pressure, friendship dynamics seem to be shifting all around Nira, confusing her as to what’s real and who really has her best interests at heart. With music as her emotional safety net, the idea of her parents taking it away from her is unthinkable. But it turns out she has plenty to learn about them, too.
The Red Scrolls of Magic, by Cassandra Clare and Wesley Chu
Malec fans, rejoice: in this Shadowhunters novel cowritten with novelist Chu, Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood head off on a romantic European vacation, where everything goes great and they stay in a gorgeous Airbnb. Just kidding: things start to go south—like, straight to hell south—in Paris, where they learn about the Crimson Hand, an anarchy-sowing demon-worshipping cult…that appears to have grown out of a years-old joke made by Magnus. The pair embark on a journey to track down the cult’s leader, facing many demons (of both the external and the internal variety) along the way.
How to Make Friends with the Dark, by Kathleen Glasgow
Glasgow’s debut, the hard-hitting and poignant (and New York Times-bestelling) Girl in Pieces, was an incredible first foray into YA, so it’s no surprise that she nails every emotional nuance in this sophomore, about a girl named Tiger who has always been a two-person team with her mother, and must now figure out how to continue to live when her mother dies.
When Summer Ends, by Jessica Pennington
The arrival of summer is the impetus for two lost teens to find a new path in the latest from the author of Love Songs & Other Lies. Aiden is a gifted athlete who quit the baseball team without warning, hiding the fact that he’s losing both his vision and his imagined path. Olivia lives life by the book, but when she loses an internship and a boyfriend, and regains the estranged mother she’d gotten used to living without, everything is thrown out of whack. Over the long summer months, the two explore the ways new love offers a fresh perspective on everything.