This week of new releases is my favorite of the month, because it’s full of contemporary reads in which characters begin to discover who they are and who they want to be. Whether they’re uncovering family secrets, attending a gaming convention, figuring out their place in a new school, reliving a past relationship, or finding friendship and romance at the community pool, the teens in these stories will leap off the page and into your heart.
The Revolution of Birdie Randolph, by Brandy Colbert
Dove “Birdie” Randolph lives in Chicago with her tight-knit family, above the hair salon they own and operate. She’s dedicated to being the perfect daughter, even if that means sacrificing her own interests to keep her parents happy. But when she falls for a boy whose past guarantees her parents’ disapproval, Birdie decides some relationships are best kept hidden. She further rebels by growing close to her mother’s sister, Aunt Carlene, who’s moved in with the family, causing tension that’s difficult for Birdie to decipher. When the secrets start to pour out, it will change everything, and readers will fall in love with every nuanced character.
Fan the Fame, by Anna Priemaza
As with her debut, Kat and Meg Conquer the World, Priemaza’s latest takes on fandom and gaming, with the added bonus of revealing the dichotomy between online stars’ public personas and their offscreen lives. When Lainey’s brother Cody, a super-famous YouTube streamer, heads to a gaming convention, Lainey decides to expose him for his secretly sexist viewpoints. Meanwhile, one of Cody’s fans clings to the idea that meeting his idol will jumpstart his own streaming career, and a young woman being shipped romantically with Cody hopes to take advantage of the additional attention stemming from that possibility. When all four con-goers’ lives collide, who will come out on top?
As Many Nows As I Can Get, by Shana Youngdahl
In this smart and searing debut that plays around with the concept of time, Scarlett is a freshman in college majoring in physics, but that’s only one of the “nows” readers will get to experience with her. Simultaneously (in a sense), during the summer after high school ends, Scarlett begins an intense relationship with her lifelong friend David, whose charisma and inner demons excite her passions but also repel her, and the two will never be the same again. To paraphrase Faulkner, the past is never over. It isn’t even past.
Color Me In, by Natasha Díaz
Neveah Levitz, a sophomore whose mother is Black and whose father is Jewish, explores the intersections of her identity for the first time after her parents get divorced. Now living in Harlem with her mom’s family after spending her first fifteen years in the suburbs, Neveah struggles to find her place, uncertain where—if anywhere—she fits in. Too old for a traditional bat mitzvah, and too “white-passing” to relate to her African American cousins’ struggles, it’s only when Neveah discovers a secret from her mother’s past and begins to fall in love that she realizes she must forge her own future. Natasha Díaz pulls from her real life to shape this extraordinary debut contemporary novel.
My Box-Shaped Heart, by Rachael Lucas
The only time Holly feels comfortable is in the water. When she swims, she can forget about her mom’s hoarding and the bullies at school. Ed just wishes he could have his old life back—the one in which he lived in a big house, never had to worry about money, and knew his place in the world. But that old life included domestic abuse, and now Ed and his mom live in a women’s shelter. Both teens believe they’re misfits until they collide at the swimming pool, and suddenly neither feels quite so alone. A beautiful, thoughtful contemporary that’ll pull you up when you’re feeling low.