New Releases: Royal Romance, K-Pop Confection, and a Picture Worth a Thousand Words

How do you solve a problem like May 7? What do you do when there are at least sixteen new books out and you need every single one of them?? I’d say to pace yourself, but that’s not really what we do here, and it’s definitely a day to grab all you can if you’re into queer fiction, diverse romance, or epic fantasy. It’s time to take a deep breath and accept that a single day on the calendar has just provided your to-read list for the next few months, so you can just start at the very beginning, wherever that’s with a series ender you’ve been anticipating forever, a sophomore novel by the author of one of the most impressively decorated debut YAs in history, or a brand-new author who’s sure to become a forever fave. There’s something for just about everyone this week, so let’s get to the books!

Finale, by Stephanie Garber
One of the most awaited series enders of the year is finally (pun partially intended) here, revisiting Tella, Scarlett, and Legend after the end of Caraval. The Fates have been freed, Legend is on the throne, Scarlett is in possession of a dangerous secret, and all three of them have life-changing choices to make. This is your last ticket to Garber’s lush, glittering, magical world, and you won’t want to miss a single page.

With the Fire on High, by Elizabeth Acevedo
Written in short-chapter style, this delicious sophomore novel about a talented teenage chef named Emoni who happens to be a single mother can be devoured in a day, but I savored it little by little, from her beautifully crafted relationships with her daughter, best friend, the grandmother who raised her, and the new boy at school who’s quietly stealing her heart, to her compelling ambition to be more than she ever believed her circumstances would allow. When an opportunity arises to nurture her culinary craft and send her on an international trip, Emoni struggles to believe her life could ever make room for everything she desires. But with the support of those around her and the power of her own talent, she learns that her future might be more limitless than she could’ve ever conceived.

Romanov, by Nadine Brandes
The Romanovs are one of my greatest weaknesses, so I’m dying of excitement over this fantasy take that finds Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov on the run with an ancient spell in her suitcase that might be the only thing that can save her family from exile in Siberia. With the leader of the Bolshevik army on her tail, Nastya has only two choices: release the spell, or get sexy soldier Zash to help her. What’s more dangerous: releasing the magic when she’s only a sporadic user? Or trusting a Bolshevik whose job it will ultimately be to see her dead.

Everything Grows, by Aimee Herman
This queer YA set in 1993 stars fifteen-year-old Eleanor, who’s not sure how to react to the news that her bully has died by suicide. Cutting off her hair seems to be one way, and then there’s the class assignment to write a letter to someone who’ll never receive it…that lets her get out some feelings about James, too. Meanwhile, his death and her feelings about it aren’t all that are on her mind; she’s dealing with her mother’s mental illness and  questions about her gender and sexuality, and it’ll take making and breaking relationships and forging a support system to help her find her way through.

Tinfoil Crowns, by Erin Jones
Some books wait until the end to punch you in the gut. This one starts with the pain, introducing readers to Fit (do not call her Jessica) and her brother, Frankie, who were almost killed during their mother’s bout with postpartum psychosis. While Frankie is too young to remember it, Fit isn’t, and when her mother, River, is released from prison and returns to their lives, she can neither forgive nor forget. Thankfully, she has a distraction in the form of her vlog following, especially when an agent contacts her and blows up her career. But her past and present collide when fans connect her to the notorious crime that took place over a decade ago, and it’s looking like the only way to use her fame in order to escape from her past is to reconcile with the mother she hoped never to face again. The unusual inclusion of an adult POV (River’s) adds a really special touch here, and I’ll also note that this is another rainbow read; Fit is explicitly attracted to girls and guys, especially her best friend, Diamond.

Somewhere Only We Know, by Maurene Goo
Goo has become one of YA’s most reliable writers of rom-coms, and her newest Netflix-worthy novel has all the romantic charm you’ve come to expect, all set against the glamorous backdrop of Hong Kong. When budding photographer Jack realizes the girl he’s bumped into on assignment for his secret job as a tabloid reporter is none other than K-Pop star Lucky, he sees her as a means to an end; nothing will secure a full-time position (and an escape from his parents’ expectations) faster than an inside look at a major celebrity on the run, especially knowing that K-Pop life has demanding expectations of its singers. But the longer they spend together exploring everything Hong Kong has to offer, the more he sees beyond the glamour and the fame he’s never cared to understand. Which is good, because Lucky’s on the verge of next-level stardom, and if Jack chooses himself over her future, it will destroy everything she’s worked so hard to build, on top of breaking her heart.

Hope and Other Punchlines, by Julie Buxbaum
Abbi Hope Goldstein is better known as Baby Hope, that girl from the famous photo taken on 9/11, sporting a birthday crown and holding a balloon as the South Tower collapses behind her. But it has been fifteen years since the photo was taken, and for the big 1-7, she’s treating herself to a summer of anonymity as a day camp counselor a few towns over, surrounded by little kids who’ve never heard of her. But Noah has definitely heard of Baby Hope; 9/11 tore his world apart. And when he meets Abbi at Knight’s Day Camp, he’s sure it was fate. Abbi isn’t, but when questions about that famous photo come to light, the two will work together to answer them, even if they don’t like what they learn.

Her Royal Highness, by Rachel Hawkins
Hawkins’s wild rumpus, Royals (retitled Prince Charming for the paperback), introduced us to Flora, a spoiled lesbian princess. No, like, literal princess. She also happens to be Millie’s roommate at her new school in Scotland, the one she applied to in desperation after she caught her sort-of girlfriend with someone else. What starts off as a rocky roommateship turns into something more, and before Millie knows it, she and Flora are actually friends…and actually hooking up. Being swept off her feet by a princess is definitely some kind of fairy tale, but is a happily ever after too good to be true?

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me, by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell
Freddy’s got her dream girl in Laura Dean, or at least she thinks so. The thing is, Laura Dean is kind of an awful girlfriend, and it’s making Freddy miserable. But how can she turn away a girl who’s so perfect on paper, and who keeps coming back for more? When her best friend introduces her to a medium who says “break up with her,” Freddy knows she’s receiving a message she should heed. But what if the problem with her relationshipwith all her relationshipsis Freddy herself?

Deposing Nathan, by Zack Smedley
The heart of this book is a deposition that aims to uncover the truth behind a fight between Nate and his best friend, Cam, that left Nate with a stab wound to his abdomen. But what unfolds around it is the history of how two boys became fast friends and cracked each other’s hearts wide open. How they helped each other realize their respective sexualities weren’t quite as fixed as they thought. (Bi in both cases; their previous relationships with girls are not disavowed.) It explores how the expectations and behavior of others factor into our seeing beautiful things as ugly, and how the brutality that tears us apart isn’t always as obvious as a stab wound.

Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens, by Tanya Boteju
Nima Kumara-Clark is kinda just Done. Her mother’s gone, being in love with a straight girl is brutal, and her world just feels too small…until a local festival introduces her to the other side of town, and its thriving drag scene. Suddenly, Nima’s finding a whole new love of life among drag queens, potential romances, and allies she never expected. Free of the limits and expectations that used to bind her, now she can be anyone she wants, if she can just let herself heal from the old wounds threatening to drag her down. Even if the title hadn’t already sold me on this debut, the premise definitely does, and I suspect I’m not alone!

Broken Throne: A Red Queen Collection, by Victoria Aveyard
Can’t get enough of the Red Queen universe? Then you’re in for some major luck! This collection features two novellas you may already know (Steel Scars and Queen Song), as well as three brand-new ones, plus flags, maps, bonus scenes, journal entries, a full-color chart of House Calore, and more. Catch up with your faves and expand your knowledge of the Red Queen world!

How it Feels to Float, by Helena Fox
Everything about this book sounds designed to shatter my heart into a thousand pieces, and I am (mostly) ready for it. Biz’s mind is a complicated place, one in which the fact that she still sees her father, who died when she was seven, is both a blessing and a curse. Certainly, she can’t tell anyone, just like she doesn’t tell anyone about her harmful thoughts or about kissing Grace or about her interest in the new boy. But when the comfort she’s taken is ripped away from her, Biz is left to wrestle with whether she can continue floating, or whether it’s time to let herself sink.

Carmilla, by Kim Turrisi
If you spend any time on YouTube, there’s a solid chance this novelization needs no introduction, but it’s gonna get one anyway. Laura is brand-new to college, and she immediately clicks with her roommate, Betty, which changes not one iota when she reveals she’s gay. But poof: just as quickly as they met, Betty’s gone, replaced by a Sapphic player named Carmilla who takes all of Laura’s food and only stores carefully labeled soy milk in their fridge. Only…it’s not soy milk. Why does Laura’s new roommate have a package of blood? And where did Betty go, anyway? When she learns Betty isn’t the first girl to disappear, and that those who’ve come back do so as weird shadows of themselves, who suffer from dark dreams that Laura herself shares, she gets more and more suspicious. She starts to suspect Carmilla’s got something to do with it all… and she’s got some other feelings when it comes to Carmilla, too.

Nocturna, by Maya Motayne
In this Dominican-inspired fantasy debut, Prince Alfie will do anything to bring his dead brother Dez back, even if it means using dangerous magic. Magic is something Finn’s got in spades, being a faceshifter who barely remembers what she really looks like. When Finn is caught by a mobster and blackmailed to steal treasure from Castallan’s royal palace, it sets the two on a collision course that unlocks an ancient power that just might destroy the world as they know it.

Nexus, by Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings
The Androma Saga comes to a close as Androma’s ship has been captured and she’s the Bloody Baroness no more. Now a fugitive from Queen Nor, she’s finding it impossible to seek safe harbor. But when she finds herself trapped with bounty hunter Dextro on the ice planet of Solera, Andi decides to hunt down the one rebel against the queen…and finds more than she ever bargained for in the truth behind Nor’s reign. Now it’s up to Andi to save the galaxy, no matter what it may cost her. Even if it costs her everything.

Again, But Better, by Christine Riccio
Major Anna and the French Kiss vibes abound as this notable BookTuber’s debut opens with college student Shane escaping a life that hasn’t quite lived up to expectations via a semester abroad in London. Immediately, she goes from having no social life to speak of to finding herself in the whirlwind of her roommates, including the sexy and charming Pilot, and it’s a far cry from her lonely life as a pre-med student. But even on a semester away, real life always seems to sneak in, and her doubts and insecurities threaten to undo all her growth.

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