It’s the most wonderful time of the year—time to introduce some of the best and the brightest of 2019’s hotly anticipated debuts. The new year is bound to sparkle with bright lights and bold new favorites in the making. Here are twenty January to June releases that are sure to top your 2019 TBR list!
The Field Guide to the North American Teenager, by Ben Philippe (January 22)
When French Canadian teen Norris Kaplan lands in Texas, of all places, he’s set to be disappointed. After all, it’s the land of big hats, big hair, and big egos, right? He thinks he’s got it all sorted and categorized, putting everyone he meets into their appropriate box. But when the misfit starts fitting despite himself, he’s in for the surprise of his life. Funny, sweet, and wry, this debut contemporary will inspire you to reexamine your preconceptions, too.
The Girl King, by Mimi Yu (January 8)
If you loved Kendare Blake’s Three Dark Crowns, you’ll eat up Yu’s stellar debut fantasy, which follows sisters Lu and Min, heiresses to the throne in the Empire of the First Flame, preparing for the elder to claim her crown. That is, until their father the king declares their male cousin Set as his heir. Nope. Not having that. With Lu on the run, Min forms an uneasy alliance and discovers a magic within that might just give her the power to rule—or to destroy it all.
The Weight of Our Sky, by Hanna Alkaf (February 5)
Alkaf’s fast-paced debut takes us into the burning Kuala Lumpur in 1969, as riots engulf the Malaysian city. Mel, a sixteen-year-old everyteen (and Beatles fan!) must fight for her life as she navigates the chaos on the streets—and in her head, where OCD reigns in the form of a djinn bent on destroying all in its path. Alkaf’s writing is both unflinching and generous, setting a stage where casual violence and unexpected kindness hold hands.
We Set the Dark on Fire, by Tehlor Kay Mejia (Feb 26)
Action, intrigue, politics, and forbidden romance? Yes, please! Daniela Vargas never expected to fall in love. Especially not with her biggest rival. Not when her whole life is a lie, and she must fight so hard to keep her secrets from coming loose. Not when everything—everything—is at stake. But the heart wants what it wants, and in the world of Medio, that might just spell death. Especially when her secrets entangle her with the likes of La Voz, a rebel group threatening to take down the system.
Opposite of Always, by Justin A. Reynolds (March 5)
A YA Groundhog Day, but featuring two teens of color in (and out of) love, this debut contemporary is about to hit you in the feels. Hard. When Jack’s girlfriend, Kate, dies, it should be the end for them. Instead, it catapults him back to their beginning, opening up the maddening, impossible possibility that he might be able to save her. Equal parts enthralling and heartbreaking, this is one you’re going to want to read again. And again. And again. (Yes, I crack myself up.)
Descendant of the Crane, by Joan He (April 2)
Set in an ancient Chinese-influenced world where magic is outlawed, Descendant follows reluctant princess Hesina, unexpectedly forced to rule when her father is murdered. As the kingdom of Yan begins to collapse, she does the unthinkable and engages a soothsayer to guide her. But the price she pays for these transgressions may cost her everything. Lush and epic all at once, this debut fantasy is earning comparisons to Game of Thrones.
A Place for Wolves, by Kosoko Jackson (April 2)
The world is on the brink—and so is James. On the brink of self-discovery. Of first love. Of first heartbreak. Of a devastation only war can bring. Set against the backdrop of the Kosovo War, the story follows James and Tomas, who meet as the sons of USAID workers just as things start to escalate. The two boys fight to get back to the U.S. embassy as the whole country faces collapse, and discover first love along the way. The narrative is peppered with flashbacks via James’ letters to his sister. There is violence here, brutal and raw, but also hope.
Wicked Saints, by Emily Duncan (April 2)
Nadya’s head is a very busy place. After all, the gods are essentially a quarrelsome chorus living inside of it, and they can get loud. At the start of this stunning debut, set in a sprawling, bloodthirsty world with Eastern European elements, she’s too busy running for her life to think about it much. Fast-paced, dark, and sinister, Wicked Saints—the start of a trilogy—promises to satisfy fans of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse with its ragtag alliances and unexpected turns.
The Devouring Gray, by Christine Lynn Herman (April 2)
New girl Violet Saunders is a misfit, a loner, a stranger in Four Paths—although her family has a long history in the town, as descendants of one of the founding families. Maybe that’s why the woods called the Gray beckon her, dark and inviting, though she resists their lure. But as the woods begin to claim a body count, she forms an uneasy alliance with other kids from the founding families, trying to unravel the cause of the murders—and what part she and the others are meant to play in stopping them.
The Tiger At Midnight, by Swati Teerdhala (April 23)
Yes, Esha’s the Viper, a famed assassin. But this time she was framed. And yes, Kunal is the general’s nephew, charged with avenging his uncle’s murder. But when this game of cat and mouse sparks fire, both are at risk of burning. High adventure, rich worldbuilding based in Indian myth and legend, and a bantering hate-to-love dual narrative that crackles with energy combine in a fantasy that will have fans of Renée Ahdieh and Sabaa Tahir begging for the sequel.
Again, But Better, by Christina Riccio (May 7)
BookTube star Riccio’s debut centers on Shane, a college student who had big plans for college—but so far the most exciting thing about it has been the random new entrée at the cafeteria. But that’s all about to change, because she’s decided to do a semester abroad in London, for better or worse. But it has to be for the better, right?
The Candle and the Flame, by Nafiza Azad (May 14)
Can I just say this is the djinn fantasy I have been waiting for my whole life? Bold, rich, evocative, and simmering with sinister intensity, Azad’s debut marks the arrival of a VOICE. Noor was a Silk Road city pulsating with energy, where tribes of djinn and humans coexisted, until slaughter left it a shell. When the knife falls again, fierce, restless Fatima finds herself forever changed, and as she enters the fray between djinn and humans, she realizes she might just be the key to brokering an uneasy peace.
I Wish You All the Best, by Mason Deaver (May 14)
Kicked out of the house when they come out to their parents as nonbinary, Ben DeBacker finds themselves the new kid in school, trying to keep a low profile and just get through it. That is, until they meet firecracker Nathan Allan, who adopts Ben as his pet cause—and their burgeoning friendship develops into first love. An enby, #ownvoices love story, Wish is at once groundbreaking and entirely relatable.
Don’t Date Rosa Santos, by Nina Moreno (May 14)
Rosa Santos is cursed. At least that’s what everyone says. Any boy she loves will be carried away with the ocean. Because boys leave. That’s what Abuela says. Just like her father did, leaving her artist mother a wreck, crashing in and out of Rosa’s life. Torn between her mother’s artist ways, her healer abuela’s pragmatic take on community, and the lure of Havana across the sea, Rosa doesn’t know what to do with herself. And when she finally falls hard for Alex, that boy with the boat, well, all bets are off.
I Love You So Mochi, by Sarah Kuhn (May 28)
From the author of the much-loved Heroine Complex romance series comes this YA debut about Kimi Nakamura, a fashion-focused teen who spends too much time creating styles for her shop Kimi’s Originals and too little time on her fine arts portfolio for college—at least according to her mom. When the bickering gets too intense, Kim accepts an invitation from her estranged grandparents to go explore Kyoto for the summer, and there, along with unexpected romance, she discovers a lot about herself (and her mom, too). A sweet, delicious rom-com.
These Witches Don’t Burn, by Isabel Sterling (May 28)
Bring on the witches! (And it’s about damn time!) She might work at a cheesy occult store in Salem, Massachusetts, but Hannah’s the real deal—an elemental witch who can control fire, water, earth, and air. But her magic’s a secret in Salem, at least from the Regs, and it’s no big deal—until something dark and sinister disrupts the usual end of school shenanigans. A deadly blood witch is on the loose, and that means Hannah has to team up with her ex Veronica (also a witch!) to take it down. A definite problem, because Hannah’s got her sights set on new girl Morgan.
I Wanna Be Where You Are, by Kristina Forrest (June 4)
Dancer Chloe is not going to let her mother, of all people, stop her from living her dreams. When she gets a resounding no to her request to audition for a conservatory, she takes off to try out anyway. The glitch? (And it’s a big one!) Her nosy neighbor Eli insists on coming along—and threatens to tell Chloe’s mom if she says no. So, misfit, awkward, intense, and life-changing two-hundred-mile road trip it is. (Complete with a dog named Geezer.)
Blood Heir, by Amelie Wen Zhao (June 4)
Think Anastasia with blood magic. If that just gave you the shivers, you gotta pick up Blood Heir, a debut fantasy with a frosty bent that follows Anastacya Mikhailov, a princess who is also an Affinite—possessing the power to manipulate the elements, a curse that has her on the run when her father the king of Cyrilia is murdered. She makes an uneasy alliance with crime lord Ramson Quicktongue and quickly finds herself in more trouble than she knows how to handle—but also on the ride of her life. Together, they face off against the darkest shadows Cyrilia has ever faced.
The Beholder, by Anna Brightly (June 4)
Heiress Selah has one job: find a suitable husband to crown as the next king of Potomac. But when she’s brutally rejected by the obvious choice (her childhood BFF, no less), her stepmom sends her overseas on a mission: come home engaged, or don’t come home at all. Ouch. With all the romantic romping of your fave The Selection and all the magical journeying of the likes of Caraval, this one should top your list of must-read fantasies for 2019.
All of Us With Wings, by Michelle Ruiz Kiel (June 18)
A trippy, #ownvoices contemporary fantasy, Wings follows seventeen-year-old San Francisco street kid Xochi, who finds family as the nanny to genius tween Pallas, the child of rockstars who live a wild, free lifestyle in one of the city’s storied Victorians. On the night of the Vernal Equinox, as a rager thrums below, Xochi and Pallas preform a ritual that accidentally summons the ancient waterbabies, bent on righting the wrongs of Xochi’s past—at any cost.