Sophomore year of high school wasn’t my favorite, but sophomore novels? Now those get me all the way excited for the next taste of my debut faves. Putting out your first book is hard, but following it up can feel almost impossible, so please show some love to these amazing authors’ second titles, and find even more in our LGBTQAP post, including Destroy All Monsters by Sam J. Miller (author of The Art of Starving), The Truth Is by NoNieqa Ramos (author of The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary), How to Be Remy Cameron by Julian Winters (author of Running With Lions), and By Any Means Necessary by Candice Montgomery (author of Home and Away)!
Here There Are Monsters, by Amelinda Bérubé (August 6)
If you thought Berube’s debut, The Dark Beneath the Ice, was chilling, just you wait. In her newest, sisters Skye and Deirdre are adjusting to a cross-country move, one that Skye welcomes as a chance to live her own life apart from Deirdre’s. But she doesn’t expect there to be so much distance that Deirdre literally disappears. When a scratching at her window comes with a message that Skye is the only one who can save her sister, she’s determined to bring Deirdre home, even if it means facing swamps, monsters, and whatever may lay beyond.
Let’s Call it a Doomsday, by Katie Henry (August 6)
Great titles and theological questions are clearly Henry’s forte, as she follows up Heretics Anonymous with a contemporary about a Mormon girl named Ellis whose mind is consumed by anxiety, to the point that prepping for the apocalypse has become an obsession. When she meets Hannah in her therapist’s office and learns that this stranger (who happens to attend her school) has dreamed the actual date of the end of the world as they know it, she clings to her for the validation and so that they can both solve the remaining mysteries to Hannah’s visions. But as they start working toward The End, Ellis’s life starts filling with new beginnings: beginning to understand her fears, her sexual orientation, her mental illness, and her feelings for a boy who may not share her beliefs but has faith in her where it counts. How can she get ready to lose everything when she has more than ever to lose? But if she doesn’t lose everything, what does it mean about all her life and plans thus far? There are no easy answers and no easy feelings in this sophomore novel about bold explorations within the framework of consistent faith that’s easily one of my favorite surprises of the year.
She’s the Worst, by Lauren Spieller (September 3)
Spieller manages to take quieter contemporary like Your Destination is on the Left and turn it into something so new and special, it gets a spot on your comfort read shelf. She’s following up her nomadic artist-centered debut with one about two sisters who aren’t particularly close until April decides to shake things up. Jenn is sad about staying home for college, and her little sister knows exactly what’ll cheer her up: making good on their old pact to spend an epic day exploring LA. Then April learns Jenn has a secret that threatens to destroy their family, and suddenly their big day together becomes the one that will make or break their relationship for good.
Permanent Record, by Mary H.K. Choi (September 3)
Choi debuted with a major splash via Emergency Contact, one of the best and most relatable contemporaries I’ve read in a good long while, and one of the small but growing group of YAs set in college. Her followup keeps the college-aged main character, but not the setting. In fact, Pablo’s a dropout, working the graveyard shift at a Brooklyn deli and sweating his piles of debt. But there’s a major bright side to his job when it introduces him to Leanna, who shows up at his bodega at five in the morning in the middle of the winter. Leanna, who’s actually a pop star. Leanna, who’s about to change Pablo’s life and have hers changed right back.
A Treason of Thorns, by Laura E. Weymouth (September 10)
Following up on her Narnia-esque debut, The Light Between Worlds, Weymouth presents a historical fantasy set during the 19th century and starring Violet, a girl who’s spent the last seven years in exile. Violet dreams of returning to Burleigh House, one of England’s great houses, whose magic kept the countryside happy until her father committed treason. When she finally gets the opportunity to return home, nothing is as she remembers, and Burleigh’s power is now a dangerous one borne of anguish. Can Violet save it? Or is it doomed to destruction, taking Violet with it?
The Tiger Queen, by Annie Sullivan (September 10)
This fantasy adventure retelling of “The Lady, or the Tiger?” by the author of A Touch of Gold centers on a princess named Kateri who lives in the desert kingdom of Achra and is mandated by law to fight in order to prove her right to rule. With so much riding on her victory, losing isn’t an option. But when she learns who her opponent will be, it seems winning won’t be an option either. She only has one choice left, deep in the desert, and it isn’t one she ever thought she’d make. But it may be the only one she can, even if she lives to regret it.
Suggested Reading, by Dave Connis (September 17)
From the author of The Temptation of Adam comes a brand-new clever contemporary about a girl named Clara who decides to fight back when she learns her high school principal has a banned book list that forces the school to remain free and clear of whatever he deems inappropriate. She starts her own underground library, making sure that all titles are available to get into the hands that need them. But then unexpected tragedy strikes, and when it’s linked to one of her favorite books, Clara has a lot to think about the power of stories and the role she’s set herself up to play in disseminating them.
Six Goodbyes We Never Said, by Candace Ganger (September 24)
Anyone familiar with Ganger’s debut, The Inevitable Collision of Birdie and Bash, knows she’s no stranger to finding love through pain, and she starts the hurt early in her sophomore about a boy named Dew and a girl named Naima whose lives and grief intersect in unexpected ways. They find themselves thrown together when Naima’s marine father is killed and she moves in with her grandmother in Indiana, only to find herself living next door to the Brickmans, the family Dew’s been adopted into following the sudden death of both of his parents. As they both struggle to navigate grief, their respective mental illnesses, and their unexpected new lives, they find themselves drawn together in a way that helps them both begin to heal.
Our Year in Love & Parties, by Karen Hattrup (October 8)
If there’s anyone I trust to bring raw and unexpected nuance to a book about parties (though lemme tell you, I love books about parties), it’s the author of Frannie & Tru. In her newest, Hattrup tells the story of two teens, Tucker and Ericka, over the course of four parties set during a single year. Through the parties, the two teens discuss and share the gamut of emotions and experiences in slices of very real life and very real feelings.
Into the Crooked Place, by Alexandra Christo (October 8)
The author of To Kill a Kingdom returns to kick off a duology about four magical outsiders struggling to survive. There’s Tavia, a busker with a collection of dark magic who dreams of leaving Creije and her criminal past behind her. There’s Wesley, a gangster with ambitious dreams that will drive him to do just about anything. There’s Karam, a warrior by day and underground fighter by night. And there’s Saxony, a resistance fighter hell bent on revenge. When Tavia makes a mistake and accidentally delivers dark magic, it explodes into a conflict that threatens to destroy the world as they know it. Can four of the least trustworthy people in the land learn to trust one another if it’s the only way to save themselves, their home, and the world?
Our Wayward Fate, by Gloria Chao (October 15)
If you read American Panda and prayed that Chao would keep contributing more fabulous Taiwanese American contemporary to YA, you are about to be so, so happy. In her sophomore novel, the star is yet another Taiwanese American girl, though Ali tries to blend in as much as possible in order to survive living in rural Indiana. Then another Taiwanese kid comes to school, and not only is Ali no longer the Only One, but uhhhh…Chase is pretty freaking great. And cute. And it’s really, really nice to have someone else who gets where she’s coming from. He should be a slam dunk for a boyfriend choice, but Ali’s mom doesn’t feel that way; she wants Ali to end it. And when Ali learns why, it’ll turn her entire world upside-down.
Girls Like Us, by Randi Pink (October 29)
It’s been a minute since Pink’s Into White, but it’s clear she hasn’t shied away any from complicated stories about identity. This one revolves around four teenage girls: Ola, who’s pregnant and living in rural Georgia; Izella, her little sister, who’s tasked with taking care of her; Missippi, their neighbor, who’s also pregnant but doesn’t seem to understand everything it entails and what it means for her future; and Susan, a white girl who’s the daughter of an anti-choice senator, who lives in Chicago and meets Missippi when the latter is sent there to give birth. There are two unplanned pregnancies, four girls dealing with them, and so many ways for the stories to go in this sophomore novel about a woman’s right to choose and what it really means in this country and across racial lines.
A Constellation of Roses, by Miranda Asebedo (November 5)
Though this is in fact a companion to The Deepest Roots, reading the first book might add appreciation but it isn’t necessary to understand or enjoy (or completely lose your heart to) the story of Trix McCabe, a girl who’s adjusting to life with her long-lost relatives after being abandoned by her mother. It’s there she learns that the magic she possesses is actually a family trait, common to McCabe women, and for once, Trix feels like she fits in someplace. But then her past comes crawling back, and Trix has to make a choice whether to settle into this new life or hit the road all over again and finally break free.
Winterwood, by Shea Ernshaw (November 5)
Ernshaw debuted on the New York Times bestseller list with her witchy The Wicked Deep. Her second novel keeps the witchy goodness, or at least that’s the rumor when it comes to Nora. And she does have a supernatural connection with the woods; all the women in her family do. That’s how she finds Oliver, the boy who disappeared in the middle of a snowstorm and has appeared in the woods with no recollection of the time he spent missing. As Nora’s feelings for Oliver grow, she recognizes that things in the woods have changed, and she’ll have to find out the truth about his time there in order to set things right. But Oliver doesn’t just have missing memories; he also has secrets, and he’ll do anything to make sure they stay that way.
Day Zero, by Kelly DeVos (November 12)
You don’t see a lot of genre jumping from debut to sophomore, but that’s exactly what’s happening here as DeVos leaves contemporary behind in Fat Girl on a Plane and pulls us into a thrilling duology set in the near future and starring a seventeen-year-old coder. Jinx has spent her life helping her dad prep for doomsday, and now that her parents have divorced, she’s looking forward to taking it easy. But when an explosion traps her in a burning building, all that survival training comes majorly in handy, even helping her get her siblings to safety. On the outside, though, the world keeps on exploding, and so does Jinx’s life: her dad’s been accused of the violence. Now she has to take her siblings and run, while also figuring out the truth, as the entire world burns behind them.
The Weight of a Soul, by Elizabeth Tammi (December 3)
Hard not to put an author on your radar when they debut with an f/f take on Atalanta, as Tammi did in Outrun the Wind, and now she’s back with a Viking fantasy. Lena can’t stop grieving her younger sister, Fressa. Even when the rest of their Viking clan seems to move on, Lena must know how and why Fressa died, and how she can bring her back. Making a deal with Hela, the Norse goddess of death, Lena sets in motion a chain of events and discoveries that will destroy her world. But it’s worth anything to her to bring Fressa back. Anything.