#5OnMyTBR is a bookish meme hosted by E. @Local Bee Hunter’s Nook and you can learn more about it here or in the post announcing it. It occurs every Monday when we post about 5 books on our TBR. Thank you E. for the awesome graphic for these posts as well!
I hope everyone is well. May the force be with you today! Sorry it has been a few weeks since joining this weekly meme, I have no excuse except that I could not stop playing Animal Crossing and so had no time to write blog posts. But I’m back this week! And excited to talk to you about five contemporary books on my TBR. Contemporary is a genre I really hadn’t read much of until last year, where I discovered YA contemporary and read so many favourites and thus fell in love with the genre. So here’s some of the books I’m desperately looking forward to read.
Starting off this list with one of my most anticipated books of the year that is releasing in just ONE DAY. And the stunning cover is not the only reason I’m excited. Felix Ever After is about a trans teen who tries to get revenge on his bully by catfishing them, and somehow lands in a quasi-love triangle. This a book about the exploration of identity and self-discovery and I’m pretty sure this will end up being one of the best books I read this year.
The first adult contemporary on this list, Cherry Beach is published by a small, independent Aussie publisher who I’m lucky enough to now work for! So I managed to snag a copy of this gorgeous novel! This is a book about friendship and desire, and tells the story of Hetty, confident and life of any party, and Ness, social wallflower, best friends who move away to live in Canada. But Ness has a secret: she’s completely in love with Hetty. But in Canada, Ness finds love in an art gallery while Hetty’s life deteriorates, and Ness might finally lose the person she loves most.
This book has been on my TBR since the middle of last year and I really really really need to read it because I know it’s going to be brilliant. It has just been shortlisted for several awards over here in Australia as well, so now seems like the perfect time to get around to reading it! This is a book about the intersections of mental illness, family and culture and promises to be an emotional but hopeful read.
The other adult title on this list, Hex is about a biological scientist, Nell, who researchs poisons and antidotes (HOW FUCKING COOL, RIGHT?!) and her mentor, Dr Joan. Told through a series of notebooks/journals that Nell keeps, Hex explores the relationship between Joan, Nell, and several of their friends, the illicit relationships, grudges and obsessions between them.
And now finishing with another of my most anticipated books of the year, The Henna Wars finally releases this month! It may take quite a while for it to get to me with the current situation but that means I’ll just be even more excited to read it by the time it arrives. If you haven’t heard about this killer book yet, it’s about two girls who set up rival henna businesses for a school assessment, though one of them is appropriating the other’s culture. But amidst “sabotage and school stress” their lives get tangled and a crush might develop into something more…
That’s it for this week. Are you excited to read any of these? Or have you read any of these already? Let me know what you think of them!
Genre: Historical | Contemporary | Magical realism | Young adult
Page extent: 309 pages
Goodreads blurb: Summer, 1518. A strange sickness sweeps through Strasbourg: women dance in the streets, some until they fall down dead. As rumors of witchcraft spread, suspicion turns toward Lavinia and her family, and Lavinia may have to do the unimaginable to save herself and everyone she loves.
Five centuries later, a pair of red shoes seal to Rosella Oliva’s feet, making her dance uncontrollably. They draw her toward a boy who knows the dancing fever’s history better than anyone: Emil, whose family was blamed for the fever five hundred years ago. But there’s more to what happened in 1518 than even Emil knows, and discovering the truth may decide whether Rosella survives the red shoes.
With McLemore’s signature lush prose, Dark and Deepest Red pairs the forbidding magic of a fairy tale with a modern story of passion and betrayal.
I’m a reader whose favourite books tend to be massively detailed fantasy tomes, with lots of rich worldbuilding. I’ve always found this results in me not clicking with magical realism/fabulism/contemporary fantasy quite as much, because there is often some aspects of ambiguity or suspension of disbelief required for the world to make sense. So whenever I read a novel of this type, I find I either really love it or just feel a bit meh. And unfortunately this was the later for me, which I am devastated about because I was so excited to read my first Anna-Marie McLemore book. But saying that, I was every bit in love with McLemore’s writing as I expected to be, and I fully plan to continue my dive into their work!
Dark and Deepest Red is a dual timeline story: 1518, where a dancing plague rolls through the town of Strasbourg, and modern day, where a pair of red shoes force a girl to dance. Inspired by the real historical accounts of a dancing plague as well as Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale The Red Shoes. I’m not familiar with that fairytale so I came to this book very new to the story. This is also my very first Anna Marie McLemore book, and I was hugely excited because so many people in the book community absolutely rave over their books.
I’d like to start with the really positive which is that I 100% want to read more of McLemore’s work. I found the language and writing absolutely beautiful, and that really lived up to what I’ve heard from others about their work. The language was what drew me through the story and made me want to keep reading. As expected also, let’s shout out to the awesome rep in this story: there is a lead trans man and he is absolutely my favourite character! I adored Alifair. He’s actually the only character who doesn’t get his own POV, and I wonder if I therefore liked him so much because he felt so mysterious compared to the others.
Unfortunately, I think it was the story itself that I didn’t click with. The ambiguity and lack of explanation got to me and I think I would prefer the story a bit more resolved. I also felt the structure of three different POVs, each section only a few pages long, made it difficult to ever root for a character or get a chance to understand them a bit more. A story like this, which is so heavily dependant on its characters to make up for the ambiguity in its world/magic, really needs strong characters and I just didn’t get a chance to feel close to the characters because we were whisked away from constantly.
So whilst I wasn’t in love with this particular story and world, I really was awed by Anna-Marie McLemore’s writing and I will definitely be picking up one of their earlier books which might work better for me.
Goodreads blurb:A novel of trauma, identity, and survival.
After an assault, bigender seventeen-year-old Aleks/Alexis is looking for afresh start―so they voluntarily move in with their uncle, a Catholic priest. In their new bedroom, Aleks/Alexis discovers they can overhear parishioners in the church confessional. Moved by the struggles of these “sinners,” Aleks/Alexis decides to anonymously help them, finding solace in their secret identity: a guardian angel instead of a victim.
But then Aleks/Alexis overhears a confession of another priest admitting to sexually abusing a parishioner. As they try to uncover the priest’s identity before he hurts anyone again, Aleks/Alexis is also forced to confront their own abuser and come to terms with their past trauma.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for giving me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
I first found this book thanks to Dahlia at LGBTQReads shouting about it as the first YA novel with bigender rep. The way this rep was handled was definitely my favourite part of the book and I loved seeing YA expand to include less talked about representation, but ultimately the plot of the novel felt confusing and I didn’t click with the writing style.
Aleks/Alexis has moved in with their strict Catholic Aunt and Uncle, to escape their old life after an assault. Choosing to present only as Alexis, they find solace in a new identity, Raziel. After discovering they can overhear confessionals from their room, as Raziel, they try to help others. But when they overhear a Priest confessing to assaulting an alterboy, they end up confronting their own assault as well as that of the Priest’s.
I want to first talk about the bigender rep in this book, because I found it absolutely wonderful and you could really feel how honest and true the author was being to their identity. I think this book will really help a lot of teens by providing such great representation of a marginalisation not commonly talked about. I really appreciated the honesty of this portrayal and in addition, I really loved the portrayal of Aleks/Alexis parents as well. None of the YA I read ever seems to show supportive parenting?! But this book did! Thank you for writing supportive parents who check in with their teen and support who they are without any issues.
However, as much as I wish I loved this book, I just don’t think it was my cup of tea. I initially really liked the stream of consciousness style of writing as I felt it gave a really great, detailed look at who our main character is, and I connected with them much quicker than usual thanks to this style. However it did get extremely repetitive and by the end of the book, I really wasn’t clicking with it at all. I also think the pacing was a little off. Until about 70% through, it’s filled with the repetitive stream of consciousness thoughts, very focused on who Aleks/Alexis is and how they feel, and then suddenly it turns into a thriller novel. It was quite confusing and I just don’t think it flowed well.
However, me not clicking with the writing style doesn’t mean you won’t! I think this is very much a ‘it’s not the book, it’s me’ case, because I know plenty of people who enjoy the very personal first person POV style of writing. I want to raise my support for this novel because the bigender rep is fantastic and I am happy to finally see the less spoken about queer identities getting their chance to shine in YA!!
In these dark times, I’ve found myself strongly desiring books that are happy, comforting, encouraging or funny. I’m usually a person who adores the books that stab you in the heart, and don’t usually read many happy, calming stories. But I wanted to chat about the few that I have loved: if I, lover and enthusiast of books that will break you, fall in love with a happy book, the book must be pretty damn great!
The Afterward takes the heroic knight quest and twists it on its head. Instead of telling the story of the quest, it takes place after the quest is over. The main focus of the story is what happens to the knights after they’ve completed the quest? It is a slice of life, female centric, character drivem, f/f fantasy. When I read it, I felt so calm when compared to my usual fantasy reads filled with urgency, panic and tension.
I Hope You Get This Message combines the mystery and magic of science fiction with the heavy character driven narratives of contemporary YA. It follows three teens trying to keep their families together, at the end of the world. It is a beautiful, touching and hopeful look at how humanity copes at the end of the world.
One of my more recent reads, Upright Women Wanted was the biggest bundle of fun! Novella length, this was marketed as ‘queer librarian spies on horseback’ and it certainly delivers that! Set in a Western style world, this novella follows Esther as she tries to escape her village by hiding in the back of a librarian’s wagon. What follows is the queerest adventure across the US as Esther discovers what the librarians really do. I really hope we’ll get more books in this world because I loved it and the characters so, so much!
I feel like I’ve spoken a lot about this book recently, and that’s because I’m pretty sure it will contend for one of my favourite books of the year. It is just THE BEST fun! It is a complete breath of fresh air in fantasy. It is the sassiest, snarkiest book with some of my absolute favourite characters. The Library of the Unwritten is all about Hell’s library, where all the unwritten manuscripts are kept. When a character escapes from the book to go meet their writer, Claire, Head Librarian, must hunt the character down and restore them to their manuscript. Of course, nothing goes right, and suddenly Claire finds herself in the midst of a war between heaven and hell. I also want to shout this book out as having the first on page pansexual rep I’ve ever read in fantasy, and so I love it even more.
The Infinite Noise is another slice of life fantasy that blew me away. I came into the book completely new, having never heard of the podcast before. The Infinite Noise expands on characters from the podcast The Bright Sessions, a podcast about people with superpowers going to therapy. It is another character driven story, one about Caleb struggling to control his powers, and Adam, a schoolmate who seems to be able to calm Caleb down when he is struggling for control. Whilst it does have a strong depression plotline, this book is on my comfort read lists because I found it really hopeful and beautiful in the depiction, and I can’t wait to read more books in this world.
I’m sure a lot of people will have already heard of this one, it’s definitely one of the sci-fi books I see most recommended. But that’s because it is incredible! Goodbye heavy technical science ficiton, hello fun, character driven narratives that just so happen to be set in space! This is an absolutely joyous story about the rag-tag crew of the ship Wayfarer as they make their way into a warzone to create a ‘tunnel’ that will allow ships to easily fly there. The characters in this book are just phenomenal, I adored every single one. It is one of the sci-fi books that got me reading in the genre, and I can’t wait to read more like this.
And here’s the other book that got me reading in the genre! Do You Dream of Terra-Two? follows six young adults as they prepare to journey to Terra-Two, a potentially habitable planet. Set on an Earth where the Space Race continued and thrived after 1969, we follow the teens at their academy, where they have trained for this journey most of their lives, to their lives onboard the ship that will take them to Terra-Two. Each of the characters are brilliantly detailed and so realistic, and I loved reading every POV. In multiple POV books, I do often find there are some I just don’t care for and want to skip through, but in this book, I loved all of them! It’s one of my favourite sci-fi’s of all time and I can’t wait to read what Temi Oh writes next.
Witchmark by C.L Polk
I first read this book in the middle of a very stressful week, and it pretty much kept me together. I was completely blown away by the world and characters. I came away and the only word I could think to describe it is completely magical. It felt like magic. There is such a great mystery element, a wonderful romance, and I smiled the whole way through! The world is perfectly reminiscent of Edwardian England, with a twist: magic!
The Exact Opposite of Okay holds position as ‘funniest book I’ve ever read’. Laura Steven is just so fucking hilarious I am in AWE. This book is relevant and so, so current, as main character Izzy fights back when pictures of her having sex with a politician’s son are released. It is both utterly hilarious and a feminist masterpiece.
This was such a fun and wonderful romance! I love love loved it. This is the queer cheerleader romance we have been looking for! Following straight-A cheerleader Sana and wannabe director Rachel, as they have to make a film together. There’s just one problem: Rachel hates Sana because years ago, Sana asked Rachel out and Rachel thought she was making fun of her. I really enjoyed this one, particularly because there was lots of focus on things outside of the romance. Every character had their own stories and own lives and we spent as much time chasing their dreams as we did on the fun romance. Looooooove.
Full Disclosure is another really funny and engaging YA, featuring sass, snark and absolutely full of queerness! The book follows Simone, an HIV positive teen as she starts at a new school and falls in love with Miles. Simone is just one of the best characters in YA: she is so fierce, snarky, confident and vulnerable, she gets shit wrong… But most of all, she sounds like she was written by an actual teen (which she was) and I think that really shines through throughout the book. There is also the most HILARIOUS sex shop scene ever and I will forever love Garrett for writing that.
A new favourite of mine, Only Mostly Devastated published very recently and I so hope this book gets the success it deserves. This is a reimagining of Grease, and imagine pretty much all your favourite 90s/early 00’s romcoms, but super super queer, and you will get this book! Ollie, the main character, feels so familiar: he is an anxious, snarky, sarcastic kid who loves red skittles (IT’S LITERALLY ME?!) and I love him.
This is one of my favourite YA contemporaries, it’s one of the first I read in the genre and so shall always be the level to which I hold all others! Love From A to Z is just one of the greatest love stories ever, following Adam and Zayneb from when they first meet on a plane, carrying the same ‘Marvels and Oddities’ journal, to when they fall in love. Zayneb is another of my favourite characters in YA. She is such a passionate, driven person, fighting to right the wrongs of the world. This book was such a fulfiling and calming read, it was so full of love and hope and strength, and I really urge everyone to read this if you get the chance!
I couldn’t write a list of comfort books without featuring Red, White & Royal Blue. I’m sure there isn’t much I could say about this that you don’t already know. The love story of Alex, bi icon and son of the President of the US, and Prince Henry. I’m SO CLOSE to picking this up and rereading despite the pile of other books I really need to read instead. But this is just the most joyful, most fun, most queer, love story and I adore it.
Another hilarious f/f romance on this list (clearly I have a specific comfort book type). Amelia Westlake is set at a posh, Australian school, and follows Harriet, school prodigy, and Will, school bad girl, as they work together to highlight all the school’s problems. This book is so Australian, I couldn’t stop laughing. The humour is so dry and hilarious, Will and Harriet are so much fun and I really can’t wait to read more from Erin Gough.
On my TBR
I also wanted to shout out some of the books on my TBR which, from what I can see, look to be future comfort reads. I really can’t wait to start all of these and be comforted and calmed in these scary times.
Goodreads blurb:SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA meets CLUELESS in this boy-meets-boy spin on Grease.
Summer love…gone so fast.
Ollie and Will were meant to be a summer fling—casual, fun, and done. But when Ollie’s aunt’s health takes a turn for the worse and his family decides to stay in North Carolina to take care of her, Ollie lets himself hope this fling can grow to something more. Dreams that are crushed when he sees Will at a school party and finds that the sweet and affectionate (and comfortably queer) guy he knew from summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High.
Will is more than a little shocked to see Ollie the evening of that first day of school. While his summer was spent being very much himself, back at school he’s simply known as one of the varsity basketball guys. Now Will is faced with the biggest challenge of his life: follow his heart and risk his friendships, or stay firmly in the closet and lose what he loves most.
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
All I have to say is HOLY F*CK, THIS IS EVERYTHING.
Only Mostly Devastated is an incredibly brilliant, all consuming, 90s rom-com film in book form and it is amazing. Described as Simon vs the Homosapiens meets Clueless, by way of Grease, I can say with 100% confidence it is definitely that. This is a brilliantly fun, contemporary romance with reminiscent ties to all my favourite rom-com films of the 90s. In other words: this is my childhood and it’s super gay.
I fell in love with this book from the very first page:
The protagonist, Ollie, has been ghosted by the person he had been hooking up with over Summer. And now, instead of returning to his home and friends in California, his family will be staying in North Carolina to help out with his Aunt’s family, as his Aunt has cancer. Uprooted, and to top it all, late to his very first day of school, he probably doesn’t quite expect to see the very person he’s been hooking up with all summer at his school. But of course, this is a book reinvigorating the 90s romcom genre and so of course that’s exactly what happens. The only problem is that Ollie’s Prince Charming isn’t out at school. And thus pretends he has nothing to do with Ollie at all. What follows is a rapid whirlwind of teen romance, showcasing the trials of love and the fear and anxiety that comes with owning up to who you are.
The writing style is utterly to die for. Ollie’s voice is exceptionally strong, he is snarky, sarcastic and completely hilarious. It felt like taking a walk through my own brain. I loved him so much.
I loved how overly dramatic he was (“after finding an appropriately melancholy playlist on Spotify”).
I loved his hidden throwbacks to the books’ comps (“I’d end up pining over him, all hopelessly devoted and hurt”).
I loved the hilarious honesty in admission of his own flaws (“It totally went against my personal philosophy of overanalysing everything and only taking risks when there was a 5 percent or less chance of failure”.) I mean, what a mood.
But most of all, I adore Ollie’s strong viewpoint on the most important issues impacting us all: “A sweaty red skittle is worth three green skittles.” A truer line has never been spoken.
The romance was a slow burn, angst filled, and yet somehow totally and utterly joyful mess of love. The book discusses themes around coming out and the difficulties of doing so. It also does so well at picturing the struggles of those on both sides: of the pain and hurt of those needing to stay hidden, who feel ashamed their partner doesn’t want to be seen with them; but also the fear and terror of those not yet out, of their panic at upending their lives and not knowing how to do it.
Only Mostly Devastated is beautifully queer at its core. Alongside Ollie and Will are a host of characters, queer and not, who make this book the dazzling queer masterpiece it is. From the testosterone filled jock standing up for his bisexual crush, to Lara’s coming to terms and acceptance of her sexuality, this book is just heaven. I personally admired Lara’s struggles, and the discussions of the validity of bisexuality. Lara keeps herself, hidden behind this incredibly tough exterior, but as she opens up, you see how vulnerable and loyal she really is. She is an absolute gem of a character and I need to embody her sassiness way more in my day to day life.
Alongside the romance, is the heartbreaking story of cancer and the impact it can have on entire families. It speaks of the strength of those fighting the disease, and the strength their families have to continue on and it was so emotional – please do take note if this is something that might particularly affect you, as these scenes do get incredibly emotional.
All in all, I found Only Mostly Devastated to be the queer romcom I needed in my youth. It makes me think of all my favourite movies as a teen from Grease, to 10 Things I Hate About You. The writing style is fantastically deadpan and sarcastic and there were so many moments to laugh at, I absolutely loved this one!
Genre: Contemporary | Young Adult | Romance | Fabulism
Page extent: 260 pages
Goodreads blurb:When Evie Perez is cut off from everything she loves and forced to move to Iceland for the summer, she takes her canvas and paintbrushes into the picturesque cherry orchard behind her guesthouse. She stains her lips with stolen cherries in the midnight sun and paints a boy she’s never met.
Oskar is startled to discover Evie in his family’s orchard, and even more surprised to see himself on her canvas. Too ashamed to reveal his stutter, he remains silent as Evie returns day after day to paint, spilling confessions she wouldn’t even tell her priest.
As Evie’s life back home unravels, Oskar wants to comfort her with words, but he knows he’s waited too long, so he uses music instead. But when it all comes to the surface, he knows that if Evie can’t forgive him for lying, he may never forgive himself for surviving.
*mild spoilers included in the review*
A slow YA contemporary set in the beautiful and mystical Icelandic landscape, this book is told part narrative, part verse which makes for a beautiful picture and story, with hints of fabulism throughout.
Evie has been dragged to Iceland against her will, forced to leave her friends and possible boyfriend behind to move for her father’s Summer work. In Iceland, she is bitter and angry, but begins to find solace in the local Cherry Orchard she finds, which, along with Oskar, the boy she meets there, begins to inspire her to create magical pieces of art. She paints scenes she dreams of, of people she’s never seen before. They just so happen to be pictures of Oskar’s dead family. Oskar, still griefstricken 5 years after the deaths of his family, freezes when he first meets Evie. Terrified his stutter will push her away, he pretends he doesn’t speak English. Together, they find solace and inspiration in each other as Evie’s relationships with her family deteriorate.
The verse poetry sections, Oskar’s POV, were my favourite parts. The language and poetry is absolutely beautiful, filled with such emotion. It really gives insight into who Oskar is and why he continues with his admittedly stupid decision to pretend he doesn’t speak English. Oskar is clearly still suffering after the death of his family, and it really shows. He struggles to trust and be close with anyone, and his character devleopment over the novel as he grows and begins to live again is really well done.
I did find issues with some of the characters however. Evie is one of those annoyingly stubborn but not really in a good way female characters. Unwilling to believe her grandmother’s dementia, stupid decision after stupid decision causes a lot of pain and grief for her family. She has a complicated relationship with her mother, but it’s one I wish we saw a bit more of. Evie is vehemently angry at her mother, seemingly without much understanding of how it must have felt for her mother to a) have been forced to have a kid she didn’t really want by the father and b) who suffered horrific depression and was hospitalized at one stage for it. Evie seems neither sympathetic nor understanding to the struggles her mother went through. Instead, she idolises her grandmother, which contributes to her inability to see the quickening onset of dementia.
I also found Evie’s father unbearable. He desires to be so controlling over Evie yet never bothers to spend time with her, constantly breaking his promises; alongside his threats to kill Oskar at one stage, despite the fact he literally slept with Evie’s mother out of wedlock then forced her to keep the child because he’s Catholic. The hypocritical energy is strong with this one.
The fabulism was an interesting and mystical thread throughout the book. I loved the cherries and the spells and druids and how they very subtly swam through the plot. It brought such a mystical quality to what otherwise could be just another cishet YA love story.
All in all, the style of writing, particularly the verse sections, were my favourite part of this book, absolutely beautiful writing. However some of the characters annoyed me quite a bit, particularly Evie’s father and Evie herself at times.
Goodreads blurb: Seventeen-year-old Evan Panos doesn’t know where he fits in. His strict Greek mother refuses to see him as anything but a disappointment. His quiet, workaholic father is a staunch believer in avoiding any kind of conflict. And his best friend Henry has somehow become distractingly attractive over the summer.
Tired, isolated, scared—Evan’s only escape is drawing in an abandoned church that feels as lonely as he is. And, yes, he kissed one guy over the summer. But it’s his best friend Henry who’s now proving to be irresistible. It’s Henry who suddenly seems interested in being more than friends. And it’s Henry who makes him believe that he’s more than his mother’s harsh words and terrifying abuse. But as things with Henry heat up, and his mother’s abuse escalates, Evan has to decide how to find his voice in a world where he has survived so long by avoiding attention at all costs.
Please note this review contains some mild spoilers.
I have rather mixed feelings on Angelo Surmelis’ The Dangerous Art of Blending In. It is at once both a realistic and emotional portrayal of domestic abuse, alongside an odd romantic arc and I don’t think the two stories fit well together.
Evan is a Greek immigrant in the US. His mother has physically, verbally and mentally abused him since he was young. His father does nothing to stop him. Evan has spent his whole life trying to hide the abuse, and the fact that he’s gay. But after a summer camp, when he comes back and realises his feelings for best friend Henry go beyond friendship, Evan’s worlds start to collide.
At its heart, this story is about Evan and his journey to find the strength to stand up to his parents, his pastor and himself. It’s just a pity he spent so much energy and motivation on Henry and their relationship. Henry…..doesn’t seem like the nicest person. There are parts of the romance arc I thought were great; and there are parts that are very iffy. One of my most hated things was that Henry didn’t seem to care if Evan got hurt by his mother if she had caught them in his house. He literally comes over and sneaks in, falls asleep, even though he knows what would happen if Evan’s mother caught then. I just can’t imagine how someone could completely risk the person they claim to love like that. I know you want to sleep with Evan – but like, do you want him to die as well?! He also got oddly angry at Evan for no reason multiple times, didn’t bother trying to do anything to help Evan, there’s some constant consent issues (both sexual consent as well as that related to my above comment on ignoring Evan’s concerns about his mother catching then) AND after Evan trusted him enough to tell him what the fuck was going on at home, he just left him for three months to suffer….. Some love.
What I did love was the very honest, uncomfortable and distressing portrayal of abuse. The systematic way Evan’s mother would be nice and kind one second and ferocious the next, the back handeded compliments, the constant faults, it was handled well and is very reflective of the reality of the abuse cycle. This impact of this constant system was clearly reflected in Evan, in the way he still hoped and yearned for love from his mother or father, or for something to change or someone to notice enough and actually do something about it. There were parts where I felt the dialogue went very stiff and stilted, but given the subject material, I think it would’ve been really difficult to do otherwise.
All in all, this book would’ve been a really great portrayal of domestic child abuse, but the focus on the problematic romantic relationship took up so much energy and I think that let this book down.
Goodreads blurb:In a community that isn’t always understanding, an HIV-positive teen must navigate fear, disclosure, and radical self-acceptance when she falls in love–and lust–for the first time. Powerful and uplifting, Full Disclosure will speak to fans of Angie Thomas and Nicola Yoon.
Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She’s making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for Miles, the guy who makes her melt every time he walks into a room. The last thing she wants is for word to get out that she’s HIV-positive, because last time . . . well, last time things got ugly.
Keeping her viral load under control is easy, but keeping her diagnosis under wraps is not so simple. As Simone and Miles start going out for real–shy kisses escalating into much more–she feels an uneasiness that goes beyond butterflies. She knows she has to tell him that she’s positive, especially if sex is a possibility, but she’s terrified of how he’ll react! And then she finds an anonymous note in her locker: I know you have HIV. You have until Thanksgiving to stop hanging out with Miles. Or everyone else will know too.
Simone’s first instinct is to protect her secret at all costs, but as she gains a deeper understanding of the prejudice and fear in her community, she begins to wonder if the only way to rise above is to face the haters head-on…
Full Disclosure is a book which looks at the impact of HIV in a modern setting. It is both a fun and hilarious YA contemporary as well as a timely reminder about the fear of HIV still prevalent in our society.
Simone is our protagonist. She has had HIV since she was born, passed on from her birth mother. She has recently moved to a new school after her HIV status was revealed and everyone turned on her at her last one. Now, someone at her new school is blackmailing her, threatening to reveal her secret if she doesn’t stay away from Miles, the boy she’s crushing on.
Simone really is the star of this book. She exudes energy on every page. Her interactions with both her best friends, Claudia and Lydia, as well as Miles, were hilarious. Full Disclosure really captures what’s it’s like to be a teen and discovering your sexuality. From the sex shop scene to the constant jokes about sex in her friend group, it feels so real. I love how Camryn wasn’t afraid to shy away from talking openly about sex and masturbation as a teen. It’s abundantly obvious this was written by a teen, by someone with a clear understanding of how teens actually act – because Simone’s voice, the characters, their interactions, they all sound like teens. It was very refreshing to read!
Miles is also an absolutely adorable and lovely character. His sincere support and love for Simone, and the way he tries to watch musicals so he can know more about what Simone enjoys is just wonderful! He is like the opposite to your traditional moody white boy YA love interest and I LOVE HIM.
The casual diversity in this book is incredible. From Claudia’s asexuality to Lydia’s bisexuality, Simone’s two dads, Simone’s own exploration of her queerness, to the conversation at the GSA about whether you can be a non-binary lesbian, it really shows the range of diversity within the queer community. I wasn’t expecting the internalised (and external) biphobia in the book, it hasn’t been mentioned in any of the other reviews I’ve read. It is challenged at the end of the book, but just note there are some discussions about the validity of bisexuality and what makes you “queer”. Claudia makes some nasty comments in the heat of an argument, as well as Simone’s ex, Sarah. I appreciate and understand the need for discussions such as this in YA, however it did make me feel a little sad about this book. I feel like every book I’ve read this year that deals with bisexuality has the same thing, and I’ve just gotten a little tired of reading biophobic lines this year. But as I say, I understand the importance, I’m just personally not really in the place to read books that deal with this issue right now.
There was also quite a few heavy info-dumping sections. These generally were when there was medical info to give, and whilst it was interesting to hear about U=U etc, I feel there could’ve been a more natural way to do so rather than the very large info dump at the start of the book.
Otherwise, I really enjoyed Full Disclosure! It brought the experience of HIV into a modern setting, which I don’t think I’ve read in a YA before. Simone is a fantastic character, and the heavy issue driven nature of this book was lightened by the hilarious discussions about sex. Great debut and I will definitely keep an eye on what Camryn Garrett writes next!
Genre: Contemporary | Young Adult | Science fiction
Page extent: 400 pages
Goodreads blurb:Seven days. Seven days. The Earth might end in seven days.
When news stations start reporting that Earth has been contacted by a planet named Alma, the world is abuzz with rumors that the alien entity is giving mankind only few days to live before they hit the kill switch on civilization.
For high school truant Jesse Hewitt, though, nothing has ever felt permanent. Not the guys he hooks up with. Not the jobs his underpaid mom works so hard to hold down. Life has dealt him one bad blow after another — so what does it matter if it all ends now? Cate Collins, on the other hand, is desperate to use this time to find the father she’s never met, the man she grew up hearing wild stories about, most of which she didn’t believe. And then there’s Adeem Khan. While coding and computer programming have always come easily to him, forgiveness doesn’t. He can’t seem to forgive his sister for leaving, even though it’s his last chance.
With only seven days to face their truths and right their wrongs, Jesse, Cate, and Adeem’s paths collide even as their worlds are pulled apart.
Quiet SFF won 2019, yes I said it. This is another genre-blending book combining the mystery and magic of science fiction with the heavy character driven narratives of contemporary YA. In I Hope You Get This Message this results in an emotional portrayal of three teens at the end of the world, trying to keep their families together.
The book follows three POVs: Jesse, a kid who struggles with depression and has had a hard life after his dad died with high debt; Cate, living with her schizophrenic mum as her hallucinations worsen, trying to track down her father at her mother’s request; Adeem, desperately hurt and angry at the sister who abandoned him two years ago but desperate to find her before the end of the world. These three stories take all three to Roswell, where their journey to find their families and discover what matters to them at the end of the world will merge, and end.
I Hope You Get This Message is a wonderful debut. Each of the three POVs have their own voice and unique character which makes it a really easy and unconfusing read, which is a fault I often find with multiple POV books. Of the characters, I do think Jesse’s voice shone above the rest. I can’t say I liked him as a person (he seems to have a bit of the ‘I’ll destroy everything good in my world then blame the world for it’ trait), but his voice was so incredibly strong. I also think his flaws are incredibly realistic for the life he has held – so whilst I don’t necessarily like him because of them, I understood him and his actions so well. But sometimes I did just want to scream through the pages at him ‘JESSE NOOOOO’. I also thought the portrayal of his depression was well written; particularly the handling of his self-harm/wrist cuff: to clarify, there are no scenes of self harm, just mentions of the past event, but when it is discussed it really grabs you with the intensity of emotion.
Cate and Adeem are both still strong, but I think perhaps lacked a bit of the intensity of Jesse. Cate’s journey to find her father is interesting, living as she is for her mother’s desires and not her own. It was interesting to see her come to terms and accept that this is how she lives across the book, with an exceptional line ending her last POV. Adeem has another very interesting journey with his sister: from the strong desire to find her to reconnect his family, to the anger that courses through him that she left, his feelings are complicated and in-depth.
I really loved the crossovers between the POVs. Side characters we know cross between these three lives but without the three at the centre knowing this. I love that sense of all knowing as a reader, and I loved seeing the three characters come together and intersect as the book progressed.
The sci-fi element, whilst forming the basis of the premise for this novel, is not at the forefront. Instead, it’s an ever constant but quiet guiding force throughout the book for the characters. I enjoyed the short interludes interspersed throughout the book about the aliens discussing the fate of Earth, which kept the sci-fi more central, though I felt these short sections lacked a sense of urgency. There was no progression of tension amongst them, as I would have expected as the aliens get closer and closer to their deadline of Earth destruction.
All in all, I think I Hope You Get This Message is a brilliant debut. With easy, everyday diversity (take note SFF authors, this is how to do it!!!), well developed characters and the different discussions of family, this is definitely one to pick up!
In 2019, I was introduced to the world of contemporary novels! Previously, I was very much a heavy speculative fiction reader, but found myself a little exhausted reading all of fantasy last year. So I picked up my first contemporary and fell in love with the genre! They are so easy to read and always feel like a breathe of fresh air compared to SFF. Here’s a list of 31 of my most anticipated contemporary novels publishing in 2020!
Quick summary: Crazy Rich Asians crossed with La La Land?!
Release date: January 7
Goodreadsblurb: For fans of Crazy Rich Asians or Jane Austen Comedy of Manners, with a hint of La La Land
When eighteen-year-old Ever Wong’s parents send her from Ohio to Taiwan to study Mandarin for the summer, she finds herself thrust among the very over-achieving kids her parents have always wanted her to be, including Rick Woo, the Yale-bound prodigy profiled in the Chinese newspapers since they were nine—and her parents’ yardstick for her never-measuring-up life.
Unbeknownst to her parents, however, the program is actually an infamous teen meet-market nicknamed Loveboat, where the kids are more into clubbing than calligraphy and drinking snake-blood sake than touring sacred shrines.
Free for the first time, Ever sets out to break all her parents’ uber-strict rules—but how far can she go before she breaks her own heart?
Goodreads blurb: Two best friends grow up—and grow apart—in this innovative contemporary YA novel
Told in dual timelines—half of the chapters moving forward in time and half moving backward—We Used to Be Friends explores the most traumatic breakup of all: that of childhood besties. At the start of their senior year in high school, James (a girl with a boy’s name) and Kat are inseparable, but by graduation, they’re no longer friends. James prepares to head off to college as she reflects on the dissolution of her friendship with Kat while, in alternating chapters, Kat thinks about being newly in love with her first girlfriend and having a future that feels wide open. Over the course of senior year, Kat wants nothing more than James to continue to be her steady rock, as James worries that everything she believes about love and her future is a lie when her high-school sweetheart parents announce they’re getting a divorce. Funny, honest, and full of heart, We Used to Be Friends tells of the pains of growing up and growing apart.
Quick summary: Rival fast food workers who hate each other in real life fall in love in anonymous chat room
Release date: January 21
Goodreads blurb: A fresh, irresistible rom-com from debut author Emma Lord about the chances we take, the paths life can lead us on, and how love can be found in the opposite place you expected.
Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming ― mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account.
Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time.
All’s fair in love and cheese ― that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life ― on an anonymous chat app Jack built.
As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate ― people on the internet are shipping them?? ― their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.
Quick summary: Confronting toxic masculinity and what it means to be a ‘real man’
Release date: January 21
Goodreadsblurb: In his first contemporary teen novel, critically acclaimed author and two-time Edgar Award finalist Lamar Giles spotlights the consequences of societal pressure, confronts toxic masculinity, and explores the complexity of what it means to be a “real man.”
Del has had a crush on Kiera Westing since kindergarten. And now, during their junior year, she’s finally available. So when Kiera volunteers for an opportunity at their church, Del’s right behind her. Though he quickly realizes he’s inadvertently signed up for a Purity Pledge.
His dad thinks his wires are crossed, and his best friend, Qwan, doesn’t believe any girl is worth the long game. But Del’s not about to lose his dream girl, and that’s where fellow pledger Jameer comes in. He can put in the good word. In exchange, Del just has to get answers to the Pledgers’ questions…about sex ed.
With other boys circling Kiera like sharks, Del needs to make his move fast. But as he plots and plans, he neglects to ask the most important question: What does Kiera want? He can’t think about that too much, though, because once he gets the girl, it’ll all sort itself out. Right?
Quick summary: Online trolling breaks into real life; gaming gaming gaming I cannot wait!!
Release date: January 28
Goodreads blurb: Divya Sharma is a queen. Or she is when she’s playing Reclaim the Sun, the year’s hottest online game. Divya—better known as popular streaming gamer D1V—regularly leads her #AngstArmada on quests through the game’s vast and gorgeous virtual universe. But for Divya, this is more than just a game. Out in the real world, she’s trading her rising-star status for sponsorships to help her struggling single mom pay the rent.
Gaming is basically Aaron Jericho’s entire life. Much to his mother’s frustration, Aaron has zero interest in becoming a doctor like her, and spends his free time writing games for a local developer. At least he can escape into Reclaim the Sun—and with a trillion worlds to explore, disappearing should be easy. But to his surprise, he somehow ends up on the same remote planet as celebrity gamer D1V.
At home, Divya and Aaron grapple with their problems alone, but in the game, they have each other to face infinite new worlds…and the growing legion of trolls populating them. Soon the virtual harassment seeps into reality when a group called the Vox Populi begin launching real-world doxxing campaigns, threatening Aaron’s dreams and Divya’s actual life. The online trolls think they can drive her out of the game, but everything and everyone Divya cares about is on the line…
Quick summary: Kids of NASA employees falling in love
Release date: February 4
Goodreads blurb: As a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, seventeen-year-old Cal is used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus.
Amidst the chaos, Cal meets sensitive and mysterious Leon, another “Astrokid,” and finds himself falling head over heels—fast. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so does their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him.
Expertly capturing the thrill of first love and the self-doubt all teens feel, debut author Phil Stamper is a new talent to watch.
Quick summary: Macbeth retelling, revenge fantasy of girl destroying her rapists!
Release date: February 4
Goodreadsblurb: Elle and her friends Mads, Jenny, and Summer rule their glittering LA circle. Untouchable, they have the kind of power other girls only dream of. Every party is theirs and the world is at their feet. Until the night of Elle’s sweet sixteen, when they crash a St. Andrew’s Prep party. The night the golden boys choose Elle as their next target.
They picked the wrong girl.
Sworn to vengeance, Elle transfers to St. Andrew’s. She plots to destroy each boy, one by one. She’ll take their power, their lives, and their control of the prep school’s hierarchy. And she and her coven have the perfect way in: a boy named Mack, whose ambition could turn deadly.
Foul is Fair is a bloody, thrilling revenge fantasy for the girls who have had enough. Golden boys beware: something wicked this way comes.
Quick summary: Gymnastics, romance with coach’s son, teammate rivalries
Release date: February 18
Goodreads blurb: Audrey Lee is going to the Olympics.
A year ago, she could barely do a push up as she recovered from a spine surgery, one that could have paralyzed her. And now? She’s made the United States’ gymnastics team with her best friend, Emma, just like they both dreamed about since they were kids. She’s on top of the world.
The pressure for perfection is higher than ever when horrifying news rips the team apart. Audrey is desperate to advocate for her teammate who has been hurt by the one person they trusted most–but not all the gymnasts are as supportive.
With the team on the verge of collapse, the one bright spot in training is Leo, her new coach’s ridiculously cute son. And while Audrey probably (okay, definitely) shouldn’t date him until after the games, would it really be the end of the world?
Balancing the tenuous relationship between her teammates with unparalleled expectations, Audrey doesn’t need any more distractions. No matter what it takes, she’s not going to let anyone bring them down. But with painful revelations, incredible odds, and the very real possibility of falling at every turn, will Audrey’s determination be enough?
Quick summary: Modern day retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in a boarding schools yes please1
Release date: February 18
Goodreadsblurb: From the New York Times bestselling author of When Dimple Met Rishi comes the first novel in a brand-new series set at an elite international boarding school, that’s a contemporary spin on Beauty and the Beast.
Will the princess save the beast?
For Princess Jaya Rao, nothing is more important than family. When the loathsome Emerson clan steps up their centuries-old feud to target Jaya’s little sister, nothing will keep Jaya from exacting her revenge. Then Jaya finds out she’ll be attending the same elite boarding school as Grey Emerson, and it feels like the opportunity of a lifetime. She knows what she must do: Make Grey fall in love with her and break his heart. But much to Jaya’s annoyance, Grey’s brooding demeanor and lupine blue eyes have drawn her in. There’s simply no way she and her sworn enemy could find their fairy-tale ending…right?
His Lordship Grey Emerson is a misanthrope. Thanks to an ancient curse by a Rao matriarch, Grey knows he’s doomed once he turns eighteen. Sequestered away in the mountains at St. Rosetta’s International Academy, he’s lived an isolated existence—until Jaya Rao bursts into his life, but he can’t shake the feeling that she’s hiding something. Something that might just have to do with the rose-shaped ruby pendant around her neck…
As the stars conspire to keep them apart, Jaya and Grey grapple with questions of love, loyalty, and whether it’s possible to write your own happy ending.
Quick summary: Every romance movie of your teen years in perfect book form: Grease meets Clueless meets 10 Things I Hate About You. I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this, and it is INCREDIBLE!
Genres: Contemporary, romance, young adult
Release date: March 3
Goodreads blurb:Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda meets Clueless, inspired by Grease.
When Ollie meets his dream guy, Will, over summer break, he thinks he’s found his Happily Ever After. But once summer’s ended, Will stops texting him back, and Ollie finds himself one prince short of a fairytale ending. To complicate the fairytale further, a family emergency sees Ollie uprooted and enrolled at a new school across the country—Will’s school—where Ollie finds that the sweet, affectionate and comfortably queer guy he knew from summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High. This Will is a class clown, closeted—and, to be honest, a bit of a jerk.
Ollie has no intention of pining after a guy who clearly isn’t ready for a relationship. But as Will starts ‘coincidentally’ popping up in every area of Ollie’s life, from music class to the lunch table, Ollie finds his resolve weakening.
The last time he gave Will his heart, Will handed it back to him trampled and battered. Ollie would have to be an idiot to trust him with it again.
Goodreads blurb:Every happy teenage girl is the same, while every unhappy teenage girl is miserable in her own special way.
Meet Anna K. At seventeen, she is at the top of Manhattan and Greenwich society (even if she prefers the company of her horses and Newfoundland dogs); she has the perfect (if perfectly boring) boyfriend, Alexander W.; and she has always made her Korean-American father proud (even if he can be a little controlling). Meanwhile, Anna’s brother, Steven, and his girlfriend, Lolly, are trying to weather an sexting scandal; Lolly’s little sister, Kimmie, is struggling to recalibrate to normal life after an injury derails her ice dancing career; and Steven’s best friend, Dustin, is madly (and one-sidedly) in love with Kimmie.
As her friends struggle with the pitfalls of ordinary teenage life, Anna always seems to be able to sail gracefully above it all. That is…until the night she meets Alexia “Count” Vronsky at Grand Central. A notorious playboy who has bounced around boarding schools and who lives for his own pleasure, Alexia is everything Anna is not. But he has never been in love until he meets Anna, and maybe she hasn’t, either. As Alexia and Anna are pulled irresistibly together, she has to decide how much of her life she is willing to let go for the chance to be with him. And when a shocking revelation threatens to shatter their relationship, she is forced to question if she has ever known herself at all.
Dazzlingly opulent and emotionally riveting, Anna K.: A Love Story is a brilliant reimagining of Leo Tolstoy’s timeless love story, Anna Karenina―but above all, it is a novel about the dizzying, glorious, heart-stopping experience of first love and first heartbreak.
Quick summary: Magical realism, crows invading a town, with sisterhood bonds and impact of domestic violence
Release date: March 3
Goodreadsblurb: Perfect for fans of Laura Ruby, Laurie Halse Anderson, and Mindy McGinnis, Kyrie McCauley’s stunning YA debut is a powerful story about the haunting specter of domestic violence and the rebellious forces of sisterhood and first love.
Tens of thousands of crows invading Auburn, Pennsylvania, is a problem for everyone in town except seventeen-year-old Leighton Barnes. For Leighton, it’s no stranger than her house, which inexplicably repairs itself every time her father loses his temper and breaks things.
Leighton doesn’t have time for the crows–it’s her senior year, and acceptance to her dream college is finally within reach. But grabbing that lifeline means abandoning her sisters, a choice she’s not ready to face.
With her father’s rage worsening and the town in chaos over the crows, Leighton allows herself a chance at happiness with Liam, her charming classmate, even though falling in love feels like a revolutionary act.
Balancing school, dating, and survival under the shadow of sixty thousand feathered wings starts to feel almost comfortable, but Leighton knows that this fragile equilibrium can only last so long before it shatters.
Quick summary: Mental health and suicide, trying to find out why a family member took their own life
Release date: March 5
Goodreads blurb: An emotionally rich and current story of suicide, mental health, bullying, grief and growing up around social media.
When fifteen-year-old Nathan discovers that his older brother Al has taken his own life, his whole world is torn apart. Al was special. Al was talented. Al was full of passion and light…so why did he do it? Convinced that his brother was in trouble, Nathan begins to retrace his footsteps. And along the way, he meets Megan. Al’s former classmate, who burns with the same fire and hope, who is determined to keep Al’s memory alive. But when Nathan learns the horrifying truth behind his brother’s suicide, one question remains – how do you survive, when you’re growing up in the age of social media?
Quick summary: After Starfish I will read anything by Akemi, including this amazing circus runaway story
Release date: March 10
Goodreadsblurb: Harley Milano has dreamed of being a trapeze artist for as long as she can remember. With parents who run a famous circus in Las Vegas, she spends almost every night in the big top watching their lead aerialist perform, wishing with all her soul that she could be up there herself one day.
After a huge fight with her parents, who continue to insist she go to school instead, Harley leaves home, betrays her family and joins the rival traveling circus Maison du Mystère. There, she is thrust into a world that is both brutal and beautiful, where she learns the value of hard work, passion and collaboration. But at the same time, Harley must come to terms with the truth of her family and her past—and reckon with the sacrifices she made and the people she hurt in order to follow her dreams.
Quick summary: Complicated process of discovering your sexuality after hooking up with friend
Release date: March 31
Goodreads blurb: Nandan’s got a plan to make his junior year perfect. He’s going to make sure all the parties are chill, he’s going to smooth things over with his ex, and he’s going to help his friend Dave get into the popular crowd—whether Dave wants to or not. The high school social scene might be complicated, but Nandan is sure he’s cracked the code.
Then, one night after a party, Dave and Nandan hook up, which was not part of the plan—especially because Nandan has never been into guys. Still, Dave’s cool, and Nandan’s willing to give it a shot, even if that means everyone starts to see him differently.
But while Dave takes to their new relationship with ease, Nandan’s completely out of his depth. And the more his anxiety grows about what his sexuality means for himself, his friends, and his social life, the more he wonders whether he can just take it all back. But is breaking up with the only person who’s ever really gotten him worth feeling “normal” again?
From Rahul Kanakia comes a raw and deeply felt story about rejecting labels, seeking connection, and finding yourself.
Quick summary: Part contemporary, part historical, elements of mystery, I would read anything by Samira after the absolute incredibleness of Internment
Release date: April 7
Goodreadsblurb: Told in alternating narratives that bridge centuries, the latest novel from New York Times bestselling author Samira Ahmed traces the lives of two young women fighting to write their own stories and escape the pressure of familial burdens and cultural expectations in worlds too long defined by men.
It’s August in Paris and 17-year-old Khayyam Maquet—American, French, Indian, Muslim—is at a crossroads. This holiday with her professor parents should be a dream trip for the budding art historian. But her maybe-ex-boyfriend is probably ghosting her, she might have just blown her chance at getting into her dream college, and now all she really wants is to be back home in Chicago figuring out her messy life instead of brooding in the City of Light.
Two hundred years before Khayyam’s summer of discontent, Leila is struggling to survive and keep her true love hidden from the Pasha who has “gifted” her with favored status in his harem. In the present day—and with the company of a descendant of Alexandre Dumas—Khayyam begins to connect allusions to an enigmatic 19th-century Muslim woman whose path may have intersected with Alexandre Dumas, Eugène Delacroix, and Lord Byron.
Echoing across centuries, Leila and Khayyam’s lives intertwine, and as one woman’s long-forgotten life is uncovered, another’s is transformed.
Quick summary: Aftermath of a tsunami, two sisters trying to recover from the loss of their parents.
Release date: April 7
Goodreadsblurb: One wave: that’s all it takes for the rest of Mae and Hannah Winters’ lives to change.
When a tsunami strikes the island where their parents are vacationing, it soon becomes clear that their mom and dad are never coming home. Forced to move to Boston from sunny California for the rest of their senior year, each girl struggles with secrets their parents’ death has brought to light, and with their uncertainty about the future. Instead of bringing them closer, it feels like the wave has torn the sisters apart.
Hannah is a secret poet who wants to be seen, but only knows how to hide. The pain pills she stole from her dead father hurl her onto the shores of an addiction she can’t shake and a dealer who turns her heart upside down. When it’s clear Hannah’s drowning, Mae, a budding astronaut suddenly launched into an existential crisis—and unexpected love—must choose between herself and the only family she has left.
Little Universes is a book about the powerful bond between sisters, the kinds of love that never die, and the journey we all must make through the baffling cruelty and unexpected beauty of human life in an incomprehensible universe.
Quick summary: A love triangle with only two people – and their online personna; and a cupcake book blog!
Release date: April 7
Goodreadsblurb: Can a love triangle have only two people in it? Online, it can…but in the real world, it’s more complicated. In this debut novel that’s perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Morgan Matson, Marisa Kanter hilariously and poignantly explores what happens when internet friends turn into IRL crushes.
Is it still a love triangle if there are only two people in it?
There are a million things that Halle Levitt likes about her online best friend, Nash.
He’s an incredibly talented graphic novelist. He loves books almost as much as she does. And she never has to deal with the awkwardness of seeing him in real life. They can talk about anything…
Except who she really is.
Because online, Halle isn’t Halle—she’s Kels, the enigmatically cool creator of One True Pastry, a YA book blog that pairs epic custom cupcakes with covers and reviews. Kels has everything Halle doesn’t: friends, a growing platform, tons of confidence, and Nash.
That is, until Halle arrives to spend senior year in Gramps’s small town and finds herself face-to-face with real, human, not-behind-a-screen Nash. Nash, who is somehow everywhere she goes—in her classes, at the bakery, even at synagogue.
Nash who has no idea she’s actually Kels.
If Halle tells him who she is, it will ruin the non-awkward magic of their digital friendship. Not telling him though, means it can never be anything more. Because while she starts to fall for Nash as Halle…he’s in love with Kels.
Quick summary: Thriller contemporary about a girl taking down a clique of mean girls – this sounds so much like Mean Girls the film and I am so here for it
Release date: April 28
Goodreadsblurb: Pretty Little Liars meets Burn for Burn in this thrilling debut from Wattpad star Ann Valett.
Chloe Whittaker is out for revenge. Last year her best friend Monica’s life was unceremoniously ruined by the most popular students at their high school, so this year Chloe plans to take each and every one of them down. She traded her jeans and T-shirts for the latest designer clothes, deleted everything on social media that would tie her to Monica (and blow her cover), and carefully devised a way to befriend the members of the popular clique. Now all that’s left to do is uncover their deepest, darkest secrets and reveal them to the world.
Chloe has the perfect plan…that is, until she begins to fall for one of the people she’s determined to destroy.
Quick summary: ACE PROTAGONIST, coming of age, journey to self-acceptance
Genres: Contemporary, young adult
Release date: April 30
Goodreads blurb: The fourth novel from the phenomenally talented Alice Oseman – one of the most authentic and talked-about voices in contemporary YA.
Georgia feels loveless – in the romantic sense, anyway. She’s eighteen, never been in a relationship, or even had a crush on a single person in her whole life. She thinks she’s an anomaly, people call her weird, and she feels a little broken. But she still adores romance – weddings, fan fiction, and happily ever afters. She knows she’ll find her person one day … right?
After a disastrous summer, Georgia is now at university, hundreds of miles from home. She is more determined than ever to find love – and her annoying roommate, Rooney, is a bit of a love expert, so perhaps she can help.
But maybe Georgia just doesn’t feel that way about guys. Or girls. Or anyone at all. Maybe that’s okay. Maybe she can find happiness without falling in love. And maybe Rooney is a little more loveless than she first appears.
LOVELESS is a journey of identity, self-acceptance, and finding out how many different types of love there really are. And that no one is really loveless after all.
Quick summary: Mediaeval themed restaurant who only get boys dress up knights so let’s fight the fucking patriarchy yaaaaaassss
Release date: May 5
Goodreads blurb: Moxie meets A Knight’s Tale as Kit Sweetly slays sexism, bad bosses, and bad luck to become a knight at a medieval-themed restaurant.
Working as a wench―i.e. waitress―at a cheesy medieval-themed restaurant in the Chicago suburbs, Kit Sweetly dreams of being a knight like her brother. She has the moves, is capable on a horse, and desperately needs the raise that comes with knighthood, so she can help her mom pay the mortgage and hold a spot at her dream college.
Company policy allows only guys to be knights. So when Kit takes her brother’s place and reveals her identity at the end of the show, she rockets into internet fame and a whole lot of trouble with the management. But the Girl Knight won’t go down without a fight. As other wenches join her quest, a protest forms. In a joust before Castle executives, they’ll prove that gender restrictions should stay medieval―if they don’t get fired first.
Quick summary: Verse novel from contemporary queen Elizabeth Acevdeo
Release date: May 14
Goodreadsblurb: Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…
In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.
Separated by distance – and Papi’s secrets – the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered. And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.
Papi’s death uncovers all the painful truths he kept hidden, and the love he divided across an ocean. And now, Camino and Yahaira are both left to grapple with what this new sister means to them, and what it will now take to keep their dreams alive.
In a dual narrative novel in verse that brims with both grief and love, award-winning and bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives
Quick summary: Romance between Hollywood showrunner and her assistant when media declare them a couple
Genres: Contemporary, romance, adult
Release date: May 26
Goodreads blurb: A showrunner and her assistant give the world something to talk about when they accidentally fuel a ridiculous rumor in this debut romance.
Hollywood powerhouse Jo is photographed making her assistant Emma laugh on the red carpet, and just like that, the tabloids declare them a couple. The so-called scandal couldn’t come at a worse time—threatening Emma’s promotion and Jo’s new movie.
As the gossip spreads, it starts to affect all areas of their lives. Paparazzi are following them outside the office, coworkers are treating them differently, and a “source” is feeding information to the media. But their only comment is “no comment”.
With the launch of Jo’s film project fast approaching, the two women begin to spend even more time together, getting along famously. Emma seems to have a sixth sense for knowing what Jo needs. And Jo, known for being aloof and outwardly cold, opens up to Emma in a way neither of them expects. They begin to realize the rumor might not be so off base after all…but is acting on the spark between them worth fanning the gossip flames?
Quick summary: Enemies-to-lovers f/f romcom in the fanfic community
Genres: Contemporary, romance
Release date: May 26
Goodreads blurb: For fans of Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda and Fangirl, I Kissed Alice is a romantic comedy about enemies, lovers, and everything in between.
Rhodes and Iliana couldn’t be more different, but that’s not why they hate each other.
Hyper-gifted artist Rhodes has always excelled at Alabama’s Conservatory of the Arts despite a secret bout of creator’s block, while transfer student Iliana tries to outshine everyone with her intense, competitive work ethic. Since only one of them can get the coveted Capstone scholarship, the competition between them is fierce.
They both escape the pressure on a fanfic site where they are unknowingly collaborating on a graphic novel. And despite being worst enemies in real life, their anonymous online identities I-Kissed-Alice and Curious-in-Cheshire are starting to like each other…a lot. When the truth comes out, will they destroy each other’s future?
Quick summary: Queer girl falls in love with the competition for prom queen
Genres: Contemporary, romance, young adult
Release date: June 2
Goodreads blurb: Becky Albertalli meets Jenny Han in a smart, hilarious, black girl magic, own voices rom-com by a staggeringly talented new writer.
Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.
But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.
The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?
Quick summary: Feminist novel set within mock trial teams, with a side of knitting
Genres: Contemporary, young adult
Release date: June 2
Goodreads blurb: A story of mock trial, feminism, and the inherent power found in a pair of knitting needles.
Raina Petree is crushing her senior year, until her boyfriend dumps her, the drama club (basically) dumps her, the college of her dreams slips away, and her arch-nemesis triumphs.
Things aren’t much better for Millie Goodwin. Her father treats her like a servant, and the all-boy Mock Trial team votes her out, even after she spent the last three years helping to build its success.
But then, an advice columnist unexpectedly helps Raina find new purpose in a pair of knitting needles and a politically active local yarn store. This leads to an unlikely meeting in the girls’ bathroom, where Raina inspires Millie to start a rival team. The two join together and recruit four other angry girls to not only take on Mock Trial, but to smash the patriarchy in the process.
Quick summary: Binding agreement to have a romance only for a summer….what could possibly go wrong?!
Genres: Contemporary, romance
Release date: June 9
Goodreads blurb: Saoirse doesn’t believe in love at first sight or happy endings. If they were real, her mother would still be able to remember her name and not in a care home with early onset dementia. A condition that Saoirse may one day turn out to have inherited. So she’s not looking for a relationship. She doesn’t see the point in igniting any romantic sparks if she’s bound to burn out.
But after a chance encounter at an end-of-term house party, Saoirse is about to break her own rules. For a girl with one blue freckle, an irresistible sense of mischief, and a passion for rom-coms.
Unbothered by Saoirse’s no-relationships rulebook, Ruby proposes a loophole: They don’t need true love to have one summer of fun, complete with every cliché, rom-com montage-worthy date they can dream up—and a binding agreement to end their romance come fall. It would be the perfect plan, if they weren’t forgetting one thing about the Falling in Love Montage: when it’s over, the characters actually fall in love… for real.
Quick summary:What a stunning cover!!! Competition to be the next K-Pop star!
Release date: June 16
Goodreadsblurb: The world of K-Pop has never met a star like this. Debut author Lyla Lee delivers a deliciously fun, thoughtful rom-com celebrating confidence and body positivity—perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Julie Murphy.
Skye Shin has heard it all. Fat girls shouldn’t dance. Wear bright colors. Shouldn’t call attention to themselves. But Skye dreams of joining the glittering world of K-Pop, and to do that, she’s about to break all the rules that society, the media, and even her own mother, have set for girls like her.
She’ll challenge thousands of other performers in an internationally televised competition looking for the next K-pop star, and she’ll do it better than anyone else.
When Skye nails her audition, she’s immediately swept into a whirlwind of countless practices, shocking performances, and the drama that comes with reality TV. What she doesn’t count on are the highly fat-phobic beauty standards of the Korean pop entertainment industry, her sudden media fame and scrutiny, or the sparks that soon fly with her fellow competitor, Henry Cho.
But Skye has her sights on becoming the world’s first plus-sized K-pop star, and that means winning the competition—without losing herself.
Quick summary: Kinda makes me think of a YA Red, White & Royal Blue? Sons of two presedential candidates falling in love.
Genres: Contemporary, romance
Release date: July 21
Goodreads blurb: David Linker at HarperCollins has bought We Are the Ants author Shaun David Hutchinson‘s The State of Us, the story of Dean and Dre—the 16-year-old sons of the Republican and Democratic candidates for President of the United States—who fall in love on the sidelines of their parents’ presidential campaigns. The book is planned for summer 2020; Katie Shea Boutillier at Donald Maass Literary Agency brokered the deal for world rights.
Quick summary: Contemporary thriller about unwanted attention – and what a killer cover!
Release date: September 1
Goodreadsblurb: A teen girl’s summer with her mother turns sinister in this gripping thriller about the insidious dangers of unwanted attention, from Printz Honor medal–winning and National Book Award finalist author Deb Caletti—perfect for fans of Courtney Summers’s Sadie.
Sydney Reilly has a bad feeling about going home to San Francisco before she even gets on the plane. How could she not? Her mother is Lila Shore—the Lila Shore—a film star who prizes her beauty and male attention above all else…certainly above her daughter.
But Sydney’s worries multiply when she discovers that Lila is involved with the dangerous Jake, an art dealer with shady connections. Jake loves all beautiful objects, and Syndey can feel his eyes on her whenever he’s around. And he’s not the only one. Sydney is starting to attract attention—good and bad—wherever she goes: from sweet, handsome Nicco Ricci, from the unsettling construction worker next door, and even from Lila. Behaviors that once seemed like misunderstandings begin to feel like threats as the summer grows longer and hotter.
It’s unnerving, how beauty is complicated, and objects have histories, and you can be looked at without ever being seen. But real danger, crimes of passion, the kind of stuff where someone gets killed—it only mostly happens in the movies, Sydney is sure. Until the night something life-changing happens on the stairs that lead to the beach. A thrilling night that goes suddenly very wrong. When loyalties are called into question. And when Sydney learns a terrible truth: beautiful objects can break.
Quick summary: Creating a women’s pleasure focused and fighting a porn empire this sounds incredible
Release date: September 15
Goodreadsblurb: Rosie Danan’s THE ROOMMATE (previously Never Have I Ever), in which an awkward socialite gets more than she bargained for in her new roommate and the sparks that fly between them, risking their hearts and the wrath of a porn empire after they launch a website focused on women’s pleasure.
I am so impressed with all of these covers! Bookshelves everywhere are going to look stunning! Are there any contemporaries you’re looling forward to that I haven’t mentioned? I would love to know!