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What's Up in YA

Rival Beauty Businesses, Survival, + More YA Book News and New Books: May 26, 2022

Hey YA Readers!

I’ve been on a reading streak lately, across a whole bunch of different genres and formats. But an interesting reading coincidence is that I’ve now read two similar-yet-different titles about survival (a favorite of mine) that both published in the first few months of the year.

Survival stories aren’t new, of course, but it got me thinking about whether or not this might be a microtrend for 2022 I had not paid attention to. I wonder if writing a survival story felt good during those early days of the pandemic–both books feature prepping, so there’s a sense of having control over the situation, whether or not it’s more illusory than realistic. I’ll have to dig into this some more and maybe you’ll see some further thoughts on survival stories in the future. (The books are both by white authors, as this is still an arena lacking in books by authors of color. The books are Trigger by N. Griffin and Gone Dark by Amanda Panitch).

Bookish Goods

Image of a purple heart with the words "young adult" inside. It's a magnetic bookmark on an open book page.

The perfect young adult magnetic bookmark for inside your YA book. $4.25.

New Releases

Two of this week’s exciting paperback releases. Note you may need to toggle at the link to get to the paperback edition.

Want more of this week’s YA paperback releases? Here you go!

aetherbound book cover

Aetherbound by E.K. Johnston

Looking for a space adventure? Look no further.

Pendt has a genetic mutation that her family–who owns an intersteller freighter–sees as an insurmountable issue for her. She’s taking up important space and food. But on a layover at a space station, Pendt meets the twins who are heir to the station and together, they plan to overthrow the station and remake the lives that have been slated for them.

made in korea book cover

Made in Korea by Sarah Suk

This one is pitched as Frankly in Love meets Shark Tank and I somehow missed this one in hardcover but will not be missing it now.

Valerie runs a successful beauty business in her high school with her cousin. She loves making money and has big plans for a trip to Paris. But when Wes, the new kid, shows up to school and begins selling K-pop branded products, he, too, sees that he can make the money he needs to attend music school after graduation.

Now Valerie and Wes are rival businesses in the same school…and mayyyyy be falling for each other, despite being competition for the limited market.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

YA Book News


As always, thanks for hanging out and we’ll see you on Saturday for some great YA book deals to keep you reading over the long weekend (and if you don’t have one, they’ll keep you reading over the new season ahead!).

Happy reading!

— Kelly Jensen, @veronikellymars on Twitter.

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What's Up in YA

Queer Vampires! That, Plus Your YA Book Releases This Week: May 23, 2022

Hey YA Readers!

I hope you are enjoying some good reads right now, whether or not the weather is allowing you to do so outside. Here in the upper midwest, we have seen snow, record-breaking heat, and below-average temperatures all within the span of a few days. I would love some consistency, as my hammock has been calling.

Let’s dive into this week’s new books and book talk.

Bookish Goods

Image of five rainbow colored pencils. Each one has gold text that says "book nerd."

I may need to restock my writing utensil collection with these bright and fun book nerd pencils! $8.50 for five and if you want different colors, you can pick different ones.

New Releases

For the mega list of new YA books out this week, you can slide over here, but here are two to know about right here and right now. On Thursday, I’ll highlight two paperback releases out this week.

i guess i live here now book cover

I Guess I Live Here Now by Claire Ahn

Even though she’s always been curious about her Korean heritage, Melody was not prepared to be uprooted from her NYC home following a small school transgression. She and her mom are moving to Seoul to join her father and Melody doesn’t get the chance to say her goodbyes.

The good news is once she arrives in Seoul, it’s amazing. That is…until it isn’t. Now Melody has to figure out how to make the best of her situation, how to understand the challenges her family is dealing with, and what she wants from that relationship with a cute boy she’s met.

only on weekends book cover

Only On Weekends by Dean Atta

Atta’s debut The Black Flamingo was such a great read so I’m eager to see what his sophomore effort brings.

15-year-old Mack is a romantic and he’s had a crush on the gorgeous Karim for forever. Now Karim is into him, too . . . just in time for Mack’s father to announce he has a job in Scotland so they’ll be moving. The long distance thing is hard, and it’s made even harder both because Karim is hard to read and because of the cute guy Mack has met at his father’s job.

This is a book in verse about first love, about the challenges of long-distance romance, and what happens when the perfect person comes along when you aren’t looking.

Riot Recommendations

Instead of book recommendations today, how about a look at two recent trailers that dropped for YA adaptations hitting screens this summer? I am not a huge TV or movie person, but I am going to make some time to sink my teeth into both of these (heh).

First up: First Kill. This is the adaptation of a Victoria Schwab story in the Vampires Never Get Old anthology. Queer vampires? Yes, please! This hits Netflix June 10.

And, of course, The Summer I Turned Pretty, based on the Jenny Han book of the same title. It’s been so long since I read these books but know I’ll be returning to them this summer. This hits Amazon Prime June 17.


As always, thanks for hanging out. I hope you are taking some time for you during these on-going days of tough news and that you’re finding some comfort in reading good books.

Until Thursday, happy reading!

— Kelly Jensen, @veronikellymars on Twitter.

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What's Up in YA

The Hunger Games Prequel Casting News + More YA Book News and Paperback Releases: May 19, 2022

Hey YA Readers!

Let’s dive into this week’s new paperback releases, as well as this week’s (very adaptation heavy) YA news.

Bookish Goods

Black sticker with neon pink writing that reads "bibliophile."

Say it loud and proud with this neon bibliophile sticker. $3.

New Releases

Two of this week’s exciting paperback releases. Note you may need to toggle at the link to get to the paperback edition.

Want more of this week’s YA paperback releases? Here you go!

in the ravenous dark book cover

In The Ravenous Dark by A. M. Strickland

In this standalone fantasy, a Rovan–who is pansexual and a bloodmage–is forced to team up with an undead spirit in an alliance that will cause a huge rebellion between the living and the dead. This is a dark read, but as one reviewer put it, “This book is not here to play when it comes to The Gay Agenda.”

perfectly parvin book cover

Perfectly Parvin by Olivia Abtahi

Though they exist, it can be tricky to find books that are tailor-made for younger teen readers. This is one of them. Fourteen-year-old Parvin is an Iranian-American set on capturing the attention of the cute guy named Matty. Too bad her last relationship was an utter disaster and she herself is far too nerdy for him. Her plan? Mirror the kinds of leads in the rom-coms she loves.

YA Book News


And that’s all she wrote!

Thanks for hanging out, and we’ll see you on Saturday for some YA book deals. Until then, happy reading!

— Kelly Jensen, @veronikellymars on Twitter. I just finished up reading Private Label by Kelly Yang this week and wasn’t disappointed.

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What's Up in YA

Arcade YA, Twin Crowns, and More YA Book News and New Books: May 16, 2022

Hey YA Readers!

Happy Monday. Let’s talk about all things YA lit to kick off a brand new week.

Bookish Goods

Image of a colorful print in a simple black frame hanging on a white wall. The print reads "tbr list taller than i am."

YA author Crystal Maldonado and her partner opened a super cute digital print shop on Etsy. I’m keen on this simple but bright print. Snag it for $3.99 and print it to your own size preference.

New Releases

the lesbiana's guide to catholic school book cover

The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School by Sonora Reyes

Yamilet Flores isn’t thrilled about standing out as a new kid in a mostly white Catholic school. But it’s a fresh start after being outed by her former best friend and crush. Here, she can at least keep her sexuality quiet and just get through the day. She wants to make her mother proud and avoid falling in love. Too bad the only openly queer girl at the school is annoying(ly) easy for Yamilet to fall for.

This sounds like an awesome next read for fans of Erika L. Sánchez’s I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter.

twin crowns book cover

Twin Crowns by Catherine Doyle and Katherine Webber

Twin sisters separated at birth? Check.

Witches? Check.

A plan for kidnapping and avenging parental death? Check.

This fun, high-stakes fantasy read follows one sister who was raised outside the palace with a goal of kidnapping and revenge and one who was raised to be the next royal, preparing for marriage into a brutal kingdom. But what happens when everything in both of their worlds is turned upside down? It’s the first in a series.

On Thursdays, I’ll highlight two paperback new releases for this week. For the mega list of new YA books out this week, you can slide over here.

Riot Recommendations

How about two books set in arcades? One of these you can pick up and read right now and one you’ll have to pop on that TBR as tall as you, as it hits shelves in August.

you can go your own way book cover

You Can Go Your Own Way by Eric Smith

To use Eric’s own phrase, this is a hug in a book.

This is an enemies-to-lovers, only-one-blanket rom-com about being snowed into your family’s failing arcade with the girl who used to be your best friend but is the daughter of a competing esports empire trying to purchase your family’s business. But more than that, it’s about friendship, about grief, and about family and pursing your dreams for yourself.

It’s also a love letter to all things Philadelphia. Adam and Whitney have great, distinct voices. If you loved Verona Comics, this will be your jam.

dead flip book cover

Dead Flip by Sara Farizan (August 30)

This one will be for fans of Farizan’s trademark humor and heart, as well as fans of horror like that in Stranger Things.

Cori, Maz, and Sam were best friends when they were younger, obsessed with arcades and Halloween. Now, in 1992, Sam has been missing for five years. So when he mysteriously shows back up, still 12 years old while Cori and Maz are now 17, they’ve all got to work together to figure out what happened. Was a vengeful and supernatural pinball machine to blame?

This sounds DELIGHTFUL and wonderfully queer (in all senses of the word).


As always, thanks for hanging out. We’ll see you again on Thursday for more YA book news and new releases.

Until then, happy reading!

— Kelly Jensen, @veronikellymars on Twitter, who just finished the fabulous YA graphic memoir Messy Roots by Laura Gao.

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What's Up in YA

Netflix Announces YA Vampire Adaptation Release + More YA Book News and New Books: May 12, 2022

Hey YA Readers!

Let’s dive into some of this week’s YA paperback releases, alongside some YA book news.

Bookish Goods

Image of a pink pouch with blue, black, and white bookmarks.

How adorable is this bookmark pouch? You could use this for practical reasons, like pencils, pens, makeup, those annoying dongles for devices….or you could get meta and use it for all of your bookmarks. $10 and up.

New Paperback Releases

Living Beyond Borders: Growing Up Mexican in America edited by Margarita Longoria

Packed with a star-studded list of authors, this anthology is a collection of short stories about what it is to grow up Mexican American. This would be an excellent read alongside the Black Enough anthology.

the mermaid the witch and the sea book cover

The Mermaid, The Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

Looking for pirate YA? Look no further. This story follows an orphan-turned-pirate who falls in love with Lady Evelyn Hasegawa, a high-born imperial daughter, aboard the Dove. The problem, besides their differing classes? Evelyn is being sent to the Floating Islands in an arranged marriage . . . at least, she was until the ship’s captain decides to take all of the wealthy passengers captive. If you love magic, the high seas, and characters who refuse to live by the rules of their social class, this one’s for you.

Note, as always, you may need to toggle at the link to get to the paperback edition.

Want more of this week’s YA paperback releases? Here you go!

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

This Week’s YA News


Thanks for hanging out, YA friends. We’ll see you on Saturday with your deals.

Until then, happy reading!

— Kelly Jensen, @veronikellymars on Twitter.

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What's Up in YA

Country Music in YA, A Kristy-Approved Hat, and More YA Goods This Week

Hey YA Readers!

This week kicks off a new design for this newsletter (and several others across Book Riot) and I hope you dig it. We’ll still cover everything as before but it might look a little different than before.

Let’s dive in!

Bookish Goods

A trucker hat in red with "The Babysitters Club" logo.

I was working on a roundup of great bookish caps and found this hat that I am extremely tempted to buy. Who doesn’t want a very Kristy-like Baby-Sitters Club hat? $17 and available in several colors.

New Releases

hollow fires book cover

Hollow Fires by Samira Ahmed

Safiya Mirza is a budding journalist and she’s committed to following the path of being truthful without being biased. But when she finds a boy who has been murdered–one who had been labeled a a threat before–she’s set on finding out what happened and that may mean putting the idea of being objective behind.

I’ve not yet read this one, but it’s comped to Sadie and Dear Martin, and Ahmed is an excellent storyteller.

I Kissed Shara Wheeler book cover

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston

Somehow, despite how much I loved this book, I missed highlighting it in last week’s mega roundup. So know this book came out last week but I’m including it here because it’s still a new release.

This is a very queer and at times very funny book about a girl named Chloe who attends an elite, religious private school in the south. She and Shara Wheeler have been competitive since the beginning of high school but then Shara disappears on prom night. She leaves behind several clues about her whereabouts to a handful of people at the school . . . all of whom had shared a kiss with her.

McQuiston explores all of the YA tropes you know and either love or hate. It is extremely clever.

On Thursdays, I’ll highlight two paperback new releases for this week. For the mega list of new YA books out this week, you can slide over here.

Riot Recommendations

I keep a list of topics I want to highlight and sometimes I realize there are too few books or collected thoughts to cover a whole newsletter’s worth of insight. One beauty of our new format? I can do it anyway.

Today, let’s look at two YA books where country music is central to the story. Note that both of these books are by white authors. Know of a YA book with country music by an author of color? I’d love to know.

a little bit country book cover

A Little Bit Country by Brian D. Kennedy

Emmett wants to be a big, gay country music star but that’s a tough sell in Illinois and when you’re only 17. To at least get moving on his dream, he decides to spend the summer with his aunt in Tennessee, where he’ll work as talent at an amusement park owned by his idol Wanda Jean Stubbs (if you’re thinking Dollywood, know I am, too).

Luke hates country music because of a falling out between his grandma Verna Rose’s famous falling out with Wanda Jean. This summer, Luke has to take a job at Wanda World, though, and you can probably guess what happens when he and Emmett meet.

It’s love, it’s fun, it’s a potential disaster when a secret about Verna and Wanda emerges that could put their country love song romance in jeopardy.

you'd be mine book cover

You’d Be Mine by Erin Hahn

Annie Mathers is heir to a country music legacy and has been called America’s sweetheart. It’s little wonder why Clay Coolidge’s label wants her to join him on his latest music tour this summer–she’s good for his reputation and they want to land her and her band. She’s hesitant, as she knows from family history how bad the spotlight can be, but Annie agrees. It’s not exactly love at first sight between Annie and Clay but fans are making her convinced that maybe it’s worth the chance.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


Thanks for hanging out and we’ll see you on Thursday. You’ll get your paperback new releases, as well as your regular roundup of bookish news from around the web.

In the mean time, happy reading!

— Kelly Jensen, @heykellyjensen on Instagram.

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What's Up in YA

YA Romance Adaptations Galore, Witchy Paperbacks, and More YA Book News and New Books: May 5, 2022

Hey YA Readers!

Let’s dive into this week’s YA book news and new books. I don’t know about you, but I’m having a hard time believing it’s May, especially as here in the upper midwest, it still feels like March weather-wise. Give me sun and heat for outdoor reading, please!

YA Book News

New YA Books

Please note that with supply chain issues, paper supply challenges, and the pandemic more broadly, publication dates are changing at a pace I can’t keep up with. Some release dates may be pushed back. If a book catches your attention, the smartest thing to do right now is to preorder it or request it from your library. It’ll be a fun surprise when it arrives.

Hardcover

ballad and dagger book cover

An Unreliable Magic by Rin Chupeco (series)

Ballad and Dagger by Daniel José Older (series)

The Agathas by Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson

Bravely by Maggie Stiefvater

Burn Down, Rise Up by Vincent Tirado

Confessions of an Alleged Good Girl by Joya Goffney

The Dove in the Belly by Jim Grimsely

Family of Liars by E. Lockhart

If You Change Your Mind by Robby Weber

inheritance book cover

Inheritance by Elizabeth Acevedo, illustrated by Andrea Pippins

Nate Plus One by Kevin van Whye

The Noh Family by Grace K. Shim

See You Yesterday by Rachel Lynn Solomon

The Waiting Place by Dina Nayeri, illustrated by Anna Bosch Miralpeix (nonfiction)

When You Call My Name by Tucker Shaw

Paperback

misfit in love book cover

All Our Hidden Gifts by Caroline O’Donoghue (series)

Curse of the Specter Queen by Jenny Moke (series)

Grace and Glory by Jennifer L. Armentrout (series)

Misfit in Love by S. K. Ali (series)

Between the Bliss and Me by Lizzy Mason

Breathless by Jennifer Niven

The Castle School for Troubled Girls by Alyssa Sheinmel

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

Girl Overboard by Sandra Block

Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon

the nature of witches book cover

The Lost Coast by A. R. Capetta

The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin

One Great Lie by Deb Caletti

Swimming in the Monsoon Sea by Shyam Selvadurai

This Is My America by Kim Johnson

We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This by Rachel Lynn Solomon

When The World Was Ours by Liz Kessler

YA at Book Riot

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

Image of a white hand holding a tall glass cup. The cup has a fantasy themed book cover on it.

Enjoy your favorite iced beverage out of this fun fantasy-themed tall glass. $15 and up, and you can add a bamboo lid and straw.


Thanks for hanging out, and we’ll see you on Saturday with a fresh batch of book deals.

I hope you’re reading something great in the mean time.

— Kelly Jensen, @heykellyjensen on Instagram.

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What's Up in YA

What Manga Are Teens Reading Right Now?

Hey YA Readers!

Back in my time as a librarian, I was pretty on top of manga. I wasn’t reading it much, but I had dedicated teen readers who were great about telling me what was popular, what I should buy more of, and what they didn’t like. It was super helpful as I navigated the format.

It’s been a long time since, though, and manga is even more popular now than it was then. This deep dive into the history of manga in America highlights the huge uptick in readership during the 2020 COVID lockdowns and the market has continued to grow in the years since.

Because I know YA readers love knowing a wide range of formats and that many subscribers here work with teens directly, I wanted to talk about manga right now and specifically, the manga that is popular with teens right now. I asked around and got some great answers and insight and hope this helps you find some new reading like it did me. (It also made me feel good knowing how many of these are perennial favorites so I am not entirely out of the loop and note, too, it’s still a male-creator dominated landscape).

What Teens Are Reading

Assassination Classroom by Yusei Matsui

attack on titan book cover

Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama

Boruto by Ukyō Kodachi and Masashi Kishimoto, and illustrated by Mikio Ikemoto

Beastars by Paru Itagaki

Black Butler by Yana Toboso

Blue Exorcist by Kazue Kato

Boys Run the Riot by Keito Gaku

Demon Slayer by Koyoharu Gotouge

Full Metal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa

Handa-Kun by Satsuki Yoshino

hunter x hunter book cover

Hunter x Hunter by Yoshihiro Togashi

Jujutsu Kaisen by Gege Akutami

My Hero Academia by Kohei Horikoshi

Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto

One-Punch Man by ONE and Yusuke Murata

Rising of the Shield Hero by Aneko Yusagi.

Sailor Moon by Naoko Takeuchi

Sweetness and Lightning book cover

Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Ōima

Soul Eater by Atsushi Okubo

Spy X Family by Tatsuya Endo

Sweetness & Lightning by Gido Amagakure

Tegami Bachi by Hiroyuki Asada

Tokyo Ghoul by Sui Yamazaki

Yona of the Dawn by Mizuho Kusanagi

Trends in Manga Over the Last Couple of Years

“Teeens are really interested in finding the books of new popular series they are watching (example: SpyXFamily).”

“Waaaaay more students are asking for manga than ever before. Basically anything I can get they want.”

“Huge increase in interest for manga books.”

“There has been an increase of students checking out manga versions of famous English novels.”

“They’re coming from streaming anime first so there’s less knowledge of how manga works or even what it’s called (heard a lot of teens call it anime). Also an increasing number of teens wanting queer manga.”

“More students are becoming interested in manga. It is hard to find manga that is “appropriate” for a school setting. These need to be read in order–so it can take awhile to get through holds for the books.”

“They are reading so much more this year because we were virtual all last year and 1. They wanted shorter books and 2. Many watched the shows online and wanted to read the books.”

“It has picked back up in popularity.”

“The trend is towards more heavy action manga.”

“It’s become more mainstream and if it has a popular anime or new seasons are coming, better stock up!”

Essential YA Manga Reads for Newcomers

I picked from the responses a mix of titles, as some suggested going with newer, shorter series to dig into everything all at once. Others suggested going back for classics, even if they’re lengthy, to get a sense of the scope of the stories.

Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya

Full Metal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa

Hunter x Hunter by Yoshihiro Togashi

My Hero Academia by Kohei Horikoshi

orange book cover

Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto

Orange by Ichigo Takano

Our Dreams at Dusk by Yuhki Kamatani

Sailor Moon by Naoko Takeuchi

A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Ōima

Silver Spoon by Hiromu Arakawa

Manga Insights and Pro-Tips

“I would recommend when purchasing any series to own multiple copies of vol 1 & 2 (more than your normal), because they always go missing.”

“It is still difficult to figure out if manga is “appropriate” for my young teens – much of what students want is labeled “adult” in our vendor’s lists, but I have no idea why they qualify it that way.”

“We have seen so many more students willing to read and come to our library now that we have a decent amount of manga volumes for them to check out!”

“This has been a fantastic way to grab some of my self proclaimed non readers. They think manga is fantastic and they analyze it which is something we want all readers to do. I am so happy to have been able to feed this need. I only wish I could buy them all!”

“Manga hasn’t really made it to library ebook vendors yet, which is a shame. My hope is that manga starts becoming available for librarians to purchase via OverDrive, cloudLibrary, etc. because I think teens would respond well to being able to read manga on their phones. Physical copies of manga aren’t bound very well and they tend to fall apart fast, and manga is also stolen from the library quite a bit, so it can be hard to keep it on the shelf.”

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


Big thank you to everyone who responded to share their insights into teens and manga right now. I hope this helps everyone find not only good titles for their schools or libraries but for themselves as well.

Until later this week, happy reading!

— Kelly Jensen, @heykellyjensen on Instagram.

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What's Up in YA

YA Book Award News, Along for the Ride’s Drop Date, and More YA Book News and New Books: April 28, 2022

Hey YA Readers!

It’s kind of hard to believe we’re at the end of April already and that [insert Justin Timberlake GIF here]. I hope when YA authors write their historical fiction set in the early aughts that there are lengthy descriptions of the frosted hair trend.

Enough about my teen years. Let’s dive into this week’s YA news and new books.

YA Book News

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

New YA Books

Please note that with supply chain issues, paper supply challenges, and the pandemic more broadly, publication dates are changing at a pace I can’t keep up with. Some release dates may be pushed back. If a book catches your attention, the smartest thing to do right now is to preorder it or request it from your library. It’ll be a fun surprise when it arrives.

Hardcover

jagged little pill book cover

Arden Grey by Ray Stoeve

Chasing After Knight by Heather Buchta

Harley Quinn: Reckoning by Rachael Allen

Jagged Little Pill by Eric Smith, Alanis Morissette, Diablo Cody, and Glen Ballard

Someday We’ll Find It by Jennifer Wilson

Some Mistakes Were Made by Kristin Dwyer

The Code Breaker (Young Reader Edition) by Walter Isaacson, adapted by Sarah Durand

chaos on catnet book cover

Veil by Dylan Farrow (series)

Paperback

Anna K Away by Jenny Lee (series)

Chaos on CatNet by Naomi Kritzer (series)

Muse by Brittany Cavallaro

What I Want You To See by Catherine Linka

YA on Book Riot

heartstopper themed sticker with nick and charlie kissing.

There are so many cute Heartstopper goods on Etsy right now that picking one to share was tough. But…how about a Nick and Charlie kiss sticker? $7 and up, depending on size.


Thanks for hanging out, pals, and we’ll see you again on Saturday with your rad ebook deals.

Until then, happy reading.

— Kelly Jensen, @heykellyjensen on Instagram.

Categories
What's Up in YA

🌈 Queer YA Mysteries and Thrillers to TBR

Hey YA Readers!

One of my favorite podcast requests back in the day was from an author I was going to do a book read along and discussion with. Lev Rosen, author of Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts), specifically requested a mystery featuring a queer main character published before 2015. The request was surprisingly hard when limited to mystery, as opposed to mysteries or thrillers. We settled on Tess Sharpe’s excellent Far From You. It was a really great conversation, which you can listen to here, but one of the reasons it stands out to me is because finding a book that fit the bill was challenging.

I thought I’d revisit the question now, but instead of staying limited to mysteries or titles prior to 2015, this roundup will also include queer YA thrillers, since there are more of those to choose from, as well as more recent titles. It’s clear this has been an area of growth, especially since 2015. (And if you’re wondering what the difference is between mystery and thriller, I have always found this particular definition to be a nice explainer.)

Let’s dive in. This is not in any way comprehensive because we’re lucky to be in an era of more queer genre fiction than ever before. Consider it a sampler platter.

ace of spades book cover

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé 

Someone is out there to get Devon–a talented musician who keeps to himself–and Chiamaka–head girl at the prestigious Niveus Private Academy. In this dark academia thriller, an anonymous text sender named Ace is threatening to share both of their deepest, darkest secrets. Think Gossip Girl meets Get Out.

the boy in the red dress book cover

The Boy in the Red Dress by Kristin Lambert

It’s New Year’s Eve in 1929 New Orleans. Millie is in charge of her aunt’s speakeasy, where tonight, Marion–the boy in the red dress–is performing. A photo of Marion surfaces from a party attendee who begins asking some questions and while Millie writes it off, she can’t when that person’s body is found after what looks like a fall from the club’s balcony. People begin to point the finger at Marion but Millie knows he’s innocent and sets out to find the true killer.

cold book cover

Cold by Mariko Tamaki

Georgia wants to know why Todd died. Todd’s ghost is still around and questioning all of the choices he made in his life that led him to his untimely death. Even though Georgia never knew him, she becomes obsessed with him and what happened. . . .and she begins to wonder if she knows something she was not supposed to know about him.

dead end girls book cover

Dead End Girls by Wendy Heard (May 10)

Maude plans to fake her own death next week for many reasons, including as a way to get back at her terrible parents. But more, she’s eager to start over again fresh. Those plans go to ruin, though, when Frankie, Maude’s step cousin, finds out about her plan.

Frankie doesn’t plan to rat Maude out though. Frankie plans to join her.

keep this to yourself book cover

Keep This To Yourself by Tom Ryan

Last summer, the Catalog Killer ravaged the small town of Camera Cove, killing four people before disappearing. One of those killed was Connor, Mac’s best friend. Mac wants this summer to be a new start, a way to shake off what happened a year ago. But when he finds a message from Connor, Mac is sucked back in and determined to find out who the Catalog Killer is. It may not be a random person after all.

a line in the dark book cover

A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo

Jess is Angie’s best friend. Maybe more. Angie isn’t tuned into that, though, and when Angie starts to fall for Margot, a girl from a neighboring boarding school, Jess sees something wrong coming from a mile away. But as Angie brings Jess and Margot closer–unwillingly, maybe–Jess knows there are secrets that will unravel the relationship and change Angie’s life forever. Lo is skilled at weaving together a complex thriller, where sexuality, race, and class all intertwine and for readers who love a cast of unlikable characters, this is a treat.

surrender your sons book cover

Surrender Your Sons by Adam Sass

It wasn’t the bad SAT scores that ruined Connor’s summer. It wasn’t that the old man he used to deliver meals to died. It was being kidnapped after coming out to his mother and being sent to a conversion camp. Until he changes, Connor will live on the secluded island camp called Nightlight Ministries.

It becomes pretty clear early on that this camp is not what it seems, and it seems pretty bad. No one is safe here. Connor plans to escape, bring fellow campers along with him, and expose the Ministry for what it really is.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


Before signing off, a request. If you work with teenagers or have teenagers, I’d love to know what they’re reading in the world of manga. Next week’s YA newsletter will be a look at popular teen manga, so your insights will help deliver a look at a topic I’ve lost a lot of knowledge on by no longer being a teen librarian. You can fill out this short form to help out.

As always, thanks for hanging out. We’ll see you later this week for YA book news and new books.

Until then, happy reading!

— Kelly Jensen, @heykellyjensen on Instagram.