What's Up in YA

Witchy Vibes, New Releases, and More YA Book Talk: October 3, 2022

Hey YA Readers!

I’m back for the final time before Kelly returns and I’m in a witchy kinda fall mood and here to spread the vibes. I’ve got a Hocus Pocus sweatshirt, new releases, and some witchy YA reads to start off October right!

Bookish Goods

Hocus Pocus Sweatshirt/Tee

Hocus Pocus Sweatshirt/Tee by LureBoutiqueClothing

It’s the time of year when I rewatch Hocus Pocus. You already know I’ll be doing so in my new sweatshirt. $30+

New Releases

A Scatter of Light cover

A Scatter of Light by Malinda Lo

This takes place nearly 60 years after Lo’s award-winning Last Night at the Telegraph Club (and shows a little of what happened with the characters after the book finished). This one is still set in California, but this time we’re following Aria Tang West, who gets banished from Martha’s Vineyard to California by her parents. She’s made to stay with her artist grandmother, and is surprised that what she thought would be a boring summer is made anything but by her grandmother’s gardener Steph Nichols. Steph has her questioning her identity and introduces her to a whole new world full of new experiences and community.

The First to Die at the end cover

The First to Die at the End by Adam Silvera

This is the prequel to the mega popular They Both Die at the End. In it, we follow two new strangers who both sign up for Death-Cast. Even though there is still some doubt concerning whether this thing called “Death-Cast” can really predict when someone will die, Orion Pagan and Valentino Price both sign up, anyway. Orion has a heart condition and just wants to know when his final day will be, while Valentino became more cautious because of a near fatal accident his twin sister was in. The two of them meet in Times Square and immediately click, but then the first End Day calls go out and one of them is told they will die but the other isn’t. Neither of them knows what will really happen in the end, but they both know they want to spend whatever remaining time together.

For a more comprehensive list of new releases, check out our New Books newsletter.

Riot Recommendations

I am a moody, seasonal reader who loves all things witchy, so naturally I am super excited to read all the new witchy books during October. I’ve highlighted a couple here for you to join in the fun!

Cover of Deep in Providence by Riss M. Neilson

Deep in Providence by Riss M. Nielson

Miliani, Inez, Jasmine, and Natalie are best friends living in Providence, Rhode Island who spend their time together practicing the Filipine brand of magic Miliani’s grandfather taught her. When Jasmine is killed by a drunk driver, their world is upended. They make a plan to resurrect her with magic, but they soon learn that to make this happen, they’ll have to sacrifice a lot. Long-held secrets are revealed and bonds fracture as the girls try to contend with the loss of their friend.

Over My Dead Body cover

Over My Dead Body by Sweeney Boo

In this graphic novel, Abby’s best friend Noreen goes missing. The two girls are students at Younwity’s Institute of Magic where young witches learn to hone their craft. Because of Samhain festival preparations, no one gives too much attention to Abby when she presses the issue of Noreen’s disappearance, they assume, instead, that the Coven will find her. Something is telling Abby not to trust that, though, and her investigations soon lead her to finding out secrets and she gets directed to the woods that are off limits where another girl went missing years ago.

The color palette is rich and the overall vibe is dark academia + witches, which is just something that is perfect for fall.

Thanks for having out with me while Kelly was gone! If you’d like to come say hi, you can find me at @erica_eze_ on Twitter or talking all things YA on the Hey YA podcast with Tirzah Price.

Until next time!


What's Up in YA

Forbidden Magic, A Cynic’s Romance, and More YA Book Talk & News: September 29, 2022

Hey YA Readers!

It’s Erica! I’m back to hang out and talk YA while Kelly’s out for the week.

How’s your reading been going lately? I just officially started off spooky season yesterday with a pumpkin spice latte and the audiobook of Scout’s Honor by Lily Anderson. I read her book Dead Girl Gang around this time last year and thought it was so much fun. Scout’s Honor is about a girl who has to rejoin a social club that is kind of like the Girl Scouts…except their main purpose is slaying parasitic aliens who feast on human emotions and flesh. If I finish it before Kelly gets back, I’ll let you know how I liked it.

Bookish Goods

Celestial Stars and Moon Holographic and Gold book holder

Celestial Stars and Moon Holographic and Gold Book Holder by LovetheAlchemy

I love everything moon, stars, and astrology, and this page holder is both pretty (holographic!) and sturdy (birch wood!). $15

New Releases

Welcome to paperback releases out this week. To check out a more complete list, head here.

Note that you may need to toggle to the paperback edition from the link.

Descendant of the Crane  paperback cover

Descendant of the Crane by Jone He

This is a Chinese-inspired fantasy that is full of court deception. it follows Princess Hesina of the land of Yan, who is a reluctant royal. That is, until her father is murdered and she suddenly has to rule. To find out who killed him, she enlists the help of a psychic, even though magic was banned years ago. With her illegally obtained clues, she gets Akira, an investigator, to further help her suss out what happened since she can’t trust anyone. Not even her own family.

It Only Happens in the Movies cover

It Only Happens in the Movies by Holly Bourne

Audrey is understandably cynical about romance. With her parents’ divorce and her own breakup, she’s justifiably not the most romantic person right now. When she meets Harry, who is one of her movie theater coworkers, she thinks she can resist his confident flirting. She’s wrong, of course, but that doesn’t mean their romance will be like it is in the movies…

For a more comprehensive list of new releases, check out our New Books newsletter!

Thanks for chilling with me for a minute! I’ll be back with Saturday’s YA book deals.

In the meantime, you can catch Tirzah and I talking about some great YA books by Latine authors to read for Latine Heritage Month (and every other month of the year, obvi).

Until then,


What's Up in YA

A YA Birthday Party, Fake-Dating Laughs, and More YA Book Talk: September 26, 2022

Hey YA Readers!

One of my favorite things to do is take a week off working to do absolutely nothing. I try to do it around my birthday, as a way to ease into another whole year of life. I’m off this week for that reason and cannot wait to spend time indulging in self-care, fancy coffees from my favorite cafe, doing yoga, and, of course, reading.

You’ll hear from one of my fab colleagues the rest of the week and into early next.

Bookish Goods

book cork board

Book Pin Board by TowerofTreasure

I adore this cork board shaped like an open book. How fun would this be as a place to track your reading progress or, if you work in a school or a library, a place to share what you’re reading/book recommendations/engage in a passive program with teens? $29+.

New Releases

Let’s look at two hardcover books hitting shelves this week. You can find the rest of this week’s new releases in the summer 2022 YA book release roundup. The fall roundup of new hardcovers hit Book Riot last week, too, so get ready to launch into that more fully in October.

lark and kasim start a revolution book cover

Lark and Kasim Start a Revolution by Kacen Callender

Because Lark wants to be a writer, they begin to build a social media following. Kasim, Lark’s former best friend, accidentally posts on Lark’s Twitter threat about deep and unrequited love for a secret crush and now, those tweets are the subject of school obsession. Who are they in reference to? Lark decides they’ll protect Kasim and claim those tweets were in reference to another classmate. . . but now, with the school and thousands of outsiders following and trying to unravel the truth behind those tweets, it might be bringing Lark and Kasim closer together. Can love ignite revolution?

well that was unexpected book cover

Well That Was Unexpected by Jesse Q. Sutanto

Sharlot’s mother has caught her in a “compromising position” and decides the best solution is for them to head to her mother’s native Indonesia.

Meanwhile, George Clooney Tanuwijaya’s father–yes, he’s obsessed with American celebrities–is also trying to rein in his son. They are some of the wealthiest people in Indonesia and no way can anything mar the family’s reputation.

So when Sharlot’s mother and George’s father strike up conversation online, each pretending to be one another’s children, they think it’ll be so their children find the “right” kind of partner. But when the real Sharlot and George find out about what their parents are doing, they are horrified…and then maybe begin to actually fall for one another.

This one’s got fake dating, ridiculous parents, a romantic island adventure, and loads of humor.

For a more comprehensive list of new releases, check out our New Books newsletter.

Riot Recommendations

It is true that there are very few books on non-Christmas holidays in YA. It’s especially true for non-Christian focused holidays, though we’re finally seeing the tides turn a bit here. There are books like Gloria Chao’s Rent-A-Boyfriend which travels from Thanksgiving through Chinese New Year, and we’ll see Suzanne Park’s The Christmas Clash hit shelves early next month, which is set at Christmas but follows rival Korean and Chinese restaurants. Slowly but surely, there are books representing Jewish traditions making their way onto shelves and (if reading book announcements doesn’t steer me wrong) more than a couple Halloween-set stories, too.

One thing that still seems to be another rare breed in YA? Books about birthdays. It seems much more prevalent in middle grade than YA, despite the fact teens celebrate some pretty milestone birthdays: 15, 16, and 18, among them.

I don’t know about anyone else in my age bracket [deeply elder millennial], but I lived for the early seasons of MTV’s My Super Sweet 16, wondering what it must be like to have access to such unlimited funds and connections during my teens. I’d love even more of that spirit–and the opposite, too–in YA. Not to mention that there are so many possibilities in the realm of sci fi and fantasy for birthday-focused stories.

Let’s look at a couple that are out there and wish upon some candles we see more. Imagine all of the possibilities.

once upon a quincenera book cover

Once Upon a Quinceañera by Monica Gomez-Hira

18-year-old Carmen wants a happy ever after, but that’s not looking possible. She’s doing a summer internship that involves performing in a ballgown during the hot summer heat in Miami. Not ideal.

Worse? The company she’s interning for is hired for her spoiled cousin Ariana’s quinceañera, which promises to be over-the-top. Carmen’s required dance partner for the party? Her ex-boyfriend Mauro.

Can Carmen find her happily ever after? Is it possible as she’s now being put inside her Worst Possible Scenario?

sugar town queens book cover

Sugar Town Queens by Malla Nunn

Amandla and her mom have always been the talk of Sugar Town. Her mom struggles with visions and beliefs that if a certain behavior is practiced, Amandla’s father will return. They’re also the talk of town because Amandla is brown and her mother is white.

So when Amandla wakes up on her 15th birthday and her mom has had a vision–if Amandla wears a specific blue sheet and a halo, then her father will come back. Amandla writes it off, of course. Until she discovers a mysterious address and bundle of cash in the bottom of her mother’s purse. She’s going to make it her mission to find her father. But what she discovers is so much bigger than she could ever imagine.

A few other birthday themed books worth adding to your TBR include Love Is A Revolution by Renee Watson (the birthday is an inciting incident), Birthday by Meredith Russo, and You Wish by Mandy Hubbard.

Thanks for hanging out, and we’ll see you later this week.

Until then, happy reading!

— Kelly Jensen, @veronikellymars on Twitter.

What's Up in YA

Time Travel, Queer Ghost Hunting, and More YA Book Talk & News: September 22, 2022

Hey YA Readers!

After a strong start of the month with reading, I have been unable to get myself to pick up a book in what feels like forever (it’s been a week, tops). The book I’m reading is great but my energy and capacity to focus on anything greater than a 60 second TikTok is shot. Here’s your reminder that if you’re in this same place–whether that’s right now, has happened before, or will happen in the future–that’s normal. You’re still a reader and a book lover.

Let’s take a look at this week’s YA paperback releases and book news.

Bookish Goods

acrylic library card bookmark

Library Card Acrylic Bookmark by FaneshaFabreArt

How adorable are these acrylic library due date card bookmarks? You can choose your color and if you’d like to have them personalized, that’s an option. $12 and up.

New Releases

Welcome to paperback releases out this week. It is a very white list, both below and in the larger roundup. You can grab the full list of paperback books out this week over here!

Note that you may need to toggle to the paperback edition from the link.

the dead and the dark book cover

The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould

There is something Not Great happening in Snakebite, Oregon, and when Logan arrives with her dads to town to film for their paranormal reality show, she’s feeling that sense of Not Great, too. No one in Snakebite is excited to be part of this show, but when the girl who has been haunted by her dead boyfriend’s ghost teams up with Logan to solve the mystery of what’s happening, a whole box of secrets about the town and its history opens.

Queer girls + ghosts + Riverdale vibes + paranormal investigator show? I’m all in.

your life has been delayed book cover

Your Life Has Been Delayed by Michelle I. Mason

Jenny’s coming back home to St Louis after visiting her grandparents in New York City, and she’s excited about her senior year. Too bad her plane went “missing,” and reappeared 25 years later. Now, Jenny’s missed everything in those 25 years and has to figure out a way to move forward to build a life she never anticipated.

Time travel to the future? This one sounds intriguing!

YA Book News

Thanks for hanging out, and we’ll see you on Saturday with your YA book deals.

Until then, happy reading (or, if you’re like me, happy not-reading!).

— Kelly Jensen, @veronikellymars on Twitter.

What's Up in YA

PCOS Representation in YA + This Week’s New YA Books: September 19, 2022

Hey YA Readers!

September might be one of the most jam-packed months when it comes to awareness building campaigns. Among the most well-known are that it’s suicide prevention month, that it’s the beginning of Latine Heritage Month, it’s national library card signup month, and it’s a month related to several health-related challenges, including one that hits home for me: polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) month.

I’ve lived with PCOS my entire adult life, and it impacts me every single day. For those who aren’t familiar with this particular hormonal disorder, it impacts individuals who have a uterus and ovaries, and it can manifest in many different ways. Some of the most common include abnormal, absent, or very heavy menstrual cycles; significant facial or body hair; body weight which accumulates in the midsection; acne; fatigue; cystic ovaries; and trouble conceiving. PCOS impacts at least one out of every ten people of menstruating age, and it is often under diagnosed. There are no cures for it, and most people who choose to treat for it need to do so on a symptom-by-symptom basis (so, if you want to stop the excess body hair, you’d treat that, but it wouldn’t necessarily help regulate menstruation and so forth).

I’ve written before about the lack of books which tackle PCOS in YA*, and though things are not better than they were then, I do have a couple of books now that at least touch on this common disorder. I’m going to share them today in the newsletter, and I wanted to bring some awareness to this disorder because of how it impacts me every single day…and because I know for teens especially, anything “abnormal” can be extremely difficult to talk about and even more so when it relates to hormones and reproductive organs.

I also bring it up here because there is something to be considered with this particular disorder when it comes to gender. While the disorder impacts those with internal reproductive organs, some of its hallmarks are hormonal imbalances that more commonly mirror those of cisgender men. Some medical professionals and some individuals who have PCOS consider themselves to be intersex, and trans individuals with PCOS face even bigger hurdles when it comes to their healthcare and sense of self. I identify as female, despite hormones that don’t always align that way, and the more work I do on myself when it comes to my body, the more important I find it to talk about PCOS and how it disrupts and challenges “traditional” notions of a gender binary.

We need more YA books that talk about PCOS and we need more books, period, which explore PCOS and gender. I invite you to spend a little time this month reading and learning about this disorder and hearing from voices — particularly those of young people — learning to navigate a hormonal disorder with their own sense of gender identity.

*If given the chance to rewrite this piece, I’d have addressed PCOS with even more inclusivity, but I think it is important to both share it as-is and mention that the more we’re able to learn about ourselves and about the range of gender expressions available to people, the better we build more accurate language and understanding of ourselves and others.

Bookish Goods

a sticker featuring a stack of fall-colored books and a pumpkin that reads "fall is my favorite."

Fall Reader Sticker by ClaireyLDesigns

I love summer, but I also really love fall, particularly for reading. You better believe I am falling (heh) for this fall is my favorite sticker featuring books, a pumpkin, and twinkle lights. $2.50.

New Releases

Let’s look at two hardcover books hitting shelves this week. You can find the rest of this week’s new releases in the summer 2022 YA book release roundup. The fall roundup of new hardcovers will hit Book Riot this coming week, too!

rust in the root book cover

Rust in the Root by Justina Ireland

A Black, queer, magical historical fiction set in the late 1930s? This sounds like it will be a lot in a very good way.

Laura lives in America, which is divided between those who are part of the mystical arts and those who aren’t. The Great Rust destroyed the country, and now, the great rebuilding has involved a push toward industry and technology and away from traditional mystical work. Laura plans to pursue the arts, though, and once she arrives in New York City, she finds herself struggling until she applies for a job with the government. She meets Skylar, who agrees to take her on as an apprentice, and just before their first first mission, they find work from some of the most powerful mages in history that haven’t been seen in generations. It’s work that could get both of them killed.

Ireland’s no stranger to books about American history that explore race, power, and privilege. This book does all of that and more.

seoulmates book cover

Seoulmates by Susan Lee

Itching for a childhood friends-to-lovers romance? This one’s for you.

Hannah’s looking forward to her perfectly planned summer with her boyfriend Nate and her upcoming senior year. Too bad Nate leaves Hannah, and he, like so many of her friends, have found themselves falling for all things K-Pop. It wouldn’t be a big deal, really, but Hannah has worked hard to avoid getting to know the Korean part of her Korean American identity, so it’s even harder for her to handle this breakup than she anticipated.

Jacob, Hannah’s former best friend from childhood, is home for the summer. Jacob…who starred in K-dramas. Now, Hannah not only finds herself falling for him but needing to come to terms with her own identity in the process.

For a more comprehensive list, check out our New Books newsletter.

Riot Recommendations

If you know of other YA books that tackle PCOS, I’d love to hear about them. This is my most current list, and my criteria is pretty minimal: there must be some time dedicated to naming it and explaining it, even if it’s just a few paragraphs.

You’ll note all of these are by white cis authors. Also interesting is that two of the three at Australian writers. Is there more awareness or conversation happening outside of the U.S.?

it sounded better in my head book cover

It Sounded Better In My Head by Nina Kenwood

Natalie’s parents have just announced they’re getting divorced and she’s not entirely sure she saw it coming. They didn’t really fight or argue, and no one seems super upset about it.

At the same time, her two best friends Zach and Lucy get together, and now she’s upset and feeling super awkward about it. Natalie always thought she and Zach were meant to be, but it turns out, maybe that’s not the case after all.

So when an unexpected romance enters into Natalie’s life, she’s got to find a place between what she expected to play out for her and what actually is.

Natalie has PCOS and some of her experiences with mood and feelings mirror what can be common emotional challenges for those with the disorder (and compounded with being a teenager + dealing with two huge life events at once!). She is sometimes downright mean and it’s impossible for me as someone with PCOS not to see how some of her actions and reactions have less to do with how she’s emotionally feeling and more with how her body is reacting to a situation.

only mostly devastated book cover

Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales

Ollie and Will had a whirlwind romance during the summer when Ollie spent time in North Carolina with his family. He’s preparing to head back home to California for the new school year when his parents break the news they’re going to be staying. His aunt, who has cancer, is really struggling, and being in North Carolina will be a way for them to help out with her husband and kids as she attends to appointments and caring for her own health.

Ollie immediately finds a friendship with a group of girls at his new school — and immediately learns that, despite the fact Will doesn’t live in the same town he does, he does attend the same high school. But Will has stopped responding to texts and is cold at the sight of Ollie. What happened to their connection? Can it be kindled again? Will isn’t out at school, among his basketball peers — many of whom are homophobic — and he worries that coming out will mean disappointment from his parents. This is why he’s keeping Ollie at arm’s distance and why, again and again, the two of them come close then once again fall apart.

The thing is, neither Will nor Ollie can resist one another, and it’s this magnetism that keeps them working toward a goal of connecting, of finding the same romance they had that summer.

If you’re wondering where PCOS fits into this, it’s one of the side characters. She openly talks about having PCOS during the book and it was such a refreshing moment for explaining a relatively common health condition.

body talk book cover

Body Talk: 37 Voices Explore Our Radical Anatomy edited by Kelly Jensen

It is never not awkward talking about your own work, but I wrote an entire essay on my experiences with PCOS for Body Talk. I wrote the piece in a whirlwind, and it still resonates with me years and years later. I’ll never be the person who might dye or braid my facial hair…but I will forever tell women — it’s always cis women — their jokes about that one single chin hair they get being the worst thing ever are the farthest thing from funny (and they’re so gender essentialist to boot).

Thank you all so much for hanging out and for allowing me space to get kind of personal and raw. I hope this is helpful for the (at least) 5-10% of you who also struggle with PCOS and for those of you who work with readers who do.

Until later this week, happy reading!

— Kelly Jensen, @veronikellymars on Twitter.

What's Up in YA

Burning Waves, Toothy Rivers, and More YA Book Talk and News: September 15, 2022

Hey YA Readers!

I had my first Summer Scares committee meeting for the 2023 season, which means I am back into my all-things-horror reading mode. Convenient that I am in the midst of a YA horror now, of course, but ’tis the season for all things creepy, crawly, and unsettling.

As I prepare to settle in for the long scary reading haul, let’s dive into this week’s new paperback releases and YA book news.

Bookish Goods

skeleton book tee

Skeleton Book Tee by TeeSpill

Who doesn’t need a little more fun horror in their wardrobe? I love this skeleton reading shirt, which comes in a few color options. It goes up to a size 3XL and starts at $15.

New Releases

Here are this week’s new releases out in paperback–this is a much slower pub week than usual. As always, you can grab the full list of paperback books out this week over here!

Note that you may need to toggle to the paperback edition from the link.

beneath the burning wave book cover

Beneath the Burning Wave by Jennifer Hayashi Danns

I know very little about this book except that it explores gender fluidity and that it is a YA fantasy book with undertones from Japanese folklore and Egyptian mythology.

Kaori and Kai are the first set of twins to survive on the island of Mu. The reason none have survive before is because of an ancient prophecy and now, the rivalry is beginning to emerge. But what’s more important–loyalty to the island or to one another?

the river has teeth book cover

The River Has Teeth by Erica Waters

Natasha’s sister went missing and her car was found at the Bend, and she wants answers. Della and her family have conjured magic from the Bend, setting spells for those who are desperate. When Natasha arrives at Della’s door, itching to find out what happened to her sister, Della knows this is going to be a case requiring a lot more than a little magic.

YA Book News

Thanks for hanging out! We’ll see you on Saturday with some great book deals.

Until then, happy reading.

— Kelly Jensen, @veronikellymars on Twitter.

What's Up in YA

Queer Coming-of-Age Comics, A Syrian Story, and More YA Book Talk: September 12, 2022

Hey YA Readers!

I’m rolling on home from a weekend outside at a yoga festival. It was such a necessary refresh for me, and I had plenty of time to dig into some reading in the evening (a lot of folks camped, too, but sorry, my idea of camping has fresh linens, a shower, and a flushing toilet!).

Here’s a look at this week in YA books.

Bookish Goods

books are my besties tote bag

Books Are My Besties Tote by thepurpleroseuk

This pastel tote bag is so dang cute! $30.

Don’t want a tote? The shop has this same design in shirts and in buttons.

New Releases

Let’s look at two hardcover books hitting shelves this week. You can find the rest of this week’s new releases in the summer 2022 YA book release roundup.

as long as the lemon trees grow book cover

As Long as The Lemon Trees Grow by Zoulfa Katouh

There are few YA books addressing the Syrian crisis, but this is one and it sounds fantastic (it’s been on my to-read list since it showed up in the mail months ago!).

Salama is a pharmacy student when the Syrian Revolution began, and everything with her family and home seemed “normal” at the time. But now as she volunteers at a hospital where wounded are showing up, desperate and in need of help, Salama is torn. She thinks it is time to flee, especially as her sister-in-law is about to have a baby. Salama’s desperation manifests itself into an imagined companion who continues pressing her to leave.

Despite thinking and feeling it is right to leave, Salama’s story is about that tear between starting fresh and staying in the country she loves to continue crying for freedom.

the epic story of every living thing book cover

The Epic Story of Every Living Thing by Deb Caletti

I love Deb Caletti, both as an author and as a person — we did a panel together a few years ago and clicked instantly. Her latest book follows Harper, a girl who was conceived by a sperm donor. Certain that she cannot know herself until she knows the anonymous donor who helped forge her life, Harper wants to track him down and is able to get a lead through Instagram. That lead? A half sibling.

As Harper heads to Hawaii to get to know her new half siblings, she navigates learning about her father, about the family she never met, and the realities of growing up in the midst of a pandemic — and how that pandemic only intensified her already-intense anxiety.

It’s a feminist book about discovery, coming-of-age, and mental health.

For a more comprehensive list, check out our New Books newsletter.

Riot Recommendations

Let’s call today’s theme “Be Gay + Do Comics.” I blew through one of these comics recently and the number of folks who hopped in my Instagram DMs when I said I read it in a single sitting made me realize it was worth giving some more love to. The other is one I read a while back and fell in love with (& felt honored when the author contributed a piece to Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World).

It comes without saying these books, because they’re queer and comics, are among those consistently being challenged and banned across the U.S. right now.

Flamer by Mike Curato

Aiden Navarro is at summer camp before the start of junior high. It’s an intense summer of hanging out with his friends, navigating bullies desperate to make him feel bad about himself as a half-Asian boy, and coming to terms with the fact he might be gay.

One night, when Aiden kisses his best friend and campmate, things shift immediately. Has he forever lost the trust of his friend Elias? Did that kiss mean anything romantic? Was it an accident?

This is a moving, heartfelt story and one that will resonate with younger (and older!) teens. It’s about traversing that tricky space between what faith might tell you is right, what it might tell you is a sin, and how you come to accept yourself as you are.

tomboy book cover

Tomboy by Liz Prince

Prince creates an outstanding memoir about gender expression and gender identity with Tomboy. Her voice is amazing, and her experiences about not fitting in — never being “girl” enough and never being “boy” enough — will speak to so many teens who find themselves struggling with this same challenge in a world that so eagerly wants to put people in one box or another.

More, this is a book about bullying and about those tumultuous middle grade years when all you want to do is fit in and how that can be even harder when you also don’t want to fit in and your body doesn’t care about your wishes.

Fans of comics will dig the plot thread about growing passionate about comics and choosing to pursue it as a career as well.

I hope you’ve found your next favorite read!

Until later this week, happy reading.

— Kelly Jensen, @veronikellymars on Twitter.

What's Up in YA

Deadly Races, Integrated Proms, and More YA Books and Book News: September 8, 2022

Hey YA Readers!

Anyone else take advantage of the long weekend–if you got one–to do some reading? I managed to finish three books and an audiobook, which is unheard of for me anymore. I’d love more three day weekends filled with books, ngl.

Let’s dive on into this week’s look at the best new books and YA book news.

Bookish Goods

bookworm book mark

Bookworm Bookmark by Sodelightful

Look at this adorable bookworm bookmark. I love the art and colors so much. $4.

Not into the bookmark? There are some other goods in the shop with this same pattern, including wrapping paper.

New Releases

Since there is only one newsletter this week, the two books below are both going to be hardcover highlights. You can look through all of the YA books hitting shelves in hardcover here and those in paperback here.

monsters made and born book cover

Monsters Made and Born by Tanvi Berwah

Itching for a South Asian fantasy? Look no further.

Koral, who is 16, and her brother Emrik have to capture the dangerous (and potentially deadly) maristags everyday which live in the sea around their island. Their family are indentured servants to the ruling upper class, who use these sea creatures as part of the Glory Race, a chariot tournament for the elite which can turn quite deadly.

When the last maristag of the year escapes, Koral’s family has nothing to sell and now their finances are in dire straits–they can’t afford the medication her younger sister needs. Koral takes it upon herself to find a solution: cheat her way into the Glory Race and hope that she can come out a winner.

But there are several challenges. First: she’s never trained for this. Second: her ex-boyfriend is one of the competitors. Third: is she truly prepared to put her life on the line for someone else?

This one is compared to The Hunger Games meets These Violent Delights in marketing copy, but I also see some Scorpio Races here.

the weight of blood book cover

The Weight of Blood by Tiffany D. Jackson

I’m reading this one now and it is excellent. Set up partially as a true crime podcast, Jackson’s horror novel is a take on the classic Carrie.

Maddie’s been passing for white her entire life and forced to keep up the act thanks to her father. She’s always been the target of bullying at her small high school, but when her secret is revealed, things go from bad to worse.

A viral video showcases the school’s deep racist roots, and student leaders decide one way to fix their reputation is to host their first integrated prom. Too bad not everyone will make it out of the prom alive . . . and, of course, those who do make out are pointing the finger at Maddie.

YA Book News

As always, thanks for hanging out! We’ll see you on Saturday with your YA book deals.

Until then, happy reading!

— Kelly Jensen, @veronikellymars on Twitter.

What's Up in YA

Shifters, Pranksters, and More YA Books and Book News: September 1, 2022

Hey YA Readers!

September is here, and I could not be happier. It is the best month of the year, right up there with June.

I’ve pulled together a look at your YA paperback releases this week, alongside some YA book news to dive into.

Note: because next week is Labo(u)r Day, there will be no newsletter on Monday. We’ll be back as usual on Thursday.

Bookish Goods

acrylic bookmark that says "bookish."

Bookish Acrylic Bookmark by MoonlacebyYoly

Treat yourself to a cute acrylic bookish bookmark. It’s simple and straight forward, meaning it is also perfect. $8.50.

New Releases

Welcome to paperback releases out this week. It is a very white list, both below and in the larger roundup. You can grab the full list of paperback books out this week over here!

Note that you may need to toggle to the paperback edition from the link.

forestborn book cover

Forestborn by Elayne Audrey Becker

The first in a fantasy series, Becker’s debut follows Rora, a shifter. Rora, like those also born in the wilderness, is magical and feared. Her power is used to spy on the king and when a devastating illness begins to impact the kingdom, Rora is heartbroken when Finley–a young prince and her best friend–has caught it. Stardust would save him, but that’s only accessible via the forest Rora has sworn to never return to.

Rora is going to make the journey, though. Soon, though, she and her companions realize they may be in for a series of even bigger challenges than just saving Finley’s life.

The sequel to this one is out this week, too, so you can read the entire duology in one big gulp.

the mary shelley club book cover

The Mary Shelley Club by Goldy Moldavsky

Rachel is the new kid at her school, and as a scholarship student, she’s already an outcast. When she’s caught in a prank gone bad, she fears it’s over for her socially.

But that prank catches the attention of the Mary Shelley Club, a group of students who seek to come up with the best prank to truly scare fellow students. It’s a competition, and the consequences may be deadly, especially as the Club begins to turn on itself.

Riot Recommendations

As always, thanks for hanging out. We’ll see you on Saturday with your book deals for this week.

Until then, happy reading!

— Kelly Jensen, @veronikellymars on Twitter

What's Up in YA

Teen Craftivism, Haunted Pinball Machines, and More YA Book Talk: August 29, 2022

Hey YA Readers!

It’s the last week of August, and I am here to talk about the stellar books hitting shelves. I’m also super stoked to highlight a couple of YA nonfiction books that encourage teen activism and changemaking.

Of course, for those of you who aren’t teens or don’t work with teens, you’ll find a lot to get out of those reads as well.

Let’s dive on in!

Bookish Goods

image of a book necklace

Books Necklace by WittingCraft

Wear a bookshelf wherever you go with this neat little shelf necklace. You can pick your finish — gold, silver, or rose gold — and necklace length. $25.

New Releases

Let’s look at two hardcover books hitting shelves this week. You can find the rest of this week’s new releases in the summer 2022 YA book release roundup.

belladonna book cover

Belladonna by Adalyn Grace

The first in a series and a just-named Barnes & Noble September YA Book Club Pick, expect to hear quite a bit about this book in the weeks to come.

19-year-old Signa was orphaned as a baby and has lived with a string of relatives…all of which have met unfortunate and untimely demise. Now she’s with the wealthy Hawthornes, and though the mother is dead, her spirit haunts the family and claims she was poisoned. Signa, suspecting danger for the rest of the family, teams up with a stable boy to unravel the mystery, now finds herself in need of cooperation from an unlikely source: Death.

Is there a love story between Signa and the stable boy? Or Signa and Death? Or is this strictly to get to the bottom of the late Mrs. Hawthorne’s suspicious death?

dead flip book cover

Dead Flip by Sara Farizan

Cori, Maz, and Sam were inseparable growing up. They hung out all of the time, shared a deep love for Halloween and arcade games, among other things, but when they were in middle school, things started to change. 

Fast forward to 1993, and Sam has been gone for six years. Cori and Maz are seniors, and they run across one another by chance…and that chance meeting resurrects not only the feelings of their broken friendship but it also brings Sam back. Sam, who comes back not as a senior himself, but as his 12-year-old self. Still believing it is 1987. 

What unravels is a story of secrets the best friends kept from one another, as well as what both Cori and Maz believe happened to Sam.

This is a fun, funny paranormal mystery for readers who love Stranger Things.

For a more comprehensive list, check out our New Books newsletter.

Riot Recommendations

I got a pitch for a really cool nonfiction book that led me down the path of realizing how little time is dedicated to YA nonfiction that is not narrative. I spend as much time and space as I can highlighting YA nonfiction, but not enough giving the room to books that are not straight-forward reads but instead fall into other categories, such as how tos, reference, and so forth (you can read a bit more about the different types of nonfiction in YA over here).

Today, two books that are activist-driven titles. Certainly, they have a narrative to them, but both encourage teens to get out and do something. One of these is part of a series and just hit shelves earlier this month, while the other is worth preordering for when it releases in October.

this book will save the planet book cover

This Book Will Save the Planet: A Climate-Justice Primer for Activists and Changemakers by Dany Sigwalt and Aurelia Durand

The third book in the “Empower the Future” (the first and second cover anti-racism and feminism), this book looks at how teens can get involved with climate justice. It’s a guide to explaining what climate activism is and resource for getting started and why the work matters. It’s penned by a leader in the climate justice movement who focuses specifically on racial justice and intersectionality within the movement. Every chapter has a call to action so readers can get their hands dirty doing the work. Bonus illustrations make it extra accessible and inviting.

crafting change book cover

Crafting Change: Handmade Activism, Past and Present by Jessica Viktus (October 18)

Back in early 2018, I hopped on a plane to Boise, Idaho, where I got to be a guest as part of Amy Pence-Brown’s RADCAMP for Teens. One of the activities she did during this body positivity camp was craftivism and the teens absolutely loved sharing empowering messages around the community relating to everything they were passionate about–body safety and security, queer lives, Black lives, and more.

When I saw the pitch for this book hit my inbox, I was super excited to give it a look. It’s a book all about teen craftivism and how making something by hand can be a way to get the word out there about topics teens are passionate about. I think it can be easy to forget that, especially for more timid teens, there are ways to be activists and agents of change in ways that allow them to be creative and not necessarily have to put their faces out there.

Not only does this book explore the history of craftivism, it’s loaded with ideas for teens to take on their very own projects, too. Count me in!

I’m ready to make some art and get my hands on some new books, too.

Thanks for hanging out, and we’ll see you later this week for your YA book news and new paperback releases.

Until then, happy reading!

— Kelly Jensen, @veronikellymars on Twitter.