The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

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Four for the Road by K. J. Reilly

Four for the Road by K.J. Reilly is a gut-punch of a novel. Its portrayal of grief is raw and furious and heartbreaking. Following the death of his mother, Asher Hunting rotates through therapists and bereavement groups, trapped in a cycle of anger and pain. He wants nothing more than to get revenge on the drunk driver who killed his mother, but avoided jail time on a technicality. Along with an unexpected group of friends from the bereavement groups–teens Sloane and Will and 80-year-old Henry– Asher embarks on a road trip from New Jersey to Graceland in hopes of revenge and closure. Four for the Road is a moving examination of the anger that accompanies grief and the earth-shattering reality of loss. For anyone who has ever lost someone, Four for the Road holds a mirror up to the jagged edges that are left behind and validates that being in pieces is okay.

Four for the Road by K. J. Reilly, (List Price: $19.99, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 9781665902281, August 2022)

Reviewed by Charlie Williams, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

When You Take a Step by Bethanie Deeney Murguia

A September 2022 Read This Next! Title

Follow a trail of color through this book as you see where taking a step will lead. Each page follows a child as they explore the world. And even though everyone’s journey will be different, they can all make a difference. This book has a similar feel to Jacqueline Woodson’s The Day You Begin.

When You Take a Step by Bethanie Deeney Murguia, (List Price: $18.99, Beach Lane Books, 9781534473676, September 2022)

Reviewed by Jamie Southern, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

J.R. Silver Writes Her World by Melissa Dassori

Take a Mary Poppins-esque teacher who definitely knows more than she’s letting on, her inherited collection of seemingly magical New Yorker covers that are supposed to inspire creative writing projects, and a pair of best friends whose friendship is changing as they start middle school and you’ve got J.R. Silver Writes Her World. I loved all the little nods in here to “From the Mixed-Up Files” and the Met.

J.R. Silver Writes Her World by Melissa Dassori, (List Price: 6.99, Christy Ottaviano Books, 9780316331456, July 2022)

Reviewed by Melissa Taylor, E. Shaver, Bookseller in Savannah, Georgia

Etta Invincible by Reese Eschmann

Kids turned superheroes. A lost dog. A magical train. A friendship that can save the city. Etta Invincible, told in scenes of written chapters and comic book pages, tells the story of Etta and Eleazar as they search for a lost dog and face the overwhelming sights and sounds, quirky characters, and magical foes all in their city of Chicago.

Etta Invincible by Reese Eschmann, (List Price: $17.99, Aladdin, 9781534468375, July 2022)

Reviewed by Cat Chapman, Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida

TJ Powar Has Something to Prove by Jesmeen Kaur Deo

Powerhouse debater and soccer star TJ is considered one of the most beautiful girls at her school. But when a meme starts circulating comparing her flawless beauty to her Sikh cousin’s natural hairiness, TJ decides to ditch her hair-removal routines to show herself and the world that it’s possible to be both hairy and beautiful. The world, though, seems determined to prove her wrong — except her debate rival Charlie, who doesn’t seem to care at all. A fun, flirty story that couches a cutting criticism of societal beauty standards, handled in a way that will win over readers regardless of personal opinions.

TJ Powar Has Something to Prove by Jesmeen Kaur Deo, (List Price: $17.99, Viking Books for Young Readers, 9780593403396, June 2022)

Reviewed by Melissa Oates, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, South Carolina

Hollow Fires by Samira Ahmed

Ahmed masterfully weaves together so many difficult topics that it’s hard to say what this book is about in any concise way. It’s painful, it’s beautiful, it’s haunting. It shines a light on horrific topics with sensitivity and grace and does so through the lens of two characters that are some of the most realistic I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Safiya didn’t really know Jawad, and she still felt the pain of his loss deeply. Upon finishing this book, I too feel his loss as if I knew him. I cannot remember ever reading a book so impactful, so relevant, and so emotionally gripping. If I had my way, everyone would read this book

Hollow Fires by Samira Ahmed, (List Price: $18.99, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 9780316282642, May 2022)

Reviewed by tee arnold, Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, North Carolina

All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir

Once you are captured into this story, you cannot help but ache for these characters. This is a beautiful story about two teens who are trying to balance the weight of the world on their shoulders, and Sabaa Tahir delivers their stories with poignance and grace once again. At this point, there is nothing she could write that I would not read. Seemingly able to traverse from fantasy into fiction, Tahir delivers a novel that is at times a stunningly accurate description of teenagers and their grief, while at others touching on relationships and the sway they hold over us. Bravo to her for being able to write such a gorgeous story.

All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir, (List Price: $19.99, Razorbill, 9780593202340,  March 2022)

Reviewed by Hallie Smith, Main Street Books in Davidson, North Carolina

A Duet For Home by Karina Yan Glaser

An April Read This Next! Book

This thoughtful & fast-paced book will open children’s eyes to the plight of homeless families. It also demystifies the appeal of learning to play a musical instrument. Overall, it’s a well-crafted celebration of friendship and how kindness & determination can enact real change.

A Duet For Home by Karina Yan Glaser, (List Price: $16.99, Clarion Books, 9780544876408,  April 2022)

Reviewed by Maggie Robe, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Golden Boys by Phil Stamper

Stamper brings his trademark storytelling, full of heart and magic, to his story of 4 boys and one incredible summer. Sal, Gabriel, Heath, and Reese are the best of friends, but they’re all headed their separate ways for the summer. Sal is headed to DC to intern for a senator. Gabriel is headed to Boston to work for a nonprofit and save the trees. Heath is headed to Daytona to work with his aunt and cousin while his parents work out their divorce. And Reese is off to Paris for a summer design school. They’ve always been inseparable, so how will they make it through the summer?


Golden Boys by Phil Stamper, (List Price: $18.99, Bloomsbury YA, 9781547607372, February 2022)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia


The Big Reveal by Jen Larsen

Addie is a fat dancer, and proud of it–not letting her peers or anybody else allow her to feel shame or inferiority because of her body. She has a group of truly excellent friends, who throughout the book are self-affirming, endlessly supportive, and outright hilarious. I wish I’d had anything close to these friends when I was in high school. Scratch that, I wish I had these friends now. Together, they hatch a plan to financially support Addie’s potential post-graduation job with a dance company in Milan that involves an underground burlesque show, and through it, Addie discovers the self-affirming and body-positive power of burlesque, which she and her friends had previously cast aside as creative stripping. But she also has, and does, stand up to misogyny, slut-shaming, and fatphobia from her peers and superiors, and Larsen is truly excellent at illustrating exactly how internalized bigotry can hurt you even when you think you love who you are, just because we live in a world where anything that isn’t the default is constantly assumed to be aberrant. The best YA I’ve read all year!!

The Big Reveal by Jen Larsen, (List Price: $17.99, 9781250252173, December 2021)

Reviewed by Akil Guruparan, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

Let’s Be Friends by Violet Lemay

Violet represents so many different types of people in this magical picture book. In the end we are more alike than we think. Cute fun illustrations and happiness throughout this book make a a winner

Let’s Be Friends by Violet Lemay, (List Price: $8.99, HarperFestival, 9780063045972, December 2021)

Reviewed by Suzanne Lucey, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina

I’m Hungry!, ¡Tengo hambre! by Angela Dominguez

I’m Hungry! / ¡Tengo Hambre! is a great picture book with two adorable characters at its center. It’s an excellent teaching tool for Spanish or English, and would make for a great introduction to bilingual books for young readers. Easy to follow, clear, and cute as a button, this book is sure to be a beloved addition to any library.

I’m Hungry!, ¡Tengo hambre! by Angela Dominguez, (List Price: $18.99, Henry Holt and Co. (BYR), 9781250779960, January 2022)

Reviewed by Lauren Kean, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Amos McGee Misses the Bus by Philip C. Stead

I loved the first Amos McGee so much, and admired his clockwork schedule. In this return to Amos’s animal-filled world, though, the schedule goes awry when he stays up late planning a surprise outing and misses his morning bus to work. In the Steads’ gentle, compassionate (and lightly humorous) trademark style, Amos’s friends help him rest and reset, creating a day full of nice surprises. This lovable, heartwarming sequel is just as pitch-perfect as the first.

Amos McGee Misses the Bus by Philip C. Stead, (List Price: $18.99, Roaring Brook Press, 9781250213228, November 2021)

Reviewed by Hannah DeCamp, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia


Do You Speak Fish? by DJ Corchin

What do you do when no one will talk to you? When a young man wants to talk to the bee he gets mad because the bee won’t talk back. The bee chases him. He continues on to the lion who also won’t say hello. He gets mad again. Why is everyone so rude. The tree isn’t rude. The tree says hello and teaches the boy how to talk to new friends in their own language. Soon they are all sharing stories and bringing joy to each other. Great lessons.

Do You Speak Fish? by DJ Corchin, (List Price: $17.99, Sourcebooks Explore, 9781728219226, October 2021)

Reviewed by David Lucey, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina


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