The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Social Themes

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


Beautifully Me by Nabela Noor

Zubi is thrilled for her first day at school–until she hears her parents and sister talking about diets and their own negative body image. Should Zubi be ashamed of herself too? In the end, Zubi realizes that only YOU get to define what is beautiful and you are fabulous just the way you are. This book is a perfect way to talk to kids about body image, self-love, and how everyone is different and that’s a good thing!

Beautifully Me by Nabela Noor, (List Price: 17.99, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 9781534485877, September 2021)

Reviewed by Jen Minor, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna by Alda P. Dobbs

I read this Fourth of July weekend which was the perfect book to give me a different perspective on what America means to a family fleeing a war-torn country in search of a better life. Dobbs’ great-grandmother inspired this heart-wrenching, incredible story of 12 yo Petra Luna’s “barefoot dreams” of learning to read and write and protecting her family. I loved the earnest determination and bravery of Petra, her closeness with her 2 younger siblings, and how her abuelita taught her to listen to the natural world to survive the harsh desert conditions to make their way to the U.S. border. It was such a beautiful mix of mythology and holding tight to dreams. The war brutality was presented realistically–the danger wasn’t glossed over, but instead presented in a child-thoughtful way. I learned so much about a time in history that I didn’t know much about. My 10-year-old daughter and I highly recommend!

Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna by Alda P. Dobbs, (List Price: 17.99, Sourcebooks Young Readers, 9781728234656, September 2021)

Reviewed by Candice Conner, The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama

After the Ink Dries by Cassie Gustafson

Erica and Thomas love each other. It’s promising that they can look forward to a new relationship together–until Erica wakes up one morning to see her body vandalized with vulgar drawings, offensive words, and several names, including Thomas’. This debut is enhanced through Erica and Thomas’ own perspectives, in which Gustafson fleshes them out very well and provides two sides to this engrossing story. I’m positive that After the Ink Dries will inspire somebody, as it succeeds in illustrating the struggle-but also the possibility- of having courage and hope when it seems like the world is against you.

After the Ink Dries by Cassie Gustafson, (List Price: 19.99, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 9781534473690, July 2021)

Reviewed by Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Pumpkin by Julie Murphy

Julie Murphy’s Pumpkin is a delight. I was so happy to return to Clover City and meet brand new characters–twins Waylon and Clementine–and see a bunch of familiar faces, including previous protagonists Willowdean and Millie. Fans of Dumplin’ and Puddin’ will not be disappointed!

Pumpkin by Julie Murphy (List Price: $17.99, Balzer + Bray, 9780062880451, 5/25/2021)

Reviewed by Kate Storhoff, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Scroll to Top