The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Young Adult Fiction

unOrdinary Volume 1 by uru-chan

A Webtoon classic! I was wondering when this would get unscrolled. I love fantasy or sci-fi with overpowered protagonists who have some reason to hold themselves back or conceal their strength. This does that concept well and with great pacing.

unOrdinary Volume 1 by uru-chan, (List Price: $27.99, HarperAlley, 9780358467786, November 2023)

Reviewed by Lana Repic, E. Shaver Bookseller in Savannah, Georgia

Be That Way by Hope Larson

Hope Larson’s Be That Way is a charming coming-of-age story told in mixed formats of journal entries, illustrations, and comic strips. High school junior Christine is determined that 1996 will be the year she shines. From friendship fallouts to heartbreak and betrayal to first jobs, Christine tumbles through adolescence with snark, wit, and–ultimately– optimism as she finds herself through her art and the support of the people who matter most. Be That Way is the perfect read for when you need a reminder that the awkward teenage moments aren’t forever and that being your true self is the best thing you can be.

Be That Way by Hope Larson, (List Price: $22.99, Margaret Ferguson Books, 9780823447619, October 2023)

Reviewed by Charlie Williams, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

The Black Queen by Jumata Emill

This is an absolutely promising and thought-provoking thriller debut that questions numerous sensitive issues, including racism, underage sex, teenage pregnancy, corruption, white privilege, and child abuse.

The Black Queen by Jumata Emill, (List Price: $12.99, Ember, 9780593568576, December 2023)

Reviewed by Michelle Weiler, Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, North Carolina

Didn’t See That Coming by Jesse Q. Sutanto

A December Read This Next! Title

Second in Sutanto’s YA series, Didn’t See That Coming focuses on Kiki as she’s forced by her parents to transfer to a top school for her final year. Fortunately, her young friend Eleanor Roosevelt is there, but that seems to be the lone bright spot as she’s bullied by nearly everyone from the principal to her classmates. But Kiki is able to escape into gaming where, because of the massive amounts of abuse, she’s been playing as a male player. But she’s made a great friend in game. However, when she realizes that her friend actually goes to her new school, she must find out who he is. Didn’t See That Coming is both hilarious and heartbreaking while being a fantastic read.

Didn’t See That Coming by Jesse Q. Sutanto, (List Price: $12.99, Delacorte Press, 9780593434048, December 2023)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

Betting on You by Lynn Painter

A December Read This Next! Title

Lynn Painter fans rejoice! Betting on You, Painter’s newest YA romcom, is just as swoony and romantic and hilarious as it’s predecessors! Painter masterfully crafts the perfect slow-burn full of page defying chemistry, witty banter, crazy hijinks, and a whole lot of heart! Bailey and Charlie will wiggle their way in readers hearts just as they did each other’s! On top of a stellar romance, Painter also does an excellent job of exploring themes of anxiety, change, and friendship. It’s When Harry Met Sally for a new generation! Plus, all the Taylor Swifts references are definitely a bonus!

Betting on You by Lynn Painter, (List Price: $19.99, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 9781665921237, December 2023)

Reviewed by Emma Tara, E. Shaver Bookseller in Savannah, Georgia

The Rosewood Hunt by Mackenzie Reed

A fun treasure hunt! It reads like an adventure movie – Knives Out with the gang from Scooby Doo. Lily, soon to be 18, literally falls into the birthday cake for her Gram, leaves embarrassed, and finds the next morning that her Gram is dead. She teams up with three others to follow the clues all over town in search of Gram’s fortune. The adults – except Gram – are the “bad guys” in close pursuit as Lily’s gang, chasing them all over Rosetown as they piece together clues Gram left in invisible ink. I love happily-ever-after suspense novels and this didn’t let me down. I hope Reed writes more!

The Rosewood Hunt by Mackenzie Reed, (List Price: $19.99, HarperTeen, 9780063287600, October 2023)

Reviewed by Ashby Rushing, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu

This is a really quick but rich read with several unique voices narrating the story of Alice Franklin, a teenage girl in a small Texas town who may or may not have slept with two different guys at a party one night. Whether or not it’s true, the rumor propels the story into several directions, including a fatal car accident, a vandalized bathroom stall, and an unlikely friendship. Each character has a distinct voice, and they somehow transcend the high school stereotypes that they’re all so desperate to conform to. The Truth About Alice is a thoughtful look at the delicate balance of high school hierarchy and how a few words uttered by the right person can change–and potentially ruin–someone else’s life.

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu, (List Price: $16.99, Roaring Brook Press, 9781596439092, June, 2014)

Reviewed by Lelia Nebecker, One More Page Books in Arlington, Virginia

With or Without You by Eric Smith

Jordan and Cindy are at war. They’re also in love. One of these statements is false. Jordan and Cindy’s families clashed when they both opened food trucks at the same time, parking them in the same spot. They’ve been feuding ever since. Well, for the internet. The families are secretly friends and Jordan and Cindy are dating. But when they’re approached by a reality show that wants to make them into a series, things just get more complicated.

With or Without You by Eric Smith, (List Price: $19.99, Inkyard Press, 9781335458070, November 2023)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

Gwen & Art Are Not in Love by Lex Croucher

Fun, campy romance with big feelings! I loved everything about this! Reading helped me escape to a fantasy world of found family and hopeful self discovery. I loved the joint storylines, and both romances were so swoon worthy.

Gwen & Art Are Not in Love by Lex Croucher, (List Price: $20, Wednesday Books, 9781250847218, November 2023)

Reviewed by Rachel Randolph, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

Spotlight On: Last Girl Breathing by Court Stevens


Court Stevens, photo credit the author

I read and write young adult fiction for the same reason people go to high school reunions — there’s something about figuring out how to be a person that begs us to return. Fiction is a natural place to explore those beautiful themes.

The first time we loved, lost, were heartbroken, broke hearts, made mistakes, had success, won trophies, came in last, found freedom, felt contained by adults, broke rules, were punished, got away with something, cared about people, cared about the world, etc. The first time. That’s the key. You don’t have to read young adult to know that formative experiences are vital understanding humanity on the whole and self-identity. We don’t ask people about the third or fourth time they fell in love. We ask them about the first time so we’ll understand their starting point. If every person is a road map with a marked journey; we want to put a pin in the place they began. Young adult fiction is that pin.
― Court Stevens, Interview, Musings, Parnassus Books

Last Girl Breathings by Court Stevens

What booksellers are saying about Last Girl Breathing

  • am so excited that Court Stevens is back with another small town thriller! Her exploration of family, grief, and truth, all with underlying simmering suspense, is the hallmark of a Stevens novel, and Last Girl Breathing has it in spades. If you loved The June Boys and We Were Kings, don’t miss Court’s newest!
      ― Sarah Arnold, Parnassus Books in Nashville, TN | Buy from Parnassus

  • Once again, Court Stevens has delivered an enthralling thriller. On its surface Last Girl Breathing is a murder mystery, but – as is often the case with Stevens’ novels – the story goes much deeper. This is a book about trauma and grief and family – about the wounds that shape us and the people who help us bear them. All of these themes are masterfully rooted in a sense of place. Stevens deftly paints her Kentucky setting, giving the town and its people a southern vibrancy and authenticity that never once slips into the realm of stereotype.
      ― Kate Snyder from Plaid Elephant in Danville, KY | Buy from Plaid Elephant Books

About Court Stevens

Court Stevens grew up among rivers, cornfields, churches, and gossip in the small-town South. She is a former adjunct professor, youth minister, and Olympic torchbearer. These days she writes coming-of-truth fiction and is the director of Warren County Public Library in Kentucky. She has a pet whale named Herman, a bandsaw named Rex, and several novels with her name on the spine: The June Boys, Faking Normal, The Lies About Truth, the e-novella The Blue-Haired Boy, Dress Codes for Small Towns, and Four Three Two One. Find Court online at; Instagram: @quartland; Facebook: @CourtneyCStevens; Twitter: @quartland.


I Kissed Alice by Anna Birch

This is a true enemies-to-lovers read. Both faced with pressures unknown to the other, these art school students battle it out for a life-altering scholarship, while their online personalities collaborate on a webcomic (unknowingly duh). What made this book feel so raw for me, was that both characters had valid reasons for hating the other, reasons that cannot be easily resolved.

I Kissed Alice by Anna Birch, (List Price: $9.99, Square Fish, 9781250792068, May 2021)

Reviewed by Jamie Kovacs, Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Check & Mate by Ali Hazelwood

This YA debut by Ali was not only riveting it was exceptionally written. This novel almost feels like chess when you’re reading it and watching how intricately Ali has weaved these characters together. Mallory, who loved chess until an unexpected tragedy in her family, now 18 and working to help support her family, beats a world champion, Nolan. Suddenly, everything in her life gets all mixed up as she stumbles into a romance she didn’t know she wanted. This novel, like her adult novels, does an AMAZING JOB touching on the sexism and expectations of a female vs male in the chess (STEM sport) community.

Check & Mate by Ali Hazelwood, (List Price: $14, G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 9780593619919, November 2023)

Reviewed by Charlotte Beck, Main Street Reads in Summerville, South Carolina

Spotlight On: Unholy Terrors by Lyndall Clipstone


Lyndall Clipstone, photo credit the author

I’ve always loved to write, and storytelling is an enormous part of how I make sense of my emotions. Especially as a young adult, a time in my life where I felt quite adrift, immersing myself into books and writing provided so much solace. I love the endlessness of possibilities with speculative fiction, and how I can use things like magic, or monsters, or body horror as a lens through which to examine the real world.
― Lyndall Clipstone, Interview, Geeks Out

Unholy Terrors by Lyndall Clipstone

What booksellers are saying about Unholy Terrors

  • A Monsterous boy and a fierce girl, Clipstone delivers another beautiful YA gothic fantasy. From the moment we first cross through the bone wall with Evie, to traveling through the moorland with Ravel, and facing down the Thousandfold. Clipstone takes us on a journey that feels like a Studio Ghibli film crossed with a horror movie. A gripping family legacy that makes you question everything that happens to Evie, is it fate that Evie and Ravel journey together or is it a curse? A curse that has Haunted Evie since before she was born.
      ― Cass W, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, NC | Buy from The Country Book Shop

  • Clipstone’s Unholy Terrors takes us to a Wuthering Heights-esque setting, wildly beautiful in its ruin, and drops us off with only the honey and ash prose we fell in love with in her Lake’s Edge duology to guard our hearts and souls against the monsters of truth and generational loyalty that howl in the Thousandfold. A beautiful and haunting read for fans of transforming girls and kissable monsters.
      ― Candice Conner from The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, AL | Buy from The Haunted Book Shop

  • Unholy Terrors is the perfect gothic romance fantasy for all your October spooky season needs. For fans of Crimson Peak and Labyrinth and every dark, haunted thing that deserves to be kissed and killed and brought back again. For the ghastly, and the horrifying, and still beautiful despite it all. Unholy Terrors is perfect, full stop.
      ― Caitlyn Vanorder from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC | Buy from Bookmarks

About Lyndall Clipstone

Lyndall Clipstone writes about monsters and the girls who like to kiss them. A former youth librarian who grew up running wild in the Barossa Ranges of South Australia, she currently lives in Adelaide, where she tends her own indoor secret garden. She has a bachelors in creative writing and a graduate diploma in library and information management. She is the author of Lakesedge and Forestfall.


Sleepless in Dubai by Sajni Patel

After reading Sleepless in Dubai, you will be itching for a trip to both Dubai and Abu Dhabi! Nikki and Yash have been best friends since birth. But this last summer, their friendship blew up and they’ve been avoiding each other since. Now their families have a trip planned together to Dubai for Diwali and they’re going to have to find some way to get along.

Sleepless in Dubai by Sajni Patel, (List Price: $30, Amulet Books, 9781419766961, October 2023)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

I loved Cinderella is Dead! I love that Kalynn took a fairy tale we all know and turned it on its head, for the better. The whole time I am reading it I’m thinking this is a feminist fairy tale. I’m thinking this is the LGBTQ fairy tale I wish I could have read when growing up and I am so happy young people today will be able to read this story. We need more stories like this.

Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron, (List Price: 10.99, Bloomsbury YA, 9781547606641, June 2021)

Reviewed by Rayna Nielsen, Blue Cypress Books in New Orleans, Louisiana

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