The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Young Adult

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan

The chosen one goes off to magic school and heroically fights in an epic battle. You’ve heard that story a million times before. But have you ever wanted the snarky take, the irreverent, self-aware version that flips these tropes upside down and lovingly pokes holes in some of the logical gaps in the genre’s conventions? Clever, refreshing, and full of heart, this hilarious adventure full of pesky magical creatures, golden boy warriors, angsty nerds, and elfin knights will leave you thinking that you might be perfectly alright living in this (mermaidless) land.

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan (List Price: $16, Big Mouth House, 9781618731661, 8/6/2019)

Reviewed by Julie Jarema, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia

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Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

An original take on a classic legend that explores magic, race, grief and the ideas surrounding who gets to be a hero in a very nuanced and thoughtful way. A modern fantasy story for all the young black girls who need one.

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn (List Price: $12.99, Margaret K. McElderry Books, 9781534441613, 9/28/2020)

Reviewed by Asia Harden, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

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Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses by Kristen O’Neal

A Spring 2021 Read This Next! Title

Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses by Kristen O’Neal
Quirk, April

Oof, ouch, this debut YA yanked me in and I could NOT put it down. Poignant and hilarious, it delves into the mental landscape of chronic illnesses, and brings werewolfism (this should be a word, fyi) into the storyline. I LOVE Brigid’s sense of humor and her and Priya’s friendship is one we ALL need in our lives. Great recommendation for readers who are looking for a solid friendship-themed book. There is a fun hint of romance but it doesn’t shift the story’s focus.

– Candice Corner, The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, AL

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Better than the Movies by Lynn Painter

A Spring 2021 Read This Next! Title

Better than the Movies by Lynn Painter
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, May

Better Than the Movies is such a joy of a book! You’ve got enemies to lovers with a main character who has the energy of Jack Black’s character in The Holiday–goofy and sweet, full of love and loss, and of course, a deep, nerdy love for movie soundtracks. Better than the Movies will have you squealing and swooning.

– Brittany Bunzey from Read With Me, A Children’s Book & Art Shop in Raleigh, NC

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Lobizona by Romina Garber

Inspired by Argentinian myth, this coming-of-age tale is packed with magic, friendship, and adventure as Manu tries to find her place in a world where she has always felt unwanted only to stumble into a new one altogether. Intriguing from the very start, Garber writes a story comprised of lovable characters, relevant social commentary, and just enough mystery to always keep you guessing.

Lobizona by Romina Garber (List Price: $18.99, Wednesday Books, 9781250239129, 8/4/2020)

Reviewed by Asia Harden, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

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Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard

Victoria Aveyard, author of the popular Red Queen series, is back with a new fantasy series. Odd things are happening in Allward. When a battle with Elders and mortals alike is lost, leaving only two survivors, they know they’re in over their heads, but everyone in power is reluctant to help. Instead, Dom, an Elder, decides to head out on his own to solve the problem. He gets help from an assassin, a pirate’s daughter, and a squire along the way, forming a cadre with a forger, a bounty hunter, and a witch. But the road to victory is hard and they don’t know who to trust.

Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard (List Price: $19.99, HarperTeen, 9780062872623, 5/4/2021)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser, Inc. in Marietta, Georgia

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The Sky Above Us by Natalie Lund

This fast-moving and well-written book tells the story of three girls, and how they dealt with the three boys in their lives (one’s twin brother, one’s ex-boyfriend, and one’s crush). After the boys die in a freak plane accident where they were the pilots, the girls work together to figure out what really happened. This book also dives into the deeper themes of the pressures put on high school students when it comes to grades and athletics, mental health, and the social image that a student is trying to uphold.

The Sky Above Us by Natalie Lund (List Price: $18.99, Philomel Books, 9780525518037, 4/13/2021)

Reviewed by Angie Tally, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

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Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler

Lara has been crushing on Chase since she was a little girl. Now it’s senior year and he’s finally noticing her. But on the first day of school, in walks Lara’s summer friend/romance Jasmine–in town to stay. Lara’s into Chase, but she also can’t forget about Jasmine. What’s she going to do now? I loved how we not only get a questioning bi-romance, but also get some good friendship dynamics in Cool for the Summer. If you’re looking for a light summer read that also manages some heavy emotions in a Grease vibe, look no further!

Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler (List Price: $18.99, Wednesday Books, 9781250765826, 5/11/2021)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser in Marietta, Georgia

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Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

I have been waiting for this book since it was announced and I have to say–it is even better than I was hoping it would be. This follow up to The Hate U Give tells the story of Maverick Carter in his teenage years. Starting when he finds out he’s a father and going until just before Starr’s birth, Thomas takes us back to the Garden and once again shows us how to walk in someone else’s shoes. Mav is trying to be the best man and father he can be. He finds a “straight” job at a local store to get away from the world of drug sales and gangs but the money isn’t enough to support him and his growing family. Will he be able to get out from under the thumb of King, his friend turned leader of the King Lords and provide for his family? You won’t be able to put this down until you see how it ends and even then you will wish for more stories from this universe.

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas (List Price: $19.99, Balzer +Bray, 9780062846716, 1/12/2021)

Reviewed by Andrea Richardson, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

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Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao

I really really enjoyed this book! It’s perfect fans of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Frankly in Love! There’s fake dating, and you will absolutely love it! I couldn’t get enough of this book!

Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao (List Price: $18.99, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 9781534462458, 11/10/2020)

Reviewed by Brittany Bunzey, Read With Me, A Childrens Book & Art Shop in Raleigh, North Carolina

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Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses by Kristen O’Neal

Priya has moved all the way across the country from New Jersey to Stanford to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor. But when she gets Lyme disease from a tick, everything is out on hold while she moves back home to deal with her chronic disease. She’s in pain most of the time, bit ends up finding solace in those with similar conditions online. She discovers one friend in particular, Brigid, lives only about an hour away and when Brigid disappears from the group and stops answering texts, Priya steals the family car to visit her. However, she instead of Brigid, Priya finds an enormous dog/wolf-like animal locked in the basement. She accidentally lets it out, but locks it in the bathroom and calls animal control. But all they find in the bathroom…is Brigid. This was a fun story that also shed a light on how hard it is for people who have a chronic illness, but also the great friendships you can find if you’re open to it.

Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses by Kristen O’Neal (List Price: $18.99, Quirk Books, 9781683692348, 4/27/2021)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser, Inc. in Marietta, Georgia

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New Year’s Kiss by Lee Matthews

I really enjoyed this read! I blew through it and actually read most of it on New Years Eve! What a perfect way to ring in the new year! This is perfect for your younger readers who are reading up, and honestly it can be enjoyed any time of the year!

New Year’s Kiss by Lee Matthews (List Price: $9.99, Underlined, 9780593179857, 12/1/2020)

Reviewed by Brittany Bunzey, Read With Me, A Children’s Book & Art Shop in Raleigh, North Carolina

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Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

I finally had the privilege to read this legendary trilogy while forced into quarantine, and I’m sorry I waited this long. The world of the Grisha, the characters, and the villain was amazing and immersive. It only made me want to dive into the rest of the novels set in this world.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (List Price: $10.99, Square Fish, 9781250027436, 5/7/2013)

Reviewed by Katlin Kerrison, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia

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Not Our Summer by Casie Bazay

Becca and KJ are cousins, both about to graduate from high school. But because their mothers are estranged, they don’t know each other at all. When their maternal grandfather dies, they have to come together for the reading of his will. In it, their grandfather has given both of the girls and both of their mothers a nice sum of money. The only catch is that the girls must complete a five-part bucket list before they get the money. The list is a set of things the grandfather always wanted to do, but his mounting agoraphobia wouldn’t let him. I LOVE that we have a story that, at its root, is about friendship. And while there’s a smidge of romance, it’s FAR from the main plot. It took me a moment to warm up to the two girls, but in the end, I enjoyed them, flaws and all.

Not Our Summer by Casie Bazay (List Price: $17.99, Running Press Kids, 9780762472291, 5/11/2021)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser, Inc. in Marietta, Georgia

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Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney

I adored this fun and impressive debut! Quinn is one of the few black students at a prestigious private school; she finds refuge in writing and making lists in her journal. Her journal goes missing and someone begins to blackmail her with her deepest and darkest secrets. Quinn freaks out, and has to begin working with Carter, a fellow black student who she has never gotten along with. Soon, the hate the hate they had for one another dissolves as they connect to retrieve her journal while being forced by Quinn’s blackmailer to complete Quinn’s lists. This book is about facing your fears, being honest, and falling in love.

Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney (List Price: $17.99, HarperTeen, 9780063024793, 5/4/2021)

Reviewed by Deanna Bailey, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia

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Parachutes by Kelly Yand

Parachutes is a story I won’t soon forget. This coming-of-age tale is told from the perspectives of teenagers Dani and Claire as they find their worlds turned upside down. Claire is ripped from her wealthy life in Shanghai to attend a high school in California where Dani is her new host sister. Claire finds herself quickly immersed in a new group of friends as she tries to adjust to her new life. But debate star Dani De La Cruz has problems of her own, and the two don’t exactly hit it off. However, they eventually find themselves leaning on one another as they tackle situations too big to handle alone.

Parachutes by Kelly Yand (List Price: $18.99, Katherine Tegen Books, 9780062941084, 5/26/2020)

Reviewed by Asia Harden, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

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The Project by Courtney Summers

An alluring psychological thriller set in New York, this one had me questioning everything until the very end. Lo and Bea were as close as two sisters could be, entwined like two halves of the same whole. That is, until a fatal car accident left Lo near death and pushed Bea into the arms of the enigmatic Unity Project, an organization that has been called a cult by some and savior by others. The chapters written from the viewpoint of Bea were brilliant, peeking into the mind of a sister willing to sacrifice everything to save her only little sister.

The Project by Courtney Summers (List Price: $18.99, Wednesday Books, 9781250105738, 2/2/2021)

Reviewed by Emma Wood, Main Street Reads, in Summerville, South Carolina

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The Cost of Knowing by Brittney Morris

Alex is a teenager with a secret–he can see the future when he touches objects and people. Sometimes it’s mundane, like seeing him put on his own shoes, and sometimes it’s devastating, like seeing his little brother Isaiah’s gravestone. Alex knows he probably can’t change the future, can’t stop all the ways death might come for his brother–especially in a neighborhood gripped with racial tension–but maybe he has time to connect with Isaiah before he loses him for good. This book will gut you in all the right ways.

The Cost of Knowing by Brittney Morris (List Price: $18.99, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 9781534445451, 4/6/2021)

Reviewed by Kate Towery, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

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The Electric Kingdom by David Arnold

It could be argued that now is not the time to read post-apocalyptic stories of flu-flies and societal breakdowns. But I am hard-pressed to think of a time when The Electric Kingdom is not worth delving into. I loved absolutely everything about this book. With characters and prose that you can’t get enough of (Oh Kit, you had me from the moment we met in the library) this story is a captivating yet poignant reminder that hope and beauty can be found even in the midst of ruin; that the simplicity of survival can teach us more than a life of luxury ever could and most importantly, that we are all connected in ways our minds may only begin to understand. Defying genre, The Electric Kingdom is at once elegantly eerie and tragically comforting.

The Electric Kingdom by David Arnold (List Price: $17.99, Viking Books for Young Readers, 9780593202227, 2/9/2021)

Reviewed by Ashley Bryan, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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American Royals II: Majesty by Katharine McGee

Dramatic and soapy in the best way! This face-paced sequel to American Royals took turns I wasn’t expecting, and I enjoyed every second. After finishing Majesty, I’m even more obsessed with the initial premise of this series–American Royals, yes please!

American Royals II: Majesty by Katharine McGee (List Price: $18.99, Random House Books for Young Readers, 9781984830210, 9/1/2020)

Reviewed by Asia Harden, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

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Better Than the Movies by Lynn Painter

Better Than the Movies is such a joy of a book! You’ve got enemies to lovers with a main character who has the energy of Jack Black’s character in The Holiday–goofy and sweet, full of love and loss, and of course, a deep, nerdy love for movie soundtracks. Better Than the Movies will have you squealing and swooning, and you definitely need this on your shelves!

Better Than the Movies by Lynn Painter (List Price: $18.99, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 9781534467620, 5/4/2021)

Reviewed by Brittany Bunzey, Read With Me, A Childrens Book & Art Shop in Raleigh, North Carolina

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Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore

Kristin Cashore is one of the most gifted fantasy writers of our time. When this book opened from the perspective of a many-tentacled sea creature at the bottom of the ocean, I was surprised and delighted to find myself completely comfortable knowing that this chapter would fit with the larger story so very satisfyingly. And I was right, of course. I am overwhelmed by my love for the Graceling realm and the brilliant way that Cashore has expanded on the world with each of the novels, building such strong, full characters and gorgeous wrought lore along the way. And now there are telepathic blue foxes! And silbercows! And The Keeper! And they all feel more real than my own world, having finished this novel so recently. I hold WINTERKEEP and Lovisa just as close to my heart as I do GRACELING, FIRE & BITTERBLUE and I really will read anything that Kristin Cashore writes.

Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore (List Price: $19.99, Dial Press, 9780803741508, January 2021)

Reviewed by Cristina Russell, Books & Books in Coral Gables, Florida

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Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

A beautiful story about love and loss, and how sometimes those things can be really complicated. Acevedo is obviously a master storyteller in both prose and verse. Clap When You Land is no exception to her brilliance. More than anything, I appreciate the reverence with which Acevedo writes. You can tell how important it is to her to tell stories about and for girls who are underrepresented in YA. Honestly, she is one of my author crushes (and I will read anything she writes).

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo (List Price: $18.99, Quill Tree Books, 9780062882769, 5/5/2020)

Reviewed by Asia Harden, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

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The Project by Courtney Summers

A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

Orphaned and betrayed, Lo Denham seeks to uncover the truth about the organization that her sister thinks saved her. However, the closer Lo gets to the Unity Project, the more she struggles to make sense of her own traumatic past. Perfect for fans of dark YA thrillers, The Project is a chilling story sure to leave readers speechless.

The Project by Courtney Summers (List Price: $18.99, Wednesday Books, 9781250105738, 2/2/2021)

Reviewed by Asia Harden, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

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Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala

Raffy LOVES cosplay. So, he’s been furiously working on an entry for a local convention with his friend May. But he has several obstacles, not the least of which is an unsupportive mother and his ex, Luca, who has entered with one of their other friends. But Raffy is a natural with a sequin and he’s sure he can pull this one off. This delightful romance-meets-cosplay book from Ryan La Sala is perfect timing for those of us with the blues from missing our favorite conventions this year.

Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala (List Price: $17.99, Sourcebooks Fire, 9781492682691, 1/5/2021)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser, Inc. in Roswell, Georgia

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Pudge and Prejudice by A.K. Pittman

Take Pride and Prejudice and set it in the mid 80s at a high school in Texas and you’ve got Pudge and Prejudice. Elyse and Jayne Nebbit have moved to Texas with their parents and three younger sisters. Their new school is obsessed with football and their star quarterback, Billy Fitz. And Elyse finds herself a little obsessed with Billy herself. We’ve all read retellings where the changes are obnoxious and make the story too far in tone and theme from the original. I’m glad to say that one is true to the original, while still updating it for 1980s Texas. This was a sweet, fun story about teens, but which works well for preteens as well.

Pudge and Prejudice by A.K. Pittman (List Price: $15.99, Wander, 9781496442833, 1/12/2021)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser, Inc. in Roswell, Georgia

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Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant

Tessa and her family have just moved 400 miles south from her best friend and all she knows. Her dad got a promotion a d Tessa got a spot at an Arts magnet high school and she’s simultaneously excited and petrified. Tessa has always loved to write. But the only person she’ll show her words to is her best friend. She feels like her romance writing isn’t nearly good enough for her new school. But there are upsides. At her old school, there were only a few black kids, but this new school has a big mix of races and that thing that usually happens where people self-segregate based on race? It’s not happening here. That’s not to say that there aren’t problems though…This sweet story was a fun read. The author included many issues in Tessa’s story and integrated them I a very real way. Tessa makes mistakes, but don’t we all.

Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant (List Price: $17, Balzer + Bray, 9780062982834, 1/5/2021)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser, Inc. in Roswell, Georgia

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Crown of Bones by A.K. Wilder

A. K. Wilder creates a delightful world of savants and phantoms: creatures made to serve those who call them. Ash is a non-savant who somehow gets the attention of phantoms that aren’t even supposed to acknowledge her when she doesn’t have a phantom of her own. Marcus is the heir to the throne Ash serves and she follows him to the mysterious island of Aku where he must tame his own powerful phantom. Their guide to Aku, Kaylin, has his own secrets. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Crown of Bones by A.K. Wilder (List Price: $18.99, Entangled: Teen, 9781640634145, 1/5/2021)

Reviewed by Katlin Kerrison, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia

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Lore by Alexandra Bracken

This had me at the edge of my seat from beginning to end. If you love Greek mythology you will love this! Every seven years, nine Greek gods must walk the earth as mortals and the descendants of Ancient Bloodlines hunt them to steal their powers and immortality. Lore ran away from this world when her family was brutally murdered by a rival line. But she comes across her childhood friend Castor and the goddess Athena before a hunt, and after binding her fate with Athena, she enters the hunt to fight a new god and to avenge her family and save her home: New York City.

Lore by Alexandra Bracken (List Price: $18.99, Disney-Hyperion, 9781484778203, 1/5/2021)

Reviewed by Deanna Bailey, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia

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Girl on the Line by Faith Gardner

Growing up is hard. Add social media and an unattainable view of what beauty is and being a teenage girl feels like nothing will change and life is hell. When Journey recovers from her suicide attempt she must figure out how to go forward and how to interact with her family and friends. Achingly raw and beautifully written. A must read.

Girl on the Line by Faith Gardner (List Price: $17.99, HarperTeen, 9780063022300, 1/19/2021)

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

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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

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A Complicated Love Story Set in Space by Shaun David Hutchinson

Noa wakes up and he’s in a spacesuit, floating outside a ship. In space. But he has zero idea how he got there. Not only that, but inside the ship are DJ and Jenny and neither of them knows how they got there either. I read this author’s The State of Us and LOVED it, so I knew I’d be up for this one. It’s an entirely different genre, but still has the same humor and heart.

A Complicated Love Story Set in Space by Shaun David Hutchinson (List Price: $19.99, Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 9781534448537, 1/19/2021)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser, Inc. in Roswell, Georgia

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With You All the Way by Cynthia Hand

The night after Ada’s failed attempt to lose her virginity to her boyfriend, she catches him cheating on her. But their family is soon off for a 9day stay in Hawaii at a yearly medical conference, so she hopes that will take her mind off things. But she’s in a fight with her older sister and then her stepdad drops the bomb that he’s staying home from this trip and Ada just feels worse. This was a sweet story, full of high drama and I am here for it. I loved how flawed and real the characters were and this compulsively readable story kept me entertained from the start.

With You All the Way by Cynthia Hand (List Price: $17.99, HarperTeen, 9780062693198, 3/30/2021)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser, Inc. in Roswell, Georgia

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The Bright & the Pale by Jessica Rubinkowski

Valeria may have not been trapped by the mystical freeze that stole her family and village away but she never really escaped. She realizes this is true when she’s blackmailed into returning with her best friend she thought she’d lost the year before. In order to earn his freedom and her own, she must go back to the cursed village and hope to survive once more. This story was fantastic! Twisty and terrifying, I tore through it at a ridiculously fast pace. I can’t wait for the next installment!

The Bright & the Pale by Jessica Rubinkowski (List Price: $17.99, Quill Tree Books, 9780062871503, 3/2/2021)

Reviewed by Katlin Kerrison, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia

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Just Our Luck by Julia Walton

Just Out Luck is a moving and absolutely hilarious tale about Leo, a high school boy all caught up in his own anxiety. Leo normally keeps his head down, but a fight with another boy at school starts a strange chain reaction, tangling Leo up in something he thought he never would have been part of by choice. I absolutely loved the character building in this amazing, touching book.

Just Our Luck by Julia Walton (List Price: $17.99, Random House Books for Young Readers, 9780399550928, 12/29/2020)

Reviewed by Angie Tally, The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, North Carolina

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How to Pack for the End of the World by Michelle Falkoff

“Everyone thinks they have to save the world, but they have to save themselves first.”

Amina is a new student at the prestigious Gardner Academy. A scholarship student from the Boston area, her parents send her to the boarding school after an attack on their Temple leaves her with persistent nightmares and an unhealthy obsession with the specter of Fascism. She has no interest in leaving home, but once at Gardner she meets a group of like-minded students who also fear a coming crisis. Together they form the Eucalyptus Club and work together to prepare for such events as nuclear holocaust or government overthrow. But someone is targeting their group with malicious intent, and it will take all of them to find out who. In How to Pack for the End of the World, Michelle Falkoff mixes the mundane every day of high school (albeit an elite boarding school) with the very real existential dread that today’s youth must learn to cope with. The concerns of Eucalyptus are based in reality and while the games the students play may seem too direct at times, they will speak to a generation that is growing increasingly intent on speaking out before it is too late.

How to Pack for the End of the World by Michelle Falkoff (List Price: $17, HarperTeen, 9780062680266, 11/10/2020)

Reviewed by Faith Parke-Dodge, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina

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Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

In Last Night at the Telegraph Club, Lily Hu and Kath Miller are gorgeously rendered against the glittering backdrop of San Francisco, escaping into the night for The Telegraph Club where they find themselves staring down a sort of freedom that they know they cannot leave behind. From the very first page, this is a novel that feels so incredibly full and rich with historical details and simmers with yearning and tension I simply could not put it down. Delving into the realities of 1950’s Chinese America identity, queer culture, McCarthyism & women in STEM, Lo has crafted a historical fiction novel of the absolute highest caliber.

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo (List Price: $18.99, Dutton Books for Young Readers, 9780525555254, 1/19/2021)

Reviewed by Cristina Russell, Books & Books in Coral Gables, Florida

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Roman and Jewel by Dana L. Davis

Fans of Romeo and Juliet retellings will love this especially with the diverse characters! Jerzie Jhames is competing for a lead role for a hip hop Broadway production of Romeo and Juliet–Roman and Jewel. She falls short of her dreams and becomes the understudy for Jewel, while the lead title goes to celebrity actress singer Cinny. As Jerzie wallows in her disappointment, she meets Zeppelin Reid, the handsome lead actor for Roman. It’s love at first sight, and as they get to know one another, they begin their own Romeo and Juliet story. I love reading teenage black girls stories, especially about their first love!

Roman and Jewel by Dana L. Davis (List Price: $18.99, Inkyard Press, 9781335070623, 1/5/2021)

Reviewed by Deanna Bailey, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia

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Tales from the Hinterland by Melissa Albert

Albert’s fairytales are filled with the dark beauty and decay of withering roses and fog-filled forests. Many of them are nightmare-inducing but all of them are too enthralling to put down and I wondered if Albert may have bespelled me herself; her prose is that good. Tales from the Hinterland is for girls too covered in thorns for a traditional tale and for all who dream of a dark starless sky.

Tales from the Hinterland by Melissa Albert (List Price: $19.99, Flatiron Books, 9781250302724, 1/12/2021)

Reviewed by Sami Thomason, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

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One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite, Maritza Moulite

Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite have done it again, and more, with their sophomore novel, One of the Good Ones. This book kept me up into the early morning hours, furiously flipping pages, needing to know where things would end up for the Smith sisters. The story takes you on a real journey, jumping through history and back again, dissecting race relations in America with an unflinching eye; it is beautifully written, heartbreaking, disturbing and yet, ultimately, hopeful. I can’t recommend it enough.

One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite, Maritza Moulite (List Price: $18.99, Inkyard Press, 9781335145802, 1/5/2021)

Reviewed by Cristina Russell, Books & Books in Coral Gables, Florida

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Don’t Tell a Soul by Kirsten Miller

I’ll straight up say I’m not much of a thriller girl. I much prefer fantasy and magic over “the true monster is man”. But Don’t Tell a Soul is definitely an exception. It’s called a modern Rebecca, but I cannot attest to the veracity of that as it is one of the rare classics I didn’t read!

Bram is just trying to escape her own secrets when she stumbles into the deep ones of Louth. I personally adored every character in this tale, they’re all extremely well developed and I loved trying to hatch their secrets as I read. Nothing is as it seems, and the twists and turns will have the reader up at night. Highly recommend for any thriller/mystery lover, especially those who like a nice dose of smart and clever teenagers more mature beyond their years.

Don’t Tell a Soul by Kirsten Miller (List Price: $17.99, Delacorte Press, 9780525581208, 1/26/2021)

Reviewed by Katlin Kerrison, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia

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You Have a Match by Emma Lord

What’s starts off as a light and cheery coming-of-age story, quickly turns as unexpected sisters and family drama are tossed in. Abby Day is a relatable teen struggling with boy problems and AP Lit, when she suddenly learns that she has a sister! As she and her influencer sister try to uncover the mystery of their separation, they learn to appreciate each other not just as friends, but as sisters. Emma Lord’s story is unique and modern, detailing the trials of family, making careers out of passions, and navigating friendships, making it all I could think about for the last few days. Though, all Abby’s family drama makes me grateful the worst thing my sister ever did was go see Harry Styles without me!

You Have a Match by Emma Lord (List Price: $18.99, Wednesday Books, 9781250237309, 1/5/2021)

Reviewed by Silky Hou, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

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Charming as a Verb by Ben Philippe

Henri relies on his charm in all aspects of his life, but that charm doesn’t extend to his classmate Corinne Troy. When she uncovers Henri’s less-than-honorable dog-walking business, she blackmails him into extending some of that charm into helping her social life. Philippe has once again written a cast of characters that readers will love and puts them in realistic dilemmas that will make readers laugh and cringe in solidarity.

Charming as a Verb by Ben Philippe (List Price: $18.99, Balzer + Bray, 9780062824141, 9/8/2020)

Reviewed by Chelsea Stringfield, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee

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Into the Real by Z Brewer

Into the Real deserves its own genre of gender queer science fiction. Main character Quinn’s life gets split into thirds after a run-in with the always present Coe in their post apocalyptic town. From leader of the resistance to a patient at a conversion therapy camp, Quinn finds themself in different situations but still with the same town, people, and questions. With each different life, they must decide what’s more important–living true to themself or blending in. With a revealing truth at the end, Quinn realizes what really happened to her hometown.

Into the Real by Z Brewer (List Price: $17.99, Quill Tree Books, 9780062691385, October, 2020)

Reviewed by Nannette Matthews, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia

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Game Changer by Neal Shusterman

Ash is a typical white All-American football-playing teen. Then he gets tackled into another dimension, and has to confront issues he’s never directly faced before. From homophobia to racism, sexism to privilege, Ash gets a crash course on every hard-hitting issue we face today. This is an important and timeless tale about perceiving a world beyond your own.

Game Changer by Neal Shusterman (List Price: $17.95, Quill Tree Books, 9780061998676, 2/9/2021)

Reviewed by Lizy Coale, Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, Florida

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A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer

The final volume in Brigid Kemmerer’s Cursebreakers series is here and it did not disappoint! The world of Emberfall and Syhl Shallow are set to go to war as Rhen grapples with the sorceress who won’t stay dead and Grey realizes he might have to fight his own brother. The story is split between four points of view and we get to see Harper and Lia Mara’s struggles as well. I received an early reader’s copy of A Vow so Bold and Deadly and I enjoyed every breathless second! The writing was just as captivating as the first two and there were so many adorable swoon-worthy moments squeezed in between the political intrigue and struggles of these new young rulers. I devoured the first two books just as quickly as I did this one, but I already find myself eager to reread the entire series as a whole. This story started out as a retelling of Beauty and the Beast but became its own unique story with fantastic twists and turns to keep any reader satiated and satisfied by the end. I would recommend this story for anyone who enjoyed the first two as well as those who enjoy some political intrigue with their romance.

A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer (List Price: $18.99, Bloomsbury YM, 9781547602582, 1/12/2021)

Reviewed by Katlin Kerrison, Story on the Square in McDonough, Georgia

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A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer

I… adore this series, and the finale was no different. After book two where I was left terrified for Rhen and Harper, since I still love them more than I could ever love Gray and Lia Mara, I wondered how in the world book three could end happily. Somehow–I say that as if I didn’t trust Brigid entirely–she did it! It was bittersweet, but it was beautiful. I adore Harper still, that headstrong, beautiful girl who doesn’t take Rhen’s nonsense. And Rhen! My wonderful, selfless, traumatized boy. Their POVs mixed with Gray and Lia Mara just worked out so perfectly I wasn’t left wanting at all. Everything wrapped up so wonderfully and honestly, I would love to have another book set years later to see the aftermath, if Brigid was so kind as to give us that.

A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer (List Price: $18.99, Bloomsbury YA, 9781547602582, 1/26/2021)

Reviewed by Caitlyn Vanorder, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore

There isn’t another writer out there like Kristin Cashore. Her gift for capturing the inner pain and struggle of a character is unfathomable in its depth. Everyone who loved Bitterblue will be thrilled to see how her character has grown into a brilliant queen, and it’s a thrill to be back with Giddon and Hava, too. Most important, readers are going to fall in love with Lovisa, a conflicted daughter of Winterkeep torn between the truth she desperately wishes to hide from and her moral compass. This isn’t even mentioning the telepathic foxes, mysterious sea creatures, and expansive world-building that Cashore weaves into the story. I’m delighted with this new book in my favorite fantasy realm and have no doubt readers new and old will be too.

Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore (List Price: $19.99, Dial Books, 9780803741508, 1/19/2021)

Reviewed by Sami Thomason, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi

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The Project by Courtney Summers

A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

The Project by Courtney Summers
Wednesday Books, February

Courtney Summers is back with another electric gut punch of a novel and I couldn’t be more thrilled to have once again found myself a quivering mass of emotion after turning the last page of The Project. Only Courtney can perfectly encapsulate the dueling states of fragility & ferocity that exist within young women when they find themselves alone in a world that isn’t designed to protect them from harm. I dare you to pick up this brilliant novel about two sisters and a mysterious cult–you won’t be able to set it down again.

— Cristina Russell, Books & Books in Coral Gables, FL

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Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant

A Winter 2021 Read This Next! Title

Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant
Balzer + Bray, January

I loved HAPPILY EVER AFTERS. It’s one of those wonderful reads that leaves it’s readers nose-wrinkling happy. It’s a wonderful exploration of new and old best friends, family dynamics, and the pressure we put on ourselves and on living up to the expectations of others that can sometimes lead to paralysis. This book is absolutely lovely, and I’d easily pick it up to read it again.

– Brittany Bunzey, Read With Me: A Childrens Book & Art Shop in Raleigh, NC

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The Love Curse of Melody McIntyre by Robin Talley

Melody is in her junior year of high school and all her dreams have come true. She finally gets to be the stage manager of her high school’s production of Romeo and Juliet. But the theatre is riddled with superstition. Every new play has a new superstition and a counter-curse for that superstition. So, when Melody’s love life causes problems with their current play the stage kids decide that when Melody is in love, that’s when things go wrong. The superstition for the spring musical is going to be that Melody doesn’t fall in love. Melody is on board with the plan. But that’s before their local celebrity, Odile Rose, comes back from filming a TV show and is cast in the musical. Everyone thought Odile was snobby and standoffish, but she’s not that way with Melody…

The Love Curse of Melody McIntyre by Robin Talley (List Price: $17.99, HarperTeen, 9780062409263, 12/1/2020)
Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser, Inc. in Roswell, Georgia

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Among the Beasts & Briars by Ashley Poston

Poston delivers a unique new fantasy world in Among the Beasts & Briars, and I am here for it! Aloriya has been safe and prosperous for hundreds of years, kept safe by the crown worn by their ruler. But when the king dies and his daughter isn’t crowned for a few days as she mourns, their world is put into peril. Cerys, the gardener’s daughter and best friend to the princess, is cursed from the forbidden wood that borders Aloriya, and it’s up to her to save them all.

Among the Beasts & Briars by Ashley Poston (List Price: $17.99, Balzer + Bray, 9780062847362, 10/20/2020)

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser, Inc. in Roswell, Georgia

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Among the Beasts and Briars by Ashley Poston

I absolutely adore this clever, cozy, flower-dotted novel that manages to be gentle and whimsical and yet serve up scenes of truly spine-tingling eldritch horror. Written in the vein of Diana Wynne Jones and featuring the absolute Very Best Fox of young adult literature, this is a story that spans the gap between middle grade and adult fantasy readers. I would recommend this to fans of The Girl Who Drank the Moon and An Enchantment of Ravens equally, and I cannot wait to read more Ashley Poston.

Among the Beasts and Briars by Ashley Poston (List Price: $17.99, Balzer + Bray, 9780062847362, 10/20/2020)

Reviewed by Cristina Russell, Books & Books in Coral Gables, Florida

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Super Fake Love Song by David Yoon

A brilliantly nerdy rom-com about being yourself with effervescent joy. David Yoon is the master of teen-talk and I loved these characters like I loved my friends in high school. Sunny Dae, fake rock star and geek extraordinaire, is the kind of teen male protagonist who reads realistically, through every ill-conceived plan and rock star salute. I love him and I love Super Fake Love Song.

Super Fake Love Song by David Yoon (List price: $18.99, G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers,9781984812230, November 2020), recommended by Sami Thomason-Fyke, Square Books, Oxford, MS.

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Soulswift by Megan Bannen

This beautifully bittersweet stand alone asks “what would you do if your entire reason for being was built on lies? Your religion, your existence, all of it. Well. Most of it.” Our two main characters follow a terribly sad path where they find their own bits of hope, all leading to an, as I said, bittersweet ending. I thoroughly enjoyed the world building within this book, and would not be disappointed if Megan returned at any point later, following other characters.

Soulswift by Megan Bannen (List Price: $17.99, Balzer + Bray, 11/17/2020)
Recommended by Caitlyn Vanorder, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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Dear Justyce by Nic Stone

A Fall 2020 Read This Next! Title
Crown Books for Young Readers / 9781984829665
Publication Date: September 29, 2020

The stunning sequel to the #1 New York Times bestseller Dear Martin. Incarcerated teen Quan writes letters to Justyce about his experiences in the American juvenile justice system. Perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds and Angie Thomas.

In the highly anticipated sequel to her New York Times bestseller, Nic Stone delivers an unflinching look into the flawed practices and silenced voices in the American juvenile justice system.

Vernell LaQuan Banks and Justyce McAllister grew up a block apart in the Southwest Atlanta neighborhood of Wynwood Heights. Years later, though, Justyce walks the illustrious halls of Yale University…and Quan sits behind bars at the Fulton Regional Youth Detention Center.

Through a series of flashbacks, vignettes, and letters to Justyce—the protagonist of Dear Martin—Quan’s story takes form. Troubles at home and misunderstandings at school give rise to police encounters and tough decisions. But then there’s a dead cop and a weapon with Quan’s prints on it. What leads a bright kid down a road to a murder charge? Not even Quan is sure.

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The Good Girls by Claire Eliza Bartlett

Who killed Emma? The perfect, popular, and beautiful cheerleader? The suspects at her high school are like every other high school–except one of them is the killer. Page-turning and completely funny! Nothing is as it seems which keeps adding up to a book you will share with your nemeses and friends!

The Good Girls by Claire Eliza Bartlett (List Price: $17.99, HarperTeen, 12/1/2020)
Recommended by Suzanne Lucey, Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, North Carolina

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Ashlords by Scott Reintgen

Nyxia author Scott Reintgen does a topnotch job of world creation in Ashlords. In joining alchemy and apocalypse, he paints a portrait of a forbidding society where chemical magic may be the way to survival.

If you loved The Hunger Games, you’ll thrill to the nail-biting tension of the races in Ashlords.

Ashlords by Scott Reintgen (List price: $17.99, Crown Books for Young Readers), recommended by Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, NC.

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Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland

I can’t stop thinking about this fearless, genre-bending, and romantic debut novel. It’s a story that begins with grief while Sia attempts to heal her heart post-trauma, but then she’s assigned a school project with tall, shy Noah and some of her carefully constructed barriers start to fall away. Then the UFO sightings begin. Featuring a diverse cast, meddling ghost Abuela, aliens and so many gorgeous sentences, Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything is beautiful, important, and addictive. I can’t wait to read what Raquel Vasquez Gilliland writes next.

Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland (List price: $18.99, Simon Pulse), recommended by Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL.

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