The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Young Adult

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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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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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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