The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Young Adult

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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.

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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