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    All The Must-Read Books Being Released This September

    We've got recommendations for you in just about every genre!

    best books september 2021
    literary fiction

    Beautiful World, Where Are You

    by Sally Rooney

    Rooney’s much-anticipated third novel lives up to the hype, which is not an easy thing to do for a novelist who has been dubbed the actual voice of her generation. Set in Ireland, her newest novel touches on similar themes as her previous two — friendship, love (unrequited and requited), and class politics — but Rooney’s cast of characters have found themselves cresting 30 and facing a new sense of urgency in their lives. After a stint in New York, Alice, a famous novelist, absconds to a seaside Irish town and meets Felix, a warehouse worker, whom she takes on a publicity tour through Rome. Her best friend, Eileen, who has had her own entanglements, pines for Simon, a man she’s known since childhood who has always been just a little bit out of reach. Rooney’s signature crisp writing depicts these characters as they misread cues, awkwardly try to navigate their relationships, and find their place in the world as aging millennials. What’s exciting and fresh here is insight into Alice — a woman who is wrestling with literary fame so seismic that she has nearly lost herself because of it. One can’t help but think Rooney is grappling with the double-edged sword of her own fame, and it’s fascinating to be able to contemplate it along with her. —Karolina Waclawiak


    by Richard Powers

    In The Overstory, which won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, Powers went big. His characters spanned decades, centuries even, as a ragtag group of eco-warriors attempted to stop the destruction of chestnut trees. In Bewilderment, Powers homes in on a father and son: Theo Byrne, an astrobiologist, is trying to care for 9-year-old Robin, who has a love for nature inherited from his late mother, an environmental lawyer. But Robin also has trouble controlling his anger, which is causing problems for him at school. When a new experimental neurological treatment becomes a possibility, Theo decides to have Robin enroll. But as he becomes a calmer person, political strife escalates, courtesy of a climate change–denying president who refuses to concede after an election, which threatens to end the lifesaving treatment Robin has been receiving. Powers writes wonderfully and hauntingly about the natural world, and in Bewilderment, the author grapples with one of the most fraught aspects of living on Earth right now: What kind of planet do we want our children to inherit? —Tomi Obaro

    Cloud Cuckoo Land

    by Anthony Doerr

    The follow-up to Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize–winning All the Light We Cannot See, Cloud Cuckoo Land is a novel of epic stature and ambition. It oscillates among five disparate characters: Anna and Omeir, two young children witnessing the fall of Constantinople in the year 1453; Seymour and Zeno, whose lives intersect during an attempted bombing at a library in present-day Idaho (some readers have criticized the portrayal of Seymour’s neurodivergence and his vilification); and Konstance, a 14-year-old living on a spaceship drifting through the cosmos on a centuries-long voyage. These vignettes can last years or just a moment; though these characters' lives are separated by time and space, they’re unified by an ancient Greek fable and the enduring tradition of storytelling. The novel itself is not strictly story-driven and instead operates as a series of independent character studies (which works because of Doerr’s deep and tender empathy for said characters) — but there is so much book in this book. It is, in turn, a coming-of-age tale, war epic, and historical fiction and cycles between pulsing drama, magical realism, and high-concept sci-fi. —Emerson Malone

    A Calling for Charles Barnes

    by Joshua Ferris

    Sixty-nine-year-old Charlie Barnes has cancer. His business as a financial adviser is on shaky ground following the Great Recession, and his relationships with his adult children and ex-wives are strained, save for his relationship with his second-born son, Jake, who narrates the novel. Jake paints a compelling portrait of a man “Updikean in his defects and indulgences,” born in Illinois at the turn of the century, always trying to start a new business — and a profligate cheater and a less-than-ideal father. But his declining health compels Charlie to make amends. With a Rothian sense of humor and equally slippery relationship to fiction and fact, A Calling for Charlie Barnes is a return to form for the author of the 2007 bestseller Then We Came to the End.Tomi Obaro

    The War for Gloria

    by Atticus Lish

    In Lish’s follow-up to Preparation for the Next Life, his PEN/Faulkner Award–winning debut, 15-year-old Corey’s mother, Gloria, is diagnosed with ALS, and his estranged, mysterious father, Leonard, comes back. Told over Corey’s teenage years, The War for Gloria begins as a poignant narrative about confronting mortality and the fragility of life and evolves into a taut, mesmerizing thriller. Vividly realized and researched, Gloria uses an intimate level of detail to describe making ends meet as a single mother, prolonged neuromuscular degeneration, life in crummy apartments, and the connections one makes in the working-class Boston suburbs. Lish draws from personal experience serving in the Marines and competing in mixed martial arts fights to tell the gripping story of Corey’s youth and young adulthood as his coping leads to hormonal rage and delinquency. Emerson Malone

    historical fiction

    The Archer

    by Shruti Swamy

    Swamy, the author of the short-story collection A House Is a Body, makes her novel debut with this intimate portrait of a young woman artist in Bombay during the 1960s and '70s. During Vidya's childhood, her mother defines her life — her absence after the birth of Vidya's brother, her return and disdain for Vidya, her death. But before her death, Vidya’s mother bades her to be a mother to her brother and devote herself to dance. Vidya becomes consumed by dance, aspiring to be an artist like her teacher. Her absorption with dance continues once she’s in college studying electrical engineering. She begins to fall in love with a fellow female student, though she eventually marries a wealthy Englishman. Vidya holds on to one truth: She will not have a child; she will dance and be free, unlike her mother. Swamy brings Bombay to life with her rich descriptions of food and setting, and the richness of her prose continues with its portrayal of Vidya’s inner life. Despite the historical setting, Vidya’s struggles with how to be a wife, mother, and artist are equally relevant today. It’s a gorgeous, sumptuous novel. —Margaret Kingsbury


    by Lauren Groff

    Groff sets this powerful, sapphic historical novel in 12th-century medieval England during Henry II and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine's reign, though King Henry is never mentioned in the novel. Instead of the usual male-centric narratives from medieval history — ones focusing on King Richard or the Crusades or even Robin Hood — the novel depicts a world of women, focusing on women's concerns and power. After her mother dies, young Marie de France is sent to Queen Eleanor's court. Flummoxed about what to do with Marie — who is too tall, too manly, too clumsy, and, perhaps, too in love with the queen — Eleanor decides to send her to an abbey as its new prioress. While at first Marie longs for the queen and struggles to acclimate to her new impoverished life as a nun, after writing her lais, Marie has an epiphany and begins turning the abbey into a women's haven. This is a place where women can love women and find respite from the abuse of the outside world. The abbey exists both within its time and outside its influence. Marie is queen of it all. Little is known about the actual Marie de France, but Groff's reimagining of her life is richly realized with historical details that don't overwhelm. —Margaret Kingsbury


    by Gayl Jones

    Jones returns to novel writing after a 21-year hiatus with this sweeping chronicle of the life of an enslaved woman named Almeyda. The novel opens with 8-year-old Almeyda learning to read from the white priest Father Tollinare. She, her mother, and grandmother are enslaved on a Brazilian plantation, and she spends her days learning to read basic religious texts and listening to her grandmother’s stories. Some call her grandmother a witch or insane, but Almeyda enjoys her grandmother’s nonsense stories and slowly begins to see some truth in them. As Almeyda travels from plantation to plantation, her reading, writing, and language skills grow. She meets a large cast of characters, from English writers to free Black folk and sorcerors. She marries a Muslim man named Martim Anninho, and the two find freedom and a home in Palmares, a secret settlement where the enslaved can live free. When Portuguese soldiers raze the settlement and Almeyda is separated from Martim, she embarks on a journey across Brazil to find him. Jones entwines magical realism with rich historical details and compelling characters to create a stunning epic of 17th-century colonial Brazil. —Margaret Kingsbury

    Harlem Shuffle

    by Colson Whitehead

    A master of genre hopping, Whitehead tackles crime fiction in this compelling read about how people justify becoming criminals. As with his other recent novels, Whitehead takes a setting in Black America and fully develops it into its own character — in this case, 1960s Harlem. In three distinct yet connected storylines, Black furniture salesman and entrepreneur Ray Carney finds himself in the midst of a crime, sometimes a crime he’s planning, and sometimes a crime his wayward cousin Freddie has drawn him into. Ray considers his illicit activities distinct from the risky, messy crimes his father participated in and his miscreant cousin often finds himself among. Ray still views himself as an upstanding member of the community whose illegal work is done only out of necessity, or so he tells himself. Those familiar only with Whitehead’s past two novels might be surprised by the thematic departure in his latest work, but his gift for bringing historical African American settings to life is a consistent theme, and this one is well worth reading. —Margaret Kingsbury

    The Peculiarities

    by David Liss

    This peculiar (sorry) blend of fantasy and historical fiction is as weird as it is captivating. Twenty-three-year-old Thomas Thresher has had a cushy life, but now he's stuck adulting in the boring clerical job at his family's London bank. Plus, he's expected to marry a wealthy woman he has no interest in. But when mysterious occurrences start happening, Thomas has more to worry about than marriage: His best friend dies, irregularities pop up at the bank, and he begins sprouting leaves from his skin. As Thomas's conspiracies about what's happening grow, so does his paranoia about who he can — and can't — trust. —Kirby Beaton

    The Corpse Queen

    by Heather M. Herrman

    What it's about: After her best friend dies, teenage orphan Molly is suddenly sent to live with her "aunt." Molly assumes she's been sold by the orphanage — such a thing isn't unheard of in 1850s Philadelphia — but when she arrives, she discovers her aunt is very much real and very, very rich. But Ava's wealth is based on secrets: She robs graves and sells the bodies to local medical students. Molly is horrified...but also intrigued, especially as she sits in on the anatomy lessons being taught on the property. Molly wants to join this male-only group of students, but with robbing graves and a loose murderer on her mind, Molly's life becomes intimately entangled with death. This historical thriller is dark, twisty, and perfect for a spooky fall read. —Kirby Beaton

    The Moon, the Stars, and Madame Burova

    by Ruth Hogan

    What it's about: Billie's going through a midlife crisis. She's divorced, her father just died, and she just discovered she was adopted. A letter from her father directs her to an aging tarot card reader named Madame Burova, who mysteriously knows everything about her. Meanwhile, in the 1970s, Madame Burova's tarot business was booming when she made a promise to that she intends to make good on 50 years later. Alternating between Madame Burova's colorful past and the mystery of Billie's present, this lighthearted novel reminds us that it's never too late to discover who you really are. —Kirby Beaton

    The Stolen Lady

    by Laura Morelli

    What it's about: In 1939 France, Anne, a young archivist at the Louvre, is tasked with transferring some of the most precious pieces — including the Mona Lisa — to safety from the quickly encroaching Nazis. Anne is also worried about her missing brother, but as the hide-and-seek continues, she begins to realize his role in the dangerous game. In 1479 Florence, a house servant named Bellina follows her mistress, Lisa Gheradini, to her home, where her Medici-aligned husband has collected a treasure of art and luxuries. But when a famous painter begins to paint a portrait of her mistress, Bellina finds herself hiding a huge secret. Two timelines are threaded together by one famous painting in this exhilarating historical fiction novel. —Kirby Beaton

    House of Glass Hearts

    by Leila Siddiqui

    What it's about: a genre-bending debut that blends historical fiction with fantasy and family drama. Maera and her ammi never talk about the fact that, when she and her brother, Asad, were children, he disappeared in their grandfather's greenhouse in Karachi. But when her grandfather dies and his diary mysteriously appears under her pillow and his greenhouse turns up in their backyard — which her mother insists was "there all along" — Maera enlists her cousin and some friends to finally discover what happened to Asad. Switching between their grandfather's past in colonial India and their adventure into the mysterious greenhouse, this stunning debut is sure to entertain. —Kirby Beaton

    The Wrong End of the Telescope

    by Rabih Alameddine

    Millions of refugees from the Middle East and Africa traverse the Aegean Sea by boat in an attempt to find asylum on the island of Lesbos. This is the setting for Alameddine’s latest novel. Mina, a physician who grew up in Beirut and is the trans daughter of a Syrian mother and Lebanese father, receives an invitation from a nurse friend to come to Lesbos to offer her medical and translation services. Her brother, Mezan, the only member of her family she still speaks to, will meet her there as well. In this novel, written in short chapters and addressed to an unnamed acquaintance who, like Alameddine, is a gay Lebanese writer, Mina oscillates between her own memories: meeting her wife, Francine, her decadeslong estrangement from her family, and the stories of refugees on Lesbos. She meets a Syrian family whose wife and mother, Sumaiya, has advanced cancer and doesn’t want her children to know. Mina watches venal white volunteers ask for selfies and European journalists make racist assumptions about the people they interview. The refugee crisis has become the kind of slowly unfolding calamity that can invite a lot of overwrought trauma porn; Alameddine resists that temptation here, opting for nuanced and insightful reflections on ordinary people trapped in horrific circumstances often caused by the countries whose asylum they now seek. —Tomi Obaro

    mystery and thrillers

    My Sweet Girl

    by Amanda Jayatissa

    Jayatissa’s pulse-pounding debut is a fast-paced thriller that will keep you on your toes. Brash, foulmouthed Paloma was adopted from a Sri Lankan orphanage years ago. Now, at 30 and recently cut off from her wealthy white parents, Paloma has subleased the second bedroom of her San Francisco apartment to Arun, a man who recently moved to the US from India. But when Arun uncovers Paloma’s deepest secret — one that could jeopardize her status here — things take a sharp turn. Arun’s disappearance leads authorities to believe he didn’t exist in the first place. —Farrah Penn

    Rock Paper Scissors

    by Alice Feeney

    Anyone who has read Feeney's books knows she's the queen of Twists You Didn't See Coming, and I am pleased to report that there was not only one, but TWO twists that completely took me by surprise in her latest. Rock Paper Scissors is a psychological thriller that takes place in an isolated church in Scotland in the dead of winter. When Adam and his wife, Amelia, win a weekend away, they both believe this is the break they need to work on their marriage. Adam is a workaholic screenwriter with face blindness, while Amelia is a homely woman who works at an animal shelter. Through letters, we see how their marriage has unfolded over the years, leading up to the marriage's breaking point. Something sinister is happening during their stay, however, something that implies they didn't randomly win this trip. But who is lying — and why? (Content warning: animal abuse and neglect.) —Farrah Penn

    The Night She Disappeared

    by Lisa Jewell

    Jewell’s latest jumps back and forth in time over a span of three years, following three different characters. In 2017, 19-year-old Tallulah leaves on a date and never comes home. Her mother Kim’s distress over her missing daughter spans 2018 and continues into 2019, when a popular mystery author named Sophie moves into town with her longtime boyfriend and finds a big clue to Tallulah’s disappearance in her own backyard. Slowly, as the timelines begin to line up, we get the full story of what happened that night. Jewell has an expert way of reeling readers in with her thrillers, and this one is no different. It’s hard to put down as you finally start to understand what happened. —Farrah Penn

    White Smoke

    by Tiffany D. Jackson

    Marigold’s newly blended family has just moved to the Midwestern city of Cedarville for her mom’s new job — a job that comes complete with a free, renovated house. But there are secrets in their home: Things have been vanishing, doors open on their own, and there are voices in the walls. Plus, her 10-year-old stepsister, Piper, keeps talking about her friend who wants Mari gone... —Rachel Strolle

     nonfiction and poetry

    Three Girls From Bronzeville

    by Dawn Turner

    Chicago journalist Dawn Turner charts the divergent paths of three little girls — her younger sister, Kim; her childhood best friend, Debra; and Dawn herself — in this powerful memoir. Growing up together in a housing complex in 1970s Bronzeville, Dawn is an ambitious student, while her younger sister skips school and mouths off to their mother. Debra, meanwhile, is a class clown who, as she ages, becomes more interested in partying and drugs. While Dawn goes on to become an accomplished journalist, Kim, who has an alcohol addiction, dies of a heart attack at only 24, while Debra is eventually imprisoned for killing a man. How these girls — who grew up in the same building in a working-class neighborhood once famous for its Black luminaries but besieged by institutional neglect, violence, and drug addiction — had such different life experiences is the central question of this book. Turner provides no easy answers while passing no judgment. —Tomi Obaro

    Things I Have Withheld: Essays

    by Kei Miller

    The Jamaican poet Kei Miller turns to nonfiction in this excellent essay collection exploring the strategic and harmful silences that occur in the family and in the world. The essays take various forms — some are letters, including ones written to James Baldwin and the Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina, while others are written in the second person or in the third. Each essay unpacks common assumptions: how racism impacts predominantly Black countries, the self-righteousness of white liberals, the class divides among Black immigrants. There’s no didacticism or sermons here, merely curiosity and sometimes anger and a deep commitment to speaking the uncomfortable truths we’d rather not hear. A bold and daring collection. —Tomi Obaro

    Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law

    by Mary Roach

    Science writer Roach is known for her hit book on cadavers Stiff (2003), the sex treatise Bonk (2008), and a string of other monosyllabic deep dives. Her newest tackles how wildlife and humankind collide in illegal, unethical, and sometimes murderous ways. “The wildlife in these pages are simply animals doing what animals do: feeding, shitting, setting up a home, defending themselves or their young. They just happen to be doing these things to, or on, a human, or that human’s home or crops,” she writes. Roach cites a 1659 case in Italy, where caterpillars were charged with trespassing, summoned to court, and given legal representation. Fuzz is about how absurd it is to apply the human-designed legal system to acts of nature, but zooming out, it’s also about the hubristic idea that we could ever tame the chaos of wildlife. The book is full of kernels of fascinating information; in the “Breaking and Entering and Eating” chapter, she delves into the ethics of translocating bears far from home, the effect of climate change on their hibernation, and which doorknobs they can easily manipulate. Her approach is informative and unpretentious, and she’s always armed with a dry sense of humor. Roach will change the way you think about the great outdoors. What more could you ask for? Emerson Malone

    The Right to Sex: Feminism in the Twenty-First Century

    by Amia Srinivasan

    In a 2018 essay for the London Review of Books that subsequently went viral, the Oxford professor challenges the idea that our sexual desires are innate, fixed, immutable preferences uninfluenced by the social forces around us, or that — even if they are — those desires, which deem certain minority groups “fuckable” and others not, should go unquestioned. Srinivasan has now written a collection, first published in the UK in August, that includes that essay as well as five other essays about sex and feminism more broadly. In “The Conspiracy Against Men,” she writes about the faux apology tours of famous bad men and also the tensions inherent in a phrase like “believe women.” (The women who are to be believed are overwhelmingly white and middle class or higher; this same courtesy often does not extend to people outside those descriptors.) In “Talking to My Students About Porn,” she revisits the arguments of anti-porn feminists like Andrea Dworkin and marvels at how her students who grew up with porn’s ubiquity are apt to agree with Dworkin that there is something insidious about the male and female dynamics of most mainstream porn. She also revisits her 2018 essay in a follow-up, “Coda: The Politics of Desire.” The strength of this collection lies mainly in Srinivasan’s appetite for questioning comforting norms: “Feminism must be relentlessly truth-telling,” she writes in the preface, “not least about itself.” —Tomi Obaro


    The Charm Offensive

    by Alison Cochrun

    Cochrun's debut has a delightfully soapy premise: The star of a Bachelor-esque reality show falls for his earnest (male) handler rather than any of the contestants — but amid genuine laughs, a whirlwind trip around the world, and all the drama of reality TV are tough, honest, and beautifully depicted conversations about both mental health and (a)sexuality. Dev and Charlie make an adorable couple, with a connection that goes well beyond physical chemistry, and it's impossible not to root for them. But both Charlie's public image and Dev's dream job are on the line, and sharing their love with the world could spell doom for them both. —Dahlia Adler

    Portrait of a Scotsman

    by Evie Dunmore

    After aspiring artist and heiress Hattie Greenfield is caught in a compromising position with Lucian Blackstone, a darkly handsome and ruthless businessman, she's forced to be his bride in a marriage of convenience. Lucian has business and revenge on the brain, and no time for a wife with a desire for romance or happily-ever-afters. When a sudden trip to Scotland puts them in closer proximity than they're used to, Lucian learns that his wife is more passionate, talented, and curious than he ever realized. Now he wants nothing more than for his wife to fall in love with him, but a secret exposed threatens their future, forcing him to choose between love and revenge. —Shyla Watson

    The Shaadi Set-Up

    by Lillie Vale

    Six years ago, Rita Chitniss and Milan Rao were high school sweethearts — until Milan broke her heart and left her high and dry. Now Rita has moved on and is happy with her boyfriend, Neal, and her successful furniture-restoration career. When her meddling mother brings Milan back into her life, she begrudgingly agrees to help him flip a hard-to-sell house for his realty agency. But she doesn't want him, or her mom, getting any ideas about them getting back together. To prove that the past is behind them and Neal is her future, she signs her and her boyfriend up for a popular Indian matchmaking website. Expecting to get paired with Neal, she's shocked when her perfect match is revealed to be Milan. She tries to put the results to the back of her mind, but as she and Milan spend time working on the house together and talking about the past, she wonders if the dating site had it right all along. —Shyla Watson

    A Lot Like Adiós

    by Alexis Daria

    Michelle Amato may have a thriving career as a freelance graphic designer, but she's still the black sheep in her Puerto Rican–Italian family for being single. Gabriel Aguilar left the Bronx over a decade ago to escape his parents' expectations, leaving behind his best friend and secret crush, Michelle. When the now–Los Angeleno gets a chance to open one of his celebrity gyms in New York, he's on the fence...until he learns Michelle will be leading the marketing campaign. It doesn't take long for their reunion to take a sexy turn, but with their families and careers entangled, it's even harder to figure out if they have a future or if they should say goodbye. —Shyla Watson

    The Love Hypothesis

    by Ali Hazelwood

    PhD candidate Olive Smith doesn't believe in love...but her best friend does and won't get off her back about seeing someone. Olive tries to convince Anh that she's dating, but her friend is not buying it, so Olive does the only thing she can think of: She kisses the first man she sees. Unfortunately, that man turns out to be Adam Carlsen, a cocky professor she's not the biggest fan of. So she's shocked when Adam agrees to play her fake boyfriend, all in the name of science, of course. But the "data" she collects while spending time with Adam is proving her love hypothesis wrong. —Shyla Watson

    On Location

    by Sarah Echavarre Smith

    Alia Dunn has spent years working her way up at the most popular outdoor TV channel. She finally gets a chance to lead her dream project, but that dream turns into a nightmare when Drew Irons is hired as a new crew member. Drew and Alia had an amazing date two weeks ago...until he ghosted her. Now their interactions are full of awkward tension. However, as they spend time in Utah's national parks surrounded by the beauty of nature, the tension between the two evolves from awkward to sexual real quick. Alia is on the brink of having everything she wants. But when the host of the show goes rogue, jeopardizing everything Alia has worked for, she has to figure out a way to keep her dream job — and dream guy — from slipping through her fingers. —Shyla Watson

    The Ex Hex

    by Erin Sterling

    When Vivienne Jones and Rhys Penhallow broke up nearly 10 years ago, Vivienne did what any young witch with a broken heart would do: She put an ex hex on him. But with only a scented candle on hand, she had no doubt the effects would be mild and inconvenient, at best. At least...that's what she thought, until Rhys showed up at their town of Graves Glen, Georgia, years later. His quick trip to the annual fall festival is suddenly plagued with a town full of murderous toys, a talking cat, and angry ghost, to name a few. Now these exes have to work together to reverse the curse, and more than a little magic sparks between them. —Shyla Watson

    The Matzah Ball

    by Jean Meltzer

    Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt is a nice Jewish girl...who loves Christmas. In fact, she's a bestselling Christmas romance novelist, which she has kept secret from those close to her. When her publisher asks that she write a Hanukkah romance next, she gets a serious case of writer's block. To help with inspiration, she decides to attend the Matzah Ball, a music celebration on the last night of Hanukkah. She's determined to have a good time, but when she runs into her childhood nemesis Jacob Greenberg, she fears he'll ruin everything. Instead, he might be the muse that sparks not only a book idea but a forgotten feeling in her heart. —Shyla Watson

    The Sweetest Remedy

    by Jane Igharo

    Hannah Bailey never knew her father. After a brief affair with her white mother, the Nigerian entrepreneur abandoned them. After Hannah gets word that her father has died, she is invited to Nigeria to attend the funeral. When she arrives on Banana Island, Lagos, one of the most affluent places in the country, she meets her father's side of the family, the Jolades, for the first time. Some are excited to get to know her, while others insist that she doesn't belong. Over the next few weeks — with the help of a man who captures her eye and steals her heart — Hannah tries to navigate her new world and discover a part of herself she never knew. —Shyla Watson

    Science Fiction & Fantasy

    No Gods, No Monsters

    by Cadwell Turnbull

    Laina reels when she receives a call that her brother — whom she hadn’t seen in many years — has been shot and killed by Boston cops. In anger, she lashes out at those she loves, but when a mysterious voice leaves her a recording of her brother’s death, what she finds is far stranger than she could ever imagine. The tape reveals that monsters are alive, and Laina can never unsee them again. Meanwhile, a professor quits his job to move back to his hometown and find his missing friend. He discovers a world of secret societies and hidden magic. This harrowing and lyrical novel combines elements of urban fantasy with biting social commentary. —Margaret Kingsbury

    You Sexy Thing

    by Cat Rambo

    This action-packed space opera is loads of fun with an engaging cast of characters. Niko Larson, former admiral in the Grand Military of the Hive Mind and current chef and restaurant owner, wants the prestigious Nikkelin Orb (like a Michelin star) to solidify her restaurant’s prosperity. When the station housing her restaurant is attacked, she and her former crew turned restaurant employees flee to the ship You Sexy Thing — a one-of-a-kind bio-ship. The longer the crew stays aboard, the more the ship learns and begins to enjoy their company. Then pirates take the ship and imprison Niko and her crew, but Niko has secretly yearned to return to the pirates and rescue the woman she once loved. This might just be the chance she needs. —Margaret Kingsbury

    Among Thieves

    by M.J. Kuhn

    Avid fantasy readers will love this fun heist debut, rich in world-building and with a rotating cast of characters and a complex magic system. Ryia, Nash, Ivan, and Tristan are all thieves and members of the Saints syndicate. Each of them is also hiding a deadly secret. They’re hired to steal a magical object from the Guildmaster’s stronghold, but they all have their own reasons for agreeing to do this job, and they all rightfully distrust one another’s motives. Fans of Six of Crows should check this one out. —Margaret Kingsbury

    The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina

    by Zoraida Córdova

    This rich, intergenerational novel steeped in magical realism is my favorite novel thus far from this prolific fantasy author. In 1960, Orquídea Divina, born in Ecuador under unlucky stars, created a house for herself in the dying town of Four Rivers. The house seemed to appear out of nowhere, and the land around it suddenly prospered in a way no one in Four Rivers had ever seen. Decades later, she sends three of her grandchildren letters telling them to return to Four Rivers for her funeral and collect their inheritance. Marimar and Rey both live in New York City, struggling to find their place and a sense of who they are in the bustling city. Tatinelly lives in Oregon and is expecting her first child. Seven years after the three cousins attend their grandmother’s funeral, their magical inheritance begins to surface. Then someone begins murdering the Orquídea family, and the cousins — including Tatinelly’s daughter Rhiannon — must travel to Ecuador to trace their grandmother’s origin and save their family. Readers of Isabel Allende will love this breathtakingly beautiful novel. —Margaret Kingsbury

    Speculative Fiction for Dreamers: A Latinx Anthology

    by Alex Hernandez, Matthew David Goodwin, and Sarah Rafael García

    Packed with 38 YA pieces by Latinx authors, this anthology is a must for short-story readers. Spanning genres from science fiction to fantasy to magical realism and also including comics, poetry, and plays, these stories are breathtaking in their expansiveness. Visit wormholes, follow characters as they trace their origins to their Indigenous ancestors, cross borders, and more. This is the first published collection of YA Latinx speculative fiction and continues the editors’ mission to expand Latinx voices in science fiction and fantasy that began with the anthology Latinx Rising. —Margaret Kingsbury

    The Hollow Heart

    by Marie Rutkoski

    This highly anticipated conclusion to Rutkoski’s YA sapphic fantasy duology that began with The Midnight Lie does not disappoint. It picks up right where Book 1 left off and switches between Nirrim and Sid’s perspectives, as well as that of an unknown god. Unbeknownst to Sid, Nirrim is now queen of Herrath after offering her heart to the God of Thieves, and she will do anything to restore the Half Kith’s memories and free them from their subjugation. Meanwhile, Sid has returned to Herran to discover that her mother is indeed dying and that she’s been poisoned. She needs to find the assassin and, in so doing, perhaps try to repair her relationship with her parents. In Herran, Sid hears of an evil queen using magic to control her people, but she has no idea it’s her former lover, Nirrim, whom she still has feelings for. The conclusion to this heart-stopping duology is just perfection. —Margaret Kingsbury

    Certain Dark Things

    by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

    In an alternative present, vampires are alive and well, but not all cities welcome them, understandably. Vampire gangs terrorize many cities, but Mexico City is a closed nation city and ruthlessly drives out any vampires who manage to sneak within its borders. That makes Mexico City the perfect place for Atl, an Aztec vampire, to hide after a rival vampire gang kills her family. However, with local police and the rival gang’s goonies on her tail, it’s much easier to enter Mexico City than it is to leave. She enlists a hapless street teenager named Domingo to help. This compelling, character-driven vampire read is a perfect way to bring in the fall. —Margaret Kingsbury

    Light From Uncommon Stars

    by Ryka Aoki

    This delightful mix of fantasy and science fiction delves into the classical violin scene and revolves around three characters. Famed violin teacher Shizuka Satomi, known as the Queen of Hell in the violin world, made a pact with the devil to deliver seven souls. Once she has done so, she'll be able to perform her music once more. She's already delivered six and is struggling to find her seventh. Katrina Nguyen, whose most cherished possession is her violin, flees her home because her abusive family doesn't accept her being a trans woman, but she has no safe places to escape. Lan Tran, an alien Starship Captain, fled an intergalactic war with her family across space and landed in a donut shop — which they bought and now run. When these three characters meet, they form their own found family, but with the devil knocking, their close-knit community is in peril. —Margaret Kingsbury

    The Woods Are Always Watching

    by Stephanie Perkins

    I know some of you will point out that this was released Aug. 31, but I mistakenly thought it came out in September (to be fair, I was close), so here we are! Please excuse my mistake and allow me to explain why I loved this race-against-the-clock horror story. Perkins has been known for her strong ties to YA romance, but The Woods Are Always Watching focuses on two friends: Neena and Josie. The two girls decide to go on a multiday camping expedition in the Pisgah National Forest as a last hurrah of high school as they go their separate ways for college. But the deeper they get, the more the cracks in their friendship begin to show — especially when they’ve both been bottling things inside in hopes that it will all be okay. When a detour leads them straight into a walking nightmare, Josie and Neena must rely on each other to survive. Perkins pens a story about the lengths you’ll go to protect a sacred friendship, which also serves as the perfect spooky Halloween read. —Farrah Penn

    The Other Merlin

    by Robyn Schneider

    This Arthurian reimagining is a fresh and funny delight! Charming and sharply hilarious, Schneider’s entrance into historical fiction is such a natural fit, demonstrated by the strength of her storytelling and joyous voice throughout this fun, clever (and queer) tale. Within this kingdom of Camelot, Arthur does indeed pull the sword from the stone, though it was a drunken mistake. Emery Merlin is the daughter of a legendary court wizard. When her twin brother is summoned to serve as Arthur’s right-hand wizard, Emery, disguised as him, goes in his place when he is unable to fulfill the order. When a quest and a prophecy come into play, and with her feelings for Arthur slowly building, Emery must decide if she'll risk it all for the boy she loves or give up her potential to be the greatest wizard in Camelot. —Farrah Penn

    Once Upon a Broken Heart

    by Stephanie Garber

    Once Upon a Broken Heart is an explosively rich fairy tale that takes place inside an intricate world that's weaved with fast-paced plot and intriguing twists. Garber continues to show up with lush, atmospheric writing and charming characters whom we can’t help but want to journey with until their final scenes. Evangeline Fox seeks out the Prince of Hearts when she discovers that her true love will marry her cousin instead of her, and she is desperate for his help in stopping the wedding. But when that wish turns sour, the Prince of Hearts demands much more than she bargained for, leading Evangeline to uncover an unfulfilled prophecy and the role she comes to play in it. —Farrah Penn

    Beasts of Prey

    by Ayana Gray

    Koffi is indentured to the notorious Night Zoo, caring for its magical creatures and working toward her family’s freedom. Ekon is destined to become an elite warrior until he encounters the Shetani, a vicious monster that has plagued the city for almost a century, and Koffi, who unleashes a power that wards off the beast. Ekon is determined to hunt the Shetani down, but he’ll need Koffi’s help to do it, and the two enter the Greater Jungle together.

    Rachel Strolle

    Battle of the Bands

    edited by Lauren Gibaldi and Eric Smith

    This anthology takes place over one night at a battle of the bands competition. Featuring musicians, stage managers, ticket takers, a daughter of rock ‘n’ roll royalty, and more, these short stories rock (and roll). Featuring authors Ashley Poston, Brittany Cavallaro, Jenny Torres Sanchez, Jeff Zentner, Jay Coles, Jasmine Warga, Ashley Woodfolk, Justin Courtney Pierre from Motion City Soundtrack, and more!

    Rachel Strolle

    Iron Widow

    by Xiran Jay Zhao

    Zetian intends to assassinate the pilot responsible for her sister’s death. To do so, she offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, paired up with a boy of Huaxia to pilot giant transforming robots called Chrysalises that battle the mecha aliens beyond the Great Wall. After she murders him and emerges from the cockpit unscathed, she is labeled an Iron Widow, a female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up a Chrysalis. To stop more girls from being sacrificed, she will leverage her might to figure out exactly why the pilot system is set up the way it is.

    Rachel Strolle

    The Lost Girls

    by Sonia Hartl

    Holly Liddell was promised eternal love by Elton Irving all the way back in 1987. But 34 years later, Holly is still a 16-year-old (albeit a vampiric, single one). But things change when she meets Rose and Ida, both also turned into vampires by Elton and then cast away in 1954 and 1921 respectively. And they plan to kill Elton and want Holly's help. Though initially reluctant, when she meets and begins to fall for a girl named Parker, whom Elton has his sights set on, she begins to reconsider.

    Rachel Strolle

    So Many Beginnings

    by Bethany C. Morrow

    The March sisters live in the Freedmen’s Colony of Roanoke Island, a haven for the recently emancipated in 1863. Meg, the oldest, dreams of love and a family of her own. Jo writes nonfiction about being Black in America and is questioning the stipulations of a publishing offer. Beth is a seamstress, searching for a purpose and dealing with a mysterious illness. And the youngest, Amy, is a dancer, wanting to explore life outside their home. But no matter what the future holds, they will face it all together.

    Rachel Strolle

    A Dark and Starless Forest

    by Sarah Hollowell

    In this stunning and atmospheric debut fantasy, Derry and her eight siblings are separated from the rest of the world and living with Frank, who raised them after they were abandoned, in an isolated house by the lake near a menacing forest because the world is not safe for those with magic. Until the night her eldest sister disappears. Jane and Derry swore to each other that they’d never go into the forest, not after their last trip ended in blood, but Derry is sure she saw Jane walk into the trees. When another sibling goes missing and Frank’s true colors start to show, feeling safe is no longer an option. Derry will risk anything to protect the family she has left — even if that means returning to the forest that has started calling to Derry in her missing siblings’ voices. —Rachel Strolle

    Bones of Ruin

    by Sarah Raughley

    Iris is an African tightrope walker in Victorian England, and she has a secret: She cannot die. When she gets drawn into the circle of Adam Temple and, with him, the mysterious order of the Enlightenment Committee, it seems that he could have the answers to who she really is. But the committee claims that the world is ending and they are responsible for deciding who lives. To choose a leader, they are holding the Tournament of Freaks, and Adam wants Iris to be his champion. —Rachel Strolle

    As if On Cue

    by Marisa Kanter

    In this delightful Jewish YA rom-com, Natalie and Reid have been in competition their entire lives, spurred on by the fact that as a talented musician, Reid is also her bandleader father's teacher's pet. It doesn't help that the band is the most successful club at school, which is why it gets to keep its funding even while Natalie's directorial dreams are crushed. But she's already given Reid her dad; she isn't also letting the band have her dream of directing the school's first student-written play. When her fight for justice lands the rivals in the compromise of writing and directing a school musical together, they'll have to learn how to become a team in order to deliver a successful-enough show to prove that both clubs should have funding. And they just might discover they're meant to work as a pair in more ways than one. —Dahlia Adler

    A Clash of Steel

    by C.B. Lee

    Treasure Island gets a fresh historical update in this remix by Sidekick Squad author Lee, set among pirates in the South China Sea. When Xiang's heirloom necklace is stolen by a girl named Anh, only to return when Anh needs help figuring out the map it held inside, she discovers that there was more to the deceased father who gave her that necklace than she ever knew. He was a member of the dastardly Dragon Fleet, a thing of legend that now becomes very real for the two girls determined to hunt down the treasure it's rumored to have left behind. But no treasure hunt is without its dangers, especially at sea. —Dahlia Adler

    Major Detours

    by Zachary Sergi

    This choose-your-own-adventure tale sees four friends on a tarot-driven journey unlike anything you've ever seen, forcing tough choices and relationship shifts all while their mysterious journey takes on new life. When Amelia inherits a gorgeous tarot deck upon her beloved grandmother's death, she knows there's a higher purpose to it, and it's going to steer the perfect road trip with her best friend, Chase; Chase's boyfriend, Logan; and another friend, Clio. But when they stumble into the incredible fandom surrounding the designer of the deck, it sends them on a wild, thrilling chase for the four missing cards that would complete it. And in a fun narrative twist, it's the readers who make the choices about whom they trust, what inspires the mission, and who the characters will be beyond the final page. —Dahlia Adler

    The Hawthorne Legacy

    by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

    You can finally exhale: The follow-up to last year's bestselling The Inheritance Games is just around the corner, and it's full of even more twists and turns than its predecessor. Avery has made a huge discovery, but it's only the tip of the iceberg, and she still doesn't have the proof she needs behind it, or the answer to why she was chosen to receive a tremendous inheritance. She and the Hawthorne boys, including the two who take turns tugging at her heart, still have plenty to figure out, if they can trust each other and keep their emotions in check long enough to do it. But when betrayal comes from inside the house and clues begin sending them to unexpected places, they'll all learn much, much more than they bargained for. —Dahlia Adler

    Things We Couldn't Say

    by Jay Coles

    Gio has just started to get his life together when his birth mom returns. She walked out of his life when he was 9, and he hasn't heard from her in eight years. Now he's not sure he's willing to let her back into his life. On top of this, there's a new guy on the basketball team that he's been hanging out with, and Gio is not sure if he wants to be in a relationship right now.

    Rachel Strolle

    Never Saw You Coming

    by Erin Hahn

    After finding out a secret about her parents, one that makes her feel her childhood was a lie, Meg heads up north to meet family she never knew instead of taking her planned gap year. There, she meets Micah, the son of a currently imprisoned former pastor, who also has a complicated relationship with faith. —Rachel Strolle

    Children's Fiction

    Yusuf Azeem Is Not a Hero

    by Saadia Faruqi

    Yusuf has been waiting nearly his whole life to compete in, and win, the regional robotics competition. But as the 20th anniversary of the attacks on 9/11 approaches — and, with it, the arrival of a hostile group of people protesting the new mosque — Yusuf’s Muslim community is on edge. Yusuf gets a better understanding of the events that followed the attacks when he reads the journal of his uncle, who was a teen at the time. Can Yusuf stand up for his community and hold on to his joy in the face of prejudice and heartache?

    Rachel Strolle

    The Insiders

    by Mark Oshiro

    Héctor is feeling alone at his new school — vastly different from his old school, where being gay wasn’t a big deal — and bullies make him wish he could just disappear. But while hiding one day in what he thought was a janitor’s closet, he discovers a room that shouldn’t be possible. Because two other queer kids, from different places in the country, are also there, and the room seems to know exactly what they need to help each other out. This is one of the most special middle grade books that has ever existed, and if you have a middle grade reader in your life, get this for them immediately. —Rachel Strolle

    Amira & Hamza: The War to Save the Worlds

    by Samira Ahmed

    Ahmed’s middle grade debut follows siblings Amira and Hamza on the day of a rare super blue blood moon eclipse. As they walk through an exhibit on medieval Islamic astronomy, Hamza wanders off and grabs the forbidden Box of the Moon. Everyone around them falls under a sleep spell, day turns to night, and, oh yeah, a chunk of the moon breaks off. Two jinn reveal that they’re part of a prophecy and must travel to a mystical land called Qaf to prevent the moon from breaking apart. Because if they don’t, terrifying things will be unleashed on Earth. —Rachel Strolle

    A Touch of Ruckus

    by Ash Van Otterloo

    Van Otterloo once again strikes a magical chord with this middle grade mystery full of Southern charm and cottagecore vibes, starring a girl named Tennessee who gets some space away from her family by moving in with her grandmother. In her new mountain town, Tennie makes fast friends with a charismatic kid named Fox who's obsessed with ghost hunting — a perfect fit for Tennie, who's got a supernatural secret: She can relive memories by touching an object. When their ghost hunting, combined with Tennie's gift, leads them to discover there's more to the town's history than meets the eye, the two will have to dig into its ugly past to prevent the town from facing an equally haunting future. —Dahlia Adler

    Graphic Novels & Comics

    Himawari House

    by Harmony Becker

    Nao, Hyejung, and Tina are all foreign exchange students, living together in the Himawari House in Tokyo and attending the same school. Tina moved from Singapore for a change of scenery and new adventures, Hyejung moved from Korea after the disillusionment that came with the direction of her life during her first year at university, and Nao returned to Japan, where she was born, from the United States after graduating from high school. This graphic novel is astoundingly good. —Rachel Strolle