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    Here Are BuzzFeed's Picks For The Best Books Of July 2021

    From mysteries to sci-fi/fantasy to romance to literary fiction and young adult, we're giving you our favorite reads this month!

    Alexa Fishman / BuzzFeed
    Historical Fiction
    Alexa Fishman
    St. Martin's Press

    Shoulder Season

    by Christina Clancy

    A perfect beach read about the life of a naive Midwesterner turned Playboy Bunny. Wisconsin seems like an unlikely place for a Bunny Ranch, and Sherri an even unlikelier Bunny. Orphaned at 19, Sherri sheds her church clothes for the nearby ranch, enticed by the promise of glamour. There, she quickly learns the ropes and just as quickly falls into a love triangle — one that ends in a tragedy that will haunt her for decades. —Kirby Beaton


    Thomas Nelson


    The Ice Swan

    by J'nell Ciesielski

    In 1917 Petrograd, Princess Svetlana flees the violence of the Bolshevik Revolution for the safety of Paris, where she and her family are forced into hiding. There, she meets Wynn, an innovative surgeon who's immediately smitten with Svetlana and offers to marry her and pay off her debts, hoping love will come later. Svetlana, out of options, agrees. But the Bolsheviks are still on her trail, and soon the couple is on the run with only their blossoming love to keep them going. —Kirby Beaton

    William Morrow & Company


    Island Queen

    by Vanessa Riley

    Based on a true story, Riley — known for her historical romance — creates an interesting narration of the life of Dorothy "Doll" Kirwan Thomas. The story follows Doll from her birth into slavery in the Caribbean to buying her freedom from her Irish planter father to her love affairs with notable men (including a naval captain who will become king of England). Doll's life is full of hardship but also full of epic adventures that led her to become a powerful woman who left a distinct mark on the world. —Kirby Beaton


    Gallery Books

    The Forest of Vanishing Stars

    by Kristin Harmel

    Inspired by true stories, this harrowing novel follows Yona, a young woman kidnapped from wealthy German parents and raised in the harsh forests of Eastern Europe. When her captor dies in 1941, Yona, unaware of what's going on in the world, stumbles upon a group of Jews fleeing Nazi rule. Shocked, she helps them learn to survive — and hide — in the wilderness. But after betrayal sends her fleeing into a German-occupied town, her past and present will collide. —Kirby Beaton



    Blackstone Publishing

    Everyman

    by M Shelly Conner

    Eve, raised by her aunt, Mama Ann, has spent her whole life with the mystery of her absent parents over her head. So in 1972, she arrives in Ideal, Georgia, in search of answers. A cast of characters join Eve on her journey, including Nelle, who is finding her own identity in her queerness, and Brother Lee Roy, a professor and mentor. But ultimately it's James and Geneva, two strangers Eve meets in Ideal, who change her journey forever. —Kirby Beaton




    Tor Books

    She Who Became the Sun

    by Shelley Parker-Chan

    The first book in a historical fantasy series takes place in 1345 China, which remains crushed under harsh Mongol rule, and for the peasants starving in the Central Plains, greatness feels like a far-off fantasy. So when an eighth son, Zhu Chongba, is gifted a fate of greatness, everyone is stunned, even the clever second daughter, who was fated nothingness. But when the two children are tragically orphaned and Chongba dies in his despair, his sister decides to claim his identity...and his fate. —Kirby Beaton




    St. Martin's Press

    A Woman of Intelligence

    by Karin Tanabe

    As a single girl in 1940s Manhattan, Katharina was living the life as a UN translator by day and a girl on the town by night. Now, postwar, Katharina is married, rich, and the mother of two healthy sons. But this seemingly perfect picture of domesticity feels like a gilded cage to Katharina, so when she's offered a role as an informant to the FBI, she takes it. As she navigates KGB secrets, Katharina's own secret will threaten everything in her life. —Kirby Beaton



    William Morrow & Company

    Three Words for Goodbye

    by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

    When the grandmother of estranged sisters Clara and Madeleine reveals she’s dying, she has one wish: for her granddaughters to deliver three goodbye letters across Europe — together. Clara sees this as an inconvenience before she's due to be wed, while Madeleine — a reporter — is excited to see the events of 1937 unfold before her eyes. Along the way, a shocking family discovery brings the sisters closer, but a trip home aboard the Hindenburg leaves their fate up in the air. —Kirby Beaton

    Literary Fiction
    Alexa Fishman
    Other Press

    Late Summer

    by Luiz Ruffato, translated by Julia Sanches

    Highly acclaimed Brazilian author Luiz Ruffato’s latest is a brooding, poetic portrait of a man undone by grief. After 20 years away, Oséias returns to his hometown with low expectations — he's recently divorced and unemployed, and this is mostly an act of desperation. He rediscovers the city and people he used to know so well, confronting his former self and reconnecting with similarly disillusioned siblings, as well as childhood friends who’ve taken unexpected paths. All the while, he’s haunted by the guilt he carries from his sister’s suicide and his own failures. It’s a mournful story, written in a dreamy rush of consciousness and dialogue uninterrupted by paragraph breaks, but Ruffato’s emotional clarity allows a layered ambivalence. Oséias’s fate is tragic but also illuminating and, perhaps, invigorating: Underneath, for the reader, is the push to live better. —Arianna Rebolini

    Knopf Publishing Group

    Wayward

    by Dana Spiotta

    Dana Spiotta’s latest novel opens on a familiar scene: A middle-aged woman wakes up one morning, scrolls through real estate listings, and decides to check out a particularly appealing open house. She falls in love with the beautiful, rundown home and impulsively buys it, leaving behind her husband and daughter. Her life changes completely, but she’s liberated by her ability to upend it. This is a story about female desire and fulfillment, about a woman realizing she’s fallen into roles she resents (“bored housewife,” “stay-at-home mom” — the latter, she notes, makes it sound like she’s under house arrest) and giving in to the impulse to abandon them. Spiotta glides through her journey with sparkling prose, delving into the contradictions and complexities of being an aging woman — and raising a daughter who will one day be the same — in today’s America. —Arianna Rebolini

    One World

    Ghost Forest

    by Pik-Shuen Fung

    Pik-Shuen Fung’s debut novel is slim but powerful. In scattered fragments and vignettes, our unnamed narrator paints a slow, tender portrait of her father, whose recent death she’s still processing. Her family left Hong Kong for Vancouver when she was just 3, but her father stayed behind for fear of not being able to find work, and their relationship grew strained over the course of their few visits each year. Now she’s left trying to understand and make peace with a ghost. She turns to her mother and grandmother to fill the gaps, weaving their memories with hers in this elegiac account of familial love. —Arianna Rebolini

    Soho Press

    Summer Fun

    by Jeanne Thornton

    Jeanne Thornton’s epistolary novel centers on Gala, a thirtysomething transgender woman who lives and works at a New Mexico hostel and spends her days writing letters to B---, the former lead singer of legendary ’60s beach band the Get Happies. Gala is obsessed with the Get Happies and has dedicated her life to finding out why they stopped making music and how she can get them to reunite. She’s writing these letters as part of a ritual — Gala is spiritual, chaotic, and impossibly endearing — and she needs to believe not only in the possibility of more music but also in the magic she’s drawing upon to make it happen. But as much as the letters are about the Get Happies, they are also, despite her insistence otherwise, about Gala herself. With intimacy and yearning, Thornton captures the intensity of fandom and self-discovery, of our relationships with art and each other, and the transcendent joy of truly being seen. —Arianna Rebolini

    Mystery and thrillers
    Alexa Fishman / BuzzFeed
    Penguin Random House

    They'll Never Catch Us

    by Jessica Goodman

    Goodman’s latest is more of a slow-burn YA mystery than an edge-of-your-seat thriller, but it’s one that uniquely explores the complexities of sisters Stella and Ellie Steckler, cross-country runners with a strong competitive appetite. When new track teammate Mila goes missing in their small town (nicknamed “Deadwater”) that’s already known for missing girls, people begin to suspect the Steckler sisters. After all, Ellie is keeping her own secrets from Stella, and the last thing Stella texted Mila was aggressive, hurtful threats. With their futures on the line, it’s unclear if the town will get to the bottom of Mila’s disappearance before it’s too late. —Farrah Penn

    Berkley

    For Your Own Good

    by Samantha Downing

    Once I sat down to read For Your Own Good — a clever, twisty thriller — it was difficult to stop reading. It's the perfect read to get lost in this summer if you can't get enough mysteries. Samantha Downing juggles the POV from an ensemble of characters who are easy to differentiate and addicting to follow. Teddy Crutcher wants the best for his students at the prestigious Belmont Academy, even if it means teaching them hard lessons. Zach is a student of Teddy's but cannot for the life of him figure out why he's on his shit list. Sonia — a Belmont alum and current teacher — is dedicated to her students but slightly disagrees with Teddy's methods of educating. When the death of a parent occurs on Belmont grounds, Teddy is keenly aware that some people's suspicions are directed toward him. But what does he have to hide? —Farrah Penn

    Algonquin Books

    The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream: The Hunt for a Victorian Era Serial Killer

    by Dean Jobb

    True crime fans will want to pick up Dean Jobb’s engrossing account of Thomas Neill Cream, the 19th-century doctor who traveled from Canada to the US to Britain on a killing spree that spanned decades. Using his medical expertise, Cream began poisoning his victims as soon as he learned how, murdering women and leaving town whenever suspicions arose, until he was sentenced to 11 years in prison for poisoning his alleged lover’s husband. He picked up where he left off when he got out. Jobb builds Cream’s world in vivid, transportive detail; I had a lot of fun being swept away. —Arianna Rebolini

    Nonfiction and poetry
    Alexa Fishman / BuzzFeed
    Spiegel & Grau

    Fox & I: An Uncommon Friendship

    by Catherine Raven

    When Catherine Raven left her abusive family at 15 years old, she quickly found solace in nature, first working as a park ranger, then getting her PhD in biology, and eventually building a small cottage in the remote woods of Montana, where she settled into a mostly solitary life, with breaks to lead field classes and lectures. Then, one day, a fox showed up and kept coming back. In this quiet, charming memoir, Raven recounts her journey to accepting this unusual companion, loath as she is to anthropomorphize him. And as she embraces the vulnerability of loving an animal she objectively knows can’t love her back, she warms up to the idea of letting other people in too. Throughout, Raven writes about her environment with wonder and reverence but never formality — it’s the easy affection of someone who’s long made family of the natural world. —Arianna Rebolini

    Pantheon Books

    Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness

    by Kristen Radtke

    In her latest graphic work of nonfiction, Kristen Radtke homes in on the loneliness she so keenly described in her 2017 memoir, Imagine Wanting Only This, as she traveled through abandoned cities. Here, she chronicles Americans’ attempts to reach one another through technology, art, media, and politics. Radtke pulls out moments from recent history that reveal a deeply felt need for connection, specifically those moments broadly judged or mocked — a woman live-tweeting her husband’s death; Instagrammers rushing to get photos at a cliff where another woman died taking a selfie — and connects them to her own lived experience, exploring the possibility of deeper meaning with humility, grace, and remarkable insight into the human condition. It’s a bittersweet and especially moving journey following more than a year of unprecedented (sorry) alienation and despair. —Arianna Rebolini

    MCD

    Until Proven Safe: The History and Future of Quarantine

    by Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley

    Maybe reading a book about quarantine sounds like the last thing you want to do this summer, and OK, I get that. But indulge me in a counterargument. Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley’s extensive history of a concept we might otherwise take for granted is actually the perfect timely read — an imaginative, layperson-friendly way to make sense of and contextualize what we just lived through. Looking at everything from the 14th century’s Black Death to the present day to possible futures, the authors expertly analyze the ways in which humanity has adapted to harm and attempted (and often failed) to survive. It’s a fascinating read. —Arianna Rebolini

    Romance
    Alexa Fishman / BuzzFeed


    St. Martin's Griffin

    Too Good to Be Real

    by Melonie Johnson

    When her job is on the line, aspiring travel writer Julia pitches her boss a story about a nearby rom-com resort — a place where romantic comedy fans can come live out their meet-cute fantasies for a weekend. When she arrives with two friends in tow, she (literally) runs into Luke, a lanky and handsome guest to whom she has an immediate and strong connection. Only...Luke isn’t just a regular guest; he’s in charge of the weekend’s festivities, and he also has no idea that Julia is there to review the resort. As the two start spending time together under false pretenses — and with both of their jobs at risk — Julia doesn’t know if her feelings for Luke are real or just part of the fantasy. —Shyla Watson

    William Morrow & Company

    Incense and Sensibility

    by Sonali Dev

    Yash Raje aspires to be California's first Indian American governor. But after his life is threatened at a rally, Yash's spirit is broken and fear has taken hold. To help with his anxiety, he seeks help from family friend India Dashwood, the state's premier stress management coach. But spending time with India means reliving the one secret, magical night they shared 10 years ago, as well as how terribly it ended. With a history-making election on the line and lives hanging in the balance, Yash has to focus on healing — but maybe he can repair what's broken between him and India while he's at it. —Shyla Watson

    Avon Books

    It Happened One Summer

    by Tessa Bailey

    When LA “it” girl Piper Bellinger throws a party that lands her in jail, her stepfather temporarily banishes her to Westport, Washington — the fishing town her mother raised her in before her birth father died — to learn a lesson. With her loyal sister in tow, Piper arrives at a town full of locals who aren't impressed by her flashy fashion or number of Instagram followers...especially one local in particular. Widower and boat captain Brendan is a creature of habit, and the arrival of the too-beautiful Piper throws a wrench into his routines. Their relationship gets off to a rocky start but quickly evolves into something neither of them saw coming...or wants to let go of. —Shyla Watson

    Little Brown and Company

    The Rehearsals

    by Annette Christie

    After a catastrophic rehearsal dinner, Megan and Tom call off their wedding. But when they wake up the next morning, they find themselves stuck in a time loop. The pair are forced to relive the same day over and over again — including dealing with family drama and unsaid secrets. Yet with each passing rehearsal dinner, the couple realize that maybe getting married is what they want after all — if only they could get out of the time loop and actually have a wedding day. —Shyla Watson



    Berkley Books

    While We Were Dating

    by Jasmine Guillory

    Ben Stephens doesn't have time for relationships, especially when he gets a career-changing opportunity to run an ad campaign featuring movie star Anna Gardiner. Their working banter quickly turns flirty, and when Ben shows up for Anna after a family emergency, they realize something serious is growing between them. But having a relationship in the spotlight isn't what the movies make it out to be, and Ben has to figure out if he wants to fade into the background or step up and be Anna's leading man. —Shyla Watson


    Berkley Books

    Hot Under His Collar

    by Andie J. Christopher

    Sasha Finerghty has a massive crush on Patrick Dooley — or, rather, Father Patrick Dooley. Being into a priest is very inconvenient, but returning those feelings as a priest is so much worse. The more time Father Patrick and Sasha spend time together to raise money to save a community program, the more they struggle to resist their growing feelings. But when that mutual attraction crosses a line, they must decide if they can go back to how things were before or if they take a leap of faith to have a future. —Shyla Watson



    Berkley Books

    Isn't It Bromantic?

    by Lyssa Kay Adams

    When her Russian journalist father mysteriously disappeared, Elena Konnikova did the only thing she could think of to stay safe: She married her childhood friend Vladimir and moved to the United States, where he's a professional hockey player. Their marriage has always been one of convenience, but Vlad wants to make it very real. With the help of his Bromance Book Club — along with some neighbors and overeager widows — Vlad does what he can to show Elena a love like the kind he reads about...and like the one he's secretly writing. But when Elena's past creeps back up, their whole future together is put on the line. —Shyla Watson


    Gallery Books

    Heartbreak for Hire

    by Sonia Hartl

    Since flaming out of grad school, Brinkely Saunders has worked at Heartbreak for Hire, a secret service that helps jilted lovers, frenemies, and aggrieved coworkers get a little taste of revenge on the men in their lives. Though it's not what she wants to do long term, she get to save money to open her own art gallery and empower women at the same time. But when the company announces it's hiring their first male heartbreaker, Brinkley isn't sure this is still the job for her. There's more to Mark than meets the eye, and his sexy sweater vests cover a nerdy heart of gold that she can't (and doesn't) resist. When secrets come out, Brinkley must decide if she's going to work to save her relationship or become just another heartbroken lover out for revenge. —Shyla Watson

    Berkley Books

    The Man Ban

    by Nicola Marsh

    After a horrible breakup, Harper Ryland puts herself on a yearlong man ban, choosing to focus on her career instead of any romantic relationships. During her best friend's wedding, she meets best man Manny Gomez, who immediately gets under her skin. So when she runs into him a week later in New Zealand, she's less than pleased. But when Manny comes to her rescue after an unfortunate disaster, she's forced to reevaluate her opinion of him. Maybe he isn't so bad after all, and in fact, maybe a little international fling is exactly what she needs. As long as they keep things casual, she isn't breaking her ban...but that's easier said than done. —Shyla Watson

    Alexa Fishman / BuzzFeed


    Montlake

    Song of the Forever Rains

    by E.J. Mellow

    This character-driven, high-stakes fantasy romance is a captivating read and the first book in a new series. Nineteen-year-old Larkyra is the youngest of three sisters, and her voice holds a deadly and commanding magic. Their father, the Thief King, rules over a secret and magical kingdom integral to Aadlior, though few know of it. When they discover the Duke of Lachlan is stealing a poisonous drug from the Thief Kingdom, Larkyra is given her first mission: to spy on the Duke by pretending to be his potential bride. Her task is complicated as she finds herself slowly falling in love with Lachlan’s rightful heir, Darius. —Margaret Kingsbury


    Knopf Books for Young Readers

    Six Crimson Cranes

    by Elizabeth Lim

    Princess Shiori has a secret that could put her in grave danger: She can manipulate magic, and she’s not the only one. After she discovers her stepmother can also use magic and has a dragon’s pearl lodged in her chest, her stepmother curses her and her seven brothers: Her brothers are condemned to live their days as cranes, while Shiori has a bowl placed over her head, disguising her looks, and for every word she utters, a brother will die. Shiori must create a net of sharp nettles to capture the dragon’s pearl and hopefully save her brothers. This lovely YA fantasy entwines a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Wild Swans" with various tales from Chinese folklore and legends, including dragon folklore, the tales of Madame White Snake, the myth of Chang'e the Moon Goddess, “Tale of the Bamboo Cutter,” and “Girl With the Black Bowl.” It’s one of my favorite fairy tale retellings of the year. —Margaret Kingsbury

    Tordotcom

    A Psalm for the Wild-Built

    by Becky Chambers

    Hugo Award–winning author Becky Chambers begins a new series with this delightful and quietly philosophical novella that presents a hopeful glimpse into a future where humanity actually does the right thing. When Dex, a nonbinary, tea-mixing monk, decides to travel into the wilderness to search for a sound that haunts their dreams, they meet a wild-built robot named Mosscap, and the two form a friendship. Years earlier, when robots became sentient, humans agreed to let them live their separate lives in the forest. Now Mosscap will help Dex find the sound they long for, though what awaits them in the forest surprises them. In exchange, Mosscap asks that Dex help the robot learn more about humanity. —Margaret Kingsbury

    Custom House

    Appleseed

    by Matt Bell

    This ambitious work of climate fiction weaves together three timelines to depict the myriad ways that humans destroy their environments. In 18th-century Ohio, two brothers — one a faun, one a human — attempt to remake the wilderness and become the basis of the Johnny Appleseed folktale. Fifty years into our future, a corporation owns the country in the wake of massive climate upheavals and provides all food and resources. John, one of the corporation’s founders, has had a change of heart and has become an eco-terrorist, journeying to the West to try to restore the land to its prehuman condition. Finally, a thousand years later, the Earth is covered in ice, and C-432 is the last sentient being. His primary task is to find biomasses, but he undergoes a dangerous quest in search of humanity when he uncovers long-forgotten instructions. This fascinating novel is rich in thought-provoking ideas and world-building. —Margaret Kingsbury

    Tor Books

    The Freedom Race

    by Lucinda Roy

    This gut-wrenching read takes place in a near-future United States where white people once again enslave African Americans. This future is bleak. Enslaved Black women are forced to become “seedlings” and bear their enslaver’s children, which are judged on a color wheel. If the child is too dark, the enslavers take them away to work in hard-labor camps. If they’re light-skinned, they might find freedom and a place at their father’s side. Jellybean “Ji-Ji” Lottermule’s skin tone falls somewhere in the middle, and her only hope of freedom is to compete in the Freedom Race. The winner is granted freedom and a chance to petition for the freedom of others. However, by the time the race begins, everything Ji-Ji holds dear may already be lost. This powerful, riveting novel provides a glimpse into a nightmarish future that’s all too similar to our past. —Margaret Kingsbury

    Vintage

    Sword Stone Table

    Edited by Swapna Krishna and Jenn Northington

    The 16 stories in this remarkable anthology present a vast and varied selection of inclusive Arthurian legend retellings: from a story by Nisi Shawl in which an albino Ugandan sorceress trades magic with Merlin to a story by Star Trek: Discovery star Anthony Rapp about an HIV-positive man and his partner watching a hospital magic show hosted by, you guessed it, Merlin. While Merlin features in many stories, quite a few center Arthur, Morgana, Lancelot, Elaine, Gawain, and more. This anthology shows the diverse multitude of stories that can be told based on Arthurian legend. It’s a must-read for any Arthurian legend fan. —Margaret Kingsbury

    Soho Crime

    Midnight, Water City

    by Chris Mckinney

    Chris Mckinney's seventh novel marks his first foray into science fiction. The unnamed protagonist works as a police detective and former private security guard to the famed scientist Akira Kimura. In 2102, Akira spotted an asteroid plummeting toward Earth and invented a cosmic ray to destroy it. Forty years later, she's still famous, though she's now retired. However, she asks the protagonist to once again take up his post as her security guard when she senses her life might be in danger. When the detective arrives at her home, he finds her dead. The detective has an unusual ability that allows him to detect murders: His combination of synesthesia and colorblindness causes him to see a green mist surrounding murder victims. His unique ability might help him solve the mystery of who killed his former employer and one of his oldest and dearest friends. This gritty noir set in a sci-fi landscape is a real page-turner. —Margaret Kingsbury

    Orbit

    Notes From the Burning Age

    by Claire North

    Claire North depicts a startling, richly developed postapocalyptic world in this beautiful and riveting novel. After a childhood trauma, Ven becomes a priest and scholar, decoding ancient texts and artifacts from the Burning Age, a time when climate disasters ravaged the landscape. Now trees and forests flourish, and humanity has humbled itself to nature, or at least theoretically. Mythical beings called the kakuy, who crushed cities centuries earlier, still watch over the land, ready to release their wrath should humanity mess up once more. When a secret sect called the Brotherhood forces Ven to translate heretical texts, including military documents, Ven is forced to face two opposing ideologies: to honor nature as his priest-training instructs or to respect humanity’s right to supremacy. —Margaret Kingsbury

    Tordotcom

    The Past Is Red

    by Catherynne M. Valente

    With her trademark lyrical prose, Catherynne M. Valente takes readers to a future where the remnants of humanity live on giant islands of garbage. The main character, Tetley, has been shunned by society for a past transgression. She loves Garbagetown, the only home she’s ever known, and through shifting timelines, she tells the story of how she came to be an outlaw and why Garbagetown is the best despite all the cruel things it's done to her. This novella is a pointed critique of consumer culture and also a wildly inventive ride. —Margaret Kingsbury


    HarperTeen

    The River Has Teeth

    by Erica Waters

    This YA contemporary fantasy entwines elements of horror and thriller to create a compulsive read. Someone is killing girls in a nature preserve. When Natasha's sister disappears, she worries she was the latest victim and goes to the nature preserve to investigate. A witch family lives nearby, garnering their magic from the forest. They might be the key to solving the disappearances — especially the intriguing Della — or they might be the cause of the murders. As Natasha and Della slowly start falling for each other, magic neither of them knew existed begins to bloom. —Margaret Kingsbury


    Harper Voyager

    Hold Fast Through the Fire

    by K.B. Wagers

    The second book of Wagers' NeoG series continues with all the great elements of the first book: wonderful character dynamics, engaging dialogue, compulsive action scenes, and a high-stakes plot. This year's boarding games are going to be a bit different. Rosa and Ma are retiring; Nika has returned to the crew to replace Rosa; Jenks is now chief; and a new Spacer, Chae Ho-ki (they/them), is welcomed aboard. However, Chae is hiding a deadly secret that puts the crew in deadly peril, but they put their loved ones at risk if they reveal their secret. Meanwhile, Intel has put Nika on a secret mission, and he's struggling with how to lie to the crew while maintaining a relationship with them, particularly with Max. This is a must-read series for space opera fans. —Margaret Kingsbury

    Young Adult
    Alexa Fishman / BuzzFeed
    Scholastic

    Rise to the Sun

    by Leah Johnson

    Olivia and Toni may be at the Farmland Festival for very different reasons, but while hanging out and listening to music with their best friends, they find one very important thing in common: an attraction that will not be denied, no matter what a bad time it is for Olivia to start something new, and no matter how closed off Toni tries to keep her heart. If you love your romance with a side of heartache that makes you want to hug both characters tight, Leah Johnson's sophomore definitely fits the bill. —Dahlia Adler


    Jimmy Patterson

    It Ends in Fire

    by Andrew Shvarts

    Alka's entire life has been building up to getting revenge for the murder of her parents and the kidnapping that brought her to be raised among Wizard rebels. And now that she's found a way to get into the prestigious Blackwater Academy, the first step is complete. At Blackwater, viciousness and power run deep, but Alka knows she can run with the best of them, even if she wasn't born with the same silver spoon in her mouth. (And her prickly attitude certainly doesn't stop our hero from finding romance...twice.) Whether she can achieve her goals without scorching the earth beneath her feet and turning into someone she doesn't even recognize is another story. Pick this one up for magic school, sapphic romance, vengeful adventure, and a fearless bisexual hero. —Dahlia Adler

    Simon & Schuster

    XOXO

    by Axie Oh

    Jenny is a cello prodigy who has plans to get into a prestigious music conservatory. It's at her uncle's Los Angeles karaoke bar that she meets a guy named Jaewoo, and together, they spontaneously have a one-night adventure. But when family brings Jenny to South Korea, she discovers Jaewoo is a student at the same elite arts academy where she's enrolled. Not only that, but he's also a member of a widely popular K-pop band — and he's forbidden from dating. This book was a pure joy to read. If you're looking for a lighthearted, fresh, and fun romance, Oh's latest is absolutely for you. —Farrah Penn