Top New YA Books in August 2020

House of Dragons by Jessica Cluess  

Type: Novel 
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Release date: May 12 

Den of Geek says: This YA fantasy distinguishes itself primarily by a varied cast of five characters, making it a good introduction to epic fantasy plus the “fun group of friends” appeal of a superhero squad. Also, there are dragons and a frightening fantasy job interview, two of my favorite things. 

Publisher’s summary: When the Emperor dies, the five royal houses of Etrusia attend the Call, where one of their own will be selected to compete for the throne. It is always the oldest child, the one who has been preparing for years to compete in the Trial. But this year is different. This year these five outcasts will answer the call. . . .

THE LIAR: Emilia must hide her dark magic or be put to death.

THE SOLDIER: Lucian is a warrior who has sworn to never lift a sword again.

THE SERVANT: Vespir is a dragon trainer whose skills alone will keep her in the game.

THE THIEF: Ajax knows that nothing is free–he must take what he wants.

THE MURDERER: Hyperia was born to rule and will stop at nothing to take her throne.

Buy House of Dragons by Jessica Cluess.

Clap As You Land

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo 

Type: Novel 

Publisher: Quill Tree Books 

Release date: May 5 

Den of Geek says: This looks like it could be both a tearjerker and a sweet story of sisterly love. The tragic death of their father brings Camino and Yahaira Rios into each other’s lives in a new way. 

Publisher’s summary: Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…

In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.

Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.

And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other. 

Buy Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo.

Top New YA in April 2020

Little Universes by Heather Demetrios

Little Universes by Heather Demetrios

Type: Novel 
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. 
Release date: April 7 

Den of Geek says: It’s not often that YA books focus on family, and the sisterly relationship at the heart of Little Universes looks well-crafted and heart-wrenching. When tragedy strikes, each sister will need to find a way to move on. 

Publisher’s summary: One wave: that’s all it takes for the rest of Mae and Hannah Winters’ lives to change.

When a tsunami strikes the island their parents are vacationing on in Malaysia, it soon becomes clear that their parents are never coming home. Forced to move to Boston from their sunny California home for the rest of their senior year, each girl struggles with secrets their parents’ death has brought to light and with their uncertainty about the future. Instead of getting closer, it feels like the wave has torn them apart.

Little Universes explores the powerful bond of sisters, the kinds of love that never die, and the journey we all must make through the baffling cruelty and unexpected beauty of human life in an incomprehensible universe.

Buy Little Universes by Heather Demetrios on Amazon.

What I Like About You by Marisa Kanter

What I Like About You by Marisa Kanter

Type: Novel 
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release date: April 7 

Den of Geek says: YA romance, and digital age romance in particular, can easily come off as cheesy or derivative. But this ‘love triangle between two people’ looks like a twist on relationships and online identity, plus the coziness of a crush story. 

Publisher’s summary: There are a million things that Halle Levitt likes about her online best friend, Nash.

He’s an incredibly talented graphic novelist. He loves books almost as much as she does. And she never has to deal with the awkwardness of seeing him in real life. They can talk about anything…

Except who she really is.

Because online, Halle isn’t Halle—she’s Kels, the enigmatically cool creator of One True Pastry, a YA book blog that pairs epic custom cupcakes with covers and reviews. Kels has everything Halle doesn’t: friends, a growing platform, tons of confidence, and Nash.

That is, until Halle arrives to spend senior year in Gramps’s small town and finds herself face-to-face with real, human, not-behind-a-screen Nash. Nash, who is somehow everywhere she goes—in her classes, at the bakery, even at synagogue.

Nash who has no idea she’s actually Kels.

If Halle tells him who she is, it will ruin the non-awkward magic of their digital friendship. Not telling him though, means it can never be anything more. Because while she starts to fall for Nash as Halle…he’s in love with Kels. 

Buy What I Like About You by Marisa Kanter on Amazon.

Elysium Girls by Kate Pentecost

Elysium Girls by Kate Pentecost 

Type: Novel
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release date: April 14 

Den of Geek says: It’s an interesting time for historical fantasy, and this looks a bit like a YA cousin of Upright Women Wanted, with more robots and monsters. Check out the crunchy mechanical horses on that cover. 

Publisher’s summary: In this sweeping Dust Bowl-inspired fantasy, a ten-year game between Life and Death pits the walled Oklahoma city of Elysium-including a girl gang of witches and a demon who longs for humanity-against the supernatural in order to judge mankind.

When Sal is named Successor to Mother Morevna, a powerful witch and leader of Elysium, she jumps at the chance to prove herself to the town. Ever since she was a kid, Sal has been plagued by false visions of rain, and though people think she’s a liar, she knows she’s a leader. Even the arrival of enigmatic outsider Asa-a human-obsessed demon in disguise-doesn’t shake her confidence in her ability. Until a terrible mistake results in both Sal and Asa’s exile into the Desert of Dust and Steel.

Face-to-face with a brutal, unforgiving landscape, Sal and Asa join a gang of girls headed by another Elysium exile-and young witch herself-Olivia Rosales. In order to atone for their mistake, they create a cavalry of magic powered, scrap metal horses to save Elysium from the coming apocalypse. But Sal, Asa, and Olivia must do more than simply tip the scales in Elysium’s favor-only by reinventing the rules can they beat the Life and Death at their own game. 

Buy Elysium Girls by Kate Pentecost on Amazon.

Top New YA Books in March 2020 

The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

Type: Novel
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Release date: March 3, 2020

Den of Geek says: To put a twist on historical fantasy, author Marie Lu focuses just to the side of a world-changing life. Nannerl Mozart was a real person, and has appeared in fiction before with the aim of bringing some recognition to the famous musician’s talented but forgotten sister. The fairy tale element sounds like it will provide strong atmosphere in this musical novel.

Publisher’s Summary: Born with a gift for music, Nannerl Mozart has just one wish–to be remembered forever. But even as she delights audiences with her masterful playing, she has little hope she’ll ever become the acclaimed composer she longs to be. She is a young woman in 18th century Europe, and that means composing is forbidden to her. She will perform only until she reaches a marriageable age–her tyrannical father has made that much clear.

And as Nannerl’s hope grows dimmer with each passing year, the talents of her beloved younger brother, Wolfgang, only seem to shine brighter. His brilliance begins to eclipse her own, until one day a mysterious stranger from a magical land appears with an irresistible offer. He has the power to make her wish come true–but his help may cost her everything.

In her first work of historical fiction, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu spins a lush, lyrically-told story of music, magic, and the unbreakable bond between a brother and sister.

Buy The Kingdom of Back on Amazon.

The Fire Never Goes Out by Noelle Stevenson

The Fire Never Goes Out by Noelle Stevenson

Type: Illustrated memoir 
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: March 3

Den of Geek says: Stevenson’s cute illustrations and enthusiastic storytelling have delighted me in her adaptation She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, so a look into her life and career sounds like an interesting look into the business of art, the animation industry, and living as a creative person.

Publisher’s Summary: From Noelle Stevenson, the New York Times bestselling author-illustrator of Nimona, comes a captivating, honest illustrated memoir that finds her turning an important corner in her creative journey—and inviting readers along for the ride.

In a collection of essays and personal mini-comics that span eight years of her young adult life, author-illustrator Noelle Stevenson charts the highs and lows of being a creative human in the world.

Whether it’s hearing the wrong name called at her art school graduation ceremony or becoming a National Book Award finalist for her debut graphic novel, Nimona, Noelle captures the little and big moments that make up a real life, with a wit, wisdom, and vulnerability that are all her own.

Buy The Fire Never Goes Out on Amazon.

A Phoenix First Must Burn

A Phoenix First Must Burn, edited by Patrice Caldwell

Type: Anthology
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 10

Den of Geek says: A grab-bag of some of the best writers of color in the YA space today,this anthology faces challenges head-on to tell stories of Black women and gender-non-conforming people. It looks like a good mix of realistic and fantastical stories, set past, future, and present.

Publisher’s summary: Evoking Beyoncé’s Lemonade for a teen audience, these authors who are truly Octavia Butler’s heirs, have woven worlds to create a stunning narrative that centers Black women and gender nonconforming individuals. A Phoenix First Must Burn will take you on a journey from folktales retold to futuristic societies and everything in between. Filled with stories of love and betrayal, strength and resistance, this collection contains an array of complex and true-to-life characters in which you cannot help but see yourself reflected. Witches and scientists, sisters and lovers, priestesses and rebels: the heroines of A Phoenix First Must Burn shine brightly. You will never forget them.

Buy A Phoenix First Must Burn on Amazon.

Top New YA Books in March 2020 

Deathless Divide

Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland

Type: Novel (Second in series)
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release date: 2/4/20

Den of Geek says: Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation was a buzzy historical zombie novel with a keen awareness of racial dynamics in Civil War-era America. The sequel looks to be just as intense as the first. 

Publisher’s summary: The sequel to the New York Times bestselling epic Dread Nation is an unforgettable journey of revenge and salvation across a divided America.

After the fall of Summerland, Jane McKeene hoped her life would get simpler: Get out of town, stay alive, and head west to California to find her mother.

But nothing is easy when you’re a girl trained in putting down the restless dead, and a devastating loss on the road to a protected village called Nicodemus has Jane questioning everything she thought she knew about surviving in 1880s America.

What’s more, this safe haven is not what it appears—as Jane discovers when she sees familiar faces from Summerland amid this new society. Caught between mysteries and lies, the undead, and her own inner demons, Jane soon finds herself on a dark path of blood and violence that threatens to consume her.

But she won’t be in it alone.

Katherine Deveraux never expected to be allied with Jane McKeene. But after the hell she has endured, she knows friends are hard to come by—and that Jane needs her too, whether Jane wants to admit it or not.

Watching Jane’s back, however, is more than she bargained for, and when they both reach a breaking point, it’s up to Katherine to keep hope alive—even as she begins to fear that there is no happily-ever-after for girls like her.

Buy Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland on Amazon.

Cast Away: Poems For Our Time

Cast Away: Poems for Our Time by Naomi Shihab Nye 

Type: Poetry
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release date: 2/11/2020

Den of Geek says: This unique book of poetry seems perfectly suited to today’s environmental and humanitarian issues. What happens to the things we throw away? What happens to the people who aren’t wanted? The metaphor is rich.

Publisher’s summary: Acclaimed poet and Young People’s Poet Laureate Naomi Shihab Nye shines a spotlight on the things we cast away, from plastic water bottles to those less fortunate, in this collection of more than eighty original and never-before-published poems. A deeply moving, sometimes funny, and always provocative poetry collection for all ages.

“Nye at her engaging, insightful best.”―Kirkus (starred review)

“How much have you thrown away in your lifetime already? Do you ever think about it? Where does this plethora of leavings come from? How long does it take you, even one little you, to fill the can by your desk?”―Naomi Shihab Nye

National Book Award Finalist, Young People’s Poet Laureate, and devoted trash-picker-upper Naomi Shihab Nye explores these questions and more in this original collection of poetry that features more than eighty new poems. “I couldn’t save the world, but I could pick up trash,” she says in her introduction to this stunning volume.

With poems about food wrappers, lost mittens, plastic straws, refugee children, trashy talk, the environment, connection, community, responsibility to the planet, politics, immigration, time, junk mail, trash collectors, garbage trucks, all that we carry and all that we discard, this is a rich, engaging, moving, and sometimes humorous collection for readers ages twelve to adult.

Buy Cast Away: Poems for Our Time on Amazon.

Rebelwing by Andrea Tang

Rebelwing by Andrea Tang 

Type: Novel
Publisher: Razorbill
Release date: 2/25/20

Den of Geek says: Robot dragons? What more to say? The fantastical war story setting and high-energy cast of characters looks like it’ll make this one a good read for fans of Pacific Rim.

Publisher’s summary: Things just got weird for Prudence Wu. 

One minute, she’s cashing in on a routine smuggling deal. The next, she’s escaping enforcers on the wings of what very much appears to be a sentient cybernetic dragon. 

Pru is used to life throwing her some unpleasant surprises–she goes to prep school, after all, and selling banned media across the border in a country with a ruthless corporate government obviously has its risks. But a cybernetic dragon? That’s new. 

She tries to forget about the fact that the only reason she’s not in jail is because some sort of robot saved her, and that she’s going to have to get a new side job now that enforcers are on to her. So she’s not exactly thrilled when Rebelwing shows up again. 

Even worse, it’s become increasingly clear that the rogue machine has imprinted on her permanently, which means she’d better figure out this whole piloting-a-dragon thing–fast. Because Rebelwing just happens to be the ridiculously expensive weapon her government needs in a brewing war with its neighbor, and Pru’s the only one who can fly it. 

Set in a wonderfully inventive near-future Washington, D.C., this hilarious, defiant debut sparkles with wit and wisdom, deftly exploring media consumption, personal freedoms, and the weight of one life as Pru, rather reluctantly, takes to the skies.

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