Book List

30 of the Fall's Biggest YA Books

An engrossing escapade with a heart-stealing queer romance.

STAGE DREAMS

A runaway and a bandit in search of new lives team up to steal war plans from the Confederacy.

When Grace, a white trans woman and aspiring actress, runs away from conscription into the Georgia Infantry, she finds herself caught in the talons of the Ghost Hawk, a half-woman, half-hawk demon bandit—or so the rumors say. Despite the wild stories, the mysterious Ghost Hawk turns out to be a “short brown lady” named Flor who dreams of living out the rest of her life on her own patch of land with some goats as soon as she gets the money from one last, big heist. With the help of Grace’s acting skills and understanding of upper-class, white Georgian culture, they plot to steal secrets from a backroom meeting at a cotillion and sell them to the Union. Gillman (Steven Universe: Punching Up, 2018, etc.) captures the Southwestern atmosphere with a soft, dusty color palette. Panels full of movement and vivid character expression create an immersive reading experience. The narrative unites two women with different backgrounds, depicting a relationship in which they support one another. Their romance develops naturally through moments of flirtation and fond glances. An open-ended but still satisfying resolution suggests a bright, hopeful future while leaving room to imagine more adventures for Grace and Flor.

An engrossing escapade with a heart-stealing queer romance. (annotations) (Graphic historical fiction. 12-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5124-4000-3

Page Count: 104

Publisher: Graphic Universe

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

Sinister and twisted, this Faustian page-turner enlightens as it frightens.

DREAMS COME TO LIFE

From the Bendy and the Ink Machine series , Vol. 1

Kress (The Quest for the Kid, 2019, etc.) creates a hair-raising tale based on the popular survival horror video game “Bendy and the Ink Machine.”

She capitalizes on its survivalist plot and creepy ambience by setting her story—like the video game—largely on the premises of Joey Drew Studios, a New York City–based production house dedicated to creating “Bendy” cartoons. Emulating the shifting perspective of this genre, in which players have less control than in a typical action video game, the 16-year-old Jewish protagonist, Daniel “Buddy” Lewek, begins his story by ominously looking back to the summer of 1946, warning readers that while dreams may come true, nightmares do as well. Though somewhat cagey as a narrator, Buddy is an extremely likable character, having dropped out of school to help support his recently widowed mother. He’s now dealing with the unannounced arrival to their Lower East Side tenement of his Polish grandfather, who speaks little English, is pale and shockingly thin, and has strange numbers tattooed on his arm. Buddy thinks his dreams of financial solvency and becoming an artist are about to become a reality when Mister Drew hires him to be an errand boy and art apprentice, but he soon discovers something as dark as the ink that animates the Bendy figures lurks in the Drew Studios halls, forcing him to reexamine his entire worldview.

Sinister and twisted, this Faustian page-turner enlightens as it frightens. (Horror. 12-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-34394-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

Masterfully conjures grace, beauty, and humor out of the tragic wake of the Vietnam War.

BUTTERFLY YELLOW

The day after Hằng arrives in Texas from a refugee camp, she heads toward Amarillo to find her little brother.

On that same day in 1981, an 18-year-old aspiring cowboy named LeeRoy is traveling to Amarillo to pursue his rodeo dreams. After some helpful meddling from a couple at a rest stop, LeeRoy finds himself driving Hằng on her search instead. They make an odd pair, a white boy from Austin and a determined Vietnamese refugee on a mission. But their chemistry works: Hằng sees through LeeRoy’s cowboy airs, and LeeRoy understands Hằng’s clever English pronunciations, cobbled together from Vietnamese syllables. When they find Hằng’s brother and he remembers nothing about Vietnam, Hằng and LeeRoy settle in at the ranch next door. Hằng’s heartbreaking memories of the day her brother was mistakenly taken by Americans at the end of the war, her harrowing journey to America, and the family she left behind are all tempered by LeeRoy’s quiet patience and exasperated affection. It is their warm and comic love/hate relationship, developing over the course of the summer into something more, that is the soul of award-winning Lai’s (Listen, Slowly, 2015, etc.) first young adult novel. Every sentence is infused with warmth, and Lai shows readers that countless moments of grace exist even in the darkest times.

Masterfully conjures grace, beauty, and humor out of the tragic wake of the Vietnam War. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-222921-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

This deft, nuanced examination of identity, destiny, and agency is a surprisingly tender addition to the Marvel canon.

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LOKI

WHERE MISCHIEF LIES

Lee (The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy, 2018, etc.) weaves a compelling origin story for Marvel villain Loki.

Can a young Loki discover the identity of a magical assassin and avoid his own prophesied fate? The pale-skinned, black-haired Asgardian trickster has always lived in his blond, muscular brother Thor’s shadow. After their father, Odin, sees a vision of Loki leading an army of the dead against Asgard, he grows suspicious of his second son’s magical abilities. Years later, seeking to prove himself (and prove the prophecy wrong), Loki is sent to Earth to aid a London-based secret organization investigating a series of unusual magical deaths. To Loki, this is akin to being banished: Earth has no magic, and he must actually interact with humans. Yet before long, Loki’s distaste becomes curiosity, especially regarding pale, reddish-brown-haired Theo Bell, who walks with a cane. Loki learns that Theo is attracted to boys (but possibly not only boys), which in 19th-century London is a crime. Although Loki uses he/him/his pronouns, he says he exists as both man and woman and that Asgardians don’t care about the sex or gender of others’ partners, to which Theo responds wistfully. Their romance barely blossoms before Loki must make a choice that will shape his life forever.

This deft, nuanced examination of identity, destiny, and agency is a surprisingly tender addition to the Marvel canon. (Historical fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-02226-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Marvel Press

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

A grim, harrowing, and important read with insights into the troubled juvenile justice system.

THE DOZIER SCHOOL FOR BOYS

FORENSICS, SURVIVORS, AND A PAINFUL PAST

The history of a reform school that abused and tortured the young people sent there.

The Florida State Reform School, opened in 1900 and later named after former superintendent Arthur G. Dozier, was intended to be a place where youth could be educated and given the skills they’d need to become independent citizens. However, almost from the beginning the school was problematic for the boys: The work was dangerous, and strict discipline protocols involved severe beatings, deprivation, psychological torture, and, some claimed, outright murder. Until 1968 the facilities were racially segregated, with black youth receiving more hazardous work assignments. In the early 21st century, survivors began telling their stories, and a 2007 case of physical abuse was caught on surveillance cameras. State-led investigations into the school cemetery and the survivors’ stories drew attention from media and activists. The author, herself a forensic scientist, explores how the school operated without much oversight or reporting and the ways criminal science was used to piece together a picture of the horrors many endured. The testimonies of the survivors and the forensic research into those who died at Dozier are the most compelling aspects of the book. The many photographs and sidebars will make this accessible for young readers.

A grim, harrowing, and important read with insights into the troubled juvenile justice system. (source notes, glossary, selected bibliography, further information, index) (Nonfiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5415-1978-7

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Twenty-First Century/Lerner

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

Poe’s ghost happily haunts this fresh, delightfully dark collection.

HIS HIDEOUS HEART

THIRTEEN OF EDGAR ALLAN POE'S MOST UNSETTLING TALES REIMAGINED

A genre-bending collection of 13 twists on Edgar Allan Poe’s works.

Editor Adler (contributor: It's a Whole Spiel, 2019, etc.) does Poe proud with this creepy and atmospheric set of stories inspired by a handful of his most well-known works. All are well worth reading, but there are quite a few standouts, including Rin Chupeco’s (contributor: Hungry Hearts, 2019, etc.) ebullient “The Murders in the Rue Apartelle, Boracay,” in which an effervescent Filipina trans woman joins up with her dashing new half-French, half-Filipino boyfriend to solve the baffling murders of two American tourists on the island of Boracay. Lamar Giles’ (The Last Last-Day-of-Summer, 2019, etc.) unsettling “The Oval Filter” features African American football star Tariq, whose dead girlfriend’s distorted images appear on his phone—and they seem to be trying to tell him something. “The Fall of the Bank of Usher” by Fran Wilde (The Fire Opal Mechanism, 2019, etc.) is an adrenaline rush of a tale about assumed white orphans Rik and Mad, brother and sister twins, who must hack their way out of an intimidating Scottish bank for a life-changing prize—a challenge many before them have failed. Strong feminist themes appear throughout, and genres run the gamut from futuristic to gothic and lots in between. Diversity in race, gender identity, and sexuality is well represented. As a bonus, all of the original stories and poems are included.

Poe’s ghost happily haunts this fresh, delightfully dark collection. (author bios) (Anthology. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30277-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

This soaring novel shoots for the stars and explodes the sky with its bold brilliance.

PET

Teenager Jam unwittingly animates her mother’s painting, summoning a being through a cross-dimensional portal.

When Pet, giant and grotesque, bursts into her life one night, Jam learns it has emerged to hunt and needs the help of a human who can go places it cannot. Through their telekinetic connection, Jam learns that though all the monsters were thought to have been purged by the angels, one still roams the house of her best friend, Redemption, and Jam must uncover it. There’s a curious vagueness as to the nature of the banished monsters’ crimes, and it takes a few chapters to settle into Emezi’s (Freshwater, 2018) YA debut, set in an unspecified American town where people are united under the creed: “We are each other’s harvest. We are each other’s business. We are each other’s magnitude and bond,” taken from Gwendolyn Brooks’ ode to Paul Robeson. However, their lush imagery and prose coupled with nuanced inclusion of African diasporic languages and peoples creates space for individuals to broadly love and live. Jam’s parents strongly affirm and celebrate her trans identity, and Redemption’s three parents are dedicated and caring, giving Jam a second, albeit more chaotic, home. Still, Emezi’s timely and critical point, “monsters don’t look like anything,” encourages our steady vigilance to recognize and identify them even in the most idyllic of settings.

This soaring novel shoots for the stars and explodes the sky with its bold brilliance. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-64707-2

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Make Me a World

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

A must-read. (Fiction. 12-18)

REBEL GIRLS

Word in Baton Rouge is that Athena Graves’ younger sister got an abortion over the summer.

Named after powerful women in Greek mythology, the Graves sisters could not be more different. Athena is a gifted student with dyed red hair and a love for punk-rock music. Helen, a blonde beauty, loves fashion and Pearl Jam—a band Athena deems so mainstream. Helen’s anti-abortion stance makes her a better fit for their Catholic high school than aspiring riot grrrl Athena. But when a rumor spreads that Helen got an abortion after sleeping with a racist classmate, Athena, with the help of fellow abortion-rights advocate Melissa, works to save Helen from being expelled. Athena believes mean girl Leah started the rumor, but Leah’s football-star boyfriend, Sean, comes to her defense. And soon after Athena starts dating cute Kyle, Leah sets her sights on him too. Sympathetic Athena honestly struggles to get justice for her sister while upholding her core beliefs in the face of a strongly conservative community. Beyond the abortion debate, this provides a necessary focus on the importance of young women supporting one another across differences. Echoing the punk-rock feminist movement of the early ’90s, debut author Keenan creates a timely narrative that will challenge teens to reflect on their personal values and engage in respectful discourse. Main characters are white apart from Melissa, who is half Vietnamese and half Cajun, and Sean, who is black.

A must-read. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-335-18500-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

A narrative of courage and optimism in the face of loss, this novel is brilliant storytelling.

HOPE IS OUR ONLY WING

Following the tragic and mysterious death of her journalist father while on an investigative trip to the family’s homeland of Zimbabwe, 15-year-old Shamiso and her mother leave England.

Returning to the country she left at age 5 is disorienting for Shamiso—she doesn’t even remember her paternal grandmother. She unsuccessfully tries to keep her grief and anger under wraps, bound up in resentment over being in this place that is now home. At her new boarding school, Shamiso initially seeks to keep to herself, but Tanyaradzwa, another student, who has her own reasons for deep sadness, extends an offer of friendship that Shamiso initially rebuffs, although later the girls become close companions. Inspired by actual events from 2008 Zimbabwe, debut author Tavengerwei masterfully knits together a literary quilt with prose that evokes heartbreaking and hopeful truths. Mainly portraying events from a teenager’s perspective, readers also learn about the political and economic downfall of a once prosperous country. Filled with tales of struggle, sacrifice, corruption, and resilience, the novel showcases a cast of characters whose formidable spirits in the face of life-threatening crises take readers on a roller-coaster ride of emotions via a gripping page-turner.

A narrative of courage and optimism in the face of loss, this novel is brilliant storytelling. (glossary) (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64129-072-2

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Soho Teen

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

A deeply moving account of love in its many forms.

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FRANKLY IN LOVE

A senior contends with first love and heartache in this spectacular debut.

Sensitive, smart Frank Li is under a lot of pressure. His Korean immigrant parents have toiled ceaselessly, running a convenience store in a mostly black and Latinx Southern California neighborhood, for their children’s futures. Frank’s older sister fulfilled their parents’ dreams—making it to Harvard—but when she married a black man, she was disowned. So when Frank falls in love with a white classmate, he concocts a scheme with Joy, the daughter of Korean American family friends, who is secretly seeing a Chinese American boy: Frank and Joy pretend to fall for each other while secretly sneaking around with their real dates. Through rich and complex characterization that rings completely true, the story highlights divisions within the Korean immigrant community and between communities of color in the U.S., cultural rifts separating immigrant parents and American-born teens, and the impact on high school peers of society’s entrenched biases. Yoon’s light hand with dialogue and deft use of illustrative anecdotes produce a story that illuminates weighty issues by putting a compassionate human face on struggles both universal and particular to certain identities. Frank’s best friend is black and his white girlfriend’s parents are vocal liberals; Yoon’s unpacking of the complexity of the racial dynamics at play is impressive—and notably, the novel succeeds equally well as pure romance.

A deeply moving account of love in its many forms. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984812-20-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

Magical realism done well: a whirlpool of adventure that will suck readers right in.

THE DARK OF THE SEA

Magic and mayhem meet adolescent angst in this gripping Caribbean tale set in Guyana.

Fifteen-year-old Danesh navigates life as a dyslexic student in a high school where he receives little support and in a community overrun with alcoholism and hopelessness. Despite being raised Hindu, Danesh is disconnected from his parents’ religion thanks to his irreligious grandfather. Seen as a troublemaker, Danesh finds comfort in his relationships with his grandfather, best friend, and the ocean, where he once experienced a surreal moment that he is unsure even happened. While seeking solace in the company of the ocean, Danesh encounters an ethereal creature and discovers an entire underwater world that he traverses better than his real life. Thrilled and curious, Danesh finds he has a mission, one which may see him become the hero he’s always dreamed of being and which may help him uncover his life’s purpose. With writing that gives an authentic voice to its Creolese-speaking protagonist, carefully describing internal struggles as well as physical landscapes, Baksh (Children of the Spider, 2016) creates a complex world with an inclusive cast of black and East Indian characters. The descriptions of authentic cultural symbols and practices of Guyanese people, some of whom are Hindu or Muslim, make Danesh’s exploration of a nearby—yet unseen—mystical aquatic land shrouded in stories of Greco-Roman mythology more believable.

Magical realism done well: a whirlpool of adventure that will suck readers right in. (Fantasy. 15-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-976-8267-23-8

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Blouse & Skirt Books

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

A post-apocalypse scenario combining ethics and action explores whether society can be taken apart and rebuilt for the...

CITY OF BEASTS

The nuclear fallout that destroyed most of civilization left room for something new: a society of fees, finally free from inequality and hate, even if they are still surrounded by beasts.

Glori’s family has a secret: A beast lives with them, born after Glori’s mother was kidnapped from their island by beasts and brutalized. Despite the beast’s dark conception, to Glori it is just Twofer, and she knows it’s good—there’s no way it’s like other beasts. When Twofer is also kidnapped, Glori leaves the safety of her community to rescue him. There, she finds the beasts are violent and dangerous, but they are also intriguing and more varied than she could have imagined, just like fees. Which is good, because working with the beasts is the only way to save Twofer. Glori and most others her age are multiracial; there are also some explicitly Chinese characters. Though set in post-apocalyptic America, society has clearly been influenced by several cultures, especially East Asian. The treatment of gender and sexuality also avoids falling prey to overarching generalities: Glori, the beasts, and the readers all have something to learn about gender, difference, and relationships, whether in the present or the apocalypse. Quirky characters offset darker themes, making this a brutal yet optimistic portrayal of a possible future.

A post-apocalypse scenario combining ethics and action explores whether society can be taken apart and rebuilt for the better. (Science fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-02662-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Freeform/Disney

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

Gamers and black activists alike will be ready to SLAY all day.

SLAY

A high school senior secretly creates a massively multiplayer online role-playing game dedicated to black culture but is attacked in mainstream media after a player is murdered.

Frustrated by the rampant racism in the online multiplayer game universe and exhausted by having to be the “voice of Blackness” at her majority white high school, honors student Kiera creates SLAY—a MMORPG for black gamers. SLAY promotes black excellence from across the African diaspora as players go head-to-head in matches grounded in black culture. Although Kiera is proud of the game and the safe space it has become for hundreds of thousands of participants, she keeps her identity as lead developer a secret from everyone, including her black boyfriend, Malcolm, who believes video games are a tactic on the part of white people to undermine black men and hold them back from success. When a dispute in SLAY spills into the real world and a teen is murdered, the media discovers the underground game and cries racism. Kiera has to fight to protect not only her identity, but the online community she has developed. Despite some one-dimensional characters, especially Kiera’s parents, debut author Morris does a fantastic job of showing diversity within the black community. Nongamers might get bogged down in the minutiae of the game play, but the effort is well worth it.

Gamers and black activists alike will be ready to SLAY all day. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4542-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

A warm, satisfying love story with depth.

THE INFINITE NOISE

From the Bright Sessions series , Vol. 1

High school football player Caleb is drawn to his sad, bookish classmate Adam, who is an island of calm in an ocean of other people’s emotions.

Caleb is the quintessential handsome, popular athlete, but he’s dealing with an unusual problem: He has the supernatural power of feeling others’ emotions. Sure enough, high school is a stressful place for someone with such a power, and Adam is the only person at school whose emotional presence helps Caleb bear the onslaught of teenage feelings. Adam, who is Jewish, has a huge crush on Caleb but doesn’t dare hope that Caleb feels the same way about him. Meanwhile, Caleb understands everyone’s feelings but his own. Shippen’s debut novel is a fluttery, insightful teen romance told in both boys’ voices, filled to the brim with feelings but sidestepping melodrama and coming-out angst. The author gives emotions form, texture, and color, taking readers along on Adam’s and Caleb’s journeys while remembering that a boyfriend is not an antidote to life’s supernatural—or mundane—problems. Though the author touches on several unresolved plotlines from her science-fiction podcast, The Bright Sessions, especially in the second half, the novel is strong enough to stand alone for those who have never listened to it. Caleb is white; dark-skinned Adam's father is Jewish.

A warm, satisfying love story with depth. (Science fiction. 13-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-29751-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Tor Teen

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

A warm, wise, strange meditation on developing the strength to be vulnerable.

THE LAST TRUE POETS OF THE SEA

Sixteen-year-old Violet is shuffled off to stay with her uncle in coastal Maine after her brother, Sam, tries to kill himself.

The near mythic family lore of Violet’s mother, whose great-great-great-grandparents founded the fictional town of Lyric, is the thread that weaves together a host of interesting characters in this witty, surprising novel as it explores grief, mental illness, and both family and romantic dynamics. After a wild year of drinking and impersonal sex that ultimately results in Violet’s suspension from school for smoking weed near campus, she arrives in Lyric with a freshly shaven head and a vow to keep to herself. Though she cares about her kind uncle, Toby, Violet’s avoidance of her painful and difficult emotions means that she holds him at arm’s length and speaks little to her parents back in New York City or her brother, who is at a treatment center in Vermont. Slowly, through the relationships she develops with her similarly musically talented co-worker Orion and his tightknit, eccentric group, Liv, Mariah, and Felix, Violet begins to contend with her own anxiety and her near paralyzing fear about her brother’s illness. Most of the characters are white; Mariah is Indian American, and several are queer.

A warm, wise, strange meditation on developing the strength to be vulnerable. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-04808-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

Ian Fleming couldn’t have dreamt up anything better.

SPIES

THE SECRET SHOWDOWN BETWEEN AMERICA AND RUSSIA

The facts behind the fantastic lives of spies born from Cold War friction.

A $20 million wire-tapping device, microfilm hidden in a pumpkin, crawling through sewers—it reads like fiction, but this isn’t James Bond. It’s the truth about some of the key players in obtaining enemy information (be that proclaimed enemy the USSR or USA). Spanning the period from 1945 to 1985 (dubbed “Year of the Spy”), the book recounts the journeys, goals, and outcomes of several spies—loyal, defected, and double agent—in tandem with the wars and threats to ways of life that produced them. Supported by transcripts of testimony, quotations, and stories that could easily be material for a summer blockbuster, Favreau (Crash, 2018, etc.) ably dissects their individual impetuses for entree into spydom, reasons for deceit, and cause for allegiance. The spies’ personal depths of dedication to creating false identities and the stress of shouldering secrets—or selling them—will inspire even reluctant historians to dig deeper and deeper. A breadth of supporting backmatter, including timelines, key KGB and CIA factoids, and glossaries for both the Cold War and espionage in general, is included, as is a list of suggested further reading for those whose interest has been exceptionally piqued.

Ian Fleming couldn’t have dreamt up anything better. (historical notes, timeline, glossary, notes, primary sources, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-54592-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

A worthy addition to the expansive Batman corpus

BATMAN

NIGHTWALKER (THE GRAPHIC NOVEL)

A pre-Batman Bruce Wayne takes his first strides toward becoming the Caped Crusader.

In this graphic adaptation of the novel by the same name, 18-year-old newly minted billionaire Wayne wrestles with increasingly adult issues: how to control his newfound power in managing his deceased parents’ fortune, facing the unknown once high school ends, and an intense call to defend the city he loves. When a nefarious group known as the Nightwalkers descends upon Gotham City, reigning terror upon the rich, Bruce begins his first foray into vigilantism. Unimpressed by his attempts, he is reprimanded by the GCPD and sent to work at Arkham Asylum, where he befriends enigmatic inmate Madeleine, a Nightwalker with a dark past. Like most Batman tales, the lines between good and evil are nebulous, and as Bruce struggles with issues like economic inequality, he learns he must define those boundaries himself. With electric pacing and dynamic black-and-white illustrations punctuated with bright splashes of yellow, Moore’s (The Zodiac Legacy, 2017, etc.) adaptation of Lu’s (Wildcard, 2018, etc.) novel is a visual delight with all the cinematic panache one would expect from the superhero franchise. Focusing upon Wayne before he fully adopted his Batman persona, this makes for a fine jumping in point for both seasoned fans and newcomers alike. Wayne presents as white, but secondary characters are ethnically diverse.

A worthy addition to the expansive Batman corpus . (Graphic fiction. 12-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4012-8004-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: DC Ink

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

Extraordinarily drawn characters and plot twists will keep readers’ hearts racing.

A HOUSE OF RAGE AND SORROW

From the Celestial Trilogy series , Vol. 2

Princess Esmae started a war—but will she finish it?

Esmae always dreamed of reuniting with the family who abandoned her when she was a child. She originally wanted to return her brothers to their homeland after they were usurped by their Uncle Elvar. But when her twin, Alexi, tries to kill her—and instead kills her best friend—her trust is shaken. Esmae reluctantly plots to maintain the status quo in hopes that Elvar will allow her to inherit the throne. But when she learns the truth about the duel that was meant to end her life, her sense of self is completely shattered. Driven by ambition, jealousy, and a lifetime of powerlessness, Esmae grows increasingly bloodthirsty and power hungry, abandoning her former quest for peace and her family’s love. The plot is fast-paced and full of surprises, its intricate world carefully rendered. Where it really shines, however, is in its characters, particularly Esmae, who, throughout the story, is forced to confront painful truths. Mandanna (A Spark of White Fire, 2018) is an astute observer of human nature and a master of suspense, deftly unraveling Esmae’s defenses until her complex feelings about her family turn her from peacenik to warmonger while simultaneously making her villain of a brother more sympathetic. After substantial intermarrying, race does not exist in this fantasy world.

Extraordinarily drawn characters and plot twists will keep readers’ hearts racing. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5107-3379-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

An original and gripping adventure.

ANGEL MAGE

In Nix’s (Let Sleeping Dragons Lie, 2018, etc.) latest, a cruel and power-hungry angelic mage, set on reuniting with her Archangel lover, sets her sights on four very special teens.

In this fantasy world, humans use icons to call on angelic assistance for tasks ranging from trivial to life altering. Almost 140 years ago, Liliath, a renowned icon maker and preternaturally skilled angelic mage, unleashed the Ash Blood plague, which transformed its victims into horrific beastlings, upon Ystara. Now she has awakened and seeks to use four young men and women to meet her goal: Agnez Descaray, a cadet in the Queen’s Musketeers; budding doctor Simeon MacNeel; Cardinal’s clerk Henri Dupallidin; and Dorotea Imsel, a uniquely talented icon maker. The friendships they forge may be the key to stopping Liliath. Nix’s complex system of angelic magic, and the toll it takes, is fascinating, and he weaves an exciting adventure full of intrigue and action while portraying women in power in a refreshingly casual way. Agnez, full of swagger, biting wit, and an often troublesome eagerness to duel at every opportunity, is a joy, and the obsessed Liliath is heedless of the death and destruction she brings about. Liliath, Simon, Agnez, and Dorotea, along with many of the most powerful characters, have brown or black skin, Henri is pale, and there is a wide variety of skin tones throughout the cast.

An original and gripping adventure. (hierarchy of angels, maps) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-268322-9

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

A layered, empathetic examination of the ghosts inside all girls’ lives, full of historical realism and timeless feeling.

THIRTEEN DOORWAYS, WOLVES BEHIND THEM ALL

A ghost girl’s narration weaves her own story with that of a tenacious orphan in World War II–era Chicago.

Teenage Frankie’s story is no more or less tragic than that of any other young person at her German Catholic orphanage: That is, it’s heartbreaking. She and her two siblings have a father who brings them gifts but claims he can’t afford to take them home and who eventually abandons them for a new family. But Frankie’s tenacious grip on hope draws attention from both her fellow orphans, including a beautiful, gentle boy with whom she shares an illicit prewar romance, and Pearl, the book’s ghost narrator, whose own tragic story slowly unfurls alongside Frankie’s. Pearl’s narration elevates an already-poignant story to a complex, bittersweet examination of why “girls were punished so hard for their love, so hard, hard enough to break them.” There is no escape from pain or death in this narrative—from the wolf waiting behind every door—but there is the suggestion that it’s worth the risk to open them all wide anyway. Pearl and Frankie are white (Frankie’s parents were Italian immigrants), but many secondary characters, memorably an African American ghost named Marguerite and a Chinese love interest for Pearl, are racially diverse.

A layered, empathetic examination of the ghosts inside all girls’ lives, full of historical realism and timeless feeling. (author’s note) (Historical fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-231764-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

A darkly humorous, rapid-fire read in which the living are sometimes scarier than the dead.

NOW ENTERING ADDAMSVILLE

Her family has been a target of slurs—“trailer dogs,” “rednecks”—but she may still save the town.

Eighteen-year-old Zora Novak is down two parents and two fingers, living in a trailer on the town outskirts with her sister, Sadie, because their mom’s missing and father’s in jail. Deceptively quaint Addamsville, Indiana, relies on a thriving ghost-tourism industry, although Zora’s the only person who can see the departed. But the ghosts (thankfully gloomy, not gruesome) are restless, and there’s a shape-shifting, ghost-eating firestarter on the loose, destroying property and possibly possessing people. Like a profane, brunette Buffy, Zora has a gift but needs a Scooby gang to help her save Addamsville. Reluctantly allying with reformed (maybe) firestarter Bach and insufferably perfect cousin Artemis, Zora attempts to dispatch the firestarter, sabotage a ghost-hunting TV crew, solve mysteries, survive high school…and avoid maiming, death, or serious jail time. Abrasive, defensive, and secretly sentimental, Zora doesn't let social pariahdom stand in the way of fulfilling her paranormal duties. Zappia (Eliza and Her Monsters, 2017, etc.) both invokes and subverts poverty porn, dark tourism, and small-minded small-town life in this arch look at social inequalities that doesn't skimp on supernatural spookiness, slapstick, or teenage snark. Main characters follow a white default, but there is some ethnic diversity in secondary characters.

A darkly humorous, rapid-fire read in which the living are sometimes scarier than the dead. (Paranormal. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-293527-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Greenwillow

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

Chilling, poignant, haunting, and, unfortunately, all too timely.

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THE GRACE YEAR

A rebellious 16-year-old is sent to an isolated island for her grace year, when she must release her seductive, poisonous magic into the wild before taking her proper place as a wife and child bearer.

In gaslit Garner County, women and girls are said to harbor diabolical magic capable of manipulating men. Dreaming, among other things, is forbidden, and before girls embark on their grace year, they hope to receive a veil, which promises marriage. Otherwise, it’s life in a labor house—or worse. Strong, outdoorsy, skeptical Tierney James doesn’t want to be married, but a shocking twist leaves her with a veil—and a dangerous enemy in the vindictive Kiersten. Thirty-three girls with red ribbons symbolizing sin woven into their braids set out to survive the island, but it won’t be easy. Poachers, who trade in the body parts of grace-year girls, surround the camp, and paranoia, superstition, and mistrust rule. Not everyone will make it home alive. The bones of Liggett’s (The Unfortunates, 2018, etc.) tale of female repression are familiar ones, but her immersive storytelling effortlessly weaves horror elements with a harrowing and surprising survival story. Profound moments lie in small details, and readers’ hearts will race and break right along with the brave, capable Tierney’s. The biggest changes often begin with the smallest rebellions, and the emotional conclusion will resonate. All characters are assumed white.

Chilling, poignant, haunting, and, unfortunately, all too timely. (Dystopian. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-14544-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

A fantastic, fun, and fast read for fans of Stranger Things, The Hunger Games, Pacific Rim, and romantic Korean dramas.

ROGUE HEART

From the Rebel Seoul series , Vol. 2

A telepathic 18-year-old in Neo Beijing in 2201 is haunted by troubling memories and assaulted by her exquisite sensitivity to others' thoughts.

All Ama has wanted since escaping the Alliance government lab that turned her and two other teen orphans into experimental supersoldiers is to lie low, enjoy her newly found freedom, and forget the boy who betrayed her. All of that changes, though, when, two years after her escape, the Alliance tries to assassinate her while its opposing faction, PHNX, attempts to convince her to join their rebellion. How will Ama sort out her complex feelings for those close to her who remain loyal to the Alliance, those loyal to PHNX, and those loyal only to themselves? The novel is narrated in the first person by Ama, allowing readers to become acquainted with her personal history through her inner monologue. Oh deftly and seamlessly weaves fast-paced action, futuristic technology, the East Asian cultures and languages of the Neo Council, inclusive relationships, and a new spin on K-drama romance into the Blade Runner–esque universe she first shared in her previous, companion novel Rebel Seoul (2017). However, Asian people, as well as their families, lovers, partners, friends, and cultural practices, are the main characters here instead of simply an exotic backdrop.

A fantastic, fun, and fast read for fans of Stranger Things, The Hunger Games, Pacific Rim, and romantic Korean dramas. (Science fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64379-037-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Tu Books

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

A lovely tale for bookish readers that will give them all the feels.

THE LIBRARY OF LOST THINGS

A sweet romance from a debut author to watch.

Darcy Jane Wells works at a bookstore and likes to memorize lines from her favorite classics. Her friends are her beloved characters and her best friend, Mexican/Cuban American fashionista Marisol, who is the only one who knows Darcy’s secret—her mother is a hoarder. Brokenhearted and traumatized by the abandonment of Darcy’s father, her mother is the image of perfection in public, but their small San Diego apartment is filled to the brim with her compulsive purchases. Darcy’s only refuge is her bookshelf-covered room. With the help of Marisol, a used copy of Peter Pan, and an older boy struggling with his own trauma and illness, the linguistic savant begins to muddle through her senior year. Peppered with literary quotes and chapter headings, this novel will delight teen lit fans (mentions of YA faves abound). Taylor Namey’s portrayal of mental illness is thoughtful and well executed, and the characterizations of even background characters are fully developed. The friendship between Darcy and Marisol is well balanced and charming, and the happy ending is swoony—but not overly so. The author sometimes relies too much on tropes (super self-aware teens, a mean-girl ex, a grumpy bookstore owner, and a boisterous Latinx family), but this doesn’t detract from the feel-good narrative. Darcy and most characters appear to be white.

A lovely tale for bookish readers that will give them all the feels. (Realistic fiction. 12-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-335-92825-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

An exhilarating series opener.

WAR GIRLS

From the War Girls series , Vol. 1

In a world ravaged by nuclear war, climate change, and resource conflict, two sisters dare to dream of peace.

In his novel based on the Nigerian civil war and wars decades later in other parts of the African continent involving child soldiers, Onyebuchi (Crown of Thunder, 2018, etc.) creates a richly detailed, post-apocalyptic Nigeria. Onyii, who comes to be known as the Demon of Biafra, has been caught in the thick of the war between the Biafrans and Nigerians over mining rights for Chukwu, a precious mineral. She has even become an Augment, one of those who have replaced missing limbs and organs with mechanical ones. Ify, Onyii’s sister, is ingenious and resourceful: Having been bullied for her lighter skin by the other girls in the Biafran war camp, she finds solace in exploring the world via her Accent, technology she created that grants her powers of perception and communication. When the Nigerians attack, Ify is kidnapped and the camp left in ruins. Believing her sister to be dead, Onyii agrees to fight for the Republic of Biafra. Meanwhile, Ify is discovering much about her true lineage. The intense plot is narrated in alternating third-person perspectives, and the author explores themes surrounding colonization, family, and the injustices of war. The story culminates in an unexpected, heart-wrenching end.

An exhilarating series opener. (author’s note) (Science fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-451-48167-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

This companion to a modern classic offers an even deeper, more layered depiction of the impact of a police shooting.

LIGHT IT UP

The shooting of an unarmed African American teen by police serves as catalyst for racial tension in a community still recovering from a previous tragedy.

This time, Shae Tatum, a 13-year-old girl, is shot by a white police officer. Two years have passed since the killing of Tariq Johnson, and the community organizations that arose in the aftermath are more active. Social media scrutiny has intensified, with the media and police focusing on public messaging. The officer’s family copes with being in the spotlight, and a minister who was in the limelight is now a senator. Tariq’s friend Tyrell is now focused on college and reluctant to dredge up bad memories, but his white roommate, Robb, is intrigued by the shooting and seems insensitive to Tyrell’s silence. The engagement of white supremacists and white women who protest in support of the police at Shae’s funeral add new wrinkles. As tensions escalate, divisions harden while the police and community await the decision of the grand jury. This follow-up to the author’s acclaimed How It Went Down (2014) uses multiple distinctive narrators, transcripts, and social media posts to convey the charged atmosphere as people must carry on with their lives while turmoil brews around them. The wide range of personalities, rich details, and nuanced connections make this a stellar and important read.

This companion to a modern classic offers an even deeper, more layered depiction of the impact of a police shooting. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-12889-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

A stunning novel that exposes modern fascism and elevates human resilience. (author’s note, research and sources, glossary,...

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THE FOUNTAINS OF SILENCE

The pitiless dictatorship of Francisco Franco examined through the voices of four teenagers: one American and three Spaniards.

The Spanish Civil War lasted from 1936-1939, but Franco held Spain by its throat for 36 years. Sepetys (Salt to the Sea, 2016, etc.) begins her novel in 1957. Daniel is a white Texan who wants to be a photojournalist, not an oilman; Ana is trying to work her way to respectability as a hotel maid; her brother, Rafael, wants to erase memories of an oppressive boys’ home; and Puri is a loving caregiver for babies awaiting adoption—together they provide alternating third-person lenses for viewing Spain during one of its most brutally repressive periods. Their lives run parallel and intersect as each tries to answer questions about truth and the path ahead within a regime that crushes any opposition, murders dissidents, and punishes their families while stealing babies to sell to parents with accepted political views. This formidable story will haunt those who ask hard questions about the past as it reveals the hopes and dreams of individuals in a nation trying to lie its way to the future. Meticulous research is presented through believable, complex characters on the brink of adulthood who personalize the questions we all must answer about our place in the world. 

A stunning novel that exposes modern fascism and elevates human resilience. (author’s note, research and sources, glossary, photographs) (Historical fiction. 15-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-16031-8

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

A delectably immersive, eerie experience.

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WINTERWOOD

A girl descended from witches becomes entangled in a lethal mystery.

Taking place in a shared universe with Ernshaw’s The Wicked Deep (2018), this novel is set in a mountainous lakeside area in the Pacific Northwest. The few year-round residents include the Walker family—witches—and those living at the Jackjaw Camp for Wayward Boys. The night of a terrible winter storm, one boy goes missing and another dies. Two weeks later, in the dangerous Wicker Woods, Nora Walker miraculously finds Oliver Huntsman. Oliver remembers nothing of how he survived the winter conditions. Nora warms him up and returns him to the camp; unsettled and untrusting of his cabin mates, he keeps returning to her. When Nora learns of the other camper’s death, she follows a thread of suspicion that the missing and dead boys’ fates are related—though she wants to trust Oliver, she can’t be sure. She wishes she had a nightshade, like the Walkers before her—a special magical gift like those chronicled in chapter interludes from the family spellbook that contain brief biographies capped by a spell. She knows enough to recognize that the bone moth she keeps seeing is an imminent death omen. The claustrophobic mystery unwinds at an accelerating pace for the undersupervised teens, and the malicious, haunting Wicker Woods are lovingly characterized and as compelling as the formidable heroine. Most characters seem to default to white.

A delectably immersive, eerie experience. (Paranormal thriller. 12-adult)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3941-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

A riveting pugilistic must-read.

GRAVITY

A 16-year-old boxer dreams of winning Olympic gold.

Gravity Delgado (half Dominican and half Jewish) feels like she has been fighting and breaking things her whole life. However, since joining PLASMAFuel Cops ’n Kids boxing gym in Brooklyn four years ago, she has channeled her fighting spirit toward a single goal: boxing in the 2016 Summer Olympics. As Gravity arduously trains for Rio, she grapples with different parts of her identity. On the one hand, her absent father’s Dominican family provides comfort and a safe haven from the abuse and neglect her drunk mother inflicts on Gravity and her younger brother, Tyler. On the other, praying a shema before every fight tethers her to her mother’s faith. A diverse set of characters populates the boxing world Gravity inhabits, including a Ukrainian brother and sister, wheelchair user Coach Thomas, Haitian American fellow boxer D-Minus, and Kimani, a kind, large, dark-skinned man who is painfully aware of the racism in people’s fearful responses to him. Deming’s (contributor: Viticulture & Vinification, 2013, etc.) own amateur boxing career and knowledge as a boxing correspondent are clearly evident in her masterful descriptions of the grueling training process and intense bouts. Readers will immediately stand in Gravity’s corner as she battles distractions and fights against the odds in pursuit of her dreams.

A riveting pugilistic must-read. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-58103-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Make Me a World

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

WHERE THE WORLD ENDS

In this Carnegie-winning novel, McCaughrean (The Middle of Nowhere, 2013, etc.) turns a small piece of history into an epic, nearly mythic, tale.

St. Kilda’s archipelago, far off the northwest corner of Scotland, is the most remote set of islands in Great Britain. In 1727, a boat set off from the sole occupied island, Hirta, dropping a small group of men and boys at Warrior Stac, a giant rock, for a fowling expedition. Told from the point of view of Quilliam, one of the older boys, (precise ages are never given; the boys seem to range in age from around 10 to about 16), the trip begins as a grand adventure: scaling cliffs via fingertip holds, making candles out of dead storm petrels, and cutting the stomachs out of gannets to use as bottles for oil. But then, inexplicably, the village boat does not return for them. As the weeks stretch to months and the birds begin to leave the rock, the party fears the end of the world. Cane, one of the men, sets himself up as a divine authority, praying for repentance, while Quill attempts to soothe the younger boys through story—and himself through memories of a young woman he loves. McCaughrean takes the bones of a real event, wraps it in immersive, imaginative detail and thoroughly real emotion, and creates an unforgettable tale of human survival.

A masterpiece. (map, afterword, birds of St. Kilda, glossary) (Historical fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-22549-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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