Book List

Best YA Romance of 2019

Heartfelt and powerful.

LOVE FROM A TO Z

Zayneb is an 18-year-old hijabi from Indiana—and she was just suspended for standing up to her Islamophobic teacher.

Now she’s on her way to Doha to spend two weeks with her cool aunt Nandy and forget about her troubles at school. On the flight, Zayneb meets Adam, who converted to Islam at age 11 after his mom—Auntie Nandy’s best friend—died from multiple sclerosis. Enamored with each other, Adam and Zayneb begin to share their life stories: Adam is keeping a huge secret from his father and sister, Zayneb hasn’t shared with her aunt why she’s been suspended, and both are mourning loved ones. Slowly, they fall in love, but their different experiences of dealing with racism and pain threaten to drive them apart. The novel’s dual narrative structure uses raw, earnest journal entries to guide readers through the painful realities of the Islamophobia and racism that permeate all levels of society. Zayneb’s story shows how the smallest incidents have trickle-down effects that dehumanize Muslims and devalue Muslim lives in some people’s eyes. This is a refreshing depiction of religiosity and spirituality coexisting with so-called “normal” young adult relationships and experiences: What makes Zayneb and Adam different is not their faith but their ability to learn from and love one another in a world hurling obstacles their way. Zayneb is half Pakistani and half West Indian; Adam is Canadian of Chinese and Finnish descent.

Heartfelt and powerful. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4272-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

An unforgettable romance so Olympian in scope, human at its core, and lyrical in its prose that it must be divinely inspired.

LOVELY WAR

Love’s enduring power faces off against the horrors of war in this sumptuous Greek mythology–inspired romantic page-turner.

In a Manhattan hotel on the eve of World War II, Hephaestus catches his wife, Aphrodite, in a compromising position with his brother Ares. To exonerate herself of the crime of adultery, she weaves an intricate tale of mortal love during wartime that demonstrates the endurance of the human spirit. Vacillating between the present and the past, the goddess’s narrative centers on Aubrey, an African American musician; Colette, a Belgian singer; Hazel, a wide-eyed British pianist; and her paramour, James, an aspiring architect (the latter three are white), who are all brought together by happenstance during the First World War. The resulting interweaving story is an epic of Shakespearean emotional depth and arresting visual imagery that nonetheless demonstrates the racism and sexism of the period. Scheherazade has nothing on Berry (The Emperor’s Ostrich, 2017, etc.), whose acute eye for detail renders the glittering lights of Paris as dreamlike in their beauty as the soul-sucking trenches on the French front are nightmarishly real. The mortal characters are all vibrant, original, and authentic, but none is more captivating than the goddess of love herself, who teaches her husband that love is an art form worthy of respect and admiration.

An unforgettable romance so Olympian in scope, human at its core, and lyrical in its prose that it must be divinely inspired. (Fiction. 13-adult)

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-451-46993-9

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

A tender blend of sugary, buttery, and other complex flavors that’s baked with a tremendous dash of heart.

BLOOM

Summer love rises between two boys in a bakery.

High school may have ended, but Ari is stuck with sourdough starter at his family’s bakery instead of summer gigs in the city with his band. As his family’s money grows tighter, Ari feels tethered in place. His friends start to drift toward their own futures. But the future of their band—and their friendship—drifts toward uncertainty. Under the guise of recruiting another baker to take his place, Ari hires Hector. A culinary student in Birmingham, Hector has temporarily returned home to find closure after his Nana’s passing. The two grow close in more than just the kitchen. Ari, who hates baking, even starts to enjoy himself. But will it all last? Panetta and Ganucheau’s graphic novel debut is as much a love story between people as it is with the act of baking. Ganucheau’s art, in black ink with varying shades of blue, mixes traditional paneling with beautiful double-page spreads of detailed baking scenes, where the panels sometimes take on the shape of braided loaves. The romance between Ari and Hector builds slowly, focusing on cute interactions long before progressing to anything physical. Ari and his family are Greek. Family recipes referenced in the text code Hector as Samoan. Delicious.

A tender blend of sugary, buttery, and other complex flavors that’s baked with a tremendous dash of heart. (recipe, production art) (Graphic novel. 13-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-62672-641-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

A cosmically compelling read.

THE STARS AND THE BLACKNESS BETWEEN THEM

In Petrus’ bewitching debut, Aquarius meets Scorpio and contemplates what comes next.

Audre has found religion in the form of Neri, the pastor’s granddaughter, much to the chagrin of her religious mother. Sent from Trinidad to Minneapolis to live with her father, Audre is afraid of leaving her beloved grandmother, being cut off from her home culture, and starting over in a new country. Meanwhile, fascinated with Whitney Houston and the singer’s supposed romance with a female friend, Mabel is attempting to fit the pieces of her sexuality together. Although she’s been feeling sick, she agrees to entertain her father’s friend’s newly arrived daughter, and Audre and Mabel grow close over the summer. As the school year ramps up, Mabel can no longer ignore her chronic fatigue and pain and must grapple with life-altering news. She finds comfort in reading an old book of her parents’, learning about astrology, and seeking Audre’s healing presence. Audre’s voice is lyrical, and readers will practically hear her Trinidadian accent as she overcomes her fears and self-doubt. Through a nonlinear storyline and two secondary characters, Afua and Queenie, the author beautifully interjects elements of magical realism while delving into the complexities of spirituality. Readers seeking a deep, uplifting love story will not be disappointed as the novel covers both flourishing feelings and bigger questions around belief and what happens when we face our own mortality. Main characters are black.

A cosmically compelling read. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-5255-5548-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

A heartwarming, funny story filled with richness and complexity.

PUMPKINHEADS

Autumn loving, they had a blast; autumn loving, it happened too fast.

Having worked together in the Succotash Hut at the pumpkin patch for years, best friends and co-workers Deja and Josiah, who goes by Josie, ditch work and find love on their last night, heading out in search of Josie’s unrequited love, the girl who works in the Fudge Shoppe. Deja, a witty and outgoing girl who attracts—and is attracted to—boys and girls alike, is set on helping the shy, rule-following Josie move out of his comfort zone before they part ways for college. Deja encourages Josie to take a chance and talk to the girl of his dreams instead of pining for her from afar. Not to be dissuaded by his reticence, Deja leads Josie to multiple stops in the Patch in search of the almost-impossible-to-find Fudge Girl, with every stop taking them in a new direction and providing a new treat. As they journey through the Patch—chasing a snack-stealing rascal, dodging a runaway goat, and snacking their way through treats from fudge to Freeto pie—they explore the boundaries of their friendship. Visually bright and appealing in autumnal reds, oranges, and yellows, the art enhances this endearing picture of teenage love. Deja is a beautiful, plus-sized black girl, and Josie is a handsome, blond white boy.

A heartwarming, funny story filled with richness and complexity. (Graphic fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-62672-162-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

A beautifully crafted, truly feminist coming-of-age story featuring nuanced characters in a unique setting.

96 WORDS FOR LOVE

When Raya Liston spends a month at an ashram in India, she doesn’t just find herself: She also finds true love.

Seventeen-year-old Raya has a plan: major in English at UCLA and make her Indian mother and biracial (half black, other half unspecified) father proud. Spending the summer after high school at the Rishi Kanva ashram in the Himalayas with her cousin Anandi is definitely not the plan—until she receives a phone call from her dying grandmother, Daadee, saying she’s left something important for Raya and Anandi hidden on the ashram grounds. Against her better judgment, Raya leaves for the ashram, where she unexpectedly falls in love with Kiran, a budding filmmaker who breaks rules as passionately as Raya follows them. In the process of falling in love and uncovering the secrets Daadee left, Raya realizes that the real question is not what she wants to do but who she wants to be. An insightful, layered feminist retelling of the Hindu myth “Shaktunala,” the book features a diverse cast of characters who grapple with equally diverse issues in a richly drawn setting. Raya’s candor and self-reflection infuse the narration with the perfect balance of insight and momentum. Her relationship with her family is particularly refreshing: Unlike in most books about diaspora, Raya’s Indian relatives support her, guiding her through conflict rather than creating it.

A beautifully crafted, truly feminist coming-of-age story featuring nuanced characters in a unique setting. (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-47778-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

A triumphant queer coming-of-age story that will make your heart ache and soar.

LAURA DEAN KEEPS BREAKING UP WITH ME

A 17-year-old struggles to navigate friendship and finding herself while navigating a toxic relationship.

Biracial (East Asian and white) high schooler Freddy is in love with white Laura Dean. She can’t help it—Laura oozes cool. But while Freddy’s friends are always supportive of her, they can’t understand why she stays with Laura. Laura cheats on Freddy, gaslights and emotionally manipulates her, and fetishizes her. After Laura breaks up with her for a third time, Freddy writes to an advice columnist and, at the recommendation of her best friend Doodle, (reluctantly) sees a psychic who advises her that in order to break out of the cycle of her “non-monogamous swing-your-partner wormhole,” Freddy needs to do the breaking up herself. As she struggles to fall out of love and figure out how to “break up with someone who’s broken up with me,” Freddy slowly begins to be drawn back into Laura’s orbit, challenging her relationships with her friends as she searches for happiness. Tamaki (Supergirl, 2018, etc.) explores the nuances of both romantic and platonic relationships with raw tenderness and honesty. Valero-O’Connell’s (Lumberjanes: Bonus Tracks, 2018, etc.) art is realistic and expressive, bringing the characters to life through dynamic grayscale illustrations featuring highlights of millennial pink. Freddy and her friends live in Berkeley, California, and have a diversity of body shapes, gender expressions, sexualities, and skin tones.

A triumphant queer coming-of-age story that will make your heart ache and soar. (Graphic novel. 14-adult)

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-62672-259-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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