So many books, so little space! Here are a few that I’ve got my eye on this month:
Saint Anything, by Sarah Dessen
I’ve actively been avoiding any chatter about this one—I adore her books, and I like to go into them entirely cold. I’m especially curious, though, because the cover art is so very different from her usual treatment—as there’s nary a sun-kissed girl in sight, I’ve got no idea of what to expect!
If you’ve still never read Dessen, do pick her up—she’s been at the top of my list for realistic contemporary YA for years. For almost two decades, she’s been writing consistently excellent, multi-layered, nuanced novels about friendship and family and coming-of-age and first love; her dialogue always rings true, her characters are flawed and multi-dimensional and real, their struggles and challenges reflect real life, in that they are messy and difficult and just…complicated. Despite all that, her books are usually described (and marketed) as “chicklit” or “beach reads” or “just romance”—and while there’s nothing wrong with “chicklit” or “beach reads” or “just romance,” I think we are all well aware that those terms are generally used in a condescending manner, in a way that is meant to diminish, to suggest a lack of literary quality or meaty subject matter.
I have no doubt that when the time comes, Sarah Dessen will get ALL of the lifetime achievement awards—but I’d love for her to get some recognition NOW, please!
Cuckoo Song, by Frances Hardinge
Frances Hardinge is another auto-read for me, and another author whose books I like to read cold. Like Dessen, Hardinge is uniformly excellent, and writes with heart and sensitivity; unlike Dessen, she writes fantasy, sometimes full of wordplay and hilarity, other times dark and twisty and scary.
P.S. I Still Love You, by Jenny Han
A sequel to Jenny Han’s adorable, funny, all-heart To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before? Yes, PLEASE. I’m hoping that, like the first one, it will be just as much a story about sisters as it is about romance.
I Am Princess X, by Cherie Priest and Kali Ciesemier
A hybrid novel—part prose, part comic book—about a girl who begins to suspect that her long-dead best friend is actually alive, and in need of help. I don’t always entirely emotionally engage with Cherie Priest’s books, but I do love the worlds that she creates—this one is set in Seattle, but I have no doubt that it’ll be a version of Seattle that’s entirely her own.
Three more comics and comic-related books I’m looking forward to: Gwenda Bond’s Fallout, a prose novel about Lois Lane (which got a star from Kirkus), Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona (another star from Kirkus!), and Thor, Volume 1: Goddess of Thunder, the first collection of comics featuring Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman’s female Thor.
The Cage, by Megan Shepherd
I’ve been curious to see what Megan Shepherd would do after her supergothic Madman’s Daughter trilogy, and I’m so excited to see that she’s entirely switched things up: The Cage is straight-up science fiction, about a girl who is abducted by aliens and stuck in a zoo of sorts. (If that sounds familiar, see Slaughterhouse-Five or The Twilight Zone or TV Tropes.)
Tiny Pretty Things, by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton
Scarlett Undercover, by Jennifer Latham
I’ve already read both of these—I read and wrote about Scarlett Undercover last month, and read Tiny Pretty Things yesterday—and if you’re looking for books with mystery and mayhem AND diverse elements, these will be a good place to start. Scarlett is a girl detective who lands a case that involves a secret society of jinn-fighters; Tiny Pretty Things is a Pretty Little Liars–ish soap opera set in a NYC ballet school. Both provide TONS of fun while also dealing with race and ethnicity and class and privilege.
And, as always, there are so many more:
New takes on One Thousand and One Nights and Beauty and the Beast, a new book by Chris Lynch, a story about a hit and run that touches on abuse and faith and love and truth, an unreliable narrator navigating the 1980s Oregon music scene, a road trip from NYC to LA, and the return of E.R. Frank.
Which ones are you waiting for?
If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or running the show at her local library, Leila Roy might be making stuff for her Etsy shop while rewatching Veronica Mars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, Black Books or Twin Peaks. Well, that or she’s hanging out on Twitter. Or both.