Tuesday 3 January 2023

January YA Preview

I thought I'd look ahead to January with some of the new releases I'm most excited for. This is a relatively small list compared to all the amazing books coming out, but I just wanted to mention a few that I'm anticipating particularly highly.

For a much more comprehensive list of what's coming, check out Pop Goes The Reader's Hot Off The Press, by the way! 

Also, just a heads-up, there are a couple of books published by HarperCollins on this list. As you may be aware, HarperCollins staff are currently on strike - the union are asking that people don't boycott buying books, but that reviewers and blurbers hold reviews etc until they have a fair contract. I'm fully supportive of the union and will be holding reviews and recommendations until a contract is settled on. For more details about the strike, and how people can support the union, check out this Twitter thread and their links on Linktree

First that I want to talk about, despite it coming out at the end of the month, is Tess Sharpe's Six Times We Almost Kissed (And One Time We Did.) (Out 24th Jan, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) This is the only 2023 release I've been lucky enough to read already (thanks Netgalley, and Little, Brown!) And WOW I feel lucky to have read this one - it broke me out of a reading slump lasting months, captivating me from the first page. I absolutely loved Far From You and The Girls I've Been, but this might be my favourite yet from Tess Sharpe. It's about Penny and Tate - living together for a while as their moms recover from an operation which sees Penny's mother become a living liver donor to Tate's mom. Having spent the entire of their teenage years bickering, and nearly but not quite kissing, the two have to call a truce for the sake of their mothers. This is a gorgeous "frenemies to lovers" romance, with two absolutely wonderful leads, and it's structured beautifully, with flashbacks to the almost kisses adding rich character development to the present day story. Massively recommended, as is everything Tess Sharpe writes.

I'm in the mood for reading romance at the moment - something about the New Year seems to have that effect on me. I'm very excited for Take A Bow, Noah Mitchell, by Tobias Madden (out today, 3rd Jan, Page Street Kids). I'm a huge fan of musicals and this story about a gay gamer going far out of his comfort zone to join a community theatre show, believing that the online friend he's falling for will be taking part, sounds delightful. Also, it's published by Page Street Kids, who brought us Adiba Jaigirdar's The Henna Wars and Hani and Ishu's Guide to Fake Dating, along with Amparo Ortiz's Blazewrath Games - all favorites of mine - amongst other excellent YA books recently; they're an incredibly reliable publisher and I always look forward to their new releases.

Also for romance, the YA debut from acclaimed adult author Talia Hibbert - whose Brown sisters trilogy have been on my TBR for ages, and who's a real favorite of numerous of my friends - sounds wonderful. Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute (3rd Jan, Joy Revolution) is about childhood friends turned academic rivals - Celine, a conspiracy-theory obsessed content creator, and Brad, a star football player with OCD who Celine believes abandoned her for the popular crowd - who find themselves working together on a survival course to try and win a grand prize. Rivals-turned-lovers and childhood friends-turned-lovers are a couple of my favourite tropes, with Holly Green's In The Same Boat and Pintip Dunn's Dating Makes Perfect being two stellar examples of the latter in recent YA; I'm fully expecting this to be another superb one.

Priyanka Taslim's The Love Match (3rd Jan, Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster) is another which sounds really fun. When Zahra Khan's mother sets her up with a wealthy boy, she's not interested - she's already found a connection with a new dishwasher at the tea shop she works at. But with Harun equally uninterested in being with her, the pair work together to sabotage their parents' plans. Billed as To All The Boys I've Loved Before meets Pride and Prejudice, this sounds awesome.

French Kissing In New York (3rd Jan, Delacorte Press) by Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau is about Margot - going to Manhattan a year after she met an American boy, Zack in Paris for a wonderful night. She' has plans to work in a restaurant, celebrate her father's wedding, and find Zack, and enlists the help of a sweet line cook, Ben, to do so. I've just finished a reread of Jean Estoril's classic ballet novels, the Drina series, in which the main character meets her love interest on the ship to New York, and they fall in love there before later meeting in Paris, and the chance to read more romance set in those two cities has me thrilled.

And from new-to-me authors to one I'm already a huge fan of, Camryn Garrett follows up Full Disclosure and Off The Record with her third novel, Friday I'm In Love (10th Jan, Knopf Books For Young Readers). Full Disclosure was an outstanding debut novel and Off The Record a superb sophomore book; both were hard-hitting and brilliantly written. This book, which follows Mahalia, who's trying to throw herself a coming out party, while getting new girl Siobhan to like her back, sounds like it'll be a lighter read, but an equally awesome one. It's billed as a "love letter to romantic comedies, sweet sixteen blowouts, Black joy, and queer pride", which is an awesome mix!

And sticking with authors I love, Emma Lord - whose You Have A Match and When You Get The Chance were utterly adorable - has a new release, Begin Again (24th Jan, Wednesday Books). A girl who wants to become an iconic self-help figure transfers from community college to hyper competitive Blue Ridge State, but is immediately beset by problems. She finds the power of her voice, though, becoming Squire on a legendary pirate radio station founded by her late mom at the school many years ago. Ever since watching Pump Up The Volume back in the 90s, I've loved books and films with radio stations, especially pirate radio stations, and this plot being taken on by an awesome author like Lord is utterly catnip to me.

Speaking of Emma Lord, debut novel Seven Percent of Ro Devereux (17th Jan, HarperTeen, see above note) by Ellen O'Clover is being described as a book which fans of Emma and Rachel Lynn Solomon (another fabulous author) will love, which has me extremely interested. It's about a girl who builds an app for a senior project which can predict someone's future with 93% accuracy, even matching users with their soulmates. When she gets the attention of tech investors, her dream of working in Silicon Valley seems within reach - until her childhood best friend, who she had a huge fight with three years ago, is picked out by the app as her soulmate, and she's forced into a fake dating scenario with him. The comparison authors are enough to get me into this one, but it's a really interesting idea for a plot as well.

Brighter By The Moon (10th Jan, Bloomsbury YA) by David Valdes is high on my TBR; last year's Spin Me Right Round put a really enjoyable spin on time travel and I've been eagerly anticipating more from him since reading it. This book, about Jonas and Shani, who fall for each other online, and Ash, Shani's best friend - who gets talked into finding out the truth about Jonas, only to also fall for him - sounds really thought-provoking and sweet.

I'm aiming to read more short stories this year, and anthology Cool. Awkward. Black. (10th Jan, Viking Books for Young Readers) edited by Karen Strong sounds amazing! A multi-genre anthology celebrating Black geeks, there's a stunning line-up of authors including several favourites of mine (Elise Bryant, whose gorgeous romances always make me smile, Tracy Deonn, whose Legendborn is one of the best King Arthur-inspired retellings I've ever read, and Ibi Zoboi, who is phenomenal at everything she writes.) 

Speaking of Elise Bryant, her new novel sounds absolutely amazing! Reggie and Delilah's Year of Falling (Balzer + Bray) is about a self-declared Blerd and a nervous punk singer who fall for the personas each other put on in public, after meeting on New Year's Eve, Valentine's Day, and St Patrick's Day. Elise Bryant writes utterly charming characters with superb chemistry and I'm so excited for another book from her.

This Is Not A Personal Statement (17th Jan, Quill Tree Books - HarperCollins imprint, see note above) by Tracy Badua is a YA contemporary with a premise which sounds fantastic. Graduating from Monte Verde High at the age of 16, "Perfect Perlie Perez" has stressed throughout her high school career at the thought of getting into Delmont University. When she doesn't get in, panicking at the thought of disappointing her parents, she forges an acceptance letter and heads there anyway. She plans to gather on-the-ground intel to reapply in spring, but is it really a plan she can pull off? Can't wait for this one!

The always-wonderful Julian Winters has a new release which sounds brilliant, as well. In As You Walk On By (17th Jan, Viking Books for Young Readers), Theo Wright screws up a promposal at a party, then seeks refuge in an empty bedroom. Various people join him, all trying to avoid the image people have of them. Described as The Breakfast Club meets Can't Hardly Wait - both of which I'm a big fan of - I'm super-excited for this.

Another new one from an established author - I've somehow only read one by Kekla Magoon, but Light It Up was a stunning book which packed a huge emotional punch. The Minus-One Club (24th Jan, Henry Holt and Co.), her new book, is about Kermit, who loses his sister in a tragic accident, and the group of schoolmates who are also grieving people they love. I can tell from the little I've read about it, and my experience with Light It Up, that this is going to be a hard read but no doubt a rewarding one. 

And a massively-anticipated sophomore book from M-E Girard, whose Girl Mans Up was a stunning debut. In Then Everything Happens At Once (31st Jan, HarperTeen, see above note) Baylee - fat and confident, and falling for Alex while crushing on best friend Freddie, has her life turned upside down when a virus stops the world in its tracks. I'm not sure how many books I want to read about the early days of the pandemic - despite really loving Unlucky in Lockdown by Julianne Benford, and enjoying anthology Together, Apart - but Girard is someone I trust to handle it well, and I'm intrigued to read this one.

One of the trends I'd love to see more of in YA is main characters changing their mind about college, and looking at other options - whether that's when they're still in the process of applying, or after starting their first year there. It's been tackled superbly in Dahlia Adler's Just Visiting, Alice Oseman's Radio Silence, and Sara Barnard's Something Certain, Maybe, amongst other books over the last decade, and I'm always looking for more. Amy Zhang's The Cartographers (31st Jan, Greenwillow Books) sounds like another brilliant read. In it, Ocean moves to NYC after being accepted to a prestigious university but, feeling emotionally raw after struggling with depression as a senior, she defers for a while, moving into an apartment and getting a job tutoring. She finds friends, and a boy, but everything goes downhill at Thanksgiving. This is supposed to be a great fit for fans of Daniel Nayeri's Everything Sad Is Untrue, one of the most stunning books I've read in the last few years.

I'm trying to read more consistently this year than I read in 2023, and I often find fast-paced thrillers the easiest books to really lose myself in. They're Watching You, by Chelsea Ichaso (3rd Jan, Sourcebooks Fire), sounds like just the kind of book that will have me totally hooked. Two weeks after Maren's best friend goes missing, Maren finds an invitation to the mysterious Gamesmaster's Society in Polly's things, and sets out to join - and she's offered the chance to compete in high stakes games for clues about Polly's whereabouts. Schools, mysterious societies, and life and death stakes are totally my jam - Alexa Donne's The Ivies, Kit Frick's Very Bad People, Jordyn Taylor's Don't Breathe A Word and Jesse Q Sutanto's The New Girl are all ones I've really enjoyed recently - and this sounds like an excellent addition to the genre.

Another trope I love in school-set thrillers is something bad happening at a major event. (On that note, Tiffany Jackson's Carrie-inspired The Weight Of Blood was an incredible read!) Rather than the prom setting of TWOB and Carrie, The Black Queen (31st Jan, Delacorte Press) by Jumata Emill sees the death of Lovett High's first Black homecoming queen, Nova, on the night of the ceremony. Nova's best friend Duchess, daughter of the town's first Black police captain, is convinced rich, beautiful, and white Tinsley McArthur killed the girl who beat her to the crown. Can Duchess do what she doesn't think her father will, and prove Tinsley's guilt? Described as "addicting and razor-sharp" by Kara Thomas, one of my favourite authors of this genre, I'm definitely looking forward to reading it.

And moving to speculative fiction, there's a new release from one of my absolute favourite authors! Frances Hardinge gives us Unraveller  (10th Jan, Amulet Books) a dark YA fantasy, about Kellen, a boy with the ability to unravel life-destroying curses, who needs to team with his constant companion Nettle to remove his own curse. There's not a ton of details about this, but I knew from a few chapters into The Lie Tree, the first book by Frances Hardinge that I read, that I'd be desperate to read anything else she released. Her gorgeously lyrical writing and brilliantly developed characters make her a must-read. 

From an author I've loved reading for years to one I've just discovered, Ann Dávila Cardinal's "Dismembered", as I mentioned in my review of anthology Our Shadows Have Claws, edited by Yamile Saied Méndez and Amparo Ortiz, was a stellar read which made me really interested in more from her. Breakup From Hell (3rd Jan, HarperTeen, see above note) sounds awesome. It's about Mica, who meets a mysterious hot boy who's new to her small town, and falls for him, only for strange things to start happening. She goes on to find out that his family's roots are seriously worrying, and her relationship is more like a horror novel than a typical love story. Can she break up with him without bringing an end to so many other things too? 

And for an intriguing-sounding mix of memoir and speculative fiction, I'm really interested in The Girl I Am, Was, and Never Will Be (10th Jan, Dutton Books) by Shannon Gibney. It's described as "a tale of two girls on two different timelines occasionally bridged by a mysterious portal and their shared search for a complete picture of their origins." I'm trying to describe what I know of this one, and I'm absolutely failing to do it justice, but it's definitely one of the most fascinating-sounding books of the month.

So, what's coming that you're interested in? I'd love to hear; leave me a comment! 

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