Young Adult

#12DaysOfKidlit 2022

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I received Advance Reader Copies of most of these books from the publishers in order to write my initial reviews.

Happy December! The holiday buying season is well under way and I fervently, devoutly, fanatically believe there is no greater gift than a good book. For the next twelve days I’ll be celebrating the 12 Days Of Kidlit, posting a book a day to add up to my six favorite Middle Grade and six favorite Young Adult novels released this year.

Of course, this list will be limited by a) Books I Happened to Read and b) Books I Happened to Like. So…I need your help! Hop on your favorite social media platform and post your favorite titles of 2022 with #12DaysOfKidlit. I’m excited to check out your recommendations.

Now, let’s dive in with today’s pick…

Day 12: YA Mysteries

As usual, I really struggled to narrow down my list of YAs. So I decided to share two today, both mysteries, but oh so different!

THE RED PALACE by June Hur

What it’s about:

Set in 1758 Korea (Joseon), this mystery follows a young nurse who gets assigned to treat a prince with a dark and secretive past (and present) and winds up getting embroiled in an investigation of a murder that the prince may or may not have committed while dodging the suspicions of an attractive young detective on the police force.

Who it’s for:

Teens and 20-somethings (and on up!). Great for book clubs for all ages. Historical mystery fans and historical romance fans (yes, Romancelandia, this will satisfy you).

Why I can’t get it out of my head:

I love how atmospheric June Hur’s writing is. I get sucked into this world and I never want to leave. The mystery is suspenseful, the subplots gripping, and by now you know I’m a sucker for enemies-to-lovers storylines, so…

QUEEN OF THE TILES by Hanna Alkaf

What it’s about:

They Wish They Were Us meets The Queen’s Gambit in this “stunning…unforgettable” (Publishers Weekly) thriller set in the world of competitive Scrabble, where a teen girl is forced to investigate the mysterious death of her best friend when her Instagram comes back to life with cryptic posts and messages.” Salaam Reads/Simon and Schuster

Who it’s for:

Teen (ages 12 & up) fans of mysteries and competition dramas (“The Queen’s Gambit”is an apt comparison title). It’s not really a thriller, but it is a murder mystery so there’s plenty of suspense from both the investigation and the Scrabble tournament as it ramps up in intensity.

Why I can’t get it out of my head:

What set this one apart for me was the setting—not just that it was set in cosmopolitan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and representing competitors from a variety of Asian cultures and religious backgrounds, but also the competitive Scrabble world which I’d not seen before in Kidlit. It was so intense—just as intense as the suspicious death, threatening social media messages, and suspected poisonings of the mystery plot, and plenty cutthroat enough to prompt a murder…


Day 11: THE DOOR OF NO RETURN by Kwame Alexander

What it’s about:

“From the Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Award winning author Kwame Alexander, comes the first book in a searing, breathtaking trilogy that tells the story of a boy, a village, and the epic odyssey of an African family.” Little, Brown & Company

Who it’s for:

4th-8th graders who like historical fiction, epic adventures, and/or novels-in-verse. In fact, this is a great “gateway” novel-in-verse due to the smooth, transparent language. It flows beautifully and is easy to understand. It is also a phenomenal choice for MG book clubs, especially at the middle school level due to darker subject matter and the potential for mature discussions of colonization in West Africa and its lingering impacts.

Why I can’t get it out of my head:

Set in the Asante Kingdom (modern Ghana) in 1860, this is literary middle grade at its best—the language worming its way into my heart, the characters jumping off the page like real people, the world enveloping me from the first page, and the adventure so gripping I couldn’t put it down. Sublime. And despite the maturity of the writing that will speak to even adult readers, Alexander perfectly captures an 11-year-old’s point of view and emotions as he experiences the life shattering hardships of white colonization in his homeland.


Day 10: VIOLET MADE OF THORNS by Gina Chen

What it’s about:

“A darkly enchanting fantasy about a lying witch, a cursed prince, and a sinister prophecy that ignites their doomed destinies—perfect for fans of The Cruel Prince.” Delacorte Press

Who it’s for:

YA high fantasy people! Especially fans of Holly Black, Marisa Meyer, Heather Walter, Melissa Bashardoust, and similar.

Why I can’t get it out of my head:

I’m still stunned this is a debut. It is absolutely everything I want in a dark high fantasy. Politics that shape the story but aren’t excessive and don’t require tons of backstory/explanation. Interweaving of fairytales without it feeling derivative. All Of The Morally Gray Characters! Enemies-to-lovers romance! And TWISTS!! It was just intense, addictive FUN in fantasy form.


Day 9: JENNIFER CHAN IS NOT ALONE by Tae Keller

What it’s about:

“In her first novel since winning the Newbery Medal for When You Trap a Tiger, Tae Keller offers a gripping and emotional story about friendship, bullying, and the possibility that there’s more in the universe than just us.” Random House Books for Young Readers

Who it’s for:

4th-7th grade fans of contemporary fiction with sci-fi vibes. And book clubs! There is a great exploration of the nuances of bullying culture in middle schools that could fuel some excellent conversations.

Why I can’t get it out of my head:

What sticks in my mind about this book is how much Keller focused on the possibilities: all the little choices that added up to the ultimate disaster, how what each character did and did not do created their school culture, and of course the big possibility—are the aliens in the book real?? I love books where there are no easy answers and books where the characters have fallen into the crevice between two aspects of their identity and are struggling to see themselves. Plus, Keller perfectly captures middle school clique culture in all of its nuances without writing off a single character as a lost cause, however bad their choices at one time or another. This book is just perfection in so many ways.


Day 8: HOW TO EXCAVATE A HEART by Jake Maia Arlow

What it’s about:

“Stonewall Honor author Jake Maia Arlow delivers a sapphic Jewish twist on the classic Christmas rom-com in a read perfect for fans of Kelly Quindlen and Casey McQuiston.” HarperTeen

Who it’s for:

This is YA/NA Rom Com gold!! Set during freshman year of college, this would also make a great pick for college and 20-something women’s book clubs.

Why I can’t get it out of my head:

Enemies to lovers!! A meet-cute where one hits the other with a car!! But what really set this one apart for me was the humor. This voice had me cracking up from the first page. It was such a fast, smooth read and I was having so much fun with the characters, I didn’t want it to end. Plus, Arlow works in some lovely layers of thematic depth as the characters and their relationship evolve.


Day 7: HUMMINGBIRD by Natalie Lloyd

The cover of HUMMINGBIRD by Natalie Lloyd

What it’s about:

Tired of being treated as “fragile,” a twelve-year-old girl with a brittle bone disease convinces her parents to let her go to a real middle school and gets her heart set on playing the lead in a school play—until rumors of a magical wish-granting hummingbird sends her off on a mission to solve a riddle and (maybe) ask for normal bones.

Who it’s for:

4th-6th graders who like contemporary fiction set in small towns and “light” fantasy where the magic is real but almost a metaphor for the main themes of the story (think: Savvy by Ingrid Law, The Stars of Whistling Ridge by Cindy Baldwin, or Lloyd’s A Snicker of Magic.) This one is also an excellent candidate for book clubs, chock full of the kind of humor and suspense that makes it hard to resist but plenty of meat for discussion, too.

Why I can’t get it out of my head:

SO many reasons. First, voice (a theme of my MG faves this year). The main character’s voice not only immediately hooked me on who she was as a person, it threw me headlong into this small Appalachian town—and that setting is another thing that has stuck with me. A small town, full of colorful characters supporting one another, with some little bits of literal magic more bits of community growth that feels as magical as the fantasy. And then there’s the disability representation in this book. Lloyd doesn’t shy away from the prickliest issues and uncertainties and struggles of developing your identity when you have a disability and how you see yourself and your disability as part of yourself but not your who self but also a key component of your identity and not a negative but also sometimes painful and… well, you’ll have to read the book. But even though the main character (and Lloyd) has a different disability from me, everything she’s going through psychologically resonated so strongly and authentically with me that this story hasn’t let go of my heart.


Day 6: THE ONE TRUE ME AND YOU by Remi K. England

The cover of THE ONE TRUE ME AND YOU by Remi K. England

What it’s about:

One small fandom convention. One teen beauty pageant. One meet cute waiting to happen.A big-hearted, joyful romance and a love letter to all things geek, Remi K. England’s The One True Me and You is a *witness me* celebration of standing up for, and being, yourself.” Wednesday Books

Who it’s for:

Teens 12 & up. Rom Com fans! Comic-con fans! Comic-Rom-Com-Con Fans! It’s solidly in the LGBTQ+ Rom Com genre, BUT there is so much going on in each of the character’s lives that readers who like YA contemporary coming-of-age stories will find lots to love, even if they’re not typically into romance.

Why I can’t get it out of my head:

What I loved about this one is first and foremost the geeky joy—and how this was like my teenage self’s DREAM! I mean, I remember staying in hotels with fellow teens on band trips, which was exciting enough, but if there had been a nerd con in the same hotel? With my favorite fandom?! Beyond the geeky joy, I loved the exploration of having different interests that feel like different worlds—the tension that can create in forming your identity and the beauty and complexity it can add to your life. Plus, those thorny questions of how much of yourself you should share with your crush and when that crush becomes falling in love… and a spotlight on homophobic and transphobic bullying, authentic conversations and interiority surrounding sexual identity and gender identity, and a cheerful, triumphant, fist-pumping ending that would make John Hughes proud.


Day 5: YONDER by Ali Standish

Cover of YONDER by Ali Standish

What it’s about:

“From Ali Standish, award-winning author of The Ethan I Was Before, August Isle, How to Disappear Completely, and The Mending Summer, comes a captivating historical fiction middle grade novel about a boy on the home front in World War II who must solve the mystery of the disappearance of his best friend.” HarperCollins 

Who it’s for:

This one is a stunner for book clubs, overflowing with substance for group discussions and an immediate hook that will convince even reluctant participants to keep reading. It will snag 4th-7th grade fans of character-driven mysteries, character-driven historical fiction (think Okay for Now) or both!

Why I can’t get it out of my head:

This book has one of those perfect first chapters that serve as a microcosm for the book as a whole: the killer voice that roots you in the character and the Appalachian world you’ll be inhabiting, a glimpse of the theme that will be explored in depth going forward (What is heroism? And what does it mean to be a hero—or to be labeled a hero?), and a suspenseful hook at the end, setting up the mystery to come and making it impossible for me to put the book down. The book delivered on every promise the prologue made, and then some; I’m an absolute sucker for books that don’t give me any easy answers but still somehow give me hope.


Day 4: THE WORDS WE KEEP by Erin Stewart

What it’s about:

Struggling to balance her own mental health when her sister returns home after receiving treatment for bipolar disorder after a near-fatal experience with self-harm, overachiever Lily reluctantly teams up with a boy from her sister’s treatment program and goes all in on a school project, leaving subversive poetry around the school and community.

Who it’s for:

Mature teen readers who like darker contemporary and book clubs that can handle themes of suicide and self-harm. The primary access points are mental health, art, and creative writing.

Why I can’t get it out of my head:

I’m a sucker for writing about writing, and this book took it to the next level by making the poetry into a form of performance art that has the power to transform a community as well as helping the main character explore her own identity and come to terms with her mental illness. Also, therapy positivity is a must for me in mental health-themed books, and this depiction was extremely nuanced, showing a character going through the process of frustration, failure, and struggle to find the right therapy and right treatment for her. Not just a gripping read, but so hopeful and necessary!


Day 3: SIR FIG NEWTON AND THE SCIENCE OF PERSISTENCE by Sonja Thomas

Book cover of Sir Fig Newton and the Science of Persistence

What it’s about:

From the Desk of Zoe Washington meets Ways to Make Sunshine in this “noteworthy” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) middle grade novel about a determined young girl who must rely on her ingenuity and scientific know-how to save her beloved cat.” Simon and Schuster

Who it’s for:

4th-6th graders (can definitely skew younger for advanced readers), especially STEM lovers and animal lovers.

Why I can’t get it out of my head:

Mostly, the voice. I fell for Mira on page one because she made me laugh, feel for her not fitting in (and oh, did my inner 12-year-old relate!), and admire her scientific motivation and tenacity–not to mention that she has a “nemesis” (who should obviously be her BFF). This book executed everything I love in a voicey, character-driven contemporary and hooked me by the heart with the protagonist’s desperation to save her pet. (I was rooting for a nemeses-to-besties transformation, too!)


Day 2: RUST IN THE ROOT by Justina Ireland

Cover of RUST IN THE ROOT by Justina Ireland

What it’s about:

In 1937, mage Laura Ann Langston adopts the moniker the Peregrine and joins a corps of Black government operatives to find the source of a deadly magical blight in the Midwest, only to discover that the government hasn’t been honest about the waiting dangers and their sinister source.

Who it’s for:

Teen (YA) and young adult (NA) fans of immersive, grounded fantasies—especially historical fantasy, but honestly, the historical setting is so integrated into the world building and magical politics that I think it could pull fans of contemporary and secondary world fantasies, too. It also has the perfect blend of unputdownable drive and meaty themes for YA and 20-something book clubs (and tbh, I’ve pitched it to my book club of 30- and 40-somethings, too).

Why I can’t get it out of my head:

Justina Ireland’s world building is always off the hook, and this one is my new favorite. She takes history, adds fantasy, and somehow makes it more real, more relevant to what I’m witnessing and experiencing in my contemporary, non-magical life. And boy do I love a meticulously constructed, well-founded, logical yet novel magic system. Add the unbelievable stakes, nuanced characters, and ever-increasing suspense from snippets of future news clippings… *chef’s kiss* Absolute exquisite perfection. 10/10. 11/10, actually.


Day 1: TREX by Christyne Morrell

Cover of TREX by Christyne Morrell

What it’s about:

“This middle grade mystery follows the adventures of a boy with an experimental brain implant, and a reclusive girl training to be a spy, as they’re pitted against school bullies, their own parents, and an evil, brain-hacking corporation.” Penguin Random House

Who it’s for:

Compared by the publisher to Stranger Things, this is for middle grade readers who like sci-fi with big mystery-thriller energy and resilient underdog characters. It also has the perfect blend of unputdownable drive and meaty themes for MG book clubs.

Why I can’t get it out of my head:

This one was right up my alley genre-wise (I’m all about big mystery-thriller energy in my speculative middle grade!) but it stood out from the pack because of how well Morrell balances agency between her two protagonists, because of the realistic and ultimately therapy-positive depiction of a character with an anxiety disorder, and because I genuinely did not see one of the twists coming. It’s rare for me to be surprised by a well-founded twist for this age group, but Morrell pulled it off in a big way. The character interactions were authentic, the stakes high, and the suspense driving. What a ride!

CURSED by Marissa Meyer

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In the sequel and finale to the story begun in GILDED, Serilda and Gild race to undo their curses before the Erlking and his court of demons can enact their own plans to end an ancient imprisonment and rain evil upon the mortal realm.

I listened to the well-narrated audiobook (performed by Rebecca Soler) which highlighted Meyer’s rich, Gothic world-building, steeped in oral storytelling tradition. Twists were abundant and surprising, yet well-founded and throughly satisfying, both as a story on its own and a conclusion to the duology. I would highly recommend this novel (and audiobook) to fans of dark fairytale retellings and would suggest starting with GILDED.

RUST IN THE ROOT by Justina Ireland

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As a Floramancer and young woman of Afrikan ancestry, Laura has always known the Prohibition targeted her people specifically. When the Great Rust set in in the 1930s, the small-time Negro mages bore the brunt of the blame, even though white Mechomancers were the ones who’d taken the purity of the power imbued in in nature (the Possibilities) and exploited it for financial gain in their Industrial Revolution. But the Blights are getting worse, and the U.S. government has put the dangerous burden of fixing it on the Bureau of the Archane’s Colored Auxiliary.

With few options for gaining a license to practice Floramancy–or even earn enough money to live–Laura takes a new name (the Peregrine) and an apprenticeship with the Floramancer known as the Skylark who is tasked with finding the source of a particularly rotten Blight in Ohio. But when the Colored Auxiliary arrives, the Peregrine and her mentor realize something is wrong. The Blight bears an alarming resemblance to the Klan’s Necromancy–a horrific evil that touched the Skylark’s life once before. And as they travel toward the heart of the dark magic, the Peregrine realizes that there were secrets within her power she was keeping even from herself.

Justina Ireland once again proves herself the queen of historical fantasy, crafting a richly grounded world with a detailed, inventive magic system that both accentuates past evils and demands that readers recognize and analyze alarming trends in the modern world. She perfectly balances her voice with historical colloquialisms and modern sensibility and weaves a cast of nuanced secondary characters to support her heroine. This novel is a must-read for YA and NA fantasy fans! I cannot recommend it highly enough.

THE WEIGHT OF BLOOD by Tiffany D. Jackson

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Maddy did it.

Those were the only words uttered by one of two survivors of the Springfield, Georgia Prom Night Massacre. As the makers of a podcast delve into the history of Springfield and the unsolved mysteries surrounding the massacre that took place a decade ago, they keep returning to the same questions: who was the real Maddy Washington and could rumors of her horrific telekinetic powers be true?

The graduating class of 2014 thought the knew the real Maddy Washington: a quiet girl who wore long skirts and only came to school on sunny days. But when getting caught in the rain causes her straightened hair to return to its natural texture, Maddy’s classmates suddenly realize that she is biracial. After years of passing as white at the insistence of her fanatical, abusive father, Maddy’s life is thrown into chaos, now facing racist microaggressions, all too common in a small town that still holds segregated proms. When an incident filmed by a fellow Black student goes viral, one of the bullies fears that she will be labeled as “a racist” and in order to help clear her name, suggests finally integrating prom. But the media firestorm has turned an uncomfortable spotlight on racism and prejudice in Springfield, sparking conflict in the school and town and leading to Maddy’s discovery of another secret inheritance–one that might send them all up in flames.

Deliberately parallel to Stephen King’s Carrie, including the journalistic excerpts in each chapter, The Weight of Blood both springs from and revolutionizes classic horror tropes, using Carrie’s plot as a vehicle for exploring microaggressions and the weight of a town’s racist history on the shoulders of its younger generations, both Black and white. The narrative follows multiple viewpoints, including Maddy, a white teacher who wants to be a better ally, a white student who doesn’t want to be racist, an unapologetic white racist bully, and the Black football star struggling to find his place among white friends, fellow Black students, and a family split between philosophies of “keep your head down” and BLM-equivalent activism. The result is a nuanced, challenging, story that will stick with readers long after they close the book. Add Jackson’s masterful suspense plotting and gripping character development, and you have an unputdownable masterpiece that will have kids clamoring for more. An essential addition to any YA collection and must-read for horror fans or fans of Jackson’s work in general.

ALL OF OUR DEMISE by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman (Audiobook)

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Sequel to ALL OF US VILLAINS.

Seven teens were chosen by their families to battle to the death in the generational Ilvernath blood tournament for high magic. But none of this year’s champions is content to die. Some want to win. Some want to break the tournament for good. With secrets, twists, and dangers both within the tournament and without, one way or another, the blood veil will fall. The question: will any of the champions survive?

The thrilling, brutal conclusion to the All of Us Villains duology does not disappoint, with astronomical stakes, jaw-dropping twists, and a dose of doomed romance. Emotionally, the story focuses on the teens struggle to define themselves as independent from their families and grapple with the ways they’ve been abused–by parents and by society. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Billie Fulford-Brown and Raphael Corkhill, and I was riveted. Character voices felt distinct without being affected. There was one scene I personally found very difficult to listen to read aloud due to the graphic violence (torture, in this case) so be aware that if you usually skim through particularly graphic scenes, this might be one to read yourself rather than listen to. But if you have the stomach for some violence, this is a great audiobook for older teens and adults.

ON THE SUBJECT OF UNMENTIONABLE THINGS by Julie Walton

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Strait-laced high school journalist Phoebe Townsend has a secret life as the Internet’s most detailed and scientific sex blogger. All of her information comes from medical journals and books–really her only sources of knowledge since she hasn’t had sex herself yet–and it answers the kind of questions that she knows should be taught in sex ed classes but are instead swept under the rug by her conservative small town’s “abstinence-only” policy.

But when her decision to open her blog to comments and Q&A attracts the attention of an ultra-conservative local politician, Phoebe’s blog suddenly becomes the talk of the town. Although fellow teens seem grateful for the matter-of-fact information, adults either dislike the blog or are too afraid to get on the mayoral candidate’s bad side. Meanwhile, Phoebe’s work for the school paper has thrown her in the politician’s path, jeopardizing her anonymity. With her secret identity under threat and an unexpected love triangle making her life at school all-too-complicated, Phoebe has to ask: is fighting the stigma against quality sex ed really worth blowing up her life?

Militantly sex-positive in the best possible way, Walton’s novel includes a sprinkling of accurate information about taboo topics, including female masturbation, and a powerful call-to-action to fight for factual, science-based sex ed in high schools. By having her well-informed protagonist choose to wait to have sex until she feels emotionally ready, Walton provides a counter-example for anyone who worries that when kids learn about the existence of condoms they will immediately run out and have lots of promiscuous sex. That’s actually the main thesis of her work: information doesn’t lead to more sex. It leads to safer sex. Couched in an entertaining narrative with an unlikely heroine, repulsive villain, and tantalizing love triangle, Walton’s message couldn’t be more fun to read. I highly recommend this book to fans of YA Contemporary and any public and high school libraries who can get it past their gatekeepers. (Because yup, this book will be challenged. Oh, the irony.)

THE UNDEAD TRUTH OF US by Britney S. Lewis

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Since Zharie’s mother died, her world has changed drastically. There are the practical changes: the fact that she now has to live with her aloof aunt and has had to quit dancing at the expensive studio where her mom used to work.

And then there are the zombies.

Zharie sees them everywhere, kids she used to know with the flesh peeling off of them, but no one else seems to notice anything wrong. She knows it has something to do with her mother, who seemed to be decaying in the few days leading up to her unexpected death. When Zharie meets Bo, a boy who for some reason morphs in and out of a zombie state in her eyes, she hopes that forging a friendship with him will provide some answers about her undead visions. But getting close to Bo just raises more questions–about friendship, love, and how people can be killed but keep on living.

Grief and heartbreak shimmer through Lewis’s poetic prose and symbolic fantasy as she explores the pain that comes with deep love. Within the story, Lewis shares the origins of zombies in Kongo, Haiti, and the Vodou religion. Fans of Amber McBrides’s inimitable Me (Moth) may enjoy this novel due to its lyrical style, heavily allegorical fantasy/horror, and grounding in African diasporic religion (although that last is more prominent in McBride’s work). A great addition to YA literary fiction collections.

I RISE by Marie Arnold

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To most of Harlem, Rosalie Bosia, founder of the social justice organization See Us, is either a heroine or a villain, but to Ayo, she’s mom–and the reason Ayo has no social life. It seems like all of the other almost-fifteen-year-olds at Ayo’s high school are dating and going to parties while Ayo is stuck at community meetings and pasting up flyers. Ayo understand that her mother’s work is important, but she is tired of feeling responsible for fighting racism every second of her life. She just wants to be a normal kid for once, and that’s why she’s determined to get out of See Us.

Unfortunately, her mom has other ideas. Viewing See Us as a legacy she’s leaving to Ayo, Rosalie insists that her daughter take on leadership responsibilities. Although afraid to strain her relationship with her mom, when Ayo finally gets the attention of the boy she’d love to be her first kiss, the stakes for achieving a social life have never been higher. But just as Ayo and Rosalie start to reach an understanding, a police officer shoots Rosalie, gravely injuring her. With her mom in a coma, Ayo is left reeling, following the birthday scavenger hunt her mom left behind and wrestling with the role political activism will play in her life in the aftermath of the tragedy.

Elevated by a poetic voice and a cast of nuanced characters, I RISE examines the experience of being a Black teenager in New York City and the unique burdens that Black Americans have to grapple with. Arnold never shies away from the emotional traumas of racism and microaggressions (including police brutality), keeping her story hopeful by focusing in on a protagonist with a powerful voice, a powerful platform, and the drive to fight. I highly recommend this novel for YA collections and readers who enjoy heavy YA contemporary fiction.

HOW TO DATE A SUPERHERO (AND NOT DIE TRYING) by Cristina Fernandez

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In a world of superheroes, Astrid Rose has the most boring superpower: an extreme ability to schedule every last second of her time. Technically it’s not a real superpower, like the ones of the figures in capes and spandex who fly around New York either saving or terrorizing the citizens, depending on their moral persuasion, but as a premed Cornell student, it is a very useful ability When she learns that Max, the guy she’s been dating, who she’s known since their freshman year of high school, is the legendary Kid Comet, however, her perfectly planned sophomore year suddenly shatters.

After a nasty run-in with Kid Comet’s nemesis, Astrid gets inducted into a special program for significant others of superheroes, a “prevenge” course designed to prevent the need for the superhero to seek revenge for their loved one’s senseless murder by teaching the significant other survival skills. Astrid doesn’t have time for this program, especially once someone starts sabotaging her lab samples and threatening her internship and her grades. Meanwhile, Max keeps blowing off their dates for admittedly important reasons (like saving lives), and even as she grows to love him more deeply, she grows to wonder whether she’s cut out for this relationship. When a supervillain starts stealing samples from Astrid’s lab, she and Max will both be swept up in a dangerous plot, and Astrid will have to decide what she’s willing to sacrifice: her time? her love? her career? Or maybe even her life…

Set on a college campus, this book exists in that “New Adult” space that has great appeal for both teen young adults and adult young adults (as well of some of us who are even older than that!). The narrative voice hooked me immediately (third person present tense with a tongue-in-cheek vibe that kept reminding me of Slaughterhouse Five, although the subject matter is very different). In the tradition of most great Sci-Fi, Fernandez uses her hard Sci-Fi world as a lens to explore real world issues, in this case, the uncertainty of love and commitment, the fragility of human existence, and how to stop existing and truly live in a dangerous and frightening world. I am head-over-heels for this book, and if you love both Sci-Fi and Rom Coms, you will be too!

TWICE AS PERFECT by Louisa Onomé

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I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from the publisher in order to write this review.

Adanna Sophie Nkwachi is no stranger to pressure. She’s always top of her class (or second in her class after her debate partner, chief rival, and maybe-crush Justin) and rocketing toward a career in law. So she can handle being a bridesmaid to her diva cousin and her Nigerian pop icon fiancé, no matter how many times she changes her mind on the dresses, and even if it means deciding whether she wants to cause a furor among the aunties by inviting her other maybe-crush Tayo as her plus one like he insists she should. She can even handle being two different people: obedient Ada in her close-knit Nigerian community and driven Sophie at school.

But a group project in art class? That’s too much.

The required art elective at school doesn’t seem to be getting Ada any closer to her law career, and the assignment pushes her out of her comfort zone. Worse, it throws her into the orbit of her estranged brother, Sam, who became a poet at some point during the six years they haven’t seen one another. But Ada’s encounters with Sam–and with poetry–make her dig deeper into her past and into her heart. Is it possible for her to be a perfect daughter and be happy? Maybe the epic wedding of the year is the perfect chance to reunite her not-so-perfect family.

Onomé builds an immersive, character-rich world around her protagonist in this heartfelt contemporary novel. As she learns more about herself, Ada finds a place for herself as an individual within her family and her community and negotiates the challenge of pursuing individual needs while still caring for those around her. Clear, conversational prose with a first-person narrator provides the perfect voice and vehicle for this story. I highly recommend this one to fans of YA contemporary literature!