Stephanie Appell

Feature by

All That Is You

Bestselling author Alyssa Satin Capucilli offers an imaginative series of rhymed metaphors for love. Her text playfully twists colloquialisms (“you’re the wide in my world”) striking on heartfelt truths rather than cloying sentimentality. Illustrator Devon Holzwarth’s vibrant artwork matches the elegance and emotion of Capucilli’s prose and elevates All That Is You from very good to breathtaking.

The Birthday of the World

A young girl’s grandfather recounts how “the world of a thousand thousand things” was created when a beam of light pierced the darkness and scattered sparks into “everyone and everything.” Author Rachel Naomi Remen adapted The Birthday of the World from a tale originally told to her by her grandfather, an orthodox rabbi. Remen writes in unadorned, moving prose about the power in finding the lights inside ourselves and others, while illustrator Rachell Sumpter’s artwork is suffused with warmth and wonder. 

The More You Give

Marcy Campbell’s deceptively simple The More You Give follows three generations of a family as they share gifts and plant seeds both literal and figurative. Campbell anchors the story in wonderful specifics (“big hugs, and bigger laughter, and the very biggest Sunday-morning pancakes”) and skillfully repeated phrases, such as the “wild and wooly caps” of acorns that each generation plants in the field surrounding their house. Illustrator Francesca Sanna’s bold colors and stylized figures enable readers to track characters as they grow from child to adult, their faces clearly expressing the love they feel for one another.

For a gift that can be enjoyed again and again, consider one of these picture books.
Interview by

In Drizzle, Dreams, and Lovestruck Things, Maya Prasad follows the four Singh sisters—big sister Nidhi, twins Avani and Rani, and Sirisha, the youngest—through a life-changing year as they find love, healing, adventure and more. Their story unfolds against the idyllic backdrop of the Songbird Inn, their family’s home and business on Orcas Island, nestled on the Pacific Northwest coast in Washington state. 

Can you give us a quick introduction to your debut novel and the four Singh sisters?
Drizzle, Dreams, and Lovestruck Things is the story of the four Singh sisters over four seasons as they navigate new passions, breathtaking kisses and the bustle of their father’s cozy cliffside inn. 

Fall begins with Nidhi, the eldest practical sister. She thinks she has her life planned out. Winter moves on to Avani, who can’t sit still. If she does, her grief for Pop, their dad’s late husband, will overwhelm her. In spring, we come to Sirisha, who has always felt more comfortable hiding behind the lens of her camera than actually speaking to people—especially pretty girls. Summer is when hopeless romantic Rani finds that her Bollywood fantasies might finally be coming true!

How did you decide which sister’s story would unfold in which season?
Each sister’s story has a thematic connection to the season: letting go like an autumn leaf, dealing with the bitter cold of loss, allowing new love to blossom like a springtime bud and celebrating dreams finally coming into fruition.

Like the Singhs, you are one of four siblings. Are any aspects of the Singh sisters’ relationships with one another drawn from your own family?
There isn’t a one-to-one correlation between the Singh sisters and my family, but I did draw from familiar sibling dynamics: Nidhi’s maternal practicality as the eldest; Sirisha’s feeling as if her sisters have everything figured out and wondering how she can speak among so many loud voices; the sibling mind melds as well as the clashes; and the chaos and laughter that come with a big family.

One of the things I really love about the novel is how your prose shifts during each sister’s section to reflect her perspective. How did you arrive at that approach?
It was both a pleasure and a challenge to be able to create four different voices. For each sister, I used a different device related to their personalities: Nidhi’s lists, Avani’s verse, Sirisha’s contrasts between what she wants to say and what she actually says, and the screenplay bits that represent Rani’s forays into Bollywood fantasies.

”I think that’s what we’re all truly searching for: to be celebrated for being ourselves.”

But creating unique voices involved more than that; I also differentiated each sister’s sentence structures and tics. Introspective Nidhi’s voice feels the most classic and traditional to me, with some lyrical descriptions to represent her dreamy side. Avani has a lot of parenthetical asides to represent how she often gets distracted. Short fragments in Sirisha’s section are like the snapshots she’s always taking; they also represent how she has trouble expressing herself verbally. Finally, Rani’s voice is imbued with a lot of humor and has a mix of colloquial language and hyperbolic grandeur.

In the end, voice is about creating a unique worldview. Since I was writing Indian American characters, I hoped to show that we are not a monolith, and that each sister is an individual with their own dreams and ambitions and relationship to their identity.

Which sister’s section was the most challenging to write and why? Whose was the most fun and why?
Avani’s verse sections were definitely a challenge! I hadn’t experimented with the medium much and I was a little nervous. But it was important for me to try, because I think that poetry can truly bring out the emotions of grief and loss in a way that feels visceral and resonant.

Nidhi’s midnight adventure was my favorite chapter to write. I loved playing with the language to evoke the feeling of escape and beauty in the darkness. I hope readers will find it swoony and breathtaking!

Each sister’s romance hits such individual emotional notes. How did you decide what kind of love story each sister would experience? 
Just as the seasons are related thematically, I developed each love story to correspond with the sisters’ character arcs. They each find someone who understands and appreciates their unique qualities, as well as someone who not only sees past their flaws but maybe even sees those flaws as strengths. I think that’s what we’re all truly searching for: to be celebrated for being ourselves.

”It’s vital for teens to know that while romantic love is wonderful, there are so many ways to find joy in this world.”

The sisters have really specific interests, from baking and mural art to photography to romance novels and Bollywood movies and more. Researching these different topics must have been so fun! What did you learn that surprised you? Were there any interests or hobbies that you didn’t have to research at all?
I did a fair amount of research for Sirisha’s photography because I didn’t know any of the lingo or techniques. It actually gave me good insights to improve my own Instagram photography! With the rest, it was more just small things: looking up recipes, rewatching Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, that sort of thing. 

I really wanted the setting to be solid though, so once we’d signed the deal, I had a wonderful excuse to visit Orcas Island. The San Juan Islands are a favorite weekend getaway for me, but it had been a few years since I’d been to Orcas. It was delightful to drive around and imagine where the Songbird Inn might actually be located.

Surprising tidbit: Orcas Island isn’t named after killer whales! The origin comes from the Spanish name Horcasitas, in honor of the Spanish explorer Juan Vicente de Guemes Padilla Horcasitas y Aguayo.

What were your inspirations for the utterly delightful Songbird Inn, where much of the novel takes place?
The Songbird Inn is definitely fictional but it was inspired by gorgeous vacation rentals I’ve stayed in while visiting the San Juans and the Canadian Gulf Islands. I knew I wanted the inn to be set on a cliffside with panoramic views, and that it should be south facing to allow the sisters to enjoy both sunsets and sunrises over the water. The details were inspired by Pacific Northwest architecture: Craftsman-style elegance with bay windows and coffered ceilings and cozy fireplaces, and large decks where it feels like you’re peering off the edge of the world. 

What are some of your favorite fictional sisterhoods and why?
There should really be more sister stories, period! As the middle sister, I related a lot to Lara Jean in Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, particularly the portrayal of the period when eldest sis is off to college and suddenly you’re supposed to be setting a good example for your cheeky younger sis—who may or may not have a better social life than you.

There’s also Little Women of course, and the nonbiological sisters of Ann Brashares’ The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. We too had a pair of jeans that looked amazing on all of us—even though my younger sister is much taller than me. Magic!

The wonderful thrum of family hums in the background of your novel, and by the end of the book, you’ve widened the lens of what a love story can mean to encompass the Singh family’s love for each other. Why was that important for you to do here?
Thank you! I think it’s vital for teens to know that while romantic love is wonderful, there are so many ways to find joy in this world. This novel is a celebration of the love the sisters have for each other, for their father, for their community, for the home they’ve built and—most importantly—for themselves.

What’s something about this book that you’re wholly, unabashedly proud of?
I’m incredibly proud to have created a work of joyful representation for Indian American teens! I think we need escapism, we need those cozy warm hug vibes, and we need to see ourselves as beautiful and worthy of love.

Read our review of ’Drizzle, Dreams, and Lovestruck Things.’

Author photo of Maya Prasad courtesy of Jamilah Newcomer.

Debut YA author Maya Prasad reveals how she created her season-by-season ode to romance, sisterhood and the Pacific Northwest.
Feature by

The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza

A cat must save the moon from being eaten by intergalactic rats in this graphic novel from author Mac Barnett and Caldecott Honor illustrator Shawn Harris. Its madcap silliness and accessible artwork will appeal to the legions of loyal fans eager for more of the laugh-out-loud humor and deceptively simple cartoon-style art sure to be found in Jeff Kinney’s 17th Diary of a Wimpy Kid book, Diper Overlöde.


It is a truth universally acknowledged that most young readers can’t resist a good animal story. Readers hoping to receive Newbery Medalist Katherine Applegate’s Odder this holiday season are sure to enjoy debut author C.C. Harrington’s touching tale of a girl and a snow leopard who find each other when they are both most in need. 

Endlessly Ever After

This illustrated choose-your-own-adventure journey through fractured fairy tales from Laurel Snyder and Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat is deliciously meta, which is why it’s the perfect choice to pair with the boundary-pushing graphics and nested metanarratives that await young readers in Cat Kid Comic Club: Collaborations, the newest release from Captain Underpants creator Dav Pilkey.

Help your pint-size bibliophile discover new favorites by pairing one of these fun, under-the-radar reads with the popular books at the top of their wish lists!

When a house appears one day at the end of Juniper Drive, Jacqueline “Jac” Price-Dupree’s reaction isn’t what you’d expect from most 12-year-olds, but Jac isn’t like most 12-year-olds. Five years ago, she was diagnosed with a cancer that should have killed her—but didn’t. Ever since, Jac has been haunted by the fear that it might return, so when she sees the house, she wonders if it’s a hallucination. If it’s a symptom.

Jac confirms that the house is definitely real when she, her friend Hazel and two neighborhood bullies become trapped inside it. As they search for a way out, the house conjures surreal terrors that all seem connected to Jac’s deepest fears, from a library filled with typewriters clacking out sickening missives, to a horrifying creature called the Mourner that stalks them through the house, to a message scrawled on the kitchen wall: “The House You’ve Been Entering Always. Welcome Home, Jac.”

‘This Appearing House’ author Ally Malinenko reveals what keeps her coming back to horror.

Author Ally Malinenko’s second middle grade horror novel, This Appearing House, contains plenty of imaginative frights to creep out even the most fearless young connoisseur of scary stories. But by creating a house that’s haunted by Jac’s fears of her cancer’s recurrence, Malinenko brilliantly transforms her novel into a survival tale of the truest kind. In order to escape the house, Jac must find the answer to a question that every person who has lived through—or continues to live with—the trauma of serious illness must eventually confront: How do you keep living when you have come so close to death? 

Through Jac, Malinenko also offers a vital corrective to narratives of disease and disability still commonplace in children’s literature. “Warriors. That’s what they called kids like her. But Jac didn’t feel like a warrior,” Malinenko writes. As she sensitively evokes Jac’s experience of diagnosis and treatment, Malinenko expertly captures the way stories that encourage people to “be brave” and “never stop fighting,” can become traps, prisons in which no admissions of fear or vulnerability can be admitted. Early in the novel, when Jac breaks a ceramic bowl she’d been working on in art class, her teacher offers a moving new perspective: “Everything breaks. . . . But everything can be remade. There is beauty in the breaking and remaking of a thing.”   

At once an inventive and satisfying haunted house story and a powerful exploration of coming to terms with and beginning to heal from trauma, This Appearing House is a triumph.  

Read our Q&A with ‘This Appearing House’ author Ally Malinenko.

By creating a house haunted by a young girl’s fear of the recurrence of her serious illness, author Ally Malinenko brilliantly transforms This Appearing House into a survival tale of the truest kind.
Interview by

When a house appears at the end of Juniper Drive, Jacqueline “Jac” Price-Dupree’s reaction isn’t what you’d expect from most 12-year-olds, but Jac isn’t like most 12-year-olds. Ever since she was diagnosed with cancer five years ago, Jac has been haunted by the fear that it might return, so when Jac sees the house, she wonders if it’s a hallucination. If it’s a symptom. The house fills Jac with terror even before she and her friends wind up trapped inside it—and before Jac discovers that the house knows her name.

Ally Malinenko’s This Appearing House is a surreal and horror-filled story about a girl who must confront her deepest fears and chart a path toward a new future.

Tell us about Jac and where she’s at when we meet her.
Jac is a pretty anxious kid. She’s been through a lot, and she is nearing her five-year anniversary from her cancer diagnosis. She’s still NED—no evidence of disease. Fun fact: We don’t use cured when talking about cancer, because there is no cure. There is only no evidence of disease.

She’s also pretty angry. She’s tired of her mother worrying and hovering. She’s tired of the elephant of a recurrence in the corner of the room all the time. She’s pretty lonely, and at the start of the book, she’s asking the universe a pretty big question. She wants to know if she’ll get what everyone else gets—a full, long life—or if she’ll die young. It’s a lot for a 12-year-old.

Jac’s story is a pretty clear response to some of the cultural narratives that exist around illnesses such as cancer. For readers who might not be familiar, could you briefly describe those narratives? Why was it important to give Jac a different story?
I was diagnosed with cancer when I was 37, and within the first couple of days I realized that warrior language (“you can fight this/you can beat this”) made me very tired very quickly. Because the truth was I wasn’t a warrior. I wasn’t brave. I was just doing what the doctors told me to do and I was hoping for the best.

Having a major disease like cancer changes you. It fundamentally splits your life into “the before” and “the after,” and while that gets smoother over time, the split is always there, like a scar. I wanted Jac to struggle with learning how to let go, because it was something that I struggled with. Letting go and moving on are not always the same thing. I also wanted to show that Jac was angry, and that anger in the face of an unjust world was a perfectly OK response to have.

Everyone looks to people who have been through trauma as some sort of inspiration. But we’re not. We’re just people that something happened to. We’re people who got unlucky and then very lucky.

“We teach kids how to fight monsters so that when a monster eventually turns up in their life, they’ll know what to do.”

This book isn’t your first foray into writing horror. What keeps you coming back to this genre?
I loved reading horror when I was younger. I started with Stephen King at much too young of an age, when I would sneak a page or two off my oldest sister’s bookshelf, so I’m definitely a horror fan.

I think I keep writing horror because I respect it. Horror trusts that kids can handle it. We adults do so much gatekeeping and shielding with kids and I always wonder why. Kids know the world is scary. Look at the last few years alone! We don’t do them any justice if we pretend otherwise.

Middle grade horror makes one promise: It will take you into the dark but it will always always always bring you back to the light. We teach kids how to fight monsters so that when a monster eventually turns up in their life, they’ll know what to do. Honestly, it’s an honor.

Where did this haunted house originate?
Haunted houses are typically metaphors for diseased minds, but I wanted this to be a metaphor for a diseased body. And I knew early on that the house was going to be there specifically for Jac, in this exact moment of her life.

What are some of your favorite haunted house narratives? Did they influence the house in this book?
Growing up, I was obsessed with The Amityville Horror, but rereading it as an adult just makes me sad to see how awful and abusive the father is. That’s an interesting example, because I feel like it’s the most well known of the economic horror subgenre—the “we bought this house and it’s haunted but we don’t have any money to leave” plot.

I am also a huge Shirley Jackson fan (who isn’t?), so I have always been a fan of The Haunting of Hill House. In fact, the opening paragraph of This Appearing House is an homage to the opening paragraph of The Haunting of Hill House.

Jac experiences a lot of truly terrifying—and incredibly imaginative—horrors when she’s trapped in the House. Which one are you most proud of? Which one was the scariest for you to write?
I’m probably most proud of the teeth scene. I had to fight to keep it in the book because my publisher thought it was too scary. In the original version, Hazel was really choking, so this version is a little softened, but yes, plates full of teeth, mouthfuls of teeth. I loved it.

The scariest one? At one point Jac is home and Hazel comes over to visit and Jac’s mother is acting very, very strange. It’s a scene that starts with a plate of eggs and ends with the kids running for their lives. That one was probably the most unnerving to write because you don’t want to have your mother, of all people, turn monstrous.

“Everyone looks to people who have been through trauma as some sort of inspiration. But we’re not. We’re just people that something happened to. We’re people who got unlucky and then very lucky.”

Tell us about the research that went into this book. Were you able to interview kids whose experiences are similar to Jac’s or talk to medical professionals who work with those kids?
Even though I am NED (no evidence of disease), I still go for monthly treatment. I spoke with some nurses about their experiences with kids. A lot of what they had to say I gave to Jac, like this idea that kids want to talk about it because they’re scared, but their parents, who are also deeply afraid, tend to brush away those conversations. But they need to happen.

Jac’s mom doesn’t get a ton of “screen time,” so to speak, but her interactions with Jac are so impactful. What do you hope kids and grown-ups will take away from her character and her relationship with Jac?
I think that Jac’s mom has a lot of unprocessed trauma, just like her daughter, and her way of dealing with it is to pretend it didn’t happen while simultaneously, consistently, fearing that it’s happening again. She goes through a checklist of symptoms when she sees Jac stumble, and that’s exhausting for her daughter.

I hope that it comes across that Jac’s mom does this out of love and fear, even though it’s probably not the best course of action. I want people to sympathize with her. Like her daughter, Jac’s mom also stood on the edge of that abyss.

I know what it’s like to love someone who is going through a life-threatening illness. Both of my parents had cancer, and I remember my father telling me, when my mother was diagnosed, that it was easier to be the patient than the caretaker. After watching what my husband went through when I was diagnosed, I think my dad was right. I hope that people are kind to Jac’s mom and see that, by the end of the book, she’s really trying.

This was an intense and emotional book to read, so I can only imagine what it must have been like to write. How did you take care of yourself as you worked on this book?
Does crying on the floor count as taking care of yourself? I kid. I think the one saving grace I had was that I had some distance between my diagnosis and writing this. I couldn’t have done it right after I was diagnosed. My whole world felt upside down. But with some distance, I realized that I had some things I wanted to share. A story I wanted to tell. Because, truthfully, even though it’s on the book jacket, the word cancer is only used once in the book. Because I never thought it was a “cancer book.” To me, it’s about trauma. About the elasticity of trauma and the work that goes into healing that trauma. That was the story I wanted to tell.

What do you hope kids who feel trapped in their own Houses take away from Jac’s story?
I hope they feel seen. I hope that they know that everything you experience, even the scary things—and maybe especially the scary things—makes you who you are. I hope they know that they might be different now, but that’s OK. All of it matters. And I hope that they remember that even if all the movies and books always depict the sick kid dying, that sometimes, the characters live. Just like they lived.

Did you trick or treat as a kid? If so, what was your favorite candy to receive? If we were to trick-or-treat at your house this year, what would we find in our buckets?
Halloween has always been my favorite holiday and I definitely went trick-or-treating, probably longer than most kids! Milky Ways are definitely my favorite chocolate, but I do love Starburst. Especially the orange ones. If you went trick-or-treating at my house, it’s M&M’S for everyone!

If you found yourself in the opposite of a haunted House—a house filled with joy and delight and serenity—what would await you inside?
Oh, I love this question. It would be filled with books and comfy nooks for naps and endless cups of tea and bottles of wine and all the best comfort food. It would always be dusk so the light would soften everything and the temperature would be just chilly enough so that you would want to snuggle in a blanket. And the house would know exactly what kind of music I’d want to hear without my even asking.

Read our starred review of ‘This Appearing House.’

Author photo of Ally Malinenko courtesy of Bill Wadman.

Ally Malinenko’s This Appearing House is a surreal and horror-filled story about a girl who must confront her deepest fears and chart a path toward a new future.
Feature by

Breathtaking picture books, heartwarming chapter books and enthralling middle grade books await young readers—or anyone who enjoys a good story—in our list of most anticipated children’s books this fall.

Sam’s Super Seats by Keah Brown, illustrated by Sharee Miller
Kokila | August 23

Author Keah Brown created the viral hashtag #DisabledAndCute to challenge widespread misperceptions and representations of disabled people, themes she also explored in The Pretty One, her essay collection for adult readers. In Sam’s Super Seats, her first picture book, Brown introduces Sam, a girl who has cerebral palsy, which means that sometimes she needs to sit down and rest. Engaging illustrations by Sharee Miller capture a fun shopping trip to the mall that Sam shares with her friends before the first day of school. Cheerful and conversational, Sam’s Super Seats is an intersectional addition to the back-to-school picture book canon.

Patchwork by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Corinna Luyken
Putnam | August 30

In recent decades, the Newbery Medal has typically honored longer works of children’s literature, so author Matt de la Peña defied both convention and expectation by winning the 2016 Newbery for Last Stop on Market Street, a picture book that also earned illustrator Christian Robinson a Caldecott Honor. De la Peña has been on a hot streak ever since, publishing two more books with Robinson (Carmela Full of Wishes and Milo Imagines the World) as well as Love, which features art by Loren Long. 

In the meantime, illustrator Corinna Luyken has established a name for herself via thoughtful picture books, including the bestsellers My Heart and The Book of Mistakes, her 2017 debut, as well as through her work with writers such as Kate Hoefler (Nothing in Common) and Marcy Campbell (Something Good). Luyken and de la Peña’s first picture book together, Patchwork is a poetic ode to possibility that’s perfect for readers who love de la Peña’s lyricism and Luyken’s effortlessly impressionistic art.

A Taste of Magic by J. Elle
Bloomsbury | August 30

We don’t like to pat ourselves on the back too much, but we did highlight author J. Elle’s debut novel, a YA fantasy called Wings of Ebony, as one of our most anticipated books of 2021, and the book went on to become an instant bestseller and establish Elle as one of the most exciting new voices in YA. So we were thrilled when Elle’s first book for younger readers, A Taste of Magic, was announced. The story of a young witch named Kyana who enters a baking contest in the hopes of using the prize money to save her magical school, A Taste of Magic looks enchantingly scrumptious.

Magnolia Flower by Zora Neale Hurston, adapted by Ibram X. Kendi, illustrated by Loveis Wise
HarperCollins | September 6

Earlier this year, HarperCollins announced an ambitious new project: National Book Award-winning author and scholar Ibram X. Kendi would adapt six works by Zora Neale Hurston for young readers. Hurston is best known today as a novelist, but she also wrote short stories and collected folk tales as an anthropologist throughout the South. In this first volume, Kendi’s adaptation of one such short story is paired with vibrant illustrations by Loveis Wise, a rising star who has recently illustrated picture books by Ibi Zoboi (The People Remember) and Jeanne Walker Harvey (Ablaze With Color). We can’t think of two people more perfectly suited to bring Hurston’s work to a new generation of readers.

Spy School: Project X by Stuart Gibbs
Simon & Schuster | September 6

In the decade since middle grade author Stuart Gibbs published Spy School, a mystery novel about a boy named Ben who attends the CIA’s top secret Academy of Espionage, Gibbs has written nine more books in his Spy School series. What’s more, he’s also released books in four additional blockbuster series, publishing 14 titles across them. This year, Gibbs publishes his 10th Spy School novel, the opaquely titled Spy School: Project X, in which Ben will go head to head with his longtime nemesis. How is it possible, we ask, to create such consistently thrilling, entertaining reads at such a rapid pace while also getting the recommended eight hours of sleep every night? Our current working theory involves clones, but if Gibbs wants to enlighten us, he knows how to find us.

Farmhouse by Sophie Blackall
Little, Brown | September 13

In the 84-year history of the Caldecott Medal, only a handful of illustrators, including Barbara Cooney, David Wiesner, Leo and Diane Dillon and Robert McCloskey, have won multiple medals. Author-illustrator Sophie Blackall joined their rarified ranks in 2019 when she won her second medal for Hello Lighthouse. (She won her first in 2016 for Finding Winnie.) To create Farmhouse, Blackall incorporates mixed media into her illustrations as she tells a remarkably personal story about a family and their home. 

Odder by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Charles Santoso
Feiwel & Friends | September 20

Author Katherine Applegate has been turning kids into readers with fantastical stories filled with heart for more than two decades, and we’re fortunate that the 2013 Newbery Medalist shows no sign of slowing down. In order to know whether you’ll love this novel in verse about a young sea otter whose life is changed at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, you really only need to look at the cover. Seriously, we dare you to attempt to resist its charms.

The Door of No Return by Kwame Alexander
Little, Brown | September 27

Poet Kwame Alexander took the world of children’s literature by storm when he won the 2015 Newbery Medal for The Crossover, a novel in verse. Not content to rest on his laurels, Alexander won a Newbery Honor in 2020 for The Undefeated, a picture book for which illustrator Kadir Nelson also won the Caldecott Medal. The Door of No Return sees Alexander take another exciting, ambitious step forward, this time into historical fiction. The novel opens in West Africa in 1860 and follows a boy named Kofi who is swept up into the unstoppable current of history.

Meanwhile Back on Earth . . . by Oliver Jeffers
Philomel | October 4

Author-illustrator Oliver Jeffers is one of the most successful picture book creators working today. He’s sold more than 12 million copies of titles that include Stuck, The Heart and the Bottle and, of course, The Day the Crayons Quit, which features text by author Drew Daywalt paired with Jeffers’ unmistakable artwork. Meanwhile Back on Earth continues a theme Jeffers has been exploring since his 2017 book, Here We Are, portraying a parent introducing their children to some aspect of human existence. In this case, Jeffers addresses the long history of conflict among people.

A Rover’s Story by Jasmine Warga
Balzer + Bray | October 4

If you loved Wall-E and Peter Brown’s The Wild Robot, or if looking at the recently released photographs from the James Webb Space Telescope filled you with awe and wonder, you won’t want to miss Jasmine Warga’s middle grade novel A Rover’s Story. Warga has a knack for plumbing the emotional depths of a story, so imbuing a Mars rover with humanity and heart seems like exactly the sort of new challenge we love to see authors take on.  

The Real Dada Mother Goose by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Julia Rothman
Candlewick | October 11

Author Jon Scieszka began his kidlit career with three postmodern picture books: The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!, illustrated by Lane Smith; The Frog Prince, Continued, illustrated by Steven Johnson; and The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, another collaboration with Smith that earned a Caldecott Honor. In the three decades since, Scieszka has brought his signature humor to chapter books, middle grade novels and a memoir. He even served as the first National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. He comes full circle with The Real Dada Mother Goose, partnering with illustrator Julia Rothman to offer a new take on another beloved work of children’s literature, Blanche Fisher Wright’s The Real Mother Goose. We can practically hear the storytime giggles now.

I Don’t Care by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Molly Idle and Juana Martinez-Neal
Neal Porter | October 11

Picture books illustrated by multiple illustrators aren’t unheard of, though in such cases, each illustrator typically works individually, creating separate images and giving each page a different look and feel. It’s much less common for illustrators to truly collaborate and create artwork together, as Caldecott Medalists Molly Idle and Juana Martinez-Neal did with I Don’t Care, a quirky ode to friendship with text by bestselling author Julie Fogliano. We hope their work inspires more collaborative picture books in the future.

Our Friend Hedgehog: A Place to Call Home by Lauren Castillo
Knopf | October 18

Caldecott Honor recipient Lauren Castillo published Our Friend Hedgehog: The Story of Us in May 2020—little more than two years ago, and yet it feels like centuries have passed since then. Castillo completed our Meet the Author questionnaire in February of that year. “What message would you like to send to young readers?” we asked her. “Be brave,” she wrote, with no way of knowing how much bravery we were all about to need. In Our Friend Hedgehog: A Place to Call Home, Castillo returns at long last to the woodsy world of Hedgehog and her friends for more stories of adventure and friendship, and we can’t wait to join her there.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
Orchard | October 18

Author Mac Barnett and illustrator Jon Klassen first collaborated in 2012. The result of that collaboration, Extra Yarn, won a Caldecott Honor. They’ve since created five more picture books together, including Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, which won another Caldecott Honor, and the Shapes trilogy (Triangle, Square and Circle), all featuring Barnett’s dry wit and Klassen’s deceptively simple art. The duo will enter ambitious new territory this fall as they launch a planned series of reenvisioned fairy tales, beginning with the Norwegian story of The Three Billy Goats Gruff.  

The Tryout by Christina Soontornvat, illustrated by Joanna Cacao
Graphix | November 1

In 2021, Christina Soontornvat joined an exclusive club, becoming one of only a few authors to receive Newbery recognition for two different books in the same year. What’s more, Soontornvat’s two Newbery Honors were for two very different books, a fantasy novel (A Wish in the Dark) and a work of narrative nonfiction (All Thirteen). But Soontornvat has always had range, publishing fiction and nonfiction picture books and a chapter book series in addition to her middle grade titles. With The Tryout, Soontornvat takes on two more new categories in one book: graphic novels and memoir. Accompanied by illustrations from webcomic artist Joanna Cacao, Soontornvat tells a story drawn from her own middle school experiences that fans of Jerry Craft’s New Kid and Shannon Hale’s Real Friends will enjoy.

Discover all our most anticipated books of fall 2022.

Forget homework and after-school activities. Instead, make time to enjoy these upcoming children’s books.
Feature by

Blockbuster series conclude, while series openers launch gripping new stories. Classic tales are remixed and revisited, and original stories open our eyes to new possibilities. If there’s one thing we can say with certainty about fall’s most anticipated new YA books, it’s this: We guarantee you’ll never get bored.

Nothing More to Tell by Karen M. McManus
Delacorte | August 30

As of this writing, Karen M. McManus’ debut YA mystery, One of Us Is Lying, has spent 233 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. It’s been adapted into a television series on Peacock (season two drops on October 22!) and firmly reawakened YA readers’ love for mysteries with loads of jaw-dropping twists and reveals. Nothing More to Tell sees McManus turn to a cold-case mystery, the death of a prep-school teacher whose body is discovered in the woods by three students—all of whom are hiding something.

The Final Gambit by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Little, Brown | August 30

If a more clever mystery series than Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ Inheritance Games trilogy has hit shelves in the past five years, we’ll turn in our magnifying glasses and fake mustaches now. In addition to incredible writing chops, Barnes has a PhD from Yale and has studied psychology and cognitive science as a Fulbright Scholar at Cambridge University, and it shows on every page of these delicious novels. The Final Gambit finds series protagonist Avery facing one last puzzle before inheriting a fortune that will make her the wealthiest teenager on Earth.

Dead Flip by Sara Farizan
Algonquin | August 30

Did you inhale the fourth season of “Stranger Things” and still want more of its unique blend of horror, nostalgia and ride-or-die friendship? Then you won’t want to miss Lambda Literary Award-winning Sara Farizan’s fourth novel, Dead Flip. Farizan fast-forwards to the late 1980s to tell the story of three BFFs whose lives are changed forever when one of them disappears—then reappears, five years later in 1992, and doesn’t seem to have aged a day.

The Sunbearer Trials by Aiden Thomas
Feiwel & Friends | September 6

In the fall of 2020, YA author Aiden Thomas made history when his debut novel, Cemetery Boys, became the first work of fiction by a transgender author about a transgender protagonist to hit a New York Times bestseller list. Since then, Thomas’ star has only continued to rise, and this September, they’ll launch their first duology with The Sunbearer Trials. If you’ve been searching for a fantasy novel that combines a competition-based plot with Mexican mythology-inspired magic, look no further.

Self-Made Boys | Anna-Marie McLemore
Feiwel & Friends | September 6

Calling all lovers of retellings and remixes! We’re going to assume you already know about the Remixed Classics series, in which some of today’s best and brightest YA authors put their spin on English-class standards including Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. But you might not know that acclaimed YA author Anna-Marie McLemore is joining the series to tackle F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. In McLemore’s vision, Nick Carraway becomes Nicolás Caraveo, a Latinx transgender boy whose cousin, Daisy Fabrega, has been passing as white among the wealthy residents of East Egg, New York. We can’t wait to see how McLemore will transform Fitzgerald’s dazzling Jazz Age tale.

The Weight of Blood by Tiffany D. Jackson
Katherine Tegen | September 6

Tiffany D. Jackson won the 2019 Coretta Scott King John Steptoe Award for New Talent for her second novel, Monday’s Not Coming, and she’s been delivering on its promise ever since. If there’s one thing Jackson fans have learned, it’s that Jackson has range. Take, for example, the three books she released in 2021: Blackout, created in collaboration with five other amazing writers, was an incomparable ode to summer love in New York City; White Smoke was a terrifying haunted-house horror novel; and Santa in the City was one of the sweetest additions to the Christmas picture book canon we’ve seen in years. With The Weight of Blood, Jackson returns to the horror genre to offer an updated take on Carrie set at a Georgia high school’s first racially integrated prom.

The Epic Story of Every Living Thing by Deb Caletti
Labyrinth Road | September 13

If you wear glasses, you might recall how, in the moments after you first put them on, everything suddenly became sharper and more in focus. That’s sort of what it’s like to pick up a Deb Caletti novel. Since her debut, The Queen of Everything (which will be 20 years old this year!), Caletti has steadily been publishing some of the best and most incisive contemporary YA fiction around and garnering plenty of acclaim, too, including a Michael L. Printz Honor and a National Book Award finalist. The Epic Story of Every Living Thing follows social media-obsessed Harper, who decides to track down the man whose sperm donation her mom used to conceive her—and learns that she has more than 40 half siblings.

The Ballad of Never After by Stephanie Garber
Flatiron | September 13

It’s hard to think of a bigger recent breakout success in YA fantasy than Stephanie Garber, who burst onto the scene in 2017 with her blockbuster novel, Caraval. After finishing her first trilogy, Garber showed no sign of slowing down, launching a companion series with 2021’s Once Upon a Broken Heart, another instant bestseller. Garber is now a proven expert at blending enchanting fantasy, swoonworthy romance and plots filled with intrigue and surprises, so we recommend blocking off a day or two when The Ballad of Never After releases, as we suspect reading it in one sitting will not be optional.

I’m the Girl by Courtney Summers
Wednesday | September 13

Are you still emotionally recovering from Courtney Summers’ 2018 breakout YA novel, Sadie, and its portrayal of the power of sisterhood in the face of the darkest aspects of patriarchy and misogyny? Then you may want to begin preparing now for I’m the Girl, a standalone thriller that sees Summers return to similar themes but turns the emotional turmoil up to 13. And yes, we know the emotional turmoil dial only goes to 10.

Bone Weaver by Aden Polydoros
Inkyard | September 20

Aden Polydoros’ 2021 traditional publishing debut, The City Beautiful, was one of the most rewarding surprises of last year. BookPage praised the novel, a supernatural murder mystery set against the backdrop of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, as “a gorgeous, disturbing, visceral and mystical experience.” In Bone Weaver, Polydoros shifts settings to a fantasy world inspired by early 20th century Russia to tell the story of three teens thrown together on the tides of history. We can’t wait to see where Polydoros’ imagination will take him next.

A Scatter of Light by Malinda Lo
Dutton | October 4

Until 2021, YA author Malinda Lo was best known for genre fiction, especially Ash, her groundbreaking Sapphic reimagining of “Cinderella.” Then came Last Night at the Telegraph Club, which received so many awards (including the National Book Award, the Stonewall Book Award, the Asian Pacific American Award for Literature and a Michael L. Printz Honor) that their circular badges almost don’t fit on the book’s cover. A deeply researched work of historical fiction, Last Night at the Telegraph Club was the work of a writer who’d been honing her craft for more than a decade. Lo returns to shelves with A Scatter of Light, a companion novel set 60 years later, during the summer in which the Supreme Court recognized same-sex marriage by overturning California’s Proposition Eight. 

I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman
Scholastic | October 18

Netflix’s adaptation of “Heartstopper,” based on Alice Oseman’s web comic-turned-graphic novel series of the same name, received nearly universal acclaim and became a bona fide hit when it was released this spring. The feel-good series’ incredible success means that legions of new Oseman fans are eagerly awaiting the author’s next YA novel (and any “Heartstopper” Easter eggs it might contain). I Was Born for This follows Angel, a megafan of a popular new boy band, and Jimmy, the band’s leader, as their lives unexpectedly intersect.  

The Luminaries by Susan Dennard
Tor Teen | November 1

A new novel from beloved YA fantasy author Susan Dennard would be cause for celebration under any circumstances, but a new novel that will open a brand-new contemporary fantasy series that looks as unputdownable as The Luminaries? Let’s just say that we’ll be counting the days until the book’s November 1 publication date. Featuring one of the most memorable book covers of the fall, The Luminaries follows Winnie Wednesday, who is determined to restore her family’s place among the mysterious group that protects her hometown of Hemlock Falls from the monstrous creatures that dwell in the forest that surrounds the town.

Seasparrow by Kristin Cashore
Dutton | November 1

Nine years elapsed between the publication of Bitterblue, the third novel in Kristin Cashore’s bestselling Graceling Realm series, and Winterkeep, the series’ fourth book, so you’ll understand why Cashore fans’ joy might seem unusually effusive at the news that a fifth book, Seasparrow, will hit shelves after just a short 21-month wait. Of course, Cashore is a fantasy writer like no other, and we’d wait a lot longer than 21 months for a chance to return to the magical worlds and intricate stories that have become her hallmark. We don’t want to give too much away, so we’ll just say that Seasparrow picks up where Winterkeep left off and centers around a new character introduced in a previous novel. 

Whiteout by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk and Nicola Yoon
Quill Tree | November 8

Last summer, six powerhouse YA authors joined forces to create Blackout, a once-in-a-lifetime literary event that followed six interconnected love stories that all unfolded during a midsummer blackout in New York City. All six authors will return for Whiteout, which shifts the setting to Atlanta and the season to winter, with an unexpected blizzard serving as the plot engine. Readers whose ideal romance involves twinkling snowflakes and steaming mugs of cocoa will want to be sure to cozy up with Whiteout this winter. Just don’t forget your mittens!

Discover all our most anticipated books of fall 2022.

Fall’s biggest YA releases promise twists and turns, thrills and swoons.
Interview by

When Orthodox Jewish teen Hoodie Rosen sees a girl dancing on the sidewalk outside the window of his yeshiva classroom, he has no idea that the connection they’ll form will lead them to question everything they believe and change both of their lives forever.

Debut novelist Isaac Blum’s The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen might be the funniest YA book of the year, thanks to Hoodie’s often hilarious, deeply authentic narration. It’s also an unflinching portrait of how hate can take root in a community—with tragic results.

Blum spoke with BookPage about balancing humor with heartbreak and horror, and why his novel’s intense emotions will ring true for teen readers.

Tell us about Hoodie and Anna-Marie when we first meet them.
Yehuda “Hoodie” Rosen is goofy and sarcastic. He attends yeshiva, where he studies Jewish stuff plus “regular” school stuff. He doesn’t take much seriously. He hates zucchini.

Anna-Marie Diaz-O’Leary is a more “typical” teenager. She goes to the local public school and spends a lot of time thinking about boys. She practices different dances and makes TikTok videos with her friends. Compared to Hoodie, she’s serious, thoughtful and confident in her place in the world.

When the book starts, Hoodie has just moved to a new town, where his father is helping their Orthodox community build a high-rise apartment building to house more Orthodox families. Anna-Marie is mourning her father, who has recently passed away. She’s lived in Tregaron, Pennsylvania, all her life, and her mother is the mayor and hellbent on preventing the Orthodox community from growing in their town.

You do a great job of representing how neither Hoodie nor Anna-Marie see each other clearly, and yet they form what turns out to be a life-changing connection. What was challenging and what was fun about writing their relationship?
The difficult part was making their respective confusion feel true. I needed them to have very different understandings of their relationship, but for both of their perspectives to feel valid to the reader. That was challenging, and I asked myself over and over, “Will the reader buy what Hoodie’s thinking here? Will the reader understand why Anna-Marie thinks about this so differently?” I relied heavily on early readers to help me get that right.

“You’re going to deeply trust somebody who works hard to know you.”

The fun part was that once I got that balance where I wanted it, I could use Hoodie’s and Anna-Marie’s inability to read each other for some funny and surprising moments. I also think their initially crossed signals make the relationship they do create more meaningful, because they had to work to get there. It’s hard-earned. You’re going to deeply trust somebody who works hard to know you.

My list of favorite supporting characters in this book is not short. (The list is topped by Hoodie’s sisters Chana and Zippy and his friend Moshe Tzvi.) Who was your favorite supporting character to write?
You and I have the same top three. I’d probably even put them in that order, so that makes Chana my favorite. She was definitely the most fun to write.

The thing about Zippy and Moshe Tzvi is that they both have some heavy lifting to do in the book. Zippy has to help Hoodie come of age, show him that she’ll love him unconditionally and then cede the eldest sibling position to him. Moshe Tzvi has to be the studious foil to Hoodie’s slacker, and then he has to have his own coming-of-age arc, in which he grows into a place where he can disagree with his father about Hoodie’s place in the community.

Chana has no such responsibilities. She just stands up on the roof and throws soup at people. Writing her was just me sitting around thinking of silly pranks for her to pull.

Hoodie narrates from some unknown point in the future. It’s right there in the opening line: “Later, I tried to explain to Rabbi Moritz why it was ironic that my horrible crime was the thing that saved the whole community.” Was this perspective always part of the novel? Why did you employ it?
That perspective is there because of the opening line, or at least the first couple paragraphs. Before I’d outlined the novel at all, those first lines came into my head, and I wrote them like that, and I never changed them. But I like this narrative tool for a couple reasons:

It establishes tension and a bit of suspense right off the bat. Hoodie tells the reader that the events of the novel “humiliated him on a global scale,” “put him in the ICU” and “ruined his life.” Hopefully the reader wonders how all that went down and looks forward to reading about it.

That narrative device also lets the reader know that Hoodie makes it to the end of the novel alive and on good enough terms with Rabbi Moritz that Hoodie can try to explain the story’s ironies to him. I’m not categorically against having horrible things happen to my protagonist, but there’s enough grave stuff going on already in this book, and I didn’t see the need for the reader to worry about Hoodie’s fate.

“I think that being a high school teacher is a great job if you’re going to write YA.”

You’ve taught English at Orthodox schools. How did those experiences come into play as you worked on the novel? 
I think that being a high school teacher is a great job if you’re going to write YA. Whether you want to or not, as a teacher you learn a ton about your students’ worlds. And if you forget what it’s actually like to be a teenager, you’re reminded every day. In this case, if you happen to be writing a book from the point of view of an Orthodox yeshiva student, it certainly helps if you spend your days surrounded by Orthodox yeshiva students.

While the novel is not based on my students—I don’t think that would be fair to them—it’s certainly influenced by them: their struggles to balance modernity with tradition, their fears of antisemitism and the way the rest of the world sees them, and their humanity and sense of humor.

The novel itself was inspired by a real-life event, too. Can you tell us about that?
On December 10, 2019, there was a shooting at a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, New Jersey. Two shooters opened fire on shoppers in a targeted antisemitic attack. It was one of a number of violent attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions around that time, but this one in particular moved me. Within a week of the shooting, I started outlining the story of an Orthodox Jewish teen who finds himself caught in the middle of violent antisemitism—plus all of the normal things teens are caught in the middle of, like crises of identity, first love, etc.

The shooting at the market followed months of growing tension—in Jersey City and elsewhere—between long-established communities and a new influx of Orthodox Jews. I created my own long-established community, the fictional town of Tregaron, Pennsylvania, and put Hoodie at the center of his community’s move into the town.

What do you hope readers take away from Hoodie’s deep connections to his family and his community?
I have two answers to this question, one specific, one general:

In many mainstream depictions of Orthodox Judaism, the protagonist is depicted as oppressed by their own community. There are lots of “leaving narratives,” stories where the main character is fleeing the religion, leaving their family behind. And while any orthodoxy won’t be for everybody—Hoodie isn’t sure if it’s for him—a close-knit community like Hoodie’s has so much warmth and love to offer. I wanted to make sure readers saw the positive, supportive qualities of Hoodie’s community alongside the flaws.

“It’s totally cool to be furious with the people you love. While that’s a painful feeling, it can be a starting point for growth.”

The more general point is that all families and communities are like that: flawed. With the caveat that some family relationships aren’t reconcilable, I hope readers see Hoodie’s story as an argument that it’s worth finding ways to maintain connections to your family or community, even when you’re angry at them, even when they’ve wronged you. It’s totally cool to be furious with the people you love. While that’s a painful feeling, it can be a starting point for growth.

The novel swings very quickly between humor, contemplation and heartbreak. Why was this important to you? What was the key to getting these shifts right?
I think that’s the adolescent experience. Teens feel stuff really strongly. We all cycle through our moods and feelings, from humor to contemplation to heartbreak and back again. But I think teens cycle quicker, and they feel each one more intensely. And I think it’s important to show that those seemingly contradictory feelings are going to exist next to each other, that you can experience heartbreak with a sense of humor, or that you can ask yourself important life questions without being overwhelmed by the gravity of them.

The key to the shifts for me, honestly, was self-restraint. It’s my instinct, like it’s Hoodie’s, to turn everything into a quip or a joke, to deflect from the serious back to the humorous. So when I thought Hoodie should take a step back and ask a big question, or when I knew I had to write a heavy scene, I tried to rein in that side of me and let those moments breathe.

How did you make sure the humorous moments were actually funny?
I still have no idea if the humorous moments are actually funny. When you write a novel, you spend a lot of time with it, so it has to be something you want to read. I had fun writing goofy scenes. I enjoyed reading them later. I was amused by them. But it’s often hard to judge your own work, and of course you don’t know if the reader will share your sense of humor.

To that end, I have a critique partner—let’s call him Rob, because that’s his name—who functions as a kind of snark police. When I’m too self-indulgent with the goofiness, especially to the point where it distracts from the narrative, he berates me and forces me to trim the excess stuff that’s not funny, and I’m very grateful.

“Sometimes in the most horrific moments, levity really does help. You can take the world seriously, confront its horrors and still find time to laugh.”

This novel has some awful events. I’d like the humor to show that while existence contains innumerable ills, such as bigotry, hate crime and zucchini, it’s worth keeping your sense of humor. Sometimes in the most horrific moments, levity really does help. You can take the world seriously, confront its horrors and still find time to laugh.

Hoodie asks himself big questions about whether the life he thought he was supposed to want is the life he actually wants. What advice would you give teens asking themselves similar questions?
Oh man. I’m certain that I’m not qualified to give this advice. But here are two thoughts:

First, you can only be you. So once you figure out who that person is, just be that person. Hoodie finds a way to be himself and still be part of his community, but that’s not possible for everybody. And if you figure out who you are, and the people around you won’t accept that person, then the flaw is with them, not with you.

Second, lean on people you trust, people who will support you unconditionally. Find those people and let them help you.

Hoodie memorably waxes poetic about his love for Starburst, so I have to ask: What is your favorite Starburst flavor? What is your least favorite? What do you hope never becomes a Starburst flavor?
Most flavors should not be Starburst flavors. Starburst flavors should be limited to fruit. I tend to think of them in terms of color. Pink is my favorite. I assume pink is everyone’s favorite. I don’t understand why they make nonpink flavors. Yellow and orange are bad. Those are the ones you give away to your friends when you pretend to be a good sharer.

Read our review of ‘The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen.’

Author photo of Isaac Blum courtesy of Milton Lindsay.

The debut novelist explores faith, friendship and family in The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen.

Fifteen-year-old Yehuda “Hoodie” Rosen and his Orthodox Jewish family, along with many members of their community, have recently moved to Tregaron, Pennsylvania, because the cost of living in their previous town became too expensive. When Hoodie meets Anna-Marie Diaz-O’Leary, the daughter of Tregaron’s mayor, he’s instantly smitten. Yet after he and Anna-Marie are spotted cleaning some up antisemitic graffiti together, both Hoodie’s father and rabbi forbid him from seeing her again because she isn’t Jewish.

As Hoodie and Anna-Marie continue to secretly grow closer, tensions rise in Tregaron. Many residents oppose the high-rise that Hoodie’s father, a developer, wants to build in order to house more Orthodox families, and they express their opinions through verbal and physical antisemitic attacks. With so much at stake, Hoodie questions why his relationship with Anna-Marie is being so heavily scrutinized—and whether he even wants to be part of his Orthodox community anymore. 

The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen, Isaac Blum’s first book, is an earnest story about belonging, faith and the sometimes tragic consequences of failing to see other people as fully human. As Hoodie vacillates between embracing and doubting his faith, his narration is deeply, even startlingly hilarious, filled with irreverent observations that ring with teenage-boy authenticity. Blum also offers many slice-of-life scenes guaranteed to leave readers breathless with laughter, such as a yeshiva classroom discussion led by Rabbi Moritz about how to know whether the day has begun (the answer: “when there is enough light to distinguish between an ass and a wild ass”). The lesson devolves as Hoodie’s best friend ponders aloud whether the distinction is made by “a small but proud group, the ass rabbinate,” then asks the rabbi for his blessing to become “an ass student,” which Rabbi Moritz does not grant. 

Discover how Isaac Blum created the funniest YA narrator of the year.

Blum surrounds Hoodie with a cast of well-crafted characters, including his sisters, his yeshiva friends and Anna-Marie herself. Readers concerned that Anna-Marie initially feels shallowly drawn—and that Hoodie’s dreams of an everlasting romance with her are perhaps too idealistic—will be pleased by the transformation Blum successfully pulls off by the novel’s conclusion. 

Some readers may not find all of the novel’s rapid shifts between humor and seriousness to be flawless, though Hoodie’s recounting of a scene of brutal antisemitic violence near the novel’s end is word perfect. Overall, The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen marks Blum as an exciting new talent in realistic YA fiction.

Read our Q&A with ‘The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen’ author Isaac Blum.

Isaac Blum’s debut novel is an earnest and often deeply hilarious story about belonging, faith and the sometimes tragic consequences of failing to see other people as fully human.
Interview by

Sometimes our hearts can be so clueless. Neil Kearney finds this out the hard way when his friend-with-benefits catches feelings. Neil doesn’t reciprocate, so now he’s lost not only a steady hookup but also a date to his brother’s wedding.

The solution? Neil ropes his obnoxiously earnest, annoyingly hardworking, aggravatingly kind boarding school roommate, Wyatt Fowler, into pretending to be boyfriends for the weeklong nuptial festivities. Sure, Neil and Wyatt can hardly stand each other (Wyatt wears Crocs, for goodness sake!), but what’s the worst that can happen in a week?

Acclaimed author Mason Deaver’s third YA novel, The Feeling of Falling in Love, is a rom-com romp about finding love and yourself when you least expect it.

In the novel’s acknowledgments, you mention that it took years to crack this story. What turned out to be the key to unlocking it?
The book has been through so many iterations. It was originally a road trip novel in which Neil enlisted Wyatt to help him get revenge on a boy who cheated on him, and along the way, Neil and Wyatt would fall in love but deny their feelings. So, different, but not that different. Neil and Wyatt largely stayed the same since those original drafts, but I could never really figure out how to connect myself to that plot. And if I can’t do that, then I can’t write something; that’s just how my brain is. 

Then I watched My Best Friend’s Wedding at the suggestion of another writer-friend, and everything that I wasn’t getting clicked in an instant: a wedding instead of a road trip, fake dating while also actually falling in love slowly over the week, family drama. 

How would you describe Neil and Wyatt when we first meet them?
Neil and Wyatt start the book in very opposite places. Neil begins the book in (what I think he’d believe is) a time of contentment. He has friends, he has his thing with Josh, he’s away from his family. Wyatt really is the only thing that concerns him, simply because Wyatt is Wyatt. 

Wyatt, however, is frustrated, a fish out of water in a school full of people who make them feel unwelcome, away from their family when they’d love to be back home, doing double the work just to make sure they can maintain their place at a prestigious school they’d probably rather not be at. 

But as we move along to the wedding, Neil feels more unwelcome because of who his family is and how they treat him, and while Wyatt might not feel at home around Neil’s family, they’re able to handle the situation better than Neil. It’s a chance for Wyatt to understand where Neil is coming from and what he’s gone through, while Neil comes to understand how his actions have made Wyatt feel. 

I think that’s what makes them both perfect for each other: They’re missing what the other has, and they’re never afraid to challenge each other. 

“It’s a scary thing, asking someone to love you, and it’s never just once. Love is a risk you take every single day.”

The Feeling of Falling in Love has such great tropes, including a time-constrained plot, fake dating, a wedding and an enemies-to-lovers romance. What do you love about these tropes? 
This book has some of my favorite tropes, even ones you didn’t mention, like a grumpy/sunshine dynamic and a height difference. But enemies-to-lovers (or enemies-to-friends-to-lovers, rather) is an absolute favorite of mine. I love exploring just why these characters dislike each other—sometimes for valid reasons, other times for something shallow and silly—and watching as they slowly find common ground, a connection. 

What elements of the tropes did you want to preserve in this book versus what elements did you want to upend or subvert?
I wanted to subvert something you might not think of as a trope—but sometimes tropes can be a bad thing—which is the idea of a trans/cis romance. It’s so common in stories about a transgender person falling in love for them to find a relationship with a cisgender person. Even my own work includes it. Wyatt’s character was trying to tell me something about themselves I hadn’t cracked yet. And now the book gets to be a sweet romance between two trans teens, something even more rare than the trans rom-com.  

Neil’s reflection on his relationship to his body after gender-confirmation surgery is so powerful and complex. Why was it important to you to include these moments in the story?
Neil’s relationship to his body is a story that mirrors mine and many other trans people’s stories. There’s this idea that surgery is a magical fix for trans people, or that it’s this necessary party of transitioning, and that once you’ve gotten it, all your dysphoria vanishes—when that couldn’t be further from the truth. Some trans people want surgery, and nothing can be more affirming. Others are fine with just having one surgery over the other. Some might not want surgery at all or even to undergo hormone replacement therapy. There’s no one singular way to be trans, and so long as you’re comfortable with where you are in your journey, nothing else has to matter. 

I very much wanted to explore how different trans experiences can be. Neil is at a place in his journey where he wanted top surgery but not bottom surgery, where he was offered the chance to cover his scars but decided they’re a point of pride for him. He’s very proud of his trans body, and he likes who he is, for the most part. 

“Neil and Wyatt rhyme with each other. They have what the other doesn’t, both literally and metaphorically.”

I also really love that you explore how deeply class differences impact how Neil and Wyatt have been perceiving each other. How did you craft this aspect of the novel, and what do you hope readers take from it?
On the surface, it was such an easy way to make Neil unlikable. He’s a spoiled rich kid with no regard for anyone but himself. He dresses in expensive brands, throws money at his problems and doesn’t seem to have a care in the world. I love characters like that, the irredeemable jerks you aren’t meant to like. 

But beyond the surface of Neil’s character, I wanted to explore this idea that money hasn’t really gotten him anywhere. He afforded the surgeries and his expensive school, but at the cost of any real connections in his life, both to his friends and to his family. 

Neil and Wyatt rhyme with each other. They have what the other doesn’t, both literally and metaphorically. Neil’s money would solve so many of Wyatt’s issues at home, allow their parents to take a break and pay off loans or buy new clothing. But Wyatt’s family have these rich connections with one another, and they’re an actual family who love and care for one another. So Neil has something Wyatt wants, and Wyatt has something that Neil wants. The two of them go together in that sense.  

There are two incredibly rich scenes in this book that both involve suits. What kinds of research did you do to create these scenes? Why are these scenes so meaningful for Neil and for Wyatt, and how did you create that richness of meaning?
Just as reaffirming as surgery can be, fashion for trans people is instrumental in our ability to represent ourselves. Sure, clothing has no gender and anyone should be able to wear whatever they want, but for trans people, that euphoria of searching through the men’s or women’s section can mean so much as we find cuts and styles that make us feel welcome in our bodies. 

I spent way too much time researching the brands in the book, even the ones that aren’t named, scoping their websites and using their catalogs to give Neil his knowledge and love of fashion. Neil loves the feeling of a suit and that euphoria it gives him to dress exactly how he feels, while Wyatt has never had access to these kinds of clothes before. Wyatt becomes uncomfortable when presented with clothes that could put groceries on his family’s dinner table, whereas Neil doesn’t bat an eye as he swipes his mother’s credit card without even asking Wyatt how he feels. 

The novel includes a number of what I’d call near kisses—moments when it seems like Neil and Wyatt are definitely going to kiss, but don’t. Be honest: Did you ever laugh an evil laugh while writing these?
Absolutely I evil laugh. I love these fake-out moments, these just misses. It adds so much to the characters, gives them so much to reflect on, these fleeting moments when something could’ve happened, but didn’t. 

“There’s still such a lack of romance stories centered on trans characters, on trans joy, trans happiness and trans characters finding love in both themselves and each other. It makes me sad that we don’t have more.”

Toward the end of the novel, a few different characters offer Neil some pretty similar pieces of advice. My favorite is when Neil’s cousin tells him, “Love is a risk, okay? Every single person in love takes a risk every single day of their lives.” What advice would you give someone who, like Neil, finds love absolutely terrifying?
That entire ending is a conversation with myself, I think. Being trans and wanting love are two things that always seem at odds with each other. Wanting a relationship with someone means outing myself and having that conversation, something that could potentially go very badly and end things. Or, possibly worse, they just don’t understand your identity. 

It’s a scary thing, asking someone to love you, and it’s never just once. Love is a risk you take every single day, and it’s never one of those things that gets less scary, you just learn how to deal with it on a day-to-day basis. 

That’s what Neil is struggling with: letting someone in who could possibly hurt him, letting someone see the uglier side of him, working on himself to keep this relationship alive. It’s the lesson he learns in the book, that love is a risk worth taking. 

I’m ending at the beginning: This book is dedicated to “every trans person who ever believed they were too complicated for a love story.” Why are stories of trans love and trans joy so important? 
I grew up never seeing stories about queer love. The first time I ever read a book where a queer character got a happy ending, got the boy and the kiss, was Becky Albertalli‘s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. Steadily, year by year, we’ve been opening ourselves up to so many different stories by so many different kinds of writers, and it’s amazing to see. 

But there’s still such a lack of romance stories centered on trans characters, on trans joy, trans happiness and trans characters finding love in both themselves and each other. It makes me sad that we don’t have more. But that just means that we need to foster trans writers, uplift their work and convince them that their stories are worth being told and worth being put on shelves.

Read our starred review of ‘The Feeling of Falling in Love.’

Author photo of Mason Deaver courtesy of Mason Deaver.

Acclaimed author Mason Deaver's third YA novel, The Feeling of Falling in Love, is a rom-com romp about finding love and yourself when you least expect it.

Sabaa Tahir’s Ember in the Ashes quartet is one of the most influential YA fantasy series of the past decade. In All My Rage, Tahir proves she’s just as skilled at contemporary realistic fiction.

All My Rage alternates between the perspectives of former best friends Salahudin and Noor. As the novel opens, both teens feel stuck in their small town of Juniper, which is surrounded by the Mojave Desert. Earlier in their senior year, Noor told Sal about the romantic feelings she’d been harboring for him, but Sal rejected her, and they haven’t spoken since.

Sal’s parents, Misbah and Toufiq, run a roadside motel that has seen better days. Misbah has been skipping treatments for her kidney disease, and Toufiq is drunk more than he’s sober. Noor’s uncle adopted her when she was 6, but he resents that raising her has meant deferring his own dream of becoming an engineer and wants her to take over running his liquor store when she graduates.

Noor’s been secretly applying to colleges and ignoring the texts from Sal’s mom asking when she’s going to visit so they can watch their favorite soap opera together again. Yet when Misbah’s health takes a turn for the worse, it’s Noor who’s in her hospital room to hear her last word: “Forgive.” Noor reconciles with Sal and the two grow closer while continuing to keep secrets from each other. As the truth comes to light, Sal and Noor must each decide what can—and should—be forgiven.

All My Rage takes the often cliched all-American trope of two young people who long to leave their small town behind and fills it with moral complexity and emotional heft. The book’s six sections each open with a stanza from “One Art,” Elizabeth Bishop’s villanelle about grief and “the art of losing,” which Noor struggles to write a paper about for English class. Sal and Noor experience numerous losses, and Tahir excels at conveying how trauma and tragedy ripple outward, shaping even the lives of those who seem untouched by darkness.

Tahir explores weighty questions, such as how we can forgive someone for hurting us when they should have been protecting us, but she includes frequent moments of wry levity and solace, especially the comfort Noor finds in music and the Muslim faith she shared with Sal’s mother. All My Rage will likely make you cry, but it will definitely make you smile, too.

“If we are lost, God is like water, finding the unknowable path when we cannot,” Misbah tells Noor. Tahir’s invitation to join Sal and Noor on their search for such a path feels like a gift every step of the way.

In All My Rage, a novel about two teens desperate to leave their small town, Sabaa Tahir proves she’s just as skilled at contemporary fiction as she is at epic fantasy.

Sign Up

Stay on top of new releases: Sign up for our enewsletters to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres.

Trending Features

Sign Up

Sign up to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres!