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Our top 10 books for March 2024

The best new books of the month include highly anticipated follow-ups from Sloane Crosley, Sasha LaPointe and Juan Gómez-Jurado.
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Book jacket image for 49 Days by Agnes Lee

49 Days is an unusual, profoundly moving graphic novel whose elegance belies its complexity and whose emotional impact only grows upon rereading.

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Book jacket image for All That Grows by Jack Wong

In All That Grows, Jack Wong evokes the soft haze of childhood summers where a small stand of trees might be seen as a huge

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Book jacket image for Black Wolf by Juan Gomez-Jurado

The Antonia Scott series is hands-down the best suspense trilogy to come along since Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy.

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A lushly crafted tale of a Maine fishing village cursed by a mermaid, The Moorings of Mackerel Sky is a debut to submerge yourself in.

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Book jacket image for Mrs. Gulliver by Valerie Martin

In Mrs. Gulliver, Valerie Martin offers us an idyll, perhaps even a comedy. All’s well that ends well. We hope.

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Book jacket image for The Phoenix Bride by Natasha Siegel

Natasha Siegel’s beautifully written The Phoenix Bride pushes readers to reconsider what happily ever after looks like.

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Book jacket image for Thunder Song by Sasha LaPointe

Thunder Song is an essay collection full of sensitive meditations and powerful observations from Coast Salish author Sasha LaPointe.

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Book jacket image for The Unclaimed by Pamela Prickett

Gripping and groundbreaking, The Unclaimed investigates the Americans who are abandoned in death and what they tell us about how we treat the living.

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Book jacket image for The Great Divide by Cristina Henriquez

Cristina Henriquez’s polyvocal novel is a moving and powerful epic about the human cost of building the Panama Canal. It’s easy to imagine, in these

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Novelist, essayist, humorist and critic Sloane Crosley shows a remarkable willingness to face the dark questions that follow a suicide.

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Recent Features

Recent Reviews

The best new books of the month include highly anticipated follow-ups from Sloane Crosley, Sasha LaPointe and Juan Gómez-Jurado.
Interview by

Few YA series have garnered the level of devotion and praise achieved by Holly Black’s Folk of the Air series (FOTA), which followed Jude Duarte and her battle for power in Faerie. It’s no surprise that Black’s massive fan base rejoiced when the author released a spinoff duology, the Novels of Elfhame. Picking up right after the events of the first book, The Stolen Heir, The Prisoner’s Throne finds Suren, now queen of the Court of Teeth, and Oak Greenbriar, Jude’s brother and heir to the crown of Elfhame, on shifting soil, unsure of themselves and of each other.

While the first novel primarily followed Suren’s point of view, this time we get to be inside of Oak’s head. What was making this narrative switch like? Between the two characters, was one more challenging to write than the other?

It was definitely easier to write Oak’s point of view because I had made so many decisions in The Stolen Heir about his past and personality. It was hard to give both protagonists space, though. Even though we’re no longer in Suren’s point of view, we want to see how things play out for her. And there were some things about Oak’s past and point of view and certainly his powers that I needed to make more granular.

Did you have this spinoff in mind while you were writing any part of FOTA? If so, did planning for a spinoff impact the writing process of FOTA?

When I got to Queen of Nothing, I realized I wanted to write about Oak and Suren at some point in the future. I was intrigued by the way that Wren’s story both paralleled and contrasted with Jude’s. And I was interested in how much Jude sacrificed to make Oak’s life less traumatic than her own—and how despite all that, it still WAS traumatic. I wondered what it would be like to be Oak, doubly burdened by the trauma as well as the understanding that being “fine” was the only way to repay his family for what they’d done for him. I don’t think knowing that I wanted to revisit those characters changed the course of anything in the Folk of the Air books, but perhaps I did think of them a little more because of it.

What’s it been like to balance the telling of a brand new story alongside the incorporation of familiar, pre-existing elements from FOTA?

One of the reasons I wanted to start the duology with The Stolen Heir, and write from Wren’s point of view, was to give readers a chance to get to know Wren and Oak outside the characters they already have a connection with—Jude and Cardan in particular. I knew that we’d see people we knew from Elfhame both in the second book and in Oak’s memories. I hope that spending time getting to know Wren allows readers to care about everyone a lot in The Prisoner’s Throne.

One of the hardest things about having so many well-known characters in The Prisoner’s Throne is that they all needed to have room to be the clever and capable people we know them to be—which meant I needed to throw a lot of problems at them.

We meet Oak as a rambunctious but earnest child in the first series. Now, eight years later, he’s a teenager, scheming and wallowing and defying expectations in his own right. Was it difficult to transition to writing him as a teen? 

It was far more difficult than I expected to figure out who Oak was when he was older. I wanted him to have some of the chaos and whimsy of his younger self, but also to be a complicated, charming person who nonetheless reflected the violence into which he was born. I rewrote him in The Stolen Heir so many times that I am not sure anyone but me saw the final version, but now I can’t imagine him any other way.

A central theme of The Prisoner’s Throne is family: How much loyalty do we owe family? Who counts as family? And what is the role of violence in making or breaking a family? So—hypothetically, if one of your family members wronged another, could you still consider them a part of your family?

My grandmother used to say to me that the most important thing was that I never lie to her. Even if I did something terrible. Even if I murdered someone. That she would do whatever she needed to do to keep me safe, even if I was in the wrong—but I just couldn’t lie. I put that speech into a book at some point because it was so memorable to me. Honestly, it made me feel really loved. It’s definitely not how everyone looks at family and loyalty and values.

There are ways that members of my family—and everyone’s family—have wronged one another. We’re not perfect. I’ve wronged people. But there are also lines that if someone in my family crossed, I wouldn’t consider them family anymore. Despite my grandmother’s speech, I am sure that would have been true for her too. It’s so interesting in fiction to figure out just where that line is for each character.

One of the most enjoyable elements of your work is the riddles and tricks that the Fae tell each other. Do you have a favorite riddle that you’ve written?

Thank you! My favorite riddle—although not original to me—is one I used in Tithe: “What belongs to you, but others use it more than you do?” It’s a useful thing to write in a book, since the answer is, of course, your name.

In both the Folk of the Air and the Novels of Elfhame series, our protagonists begin as enemies and gradually warm up to each other. A famous quote from Cardan is “I have heard that for mortals, the feeling of falling in love is very like the feeling of fear.” What would you say is the secret to a compelling enemies-to-lovers romance?

I think there’s a narratively significant difference between enemies and people who don’t trust one another or who are even on opposite sides of a conflict. To me, the intensity of the personal hatred is what makes the enemies-to-lovers progression so compelling—along with, ideally, the surprise. We sort characters into particular roles in stories and that allows us to not necessarily consider a character to be a romantic possibility until, suddenly, they are. But to me, enemies to lovers is all about how an intensity of feeling blurs lines—and often obscures more complicated feelings, often about oneself as much as about the other person.

Although you’ve explored a multitude of fantastical concepts across your novels, Faerie is a lore you return to again and again, to the great delight of your readers. Will there be more novels or projects set in this realm in the future?

There will definitely be one more Elfhame novel—and what it’s about will be clear after getting to the end of The Prisoner’s Throne. After that, I’m less sure of the specifics, but I know there will be future books set in Faerie.

If you lived in Faerie, what kind of creature would you be, and why? Non-human answers only!

Possibly a phooka. I like the idea of transforming into different creatures and playing tricks on people. And the possibility of having horns.

Photo of Holly Black by Sharona Jacobs.

The beloved YA author discusses her hotly anticipated return to Elfhame.
Review by

Agnes Lee’s debut graphic novel, 49 Days, opens with a series of short vignettes about a young woman trying to make a journey but being foiled—sometimes in dramatic and frightening fashion—by the forces of nature. Every day, she must start her journey only to fail again.

These opening sections are intentionally disorienting for the reader, as they are for the young protagonist, Kit—who, readers soon discover, is actually making her way through what’s known in Buddhist tradition as the bardo, a 49-day space between death and rebirth. 

Kit has died in an accident, and over the course of the novel, Kit’s attempts to reach the afterlife are interspersed with two other narratives: first, Kit’s memories of growing up in a loving family and falling in love; and second, glimpses of how Kit’s two siblings, mother and other loved ones are coping in the wake of her death. 

For Kit’s Korean American family, many memories and important moments center around food, prayer and ritual. Lee, who illustrates the New York Times’ “Metropolitan Diary” column, excels at capturing small moments of family life—learning a new word, sharing a meal together, begging to keep a stray cat—and at conveying intense grief—finding new pain in old joys, falling apart at the sight of that beloved cat waiting by the door of an empty room.

Lee cleverly utilizes three different colors, in addition to black and white, to indicate these three different narrative strands: Kit’s metaphysical journey is a soft blue, while her memories are a muted orange and the activities of her living family are a gentle pink. This is an unusual, profoundly moving graphic novel whose elegance belies its complexity and whose emotional impact only grows upon rereading.

49 Days is an unusual, profoundly moving graphic novel whose elegance belies its complexity and whose emotional impact only grows upon rereading.

The shocking disappearance of four people infuses suburban Palmetto, Illinois, with confusion and fear in Melissa Albert’s gripping supernatural horror thriller, The Bad Ones.

Among the missing is high school junior Nora Powell’s best friend, Becca Cross. As children, the duo established a creative partnership and spent hours in the woods together, with Nora writing stories about the goddesses they imagined, while Becca took photographs. When Becca’s parents died, Nora did her best to absorb Becca’s grief and be a source of constancy in an unstable world. But as Becca’s demeanor turned darker, revealing a discomfiting desire for vengeance, the girls began to drift apart.

As The Bad Ones begins, they haven’t spoken for months. Nonetheless, when Nora gets a text from Becca in the middle of the night, she rushes to Becca’s house and is nonplussed to discover she isn’t there. Nora’s bewilderment transforms into alarm when she realizes nobody has any idea what might’ve befallen Becca or the other three missing people, thanks to a bizarre lack of witnesses or evidence.

Tentative hope arrives in the form of clues Becca left for Nora, many of them referencing the goddess-centric activities of their youth and the urban legend that inspired them. Perhaps, if Nora can uncover the origins of the goddess game Palmetto students have been playing for decades, she can figure out where Becca went—and what she may have done. Nora eventually allows her classmates—shy, handsome James and amateur reporter Ruth—to join her efforts. Can they unravel the mysteries swirling around that fateful night before someone else disappears?

Albert, bestselling author of the Hazel Wood series and Our Crooked Hearts, expertly alternates between high school mundanity and supernatural spookiness, complemented by an impressive flair for the atmospheric. The Bad Ones is a compelling, often delightfully creepy coming-of-age tale that thoughtfully explores the nature of friendship, grief and the perilous power of unwavering belief.


The Bad Ones is a compelling, often delightfully creepy coming-of-age tale that thoughtfully explores the nature of friendship, grief and the perilous power of unwavering belief.
Review by

An orphan and immigrant in the vast industrial city of White Roaring, Arthie Casimir has made a name for herself as the proprietor of Spindrift, an innovative teahouse situated at the intersection of the posh and working class sides of town. Alongside her adopted brother, Jin, Arthie is offering something unique at Spindrift—especially to the city’s vampire population, which is  tolerated but not entirely trusted, especially under the regime of the Ram, the country’s latest masked monarch. As policies shift from hands-off ignorance to active antagonism, the Casimirs realize the Ram intends for Spindrift to close, one way or another.

When Arthie receives a mysterious visit from Laith, a member of the Ram’s guard who claims to want to take down the Ram, she agrees to help, despite knowing Laith is hiding his true agenda. Joined by allies such as a talented forger from high society and a famous artist who happens to be a vampire, Arthie, Jin and Laith plan to challenge the Ram by stealing a ledger containing damning secrets.

With A Tempest of Tea, Hafsah Faizal (We Hunt the Flame) plugs fully into the young adult fantasy zeitgeist while exploring the violence of colonialism, as well as capitalism’s inextricable role in colonial expansion and conquest. Vampires are portrayed fairly traditionally, with characteristics seen throughout literature. Their sultry allure is on full display, and scenes where our young protagonists interact with the more mature vampires are among the novel’s strongest. While the multiple-perspective heist story is a familiar setup, A Tempest of Tea exemplifies many favored themes present throughout YA novels: reevaluating familial ties, validating chosen family and exploring trauma’s role in character development. Readers who enjoy Leigh Bardugo and Roshani Chokshi, are excited about vampires coming back into vogue, or are looking for historical fantasy and fast-paced, alluring drama will surely drink up A Tempest of Tea.

With A Tempest of Tea, Hafsah Faizal plugs fully into the young adult fantasy zeitgeist, weaving serious themes into a fast-paced and thrilling heist story.
Interview by

Kacen Callender dedicates their first foray into young adult fantasy, Infinity Alchemist, to “the younger me who always wanted to write a YA fantasy.” While this might make one imagine a teenage Callender dreaming of a future as an author, Callender explains it is actually in reference to their early days of their career, when they struggled to write fantasy. “It was very difficult at that time, for whatever reason, to get the story out,” they say. ”Infinity Alchemist had been percolating for a lot of years, so it felt like a massive triumph for me to finally write it.”

What made this book such a challenge in those early days? Callender points to their struggle to pull together all the many necessary threads of this narrative into a cohesive storyline: “I didn’t quite understand plotting yet. Now, hopefully, I do.”

Some readers might view this focus on plot and action as a departure from Callender’s previous books, which are character-driven and move at a slower tempo, titles that might be deemed “quiet” by the publishing industry. In Infinity Alchemist, “there’s a lot of fighting scenes, a lot of explosive battles, a lot of excitement, alongside the emotional depth,” Callender says. Yet with its theme of learning about one’s self-worth, Infinity Alchemist still has a characteristic Callender feeling to it.  “With all of my books, I tend to focus on a theme, some sort of internal healing and a message that I hope will resonate with readers,” they say.

Read our review of ‘Infinity Alchemist.’ 

One of the guiding principles of the fantasy world of Infinity Alchemist is that everyone has equal access to alchemy, but people still experience different degrees of success in learning alchemy, often due to the deliberate manipulation of the system by those in power. Protagonist Ash Woods is unusually gifted, but he has been denied access to the training that would make his power legitimate. Regarding the tension that creates, Callender says, “For me, it was always important that there not be a Chosen One, to include the idea that everyone is powerful and everyone is magical, and everyone is Chosen in the eyes of the Source or the Creator or what have you. I wanted to explain how power is internal; power is realizing that you are worthy without being gaslit by the idea of societal power.” But Callender adds: “You can feel power for yourself and feel that self-worth, but there are still other people who have the power to decide that you aren’t worthy. I wanted those different versions of power to be in conversation.”

“I wanted to explain how power is internal; power is realizing that you are worthy without being gaslit by the idea of societal power.”

Callender has a history of telling the stories of characters whose identities aren’t often represented in media, and Infinity Alchemist continues that work with a diverse cast of queer, trans, and polyamorous characters. Ramsay Thorne, for instance, is genderfluid, and the book seamlessly shifts pronouns throughout the character’s arc. This technique foregrounds Ramsay’s story more than Ramsay’s pronouns. “Ramsay comes to life in that way because it is going to be different for every reader, depending on where they last left the character. For example, I’m writing the sequel now, so for me the last I saw Ramsay, he was using he/him pronouns. But for you, having just read Infinity Alchemist, she was using she/her pronouns.”

Whether through the use of shifting pronouns or depicting a trusting polyamorous relationship, Callender’s work makes more visible the lived realities of countless people, and Infinity Alchemist is flooded with empathy and compassion. “That’s one of the great beauties of being able to write about these identities,” Callender says, as they explain how the imaginative act of reading allows anyone to “become” a character. “Even though you as a reader might not ever understand all the ways an identity can work, you can for a moment become that queer Black trans kid, and you’re understanding all of their wounds and their traumas and their grief and their healing.”

Callender builds on this idea: “Regardless of identity, that’s where a character is built: inside the idea that we all have these wounds that we either inherited or experienced. From my perspective, life is the story arc of healing those wounds.”

“That’s where a character is built: inside the idea that we all have these wounds that we either inherited or experienced.”

That wisdom comes through in every page of Infinity Alchemist. In the book, as Ash and Ramsay are coming to trust each other, Ramsay lists some of Ash’s more frustrating qualities, claiming him to be “selfish . . . and hot-tempered, and irrational, and you act without thinking.” Then Ramsay pivots to Ash’s kindness and curiosity, explaining, “It’s lazy to put a multifaceted human being, created from the alchemy of the universe, into a box of good or bad. No one is only one of the two.” When I ask Callender about the apt specificity of “lazy” here, they laugh and agree that it’s the perfect word. “It’s easy to decide that someone is good or bad instead of wanting to do the work. It’s a lot of work to look at a person and consider their traumas and wounds and all that has built them to be the person who they are today.”

We closed our time by discussing the relationships depicted in Infinity Alchemist and the way “polyamory reflects the concept of healing in the book, where everyone is worthy of love, and the idea that love cannot be limited.” Callender says, “I understand that some readers might ask why polyamory, or might not understand what it is as an identity. But it’s my hope that as there are more books with the topic of polyamory, it will be more accepted.”

Acceptance, self-worth, healing, love. “What’s better than that?” I ask, to which Callender replies, “Exactly.”

Photo of Kacen Callender by Bella Porter.

Having conquered several other genres, the acclaimed author discusses their young adult fantasy debut, Infinity Alchemist.
Review by

The rain never stops and most of the world is underwater, but Jin Halder refuses to dive again after her father’s fatal accident. All she wants to do is keep her 14-year-old sister, Thara, alive and ensure their family’s inn stays afloat. But when a drifter named Bhili visits their inn and promises a share of treasure submerged in a now-sunken Las Vegas, Jin can’t help but be interested—especially when Thara is determined to go.

Into the Sunken City (HarperTeen, $19.99, 9780063310513) paints a harrowing but beautiful picture of a rain-soaked apocalyptic world.Cities named “Phoenix-Below” and “Vegas-Drowned” add to the eerie feeling that this world is an uncanny reflection of what our world could be in the aftermath of a mysterious natural disaster. Humans have adapted to this world, putting sailing and diving at the forefront of survival, yet nature constantly reminds them of its power: Dangerous creatures fill the deep; rough waters threaten to overturn boats; and torrential, nonstop rain impacts all human life on the surface. 

Jin is sarcastic and practical, yet intensely devoted to her family. Her sister, Thara, is a gentle gardener and culinary extraordinaire who’s interested in adventure. The mysterious drifter, Bhili, tells Jin about the sunken gold, but not much else about her past. And despite Jin’s mistrust of him after he secretly joined the Coast Guard, Jin’s recent ex, Taim, also joins their crew. Into the Sunken City creates compelling dynamics among these diverse and lively characters: Jin, for example, is torn between being Thara’s guardian and her sister, forced to balance the nuances of raising a teenager while being a teenager herself. 

Jin is wary of both Bhili and Taim, while Thara seems more open towards others. In a world where survival isn’t guaranteed, it’s no surprise that Jin struggles with trust. She wrestles with nightmares about her father’s death and has a blazing determination to keep Thara, her only remaining family member, safe. Ultimately, Into the Sunken City is about learning what it means to stay hopeful—and learning how to keep going when that hope is broken.

Charming characters and multilayered mysteries will keep readers hooked from beginning to end in this well-developed eco-thriller with a lot of heart.

Charming characters and multilayered mysteries will keep readers hooked from beginning to end in Into the Sunken City, a well-developed eco-thriller with a lot of heart.
Review by

From a high-rise apartment, a boy and his pregnant mother witness, in real time, a massive explosion devastate 20 blocks of an Australian city. The cause is never discovered, and in the aftermath, a superhighway is constructed over the site. 

Twelve years later, the same mother speeds down the highway toward an abandoned shopping mall to drop off her disgruntled 12-year-old daughter, Hailey, off at a holiday camp. Bored and frustrated, Hailey is wandering around when she meets Jen, a cool older girl who isn’t with the group. Taking the opportunity to rebel against her mother, she joins Jen on a tour of the decrepit building. Meanwhile, two other boys have split off from the group and made an unsettling discovery. Something is biding its time in the building, and it won’t be contained for much longer.

Melbourne-based cartoonist Chris Gooch’s new YA graphic novel, In Utero, is a brief but clever offering that pulls from both modern and classic monster stories. Echoing franchises like “Stranger Things,” “The Last of Us” and Godzilla while nodding artistically to Junji Ito, Gooch hits many familiar beats of sci-fi horror in a tightly coiled narrative about fear, family and the things waiting underground.

In illustrations that flirt with the uncanny (before eventually giving in fully), Gooch utilizes a unique color palette: Alternating between color washes of red and blue over black and white drawings, he evokes the disorientation of looking at the real world through 3D glasses. The color change typically marks a change in scene or tone, and along with the frequent use of dramatic shifts in perspective between panels, the effect is decidedly cinematic. 

At just under 250 pages, In Utero functions similarly to a short film: The time frame is minimal; the emotional arcs are intense; and the action happens in short, potent bursts. Much of the reader’s processing will likely occur after the fact.

Though Gooch relies perhaps a little too heavily on abstraction (even for seasoned consumers of surrealism), In Utero presents a compelling universe that is more likely to fascinate than it is to disappoint. It won’t be the consistently high-octane monster story that some might expect, but fans of Tillie Walden or Antoine Revoy’s Animus will enjoy Chris Gooch’s head-spinning take on the genre.

Chris Gooch hits many familiar beats of sci-fi horror in In Utero, a tightly coiled narrative about fear, family and the things waiting underground.
Review by

“Our privilege don’t work like theirs,” says a young Black man in Jumata Emil’s second novel, Wander in the Dark (Delacorte, $19.99, 9780593651858). He’s one character of many trying to navigate a world and system that sets Black men up to fail. In this riveting mystery, Emil uses his pen like a jagged knife, cutting open painful truths of how racism seeps through class and politics, before sewing up the resulting wounds with the healing power of community. 

All Marcel wants to do is make things right with his half-brother Amir, even though their parents don’t get along and their lives are worlds apart. He’s shocked when Amir shows up to his swanky birthday party and even more shocked when Amir leaves with Marcel’s best friend, Chloe, a popular white girl with a penchant for making trouble. When Amir wakes up the next morning on Chloe’s sofa and finds her blood-soaked body in her bedroom, he panics. He knows what happens to young Black men in situations like this. Through chapters that alternate between the brothers’ perspectives, Emil slowly unravels a mystery that unmasks not only a killer but also a community built on lies. 

Emil’s tinderbox of a murder mystery is at its best when exploring the fractured family Marcel and Amir share. The gulf between the brothers’ lives—from their skin tones to financial status—and how they attempt to bridge that divide composes the bedrock of the novel. Queer readers will also appreciate how Marcel’s sexuality is explored matter-of-factly.

Emil is a seasoned journalist covering crime and politics in the American South, and his writing reflects that experience. Genuinely shocking acts of racism appear about halfway through the story, but in Emil’s hands, the pain and anger produced is also expertly excised by both love and justice to create a satisfying story. Truthful and twisted at the same time, Wander in the Dark is both a thrill and a delight.

In this riveting mystery, Jumata Emil uses his pen like a jagged knife, cutting open painful truths of how racism seeps through class and politics, before sewing up the resulting wounds with the healing power of community.

For 10 years, Julius Gong has lived rent-free in 17-year-old Sadie Wen’s head. He’s her school co-captain at Woodvale Academy and “the most prominent source of pain in my life.” The two compete in academics, athletics and anything else possible to compete in. They communicate mainly via taunting, eye-rolling and impatient sighs.

But despite frequently feeling intense animosity toward Julius (“Just seeing him makes me want to put my fist through something hard—ideally, his jaw”), Sadie hardly ever talks about it or any of her other frustrations. Instead, she vents in email drafts addressed to Julius and also people like Rosie, who won last year’s science fair with work she stole from Sadie, and Ms. Johnson, a teacher who refused to round up an 89.5 to a 90.

The secret emails have helped Sadie maintain her amicable persona, but everything changes when the drafts are somehow sent out all at once in the middle of a school day. After years of assiduously avoiding conflict, Sadie’s suddenly faced with a situation she might not be able to fix or apologize for. What is she going to do?

For starters, she’s mortified at the people now mad at her for being mad at them—and shocked when it turns out that not only is her fabulous BFF Abigail on her side, but Julius just might be, too. Is it possible he’s also been hiding some complicated feelings?

Fans of rivals-to-lovers romances will delight in I Hope This Doesn’t Find You and its protagonists’ attempts to find common ground in heady will-they-won’t-they scenes that deftly capture the two overachievers’ struggles with vulnerability. They’ll root for Sadie to consider what she wants rather than devoting her life to being the best people-pleaser ever. Chinese Australian author Ann Liang’s heartfelt third novel (after If You Could See the Sun and This Time It’s Real) is an engaging story steeped in humor and empathy, encouraging readers to consider that relentlessly striving for success might not be the best path to a truly rewarding life.

Fans of rivals-to-lovers romances will delight in I Hope This Doesn’t Find You’s heady will-they-won’t-they scenes that deftly capture two overachievers’ struggles with vulnerability.
Review by

Author of the National Book Award-winning King and the Dragonflies and the World Fantasy Award-winning Queen of the Conquered, Kacen Callender is widely celebrated for their ability to tell stories that reverberate across diverse viewpoints, and that gift is on full display in their first YA fantasy novel, Infinity Alchemist. In Callender’s New Anglia, magic is “an outdated term, used rarely.” It’s no longer reserved for the chosen few. Anyone can become an alchemist, though certification is strictly regulated.

Ash Woods is a talented young alchemist, but despite being the son of the famed alchemist Gresham Hain, albeit unacknowledged, Ash is denied admittance to the prestigious Lancaster school and thus ends up practicing alchemy in secret and illegally. Hain, a trusted professor, has a long history of taking on young apprentices like Ash’s mother (who died in poverty) and putting them to work in his secret quest to find the legendary Book of Source. Participating in this search took the lives of the heads of the House of Thorne—parents of Ramsay Thorne. Their public execution has made Ramsay an outcast despite possessing considerable intellectual and alchemical power.

Infinity Alchemist had been percolating for a lot of years, so it felt like a massive triumph for me to finally write it.” Read our interview with Kacen Callender.

Callender weaves a tight plot around these characters as Ash, Ramsay and Ramsay’s first love, Callum, join forces to find the Book of Source before Hain. As they search, they discover the truths by which they want to live their lives, as well as the many ways love can manifest in their world. Callender raises thoughtful questions about class, power, morality and family.

Infinity Alchemist is full of smart dialogue and moves with the kind of pace that will keep readers drawn in, but it is the overriding feeling of empathy throughout that elevates this resonant fantasy.

Full of smart dialogue, Infinity Alchemist moves with the kind of pace that will keep readers drawn in, but it is the overriding feeling of empathy that elevates this resonant fantasy.
Review by

Abby Akerman believes in the Universe. Leo Brewer believes the Universe hates him. The only thing the two have in common, other than being queer 16-year-olds from small towns, is that their respective marching bands have just arrived in New York City to perform in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Abby thinks this trip will be the perfect moment to come out to her best friend, Kat, and confess her love for her with a grand romantic gesture. Leo can’t focus on anything other than the broadcast of the parade, which, along with a local news segment, will out him as a trans boy to his extended Southern family. But NYC—or maybe the Universe—has other ideas: Abby and Leo accidentally step into the same train, which leads them away from their bands and toward an epic love story neither of them could have imagined.

This Day Changes Everything is Edward Underhill’s heartfelt and delightful sophomore novel about two band kids trying to find their rhythm outside the marching formations. Spanning less than 48 hours, the whirlwind plot takes Abby and Leo on a unique quest that challenges them to both celebrate queer joy and explore the challenges of being queer youth. Underhill excels balancing out his first dual narrative plot: Both Abby and Leo are complex, passionate and engaging.

The pair’s friends make up an intersectional, diverse cast whose extreme charm makes it easy to suspend disbelief at some of the comical ways they trick their chaperones into thinking Abby and Leo are still with the groups. Arguably, New York City itself is a bustling side character, and Underhill succeeds at capturing the wild nature of the city.

Fans of rom-coms will love how This Day Changes Everything operates within familiar tropes while putting Underhill’s queer spin on them. It’s a perfect blend of Nicola Yoon’s The Sun Is Also a Star and Becky Albertalli’s Imogen, Obviously.

Spanning less than 48 hours, the whirlwind plot of This Day Changes Everything takes Abby and Leo on a unique quest that challenges them to both celebrate queer joy and explore the challenges of being queer youth.

Ann Fraistat’s deliciously creepy, highly inventive YA gothic horror novel A Place for Vanishing has a killer first line: “Days like this made me wish I’d never come back from the dead.” It just gets better from there—at least for readers who revel in cleverly conceived supernatural horror, from scary seances to oodles of sinister, clickety-clackety insects. For 16-year-old Libby Feldman, 13-year-old Vivi and their mom, not so much.

It was certainly a relief that their mom’s childhood home, Madame Clery’s House of Masks—a grand Victorian replete with blue roses and a hedge maze in the backyard—was vacant and available to give the family a fresh start after Libby’s recent suicide attempt. Libby has since been diagnosed with bipolar III disorder and is benefiting from medication and therapy, but newly delicate family dynamics have her on edge, and she’s baffled over why her mom thought moving into a haunted house was a good idea.

Founded in 1894, the House of Masks has been linked to numerous disappearances over the decades, and Libby’s grandparents died there. It’s filled with disturbing sounds and bizarre details, like beautiful but deeply unsettling stained glass windows depicting various insects—ants, moths, cicadas, wasps and more—surrounding human-like figures with voids for eyes.

Despite her doubts, Libby’s determined to ignore the you-should-flee signals her gut is sending, since, “I’d caused a lot of misery lately. I owed it to Mom and Vivi to make them feel good.” But urgent questions soon arise: Why is her mom behaving oddly and drinking cup after cup of blue-rose tea? Are the masks dangling from the windows as weird as she thinks they are, and why is Vivi so casual about wearing one? Handsome neighbor Flynn knows a lot about the house but is reluctant to share details. What is he—and the house—hiding?

As in her Bram Stoker Award-nominated debut novel, What We Harvest, Fraistat does a masterful job of balancing supernatural goings-on, psychological suspense and complicated relationships. She writes about the effects of trauma with sensitivity and care in this eminently entertaining horror tale rife with thrills, chills and heart.

Ann Fraistat writes about the effects of trauma with sensitivity and care in this eminently entertaining horror tale rife with thrills, chills and heart.

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