By the end of a YA book, we have watched as a teenage protagonist has taken a critical step from childhood toward adulthood. In the year’s best YA novels, no two of those steps were alike except for how honored we felt to witness them.
“Get in. Get out, No drama. Focus forward.” That’s the motto guiding Avery Anderson at the beginning of her senior year of high school, when she and her parents move from Washington, D.C., to Bardell, Georgia, in order to care for Avery’s estranged, dying grandmother. Yet Avery soon finds herself surrounded by drama in Jas Hammonds’ superb debut novel, We Deserve Monuments.
Avery’s life isn’t just in limbo from the move; she’s also fresh off a breakup with her girlfriend back home. Avery’s relationship with her grandmother, Mama Letty, isn’t all smooth sailing either. The first time they meet, Mama Letty tells Avery that her lip piercing makes her look “like a fish caught on a hook.” Avery’s mother, a renowned astrophysicist, grapples with her own relationship with Letty, who was often drunk and abusive during Zora’s childhood, while Avery and Letty eventually form a close bond.
Meanwhile, Avery gets to know the town of Bardell, where “every corner [holds] a story,” with the help of two new friends: next-door neighbor Simone, who is Black, and Jade, whose wealthy white family lives on a former plantation and owns a posh hotel in town. Yet her new knowledge only inspires more questions for Avery, including what happened to her late grandfather, Ray, whom neither Zora nor Letty will discuss.
In We Deserve Monuments, Hammonds takes on two challenges—exploring the ugly legacy of racism in a small town and telling a moving love story—and succeeds at both. The author blends these two plot strands in a wonderfully organic fashion, and their prose is sure-footed every step of the way, with snappy dialogue so fresh that readers will feel as though they’re eavesdropping on real conversations.
Avery is an engaging, appealing narrator whose story is occasionally supplemented by short chapters of omniscient narration that efficiently fill in gaps from the past. As Avery navigates a seemingly forbidden new romance and drifts from her intention of following in her mother’s professional footsteps, readers are rewarded with a number of startling plot twists and a host of tender moments between Avery and her love interest. Just as rich are the relationships among the members of Avery’s family, especially the magnificently complex Letty.
Life, identity, love, death—it’s all here. We Deserve Monuments marks a noteworthy debut from a writer paving her own literary future.
In We Deserve Monuments, author Jas Hammonds takes on two challenges—exploring the legacy of racism and telling a moving love story—and succeeds at both.
Give this to a reader who has a competitive streak, whether it manifests on the field, in the classroom or at game night.
Game On: 15 Stories of Wins, Losses, and Everything in Between highlights the importance of “playing the game” to find yourself. In each tale, characters interact with a game, from sports and video games to neighborhood pastimes and more. Many stories illustrate the thrill of competition, even as characters grapple with why rivalries and the act of winning mean so much to them. Nearly all the stories capture the central game’s emotional underpinnings, allowing characters to become closer to one another, to find courage in other aspects of their lives or to see something in a new light.
Standout story: Gloria Chao’s “Mystery Hunt” follows two college freshmen who share an adorably nerdy passion for language puzzles as they embark on the linguistics department’s annual scavenger hunt. As they race to piece clues together, Faye’s growing friendship with her cute classmate, Pierce, inspires her to form deeper connections with other people in her life. The story’s puzzles are challenging, the emotional stakes are high, the pace is fast, and by the end of the hunt, readers will be eager for more adventures with Faye and Pierce.
★ Tasting Light
Give this to a reader who yearns to expand the limits of what is possible.
Every story in Tasting Light: Ten Science Fiction Stories to Rewire Your Perceptions masterfully demonstrates how powerful science fiction can be. Whether the teens in these futuristic tales are sipping coffee in a spinning city, exploring parallel universes or experiencing bold new technologies, they’re contemplating themes like race, class, disability and gender as thoughtfully as teens today, while dreaming up new and inventive ways to improve themselves and their worlds. As one character muses, “You can be a teenager and make things happen. They’re not mutually exclusive at all.”
Standout story: Junauda Petrus-Nasah’s “Melanitis” begins in the middle. What’s a FAN, and why is it a big deal that another one has been murdered by police? To give away more would spoil the experience: As narrator Amari processes the unfolding news, so do we. Petrus-Nasah takes a classical sci-fi theme—the perils of scientific overreach—and applies it to the disparity between joyous Black energy and the dangers of being Black in a white-dominated society. The result is daring and devastating.
Give this to a reader who is smitten with all things magical, mysterious and macabre.
In Eternally Yours, editor Patrice Caldwell collects 15 paranormal romance stories that feature supernatural suitors ranging from ancient immortals to undead high school students. Many of the tales have contemporary settings, their speculative elements intertwined with familiar teenage concerns like part-time jobs and parties. These realistic details—and the often relatable protagonists—give the collection a grounded core that allows readers to truly connect with larger-than-life dramas such as hunting vampires or making out with mermaids. This anthology will sweep romance-minded readers away into one otherworldly love story after another.
The standout story: Marie Rutkoski’s dreamlike “Bride-Heart” follows a teenage waitress caught up in the ominous affections of a wealthy older man. As it becomes clear that there is far more to the rich stranger than anyone suspects, a test of agency, control and subtle magic unfolds. Rutkoski crafts an atmosphere of creeping dread as she upends many paranormal romance tropes. Her tense, twisty tale will keep readers guessing all the way to the end.
Give this to a reader who knows exactly what they’d do if they woke up with superpowers.
Many of today’s most successful superhero stories were dreamed up long before current teenage readers were born. The 13 tales in Generation Wonder: The New Age of Heroes introduce brand-new, contemporary superheroes across a range of genres, from comical adventures to fast-paced thrillers. In a clever touch, each story opens with an illustration in the epic style of a comic book cover by artist Colleen Doran. Diverse, imaginative and entertaining, these stories prove that extraordinary heroes can truly come from the most ordinary circumstances.
The standout story: In Nulhegan Abenaki author Joseph Bruchac’s “Ordinary Kid,” Leonard is a Native American teen just trying to survive high school—and figure out how to use his newly acquired superpowers, of course. After an encounter with a mysterious entity called Crow, Leonard becomes telekinetic and gains an “uncanny ability to sense when someone [is] picking on someone else.” He decides to use his powers to disrupt his town’s drug trade before turning his attention to an even more dangerous target. Leonard’s self-deprecating humor and hunger for justice call to mind such well-known superheroes as Captain America and Spiderman.
Teens will discover whole new worlds within the short stories of these four anthologies.
Vega is a girl with stars on her skin. Her mother created the tattoos when Vega was small, knowing that one day she would take up the mantle of the last Astronomer. Vega has never left their valley and knows only the safety of her mother’s cottage. But her mother is dying from a sickness that has claimed much of the world’s population, and twin stars have appeared in the sky, signifying that Vega must fulfill her duty: to find the Architect and go to the sea.
Vega is unprepared for the dusty, desperate world outside the valley, where branded men called Theorists hunt her mercilessly, believing she holds the key to a cure for the sickness. She is rescued by a girl named Cricket, who leads her to Noah, a mysterious, secretive boy with green eyes. Together, the three of them set off across the desert, guided by ancient stories and starlight. But as the twin stars move along their orbital path, Vega knows that time is running low.
A Wilderness of Stars is an atmospheric adventure romance that pulls from a constellation of genres as author Shea Ernshaw crafts a world that seems both familiar and alien. Full of ghost towns and outlaws, much of the setting feels straight out of a Western, but without the identifiable geography of the American West. Ernshaw employs a similar tactic with the novel’s temporal scope, giving enough clues to place the story in a far-off future where our current technologies are considered ancient myths, but no real specifics about when the story takes place.
Ernshaw’s narrative relies on intentional ambiguity and the slow unspooling of secrets, which is sometimes effective and other times frustrating. Many characters hold their cards close to their chests, and as a consequence, Ernshaw often writes around plot points rather than through them. Although her writing can be dense, readers who appreciate a focus on romance will enjoy the time she spends lavishing Vega and Noah’s love story with florid prose.
Overall, A Wilderness of Stars will delight readers who love soft science fiction, measured reveals and romances that are written in the stars.
This atmospheric adventure will delight readers who love soft science fiction, measured reveals and romances that are written in the stars.
Two years after his mother dies of breast cancer, high school junior and amateur photographer Jamison Deever decides to channel his grief into a photography project. At a street corner he could see from his mother’s hospital window, Jamison photographs whoever happens to show up at 9:09 p.m., the exact time at which his mother died.
Initially, Jamison simply wants to honor his mother’s memory, but when he creates a website and begins uploading his work online, the photos garner attention, both local and national. A popular girl named Kennedy exploits Jamison’s talent in the hope of kickstarting a modeling career, while another girl named Assi, who is dealing with her own loss, butts heads with Jamison in English class. Friendship—and then something more—grows between them. As Jamison’s photography inspires others to embark on their own 9:09 projects, he begins to understand the transformational power of expressing his grief.
As author Mark H. Parsons was drafting The 9:09 Project, his mother was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, and she died before the book was published. Through Jamison, Parsons offers a strikingly honest and moving depiction of loss, grief and healing. As the novel opens, Jamison is adrift, struggling with the reality that life after the death of a loved one doesn’t come with a road map. Instead, he must find his own path, apart from but alongside his supportive sister, father and friends.
Parsons’ first-person narration is spare and never weighed down by heavy descriptions, focusing instead on Jamison’s thoughts from moment to moment. This strong internality adds to the novel’s appeal as Jamison undertakes a journey through grief, which, sooner or later, every reader must also experience. Not every teen who has suffered a loss will be ready for the raw emotions Parsons captures here, but when they are, the novel’s honesty will likely be a comfort.
In The 9:09 Project, author Mark H. Parsons draws on personal experience to craft a strikingly honest depiction of loss, grief and healing.
It’s four days before Christmas, and Atlanta is in the middle of an unprecedented blizzard. Highway traffic has slowed to a halt; flights are grounded; malls are closing. The abundant chaos as a surprise snowstorm hits a wholly unprepared Southern city serves as the perfect setting for a race against time in the delightful, suspenseful Whiteout. Can a couple reunite and reconcile before it’s too late?
Stevie and Sola’s middle school friendship transformed into high school love. Together, they’ve plotted out their future: Howard University, marriage, kids, in that order. But after a truly disastrous weekend, that future is in serious jeopardy. First, Sola was deeply hurt by the hypothesis of Stevie’s science experiment, which posited that love is nothing more than “a biological response built into human brains to ensure the survival of the population.” Then, in a spectacular explosion of arrogance and humiliation, Stevie ruined their meticulously planned coming-out dinner with Sola’s extended family. And so Sola has issued Stevie an ultimatum: provide a satisfactory explanation and apology by midnight, or they’re over—for good.
Heartsick Stevie leaps into action, asking several friends to join her elaborate plan to win back Sola. When the blizzard arrives, she cancels those requests, but in an encouraging display of loyalty, the other teens pitch in nonetheless. It’s not easy; they get stuck in locations all around their snow-besieged city while also unraveling their own entanglements. As the clock ticks down to midnight, readers will root for multiple couples to take their own leaps of faith as they assist Stevie with hers.
This unabashedly romantic effort by acclaimed and bestselling YA authors Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk and Nicola Yoon will captivate readers who adored the group’s first novel, 2021’s Blackout. While both books celebrate Black and queer love, the writers took a different approach for Whiteout, blending their contributions rather than crafting alternating chapters. (For extra fun, be sure to check out their authors’ note, which offers tantalizing hints about who wrote which characters.) The result is a charming and captivating second-chance romance that pays homage to friendship, honesty and the power of swoonworthy grand gestures.
A surprise snowstorm in a wholly unprepared city serves as the perfect setting for a romantic race against time in the delightful, suspenseful Whiteout.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Susan Dennard kicks off a darkly magical, action-packed new series with The Luminaries, which introduces a mysterious world filled with monsters. It’s the story of a teen girl named Winnie Wednesday and her quest to rejoin the secret organization of monster hunters who keep her town—and the world—safe. Dennard chatted with BookPage about her novel’s unusual origin story, the unexpected ways she still uses her marine biology degree and how she continues to grow as a writer after eight books and 10 years as a published author.
Can you introduce us to Winnie and what’s going on in her life when we meet her? The book opens on Winnie’s 16th birthday in a town called Hemlock Falls, where nightmares rise in a nearby forest each night. Seven clans within the secret Luminaries society are charged with fighting those nightmares and protecting the world at large. There’s one clan for each night of the week, and Winnie is a Wednesday.
Four years ago, Winnie’s father was revealed to be a Diana—aka a witch, the sworn enemy of the Luminaries. Her dad ran off, but Winnie, her brother and her mom remained behind, still loyal to the cause. They were given a 10-year sentence to exist as outcasts within Hemlock Falls as punishment for not seeing what their dad really was.
Ever since that moment four years ago, Winnie has been secretly training to participate in the deadly Hunter trials. She is convinced if she can pass and become a Wednesday nightmare hunter, her family will be welcomed back into the Luminaries society.
The Luminaries has a pretty unique origin story. For readers who have no idea what I’m talking about, could you give us a quick rundown? The Luminaries was an idea I first tried to sell in 2013 without any success, so my agent and I shelved it. Fast-forward six years to 2019: I was in a dark place after a miscarriage and didn’t like being alone with my thoughts, so while sitting at LaGuardia waiting for a flight, I thought, “Let’s do something fun on Twitter.”
I hastily typed off a tweet that began the story of The Luminaries, and at the end was a poll in which readers could choose what to do next. Little did I know that story would last six months, with thousands of people voting every single day on what Winnie Wednesday would do!
How did the story change in its transformation from interactive Twitter thread to novel? What was important to you to preserve in that transformation and why? It changed a ton, actually. For two reasons: First, I am not someone who wants to rewrite a story she’s already written—the fun is in the discovery. Second, if I had tried to replicate our online tale, it would never have lived up! Ninety-five percent of the fun came from the communal elements, like the teams that cropped up (like #TeamThirst, who always voted toward romance, or #TeamPetty, who always voted for the worst option), the chitchat between readers, the roping-in of friends so they would vote too . . . I couldn’t match that!
So I ended up taking the world and characters and crafting a wholly new tale. But of course, I made sure to include the most iconic moments and some Easter eggs for the original LumiNerds.
Winnie’s family’s motto is “The cause above all else. Loyalty through and through.” What did you enjoy about creating her character? It’s fun to write a character who very rarely questions the why of something and simply does because they believe so deeply in a cause. It makes knowing what Winnie will do in a scene easy: She will always work toward a singular goal. But then it’s especially fun to introduce cracks into that character’s loyalty, to have them start noticing and questioning and wondering if maybe they’ve got it all wrong.
You write so empathetically about Winnie’s emotions: She feels hurt by her family’s ostracism, but she also yearns to be included. She’s justifiably angry but uncertain about when and how to express it. What drew you to a protagonist who occupies this emotional landscape? You know, emotions are messy. The heart wants what it wants, even when the brain is like, “That is a very bad plan.” And I think every person out there has been caught in a conflict like that. Then you throw some external pressure onto the situation—particularly from relationships that matter to you—and there’s really no way to avoid a lot of feelings. I find that it’s in those messy emotional moments that we make the most difficult decisions and come out stronger for them.
There’s a scene in which Winnie collects corpses; later, she attends a fancy event. How do you get yourself in the right headspace to write such contrasting scenes—one so dark and gory, the other so glittery and celebratory? Ha! I had no trouble moving from one end of the spectrum to the other. It’s the way the whole Luminaries world operates, and I think it’s how a lot of humans operate. There are so many truly tough jobs out there, but then we go home to our families and celebrate birthdays, and our brains toggle between the two lives pretty fluidly.
Of course, it’s not always easy—for the world at large or for Winnie—and we’ll really see that come into play in the sequel.
Scientific curiosity plays a big role in The Luminaries. How did your own background in marine biology influence this aspect of the novel? Speaking of toggling between gore and fun, I have had the experience of cutting apart sharks on Arctic ice, then tucking into a cozy tent and playing cards all night. You can’t fully enjoy the latter without the first.
I love studying the creatures of the world and how evolution leads to such incredible adaptations. It’s what got me into marine ecology—so many amazing adaptations in our oceans! It was really fun to give Winnie the same fascination I have and to use my understanding of evolution and ecosystems to create the forest’s various nightmares.
Speaking of that forest, you write about it so vividly—the look and feel of the trees, the density of the mist, the sounds and smells of the landscape. Forests often hold a kind of archetypal power in fantasy stories. How did you go about crafting this particular forest? Was it influenced by any real forests you’ve encountered? I was definitely influenced by nights out camping. If you’ve ever been in a dense forest when there is no moon or other light, then you know it is a feeling. You really cannot see, no matter how much your eyes adjust. And then the sounds! There are so many sounds, and each one easily takes on a sinister meaning (at least if you’re like me and have an overactive imagination). It wasn’t hard at all for me to tap into that feeling and turn it into an entire world.
There’s a moment when Winnie is talking about her family, and she says, “We deserve to dream again.” That’s such a heavy weight for anyone to bear. What would you say to a teenager who is feeling a pressure like that? One of the main reasons I write YA is because I think teens have all the smarts and ingenuity of adults but without the baggage or prejudices. They have a clarity of thought that lets them see ways forward that we adults just can’t seem to find—or that we adults are convinced will never work.
I don’t want anyone to feel pressured to dream, but I do think hoping and finding solutions is something teens are uniquely adept at. So while Winnie’s mom would never want her daughter to be doing what she’s doing (secretly entering these deadly Hunter trials), Winnie also has that clarity of vision her mom lacks. She sees how this could save her family, and she’s willing to take that risk.
This year marks a decade since you published your first book, 2012’s Something Strange and Deadly. What are some ways you’ve changed as a writer? What makes you feel excited about the next decade of writing? I’d like to think I’m a much better writer now than I was a decade ago—both on a prose level and on a more macro story level. And I certainly have a much more innate ability to write now than when I first began. It’s that difference between “unconscious competence” and “conscious competence.”
Of course, I’m also still learning—which is so exciting to consider. I can still get better. I love to study craft, and I hope my books only get stronger with each new title.
Author photo of Susan Dennard courtesy of Susan Dennard.
The bestselling author reflects on how she continues to evolve creatively and why teens can see things adults can’t.
The four Singh sisters help their twice-widowed father run the Songbird Inn, a quaint but charming vacation spot on Orcas Island, Washington. In the year after the Songbird wins an award for most romantic inn in the country, each member of the family finds themselves on the edge of romance. As they navigate relationships old and new, the Singh sisters discover that love is bigger, bolder and more omnipresent than any of them could have dreamed.
Drizzle, Dreams, and Lovestruck Things is divided into four sections, each of which focuses on one of the Singh sisters and her story. The sisters couldn’t be more different: Nidhi, the eldest, is disciplined and organized, with big plans for her future. Avani is her opposite, restlessly hopping from one hobby to the next. Shy Sirsha, the youngest, prefers expressing herself through photography rather than conversation. And Rani, Avani’s twin, is a true idealist and self-proclaimed love guru. With each passing season, a different sister finds herself in the middle of a romantic intrigue, creating a fun, cohesive set of interconnected stories with recurring characters and settings.
But romance is just one part of this novel. Debut author Maya Prasad dives deep into the Singh sisters’ inner worlds to show how broadly love can be defined and experienced. When their extended family in India reaches out to reconnect after years of distant silence, the girls wrestle with what it means to be Indian American. They grieve the loss of their mother and stepfather years after their deaths. And as they consider their plans for life after high school, they contemplate a future in which they may no longer live together under one roof.
Self-love becomes a central theme as each sister faces her own challenges. Nidhi wrestles with an unexpected new connection. Avani confronts unaddressed grief and resentment. Sirsha struggles to speak up for herself. And deep down, Rani is unsure what love really is. As the sisters work through their biggest insecurities and flaws, Prasad illustrates how difficult relationships can be, but she never loses sight of how love can be as simple as a meal enjoyed together, a promise to be present, a shared silence or a second chance.
Drizzle, Dreams, and Lovestruck Things doesn’t sacrifice authenticity for romance. Instead, it features well-rounded characters experiencing different types of love and portrays serious subjects with a light, refreshing and relatable touch. Realistic and entertaining, this novel is perfect for readers who crave love in all its many forms.
In her debut novel, Maya Prasad never sacrifices authenticity for romance as she captures how broadly love can be defined and experienced.
Author Marina Budhos has previously explored the experiences of immigrants, particularly Muslim teens after 9/11, in two acclaimed YA novels, Ask Me No Questions and Watched. We Are All We Have is set in 2019, after the U.S. Department of Justice implemented a zero-tolerance policy toward illegal immigration. The novel follows 17-year-old Rania, whose late father was a political journalist in Pakistan. Rania lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her mother and younger brother, Kamal, who was born in the U.S. As the novel opens, Rania is looking forward to spending the summer with friends before attending Hunter College on a scholarship she received for “literary promise.”
But Rania’s world is shattered in a single night when her mother is arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and sent to a detention facility in Pennsylvania. Rania and Kamal’s legal situation becomes even more complicated when the neighbor who agreed to serve as their guardian changes her mind, afraid of being deported herself. Before Rania can track down an estranged uncle who may be able to help, a neighbor reports her and Kamal for living without a guardian and they are taken to an understaffed shelter in Manhattan.
At the shelter, Rania meets Carlos, a young artist from Mexico. Carlos hatches a plan that will allow him, Rania and Kamal to escape the shelter and attend Rania’s graduation—and then keep on running. During her summer on the road, Rania uncovers secrets about her mother and the circumstances of her own birth. On Cape Cod, Carlos and Rania take on temporary jobs until they realize the only way to redeem their futures is to face the present.
We Are All We Have is compelling and vivid, filled with drama, family secrets and romance. Budhos conducted extensive research for the novel, which included visiting courtrooms and meeting with experts on immigration law. Her conversations revealed that “though we consider ourselves an immigrant nation, our bedrock ideal rests on a capricious and ever-changing set of laws and policies.” Budhos’ fully realized characters and urgent prose bring these laws into sharp focus for teen readers.
In this compelling, vivid novel, Rania’s world is shattered in a single night when her mother is arrested and detained by U.S. immigration officials.
When the sun sets in the forests of Hemlock Falls, a heavy mist rises, bringing with it a host of horrifying creatures. From banshees to were-beasts, these living nightmares exist to wreak terror and destruction and must be killed or contained within the boundaries of the forest. If they were to escape, they would destroy the world.
Winnie Wednesday desperately wants to become a Hunter for the Luminaries, the international order whose seven clans keep humanity safe. Each clan is named for a day of the week, and each has its own motto. The Wednesday clan’s motto is “loyalty through and through,” which Winnie’s family happily embodied until her dad was revealed to be a traitor and disappeared from their lives. Winnie and her family have been shunned and scorned by the other Luminaries in the four years since.
But as her 16th birthday approaches, Winnie is ready to restore her family to its rightful place by passing the grueling Hunter trials. It won’t be easy, since she hasn’t spent the past four years training with the other Wednesdays. She reluctantly realizes that there is one person she could ask for help: her ex-best friend, Jay Friday, who is now one of the best—and most handsome—Hunters in Hemlock Falls.
In The Luminaries, bestselling author Susan Dennard kicks off a darkly magical, action-packed new series and introduces a mysterious world filled with monsters. Readers will urge Winnie on as she gains confidence, strength and lots of bruises while training with the capable yet secretive Jay. Dennard builds tension as what seemed impossible comes tantalizingly within Winnie’s reach. But Winnie’s doubts grow, too. Does she really want to become part of a group that shunned her and her family?
Plenty of gasp-inducing thrills, monstrous gore and empathetic soul-searching—plus a little tentative flirting—bring The Luminaries to a satisfying conclusion. Dennard resolves important questions and tees up some well-placed cliffhangers for the next installment. In the meantime, readers should check out the author’s acknowledgments, in which she thanks the fans who helped get the book started via a wonderful 2019 choose-your-own-story Twitter thread that still lives online. LumiNerds, arise!
Susan Dennard kicks off a darkly magical, action-packed new series in The Luminaries, set in a mysterious world filled with monsters.
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Carter Sickels’ The Prettiest Star imagines a difficult prodigal son homecoming. It’s 1986, and Brian Jackson has returned to his small southern Ohio hometown. Six years before, Brian left home for New York City, where he found friends, a measure of acceptance and love with his partner, Shawn. Now Brian is 24 and ill with late-stage AIDS. He’s also alone; Shawn has already died, isolated in a hospital ward.