New Young Adult Fiction: Lovelorn Spies, Teenage Magicians, and Queer Romance

Spring has sprung and summer is right around the corner, which makes it an excellent time to start pre-ordering those beach reads. And lucky you, there are a squillion titles to choose from in just young adult science fiction and fantasy alone.

One of the things I’m pushing for with this roundup series is to highlight not just great YA SFF but great diverse YA SFF. I’m inclining this list wherever possible to #ownvoices and representation of diverse authors (i.e.: non-white and/or non-straight). So many great books with diverse casts, especially those written by authors often excluded from traditional publishing, get lumped into isolated lists of diverse titles or don’t even get mentioned at all. That’s not to say this list excludes white, straight authors or predominantly white, straight casts, but that I’ve spent a ton of time examining upcoming releases to make sure marginalized voices are heard over the din. And that’s also not to say this list is predominantly diverse or that it’s perfect and complete. My goal here is to create a list of upcoming Must Read YA SFF that is as representative and equitable as possible.

So, beyond my literally days worth of research, I wanna know what upcoming books you’re looking forward to this summer. Drop some titles in the comments and let me know if I’ve missed some diversity elements in any of the books mentioned. It’s time to bust out those library cards, kiddos, because your To Read queue is about to massively expand.

Books with an “*” will be reviewed on Tor.com in the upcoming months, so be sure to keep an eye out.

 

The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

Caden and Dylan, two teenage boys working for a spy agency, are sent on a mission to honey pot a young scientific genius named Juliet. Caden is a Nice, a clean cut, sweet, boy-next-door type, while Dylan is a Bad, a dark, brooding, rebel in a leather jacket. The boys must put all their skills to the test to entice Juliet because whichever one she doesn’t choose won’t live long enough to take another case. Life and death become even more complicated when their love triangle gets unexpected twisted out of shape. Dietrich deconstructs YA romance tropes with witty efficiency while deftly crafting compelling characters. Fans of Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On especially might want to check this out.

YA spy/thriller with queer protags—published by Feiwel & Friends, May 16, 2017

 

Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser

Seventeen year old Caroline Oresteia knows she’s destined to become a wherryperson, like her father and grandmother before her, even though the god living in the river has yet to speak to her. When her smuggler father is arrested after a pirate attack, Caro agrees to transport Tarquin Meredios, a haughty young man telling anyone who will listen that he’s a royal courier. She’s aided by Fee, a female frogman (people descended from the union of a human sailor and the river god). Tarquin soon pulls Caro off course from not just her destination but her destiny as well. If you loved Heidi Heilig’s Girl from Everywhere series, you’re gonna wanna check this out.

YA fantasy with PoC protag—published by Bloomsbury, June 6, 2017

 

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

The second novella in the Wayward Children series reveals how twins Jack and Jill ended up at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. As precocious twelve-year-olds, the girls discovered a stairway to a magical place. There, Jill becomes the thrall to a vampire called the Master while Jack is taken as an apprentice to Dr. Bleak, a scientist who can revive the dead. Jill yearns to be made powerful and immortal by the Master as Jack uncovers her own obsession: that for the reanimated Alexis. A vicious act forces Jack to make choices about Jill, the consequences of which both sisters will suffer from. Read an excerpt of the second book.

YA fantasy novella with queer protag—published by Tor.com, June 13, 2017

 

Want by Cindy Pon

In a futuristic Taipei, society is split between the you (wealthy elite) and mei (everyone else). While the lower classes suffer from sickness and death caused by pollution, the elite are protected with special suits. After his mother dies poverty-stricken Jason Zhou, decides he’s had enough. He infiltrates Jin Corporation—the company that produces the suits and may also be producing the pollution that makes the suits necessary in the first place—to gather intel to prove the company is murdering clean air activists. His plan to destroy Jin Corp hits an obstacle in the form of the CEO’s daughter, Daiyu. In disguise as a rich playboy, he kidnaps Daiyu, and in turn she steals his heart. It’s a fast paced thriller with complex characterization and a socially conscious core. Want is an adaptation of “Blue Skies,” her short story from the Diverse Energies anthology.

YA science fiction/dystopia with Taiwanese protag/cast and WoC author—published by Simon Pulse, June 13, 2017

 

Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee

Alright, so this isn’t technically SFF, but it is SFF adjacent. Sorta. Kinda. Look, point is it’s a YA book with enough geekiness to toe the genre line. Teenager Natasha Zelenka runs an under the radar web series reimagining Anna Karenina. When a YouTube-esque superstar gives her series a shoutout, Tash is suddenly thrust into the limelight. As her internet fame grows, she has the chance to turn her online friends into IRL ones, most especially her secret crush Thom. Complicating her potential relationship is Tash’s inner conflict as to whether or not to reveal to Thom that she’s heteromantic and asexual. Tash Hearts Tolstoy explores what’s under the ace umbrella with the trappings of niche nerditry. Think Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl but with more ace awesomeness.

YA contemporary with ace protag—published by Simon Pulse, June 13, 2017

 

Because You Love to Hate Me: 13 Tales of Villainy edited by Ameriie

Thirteen of the hottest YA authors and thirteen of the most watched booktubers team up to retell thirteen classic tales from the villains’ perspectives. Short stories are a great way to get a taste for an author’s style, and since several of the ones contributing to this anthology also have full length novels releasing this year, now you really have no excuse for not giving them a try. Featuring stories by authors Renée Ahdieh, Ameriie, Soman Chainani, Susan Dennard, Sarah Enni, Marissa Meyer, Cindy Pon, Victoria Schwab, Samantha Shannon, Adam Silvera, Andrew Smith, April Genevieve Tucholke, and Nicola Yoon, and booktubers Benjamin Alderson, Sasha Alsberg, Whitney Atkinson, Tina Burke, Catriona Feeney, Jesse George, Zoë Herdt, Samantha Lane, Sophia Lee, Raeleen Lemay, Regan Perusse, Christine Riccio, and Steph Sinclair and Kat Kennedy.

YA fantasy anthology with diverse authors—published by Bloomsbury, July 11, 2017

 

Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody

Eyeless Sorina has spent most of her sixteen years travelling with a magical carnival, the Gomorrah Festival, crafting illusions so vivid they almost seem real. Sorina discovers her creations aren’t as ephemeral as she once thought when someone starts murdering them one by one. Her quest to root out the killer before all her illusions, whom she thinks of as family, are slaughtered takes her to the edges of the Festival’s borders and into the lives of its mysterious inhabitants. Debut author Foody’s worldbuilding is impressive to behold, with rich, lush description that, like Sorina’s magic, makes the fictional feel almost real.

YA fantasy with blind protag and a demisexual/demiromantic character—published by Harlequin Teen, July 25, 2017

 

Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popović

Iris and Malina come from a long line of women with the ability to use magic to make things seem beautiful. Malina makes music from people’s moods while Iris makes glasswork from her prismatic interpretation of flowers. Though initially sworn to keep their magic a secret and denied romantic relationships, they’re forced into the wider world when their mother is attacked. A curse terrorizes their lineage and threatens to shatter the protective bubble their mother has kept them isolated in. Soon the girls learn that the magic they love so much may be the only thing that can destroy them. This is the first book in the new Hibiscus Daughter series.

YA fantasy—published by Katherine Tegen Books, August 15, 2017

 

Zero Repeat Forever by Gabrielle Prendergast

Billed by the publisher as “part Terminator and part Beauty and the Beast,” Zero Repeat Forever is the first book in the Nahx Invasions series. Deep in the Canadian wilderness, two young enemies are trapped together and unite through their shared grief. The Nahx, a brutal, monstrous species, invade Earth while sixteen year old Raven is at summer camp. She and her friends barely escape…then her boyfriend is murdered by a Nahx. Meanwhile, Eighth is a being with no name or voice, his only identification is his rank. His only responsibility is to keep his Offside safe during the invasion, but when she’s killed by a human his directives fail. Raven and Eighth must learn to work together as partners; distrust could lead to both of their deaths.

YA science fiction—published by Simon & Schuster, August 29, 2017

 

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

DC may not be having a good time at the cinema, but on the comics front they’re kicking some serious butt right now (partly because Marvel insists on repeatedly shooting itself in the foot, but that’s a story for another day). They’ve had good luck with their Lois Lane young adult fiction series (see below) and hope to segue that to their brand new DC Icons YA series which highlights famous superheroes when they were still teenagers. Bardugo’s novel has young Diana eager to prove herself worthy of her Amazonian sisters, but risks everything by saving the life of a mysterious human, Alia Keralis. The direct descendant of Helen of Troy, Alia’s destiny is to usher in an era of war, violence, and death. Alia wants to escape her fate but Diana’s act of compassion make have sealed it. This is first of the DC Icons; upcoming titles include Marie Lu writing Batman, Matt de la Pena writing Superman, and Sarah J. Maas writing Catwoman.

YA superhero—published by Random House, August 29, 2017

 

Also worth checking out:

* Lois Lane: Triple Threat by Gwenda Bond: This is Bond’s third book in the Lois Lane series, and it’s a cracker of a story. Lois has finally settled into her life in Metropolis, but before she can turn her online romance with “SmallvilleGuy” into something IRL, she’ll first have to take on three mutant teens and stop a mad scientist. (YA superhero—published by Switch Press, May 1, 2017)

* Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh: Ahdieh’s fiery newest series is about Mariko, the daughter of a well-to-do samurai in feudal Japan who is captured by the Black Clan while being sent off for a political marriage to a prince. Not content to be a damsel in distress, Mariko is determined to use her fists and magic to rescue herself. (YA historical fantasy with Japanese cast and WoC author—published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, May 16, 2017)

Spectacle by Rachel Vincent: The Menagerie series continues with Spectacle, the riveting yet harrowing second novel. Delilah and her fellow cryptids’ hard earned freedom is ripped from their clutches when they’re sold off to safari-esque Savage Spectacle to be hunted by a secretive pack of elites. (YA paranormal fantasy—published by MIRA, May 30, 2017)

* Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab: Six months after Kate, monster hunter from Prosperity, and August, monster from Verity, first collided, the war between humans and monsters has taken off. A new monster that feeds on chaos will push Kate to the brink in the final book in the Monsters of Verity duology. (YA paranormal fantasy—published by Greenwillow Books, June 13, 2017)

* The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee: It’s the 18th century and young gentleman turned rakish rogue Monty sets off on a tour of Europe with his crush, Percy, and little sister Felicity. But when feckless behavior turns reckless with the discovery of a magical artifact, they go on the run and Monty and Percy’s relationship may not be able to withstand the pressure. (YA historical fantasy with queer protag—published by Katherine Tegen Books, June 27, 2017)

* The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana: Princess Amrita was set to wed Emperor Sikander to protect her kingdom, but when the capitol is attacked she and Thala, an oracle slave, go on the run. They set their sights on the Library of Fates hoping to reverse their destinies. (YA fantasy with Indian characters and WoC author—published by Razorbill, July 18, 2017)

The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell: Esta, a young thief trained to steal magical artifacts from a group that wants to eradicate magic in New York, is sent back to 1902 to steal a book vital to the Order’s existence. But the past is more complicated than Esta realized, and to save the future she may have to destroy the past. (YA science fiction/time travel—published by Simon Pulse, July 18, 2017)

When I Am Through with You by Stephanie Kuehn: Ben Gibson killed Rose up on that mountain, and doesn’t feel bad about it. Written from his perspective, this haunting novel gradually reveals the terrible circumstances that turned Ben into an unrepentant killer. (YA thriller/suspense with WoC author—published by Dutton Books, August 1, 2017)

Hearts We Sold by Emily Lloyd Jones: Dee hates her home life and trades a demon her heart for a chance at freedom. Soon she joins up with other teenagers who made deals with demons and take on the fight of their lives. (YA fantasy—published by Little, Brown, August 8, 2017)

* Tiger’s Watch by Julia Ember: Tashi, a genderfluid soldier who uses a magically bonded animal to kill, hides in a remote monastery when the capital falls into enemy hands. There they fall for Xian, a commander of the invading army, when they learn everything they thought they knew was a lie. This is the first novel in the Ashes of Gold series. (YA fantasy with genderfluid PoC protag, PoC cast, and queer author, August 15, 2017)

Alex Brown is a teen librarian, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter and Instagram, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.

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