Tis the season for stories about queer teens of color fighting to save the world from utter destruction. Listen, a lot of times there are so few young adult science fiction or fantasy novels published in a season written by and about intersectionally diverse people that filling out this preview list is like trying to squeeze blood from a stone. This fall/winter, however, there were so many—especially #ownvoices!—that I couldn’t include them all without turning this into an ungainly longread. And when I say “so many,” what I really mean is “there are more YA SFF novels being published in just October than in November and December combined and I think I’m going to pass out from all the excitement.”
Even though they aren’t featured here, you should totally also check out Julie Kagawa’s Shadow of the Fox, Pintin Dunn’s Star-Crossed, Emiko Jean’s Empress of All Seasons, Natasha Ngan’s Girls of Paper and Fire, Laini Taylor’s Muse of Nightmares, and Hannah Moskowitz’s Salt. Clear some room on your bookshelves; you’re gonna need a lot of space after this.
Something not on my list but high on yours? Share with the class down in the comments.
Books marked with an asterisk will be reviewed on Tor.com in the coming months.
* For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig
OK, so technically this book should’ve been on the previous YA preview list, but due to a series of unfortunate events I totally forgot to include it. To make up for my terrible mistake, let me sing the praises of the first novel in Heidi Heilig’s brand new trilogy. Jetta and her family are shadowplayers, but Jetta has a secret trick up her sleeve: she can imbue her puppets with the souls of dead animals and make them perform. But that may not be the limit of her powers. Life in the Aquitan-colonized land of Chakrana is hard enough, but if the conquerors ever found out about her magic they would kill her and everyone she loves. Deadly events quickly send Jetta and the alluring but enigmatic Leo, a half-Aquitan half-Chakran smuggler, on the run. She has to contend with not only their growing connection and the invading army nipping at their heels but her own mental illness as well.
September 25, 2018, Greenwillow
* The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee
If you loved The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue as much as I did, then the sequel probably already has a spot reserved at the top of your TBR pile. As it should. We join up with Felicity, now destitute and desperate to pursue her academic interests. Unable to get acceptance to medical school because she’s a woman, she decides to go straight to the source and ask for a position working with Dr. Alexander Platt. With some help from Sim, an Algerian Muslim woman, she sets off for Germany to meet Platt before he marries Felicity’s former BFF Joanna Hoffman. Soon, the trio of girls set off on an adventure of their own, and each learn to define their lives by defying others’ expectations. Mysteries, secrets, and historical intrigue abound. Fans of Monty and Percy will enjoy their brief appearance, but this is very much Felicity’s story.
October 2, 2018, Katherine Tegan Books
The Rising Gold by Ava Jae
In the last book of the intense Beyond the Red trilogy, Kora and Eros are still struggling for power over Safara. Eros is high king to Kora’s queen, and may be in over his head. As he tries to emancipate his nation’s slaves and quash a fomenting rebellion from those troublesome Remnants, he also must deal with uniting the eight disparate nations together, stopping an epidemic from spreading, and helping his people recover from the loss of vital technology. And then there’s Deimos, the very cute boy he can’t stop swooning over. Kora, meanwhile, has her own problems to deal with, specifically with regards to her other brother whose previous crimes may finally lead to his execution. Good thing, then, that she also has her own steamy romance to keep things interesting.
October 2, 2018, Sky Pony Press
Dry by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman
Southern California. Near future. An ongoing drought suddenly worsens and what little water there was dries up. As rations dry up, friends and neighbors turn on each other. Chaos descends onto the once-quiet suburb occupied by Alyssa and her younger brother Garrett. When their parents don’t come home, the siblings must fend for themselves in a bone dry dystopia. As they set off to find their parents, they run into Kelton, the son of a survivalist family, as well as Henry and Jacqui. Although the survival of the five kids depends on them getting along, friendship is the farthest thing from any of their minds. The harder their journey gets, the more likely it becomes that they’ll each turn on each other. Desperate times, desperate measures. Outside the quintet, the Shustermans offer vignettes of the world collapsing into an apocalyptic hellscape.
October 2, 2018, Simon & Schuster
The Spy with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke
Queer! YA! Historical! Fantasy! Yay! Magic runs in the veins of teens Ilse and Wolf Klein … literally. With a little blood and some scientific equations they can do incredible things. After the feds spot Isle doing magic, the siblings are roped into working for the US government as they battle the Germans in World War II. Ilse heads to a lab in Tennessee where she blends science and magic and nuclear weaponry. Wolf goes to Germany to spy on the enemy, an assignment that could get him killed if anyone there found out he’s Jewish. Soon Wolf finds himself trapped and alone deep in enemy territory, it’s up to Ilse to use her magic to help him. But when Ilse is accused of treason, her rescue mission is put at risk. Katherine Locke, you had me at “queer Jews punching Nazis.”
October 2, 2018, Albert Whitman
Paragon Rising by Dorothy Dreyer
The conclusion of the Curse of the Phoenix duology wraps up the saga of Tori Kagari. In the first book, Tori was thrust into her quest by the infectious phoenix fever that threatened the lives of her whole family. Although she spent much of the first book fighting tooth and nail to sneak into the queendom of Avarell (under false pretenses, no less), now she must flee the court. At her side are the soldier who rescued her and a rogue princess. When Avarell is invaded by the Nostidour, Tori begs for their help, but her potential allies need her to prove her trustworthiness first, after all, her shady reputation proceeds her. From plagues to the living dead to royal intrigue, plus a whole lotta queer representation, this series has it all.
October 2, 2018, Snowy Wings
* Blanca and Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore
Anna-Marie McLemore. That’s all you need to know to decide if a book is good. The best voice in YA Magical Realism today is back with her brilliant new novel about love, family, and being the truest version of yourself. Sisters Blanca and Roja del Cisne are cursed. In every generation there are two daughters. One will spend her life as a human, but the other will be transformed into a swan. Determined not to fall victim to the ancient curse, the sisters work together to try and stop it. Complicating things is the unexpected arrival of Yearling and Page, two missing teen boys who turn up in the del Cisne home after transforming from a bear and a cygnet. As the teens pair off romantically, the struggle against the curse becomes ever more difficult. The truth will out, but will the bond between the sisters and their beaus survive?
October 9, 2018, Feiwel & Friends
* Beneath the Citadel by Destiny Soria
Way back when, the City of Eldra was ruled by an all-powerful organization of elders known as the Council who relied on infallible prophecies recorded long ago. When one of the last prophecies passed, the Council lost control and the city descended into a century of violence and revolution. Enter Cassa. As the daughter of dead rebels, she has nothing to lose and everything to gain by declaring war on the Council. With the help of three accomplices, Alys, Evander, and Newt (plus one turncoat ex-friend named Vesper) they’ll bring the rebellion to the gates of the Citadel … except when they do they’re caught and thrown into prison to await execution. And that’s where the book opens! Dense with worldbuilding, character POVs, and plot twists, Beneath the Citadel is the kind of standalone that feels like a duology. It’s also giving me serious Six of Crows vibes.
October 9, 2018, Amulet
Zenith Dream by F.T. Lukens
Ren was once a dreamy kid on a backwater planet, but now he’s a technopath possessed with literal star power. After he was killed by the Phoenix Corps in the second book in the Broken Moon trilogy, his boyfriend Asher and Rowan, the captain of the spaceship Star Stream, left with them. Lucky for Ren, the crew of the Star Stream was able to resurrect him. All Ren wants now is to find Asher and rescue his brother Liam, who also happens to be a star host, but that means both not getting captured by the Phoenix Corps and dealing with the rebels taking over space stations. Things are already not going well, Ren’s tenuous hold on his superpowers notwithstanding. It all comes down to Ren and his powers. Whatever he decides to do—fight the Corps or fight the rebels – his choice will alter the universe forever.
October 11, 2018, Duet Books
Crown of Thunder by Tochi Onyebuchi
In the second book in the Beasts Made of Night series, Taj is on the run. His hometown of Kos is plagued by dark magic wielded by the wicked Karima as she hunts him down. She wants Taj—and his power—and will do anything to get it. Taj, Aliya, and Arzu seek refuge in Aliya’s village where a special kind of aki (sin-eaters) called tastahlik live. The tastahlik use their magic for good and ill, and Taj soon realizes he must make the same choice with his own abilities. How will he direct his powers? Will he use them to help or harm? Aliya has her own problems, though. The more she digs into the source of Karima’s powers, the sicker she becomes. Taj will have to confront Karima sooner rather than later, and he may have to go through his former best friend Bo to do it.
October 16, 2018, Razorbill
The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta
As a girl, Teodora DiSangro will never be able to rule over the male-dominated land of Vinalia, but that doesn’t mean she won’t use every weapon at her disposal to protect her family … even herself. You see, Teo is a strega (a mage) who can turn people into decorative objects. Except no one believes stregas exist. When the new Capo takes over the nation, he sends poisoned letters to the heads of the Five Families. Teo’s father barely survives while the other four are killed. The same day the heads are assassinated, Cielo, a strega who can shapeshift between male and female, turns up. With Cielo’s help, Teo transforms into a boy and the pair head to the capital to confront the Capo. Did somebody say young adult romance between two genderfluid protagonists? YES. PLEASE.
October 30, 2018, Viking
The Storyteller by Traci Chee
Whatever is written in The Book always comes true. But Sefia and Archer are determined to resist their bloody fates at all costs. The Red War rages on as the Guard, the organization that once trained—and then tortured—Archer to lead their army. The Book reveals Archer’s role deep at the heart of the Red War, but Sefia’s already lost everyone she loves to the Guard. She doesn’t want to lose the love of her life, too. The question haunting her is what if picking a side in the growing war is the only way to save him? Also, holy Hera, do you see that stunning cover? My goodness but it’s beautiful. By all means, judge a book by its cover, because if The Storyteller is even half as awesome as that cover, we’re in for a helluva ride.
November 13, 2018, G.P. Putnam’s Sons
* The Dark Days Deceit by Alison Goodman
What better way to open the final book in the Regency-era paranormal fantasy trilogy than with a wedding? Helen’s engagement to the Duke of Selburn is imminent, but her work as a Reclaimer—basically a demon hunter—isn’t exactly proper for a lady in English high society. And, of course, there’s her fiery connection with the brooding, handsome Lord Carlston. With their blood bond, he’s the only one who can help her destroy the Grand Deceiver, but his smoldering good looks make it hard for Helen to stay on task. Helen must also contend with the terrible Ligatus she absorbed in the last book, a darkness that may consume her body and soul. As with the previous books in the Lady Helen series, Alison Goodman weaves sociocultural commentary on sexism, gender roles, sexual identity, racism, and classism into a fun, sexy paranormal romp through history.
November 20, 2018, Viking
Legacy of Light by Sarah Raughley
In a world not unlike our own, two groups battle over the fate of humanity. Phantoms, horrifying monsters of immense power, attack earth. The only ones who can stop the Phantoms are the Effigies, four teen girls each of whom has the ability to control a natural element. Fire Effigy Maia was last seen left for dead after being stabbed by Ice Effigy Belle. June, Maia’s twin sister, rose from the dead and is wreaking havoc alongside terrorists, except everyone thinks it’s really Maia. The sinister villain Saul is skulking around being evil as the Sect, a group that once protected the world, turns on its mission and its people. There’s a lot going on here in this blend of fantasy and science fiction, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The final book in the Effigies trilogy.
November 20, 2018, Simon Pulse
* The Disasters by M.K. England
Things aren’t going well for seventeen-year-old wannabe pilot Nax Hall, and securing admission into the elite Ellis Station Academy is his last chance to make good. Too bad he gets kicked out on his first day. But before he makes it back to earth, the Academy is attacked by terrorists. Nax and three other Academy rejects—richie rich Rion, child prodigy Case, and medical geek Zee—escape on a stolen shuttle and end up not only the last surviving witnesses to the devastating attack but the ones being blamed. With the help of hacker Asra, the reject teens go on the run. The only way to clear their names is to successfully pull off a risky, interplanetary heist while also being chased by terrorists. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. Pitched as queer and racially diverse Guardians of the Galaxy meets Breakfast Club and I’m so here for this.
December 18, 2018, HarperTeen
Alex Brown is a YA librarian by day, local historian by night, pop culture critic/reviewer by passion, and an ace/aro Black woman all the time. Keep up with her every move on Twitter, check out her endless barrage of cute rat pics on Instagram, or follow along with her reading adventures on her blog.