Mechanical Dragons, Heavenly Quests, and Graffiti Magic in This Season’s Young Adult SFF

It’s my favorite time of the year: my quarterly round up of new young adult speculative fiction releases! We’re starting the new decade off right with a killer list of books teeming with diversity. I don’t know about you, but I’m about to max out the holds list on my library card.

 

January

Shadowshaper Legacy by Daniel José Older (Shadowshaper Cypher #3)

If Sierra Santiago thought being a shadowshaper was tough, now she has to do it while leading the House of Light and Shadow, taking on white supremacist enemy houses, and several pissed off dead ancestors. The fight for control over the Deck of Worlds is on. To save the future she must deal with the past.

Jan. 7, 2020, Scholastic Press


 

The Storm of Life by Amy Rose Capetta (The Brilliant Death #2)

In this duology’s hard-hitting conclusion, magical lovers Teodora DiSangro and Cielo confront the violent Capo who is using streghe as weapons. Queer romance, action, suspense, and adventure percolate through this sequel, as do harsh critiques of power and the patriarchy.

Jan. 7, 2020, Viking Books for Young Readers


 

Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez

Bent on revenge against Atoc for conquering La Ciudad Blanca, Ximena uses her magic to weave messages to rebels using thread spun from moonlight. While pretending to be the Condesa, the last Illustrian royal, she prepares for her impending sham marriage to her greatest enemy. But things at court get complicated. A rich tapestry (ha ha) of Bolivian culture.

Jan. 7, 2020, Page Street Books


 

Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore

A magical realism story of love and identity split between a young Romani woman in 16th century Strasbourg and two teens in the present. In the past, Lala tries to stop a dancing epidemic for which she, her aunt, and the trans boy she loves are being blamed. In the present, Emil seeks to understand what happened to his distant ancestor, while Rosella is overcome by the same ancient dancing magic. Inspired by the real dancing plague of 1518 and the Hans Christian Andersen story “The Red Shoes.”

Jan. 14, 2020, Feiwel & Friends


 

Infinity Son by Adam Silvera (Infinity Cycle #1)

Adam Silvera is known for blending high-stakes plots with heart-pounding emotions, and this story about twin brothers at the heart of a magical war is no different. When Emil discovers his hitherto unknown powers, he and Emil are drawn into the struggle between the superhero-esque Spell Walkers and the villainous Blood Casters.

Jan. 14, 2020, HarperTeen


 

The Iron Will of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee (The Epic Crush of Genie Lo #2)

When demons attack the planes of existence and the Jade Emperor refuses to act, the only ones who can save the day are Quentin the Monkey King, the bodhisattva Guanyin, and “the Shouhushen Eugenia Lo Pei-Yi, Divine Guardian of the Protectorate of California on Earth” – aka overachieving high school student Genie Lo. A challenge for the throne of Heaven emerges, sending Genie on a quest.

Jan. 21, 2020, Amulet


 

Spellhacker by M.K. England

A standalone about teenagers running a magical black market. The Maz Management Corporation tightly regulates access to magic (known as maz), so spellhacker Diz steals some to sell on the side. But when she and her friends discover a deadly new strain of maz, they learn the truth about the spellplague that killed thousands.

Jan. 21, 2020, HarperTeen


 

February

Belle Révolte by Linsey Miller

What if the Prince and the Pauper story was reworked as a French-inspired YA fantasy, genderswapped, and super queer? High-born Emilie des Marais trades places with her lookalike, low-born Annette Boucher so each can pursue the magically-infused profession they want rather than what society dictates. A war looms in the background, and the teens get sucked in.

Feb. 4, 2020, Balzer + Bray


 

Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland (Dread Nation #2)

When we last left Jane McKeene and Katherine Deveraux, the two girls had barely escaped Summerland with their lives. The horrors of white supremacy, misogynoir, and shamblers (aka the undead who walk the earth) trail them as they head to California. Nowhere is safe, not when there are undead cannibals and racists on the loose.

Feb. 18, 2020, Simon Pulse


 

Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon (St. Rosetta’s Academy #1)

The queen of YA contemporary romance ventures into YA fantasy with this charming new take on Beauty and the Beast. Locked in an endless family feud, Princess Jaya Rao suddenly finds herself attending an elite boarding school with her greatest enemy: Grey Emerson, a boy cursed by one of her ancestors. Bickering turns to attraction…

Feb. 18, 2020, Simon Pulse


 

Rebelwing by Andrea Tang (Rebelwing #1)

You had me at “giant mechanical dragon.” Prep schooler Prudence Wu funds her education in part by smuggling black market pop culture from the free Barricade Coalition to the tightly controlled United Continental Confederacy, Inc. But when a mecha dragon imprints on her, she is pulled into a rebellion.

Feb. 25, 2020, Razorbill


 

The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow

After a chaotic introduction to an alien species leaves a third of all humans dead, the Ilori conquer the planet. The invaders ban all cultural expressions and demand ultimate compliance. Enter Ellie, a teen girl who is operating a secret library and M0Rr1S, a lab-made Ilorian with a thing for human music. They escape the city to find a way to save the world.

Feb. 25, 2020, Inkyard Press


 

We Unleash the Merciless Storm by Tehlor Kay Mejia (We Set the Dark on Fire #2)

Where the first book followed Dani, this one features Carmen, Dani’s co-wife and love interest and an integral figure in the rebellion trying to take down Medio’s corrupt leaders. Carmen’s loyalties are torn between the girl she loves but doesn’t really know and the freedom fighters who are headed down a dangerous path.

Feb. 25, 2020, Katherine Tegen


 

March

The First 7 by Laura Pohl (The Last 8 #2)

In a daring escape, the Last Teenagers on Earth blasted away from their destroyed homeworld in a spaceship. But their interstellar adventure is cut short when they receive a call for help from back on Earth. Now they’re trapped once more, this time in the company of a colony of mysterious humans in a mountain hideout.

Mar. 3, 2020, Sourcebooks Fire


 

A Phoenix First Must Burn edited by Patrice Caldwell

A new #ownvoices science fiction and fantasy anthology collecting stories about Black women, trans, and nonbinary/genderqueer people. Edited by Patrice Caldwell and featuring stories by Elizabeth Acevedo, Amerie, Dhonielle Clayton, Jalissa Corrie, Somaiya Daud, Charlotte Davis, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Justina Ireland, Danny Lore, L.L. McKinney, Danielle Paige, Rebecca Roanhorse, Karen Strong, Ashley Woodfolk, and Ibi Zoboi. Need I say more?

Mar. 10, 2020, Viking Books for Young Readers


 

When We Were Magic by Sarah Gailey

Prom night goes bad and a boy ends up dead. Alexis and her witchy crew decide to get rid of the body, but the failed spell they cast binds each girl to the dead boy. As they dispose of his parts, each girl loses a piece of herself along with him. Although this is Sarah Gailey’s first foray into YA, with their track record in adult speculative fiction, it should be nothing less than striking.

Mar. 20, 2020, Simon Pulse

Alex Brown is a high school librarian by day, local historian by night, author and writer by passion, and an ace/aro Black woman all the time. Keep up with her on Twitter and Insta, or follow along with her reading adventures on her blog.

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