Clones, Sirens, and Dragons: New Young Adult Speculative Fiction for June & July 2020

The pandemic may have put a dent in the spring publication schedule, but the June and July releases are barreling forward full steam ahead. Lots of new and returning series, lots of debuts, and lots of fresh and exciting work from long-time authors. My bookshelves are already protesting all the titles I’m about to add to my TBR.


Court Intrigue

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown (A Song of Wraiths and Ruin #1)—Balzer + Bray; June 2, 2020

With her parents and sister dead, Princess Karina is the only heir left to claim the throne of Ziran. Desperate for someone else to rule, she decides to resurrect her late mother. But first she needs the heart of a king. Enter Malik, a nobody from a mountain village who gets pulled into a conspiracy he never wanted to be involved in. He and his sister arrive at the capital to earn extra cash during the festival of Solstasia when she’s kidnapped. To get her back he must win the Solstasia competition and kill the princess. With each protagonist willing to kill the other, what could go wrong?

Unravel the Dusk by Elizabeth Lim (The Blood of Stars #2)—Knopf Books for Young Readers; July 7, 2020

In the first book, Maia had to disguise herself as a boy to compete for the job of royal tailor. Now she’s able to be her true self, but that’s about the only good thing that’s happened. After one of her magically tailored dresses nearly kills the emperor’s fiance Lady Sarnai, Maia must don the dress in disguise. On top of that, after being touched by a demon her body is transforming and her memories fading away. The fires of war are burning hot and Maia may not be able to put them out in time.

The Faithless Hawk by Margaret Owen (The Merciful Crow #2)—Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); July 28, 2020

After protecting the rogue Prince Jasimir and securing an oath from him to defend the Crow caste she is now a chieftain of, Fie hopes for a brighter future. And then the king dies and the ruthless Queen Rhusana claims the throne. With a plague wreaking havoc on the nation of Sabor and the denizens quickly turning against the Crows, it’s up to Fie to stop the queen by any means necessary.

Outcasts, Outlaws, & Rebels

Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee (Shamanborn #1)—Page Street Kids; June 23, 2020

Sirscha Ashwyn lost her parents when she was young. For the last four years she has give her blood, sweat, and tears to become a spy for the queen, a plan that goes off the rails when her best friend Saengo is murdered by shamans and Sirscha brings him back to life. The spy becomes a soulguide and is sent to the Dead Wood to work for the Spider King. Everything she once believed comes into question as she learns to control her powerful magic.

Hunted by the Sky by Tanaz Bhathena (The Wrath of Ambar #1)—Farrar, Straus and Giroux; June 23, 2020

With her star-shaped birthmark, Gul is a target. That birthmark got her parents killed by the brutal King Lohar and drove her to seek protection with the Sisters of the Golden Lotus. Although she is unable to tap into the powerful magic her birthmark indicates she should have, the rebels secure her a place in the palace to spy on the king. There she meets Cavas, a young man who really doesn’t want to end up cannon fodder for the army. Their lives intertwine in a thrilling story that blends Persian and Indian mythology.


Monsters Lurk

Burn by Patrick Ness—Quill Tree; June 2, 2020

It’s 1957 and a dragon called Kazimir has just showed up at Sarah Dewhurst’s father’s farm. Kazimir thinks Sarah is the central figure in a world-changing prophecy. That belief that goes from conspiracy to reality after the dragon rescues her and her best friend Jason Inagawa from a racist cop and unwittingly attracts the attention of the Believer Cell, a cult that worships dragons. Cult assassin Malcolm is after Sarah, and the FBI is after him. The world is about to be unmade.

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow—Tor Teen; June 2, 2020

Sirens with a social justice twist. Or social justice with a siren twist? Either way, this new book is about sixteen-year-old Tavia, one of the few Black kids in Portland Oregon. She keeps her identity a secret – her kind are feared and hated by humans – and often communicates with ASL. She shares the lead role with Effie, a girl with a tragic past, a bad case of dry skin, and who is being stalked by a gargoyle. Then, two big things happen: a murdered Black woman is accused of being a siren and Tavia is forced to use her voice to extricate herself from a volatile encounter with the cops.


All These Monsters by Amy Tintera (Monsters #1)—HMH Books for Young Reader; July 7, 2020

What seventeen-year-old wouldn’t want to join an international crew of monster killers? Clara Riera Pratt ditches her abusive father to put her combat skills to good use when socialite Grayson St. John puts a call out for fighters. The beastly creatures known as scrabs are terrorizing the planet, but they may be the least of Clara’s worries.

The Damned by Renée Ahdieh (The Beautiful #2)—G. P. Putnam’s Sons; July 7, 2020

This is the first of two – count ‘em, TWO – YA vampire books on this list, and it’s a good one. The sequel kicks off still in 1872 New Orleans and immediately after the events of the first book. Celine is recovering from painful injuries she doesn’t remember getting. Her romance with the vampire Sébastien Saint Germain has helped shatter the fragile treaty between the Brotherhood and the Fallen. Vampires, werewolves, and the fey, oh my!

Queer Delights

The Extraordinaries by T.J. Klune (The Extraordinaries #1)—Tor Teen; July 14, 2020

Fanboy Nick Bell is obsessed with Nova City superhero Shadow Star. Obsessed as in writing a metric ton of fanfic about him. Obsessed as in trying anything and everything to gain superpowers of his own. A chance encounter with Shadow Star convinces Nick that he and his dream boy might actually know each other in the real world. But first they have to deal with supervillain Pyro Storm.

The Fell of Dark by Caleb Roehrig—Feiwel & Friends; July 14, 2020

VAMPIRES! I have waited so long for them to become a major trend in YA again and finally my patience has been rewarded. The town of Fulton Height, Illinois, is a boring, uneventful suburb of Chicago…except for all the vampires. When a very cute vampire boy moves to town, Auggie Pfeiffer suspects he might be the new Chosen One who will slay the vampires and save the world. Either way, he’s going to have to face some major evil and get his homework done.

Ghost Wood Song by Erica Waters—HarperTeen; July 21, 2020

The dead will rise in this queer mystery from debut author Erica Waters. When her step-father is murdered and her brother falsely arrested for the crime, Shady Grove is the only person who can solve the case and free an innocent man. But doing so requires dark magic and a backbone of steel. Shady’s late father played a fiddle that had the power to raise the spirits of the dead. To uncover the truth about her step-father’s death, Shady must play like she’s never played before.

The Future Sucks

Agnes at the End of the World by Kelly McWilliams—Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; June 9, 2020

In a dystopian future where the world is ravaged by a deadly pandemic, the commune of Red Creek is an oasis of peace. Or so Agnes believes. The Prophet rules with an iron fist and dutifully obeys – with the exception of her brother’s insulin she barters for with an Outsider. Her younger sister Beth doesn’t buy the Prophet’s proclamations and resists at every turn. When the Prophet demands everyone descend into his locked bunker, Agnes must make a life-altering choice. Stay in Red Creek and suffer the wrath of the Prophet or escape with her Outsider allies into an unknown and dangerous world.

Half Life by Lillian Clark—Knopf Books for Young Readers; June 9, 2020

Clones. Clones? Clones! Lucille signs up for a scientific trial and takes home a clone of herself. Lucille wants to be the perfect teenage girl, but feels like she’s failing everyone. Lucy is the perfect clone, but over time she stops being a replica of Lucille and becomes her own person. And then the evil corporate overlords start sniffing around.

Goddess in the Machine by Lora Beth Johnson (Goddess in the Machine #1)—Razorbill; June 30, 2020

When Andra was put into cryosleep, she was supposed to wake up in a new space colony a hundred years later. Instead an exiled prince named Zhade wakes her up a thousand years in the future on a desert planet where the people believe she’s a goddess who will save their world. The other two goddesses are already awake, but Zhade has all his hopes riding on Andra to help him overthrow the king.

Thrills & Chills

Category Five by Ann Dávila Cardinal—Tor Teen; June 2, 2020

Category Five brings Lupe, Javier, and Marisol—teens we first met in Five Midnights—back for a brand new supernatural adventure in Puerto Rico. Since Hurricane Maria devastated the island, the three teens have struggled with the aftermath. They end up on the island of Vieques as developers battle ghosts and deaths as they try to put in a fancy resort. As the teens investigate, they soon realize they may be in over their heads.


The Unleashed by Danielle Vega (The Haunted #2)—Razorbill; July 7, 2020

Hendricks Becker-O’Malley came to Drearfield, New York, to escape her past and instead found more ghosts and terrible secrets. Steele House is gone, but so too is her friend Eddie. To bring him back from wherever he’s trapped, Hendricks and her friends form a summoning circle, but what they bring across the threshold may not be the boy next door…

Fairytales & Folklore Retellings

The Circus Rose by Betsy Cornwell—Clarion Books; June 16 2020

Twin sisters take on a wicked priest in this queerified retelling of Snow White and Rose Red. After years spent on the road with their mother’s traveling circus, the girls return to the place of their birth only to find it burning with religious extremism. As the Brethren consolidate their power, a fire tears through the circus. Rosie and Ivory struggle to keep their circus afloat after the devastation, but new romances complicate matters.

Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron—Bloomsbury YA; July 7, 2020

Two centuries ago Cinderella went to a ball and met a prince. Years later the fairytale has been corrupted into a patriarchal nightmare. Men choose their wives at the Annual Ball where teen girls parade around in billowing gowns and sparkling jewels, and Sophia wants nothing to do with it. In love with her best friend Erin and unwilling to sacrifice her happiness for tradition, she escapes to Cinderella’s mausoleum. There she finds Constance, the only remaining descendant of the fairy tale princess. Uncovering the truth to the Cinderella myth will change the way they view their world, and each other.

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust— Flatiron Books; July 7, 2020

With roots in Persian mythology, Melissa Bashardoust’s latest queer fairytale explores a love triangle between a poisonous princess, a handsome soldier, and the female demon he has captured. Soraya’s touch kills, so she hides from everyone she loves. As her nightmares of turning into one of the monsters attacking her kingdom get worse, she’s increasingly drawn to the demon trapped in the dungeon who offers her a cure and the boy soldier who offers to help her in her quest.

Alex Brown is a teen services 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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