Aliens, Ghosts, and Vampires: New Young Adult SFF for August & September 2020

If you thought there were a lot of great young adult science fiction and fantasy novels coming out this summer, just wait until you see what’s on deck for the fall. August and September have an absolutely crushing amount of books scheduled for release and so many of them are just begging to be read. Out of everything vying for your attention, the ones on this list should move to the top of your TBR pronto.

 

The Future Sucks

Each of Us a Desert by Mark Oshiro—Tor Teen; September 15, 2020

Teenage Xochitl lives in the distant, post apocalyptic future where the earth was scorched into desert and heat by the sun god Solís, or so the stories go. Xochitl is a cuentista, a person who hears the confessions of the villagers in Empalme and releases them to the desert to be forgiven and forgotten. An act of violence drives her away and into the arms of Emilia, the daughter of a warlord. As they journey together, their lives—and their hearts—spill open.

Sanctuary by Paola Mendoza and Abby Sher—G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers; September 1, 2020

In Sanctuary we meet 16 year old Valentina González Ramirez, an undocumented Colombian immigrant living in a dystopian near future America. She watches as the totalitarian president starts building a massive wall along the US-Mexico border and requires all citizens to be implanted with ID tracking chips. When Deportation Forces raid her Vermont town, she and her 8 year old brother go on the run, desperate to make it to the sanctuary state of California.

 

Outcasts, Outlaws, & Rebels

Lobizona by Romina Garber (Wolves of No World #1)—Wednesday Books; August 4, 2020

Manu is illegal, as far as the US government is concerned. But that isn’t the only powerful entity who wants to imprison her for the crime of existing. After her Argentinian-born mother is arrested by ICE, Manu stumbles into a Hogwarts-esque magic school where teens learn how to harness their magical abilities. Tradition is rigid and patriarchal: boys become lobizones (werewolves) and girls brujas (witches). So when Manu learns she’s a lobizona, she becomes a threat to everything her new world holds dear. Family secrets and government conspiracies make this a striking series opener.

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko (Raybearer #1)—HarperTeen; August 18, 2020

Her whole life has been leading toward one goal: kill the Crown Prince of Aritsar. The daughter of a djinn and an enigmatic woman known only as The Lady, Tarisai lives alone, her only visitors the tutors that train her to compete for a spot in the Council of Eleven who advise the Prince. But Tarisai doesn’t want to be a weapon in her mother’s schemes and will do whatever it takes to escape her fate and find her own way in the world.

Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles (Kingdom of Cards #1)—Wednesday Books; August 25, 2020

As the showgirl star of Hellfire House, Kallia puts her magical talents on display for rapt crowds. Jack, her mentor and father figure, takes care of her, but when he refuses her the chance to take her career to the next level, Kallia runs away to the grand city of Glorian. Beset by patriarchal constraints—not to mention the mysterious disappearances of her male competition—Kallia must rely on her allies like the alluring Daron Demarco.

 

Monsters Lurk

Vampires Never Get Old: Tales with Fresh Bite edited by Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker—Imprint; September 22, 2020

Whoever said vampires were over clearly hadn’t met these eleven young adult authors. There is nothing “classic” about the vampires in these stories. Queer, brown, trans, disabled…all kinds of identities take center stage. Features stories by Samira Ahmed, Dhonielle Clayton, Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker, Tessa Gratton, Heidi Heilig, Julie Murphy, Mark Oshiro, Rebecca Roanhorse, Laura Ruby, V. E. Schwab, and Kayla Whaley.

Vicious Spirits by Kat Cho (Gumiho #2)—G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers; August 18, 2020

Picking up not long after the end of the first book, Wicked Fox, Vicious Spirits sees Miyoung and Jihoon still reeling from the deaths of Miyoung’s mother and Jihoon’s grandmother. But Lena isn’t through with her daughter yet. She reaches out through the gumiho’s dreams with ominous warnings. As Miyoung gets sicker and sicker, her friends rally to try to find her missing soul bead and stop the rift between the living and the dead from breaking down the border between the two worlds completely.

 

Queer Delights

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas—Swoon Reads; September 1, 2020

Hoping to win his family over with a spirit summoning, Yadriel asks his cousin Maritza to help him guide the ghost of his murdered cousin into the afterlife. Instead, Yadriel summons the ghost of Julian Diaz, a troublemaker from school who will not go gently into the good night. But Julian isn’t as rough-and-tumble as his reputation made him out to be, and helping him cross over proves to be harder than Yadriel thought.

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger, illustrations by Rovina Cai—Levine Querido; August 25, 2020

Ellie, an asexual Lipan Apache teen, lives in a world exactly like ours except brimming with magic and supernatural shenanigans. She’s a normal kid living a paranormal life. Instead of college she plans to work as a private investigator and utilize her talents for magic handed down by her ancestor Six-Great-Grandmother. After her brother Trevor is killed, he appears to her as a ghost and sends her on a journey that will change her future forever.

Miss Meteor by Tehlor Kay Mejia and Anna-Marie McLemore—HarperTeen; September 22, 2020

The authorial team up I’ve been waiting for is finally here! Two titans of queer Latinx YA have united to create a charming magical realism story about being your truest self. Every year the town of Meteor, New Mexico holds a beauty pageant that brings in big tourist dollars. Not surprisingly, the winners all tend to be gorgeous, stick-thin, blond, and of course white. Lita decides to compete anyway and conjures up her former bestie Chicky to help her win.

 

Retellings

Legendborn by Tracey Deonn (Legendborn #1)—Margaret K. McElderry Books; September 15, 2020

The King Arthur myth has been done to death, right? Wrong! Tracey Deonn brings a much-needed new perspective with the first book in her new series. Bree Matthews has just lost her mom in a terrible accident. She tries to lose herself in an early college program at UNC-Chapel Hill, but magic has other ideas. A demon, a secret society, and a teenage magician calling himself Merlin all collide with Bree and unleash her latent magic powers. Now she and the other Legendborn students (teens who are descended from the Knights of the Round Table) must join forces to uncover the truth and save the day.

Never Look Back by Lilliam Rivera—Bloomsbury YA; September 1, 2020

In her Afro-Latinx-ified retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, Lilliam Rivera moves the drama from ancient Greece to present day Bronx. Recovering from the horrors of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rican Eury visits her cousin in New York City. There she meets Pheus, a Dominican teen who loves bachata music almost as much as he loves flirting with girls. When Eury is attacked and ends up in a coma thanks to the demon who has been haunting her, Pheus wrangles a local bruja to send him into the Underworld for a rescue mission.

Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar—HarperTeen; August 11, 2020

Loosely inspired by Hindu mythology, Shveta Thakrar tells the story of a girl born to a human father and a star mother. Sheetal keeps her identity a secret to protect herself from those who would kill her for the healing magic in her blood. But her powers prove uncontrollable when she accidentally burns her father. To save his life, she and her friend Minal set out to find Sheetal’s long lost mother. A trade is made: Sheetal must win a music competition that will maneuver her grandparents into position to rule the sky and in exchange her grandparents will do what they can for her father.

 

Science Fictional

The Art of Saving the World by Corinne Duyvis—Amulet Books; September 15, 2020

Ah, the classic Chosen One trope. Corinne Duyvis twists the hell out of it with her new science fiction novel about a young woman who must save the day with the help of other versions of herself. For some strange reason, Hazel Stanczak is connected to an interdimensional rift that opened on her lawn when she was born. On her 16th birthday, three Hazels from other dimensions crash through the rift. It’s up to her—to them—to save the world.

Early Departures by Justin A. Reynolds—Katherine Tegen Books; September 22, 2020

If you could bring someone you loved back from the dead, would you? Even if it was only for a few weeks? Jamal Anderson and Quincy “Q” Barrantes used to be best friends. But after the tragic and unexpected deaths of Jamal’s parents, an accident Jamal blames Q for, their relationship was severed. Two years later, Jamal is still grieving and alone when he learns Q died trying to save someone else’s life. A new technology resurrects Q and gives Jamal a chance to fix what is broken and say goodbye.

Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland—Simon Pulse; August 11, 2020

Three years ago Sia Martinez’s mother disappeared in the Sonoran Desert trying to make her way back to her family in the US after being deported. Every full moon Sia lights a candle in her mother’s honor, for although most people she’s dead, Sia’s abuela’s spirit says otherwise. And then one night she discovers an alien spaceship carrying her missing mother. Raquel Vasquez Gilliland blends science fiction, fantasy, romance, and adventure into a surprisingly deep story about processing trauma and standing up to racism.

 

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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