Death, the Dead, and the Undead: New Young Adult SFF for July and August 2021

As I write this, the air conditioner is on full blast, I have an ice cold glass of water sweating all over a coaster, and my pets have melted into furry puddles. It’s a thousand degrees outside and all I want to do is sprawl out on the couch with a good book. With more than half of summer still to go, I’ll have plenty of time for that, especially with this list of upcoming new young adult speculative fiction, fantasy, and horror. Lots of good stuff coming in July and August, and these are some of the ones I’m looking forward to the most…

 

Thrills & Chills

The River Has Teeth by Erica Waters—HarperTeen; July 27, 2021

Magic runs deep in the Bend, a strip of land between the river and the local nature park. The Lloyds have tapped into that power for generations. Lately, though, the magic has soured. At the same time, girls from town have started disappearing. Natasha seeks out Della Lloyd for help in finding her missing sister, but Della begins to suspect her own family might know more about the disappearances than they’re letting on. So! Many! Bi and pan! Characters!

 

The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass—G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers; July 13, 2021

Unlike his effortlessly popular older brother, Jake struggles to get by. It’s hard enough being the only Black kid in his grade at his college prep school, but he’s also still in the closet. Oh, and he can see ghosts. They’re mostly harmless, just reliving their final moments over and over again, except for Sawyer Doon, a teenager who killed six other kids in a school shooting the year before. Sawyer’s ghost wants to possess Jake and use his meat suit to complete his revenge from beyond the grave.

 

The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould—Wednesday Books; August 3, 2021

Logan Woodley-Ortiz is not thrilled at the prospect of spending the summer in the isolated town of Snakebite, Oregon. Her adoptive fathers, ghost hunters on the hit TV show ParaSpectors, are scouting locations in their hometown for the new season when teenagers start disappearing. Locals, fueled by bigotry, blame the prodigal sons, so it’s up to Logan to clear their names and solve the mystery. She’ll need the help of Ashley, the girlfriend of one of the missing boys…but what to do about that pesky romantic spark between them?

 

Hocus Pocus

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee—Delacorte Press; August 3, 2021

Felicity Morrow returns to her elite boarding school, Dalloway, after a yearlong break to recover from the untimely death of her girlfriend. She plans to stay away from the students’ obsession over witchcraft and the ghosts of the Dalloway Five—girls who were murdered in the school in the 1700s supposedly for being witches—but the allure of new girl and famous writer Ellis drags her back in.

 

Bad Witch Burning by Jessica Lewis—Delacorte Press; August 24, 2021

There’s being poor and being poor, and Katrell Davis lives in the latter. To make extra money, she acts as a medium, communicating with the dead for paying clients. After an incident involving her mom’s skeezy boyfriend, Katrell realizes she can do more than talk to the dead – she can resurrect them as well. Ignoring a dire warning and her own health, Katrell starts raking in the cash. But her efforts soon draw the attention of some nefarious characters.

 

Edie in Between by Laura Sibson—Viking Books for Young Readers; August 24, 2021

Edie, still reeling from her mother’s death, can’t seem to move forward with her life. Perhaps that’s because she’s stuck living on a houseboat with her eccentric grandmother. Or perhaps it’s because her mother’s ghost is haunting her. When Edie finds her mother’s teenage journal, she heads off on a scavenger hunt to piece together her mother’s fading memories. Edie thinks she’s just helping her mother find peace beyond the grave, but she’s also learning about her own magical powers.

 

Science Fictional

Flash Fire by T.J. Klune (The Extraordinaries #2)—Tor Teen; July 13, 2021

Extraordinaries superhero fanfic writer Nick Bell won the boy of his dreams, Seth—aka Pyro Storm—and is working on managing his anxiety and ADHD. But the reveal of some big secrets could threaten their little bubble of happiness. In the meantime, supervillains are up to no good, and it’s up to a group of teenagers to stop them.

 

Devil in the Device by Lora Beth Johnson (Goddess in the Machine #2)—Razorbill; August 24, 2021

A lot has happened since the end of the first book in Lora Beth Johnson’s duology. Exiled prince Zhade is living the good life, but only because he wears his brother’s face. Andra is coming to grips with the truth about who and what she really is while trying to repair the damaged rocket that she hopes can be used to save her people. With the Crown and angels running amok and a dying planet to deal with, Zhade and Andra must work together once more.

 

Outcasts, Outlaws, & Rebels

What We Devour by Linsey Miller—Sourcebooks Fire; July 6, 2021

Lorena lives in a world of demigods and blood sacrifices. Only royalty are supposed to have the ability to access the magic of the overthrown deities the Noble and the Vile, but somehow Lorena does too. Her hopes for a quiet, unassuming life hiding her abilities from the world are dashed when the Vile prince discovers her secret and blackmails her into working for him. The Door keeping out the exiled Vile is weakening, and Lorena may be the key to keeping it sealed. Also! An asexual main character!

 

The Wild Ones by Nafiza Azad—Margaret K. McElderry Books; August 3, 2021

As a girl, young Paheli’s mother traded her to a cruel man who used his power to inflict great trauma on her. When she finally escaped, she met a strange boy, Taraana. He gifted her magic stars that granted her access to the Between, a place beyond the human and magical worlds. Over time, Paheli gathered more girls like her and built a community in the Between. But now someone is trying to kill Taraana. If they succeed, the Between and everything Paheli’s worked so hard to create will come crashing down.

 

The Sisters of Reckoning by Charlotte Nicole Davis (The Good Luck Girls #2)—Tor Teen; August 10, 2021

It’s been a while since the end of the first book in Charlotte Nicole Davis’ weird west series, and the girls have pieced together new lives. Aster runs an underground railroad for other good luck girls looking to escape their futures in Arketta, while the others are settled in the free territory of Ferron. When a new welcome house opens, Aster decides to do more than help girls get out; she’s going to take down the whole oppressive system.

 

Cazadora by Romina Garber (Wolves of No World #2)—Wednesday Books; August 17, 2021

Manu’s very existence breaks the rules. At first, it was just that she and her mother were undocumented immigrants; now it’s because she’s a female werewolf in a world where magical roles have been drawn under regid gender lines. She and her friends have escaped El Laberinto and are being hunted by the Cazadores, but all hope isn’t lost. If they can find the Coven, the secretive rebels may be able to provide them the protection they want and assistance they need to break down the colonialist and patriarchal rules.

 

Ghastly Ghosts

Me (Moth) by Amber McBride—Feiwel & Friends; August 17, 2021

This novel in verse tells the story of Moth, the granddaughter of a Hoodoo root worker, and Sani, a Navajo boy who connects with her in a way no one else has. Moth’s parents died tragically, but her loss bonds her with Sani, who is dealing with his own depression and loss. The two set out on a road trip and learn their ancestors may have once been connected just as they are.

 

Redemptor by Jordan Ifueko (Raybearer #2)—Amulet Books; August 17, 2021

The newest Empress of Aritsar and High Lady Judge is none other than Tarisai. Being in charge isn’t easy, and challenges to arise. To spare future generations from having to sacrifice their children to the abiku, she descends into the Underworld on a terrible journey. To secure her country’s future, Tarisai must find a way to atone for the horrors of the past.

 

Fairytales and Folklore Retellings

The Lady or the Lion by Aamna Qureshi (Marghazar Trials #1)—CamCat Books; June 22, 2021

Durkhanai Miangul, the princess of Marghazar, will do everything in her power to exonerate her grandfather, the Badshah, when he’s accused of being behind a deadly international incident. So when the Badshah opens the borders to foreigners, Durkhanai hatches a plan. Ambassador Asfandyar Afridi from the neighboring land of Jardum makes no secret of being a spy, but Durkhanai has no choice but to form an alliance with him. Things get even more complicated as a mysterious disease starts spreading through her citizens…not to mention her growing attraction to Asfandyar. A Pakistani-inspired retelling of the short story “The Lady or the Tiger?” by Frank R. Stockton.

 

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim (Six Crimson Cranes #1)—Knopf Books for Young Readers; July 6, 2021

Princess Shiori’anma is engaged to a man she doesn’t want to marry. Shortly before her wedding, she discovers her stepmother’s darkest secrets, an act that leads to her banishment and her brothers being turned into cranes. If she dares speak of what has befallen her, her brothers will die. Although she’s broke and silenced, Shiori is not powerless. With the help of her betrothed, a dragon prince, and her own growing magic, she’s determined to break her curse for good. Loosely inspired by the various European folktales where siblings are turned into birds (such as “The Six Swans”).

 

Summer in the City of Roses by Michelle Ruiz Keil—Soho Teen; July 6, 2021

Iphigenia Santos Velos and her brother Orestes are growing up in 90s-era Portland, Oregon. When Orr is abruptly shipped off to a wilderness boot camp against his will, Iph rebels by running away. Out on the streets, she meets George, a queer kid who takes her under their wing. Meanwhile, Orr escapes the camp and winds up crashing with an all-girl punk band, The Furies. Inspired by the fairytale “Brother and Sister” and the Greek myth of Iphigenia.

 

Alex Brown is a librarian by day, historian by night, author and writer by passion, and a queer Black person all the time. Keep up with them on Twitter, Instagram, and their blog.

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