What do Medusa, Beauty and the Beast, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer have in common? They're all getting new stories and re-tellings this month. The best YA books of January 2019 bring the familiar to the new, with huge-name authors returning with sequels and additions, plus new books taking new spins on old favorites. Let's just say we're starting the new year off right, even if it just comes to our reading lives.
The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein author Kiersten White is taking on another famous character: Buffy. Though the Scooby gang won't truly reunite, the new book series is set in the Buffy-verse, with a new Chosen One and a delicious twist. Meanwhile, Leigh Bardugo is bringing us back to her beloved Grishaverse. (Seriously, when is Bardugo getting her own Game of Thrones-style HBO or Netflix show set in this magical universe, TV gods?) Holly Black is also back with a faerie-filled sequel to The Cruel Prince, and Maureen Johnson has us on the edge of our comfy reading chairs with the second installment of her throwback Truly Devious mystery series. Oh, and did I mention that lush fantasy YA queen Roshani Chokshi is dropping the first book of a new series, and it's set in an alternate, historical Paris? Or that our new favorite thriller writer Karen McManus is back to have us flipping through the pages again?
Our holiday wishes have been answered, just maybe a little late, so put all your gift cards from the holidays to good use by grabbing these best books of January 2019:
'Two Can Keep a Secret' by Karen M. McManus (Jan. 8; Delacorte Press)
When her mother goes to rehab, twins Ellery and Ezra are sent to live with their grandmother in small-town Vermont — a place with a history of missing and murdered girls. Five years ago, homecoming queen Lacey was found murdered in the nearby Halloween theme park, ominously called Murderland. And another homecoming queen, Ellery and Ezra's aunt, their mother's own twin sister, went missing when she was only 17. It seems that pattern is starting up again when a science teacher dies and anonymous threats go out to nominees for homecoming queen, including Ellery herself.
'Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America' edited by Ibi Zoboi (Jan. 8; Balzer + Bray)
American Street and Pride author Ibi Zoboi edited this essential collection of short stories about being black and coming of age in America. The stories themselves represent a diverse array of backgrounds — wealthy and poor, mixed race, immigrants, urban and rural, and more — and the authors together are a star-studded collection of black YA authors, including Justina Ireland, Jason Reynolds, Renée Watson, Rita Williams-Garcia, and more.
'The Wicked King' by Holly Black (Jan. 8; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Holly Black needs no introduction, and The Cruel Prince fans probably have already had this release date marked on their calendar for ages. (Spoilers for The Cruel Prince ahead) Now that we know Oak is the heir to Faerie, his sister Jude will do anything to keep him safe. Jude has bound King Cardan to herself, further complicating their dynamic, and she now essentially runs the throne. Now, she has to navigate the complicated palace dynamics even as Cardan tries to bring her down and she has to smoke out a traitor close to her.
'Slayer' by Kiersten White (Jan. 8; Simon Pulse)
Alert all Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans: dark YA author Kiersten White is writing a new book series that will fill the Buffy-shaped hole in your life, starting with Slayer. When the story starts, all the magic in the world has died, meaning no new slayers can be chosen. Teenage twins Nina and Artemis descend from the line of Watchers, but it's soon discovered that Nina was the last slayer chosen before the magic disappeared, meaning she is both the a Watcher and the last Chosen One ever. Your Buffy-loving soul will light up, and get ready for a pretty brilliant twist ending.
'The Girl King' by Mimi Yu (Jan. 8; Bloomsbury YA)
Sisters Lu and Min are pit against each other as they try to wrestle back control of their father's dynasty and become Emperor. The princesses always knew that Lu was fated to become the dynasty's first female ruler, but their father betrayed them both by choosing their male cousin Set as the successor instead. Lu goes on the run, searching for an ally army that can help her reclaim her birthright; Min stays, but soon a magic awakens inside her that she realizes she can use to overtake set and become Emperor herself. Of course, soon these two divergent paths have to collide, as there can only be one ruler.
'Goodbye, Perfect' by Sara Barnard (Jan. 8; Simon Pulse)
Bonnie was Eden's trustworthy, loyal best friend ever since Eden was seven and fostered by a new family that brought her to a new school. So, Eden is shocked when, on the eve of their important exams at age 15, Bonnie sends her a text that she's run away with her boyfriend, Jack, whom Eden has never met. Once the police get involved, it is revealed that Jack is actually Mr. Cohn, their almost-30-year-old music teacher, whom Bonnie has been having a sexual relationship with.
'Echo North' by Joanna Ruth Meyer (Jan. 15; Page Street)
Echo Alkaev believes her father vanished, and so she is surprised to find him six months later, half frozen in the wintry woods, guarded by a talking wolf. It's an animal she recognizes; the same wolf attacked her when she was a child, leaving scars on her face. In a Beauty and the Beast-like spin, the wolf offers her a trade: her father's safety, if she comes and lives with him for a year in his magical home.
'The Gilded Wolves' by Roshani Chokshi (Jan. 15; Wednesday Books)
A glamorous heist story set in 19th century Paris and written by Roshani Chokshi — is there anything else you need to hear? Chokshi, known for her lush, fantasy storytelling, takes on the tale of treasure-hunter/thief and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie, who bands together a team of experts Ocean's 11-but-diverse-style for a heist ordered by the powerful Order of Babel. His take if he steals the Horus Eye that they're after? His own true inheritance after being rejected by as an heir by his family.
'The Vanishing Stair' by Maureen Johnson (Jan. 22; Katherine Tegen Books)
Waiting for the next installment of Maureen Johnson's Agatha Christie-Sherlock Holmes-classic mystery homage series was torture, but The Vanishing Stair is oh so worth it. We return to the eccentric boarding school in Vermont with the dead bodies and the long-standing mystery of the kidnapped wife and child of its founder, along with the detective student Stevie Bell, as determined to solve the crimes as she is. Without spoiling (because that would take away all the fun), there are more deaths, more secrets, and more riddles.
'The Cold Is in Her Bones' by Peternelle van Arsdale (Jan. 22; Margaret K. McElderry Books)
The legend of Medusa gets a feminist spin in The Cold Is in her Bones. Teenage Milla lives a sheltered life on her family's farm. Her only friend is her brother Niklas. So when Iris comes to live nearby, Milla has her first contact with the outside world and her first actual friend. Iris tells Milla about why she's restricted to her family's farm: there's a demon cursing the village, possessing young women at random — and soon it seems the demon is coming for Iris. Now, while Iris is captured and imprisoned with all the other possessed girls, Milla starts to feel like maybe the demon is coming for her, too. Peternelle van Arsdale rallies against ignorance and fights for disenfranchised women in this Greek myth re-imagining.
'Someday We Will Fly' by Rachel DeWoskin (Jan. 22; Viking Books for Young Readers)
In Someday We Will Fly, Rachel DeWoskin tells a fictional tale based on an often overlooked part of history during World War II: Jewish refugees fleeing to Shanghai, where they were accepted without visas. Lillia is 15 in Warsaw, 1940, when her parents' performance as Stanislav Circus acrobats is raided. Her mother vanishes in the chaos, and Lillia's father escapes with her and her 18-month-old sister Naomi. They travel by land and sea to Shanghai, where they find a community in a culture clash. Shanghai is under occupation by the Japanese, and Lillia, realizing that her family's survival is up to her, too, takes a job dancing at a club for wealthy Japanese men, taking up her parents' skill for performing.
'A Curse So Dark and Lonely' by Brigid Kemmerer (Jan. 29; Bloomsbury
Brigid Kemmerer's A Curse So Dark and Lonely is an epic, contemporary retelling of Beauty and the Beast in which "Belle" is definitely not just sitting around reading books. The "Beast" is Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall, who is cursed to repeat the fall of his 18th year over and over again until he falls in love. When he doesn't, at the end of each autumn he turns into a beast that destroys his family and his castle. Our heroine is now Harper Lacy, a teenager with cerebral palsy who lives in modern Washington D.C. Her mother is dying of cancer and her father has left only debts to loan sharks for her and her brother, Jake. When Harper tries to save a woman on the street, she is magically taken away to Prince Rhen's Emberfall, which she believes is under attack from a mysterious beast.
'The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali' by Sabina Khan (Jan. 29; Scholastic)
High school senior Rukhsana Ali can't wait to escape her carefully monitored life and attend Caltech to start her dream of becoming an engineer. Applying to Caltech was one of the secrets she was keeping from her conservative Bengali-Muslim parents, so she was thrilled when they gave in. What they weren't accepting of, however, was when they caught Rukhsana kissing her girlfriend Ariana. Furious, they send Rukhsana to Bangladesh, where she struggles between traditions (arranged marriages, for one) and her desires for herself (including still trying to stay in touch with Ariana), amid her complicated feelings for her family. It's an intersectional, diverse coming-of-age story that will break your heart in the best way.
'King of Scars' by Leigh Bardugo (Jan. 29; Imprint)
Leigh Bardugo returns to her beloved Grishaverse with King of Scars, a the first book in a new duology focusing on Nikolai Lantsov, the young king of Ravka, and the character Bardugo is asked most about, she says. In fact, Nikolai was supposed to die at the end of the Shadow and Bone trilogy, but as Bardugo says, "Once I started writing my privateer prince who has a gift for invention and no talent at all for keeping his mouth shut, I didn’t want to stop." Now we follow the king as he attempts to save his country, and we get to return to the best magical universe since Harry Potter.