February is the month of love, and that's certainly true for the slate of new February 2018 YA novels. I'm positively
swooning over this month's selection of new young adult books.
What's there to fall in love with? Well
Tamora Pierce for one. Yes, the iconic fantasy author is returning to Tortall not only for a new book, but an entire new series centered on one of her most beloved characters. Cue the *heart eyes* emoji. As if that's not enough, Seraphina author Rachel Hartman is also returning to her beloved fantasy world for a new tale. What did we do to deserve this?
But it's not just iconic young adult authors who are getting attention this month. Debut writers are making waves with buzzy books. Haven't heard of Arvin Ahmadi or Tanaz Bhathena yet? Well... just wait. You will.
All this and I haven't even mentioned that Dhonielle Clayton is branching out from co-writing to build her own world in her new The Belles series, one of the most talked about books of 2018 so far, and rightly so. (Just try to stop staring at the stunning cover for a hot second so you can actually read what's inside. Promise it's worth it.)
Valentine's Day and Galentine's Day are all well and good, but we're a little busy writing our love letters to these books.
'The Disturbed Girl's Dictionary' by NoNieqa Ramos (Feb. 1; Carolrhoda Lab)
NoNieqa Ramos paints a picture of Macy — an impoverished teenage girl who has been labeled as "disturbed" — through a series of vignettes, each tied to a word in Macy's "dictionary" journal. In doing so, Ramos also explores a way of life too often overlooked by literature, both YA and adult, as a whole. Macy's father is in prison; her mother is involved with a series of abusive men, who also harass Macy; and her brother has been "kidnapped" by Child Protective Services. With the help of a kind, supportive teacher, Macy starts her dictionary to express her emotions and tells her stories, and we get to read her sharp, angry, and vibrant entries.
Click here to buy. 'Tempests and Slaughter' by Tamora Pierce (Feb. 6; Random House Books for Young Readers)
Sound the alarm! Because Tamora Pierce is going back to Tortall in a brand new series, The Numair Chronicles. Pierce is telling the origin story of Numair Salmalín, the incredibly powerful chief mage of Torall. You can still jump into Pierce's new series if you've never read her books before, but come on, you're going to want to get yourself to a library and catch up (starting with her most popular Song of the Lioness series).
Click here to buy. 'The Belles' by Dhonielle Clayton (Feb. 6; Disney-Hyperion)
In the world Dhonielle Clayton has created, everything is in shades of gray (and not the sexy kind) and unsightly — picture Dorothy's world before she finds herself in technicolor Oz. It's not pretty, literally. However, with the help of Belles who manipulate Beauty — like sisters Camellia, Edelweiss, Ambrosia, Padma, Valeria, and Hanna — the people of Orléans can be transformed... for a price, of course. Camellia thinks she's found everything she's ever wanted when she earns the coveted role as the queen's Belle, but she soon learns that those who control Beauty are hiding some ugly secrets. Clayton's story is lush, evocative, reflective, and truly page-turning. You won't be able to wait for the (yaas!) sequel.
Click here to buy. 'Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card' by Sara Saedi (Feb. 6; Knopf Books for Young Readers) Americanized is a must-read, vitally important memoir — particularly with the current political climate around immigration and DACA. Sara Saedi learned when she was 13 that she and her family were undocumented immigrants in the U.S., having fled from Iran during the Iran-Iraq war when she was just two years old. Her story is one of fear of being deported at any moment and unraveling her family's true history and story, but it's also about coming of age and being a teenager, with concerns about prom and zits. Poignant and often LOL funny, Americanized is utterly of the moment, though so many of the themes are timeless. Click here to buy. 'The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza' by Shaun David Hutchinson (Feb. 6; Simon Pulse)
We Are The Ants, The Edge of the Universe, and now The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza, Shaun David Hutchinson uses a coming apocalypse to tell unique, thought-provoking stories of teenagers who are already trying to figure out their own roles in the world. In his latest quirky novel, we meet Elena Mendoza who was born to a virgin mother — a scientific phenomenon known as parthenogenesis. But things get even weirder from there. She's hearing voices speak to her via a coffee shop logo or tampon boxes or other inanimate objects, for one. But more importantly, after she performs a miracle and saves the life of her crush, Freddie, she learns that every life she saves will erase another from the Earth. Click here to buy. 'Shadowsong' by. S. Jae-Jones (Feb. 6; Wednesday Books)
Thank the goddesses because
S. Jae-Jones is going back to the Underground in her . Six months have passed since Liesl left the Underground. She's trying to focus on her and her brother's music careers, but she can't forget the effect the Goblin King has left on her. Soon, her brother Josef is acting cold and distant, and it becomes clear the barrier between her world and the Underground are crumbling. Liesl must venture back to her Goblin King to figure out his secrets and save her world. Using her own experiences with bipolar disorder to tell the story, Wintersong sequel Shadowsong Wintersong feels authentic as a dark fairy tale with utterly human elements. Click here to buy. 'Broken Beautiful Hearts' by Kami Garcia (Feb. 6; Imprint)
Want to heat up your long winter?
Kami Garcia's . Senior year isn't going how Peyton expected. First, she's put her college soccer scholarship in question after tearing a ligament in her knee. Second, no one believes her that her popular boyfriend Reed pushed her, causing her knee injury, after she confronted him about his secret. So Peyton changes her plans and moves to a small, football-loving town with her uncle and twin cousins. There she meets Owen, a high school MMA fighter, and steamy, sexy sparks ignite. Broken Beautiful Hearts is the steamy romance you need Click here to buy. 'American Panda' by Gloria Chao (Feb. 6; Simon Pulse)
Taiwanese-American Mai knows all too well the consequences of disappointing her overbearing, higher-than-high-expectation-setting parents. After all, her brother was Xing has been estranged from the family because their parents think he didn't pick the "right" girlfriend. On paper, Mai is doing everything her parents want of her: She's already a freshman at MIT, she's on track to become a doctor, get married to a Taiwanese boy, and have kids. But what her parents don't know could break them apart: She's too germaphobic to be a doctor, she'd rather be a dancer, and she's crushing on a decidedly un-approved Japanese-American classmate. Gloria Chao's novel is vibrant and bright, and she tells Mai's story with humor and sensitivity.
Click here to buy. 'Your One & Only' by Adrianne Finlay (Feb. 6; HMH Books for Young Readers)
When does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be human when you're the only human living in a world of clones? Adrianne Finlay tackles these issues — plus conformity, individuality, and identity — in this beautiful science fiction love story. Humanity has long died off at the hands of a plague. Now, every 10 years a new generation of identical "sibling" clones are created from human DNA. But Jack? He's genetically human, created by the clones to have "imperfections" (for example, they gave his asthma). Clone Althea-310 is fascinated by Jack, and distracted by the feeling that she's different from her nine other sisters. Althea-310 and Jack get closer and closer, falling in love and questioning everything about who they are.
Click here to buy. 'When My Heart Joins the Thousand' by A.J. Steiger (Feb. 6; HarperTeen)
Lit lovers will recognize the tile of A.J. Steiger's debut novel as a reference to a quote in
Watership Down—a book beloved by the main character of When My Heart Joins the Thousand. (No spoilers to what that could mean!) Alvie Frank is turning 18 soon, and that means she has to convince a judge she's equipped to be emancipated, otherwise, because she's autistic and orphaned, she could become a ward of the state. She's definitely not focused on any romantic relationships, but then she meets Stanley, a 19-year-old college student who is living with osteogenesis imperfecta, which means his bones are fragile and easily broken. The two fall in love, and the story doesn't define its characters (nor do the characters define each other) entirely by their diagnoses, which is incredibly refreshing. Click here to buy. 'Down and Across' by Arvin Ahmadi (Feb. 6; Viking Books for Young Readers)
What's the key to success? Well according to a fictional
Down and Across psychologist character, it's "grit." It's that notion that compels high school senior Saaket "Scott" Ferdowsi to set off on an adventure to figure out his life plan. You see Scott has never been particularly dedicated to anything, and so it's difficult for him to commit to a "practical" life career before attending college, like his father wants him to. Instead, after hearing about this "grit" theory, he runs away to find this psychologist, meets a crossword-puzzle obsessed girl named Flora, and embarks on a series of escapades that might tell him way more about who he wants to be than any college application can. We get to follow Scott's witty and often profound entries about his journey, and the result is super charming and adventurous in its own right. Click here to buy. 'The Prince and the Dressmaker' by Jen Wang (Feb. 13; First Second)
If Prince Sebastian is Bruce Wayne, the fabulous fashion icon Lady Crystallia is his Batman. Jen Wang's utterly charming graphic novel spins a fairy tale-esque yarn set in 19th century Paris. Sebastian's parents want to see him married off, but only his BFF Frances (with the help of the dresses she makes), knows that he's too busy secretly moonlighting as Crystallia, who is taking the fashion world by storm. Both Frances' and Sebastian's dreams are in the balance as they keep this secret!
Click here to buy. 'Honor Among Thieves' by Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre (Feb. 13; Katherine Tegan Books)
Two YA heavyweights, Rachel Caine and Ann Aguire, team up for a new futuristic series. In their distant-future world, Honors are a team of humans who explore the outer edges of their universe aboard sentient alien ships called Leviathans. Joining the Honors seems perfect for Zara Cole, who is on the run from a criminal past and troubled childhood. Zara feels at home with Nadim, her ship, but she's not prepared for the dark truths about the Honors program.
Click here to buy. 'What the Night Sings' by Vesper Stamper (Feb. 20; Knopf Books for Young Readers)
A teenage Holocaust survivor has to learn how to move forward in her life in this haunting, illustrated novel by Vesper Stamper. Gerta didn't know she was Jewish, until the Nazis came for her and her father. Now, liberated from a concentration camp, Gerta is the last remaining member of her family and is living with new pieces of her identity: Jewish, survivor, displaced. Gerta recounts her time before the Holocaust, the concentration camps, and now today, as she re-finds her love of music, a gift from her opera singer mother. Horrifyingly, in this current political climate, Gerta's story is as relevant as ever to remember, and Stamper tells it with care.
Click here to buy. 'All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages' edited by Saundra Mitchell (Feb. 27; Harlequin Teen)
Seventeen YA authors who identify as LGBTQ themselves have banded together to weave fictional about queer teens throughout history, illuminating that diverse sexual orientations are not "new," but that people have been forgotten or erased from history because of bigotry and hate. Still, these stories do not center on the hardships; they are a celebration of all kinds of love. The collection features a range of cultures and time periods, from an asexual teen in the 1970s roller disco scene to a forbidden love in a 16th century Spanish convent. And there are some superstar authors contributing: Malinda Lo, Dahlia
Adler, and Anna Marie McLemore, just for starters. Click here to buy. 'A Girl Like That' by Tanaz Bhathena (Feb. 27; Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers)
When 16-year-old Zarin Wadia's story begins, she is already gone. In fact, she died in a car accident with her childhood friend Porus and was discovered on the side of a Jeddah, Saudia Arabia highway. But Tanaz Bhathena's electric, important novel is less about the mystery of their deaths and more an exploration of how social and political systems across the globe are built to keep women down, with Zarin as just one tragic example. Zarin is smart and vibrant and vibrant, but as an orphan she lives with constant physical and mental abuse at home with her aunt. Things aren't better at school, where she is ostracized, slut shamed, and bullied. The story is told by Zarin and Porus, but also by the people in Zarin's life, as readers and those around her learn about what kind of girl Zarin really was.
Click here to buy. 'Tess of the Road' by Rachel Hartman (Feb. 27; Random House Books for Young Readers)
Prepare your praise hands because Rachel Hartman has returned to Goredd
to tell a new story, this time focusing on Seraphina's younger stepsibling Tess Dombegh. Tess has always found ways to get herself in trouble, never conforming to society's standards that women act like "proper ladies." After punching her just-married new brother-in-law at her sister Jeanne's wedding, Tess dresses as a boy and runs away, fearing her parents' threats that they'll send her to convent. (I know, we all love Tess already.) As Tess travels on her journey, we learn about her as she learns about herself and her place in this world where she never feels she fits. Click here to buy.