Welcome to the first (of many) editions of “Can’t Wait 2019 YA.” I put out a call on Twitter and was flooded with responses, so here are some of the people who were willing to talk with me about what books they’re looking forward to next year. Most of these will be YA, but some throughout the posts will be middle grade or adult, too. Authors are listed in no particular order 🙂
1. Internment by Samira Ahmed: Based on a grimly-imagined near future America, this story follows Layla as she and her parents navigate survival in a Muslim internment camp. I know this one’s going to be a hard read, but with the events happening right here in the US and even around the world (where Muslims are literally being put into detention camps right now), I feel this is a must-read for everyone in 2019.
2. Finale by Stephanie Garber: The sure-to-be-spectacular finale to the Caraval series?? Sign. Me. The. Eff. Up. I’m so ready for more Scarlet and Tella and Legend. All the magic, I needs it.
3. The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan: I had the honor of reading and blurbing this gem of a book, and I can’t wait to thrust it into everyone’s hands! When a Bangladeshi Muslim teen’s parents catch her kissing a girl, they ship her off to Bangladesh. It’s an absolutely perfect addition to the LGBTQ YA genre.
4. Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus: Cheating a little bit because I got to read an ARC of this beauty early, but OMG. If you guys thought One of Us Is Lying was shocking and absorbing, just wait till you visit the town of Echo Ridge. Just. Wait. The last line in particular will kill you. (Pun intended.)
5. Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi: Another lush, sweeping fantasy by Roshani Chokshi set, this time, in a darkly glamorous Paris? Yes, please! I cannot wait to be seduced by one of her glittering, gorgeous worlds. Totally expecting and welcoming the resultant book hangover.
Sandhya Menon is the New York Times Bestselling Author of When Dimple Met Rishi and From Twinkle, With Love. Her upcoming book, There’s Something About Sweetie, comes out May 14th from Simon Pulse and made me cry, so.
Olivia A Cole
1. We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia
This book promises to contain all the things I love: speculative worlds in which women subvert the roles assigned to them; family secrets rooted in love; SPY STUFF. Also, something about invading elite schools is always a hook for me and I can’t wait to invade the Medio School for Girls with heroine Dani Vargas.
2. We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
A woman disguising herself as a man to save her people?? A quest to restore a lost artifact?? I freaking love quests. SIGN ME UP. SERIOUSLY WHAT ARE WE WAITING FOR.
3. Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany Jackson
A Brooklyn coming of age journey with the stages of grief woven in with rap music and pop culture – I have a feeling it’s going to be amazing. Tiffany Jackson’s work levels up with everything I read from her, and I fully expect Let Me Hear a Rhyme to raise the bar still.
Olivia A Cole is the author of the super cool 2018 sci-fi YA, A Conspiracy of Stars, which you should read, and it’s upcoming sequel, An Anatomy of Beasts, which releases April 16th from Katherine Tegen Books.
IMMORAL CODE by Lillian Clark. Robin Hood for the 21st century = everything I ever needed in a book. And girls who kick butt in technology and astrophysics means that the YA crowd is going to get nerd heroes we can all collectively (square) root for. Sorry not sorry about that pun.
YOU’D BE MINE by Erin Hahn. This is the YA version of A Star is Born, and as such, is the country-loving romance that will bring life to even the staunchest metal heads among us. Cowboy boots, road trips, and dancing barefoot on a stage while a crowd roars Annie’s name is literally the same thing as magic.
HOT DOG GIRL by Jennifer Dugan. This girl in a hot dog suit sizzles, and it’s not just because of the summer heat. (heh) Lou is a girl fawning over a pirate who might not realize that real love–the squishy cupcake heart pounding type–is closer than she thinks. ALSO? Bisexual rep for the win!
Kelly Coon is the author of the upcoming Gravemaidens which releases from Delacorte in fall 2019 and I would like it right now please it sounds so good.
Sandhya Menon is a super instabuy author for me, and just looking at THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT SWEETIE makes me happy. Then I remember I am definitely gonna love the words inside, and find a character bursting with wit and personality, and it just makes me wanna squee on the spot.
I am wildly excited for Aminah Mae Safi’s TELL ME HOW IT REALLY FEELS because A) look at that cover and tell me how you can NOT die for those girls, and B) she’s already proven to be a really interesting writer with her debut, and sophomore novels are my jam – I love seeing where an author whose first book was really notable goes next
Dahlia Adler is my hero. I mean, she’s also the author of Just Visiting, Under the Lights, Behind the Scenes, a host of other things, and the editor of the upcoming His Hideous Heart which releases from Flatiron in September. She *also* is a blogger at the Barnes and Noble Teen Blog and runs the magnificent LGBTQ Reads.
THE ART OF LOSING by Lizzy Mason – One of the first debuts of 2019, THE ART OF LOSING is one of my most anticipated of the entire year. The story’s themes of loss and addiction, to honesty and redemption, will resonate with teens and adults alike.
OPPOSITE OF ALWAYS by Justin A. Reynolds – You ever read a blurb and know a novel is going to be so beautiful, so creative, that you’re already ready to put it on your Top Reads of 2019 list? That’s OPPOSITE OF ALWAYS.
COLOR ME IN by Natasha Diaz – This cover is BEAUTIFUL, and I’m sure the story is even better. It’s a novel in verse about a teen’s white-passing, multiracial experience, getting to know her mom’s Black Baptist family in Harlem while her parents’ divorce splits her identity. With themes of privilege and learning to own your own identity, this needs to be on shelves (and in my hands!!!) ASAP!
A PLACE FOR WOLVES by Kosoko Jackson – Kosoko is a star and I’d read his grocery lists, but I’m even more thrilled to have an entire book to rave about. This queer love story, set against the backdrop of war and the violence and pain that comes along with it, is going to destroy me.
THE WEIGHT OF OUR SKY by Hanna Alkaf – I mean the cover illustration alone is an instabuy for me. Beyond that, the concept of a teen with OCD separated from—and desperately trying to return to—her mother during the historic race riots in 1969 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, has totally hooked me. I need this in my hands now!
Phil Stamper is the author of 2020’s The Gravity of Us from Bloomsbury. If you cheat your way onto the NYT list, he’ll figure you out. He’s also very tall.
THE MERCIFUL CROW by Margaret Owen
I had the privilege of being able to read a version of this book this year, and I was so engrossed and so intent on finishing the final chapter that I was late to pick up my kids from school and had to bribe them with chicken nuggets so they’d forgive me. Everything about this book — from the intense first line to the take-no-bullshit main character Fie to the incredibly detailed worldbuilding to a magical system that uses teeth(!) — is immersive and evocative and masterful. I need everyone to read it so I have people to scream about it with.
THE OPPOSITE OF ALWAYS by Justin Reynolds
Caution: This book contains a romance that is sweet without ever being cloying, witty banter, emotional gut punches, hidden depths, lovingly and honestly portrayed friendships and families, and so many beautifully written sentences that I don’t know whether to be mad at Justin for being so talented or figure out which dark ritual I need to perform for some of that talent. Consider yourself warned.
Hanna Alkaf is the author of The Weight of Our Sky, releasing in February from Simon & Schuster. She also drew the little Rec-It Rachel logo, so she’s the coolest person in the world.
Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka
We love rom-coms, obviously. We’re especially excited for two: Aminah Mae Safi’s Tell Me How You Really Feel and Maurene Goo’s Somewhere Only We Know. Safi follows her debut Not the Girls You’re Looking For (which we loooooove) with a book featuring our favorite things (LA! Queer romance! Filmmaking!), and you’d be hard-pressed to find a YA contemporary writer or reader not excited for Goo’s electric Roman Holiday update following a K-Pop starlet and a journalist in Hong Kong. We want the swoons.
While we’re on contemporary, Sarah Enni’s debut Tell Me Everything is sensitive, funny, with an incisive eye for modern media (just like Enni’s podcast First Draft).
Finally, Bridget Morrissey’s What You Left Me and Rachel Lynn Solomon’s You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone broke our hearts and glued them back together with this year. We’re very eager for the world to read their 2019 follow-ups. Morrissey’s gorgeous and deeply relevant When The Light Went Out follows a group coping with their friend’s death from gun violence through the letters she left behind. Solomon’s Our Year of Maybe centers on a girl who donates her kidney to the best friend she’s in love with, and it’s nuanced, sex-positive, painful, and perfect.
Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka are the authors of Always Never Yours, and the upcoming If I’m Being Honest (out April from Penguin). Plus, they’re a IRL OTP, and they love Shakespeare, so really there’s no reason not to read their books.
A Treason of Thorns (Laura Weymouth, September 10, HarperTeen): I read this book as Laura was drafting it years ago. I read it serial-style, before I fell asleep at night, and was completely overwhelmed by its subtlety and magic and the fierceness of its heroine. Readers are going to be totally swept away.
Echo North (Joanna Ruth Meyer, January 15, Page Street Press):
This novel is a retelling is “East of the Sun, West of the Moon,” but it contains elements from multiple other fairy tales. And this is the greatest charm of the Meyer’s second book—it’s layers upon layers of story, embroidered with extraordinary imagination and magic and whimsy, all centered around a heroine who have both suffered and loved so much it’s impossible not to root for her.
We Hunt the Flame (Hafsah Faizal, May 14, FSG): This is a LUSH novel. The world is stunning, you BELIEVE the characters as you spend more and more time in their minds, the stakes are high, and Hafsah’s prose is stunning. As an author, I am green with envy. As a friend, I want to give her a million high fives.
Anna Bright is the author of the upcoming book The Beholder, out in June from Harper Collins. She’s also a dynamite bookseller, and she has really pretty hair.
Rebecca Kim Wells
Internment (Samira Ahmed)
I loved Samira’s first book, Love, Hate, and Other Filters, and I anticipate being bowled over (and terrified) by her second. Internment is going to get a lot of attention and I hope a lot of people read it and really think about its place in the world today.
Wicked Fox (Kat Cho)
I am super here for contemporary Korean fantasy, and I can’t wait for this debut novel! I know very little about it besides the blurb, but come on–a nine-tailed fox who must eat the souls of men to survive?!? EXTREME HEART EYES EMOJI.
Hot Dog Girl (Jennifer Dugan)
This debut novel sounds adorable and perfect for everyone coming off of the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before/Dumplin’ contemporary kick. Lou Parker lands a job at a theme park…as a giant dancing hot dog, and then has to contend with the usual suspects: crush, best friend, etc. Looking forward to painfully relatable teenage awkwardness.
A Place for Wolves (Kosoko Jackson)
Do you really need to know anything beyond the killer comp Aristotle and Dante meets Code Name Verity? I don’t know if I’m prepared for this one (it sounds like it’s going to stomp all over my heart) but I’ll take it.
The Wise and the Wicked (Rebecca Podos)
Full disclosure: Rebecca is my agent, but she also writes such interesting, different YA, and this book sounds chock full of my favorite things: complicated family relationships, explorations of female power, just a little drop of magic… I love that I never know quite what I’m going to get from one of her books. Can’t wait to read this one.
Rebecca Kim Wells is the author of Shatter the Sky, “that angry feminist bisexual dragon YA fantasy novel” that releases from Simon & Schuster in July. She’s also an amazing bookseller!
Whether it’s reading them or writing them, I find romantic comedies to be a great escape. 2019 has so many that I’m looking forward to. Topping my TBR pile:
Truly Madly Royally by Debbie Rigaud. Sixteen-year-old Zora meets a guy who turns out to be a prince, and she’s invited to be his guest at his brother’s royal wedding. This one sounds charming and fun—and I’m always up for a book that has a royal twist!
Fake it Till You Break It by Jenn P. Nguyen. The beautiful cover drew me in and the synopsis has me wishing May was here already so I can read it! The shortened version, in an attempt to stop their moms from trying to fix them up, Jake and Mia pretend to date and stage the worst breakup ever. Only they find they don’t hate each other as much as they thought. I can never pass up a good enemies-to-lovers story!
Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss by Kasie West. Lacey gets her big break and gets to star alongside the hottest actor in Hollywood, but she also has to finish up high school. Her father hires her a tutor, and as Lacey struggles to juggle her career and an off-screen romance, she learns sometimes the best stories happen when you go off script. I’m a huge fan of Kasie West’s books—they’re sweet, funny, and fast paced. I also love stories that revolve around Hollywood and acting. Combining the two makes this a must-read for me!
Going Off Script by Jen Wilde. Speaking of stories of Hollywood, this book centers around a TV show intern who joins forces with her crush to stop their boss from ruining a queer character. I can’t wait for this one. It sounds incredible, and is going to look absolutely gorgeous on my bookshelf. Check out the stunning cover.
Match Me if You Can by Tiana Smith. When Mia’s best friend won’t match Mia with her “perfect” guy, she takes matters into her own hands. Not only does this one sound super cute, but it’s also a retelling of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Sign me up!
Shani Petroff is the author of the Bedeviled series, My New Crush Gave to Me, Romeo & What’s Her Name, and 2018’s Airports, Exes, and Other Things I’m Over. If you want cuteness in your life, pick up one of those (or all of them, TBH)
That’s our first 10 authors, tune in for Vol. II later this week featuring authors such as Akemi Dawn Bowman, Emily Lloyd-Jones, Francesca Flores, Elizabeth Lim, and MORE!
Are you an author who’d like to collaborate on something like this in the future? Let me know at recitrachel (at) gmail (dot) com. I can’t guarantee what’s coming up, or if I’ll be able to provide blog space for everyone, but if you’re interested, LMK!