Happy Captain Marvel Day, kids! When I wasn’t obsessing over what manner of Carol Danvers flare to put on this morning, I was thinking about the kind of TBR books I’ve been ignoring lately. I realized that, as much as I love YA books, I don’t review them on the blog as often as I review middle grade or picture books. I plan to show more love to YA this year, so today’s TBR feature is all about the YA books I’m most excited about right now. Let’s check them out — higher, further, faster!
Out of Salem by Hal Schrieve; cover design by Jon Gilbert
Genderqueer fourteen-year-old Z Chilworth has to adjust quickly to their new status as a zombie after waking from death from a car crash that killed their parents and sisters. Always a talented witch, Z now can barely perform magic and is rapidly decaying. Faced with rejection from their remaining family members and old friends, Z moves in with their mother’s friend, Mrs. Dunnigan, and befriends Aysel, a loud would-be-goth classmate who is, like Z, a loner. As Z struggles to find a way to repair the broken magical seal holding their body together, Aysel fears that her classmates will discover her status as an unregistered werewolf. When a local psychiatrist is murdered by what seems to be werewolves, the town of Salem, Oregon, becomes even more hostile to “monsters,” and Z and Aysel are driven together in an attempt to survive a place where most people wish that neither of them existed.
The queer rep in this trans #OwnVoices story makes my heart sing. Add in a dystopian teen murder mystery involving zombies, witches, and werewolves, and you’ve just described my perfect book. I want to take this book on picnics and gondola rides and long walks on the beach. That’s how much I love it, and I haven’t even read it yet.
Nightingale by Amy Lukavics
At seventeen, June Hardie is everything a young woman in 1951 shouldn’t be — independent, rebellious, a dreamer. June longs to travel, to attend college, and to write the dark science fiction stories that consume her waking hours. But her parents only care about making June a better young woman. Her mother grooms her to be a perfect little homemaker while her father pushes her to marry his business partner’s domineering son. When June resists, her whole world is shattered — suburbia isn’t the only prison for different women…
June’s parents commit her to Burrow Place Asylum, aka the Institution. With its sickening conditions, terrifying staff and brutal “medical treatments,” the Institution preys on June’s darkest secrets and deepest fears. And she’s not alone. The Institution terrorizes June’s fragile roommate, Eleanor, and the other women locked away within its crumbling walls. Those who dare speak up disappear…or worse. Trapped between a gruesome reality and increasingly sinister hallucinations, June isn’t sure where her nightmares end and real life begins. But she does know one thing: in order to survive, she must destroy the Institution before it finally claims them all.
(I’m still trying to hunt down the cover art credits.)
To be perfectly honest, I’ve been putting off reviewing this book because I know it’s going to be a very difficult read. I requested the ARC because it’s right up my alley — primal feminist rage in a terrifying asylum? yes, please! — but for that very same reason, I’ve been scared to read it. Not because I think it will be too frightening, but because I think it will take a huge emotional and mental toll on me. Y’all are used to rather verbose reviews from me anyway, but this one may be even longer than usual, so: fair warning. There will probably be a lot here for me to process.
The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman
After the death of her sister, seventeen-year-old Violet Saunders finds herself dragged to Four Paths, New York. Violet may be a newcomer, but she soon learns her mother isn’t: They belong to one of the revered founding families of the town, where stone bells hang above every doorway and danger lurks in the depths of the woods.
Justin Hawthorne’s bloodline has protected Four Paths for generations from the Gray — a lifeless dimension that imprisons a brutal monster. After Justin fails to inherit his family’s powers, his mother is determined to keep this humiliation a secret. But Justin can’t let go of the future he was promised and the town he swore to protect.
Ever since Harper Carlisle lost her hand to an accident that left her stranded in the Gray for days, she has vowed revenge on the person who abandoned her: Justin Hawthorne. There are ripples of dissent in Four Paths, and Harper seizes an opportunity to take down the Hawthornes and change her destiny — to what extent, even she doesn’t yet know.
The Gray is growing stronger every day, and its victims are piling up. When Violet accidentally unleashes the monster, all three must band together with the other Founders to unearth the dark truths behind their families’ abilities…before the Gray devours them all.
(I’m still trying to hunt down the cover art credits on this one as well. Publishers, please make this info easier to find!)
I have been counting down the days until this book’s release. Only 25 now! SOON, my pretties…SOON. Any time there’s a spooky village with a menacing forest and warning bells on every house, I’ll be first in line to read all about it. (Especially if no one even remembers what the bells are for, am I right? That’s the absolute best!) I’m so glad my wait is almost over, because I’m ready to read this while I stroll through a mist-covered glade in a black cloak.
The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried by Shaun David Hutchinson; cover art by Jon Contino and cover design by Sarah Creech
Dino doesn’t mind spending time with the dead. His parents own a funeral home, and death is literally the family business. He’s just not used to them talking back. Until Dino’s ex-best friend July dies suddenly — and then comes back to life. Except not exactly. Somehow July is not quite alive, and not quite dead.
As Dino and July attempt to figure out what’s happening, they must also confront why and how their friendship ended so badly, and what they have left to understand about themselves, each other, and all those grand mysteries of life.
This is another book that’s supposed to have outstanding queer representation. That and the gorgeous cover are two of the reasons I’ve been eagerly anticipating this title. But most importantly, of course, the story sounds wonderful. Funny, heartbreaking, weird, and gross, which is a perfect combination for spooky YA. It may not end up being at all similar to Undead Girl Gang, but the synopsis certainly reminds me of that book’s central friendship between Mila and Riley, and y’all know how much I loved that storyline.
His Hideous Heart: 13 of Edgar Allan Poe’s Most Unsettling Tales Reimagined, edited by Dahlia Adler; cover design by Jon Contino
Edgar Allan Poe may be a hundred and fifty years beyond this world, but the themes of his beloved works have much in common with modern young adult fiction. Whether the stories are familiar to readers or discovered for the first time, readers will revel in Edgar Allan Poe’s classic tales, and how they’ve been brought to life in thirteen unique and unforgettable ways.
GIVE IT TO ME. GIVE IT TO ME NOW.
That’s today’s list, kids. What YA books are you excited about right now? Are you dying to get your hands on that Poe anthology like I am? Tell me about your weekend reading plans!