A Neon Darkness by Lauren Shippen Review

A Neon Darkness by Lauren Shippen (The Bright Sessions #2)

Publisher: Tor Teen

Release Date: September 29, 2020

Pages: 256

Available Through The Book Depository and Bookshop

Cover Artist: Victo Ngai and Esther S. Kim (Jacket Design)

Summary: Los Angeles, 2006. Eighteen-year-old Robert Gorham arrives in L.A. amid the desert heat and the soft buzz of neon. He came alone with one goal: he wants to see the ocean. And Robert always gets what he wants.

At a very young age, Robert discovered he had the unusual ability to make those close to him want whatever he wants. He wanted dessert instead of dinner? His mother served it. He wanted his Frisbee back? His father walked off the roof to bring it to him faster. He wanted to be alone? They both disappeared. Forever.

But things will be different in L.A. He meets a group of strange friends who could help him. Friends who can do things like produce flames without flint, conduct electricity with their hands, and see visions of the past. They call themselves Unusuals and finally, finally, Robert belongs.

When a tall figure, immune to their powers, discovers them, the first family that Robert has ever wanted is at risk of being destroyed. The only way to keep them all together is to get his powers under control.

But control is a sacrifice he might not be willing to make.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: A Neon Darkness is a prequel and origin story to one of the main antagonists of The Bright Sessions podcast, taking place before the events of the show! Set in LA during the early 2000’s this is an introspective novel that explores themes of loneliness, humanity, and consequence through the lens of a character who doesn’t even realize they are turning into a villain. A great addition to The Bright Sessions universe that answers the question: What if the villain of your story is you?

As a long-time listener of TBS, I couldn’t wait to read this book because the main character Robert Gorham (or Damien) is easily one of my favorite villains ever! In this world, there are those with special powers called Atypicals and Damien’s rare ability is that he can impose his want onto others, much so that they essentially do whatever he wants. Over the course of the early seasons within the show he becomes quite a powerful character, interested mainly in furthering his knowledge about other Atpyicals and his own ability. Before diving into my review, I will say this book does mess with the canon of the original podcast a bit, but overall I thought it gave Shippen an interesting way to explore more of this fascinating universe she’s created.

At the age of 13 Robert left his quiet, small town life in Nebraska in search of something more. Over the course of the novel there’s small paragraphs or pages of flashbacks interspersed within the story that slowly begin to fill in the gaps of a situation that caused him to leave, mainly involving his unique powers and his parents, which he refers to as “Them.” At 18, he finds his way to Los Angeles he has a very idealistic view of the city, planning to start over once again in any way he can.

I truly had no worries about how Lauren Shippen would navigate a villain’s POV because within the podcast you know how much care and attention she’s put into these characters. She does a fantastic job at humanizing even the most morally questionable characters, if anything it made me realize why creators are hesitant at crafting stories from villains perspectives. It can be uncomfortable and also frustrating because, as Neon Darkness has shown, everyone is capable of change but not many will choose to act on it.

Robert soon meets a crew of misfits called “Unusuals,” this is a turning point because he’s never met who have abilities like him. Throughout the story he learns more about his own powers, the underlying motivators that compel him to use these abilities, even how the pain and loneliness he feels becomes a pillar for his own selfish behavior.

Damien, we realize, is someone who just wants a family, to be loved, and no longer wander through life alone. So the main story essentially follows him as he hops from place to place around LA, realizes that this rag tag crew could be the new found family he’s been looking for, and how his role in the group is put into jeopardy when a missing friend returns home.

The “Unusuals” comprised of Indah whose a bartender (who can sense the abilities of others though she has no powers of her own), Neon whose a mechanic (she can control electricity), and Marley, a veteran, (who can see into the past) let Damien in and allow him to join in their group over the course of about a year. However, Damien has struggled understanding the dynamics of family, friendship, and he doesn’t realize how the unintentional selfish use his powers to keep this misfit crew together, will be his downfall.

As the Unusuals worry about their friend Blaze, intertwined within the story of Damien’s new LA life, we learn a bit more about a mysterious figure called Isaiah, whose keeping tabs on this group.

While the groups powers are vastly different from his own, Robert/Damien learns more about the potential he has by staying with them and being their friend. Though he genuinely cares about their acceptance and care for him, it’s interesting that despite him wanting a deeper connection with others, he manages to still keep everyone at arms length and still be such a vulnerable character. He’s given quite a few times to see things from a new perspective and reconsider his egotistical attitude, but then the question becomes: Does he really want to change? The further he gets lost in his own head, it makes for an interesting character study into a exploring a villain/antihero who is so deeply human. Shippen has mentioned time after time that she doesn’t describe Damien as a “villain” specifically and through her attention to the craft of character, you see her focus on creating someone who at their core just feels so real.

The plot (while from the outside seeming repetitive) actually presented a normalcy for Robert in ways he hadn’t experienced in a long time, I think that alongside the interactions he has with Indah, Neon, Marley, and later on Blaze, let us readers begin to pinpoint how he there’s a slow, but steady build as he begins to learn about others as a means to have control over any situation he’s in.

This prequel answered questions I had never even considered when listening to the podcast: How does his ability work or feel from his perspective? Where did the name Damien come from? Why did he choose to give into this manipulative/selfish behavior when he has limitless protentional to use his powers for a better purpose?

As a reader you really empathize and sympathize for Robert/Damien, I know I definitely did because I felt like there was finally this understanding as to how his power works from his point-of-view. Additionally, with how Shippen developed his personal journey, it’s joined by the fact that his wants and desires slowly begin to meld within his general consciousness so unintentionally to the point where he can’t even draw the line between what he truly wants vs. what he wants others to want on his behalf. That was one of the most intriguing parts of Robert’s character that no doubt podcast listeners will have a lot of fun learning more about too.

Some interesting scenes that caught my attention which gave me more of a different understanding about his powers was when I began to notice that while he is attempting to connect and be more vulnerable with the people around him, he instead uses his powers to get people to give him the answers he wants to hear as well. So its not just about realizing he can get people to do what he wants, but also he’s in a sense reaffirm or establish his perspective on a situation (if that makes sense)? That was a new side of his ability I’d never even considered which was interesting to learn more about, especially from his perspective.

One of the strongest storylines within this novel is seeing how Robert learns his place in the group as dynamics change, while seeing his reaction/emotional arc become an anchor for his morally questionable behavior. It shows how his power became much stronger and how listeners can learn more about it from his own perspective, but the question remains “what if you are the villain in this story?” Shippen navigates that with such humanity and very specific lens that makes it an interesting read for sure, especially as Damien is such a unique character!

Now to discuss a bit more how the book deviates from the canon of the show: I did notice that some lines feel like they were directly lifted from the podcast (which takes place during 2015-) which I think was a great inclusion because it helped to present some of the bigger questions and themes that we encounter with Damien from the series once he’s in his late 20’s. I also thought it was surprising (maybe disappointing?) that Damien drinks quite a lot in this book. The reason I’m on the fence about that decision is because, the reasoning behind that in the podcast felt like a somewhat important detail that was part of Damien’s character for a reason. There’s a mysterious aura about him in the show and using the canon for a completely original story, gives lots of context. Overall though I think the deviation from canon is both a pro and con. A pro for how it lets fans learn a bit more about TBS universe while not completely following Damien utterly alone for the entirety of the story, giving him an emotional character arc. Yet, a con for how it disregards the little details of his character from the podcast I personally thought were very interesting or important.

There’s also a couple Easter eggs that I fans will really enjoy: A precursor to “Atypicals” being “Unusuals”, the mysterious figure who I think was in reference to The AM (?), even learning about Robert/Damien’s experience with therapy before meeting Dr. Bright. These were just some really fun tidbits that were intriguing to see on page!

The audiobook by the way is fantastic! As you may (or may not know) sometimes an audiobook can be a hit or miss for me, but this easily makes it onto the list of the best as it’s done by the voice actor from the show, Charlie Ian. There’s also a Q&A at the end that gives even more background on how this book interestingly connects with the podcast through an interview with the author.

As for the representation, there’s characters identified as Black (Neon), Muslim and Indonesian background (Indah), and Blaze (Asian). Neon and Indah are also a sapphic couple.

I think if anything my main con is that while Robert’s journey is interesting, it can feel a bit aimless (lots of back and forth between new homes and talks with the Unusuals), it felt like there could have been just a couple more plot threads added in. While this book is very much focused on Damien’s descent into “villainy” as he learns more about himself and his ability, it very much feels like there’s such a specific route for his arc we’re not really left to explore elsewhere within the story either (if that makes sense?). It felt like there could have been more opportunity to explore different layers being presented in the story. The writing is also very character-focused, so the worldbuilding can feel a bit sparse at times. There’s also small paragraphs or pages from the past of Damien/The Unusuals that could have been formatted differently so it doesn’t blend too much with the present storyline.

Surprisingly while reading this book, I came to an interesting realization. Now this is my personal opinion, but I truly believe if you have not listened to the podcast or sepcifically Damien’s episodes, this book and it’s plot will probably not impact you as much. The story and emotional moments of his character arc will be more enjoyable if you learn more about Damien’s character from the show first. So if you are looking to dive into this series [which I highly recommend] I’d say please listen to the wonderful Bright Sessions podcast before doing so and check out these books!

Each of these books follow a different character from the show and I’m interested in seeing what will be the focus for the last book featuring a dreamwalker named Rose. I also recently learned that spin-off series like The AM Archives and College Tapes will be available for free starting this year and I’m just so excited to dive back into this world again (especially as I started relistening to the show again while reading Neon).

A Neon Darkness is the newest addition to the Bright Sessions world, perfect for long-time fans looking to get more background on the series antagonist! Through an exploration of privilege, power, and the nature of connections, this is a book that will make you question the human nature of villains. Shippen has crafted a unique story about the descent into villainy by exploring the past of a beloved character from her podcast. This is a character-driven novel that sheds light on an antagonist shrouded in mystery!

Ophiuchus by Ali Leriger De La Plante and Natasha Tara Petrović Review {Graphic Novel}

Ophiuchus by Alexis Leriger de la Plante and Natasha Tara Petrović

Publisher: Image Comics

Release Date: August 27, 2019

Pages: 144

Available Through The Book Depository: Ophiuchus

Summary: OPHIUCHUS follows the story of the lone sentry of an ancient, inactive gate, until one day, a strange being breaks through and infects her with a virus.

Shortly after, she is approached by two machines, who implore her to follow them to the center of the universe to put an end to the virus, a malevolent being which rots all worlds.

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Ophiuchus is a stunningly illustrated graphic novel following a lonely sentry who joins two machines in brining an end to a strange virus infecting the worlds! Presenting a unique color palette and art style, among a page-turning story, this standalone blew me away!

On those rare occasions do you ever find yourself stumbling upon a sf/f read both unique and one-of-a-kind, you find yourself whisked away becoming familiar with this fascinating world only to wonder how it connects with you on some deep level you were never expecting? That’s what it felt like reading Ophiuchus with it’s vibrant colors of pinks, purples, and blues which at it’s heart is about friendship and fighting for a better world.

A lonely sentry guards her Gate among the Mountain Folk keeping it safe from all trespassers. However, when she gets infected with a virus that’s found it’s way through, she meets two other machines who are eager to stop this serpent-like creature that’s attacking and infecting worlds, plus those within them. Hesitant at first, she feels it’s rather reckless to leave her post, but after being convinced by Saggita, one of the machines, she doesn’t hesitate to learn more about what’s beyond.

It takes a leisurely pace despite how fast the story actually goes, but it gives much opportunity to examine the world in peculiar way that actually says quite a lot about the expansive universe as a whole. There’s an array of sub-units and models of machines, tradition, and culture that we barely scratch the surface of due to the virus known as Serpentis that’s infecting the galaxy and taking it away.

Though Saggita and Pyx are close friends at the start of the story, it isn’t until they meet Sentry that we see the distinct personality to each of them shine through as they travel to contain the virus. They build this beautiful friendship and although the story is contained within this single volume, I would not hesitate to buy 100’s more with even more of their adventures. Sentry is very much the awkward misfit in the beginning, but learns to take risks for her friends, especially as she learns she is inherently unaffected by the virus. Saggita is the serious, focused leader of the group whose life has really been impacted because of the serpent. Then there’s Pyx, he’s the quiet, loving, comedic one of the group who you can’t help but love. But all together, these 3 make a phenomenal team and you see their personality shine through even more during the tight-knit moments and even the dynamic action scenes, which are so well done!

What also makes this such a charming read is despite the dark undertones of the story, there’s a humor woven throughout that just adds more depth to who these characters are, I loved them! There’s a scene in particular that’s so memorable because it’s a surprisingly funny moment early on in the story where Sentry is getting ready to leave, says goodbye, and her fellow Mountain Folk never knew she could talk! It’s in those quiet moments that added even more depth to the story.

There’s even motifs that delve into Greek mythology if I’m not mistaken and seeing how it melds with this futuristic space setting was fascinating to see. After revisiting the book again on a reread, I can see how the mythological elements present this story as a sort of Epic, which so clever and made for an even more unique layer to the adventure.

Now the artwork which is utterly stunning, get ready to be wowed! I honestly feel like I could write an entire essay about the art alone. The color palette is composed of subtle pastels such as pink, purples, blues, but as you read further along you notice how they darken or lose saturation, which hints at the more serious moments of the story. There’s a clear focus on geometry throughout the various shapes of the architecture, characters, and scenery that give a gritty sci-fi look despite the mix of warm and cool colors. Where the geometric design stuck out to me, was when I noticed it especially as Saggita talked about the tradition involving a unique square-shaped flower with a neon color to it.

Overall it’s just done in such a unique style making it such a joy to see across each page! Visually stunning in every way. The paneling also varies across every moment of the story, bringing your attention to all these different parts that never fail to stand out.

If anything, I just wish there were more to this story! It ends on a mysterious, but hopeful note and I just was not ready to say goodbye to this delightful trio I was just getting to know. It feels like there a lot more that can be explored about this fascinating space-opera esque/fantasy world. I would literally read an entire series about the many adventures that Saggita, Pyx, and Sentry have (who does in fact have a name). They captured my entire heart even though I’ve met them in this single volume.

This is very much a distinct kind of story that may not meld with everyone, but I utterly adored it from the artwork to the journey and how everything came together, there’s a mysterious quality to this compact story, and with each page it captivated me.

Ophiuchus is a fast-paced science fiction graphic novel that’s about friendship and saving the world! Filled with mystery, a great cast of characters, and gorgeous artwork, it’s a wholly unique story. With humor, action, adventure, and much more, this is a fantastic read!

The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark Review

The Black God's Drums by P. Djeli ClarkThe Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark

Publisher: Tor.com (Tor Publishing)

Release Date: August 21, 2018

Pages: 111

Available Through The Book Depository: The Black God’s Drums

Cover Illustration: Chris McGrath

Summary: Creeper, a scrappy young teen, is done living on the streets of New Orleans. Instead, she wants to soar, and her sights are set on securing passage aboard the smuggler airship Midnight Robber. Her ticket: earning Captain Ann-Marie’s trust using a secret about a kidnapped Haitian scientist and a mysterious weapon he calls The Black God’s Drums.

But Creeper keeps another secret close to heart–Oya, the African orisha of the wind and storms, who speaks inside her head and grants her divine powers. And Oya has her own priorities concerning Creeper and Ann-Marie… 

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: The Black God’s Drums is a fantastic novella that fuses steampunk and history, set in 1884 New Orleans! Creeper, an orphan, sees the potential for something much greater when she learns of a scientist and his weapon that could bring chaos across the city. There’s descriptive world building, mystery, African mythology, and much more in this masterfully crafted historical fantasy novella set during the post Civil War era!

I hope I’m not alone in this when I say that P. Djèlí Clark packs so much into this 111 page novella, that it deserves to have its own full-length novels! It felt like there was still so much lore and history yet to be discovered in Clark’s steampunk/science fiction fantasy New Orleans once I reached the end! I’d been really looking forward to reading this for years because as always Tor continuously releases such brilliant stories, especially when it comes to their novellas! I remember learning about it through the cover reveal a couple years ago and after reading the summary I knew I had to check out this steampunk SFF novella!

Creeper is a 13-year-old orphan surviving on the streets of New Orleans and she is graced by the goddess Oya, the African orisha of wind and storms, who speaks to her through her mind. Her connection with the goddess allows her to see a premonition of something dangerous on the horizon.

She quickly learns of Dr. Duval, a Haitian scientist, whose meeting with confederate state soldiers to exchange information about a powerful weapon known as the Black God’s Drums, keeping that information close, she finds her way to a bordello (where her mother used to work) to exchange information of her own with the captain, Ann-Marie!

With this exchange, she hopes it’ll offer her an opportunity for a new life, perhaps even one filled with adventure!

This leads to the Creeper (whose real name is Jacqueline) and Ann-Marie working together to learn where the scientist’s trail leads and what it could mean for the city if the weapon falls into the wrong hands (such as confederate soldiers). They follow their sources that offer more insight into the scientist’s work and what it could be used for.

Told through a 1st person POV, there’s so much heart and such a vibrant energy/voice to Creeper that brings the world to life. The history and fusion of the world building alongside the steampunk elements are developed so well because we’re in her head. Clark layers the history of the civil war, Haitian revolution, atmosphere of 1800’s America, alongside masterfully weaving in mythology and steampunk technology! With the way Clark executes this tale, it feels like this version of New Orleans could have truly existed back then! (*Side note: this novella gave me such fiction podcast vibes, its  definitely inspired me to work on a list of recommendations based on SFF books! Hoping to get it posted sometime in the future *・゚:✧ ✧゚ *!!)

New Orleans acts as a neutral port city that is the central hub for such a diverse Black diaspora where many cultures are represented, from Haiti, Trinidad, and the Caribbean.

Clark cleverly delivers this neutral city as a “bridge” between the US alongside Caribbean, while still increasing the political tension and expanding on the layered history during the time. As mentioned in this Nerd Daily Q&A, he brilliantly weaves together cultural history and that of slavery alongside mythology and balances these so perfectly:

“I knew I wanted it to be steampunk, and I knew I wanted it to both centralise and subvert the histories of slavery and emancipation. New Orleans turned out to be the perfect place that could bridge these various worlds: a geographic space connected to the North American mainland yet also a port city with ties to the Caribbean.” 

Clark includes the modern technology of the time such as telegraphs, railway stations, and much more! However it’s also through the description of the weather, atmosphere, factory smoke, upcoming Maddi grá festivities, and colorful town houses that add that element of realism alongside the steampunk elements from airships to the Black God’s Drums and the dangerous Drapeto gas. Alongside that, there’s also a focus on African folklore and myth as we learn more about the goddesses Oshun & Oya, even Shango!

You can tell Clark put so much thought into the way the history would be presented in this world and it never once felt underdeveloped or rushed. For someone like me who has really minimal knowledge of Black history during this time, I felt I learned so much that definitely inspired me to do my own research after reading this book!

Language itself also plays such a big part in this novel, adding another layer to the world itself as characters had different dialects and ,as mentioned above, also featured characters from different backgrounds.

One of my favorite dynamics in this novella was between Creeper and captain Ann-Marie. They really are like to sides of a coin and I loved seeing their friendship grow. They learn so much about their abilities and seeing them work together made this such a fun adventure! Not only is Creeper connected to Oya, but Ann-Marie is also connected to an orisha named Oshun, whose tied to the water.

At its heart, this is a story about 2 Black women embracing their inner power and it’s such a beautifully explored layer of the story that really comes together by the end!

The cast of characters were all great and it’s so clear that Clark has woven so much history into each of their distinct stories, but throughout this novella he cleverly leaves a lot to readers imaginations (like the nuns, Feral, Madame Diouf, even Ann-Marie’s ship mates Francois, Nogai & Ravi). Also mentioned in the article above, I got this sense that there was a lot more to Ann-Marie and her Midnight Robber crew and as it turns out, Clark originally had the novella in her perspective!

Though I absolutely adored this book, I personally felt like the story was getting a bit rushed near the end (though of course it has to do with the structure of being a novella), hence the 4 stars. It wraps up really nicely and Clark hints at a future for Creeper in Orleans alongside Ann-Marie!

I’ll also add that with the fast-paced nature of the story and specific/direct world-building, I’d recommend this novella if you enjoyed Six Of Crows or if your looking for a good historical mystery with a great ensemble cast, I also recommend this if you love The Diviners! Alongside reading The Black God’s Drums in book form, I listened to the audiobook as well and I suggest checking it out too!

Again, if there are ever ANY future novellas in this series, I will definitely be reading them…and if there’s ever a possibility for full-length novels? Even better!

The Black God’s Drums is wonderful SFF novella with descriptive world building, action, adventure, mystery and brilliantly weaves together steampunk alongside 1800’s history! In my opinion, this is a clever historical fantasy tale that deserves more hype!

I’m also getting back into reading some of the more quiet books on my TBR for my year-long readathon called: #QuietReadathon! So, reading this novella completed the challenge of ‘Backlist Boost,’ & ‘Read a book with under 5k ratings on Goodreads.’ If your looking for a fun, stress-free readathon to enjoy, I hope you’ll check it out! 😍💖

2019 YA Books by Authors Of Color You May Have Missed!

Now that we’re well into 2020, I wanted to reflect on the wonderful Young Adult books written by authors of color that released in 2019!

With my first ever readathon, #QuietReadathon, well underway I thought it would be great to highlight 50+ YA books that may have gone under the radar! My readathon focuses on quiet/underrated books and not only does this list of reads by authors of color (many of which can fall into #OwnVoices) fit perfectly with some of the prompts, but I also wanted to recommend these titles because AOC’s are releasing phenomenal books and they should definitely be talked about!

From YA Contemporary to Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and much more, I’ve listed books by month & date! I hope you find more books for your TBR 📚📚🎉

Now, with SO many book releases having filled the bookshelves last year I may not have been able to list every single one, but I’ll leave additional links below. Also, let me know if you’ve read any of these or have any recommendations to share! 📚💖

January

Oh My Gods by Alexandra Sheppard
Release Date:
January 3, 2019

Summary: Life as a half-mortal teenager should be epic.
But, for Helen Thomas, it’s tragic.

She’s just moved in with her dorky dad and self-absorbed older siblings – who happen to be the ancient Greek gods, living incognito in London!

Between keeping her family’s true identities secret, trying to impress her new friends, and meeting an actually cute boy, Helen’s stress levels are higher than Mount Olympus.

Oh My Gods by Alexandra SheppardShe needs to rein in her chaotic family before they blow their cover AND her chances at a half-normal social life.

Or is Helen fated for an embarrassment of mythical proportions?

Black Enough edited by Ibi Zoboi
Release Date:
January 8, 2019

Summary: Black is…sisters navigating their relationship at summer camp in Portland, Oregon, as written by Renée Watson.

Black is…three friends walking back from the community pool talking about nothing and everything, in a story by Jason Reynolds.

Black is…Nic Stone’s high-class beauty dating a boy her momma would never approve of.

Black is…two girls kissing in Justina Ireland’s story set in Maryland.

Black is urban and rural, wealthy and poor, mixed race, immigrants, and more—because there are countless ways to be Black enough.

Inventing Victoria by Tonya Bolden

Summary: As a young black woman in 1880s Savannah, Essie’s dreams are very much at odds with her reality. Ashamed of her beginnings, but unwilling to accept the path currently available to her, Essie is trapped between the life she has and the life she wants.

Until she meets a lady named Dorcas Vashon, the richest and most cultured black woman she’s ever encountered. When Dorcas makes Essie an offer she can’t refuse, she becomes Victoria. Transformed by a fine wardrobe, a classic education, and the rules of etiquette, Victoria is soon welcomed in the upper echelons of black society in Washington, D. C. But when the life she desires is finally within her grasp, Victoria must decide how much of herself she is truly willing to surrender.

The Girl King by Mimi Yu (TGK #1)
Release Date: January 8, 2019

Summary: Sisters Lu and Min have always known their places as the princesses of the Empire of the First Flame: assertive Lu, will be named her father’s heir and become the dynasty’s first female ruler, while timid Min will lead a quiet life in Lu’s shadow. Until their father names a new heir—their male cousin, Set.

Determined to reclaim her birthright, Lu goes in search of allies, leaving Min to face the volatile court alone. Lu soon crosses paths with Nokhai, the lone, unlikely survivor of a clan of nomadic wolf shapeshifters. Nok never learned to shift—or to trust for the empire that killed his family—but working with Lu might be the only way to unlock his true power.

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani ChokshiAs Lu and Nok form a tenuous alliance, Min’s own power awakens, a forbidden magic that could secure Set’s reign . . . or allow her to claim the throne herself. But there can only be one emperor, and the sisters’ greatest enemy could very well be the other.

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi (TGW #1)
Release Date: 
January 15, 2019

Summary: It’s 1889. The city is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. Here, no one keeps tabs on dark truths better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. When the elite, ever-powerful Order of Babel coerces him to help them on a mission, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To hunt down the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin calls upon a band of unlikely experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian banished from his home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in arms if not blood.

Together, they will join Séverin as he explores the dark, glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the course of history–but only if they can stay alive.

Firestarter by Tara Sim (Timekeeper #3)
Release Date: January 15, 2019

Summary: The crew of the Prometheus is intent on taking down the world’s clock towers so that time can run freely. Now captives, Colton, Daphne, and the others have a stark choice: join the Prometheus’s cause, or fight back in any small way they can and face the consequences. But Zavier, leader of the terrorists, has a bigger plan—to bring back the lost god of time.

As new threats emerge, loyalties must shift. No matter where the Prometheus goes—Prague, Austria, India—nowhere is safe, and every second ticks closer toward the eleventh hour. Walking the line between villainy and heroism, each will have to choose what’s most important: saving those you love at the expense of the many, or making impossible sacrifices for the sake of a better world.

Circle Of Shadows by Evelyn Skye (COS #1)
Release Date: January 22, 2019

Summary: Sora can move as silently as a ghost and hurl throwing stars with lethal accuracy. Her gemina, Daemon, can win any physical fight blindfolded and with an arm tied around his back. They are apprentice warriors of the Society of Taigas—marked by the gods to be trained in magic and the fighting arts to protect the kingdom of Kichona.

As their graduation approaches, Sora and Daemon look forward to proving themselves worthy of belonging in the elite group—but in a kingdom free of violence since the Blood Rift Rebellion many years ago, it’s been difficult to make their mark.

So when Sora and Daemon encounter a strange camp of mysterious soldiers while on a standard scouting mission, they decide the only thing to do to help their kingdom is to infiltrate the group. Taking this risk will change Sora’s life forever—and lead her on a mission of deception that may fool everyone she’s ever loved.

Spin by Lamar Giles
Release Date:
January 29, 2019

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Paris Secord’s (aka DJ ParSec) career–and life–has come to an untimely end, and the local music scene is reeling. No one is feeling the pain more than her shunned pre-fame best friend, Kya, and Paris’s chief groupie, Fuse. But suspicion trumps grief, and since each suspects the other of Paris’s murder, they’re locked in a high-stakes game of public accusations and sabotage.

Everyone in the ParSec Nation (DJ ParSec’s local media base)–including the killer–is content to watch it play out, until Kya and Fuse discover a secret: Paris was on the verge of major deal that would’ve catapulted her to superstar status on a Spin by Lamar Gilesnational level, leaving her old life (and old friends) behind. With the new info comes new motives. New suspects. And a fandom that shows its deadly side. As Kya and Fuse come closer to the twisted truth, the killer’s no longer amused. But murdering Paris was simple enough, so getting rid of her nobody-friends shouldn’t be an issue…

The Love & Lies Of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan
Release Date:
January 29, 2019

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali tries her hardest to live up to her conservative Muslim parents’ expectations, but lately she’s finding that harder and harder to do. She rolls her eyes instead of screaming when they blatantly favor her brother and she dresses conservatively at home, saving her crop tops and makeup for parties her parents don’t know about. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life in Seattle and her new life at Caltech, where she can pursue her dream of becoming an engineer.

But when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, all of Rukhsana’s plans fall apart. Her parents are devastated; being gay may as well be a death sentence in the Bengali community. They immediately whisk Rukhsana off to Bangladesh, where she is thrown headfirst into a world of arranged marriages and tradition. Only through reading her grandmother’s old diary is Rukhsana able to gain some much needed perspective.

Rukhsana realizes she must find the courage to fight for her love, but can she do so without losing everyone and everything in her life?

February

Enchantée by Gita Trelease
Release Date:
February 5, 2019

Summary: When smallpox kills her parents, seventeen-year-old Camille Durbonne must find a way to provide for her frail sister while managing her volatile brother. Relying on petty magic–la magie ordinaire–Camille painstakingly transforms scraps of metal into money to buy the food and medicine they need. But when the coins won’t hold their shape and her brother disappears with the family’s savings, Camille must pursue a richer, more dangerous mark: the glittering court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

With the dark magic she learned from her mother, Camille transforms herself into ‘the Baroness de la Fontaine’ and is swept up into life at the Palace of Versailles, where aristocrats both fear and hunger for la magie. Her resentment of the rich at odds with the allure of glamour and excess, Camille is astonished to find that her would-be suitor Lazare, a handsome young inventor whom she thought shared her dreams of liberty, is also living a double life.

Enchantée by Gita TreleaseAs the Baroness de la Fontaine, Camille gambles at cards and flirts, desperate to maintain her place at court and keep herself and her sister off the streets. But la magie has its costs. When a scheming courtier blackmails her and Lazare’s affections shift, Camille loses control of her secrets. Then revolution erupts, and she must choose–love or loyalty, democracy or aristocracy, reality or la magie–before Paris burns.

The Weight Of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf
Release Date:
February 5, 2019

Summary: A music-loving teen with OCD does everything she can to find her way back to her mother during the historic race riots in 1969 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in this heart-pounding literary debut.

Melati Ahmad looks like your typical moviegoing, Beatles-obsessed sixteen-year-old. Unlike most other sixteen-year-olds though, Mel also believes that she harbors a djinn inside her, one who threatens her with horrific images of her mother’s death unless she adheres to an elaborate ritual of counting and tapping to keep him satisfied.

But there are things that Melati can’t protect her mother from. On the evening of May 13th, 1969, racial tensions in her home city of Kuala Lumpur boil over. The Chinese and Malays are at war, and Mel and her mother become separated by a city in flames.

With a 24-hour curfew in place and all lines of communication down, it will take the help of a Chinese boy named Vincent and all of the courage and grit in Melati’s arsenal to overcome the violence on the streets, her own prejudices, and her djinn’s surging power to make it back to the one person she can’t risk losing.

Watch Us Rise by Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan
Release Date:
February 12, 2019

Summary: Jasmine and Chelsea are sick of the way women are treated even at their progressive NYC high school, so they decide to start a Women’s Rights Club. They post everything online—poems, essays, videos of Chelsea performing her poetry, and Jasmine’s response to the racial macroaggressions she experiences—and soon they go viral.

But with such positive support, the club is also targeted by online trolls. When things escalate, the principal shuts the club down. Jasmine and Chelsea will risk everything for their voices—and those of other young women—to be heard.

We Set The Dark On Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia (WSTDOF #1)
Release Date:
February 26, 2019

Summary: At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children. Both paths promise a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class.

Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her pedigree is a lie. She must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society.

We Set The Dark On Fire by Tehlor Kay MejiaAnd school couldn’t prepare her for the difficult choices she must make after graduation, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio.

Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or will she give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love?

The Beauty Of The Moment by Tanaz Bhathena
Release Date:
February 26, 2019

Summary: Susan is the new girl—she’s sharp and driven, and strives to meet her parents’ expectations of excellence. Malcolm is the bad boy—he started raising hell at age fifteen, after his mom died of cancer, and has had a reputation ever since.

Susan’s parents are on the verge of divorce. Malcolm’s dad is a known adulterer.

Susan hasn’t told anyone, but she wants to be an artist. Malcolm doesn’t know what he wants—until he meets her.

Love is messy and families are messier, but in spite of their burdens, Susan and Malcolm fall for each other. The ways they drift apart and come back together are testaments to family, culture, and being true to who you are.

March

Opposite Of Always by Justin A. Reynolds
Release Date: March 5, 2019

Summary: Jack Ellison King. King of Almost.

He almost made valedictorian.

He almost made varsity.

He almost got the girl . . .

When Jack and Kate meet at a party, bonding until sunrise over their mutual love of Froot Loops and their favorite flicks, Jack knows he’s falling—hard. Soon she’s meeting his best friends, Jillian and Franny, and Kate wins them over as easily as she did Jack. Jack’s curse of almost is finally over.

But this love story is . . . complicated. It is an almost happily ever after. Because Kate dies. And their story should end there. Yet Kate’s death sends Jack back to the beginning, the moment they first meet, and Kate’s there again. Beautiful, radiant Kate. Healthy, happy, and charming as ever. Jack isn’t sure if he’s losing his mind. Still, if he has a chance to prevent Kate’s death, he’ll take it. Even if that means believing in time travel. However, Jack will learn that his actions are not without consequences. And when one choice turns deadly for someone else close to him, he has to figure out what he’s willing to do—and let go—to save the people he loves.

Dealing In Dreams by Lilliam Rivera
Release Date: March 5, 2019

Summary: At night, Las Mal Criadas own these streets.

Nalah leads the fiercest all-girl crew in Mega City. That role brings with it violent throw downs and access to the hottest boydega clubs, but the sixteen-year-old grows weary of the life. Her dream is to get off the streets and make a home in the exclusive Mega Towers, in which only a chosen few get to live. To make it to the Mega towers, Nalah must prove her loyalty to the city’s benevolent founder and Dealing In Dreams by Lilliam Riveracross the border in a search for a mysterious gang the Ashé Ryders. Led by a reluctant guide, Nalah battles other crews and her own doubts, but the closer she gets to her goal, the more she loses sight of everything—and everyone— she cares about.

Nalah must do the unspeakable to get what she wants—a place to call home. But is a home just where you live? Or who you choose to protect?

Barley Missing Everything by Matt Mendez
Release Date: March 5, 2019

Summary: Juan has plans. He’s going to get out of El Paso, Texas, on a basketball scholarship and make something of himself—or at least find something better than his mom Fabi’s cruddy apartment, her string of loser boyfriends, and a dead dad. Basketball is going to be his ticket out, his ticket up. He just needs to make it happen.

His best friend JD has plans, too. He’s going to be a filmmaker one day, like Quinten Tarantino or Guillermo del Toro (NOT Steven Spielberg). He’s got a camera and he’s got passion—what else could he need?

Fabi doesn’t have a plan anymore. When you get pregnant at sixteen and have been stuck bartending to make ends meet for the past seventeen years, you realize plans don’t always pan out, and that there some things you just can’t plan for…

Like Juan’s run-in with the police, like a sprained ankle, and a tanking math grade that will likely ruin his chance at a scholarship. Like JD causing the implosion of his family. Like letters from a man named Mando on death row. Like finding out this man could be the father your mother said was dead.

Soon Juan and JD are embarking on a Thelma and Louise­–like road trip to visit Mando. Juan will finally meet his dad, JD has a perfect subject for his documentary, and Fabi is desperate to stop them. But, as we already know, there are some things you just can’t plan for…

The Last 8 by Laura Pohl (TL8 #1)
Release Date:
March 5, 2019

Summary: Clover Martinez has always been a survivor, which is the only reason she isn’t among the dead when aliens invade and destroy Earth as she knows it.

When Clover hears an inexplicable radio message, she’s shocked to learn there are other survivors—and that they’re all at the former Area 51. When she arrives, she’s greeted by a band of misfits who call themselves The Last Teenagers on Earth.

Only they aren’t the ragtag group of heroes Clover was expecting. The group seems more interested in hiding than fighting back, and Clover starts to wonder if she was better off alone. But then she finds a hidden spaceship, and she doesn’t know what to believe…or who to trust.

Ruse by Cindy Pon (Want #2)
Release Date: March 12, 2019

Summary: Jason Zhou, his friends, and Daiyu are still recovering from the aftermath of bombing Jin Corp headquarters. But Jin, the ruthless billionaire and Daiyu’s father, is out for blood. When Lingyi goes to Shanghai to help Jany Tsai, a childhood acquaintance in trouble, she doesn’t expect Jin to be involved. And when Jin has Jany murdered and steals the tech she had refused to sell him, Lingyi is the only one who has access to the encrypted info, putting her own life in jeopardy.

Zhou doesn’t hesitate to fly to China to help Iris find Lingyi, even though he’s been estranged from his friends for months. But when Iris tells him he can’t tell Daiyu or trust her, he balks. The reunited group play a treacherous cat and mouse game in the labyrinthine streets of Shanghai, determined on taking back what Jin had stolen.

When Daiyu appears in Shanghai, Zhou is uncertain if it’s to confront him or in support of her father. Jin has proudly announced Daiyu will be by his side for the opening ceremony of Jin Tower, his first “vertical city.” And as hard as Zhou and his friends fight, Jin always gains the upper hand. Is this a game they can survive, much less win?

The Universal Laws Of Marco by Carmen Rodrigues
Release Date: March 19, 2019

Summary: Told through the lens of a guy in love with the cosmos (and maybe two girls), The Universal Laws of Marco explores the complicated histories that bring us together and tear us apart.

In the summer before eighth grade, Marco Suarez kissed his best friend Sally Blake. This was his first spark.

And since then, whenever he’s thought about that moment, he’s traveled through a wormhole—of sorts—to relive those brief seconds when time sped up (or, rather, his view of time distorted) and he kissed her.

And then, at the end of that year, she disappeared, leaving in that way that people sometimes leave—alive and well and somewhere out there but gone, nonetheless. She never even said why.

And now in their senior year, Sally unexpectedly returns and Marco is shaken. Still, he holds tightly to his carefully choreographed life. A life that is full of reasons why first sparks don’t matter:

Reason 1: He has a girlfriend. Her name is Erika Richards.
Reason 2: He’s leaving on a full scholarship to college.
The Weight Of Stars by K. AncrumReason 3: He’s busy with his friends and making money to help support his family.

But as Marco navigates the final days of high school, he learns that leaving home is never easy and a first spark is hard to ignore.

The Weight Of Stars by K. Ancrum
Release Date:
March 19, 2019

Summary: Ryann Bird dreams of traveling across the stars. But a career in space isn’t an option for a girl who lives in a trailer park on the wrong side of town. So Ryann becomes her circumstances and settles for acting out and skipping school to hang out with her delinquent friends.

One day she meets Alexandria: a furious loner who spurns Ryann’s offer of friendship. After a horrific accident leaves Alexandria with a broken arm, the two misfits are brought together despite themselves—and Ryann learns her secret: Alexandria’s mother is an astronaut who volunteered for a one-way trip to the edge of the solar system.

Every night without fail, Alexandria waits to catch radio signals from her mother. And its up to Ryann to lift her onto the roof day after day until the silence between them grows into friendship, and eventually something more . . .

April

Descendant Of The Crane by Joan He
Release Date: April 9, 2019

Summary: Tyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own.

Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, but when her beloved father is murdered, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of an unstable kingdom. Determined to find her father’s killer, Hesina does something desperate: she engages the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by death… because in Yan, magic was outlawed centuries ago.

Using the information illicitly provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can

Descendant Of The Crane by Joan He

trust even her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of her kingdom at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?

The Tiger At Midnight by Swati Teerdhala (TTAM #1)
Release Date:
April 23, 2019

Summary: Esha is a legend, but no one knows. It’s only in the shadows that she moonlights as the Viper, the rebels’ highly skilled assassin. She’s devoted her life to avenging what she lost in the royal coup, and now she’s been tasked with her most important mission to date: taking down the ruthless General Hotha.

Kunal has been a soldier since childhood, training morning and night to uphold the power of King Vardaan. His uncle, the general, has ensured that Kunal never strays from the path—even as a part of Kunal longs to join the outside world, which has been growing only more volatile.

Then Esha’s and Kunal’s paths cross—and an unimaginable chain of events unfolds. Both the Viper and the soldier think they’re calling the shots, but they’re not the only players moving the pieces. As the bonds that hold their land in order break down and the sins of the past meet the promise of a new future, both rebel and soldier must make unforgivable choices.

Love From A To Z by S.K. Ali
Release Date: April 30, 2019

Summary: A marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together.

An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.

But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.

When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break.

Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her.

Then her path crosses with Adam’s.

Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister.

Adam’s also intent on keeping his diagnosis a secret from his grieving father.

Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals.

Until a marvel and an oddity occurs…

Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

Oddity: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

May

The Candle And The Flame by Nafiza Azad
Release Date:
May 14, 2019

Summary: Fatima lives in the city of Noor, a thriving stop along the Silk Road. There the music of myriad languages fills the air, and people of all faiths weave their lives together. However, the city bears scars of its recent past, when the chaotic tribe of Shayateen djinn slaughtered its entire population — except for Fatima and two other humans. Now ruled by a new maharajah, Noor is protected from the Shayateen by the Ifrit, djinn of order and reason, and by their commander, Zulfikar.

But when one of the most potent of the Ifrit dies, Fatima is changed in ways she cannot fathom, ways that scare even those who love her. Oud in hand, Fatima is drawn into the intrigues of the maharajah and his sister, the affairs of Zulfikar and the djinn, and the dangers of a magical battlefield.

Nocturna by Maya Motayne (A Forgery Of Magic #1)
Release Date: 
May 7, 2019

Summary: To Finn Voy, magic is two things: a knife to hold under the chin of anyone who crosses her…and a disguise she shrugs on as easily as others pull on cloaks.

As a talented faceshifter, it’s been years since Finn has seen her own face, and that’s exactly how she likes it. But when Finn gets caught by a powerful mobster, she’s forced into an impossible mission: steal a legendary treasure from Castallan’s royal palace or be stripped of her magic forever.

Nocturna by Maya MotayneAfter the murder of his older brother, Prince Alfehr is first in line for the Castallan throne. But Alfie can’t help but feel that he will never live up to his brother’s legacy. Riddled with grief, Alfie is obsessed with finding a way to bring his brother back, even if it means dabbling in forbidden magic.

But when Finn and Alfie’s fates collide, they accidentally unlock a terrible, ancient power—which, if not contained, will devour the world. And with Castallan’s fate in their hands, Alfie and Finn must race to vanquish what they have unleashed, even if it means facing the deepest darkness in their pasts.

Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno
Release Date:
May 14, 2019

Summary: Rosa Santos is cursed by the sea-at least, that’s what they say. Dating her is bad news, especially if you’re a boy with a boat.

But Rosa feels more caught than cursed. Caught between cultures and choices. Between her abuela, a beloved healer and pillar of their community, and her mother, an artist who crashes in and out of her life like a hurricane. Between Port Coral, the quirky South Florida town they call home, and Cuba, the island her abuela refuses to talk about.

As her college decision looms, Rosa collides – literally – with Alex Aquino, the mysterious boy with tattoos of the ocean whose family owns the marina. With her heart, her family, and her future on the line, can Rosa break a curse and find her place beyond the horizon?

There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon (WDMR #2)
Release Date: 
May 14, 2019

Summary: Ashish Patel didn’t know love could be so…sucky. After he’s dumped by his ex-girlfriend, his mojo goes AWOL. Even worse, his parents are annoyingly, smugly confident they could find him a better match. So, in a moment of weakness, Ash challenges them to set him up.

The Patels insist that Ashish date an Indian-American girl—under contract. Per subclause 1(a), he’ll be taking his date on “fun” excursions like visiting the Hindu temple and his eccentric Gita Auntie. Kill him now. How is this ever going to work?

Sweetie Nair is many things: a formidable track athlete who can outrun most people in California, a loyal friend, a shower-singing champion. Oh, and she’s also fat. To Sweetie’s traditional parents, this last detail is the kiss of death.

Sweetie loves her parents, but she’s so tired of being told she’s lacking because she’s fat. She decides it’s time to kick off the Sassy Sweetie Project, where she’ll show the world (and herself) what she’s really made of.

Ashish and Sweetie both have something to prove. But with each date they realize there’s an unexpected magic growing between them. Can they find their true selves without losing each other?

I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn
Release Date:
May 28, 2019

Summary: Kimi Nakamura loves a good fashion statement. She’s obsessed with transforming everyday ephemera into Kimi Originals: bold outfits that make her and her friends feel brave, fabulous, and like the Ultimate versions of themselves. But her mother sees this as a distraction from working on her portfolio paintings for the prestigious fine art academy where she’s been accepted for college. So when a surprise letter comes in the mail from Kimi’s estranged grandparents, inviting her to Kyoto for spring break, she seizes the opportunity to get away from the disaster of her life.

Let Me Hear A Rhyme by Tiffany D. JacksonWhen she arrives in Japan, she loses herself in Kyoto’s outdoor markets, art installations, and cherry blossom festival–and meets Akira, a cute med student who moonlights as a costumed mochi mascot. What begins as a trip to escape her problems quickly becomes a way for Kimi to learn more about the mother she left behind, and to figure out where her own heart lies.

Let Me Hear A Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson
Release Date:
May 21, 2019

Summary: In this standalone novel, Tiffany D. Jackson tells the story of three Brooklyn teens who plot to turn their murdered friend into a major rap star by pretending he is still alive.

Biggie Smalls was right. Things done changed. But that doesn’t mean that Quadir and Jarrell are okay letting their best friend Steph’s tracks lie forgotten in his bedroom after he’s killed—not when his beats could turn any Bed-Stuy corner into a celebration, not after years of having each other’s backs.

Enlisting the help of Steph’s younger sister, Jasmine, Quadir and Jarrell come up with a plan to promote Steph’s music under a new rap name: The Architect. Soon, everyone in Brooklyn is dancing to Steph’s voice. But then his mixtape catches the attention of a hotheaded music rep and—with just hours on the clock—the trio must race to prove Steph’s talent from beyond the grave.

Now, as the pressure—and danger—of keeping their secret grows, Quadir, Jarrell, and Jasmine are forced to confront the truth about what happened to Steph. Only each has something to hide. And with everything riding on Steph’s fame, together they need to decide what they stand for before they lose everything they’ve worked so hard to hold on to—including each other. 

Fake It Till You Break It by Jenn P. Nguyen
Release Date:
May 28, 2019

Summary: Mia and Jake have known each other their whole lives. They’ve endured summer vacations, Sunday brunches, even dentist visits together. Their mothers, who are best friends, are convinced that Mia and Jake would be the perfect couple, even though they can’t stand to be in the same room together.

After Mia’s mom turns away yet another cute boy, Mia and Jake decide they’ve have had enough. Together, they hatch a plan to get their moms off their backs. Permanently. All they have to do is pretend to date and then stage the worst breakup of all time—and then they’ll be free.

The only problem is, maybe Jake and Mia don’t hate each other as much as they once thought… 

The Voice In My Head by Dana L. Davis
Release Date: 
May 28, 2019

Summary: For Indigo Phillips, life has always been her and her identical twin—Violet. The perfectly dressed, gentle, popular sister. But now Violet is terminally ill and, in a few hours, plans to die on her own terms via medically assisted suicide. Even though she and Violet have drifted apart lately, Indigo doesn’t know how to face life without the only person who really understands her. Until suddenly she hears a mysterious voice claiming to be God, insisting that if she takes Violet to a remote rock formation in the Arizona desert, her sister will live.

Indigo is sure she’s losing it. But Violet agrees to go—if their incredibly dysfunctional family accompanies them on their trek from Seattle to Arizona. Indigo can barely be in the same zip code as her distant mother and controlling big sister, much less keep the peace on a road trip. Speaking her mind is the only way she can deal. But between facing senseless mishaps and strange lodgings, and meeting even stranger folks along the way, Indigo will learn shocking things about those she thought she knew too well. When a sequence of wrenching secrets detonates, Indigo must figure out how to come to terms with her sister, her family…and the voice in her head.

June

I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest
Release Date:
June 4, 2019

Summary: When Chloe Pierce’s mom forbids her to apply for a spot at the dance conservatory of her dreams, she devises a secret plan to drive two hundred miles to the nearest audition. But Chloe hits her first speed bump when her annoying neighbor Eli insists upon hitching a ride, threatening to tell Chloe’s mom if she leaves him and his smelly dog, Geezer, behind. So now Chloe’s chasing her ballet dreams down the east coast—two unwanted (but kinda cute) passengers in her car, butterflies in her stomach, and a really dope playlist on repeat.

I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest

Five Midnights by Ann Dávila Cardinal
Release Date:
June 4, 2019

Summary: Five friends cursed. Five deadly fates. Five nights of retribución.

If Lupe Dávila and Javier Utierre can survive each other’s company, together they can solve a series of grisly murders sweeping though Puerto Rico. But the clues lead them out of the real world and into the realm of myths and legends. And if they want to catch the killer, they’ll have to step into the shadows to see what’s lurking there—murderer, or monster?

If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann
Release Date:
June 4, 2019

Summary: High school finally behind her, Winnie is all set to attend college in the fall. But first she’s spending her summer days working at her granny’s diner and begins spending her midnights with Dallas—the boy she loves to hate and hates that she likes. Winnie lives in Misty Haven, a small town where secrets are impossible to keep—like when Winnie allegedly snaps on Dr. Skinner, which results in everyone feeling compelled to give her weight loss advice for her own good. Because they care that’s she’s “too fat.”

Winnie dreams of someday inheriting the diner—but it’ll go away if they can’t make money, and fast. Winnie has a solution—win a televised cooking competition and make bank. But Granny doesn’t want her to enter—so Winnie has to find a way around her formidable grandmother. Can she come out on top?

Virtually Yours by Sarvenaz Tash
Release Date:
June 4, 2019

Summary: Modern love plus online anonymity is a recipe for romantic disaster in this lighthearted new romance from the author of The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love.

How bad can one little virtual lie be?

NYU freshman Mariam Vakilian hasn’t dated anyone in five months, not since her high school sweetheart Caleb broke up with her. So, when she decides to take advantage of an expiring coupon and try out a new virtual reality dating service, it’s sort of a big deal.

It’s an even bigger deal when it chooses as one of her three matches none other than Caleb himself. That has to be a sign, right?

The Grief Keeper by Alexandra VillasanteExcept that her other match, Jeremy, just happens to be her new best friend IRL.

Mariam’s heart is telling her one thing, but the app is telling her another. So, which should she trust? Is all fair in modern love?

The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante
Release Date: June 4, 2019

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Marisol Morales and her little sister Gabi are detainees of the United States government. They were caught crossing the U.S. border, to escape the gang violence in their country after their brother was murdered. When Marisol learns that the old family friend who had offered them refuge in America has died and they are going to be sent home, they flee.

They hitchhike, snagging a ride with an unassuming woman who agrees to drive them to New Jersey, but when Marisol wakes up in D.C. she learns the woman is actually a government agent. Indranie Patel has a proposal for Marisol: she wants Marisol to be a Grief Keeper, someone who will take another’s grief into their body. It’s a dangerous experimental study, but if Marisol agrees she and Gabi will be allowed to stay in the United States. If the experiment fails the girls will be sent home, which is a death sentence. Things become more complicated when Marisol meets Rey, the wealthy daughter of a D.C. Senator, and the girl she’s helping to heal. Marisol likes Rey’s short hair and sarcastic attitude. But she didn’t expect the connection from their shared grief to erupt into a powerful love.

Suddenly being forced from the United States isn’t just a matter of life and death, but a matter of the heart.

Patron Saints Of Nothing by Randy Rinbay
Release Date:
June 18, 2019

Summary: A powerful coming-of-age story about grief, guilt, and the risks a Filipino-American teenager takes to uncover the truth about his cousin’s murder.

Jay Reguero plans to spend the last semester of his senior year playing video games before heading to the University of Michigan in the fall. But when he discovers that his Filipino cousin Jun was murdered as part of President Duterte’s war on drugs, and no one in the family wants to talk about what happened, Jay travels to the Philippines to find out the real story.

Hoping to uncover more about Jun and the events that led to his death, Jay is forced to reckon with the many sides of his cousin before he can face the whole horrible truth — and the part he played in it.

July

The Best Lies by Sarah Lyu
Release Date:
July 2, 2019

Summary: Remy Tsai used to know how her story would turn out. But now, she doesn’t even know what tomorrow will look like.

She was happy once. Remy had her boyfriend Jack, and Elise, her best friend—her soulmate—who understood her better than anyone else in the world.

But now Jack is dead, shot through the chest—

And it was Elise who pulled the trigger.

Was it self-defense? Or something deeper, darker than anything Remy could have imagined? As the police investigate, Remy does the same, sifting through her own memories, looking for a scrap of truth that could save the friendship that means everything to her.

Symptoms Of A Heartbreak by Sona Charaipotra
Release Date:
July 2, 2019

Summary: Fresh from med school, sixteen-year-old medical prodigy Saira arrives for her first day at her new job: treating children with cancer. She’s always had to balance family and friendships with her celebrity as the Girl Genius―but she’s never had to prove herself to skeptical adult co-workers while adjusting to real life-and-death stakes. And working in the same hospital as her mother certainly isn’t making things any easier.

But life gets complicated when Saira finds herself falling in love with a patient: a cute teen boy who’s been diagnosed with cancer. And when she risks her brand new career to try to improve his chances, it could cost her everything.

It turns out “heartbreak” is the one thing she still doesn’t know how to treat.

Spin The Dawn by Elizabeth Lim (The Blood Of Stars #1)
Release Date:
July 9, 2019

Summary: Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

Truly Madly Royally by Debbie Rigaud
Release Date:
July 30, 2019

Summary: Fiercely independent and smart, Zora Emerson wants to change the world. She’s excited to be attending a prestigious summer program, even if she feels out of place among her privileged, mostly white classmates. So she’s definitely not expecting to feel a connection to Owen, who’s an actual prince of an island off the coast of England. But Owen is funny, charming…and undeniably cute. Zora can’t ignore the chemistry between them.

When Owen invites Zora to be his date at his big brother’s big royal wedding, Zora is suddenly thrust into the spotlight, along with her family and friends. Everyone is talking about her, in real life and online, and while Owen is used to the scrutiny, Zora’s not sure it’s something she can live with. Can she maintain her sense of self while moving between two very different worlds? And can her feelings for Owen survive and thrive in the midst of the crazy?

Shatter The Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells
Release Date:
July 30, 2019

Summary: Raised among the ruins of a conquered mountain nation, Maren dreams only of sharing a quiet life with her girlfriend Kaia—until the day Kaia is abducted by the Aurati, prophetic agents of the emperor, and forced to join their ranks. Desperate to save her, Maren hatches a plan to steal one of the emperor’s coveted dragons and storm the Aurati stronghold.

If Maren is to have any hope of succeeding, she must become an apprentice to the Aromatory—the emperor’s mysterious dragon trainer. But Maren is unprepared for the dangerous secrets she uncovers: rumors of a lost prince, a brewing rebellion, and a prophecy that threatens to shatter the empire itself. Not to mention the strange dreams she’s been having about a beast deep underground…

With time running out, can Maren survive long enough to rescue Kaia from impending death? Or could it be that Maren is destined for something greater than she could have ever imagined?

August

The Surprising Power Of A Good Dumpling by Wai Chim
Release Date:
August 5, 2019

Summary: Anna Chiu has her hands pretty full looking after her brother and sister and helping out at her dad’s restaurant, all while her mum stays in bed. Dad’s new delivery boy, Rory, is a welcome distraction and even though she knows that things aren’t right at home, she’s starting to feel like she could just be a normal teen.

But when Mum finally gets out of bed, things go from bad to worse. And as Mum’s condition worsens, Anna and her family question everything they understand about themselves and each other.

A nourishing tale about the crevices of culture, mental wellness and family, and the surprising power of a good dumpling.

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee
Release Date: August 13, 2019

Summary: By day, seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan works as a lady’s maid for the cruel daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Atlanta. But by night, Jo moonlights as the pseudonymous author of a newspaper advice column for the genteel Southern lady, “Dear Miss Sweetie.” When her column becomes wildly popular, she uses the power of the pen to address some of society’s ills, but she’s not prepared for the backlash that follows when her column challenges fixed ideas about race and gender.

While her opponents clamor to uncover the secret identity of Miss Sweetie, a mysterious letter sets Jo off on a search for her own past and the parents who abandoned her as a baby. But when her efforts put her in the crosshairs of Atlanta’s most notorious criminal, Jo must decide whether she, a girl used to living in the shadows, is ready to step into the light.

Color Me In by Natasha Díaz
Release Date: August 20, 2019

Summary: Who is Nevaeh Levitz?

Growing up in an affluent suburb of New York City, sixteen-year-old Nevaeh Levitz never thought much about her biracial roots. When her Black mom and Jewish dad split up, she relocates to her mom’s family home in Harlem and is forced to confront her identity for the first time.

Nevaeh wants to get to know her extended family, but one of her cousins can’t stand that Nevaeh, who inadvertently passes as white, is too privileged, pampered, and selfish to relate to the injustices they face on a daily basis as African Americans. In the midst of attempting to blend their families, Nevaeh’s dad decides that she should have a belated bat mitzvah instead of a sweet sixteen, which guarantees social humiliation at her posh private school. Even with the push and pull of her two cultures, Nevaeh does what she’s always done when life gets complicated: she stays silent.

Color Me In by Natasha DiazIt’s only when Nevaeh stumbles upon a secret from her mom’s past, finds herself falling in love, and sees firsthand the prejudice her family faces that she begins to realize she has a voice. And she has choices. Will she continue to let circumstances dictate her path? Or will she find power in herself and decide once and for all who and where she is meant to be?

The Revolution Of Birdie Randolph by Brandy Colbert
Release Date: August 20, 2019

Summary: Dove “Birdie” Randolph works hard to be the perfect daughter and follow the path her parents have laid out for her: She quit playing her beloved soccer, she keeps her nose buried in textbooks, and she’s on track to finish high school at the top of her class. But then Birdie falls hard for Booker, a sweet boy with a troubled past…whom she knows her parents will never approve of.

When her estranged aunt Carlene returns to Chicago and moves into the family’s apartment above their hair salon, Birdie notices the tension building at home. Carlene is sweet, friendly, and open-minded–she’s also spent decades in and out of treatment facilities for addiction. As Birdie becomes closer to both Booker and Carlene, she yearns to spread her wings. But when long-buried secrets rise to the surface, everything she’s known to be true is turned upside down.

Song Of The Abyss by Makiia Lucier
Release Date: August 27, 2019

Summary: As the granddaughter of a famed navigator, seventeen-year-old Reyna has always lived life on her own terms, despite those who say a girl could never be an explorer for the royal house of St. John del Mar. She is determined to prove them wrong, and as she returns home after a year-long expedition, she knows her dream is within reach. No longer an apprentice, instead: Reyna, Master Explorer.

But when menacing raiders attack her ship, those dreams are pushed aside. Reyna’s escape is both desperate and dangerous, and when next she sees her ship, a mystery rises from the deep. The sailors–her captain, her countrymen–have vanished. To find them, Reyna must use every resource at her disposal . . . including placing her trust in a handsome prince from a rival kingdom.

Together they uncover a disturbing truth. The attack was no isolated incident. Troubling signs point to a shadowy kingdom in the north, and for once, the rulers of the Sea of Magdalen agree: something must be done. But can Reyna be brave enough to find a way?

September

Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite
Release Date:
September 3, 2019

Summary: When a school presentation goes very wrong, Alaine Beauparlant finds herself suspended, shipped off to Haiti and writing the report of a lifetime…

You might ask the obvious question: What do I, a seventeen-year-old Haitian American from Miami with way too little life experience, have to say about anything?

Actually, a lot.

Thanks to “the incident” (don’t ask), I’m spending the next two months doing what my school is calling a “spring volunteer immersion project.” It’s definitely no vacation. I’m toiling away under the ever-watchful eyes of Tati Estelle at her new nonprofit. And my lean-in queen of a mother is even here to make sure I do things right. Or she might just be lying low to dodge the media sharks after a much more public incident of her own…and to hide a rather devastating secret.

The Truth Is by NoNieqa RamosAll things considered, there are some pretty nice perks…like flirting with Tati’s distractingly cute intern, getting actual face time with my mom and experiencing Haiti for the first time. I’m even exploring my family’s history—which happens to be loaded with betrayals, superstitions and possibly even a family curse.

You know, typical drama. But it’s nothing I can’t handle.

The Truth Is by NoNieqa Ramos
Release Date: September 3, 2019

Summary: A powerful exploration of love, identity, and self-worth through the eyes of a fierce, questioning Puerto Rican teen.

Fifteen-year-old Verdad doesn’t think she has time for love. She’s still struggling to process the recent death of her best friend, Blanca; dealing with the high expectations of her hardworking Puerto Rican mother and the absence of her remarried father; and keeping everyone at a distance. But when she meets Danny, a new guy at school–who happens to be trans–all bets are off. Verdad suddenly has to deal with her mother’s disapproval of her relationship with Danny as well as her own prejudices and questions about her identity, and Danny himself, who is comfortable in his skin but keeping plenty of other secrets.

Kingdom Of Souls by Rena Barron (KOS #1)
Release Date: September 3, 2019

Summary: THERE’S MAGIC IN HER BLOOD.

Arrah is a young woman from a long line of the most powerful witch doctors in the land. But she fails at magic, fails to call upon the ancestors and can’t even cast the simplest curse.

Shame and disappointment dog her.

When strange premonitions befall her family and children in the kingdom begin to disappear, Arrah undergoes the dangerous and scorned process of selling years of her life for magic. This borrowed power reveals a nightmarish betrayal and a danger beyond what she could have imagined. Now Arrah must find a way to master magic, or at least buy it, in order to save herself and everything she holds dear.

Eclipse The Skies by Maura Milan (Ignite The Stars #2)
Release Date: September 3, 2019

Summary: Ia Cōcha never thought she’d be working for the Olympus Commonwealth. But that was before she found out her trusted brother Einn was trying to tear apart the universe. Now, Ia, the Blood Wolf of the Skies, has agreed to help the Royal Star Force on one condition: when she finds him, she gets to kill Einn herself.

Brinn Tarver has just come to terms with her Tawny identity when the public lashes out against her people, crushing her family. At her breaking point, she starts to question everything she believes in—including Ia.

A Match Made In Mehendi by Nandini BajpaiAfter the death of his mentor, Knives Adams is doing his best to live up to a role he didn’t ask for as Aphelion’s new headmaster. Still, with each new step deeper into war, he feels torn between his duties and the pull of Ia’s radical—sometimes criminal—ideas.

A Match Made In Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai
Release Date: September 10, 2019

Summary: Fifteen-year-old Simran “Simi” Sangha comes from a long line of Indian vichole-matchmakers-with a rich history for helping parents find good matches for their grown children. When Simi accidentally sets up her cousin and a soon-to-be lawyer, her family is thrilled that she has the “gift.”

But Simi is an artist, and she doesn’t want to have anything to do with relationships, helicopter parents, and family drama. That is, until she realizes this might be just the thing to improve her and her best friend Noah’s social status. Armed with her family’s ancient guide to finding love, Simi starts a matchmaking service-via an app, of course.

But when she helps connect a wallflower of a girl with the star of the boys’ soccer team, she turns the high school hierarchy topsy-turvy, soon making herself public enemy number one.

How To Be Remy Cameron by Julian Winters
Release Date:
September 10, 2019

Summary: Everyone on campus knows Remy Cameron. He’s the out-and-gay, super-likable guy that people admire for his confidence. The only person who may not know Remy that well is Remy himself.

So when he is assigned to write an essay describing himself, he goes on a journey to reconcile the labels that people have attached to him, and get to know the real Remy Cameron.

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
Release Date: September 10, 2019

Summary: Pet is here to hunt a monster.
Are you brave enough to look?

There are no more monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. With doting parents and a best friend named Redemption, Jam has grown up with this lesson all her life. But when she meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colours and claws, who emerges from one of her mother’s paintings and a drop of Jam’s blood, she must reconsider what she’s been told.

The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Pet has come to hunt a monster, and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also to uncover the truth, and the answer to the question-How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?

The Deathless Girlsby Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Release Date:
September 19, 2019

Summary: They say the thirst of blood is like a madness – they must sate it. Even with their own kin.

On the eve of her divining, the day she’ll discover her fate, seventeen-year-old Lil and her twin sister Kizzy are captured and enslaved by the cruel Boyar Valcar, taken far away from their beloved traveller community.

Forced to work in the harsh and unwelcoming castle kitchens, Lil is comforted when she meets Mira, a fellow slave who she feels drawn to in a way she doesn’t understand. But she also learns about the Dragon, a mysterious and terrifying figure of myth and legend who takes girls as gifts.

They may not have had their divining day, but the girls will still discover their fate…

The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring
Release Date: September 24, 2019

Summary: At the very southern tip of South America looms an isolated finishing school. Legend has it that the land will curse those who settle there. But for Mavi—a bold Buenos Aires native fleeing the military regime that took her mother—it offers an escape to a new life as a young teacher to Argentina’s elite girls.

Mavi tries to embrace the strangeness of the imposing house—despite warnings not to roam at night, threats from an enigmatic young man, and rumors of mysterious Others. But one of Mavi’s ten students is missing, and when students and teachers alike begin to behave as if possessed, the forces haunting this unholy cliff will no longer be ignored.

The Tenth Girl by Sara FaringOne of these spirits holds a secret that could unravel Mavi’s existence. In order to survive she must solve a cosmic mystery—and then fight for her life.

Slay by Brittney Morris
Release Date: September 24, 2019

Summary: By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and one of the only Black kids at Jefferson Academy. But at home, she joins hundreds of thousands of Black gamers who duel worldwide as Nubian personas in the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. No one knows Kiera is the game developer, not her friends, her family, not even her boyfriend, Malcolm, who believes video games are partially responsible for the “downfall of the Black man.”

But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, news of the game reaches mainstream media, and SLAY is labeled a racist, exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals. Even worse, an anonymous troll infiltrates the game, threatening to sue Kiera for “anti-white discrimination.”

Driven to save the only world in which she can be herself, Kiera must preserve her secret identity and harness what it means to be unapologetically Black in a world intimidated by Blackness. But can she protect her game without losing herself in the process?

October

Rogue Heart by Axie Oh (Rebel Seoul #2)
Release Date: October 8, 2019

Summary: NEO BEIJING, 2201. Two years after the Battle of Neo Seoul, eighteen-year-old telepath Ama works by day in a cafe and moonlights as a lounge singer in a smoky bar at night. She’s anonymous, she’s safe from the seemingly never-ending war, and that’s how she’d like to stay. But then PHNX, a resistance group specializing in espionage and covert missions, approaches her with an offer to expose a government experiment exactly like the one she fled. Soon, Ama is traveling with PHNX on a series of dangerous assignments, using her telepathic powers to aid the rebellion against the authoritarian Alliance.

As the war ramps up, PHNX is given its most dangerous mission yet: to infiltrate the base of the Alliance’s new war commander, a young man rumored to have no fear of death. But when Ama sees the commander for the first time, she discovers his identity: Alex Kim, the boy she once loved and who betrayed her.

Now, Ama must use her telepathic abilities to pose as an officer in Alex’s elite guard, manipulating Alex’s mind so that he doesn’t recognize her. As the final battle approaches, Ama struggles with her mission and her feelings for Alex. Will she be able to carry out her task? Or will she give up everything for Alex again—only to be betrayed once more?

Rebel Heart by Axie Oh

A Kingdom For A Stage by Heidi Heilig (For A Muse Of Fire #2)
Release Date: October 8, 2019

Summary: Jetta is a prisoner. A prisoner of the armee, a prisoner of fate, and a prisoner of her own madness. Held captive in Hell’s Court—now the workshop of Theodora, the armee engineer and future queen of Chakrana—Jetta knows she needs to escape. But Theodora has the most tempting bait—a daily dose of a medication that treats Jetta’s madness.

But the cost is high. In exchange, Jetta must use her power over dead spirits to trap their souls into flying machines—ones armed with enough firepower to destroy every village in Chakrana. And Theodora and her armee also control Le Trépas—a terrifying necromancer who once had all of Chakrana under his thumb, and Jetta’s biological father. Jetta fears the more she uses her powers, the more she will be like Le Trépas—especially now that she has brought her brother, Akra, back from the dead.

Jetta knows Le Trépas can’t be trusted. But when Akra teams up with Leo, the handsome smuggler who abandoned her, to pull off an incredible escape, they insist on bringing the necromancer along. The rebels are eager to use Le Trépas’s and Jetta’s combined magic against the invading colonists. Soon Jetta will face the choice between saving all of Chakrana or becoming like her father, and she isn’t sure which she’ll choose.

The Library Of Lost Things by Laura Taylor Namey
Release Date: October 8, 2019

Summary: From the moment she first learned to read, literary genius Darcy Wells has spent most of her time living in the worlds of her books. There, she can avoid the crushing reality of her mother’s hoarding and pretend her life is simply ordinary. But when a new property manager becomes more active in the upkeep of their apartment complex, the only home Darcy has ever known outside of her books suddenly hangs in the balance.

While Darcy is struggling to survive beneath the weight of her mother’s compulsive shopping, Asher Fleet, a former teen pilot with an unexpectedly shattered future, walks into the bookstore where she works…and straight into her heart. For the first time in her life, Darcy can’t seem to find the right words. Fairy tales are one thing, but real love makes her want to hide inside her carefully constructed ink-and-paper bomb shelter.

Still, after spending her whole life keeping people out, something about Asher makes Darcy want to open up. But securing her own happily-ever-after will mean she’ll need to stop hiding and start living her own truth—even if it’s messy.

Our Wayward Fate by Gloria Chao
Release Date: October 15, 2019

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Ali Chu knows that as the only Asian person at her school in middle-of-nowhere Indiana, she must be bland as white toast to survive. This means swapping her congee lunch for PB&Js, ignoring the clueless racism from her classmates and teachers, and keeping her mouth shut when people wrongly call her Allie instead of her actual name, Ah-lee, after the mountain in Taiwan.

Her autopilot existence is disrupted when she finds out that Chase Yu, the new kid in school, is also Taiwanese. Despite some initial resistance due to the they belong together whispers, Ali and Chase soon spark a chemistry rooted in competitive martial arts, joking in two languages, and, most importantly, pushing back against the discrimination they face.

But when Ali’s mom finds out about the relationship, she forces Ali to end it. As Ali covertly digs into the why behind her mother’s disapproval, she uncovers secrets about her family and Chase that force her to question everything she thought she knew about life, love, and her unknowable future.

The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco (TNTW #1)
Release Date: October 15, 2019

Summary: Generations of twin goddesses have long ruled Aeon. But seventeen years ago, one sister’s betrayal defied an ancient prophecy and split their world in two. The planet ceased to spin, and a Great Abyss now divides two realms: one cloaked in perpetual night, the other scorched by an unrelenting sun.

While one sister rules Aranth—a frozen city surrounded by a storm-wracked sea —her twin inhabits the sand-locked Golden City. Each goddess has raised a daughter, and each keeps her own secrets about her sister’s betrayal.

But when shadowy forces begin to call their daughters, Odessa and Haidee, back to the site of the Breaking, the two young goddesses —along with a powerful healer from Aranth, and a mouthy desert scavenger —set out on separate journeys across treacherous wastelands, desperate to heal their broken world. No matter the sacrifice it demands.

I Hope You Get This Message by Farah Naz Rishi
Release Date: October 22, 2019

Summary: News stations across the country are reporting mysterious messages that Earth has been receiving from a planet—Alma—claiming to be its creator. If they’re being interpreted correctly, in seven days Alma will hit the kill switch on their “colony” Earth.

True or not, for teenagers Jesse Hewitt, Cate Collins, and Adeem Khan, the prospect of this ticking time bomb will change their lives forever.

Jesse, who has been dealt one bad blow after another, wonders if it even matters what happens to the world. Cate, on the other hand, is desperate to use this time to find the father she never met. And Adeem, who hasn’t spoken to his estranged sister in years, must find out if he has it in him to forgive her for leaving.

With only a week to face their truths and right their wrongs, Jesse, Cate, and Adeem’s paths collide as their worlds are pulled apart.

The Light At The Bottom Of The World by London Shah (Light The Abyss #1)
Release Date:
October 29, 2019

Summary: At the end of the twenty-first century, the world has changed dramatically, but life continues one thousand feet below the ocean’s surface. In Great Britain, sea creatures swim among the ruins of Big Ben and the Tower of London, and citizens waver between fear and hope; fear of what lurks in the abyss, and hope that humanity will soon discover a way to reclaim the Earth.

Meanwhile, sixteen-year-old Leyla McQueen has her own problems to deal with. Her father’s been arrested, accused of taking advantage of victims of the Seasickness-a debilitating malaise that consumes people,often claiming their lives. But Leyla knows he’s innocent, and all she’s interested in is getting him back so that their lives can return to normal.

When she’s picked to race in the action-packed London Submersible Marathon, Leyla gets the chance to secure his freedom; the Prime Minister promises the champion whatever their heart desires. The race takes an unexpected turn, though, and presents her with an opportunity she never wanted: Leyla must venture outside of London for the first time in her life, to find and rescue her father herself.

The Light At The Bottom Of The World by London ShahNow, she’ll have to brave the unfathomable waters and defy a corrupt government determined to keep its secrets, all the while dealing with a secretive, hotheaded companion she never asked for in the first place. If she fails, or falls prey to her own fears, she risks capture–and her father might be lost forever.

A River Of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy (ARORB #1)
Release Date: October 29, 2019

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Eva is a princess, born with the magick of marrow and blood–a dark and terrible magick that hasn’t been seen for generations in the vibrant but fractured country of Myre. Its last known practitioner was Queen Raina, who toppled the native khimaer royalty and massacred thousands, including her own sister, eight generations ago, thus beginning the Rival Heir tradition. Living in Raina’s long and dark shadow, Eva must now face her older sister, Isa, in a battle to the death if she hopes to ascend to the Ivory Throne–because in the Queendom of Myre only the strongest, most ruthless rulers survive.

When Eva is attacked by an assassin just weeks before the battle with her sister, she discovers there is more to the attempt on her life than meets the eye–and it isn’t just her sister who wants to see her dead. As tensions escalate, Eva is forced to turn to a fey instructor of mythic proportions and a mysterious and handsome khimaer prince for help in growing her magick into something to fear. Because despite the love she still has for her sister, Eva will have to choose: Isa’s death or her own.

Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett
Release Date: October 29, 2019

Summary: Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She’s making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for Miles, the guy who makes her melt every time he walks into a room. The last thing she wants is for word to get out that she’s HIV-positive, because last time . . . well, last time things got ugly.

Keeping her viral load under control is easy, but keeping her diagnosis under wraps is not so simple. As Simone and Miles start going out for real–shy kisses escalating into much more–she feels an uneasiness that goes beyond butterflies. She knows she has to tell him that she’s positive, especially if sex is a possibility, but she’s terrified of how he’ll react! And then she finds an anonymous note in her locker: I know you have HIV. You have until Thanksgiving to stop hanging out with Miles. Or everyone else will know too.

Simone’s first instinct is to protect her secret at all costs, but as she gains a deeper understanding of the prejudice and fear in her community, she begins to wonder if the only way to rise above is to face the haters head-on…

November

A Thousand Fires by Shannon Price
Release Date: November 5, 2019

Summary: 10 Years. 3 Gangs. 1 Girl’s Epic Quest…

Valerie Simons knows the city’s gang wars are dangerous—her own brother was killed by the Boars two years ago. But nothing will sway her from joining the elite and beautiful Herons to avenge his death—a death she feels responsible for.

Thousand Fires by Shannon PriceBut when Valerie is recruited by the mysterious Stags, their charismatic and volatile leader Jax promises to help her get revenge. Torn between old love and new loyalty, Valerie fights to stay alive as she races across the streets of San Francisco to finish the mission that got her into the gangs.

Song Of The Crimson Flower Julie C. Dao (Rise Of The Empress #2.5)
Release Date: November 5, 2019

Summary: Will love break the spell? After cruelly rejecting Bao, the poor physician’s apprentice who loves her, Lan, a wealthy nobleman’s daughter, regrets her actions. So when she finds Bao’s prized flute floating in his boat near her house, she takes it into her care, not knowing that his soul has been trapped inside it by an evil witch, who cursed Bao, telling him that only love will set him free. Though Bao now despises her, Lan vows to make amends and help break the spell.

Together, the two travel across the continent, finding themselves in the presence of greatness in the forms of the Great Forest’s Empress Jade and Commander Wei. They journey with Wei, getting tangled in the webs of war, blood magic, and romance along the way. Will Lan and Bao begin to break the spell that’s been placed upon them? Or will they be doomed to live out their lives with black magic running through their veins?

In this fantastical tale of darkness and love, some magical bonds are stronger than blood.

When The Stars Lead To You by Ronni Davis
Release Date: November 12, 2019

Summary: Eighteen-year-old Devon longs for two things.

The stars.
And the boy she fell in love with last summer.

When Ashton breaks Devon’s heart at the end of the most romantic and magical summer ever, she thinks her heart will never heal again. But over the course of the following year, Devon finds herself slowly putting the broken pieces back together.

Now it’s senior year, and she’s determined to enjoy every moment of it as she prepares for a future studying the galaxies. That is, until Ashton shows up on the first day of school. Can she forgive him and open her heart again? Or are they doomed to repeat history?

December

The Relic Spell by Jimena I. Novaro

The Relic Spell by Jimena I. Novaro (The Phyrian War Chronicles #1)
Release Date:
December 17, 2019

Summary: Magic rolls through Orion Tamura’s history classroom like a tidal wave of golden light that only he can see. The spell is deadly, and Orion has no idea who cast it or what they want.

Answers are scarce—all of Port Monica’s sorcerers vanished fourteen years before, including Orion’s father. Armed with his limited knowledge of magic, Orion is the only one left in the city who is strong enough to investigate the origins of the spell.

But the city’s leaders will stop at nothing to censor and sabotage anyone who gets close to the truth. Invisible otherworlders watch every move Orion and his friends make, and a mysterious sorcerer who knows the answers haunts Orion’s dreams.

Are there any books by AOC you feel people missed in 2019? Any other YA releases you recommend? 💖📚📚✨

Goodreads: 2019 YA/MG Books With POC Leads

Crier’s War by Nina Varela Review

Crier's War by Nina VarelaCrier’s War by Nina Varela (Crier’s War #1)

Publisher: Harper Teen

Release Date: October 1, 2019

Pages: 434

Available Through The Book Depository: Crier’s War

Summary: After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, designed to be the playthings of royals, usurped their owners’ estates and bent the human race to their will.

Now Ayla, a human servant rising in the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging her family’s death…by killing the sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier.

Crier was Made to be beautiful, flawless, and to carry on her father’s legacy. But that was before her betrothal to the enigmatic Scyre Kinok, before she discovered her father isn’t the benevolent king she once admired, and most importantly, before she met Ayla.

Now, with growing human unrest across the land, pressures from a foreign queen, and an evil new leader on the rise, Crier and Ayla find there may be only one path to love: war.

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Crier’s War is a deftly woven political fantasy, featuring stellar world building, romance, poetic writing, and a brilliantly crafted plot that will keep you hooked! 

I just finished this book over the weekend and I’m not sure how my review can do this incredible book justice! Ayla & Crier were AMAZING characters, I loved them both so much and my heart burst with joy and sadness throughout their POVs! This book swept me away from the very first page and I’m incredibly excited to see what adventures lay ahead for our protagonists in the sequel, Iron Heart!

Even well before the start of the novel, from the epigraph: “For the queer readers. You deserve every adventure” you can sense the heart and soul Varela poured into this gem of a story! The compact timeline introduced from the very first page lays the groundwork for an epic adventure, the complex dynamic and history between humans and Automae in the lands of Zulla!

Crafted by a specific Maker, the Automae soon began to rebel against their owners and quickly became in charge, turning the tides of society. Now essentially starting from scratch, the Automae rule over humans (who are now servants) and some of the monarchs even take pride in still finding the fascination in human culture they’ve oppressed.

Crier is the current heir, an Autmoae who is brilliant and politically savvy, eager to prove it to her father, the current king, Hessod. However, she’s also set to be married to Scyre Kinok, the cunning war hero who may also have secrets of his own. Yet, when she learns early on that there’s something within her that makes her Flawed, she realizes she is still not fully free herself.

Ayla has one thing on her mind…revenge! For her family that was killed, for the future that was taken away from her, and for those she’s sworn to defend. As part of a rebellion group, she finds she’s given the opportunity to make strides in their uprising for freedom when she becomes handmaiden to Lady Crier, the current heir to the Kingdom of Rabu!

She isn’t entirely alone however, she sticks by one of her best friends Benjy and Rowan a “bird of prey” who is one of the leaders in a group of human rebels who are gearing to take down the Automae and give themselves a fighting chance at a new life.

The story is tightly-plotted with a lot of intrigue, mystery, and continuously builds on story threads that showcase their importance to the world and narrative!

Both Ayla and Crier are placed in positions where the secrets they carry are vital to their futures, requiring them to keep a close eye on each other and the figures around them as well. It’s in the underlying language that we see: both girls are working to stay one step ahead and know that even the smallest slip, could mean their downfall.

The 3rd-person / dual perspective allows for insight not only into the different sides of Zullan society (both human & Automae alike), but it also connects the plot in such a seamless way where your always left surprised by what will happen next.

The other main characters from Benjy to Kinok, rebels, royalty, etc. you feel their weight and impact to the story, even from secondary characters in such a way where the political unrest brings all these different voices to the forefront in some way.

Crier’s War doesn’t shy away from the impact and ferocity of emotion that courses its way through different layers of the story: from its characters to world, the politics, and the inner journey of our main protagonists!

Ayla, her anger and rage bled through each page and you could feel it through her words, actions, and internal thoughts! All she wants is to avenge those she’s lost (mother, father, & twin brother Storme) and create a better life for people. That can only be achieved by getting rid of the Automae, starting with Crier.

I can’t put into words how much I loved following her & Crier’s journeys! They were layered with depth, growth, hurt, and healing, which became such central and emotional themes of the book!

In the world of Crier’s War, though its setting is entirely new and unique, the way Varela develops the different villages, the intricate political relations, and the layers to society feel incredibly real as if they could very well exist in our own world.

What I also loved delving into, when it comes to Automae was their own history and influence in society, their reach goes to practically every sphere of this world! Another intriguing element to the Automae themselves is how their Designed, Made, and the influence the 4 Pillars has on how it makes them who they are (Reason, Calculation, Organic, & Intellect). Again this also ties in with the world building itself, but I loved all the little details that were described really brought the setting to life!

One of my favorite parts of this world (as with any other sci-fi/fantasy) was the politics! I studied this in college and I find it utterly fascinating and I can’t count how many moments I stopped reading to take notes on it.

From Scyre Kinok’s hidden agenda for acquiring power not only within the kingdom, being a former protector of the Iron Heart, to his part within the elite guard to advance Automae, and vying for power in the Red Council (which he continues to do successfully).

Kinok was easily one of my favorite antagonistic characters in this book because, from the very beginning we know he has worked to acquire power for himself, yet we still don’t know to what extent. He was fascinating to learn about because even as we learn more about him and his mysterious motives, the way he presents himself vs. what he keeps hidden are completely different things! This allows us as readers to constantly feel unsettled by him but also fascinated by his cleverness.

Additionally, its through the heriarchy of the characters themselves and their words, Crier with Kinok, Crier with her father Hessod, Ayla with Crier, and so on!

A favorite scene of mine involved Kinok and Crier dancing and to me, I felt this scene reflected the impact their reputations have on the status which they can successfully attain in the kingdom! It was beautifully written and impacted me in ways that had me enthralled by their dynamic!

Varela’s writing is incredibly thought-provoking and she brilliantly captured the political tone and intrigue that’s teeming on the edge of revolution! Her writing just connected with me on such a deep level, it felt philosophical. As we learn about this entirely new world the words are presented in a beautifully composed and scholarly way (Like I’m not entirely sure this makes sense, but the writing kept me thinking and I felt I was learning so much? About politics, the depth of dominating emotion, etc…)

Her writing above all was beautiful, captivating, and elegant!

When it comes to the romance, its slow-burn and again, elegantly written! As you read Crier & Ayla’s beautiful descriptions of one another, your heart feels the depth of emotion where you can truly understand them on a deep, internal level.

My only minor critique is that because SO many people were emphasizing the f/f romance, I was personally expecting more just a bit more exploration to their dynamic throughout the book! But, I can tell Book 2 will delve more into that. Also, more Kinok! He was such a fantastic antagonist and I just wanted more pages from him, as I mentioned above there’s just so many layers to his agenda and I couldn’t help but be intrigued as to how he would make things more complicated for Ayla and Crier!

Crier’s War is a beautifully crafted debut that explores politics, intrigue, tackles philosophical questions on what it means to be human and what does one fight for? Against an expansive backdrop of a world led by alchemical magick and dangerous AI royalty! This is another stellar debut and its a must read for 2019!!

Vagrant Queen Vol. 1 by Magdalene Visaggio Review {Graphic Novel}

Vagrant Queen Vol. 1 by Magdalene VisaggioVagrant Queen Vol. 1 by Magdalene Visaggio (Writer), Harry Saxon (Colorist), Tim Daniel (Design), Zakk Saam (Letterer), & Jason Smith (Ink)

Publisher: Vault Comics

Release Date: February 26, 2019

Pages: 192

Available Through The Book Depository: Vagrant Queen Vol. 1

Summary: Former child queen Elida was driven from her throne at age ten and forced to wander the galaxy, evading the revolutionary forces that wanted her dead. When an old frenemy claims to know the whereabouts of Elida’s long-lost mother, she is forced to return to her former kingdom and stage a rescue.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Vagrant Queen is fun, fast-paced, space opera adventure featuring a queen on the run! There’s action, space travel, politics, but where the story really shines is through the main character Elida, who remains on the fringes of space as she is the only royal left after her kingdom’s revolution!

I’d actually heard about this series last year when it was being released as single issues and this is the same publisher that you may already be familiar with on my blog, because they are also publishing Sera And The Royal Stars!

Its been a while since I’ve read a good space story and Vagrant Queen was a book I’d had on my to-read shelf already. I’ve eagerly been trying to get through my physical TBR, so I finally got the chance to pick it up!

Elida Al-Feyr is a former child queen who was forced to leave her kingdom of Arropia after a revolution. Now in her 20’s, she’s living out in the fringes of the galaxy as she is also trying to evade capture from space commander Lazaro, as one of the last remaining royals!

However, when she gets a tip from her former friend Isaac that he knows the whereabouts of her mother, she realizes its the only lead she’s gotten in such a long time.

Now the two of them are charting across space, bantering, and evading capture along the way!

As Elida joins Isaac, we also see them try to reconnect considering they used to work with each other a few years back and over the course of this volume, we learn more about their history and what led to them splitting ways.

There’s also a lot of surprises to Elida’s space adventure as we learn more about where the journey to finding her mother will take her and what her former friend Isaac Sterling has been up to!

Vagrant Queen features Black royalty, lots of action and adventure! This was such a great start to the series and overall is incredibly fun! I’m surprised I haven’t seen more discussion about this series, because its just a blast― start to finish!

Elida is a fun character to follow, she’s always ready to punch and fight someone if necessary, evade enemies, and always has a plan! I’m looking forward to learning even more about her in future installments.

The setting feels incredibly well developed through the slow progression of the world-building from the politics, our main protagonists & antagonist’s history, alongside the different planets, security and political figures!

The art style has a vintage aesthetic to it with a lot of bold colors that really bring each page to life! Alongside that, pages deliver on the detail whether its to a character, the setting or background, and the action is portrayed through the detailed lines and unique paneling!

What I wasn’t expecting was that this was more futuristic sci-fi dystopia than just sci-fi and that surprised me, but in a great way! This leaves certain future plot threads open for exploration in future installments, even as the story itself wraps-up wonderfully!

My only minor critiques are that, I did want a little more to Elida’s adventures (space travel, world exploration, etc.) but I’m sure there’s more to come in future installments!

And though I knew going in this series wouldn’t be for younger readers, I did find the mature/adult vibe of some parts of the story to not really click with me personally– again it isn’t too adult, but I wouldn’t recommend this for YA readers on the younger side.

Though rating aside on they enjoyment scale, this is definitely a 5 out of 5! Elida is a fantastic and captivating main character, I loved her banter, getting to learn more about her history with Isaac, and following them on their unique journeys as they reluctantly travel the galaxy together!

Also, its been a while since I’d read about this, but now that I’ve read Vagrant Queen it also seems fitting to mention that: its getting a series on SYFY in 2020! From what I’ve looked up it’ll have 10 episodes, the cast for Elida & Isaac look fantastic, & it already has a preview trailer which is pretty awesome!! So if your looking to be ahead of the hype for this new series, I recommend picking up Vagrant Queen 😁💜👑🚀

Vagrant Queen Vol. 1 is a dynamic space opera featuring a fantastic female lead! Adventure, action, humor, great world-building, and page-turning story, this series has it all! Looking forward to future issues!

Bookish Buzz: New YA Books That Need More Hype!

Hey, 24hr.YABookBlog here (~˘▾˘)~ 💞📚✨ I’m back with another Bookish Buzz! Originally debuting on my blog back in March, I created this feature to promote upcoming books that I feel deserve more love!

However, I wanted to change it up a bit today and not only promote upcoming books, but also a couple recently published or backlist titles!

A Match Made In Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai1. A Match Made In Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai

Release Date: September 10, 2019

Available Through The Book Depository

Publisher: Little Brown Books For Young Readers (The NOVL)

A Match Made In Mehendi is a wonderful YA Contemporary debut that you need to add to your TBR if you haven’t already! This is such a fun and heart-warming debut that follows Simi who comes from a long line of family matchmakers. But being the artist that she is, instead of following the usual family tradition she creates an app, to help her & her best friend Noah improve their high school status. But, things get a bit complicated when a match doesn’t sit right with one of her classmates. This book shines in so many ways from the first-person POV, she’s confident and passionate as an artist and her voice just draws you into the story from page 1! The characters, atmosphere, and plot all come together in such a fantastic way, easily making this one of my favorite YA Contemporary reads of 2019! (Full Review)

The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring2.The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring

Release Date: September 24, 2019

Available Through The Book Depository

Publisher: Imprint (Fierce Reads)

Set in 1970’s Argentina, The Tenth Girl follows Mavi who is escaping a military regime. She starts her new life undercover as as a teacher at a renowned finishing school. But there’s mysteries and secrets that loom within the house and Mavi is determined to uncover them. The writing is wonderfully atmospheric and delivers that perfect eerie vibe for fall. I personally love reading from 1st person, so reading from Mavi’s (and a second) POV just takes me right back into the setting and mystery of the story wherever I stop. I haven’t finished it yet, but the mystery is written in a way that I really appreciate where it slowly unfolds and your bringing the pieces together little by little! Can’t wait to finish it!

Rebel Heart by Axie Oh3.Rogue Heart by Axie Oh

Release Date: October 8, 2019

Available Through The Book Depository

Publisher: Tu Books

I’ve been looking forward to the next Rebel Seoul book for so long and I can’t believe its finally here! I remember absolutely loving the first book, where Axie introduces us to the political-driven and intriguing Neo states of Korea. From there we follow Lee Jaewon who wants to prove himself as a soldier, but instead learns much more about his country that he thought he knew. From its technological advancements to the central political themes, I fell in love with this debut back in 2017! I’m really looking forward to seeing whats next in Rogue Heart, which’ll have espionage, even more government secrecy and politics!

The Light At The Bottom Of The World by London Shah4.Light At The Bottom Of The World by London Shah

Release Date: October 29, 2019

Available Through The Book Depository

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Set in an underwater Great Britain at the end of the 21st Century, we follow Leyla McQueen who is determined to set her father free and prove his innocence by participating in a submarine competition that’ll take her outside of London for the first time. She’s also joined by a new companion as she also uncovers government secrets along the way! The summary alone just captivated me and I’ve been beyond excited to read this debut! It looks like there’ll be tons of action, adventure, and I can’t wait to learn more about Leyla.

Songs From The Deep by Kelly Powell5.Songs From The Deep by Kelly Powell

Release Date: November 5, 2019

Available Through The Book Depository

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon Teen)

I recently finished this debut and let me tell you, if you love beautifully written, detailed and atmospheric YA Mysteries, you should definitely pick up Songs From The Deep! Set on an island town surrounded by sirens, violin player Moira and Lighthouse keeper Jude team up to solve a murder! I will say it is a slow and quiet type of mystery and focuses on its main characters (who were former childhood friends) as they reconnect and piece together the clues of the case. The focus on the m/f friendship between Moira and Jude is fantastic and easily a highlight of this book! The world-building is wonderful and both the setting and atmosphere really deliver through Moira’s POV! I highly recommend checking out this debut, its out tomorrow! (Full Blog Tour Review)

Thousand Fires by Shannon Price6. A Thousand Fires by Shannon Price

Release Date: November 5, 2019

Available Through The Book Depository

Publisher: Tor Teen

This is a book I’ve really been looking forward to because of the unique concept and it drew me in right away. Not only is it pitched as a modern retelling of Iliad, but is also set in San Francisco and is an #OwnVoices Filipina YA! The story centers around Valerie Simons who is no stranger to the rival gangs of San Francisco, her brother was killed by one of them 2 years ago. She’d given an opportunity for revenge by the mysterious gang known as the Stags– led by “charismatic and volatile leader” Jax. She becomes torn along the way of what path she should choose and where the journey will lead her. This book just sounds incredibly unique and character-driven, Price’s debut is one that I will definitely be checking out.

Thanks for checking out Bookish Buzz! Are you looking forward to any of the books featured? 😍💖📚🎉

What new YA Books are on your radar? 😄📚📚

Rebel by Marie Lu Review

Rebel by Marie LuRebel by Marie Lu (Legend #4)

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (Fierce Reads)

Release Date: October 1, 2019

Pages: 384

Available Through The Book Depository: Rebel

Summary: Respect the Legend. Idolize the Prodigy. Celebrate the Champion. But never underestimate the Rebel.

Eden Wing has been living in his brother’s shadow for years. Even though he’s a top student at his academy in Ross City, Antarctica, and a brilliant inventor, most people know him only as Daniel Wing’s little brother.

A decade ago, Daniel was known as Day, the boy from the streets who led a revolution that saved the Republic of America. But Day is no longer the same young man who was once a national hero. These days he’d rather hide out from the world and leave his past behind. All that matters to him now is keeping Eden safe―even if that also means giving up June, the great love of Daniel’s life.

As the two brothers struggle to accept who they’ve each become since their time in the Republic, a new danger creeps into the distance that’s grown between them. Eden soon finds himself drawn so far into Ross City’s dark side, even his legendary brother can’t save him. At least not on his own . . .

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Rebel is a phenomenal addition and conclusion to the original Legend Trilogy! Lu’s finale is filled with politics, action, an incredibly gripping and character-driven story, while also revisiting our favorite characters facing a new, rising threat in technologically advanced Antarctica!

When this book was first announced, I still couldn’t believe it was real! I first read Legend in 2012 and followed the series till its end in Fall of 2013. The connection I felt to these characters, the world, and their cause easily made Marie Lu’s Legend Series, one of my favorite YA Dystopian series of all time, I still vividly remember my reading experience for each book in the series from Legend through Champion and felt June and Day come to life from their very first introductions!

I finished book 4 in less than a day (started it at 2 a.m., finishing by the afternoon on Tuesday) and I still can’t believe it was real!! Rebel was a truly spectacular addition and brought wonderful closure to Day, June, and Eden’s stories (thank you Marie Lu for allowing us to follow these kids and see the ending to their journeys 😭💜💙🦋)!

Introducing a new POV this time around, we follow the the Wing brothers who are now older, where we left them off in Champion! Eden is 19/20 (?) and Day is in his late 20’s!

Day, now working as an agent and Eden, whose one of the top students at Ross University. However, he can’t help but feel overwhelmed with being in his legendary brother’s shadow, who led a revolution back home in the Republic.

For a little bit of background (from what I remember), chronologically Rebel starts 1 month after Champion.

Eden finds the wonder in figuring out the how & why of things and is a brilliant inventor. So, when he and his best friend Pressa Yu (who both feel like outcasts) find adventure in one of the poorest and dangerous parts of Ross City, the Undercity, to take part in drone races, they aren’t expecting to get tangled up in the dangerous dealings of an even more dangerous criminal.

Day (now Daniel) is working for the Antarctican International Services as a secret agent hunting down dangerous criminals and has been looking for elusive crime lord, Dominic Hann. Not only does he have his secretive agent work, but he’s also trying to look after Eden, even as they keep drifting further away from each other.

However, Dominic’s secretive work brings both brothers together, while also keeping a rift between them when Eden begins to finally feel understood and seen by this dangerous criminal. They both go on an emotional journey as they learn to accept their past and bring each other back into their lives again.

What really surprised me about Rebel was that in reality, I was emotionally ruined but ultimately happy with the ending of Champion (though it was bittersweet). Even as we got novellas throughout the release of the Warcross duology, I still would have never imagined to have gotten a fourth book. But, I knew I would absolutely NOT be missing out on it! But in the end,  although I love each and every book in this series with all my heart, Rebel easily stood out as one of my favorite books in the series!!

And let me just say, Marie Lu brought back this series in such a brilliant way! From the individual journeys of the characters, presenting new stakes, and ultimately crafting a story that stands wonderfully on its own apart from the original series while also leaving the reader pondering about the wonderful future of these characters! If Marie ever decides to add more canon to this Legend world, I would not mind at all!! 😭💙

In reality though, this book left me a complete mess emotionally and I’m still not entirely sure what to do (possibly go back a reread it because I loved it so much? ❤❤)

Presenting a new and older side to these characters, you see how much they’ve grown, changed, and are (for the most part) a little more sure of where they want to be in the world as they face new responsibilities and challenges.

Not only do we see Day and Eden again, but also June, Anden, and Tess (though a bit briefly) and it was wonderful seeing the protagonists of this series together and interacting again. What really made this book incredibly special from a reader perspective/experience was noticing how differently I’m seeing this new book from when I initially read the original trilogy in high school to being a university student!

I found myself being even more invested in the politics of the world and could relate to the more adult challenges the cast was facing, like finding your place when you feel a bit lost in the world, reconnecting with people from your past, especially how Lu examined this theme of past following Day and Eden’s perspectives as they reflect on what happened during their time in the Republic (and how they are better understanding to learn and grow from it, not run away).

You see this struggle from both their POV’s (Daniel’s especially) as they attempt to resist letting in their pasts from the Republic! Where Daniel is still regaining his memories and reliving nightmares of the Republic as Day when he sleeps or faces death on the job as an agent. There’s this question that lingers in the beginning of the book whether he can even be Day anymore and can only be Daniel, which was a unique exploration to his character I wasn’t really expecting!

There’s also the contrast to Eden that we delve deep into throughout this book as well (who also has moments of remembrance the Republic during the time of the originally trilogy). Yet, he realizes that seems to be the only place where he feels he can belong. That struggle and contrast between the 2 of them was so brilliantly explored and I was not expecting that dynamic to play such a huge part in their development, but again, Marie does a phenomenal job at exploring and allowing them to move past their traumas.

“Some pasts can’t be left behind. They must be fought…” (259, Rebel by Marie Lu)

According to an interview Marie had with Entertainment Weekly she mentioned a challenge she faced while writing Rebel which was:

“Getting their voices right again. This was my first time revisiting the same characters after a pretty long gap. That was hard, trying to write the same characters in a different tone, with different personalities…”

I personally found she did such a fantastic job at this! You see the characters much older very briefly at the end of Champion and you see the maturity to them throughout Rebel, but there’s still those echoes of their younger selves that we followed throughout the original trilogy!

The new characters we’re introduced to, were all fantastic and I loved them all from Daniel’s fellow ASI agents and director: Jessa and Lara, & Min Gheren/ Eden’s best friend Pressa Yu, her father and our antagonist Dominic Hann.

Delving more into our main characters a bit, I loved learning more about Eden and he is the sweetest boy ever!! He loves flowers and inventing, and is the softest/sweetest―I loved following his POV & Daniel’s so much!! 😭💞💖

We obviously don’t get Eden’s POV in the original series, so to see Marie delve into his voice and character with the background we already knew of him was wonderful! Being able to expand on his character and see that growth to Eden after his struggles in the Republic just offered more insight to him and overall it was great to finally get a chance to read from his perspective! Also can we appreciate the sibling dynamic explored between these POVs??

Also its very subtle but something I noticed was how Marie delivered 2 male protagonists and explored this idea of confronting your emotions, it being okay to cry etc. (If your a fan of podcasts, the sci-fi podcast The Bright Sessions podcast does really well too w/ its male characters!). Breaking down toxic masculinity and highlighting the importance of showcasing your emotions, and normalizing this idea of admitting when you need people by your side 👏💖👏💖

I don’t often talk about villains or antagonists often in my reviews, but let me just say Dominic was a FANTASTIC villain! I found myself beginning to trust him like Eden was when he took him under his wing and found interest in his racing drone. Dominic is up front about his terms with Eden, follows through with his requests, and doesn’t bring harm to him in any way. So you see throughout Rebel, Eden can’t help but finally feel like he belongs in this city in ways he never did before. But of course, there’s much more to Dominic than he reveals in the beginning and I loved getting more to his past, his character as a whole, and overall just found him to be one of my favorite villains throughout this series and book!

Next lets talk world-building, because it was so good! We get introduced to Ross City and its unique point system back in Champion, but in this book we dive much deeper into its inner workings from the politics, danger, innovation, and potential it holds throughout Rebel! There’s a morally-grey side to this city that you uncover with each and every chapter as we follow Daniel and Eden! Ross City seems to put up a facade but as the story progresses you that begin to crumble slowly (but possibly for the better?).

Now onto the romance!! 💞💞 There was never a doubt in my mind we’d see Day & June talk to each other again and just reading Daniel’s POV as he was constantly thinking whether June would want to talk to him/whether they’d have time to be together…the whole time I was thinking: “Day! How could you possibly think that?? Of course she wants to be with you!! 😭💖”  While the Day & June reunion was something I was really looking forward to, I’m glad Marie also made it more of a minor plot thread. What I loved about how the romance was explored between the both of them was that although we know their backstory, it was gradually developed in quiet but intimate ways. We could see how much they really did miss each other, but weren’t sure how each of them would react in wanting to reconnect again!

There’s also 1 other pairing that I loved in Rebel, but I won’t spoil it, let me just say it was the cutest!! 💞

While Rebel is a book I loved with all of my heart, I did want to get into a couple minor critiques (but in no way did this impact my AMAZING reading experience). Firstly, between the Republic & Antarctica I was hoping for just a little more politics to be expanded on/delved into! Mainly, because this series really got me to love politics in storytelling and I was just hoping for more exploration in those threads in the Republic and beyond Ross City. Additionally, I just wanted a little more June/Daniel moments within the underlying conflict!

But overall…this book was SO GOOD! If you loved the Legend Series don’t miss out on Rebel because it concludes the series in such a great way that will leave readers and long-time followers of Legend really happy! It definitely did for me! 💖

Rebel brings readers into the world of Legend one last time as we follow Eden and Daniel’s lives in Antarctica! There’s politics, adventure, action, danger, newer stakes and much more as we follow our favorite characters once again in this latest installment! Wonderfully adding a new layer and depth to the Legend world and its characters, Marie Lu’s Rebel is a must read!

Author Interview With Lauren Shippen {The Infinite Noise + Being A Podcast Creator}

During Yallwest 2019 which ran from May 3-4, I had the opportunity to interview podcast Lauren Shippen Author Interview Infinite Noisecreator and debut author: Lauren Shippen!

Her upcoming novel The Infinite Noise is the first book in a trilogy, which will focus on different characters based on her science-fiction audio drama podcast, The Bright Sessions!

For those who don’t know, The Bright Sessions can best be described as people with superpowers going to therapy― however it goes much more beyond that, actively discussing/exploring mental health and featuring a diverse cast of characters.

The Infinite Noise is set to be released September 24 and as a big fan of TBS, I’m honored to have had the chance to chat with her all about her upcoming book and of course, podcasts (thanks Lauren💞)!

This interview took place on the last day of Yallwest on May 4! Here’s Lauren sharing The Infinite Noise by Lauren Shippenwhat The Infinite Noise is all about:

“It’s a dual-perspective story about two boys in high school who are grappling with different types of mental health issues. We have Adam who’s a run-of-the-mill kid in a a lot of ways…he’s a little bit nerdy, lonely, struggles with depression, he’s gay and feels a lot like an outcast from the world. Then on the other hand we have Caleb who seems like the sort of classic football jock, but he’s actually dealing with supernatural empathy. He has extreme empathy, which means he can feel the feelings of others around him at all times. [The Infinite Noise] is about the two of them meeting and learning more about each other and themselves…”

In the world of The Bright Sessions, there are everyday people with supernatural abilities called Atypicals. The series focuses on a unique group of therapy patients who are in-fact Atypical. Told via audio recordings (mainly therapy sessions), we learn more about their mysterious therapist Dr. Joan Bright and her patients, who are all trying to better understand themselves and their abilities.

An interesting fact Shippen shared as to why the story was framed that way, was that she was originally the one sound-designing. She felt it would make sense to give an in-world reason as to why the recordings would be “lo-fi.” That set up the narrative framing early on in the show, and added a good sense of mystery as to why Dr. Bright was recording these sessions. However, eventually  Shippen broke off that format around the last few seasons and especially in her spin-off series, The AM Archives.

Its obvious that fans of the podcast are incredibly excited for the release of Shippen’s novel, however we delved into specifics when it came to those who maybe haven’t yet listened to The Bright Sessions and whether they can still get into The Infinite Noise as a standalone. She even went on to discuss a little bit more about the timeline of this novel (with the podcast having already been completed at this point):

“Definitely, yes! There are certain Easter eggs that listeners will find and enjoy, but it very much is intended to be an introduction into the world…”

Shippen also mentioned that the The Infinite Noise “starts a little bit before the podcast…” to build on that introduction for readers who haven’t heard of The Bright Sessions. While listeners will be familiar with the already established world-building, she hopes it’ll be done in a new way that doesn’t necessarily “[retread] old territory” for listeners looking to get into the book.

We even discussed more of the specifics when it came to the timeline of The Infinite Noise and how it compares to that of The Bright Sessions:

“The Infinite Noise is more true to about the first 26 episodes of the show…there are also scenes lifted directly from the podcast and expanded upon, however for future books there’ll definitely be a looser timeline…”

Within this trilogy, she will delve more into the head space of specific Atypicals and this first novel will focus on Caleb Michaels! I then asked what inspired her to delve more into his story and how she knew his story would kick-off the trilogy:

“I actually think that the reason this one was the first book and the one I wanted to tell, was that I wanted to get that non-Atypical side of the world through Adam’s story/perspective…”

Half of the novel (Adam’s perspective) is something listeners never really get to hear in the podcast and this was Lauren’s opportunity to delve more into his character!

Shippen mentioned that the early ideas of this novel actually began getting written in 2015 (when the podcast first aired). She discussed more about what writing this novel meant for her characters as the podcast was still on-going at this time:

“As I was working out Caleb’s story, [I knew] we only heard his voice in the podcast initially. Adam eventually became a character, but he was never intended to be a voiced character in the show. I wanted to do 2 things as an exercise: figure out how Caleb’s empath ability functions and get more into Adam’s head (because Caleb was spending so much of sessions talking about Adam and his connection with him).

Initially, I even shared the first couple of chapters with the actors who play Caleb and Adam (Briggon Snow & Alex Gallner) and since the book tracked closely with the first few seasons of the podcast, it didn’t feel like too much of a departure…”

Next, I asked her what delving more into both Caleb and Adam was like and what she wanted to focus on in this first book. Additionally, how being a big fan of love stories offered her inspiration on how to explore The Infinite Noise:

“The realities of having someone close to you who can feel all your feelings, [what would that be like?] I wanted to explore both the struggles and vulnerabilities in that.

I suppose this isn’t really a spoiler, but I love love stories and reading them! So, being able to tell those 2 sides, their clumsy romance through their perspectives to see what the other is thinking, making assumptions, and all that miscommunication seemed like something super fun to dig into…”

Shippen then discussed her writing process and how she approached this change when going from a script format to prose:

“It was certainly very different! I did find myself getting lost in the prose at times, because when compared to a script format, its all dialogue―for the audio medium you don’t have to worry about setting up visuals. Though I don’t think its actually changed how I approach writing scripts, because in the back of my mind I’d always been thinking about what becomes the prose in a book: how the characters are sitting, standing, looking at one another― I always think about those things when getting into scripts anyways.

I think I became more specific in my imaginings, but I don’t think it actually shifted my script writing too much.

The Bright Sessions

I then asked her how exactly the timeline of The Bright Sessions influenced how she plotted this first book:

“Because this was a meet-cute story in a lot of ways, it had to take place in a specific part of the podcast…”

Shippen really wanted to focus on the Caleb and Adam relationship and through that she knew she wanted to tell the story of them getting to know each other and getting together!

I then asked her about the canon in that of the novel vs. podcast and it was fascinating to hear her discuss them both:

“I would say the “book canon” is sort of separate from that of the official podcast canon, which I would consider the true Bright Sessions universe…”

It was interesting to hear because in reality, through an audio drama (unless its stated within the audio), specifics such as appearance are never defined. So, Shippen discussed what it was like comparing the canons of both stories:

“There are certain elements being defined, like appearance. We’ve never really defined what anyone looks like in the show and I love that―giving people the freedom to imagine what they want to imagine. The fanart that’s come out of this series has been amazing. But, even as the show progressed I had this vision of what these characters look like, their backgrounds, etc. 

Getting more into these specifics was something I could only ever do in the books, because in the show its not something that can be done through dialogue.

However, because people already have established headcanons for what these characters look like, I don’t want people to think “oh, now knowing Caleb’s eyes are this color, I can’t make fan-art of him looking this way anymore”―No, I still want you to do that, you can still imagine however you want to imagine. So, with that I can say that the podcast is the truest form…”

The Bright Sessions podcast is known for its focus on mental health and delving into psychology (which is one of my many favorite aspects). So, I then asked Shippen if she found herself focusing on that in the novel or if she found the specifics in that translation from podcast to book as challenging:

“It’s actually a lot of the novel because throughout it, Caleb is in therapy, but its less of focus I would say. You know, so much of the conflict takes place in the therapy room and Dr. Bright having all these patients. Where for Caleb, its really much is just an element of his life, which is my intention. Because in the show (therapy) is such a driving force, within the novel I explore the idea that “Yes! This can be a part of your life, while you still have all these other things going on.”  So, its something you can use to check on things and figure something out…”

It was important for her to show this positive representation of therapy. Because it can be such an intrinsic part of our lives, she wanted it to be showcased in a different way, but still highlighting that its as much a part of the book as it is the podcast!

I then asked her if she ever found herself re-listening to the show or rereading scripts to get back into the headspace for the novel:

“It’s funny! I actually haven’t relistened to any Bright Sessions episodes since they were released, because by the time their released I’ve listened to hours and hours of them. I don’t sound-design them, but I do edit all the dialogue so I’m listening to the same lines I’ve recorded over and over again.

But, I did go back and re-read some of the scripts, especially since I needed to reference them for certain moments in the book. There’s been an instance where I would go back and listen to Briggon’s character on the podcast (or even call him) to get back into Caleb’s voice. Adam was someone who was very much like me in high school, so his voice was an easy one to hop into. Caleb overtime, has become a little different and increasingly overtime became a blend of Briggon and I…”

Then within the second part of our interview, I chatted with Lauren more about her background as a podcast creator. She’d been listening to 2 audio fiction shows, Welcome To Nightvale (which she mentioned has been many people’s entrance to the audio fiction world) and a BBC Radio For Comedy called Cabin Pressure:

“I  was really enjoying both of these shows a lot and thinking about stories that I wanted to tell, also making something I could have completely my own. So I thought “okay, here’s this [wide] spectrum of different ways of doing audio fiction…” I began thinking about characters, then the idea of including therapy came to me. It made sense for me to have it be 2-person conversations and go from there…”

There was also this one quote that really stuck with me throughout our interview when I asked if she started out wanting to have certain messages or ideas get across through her podcast of The Bright Sessions:

“I more think about the human stories I want to tell and telling them in a way that is interesting and authentic to me…”

Shippen then shared that if there was a message she wanted to get across as she developed the show, it was this:

“I think if there is one thing I wanted to communicate because this was the intention I had in making it is helping people feel less alone. That’s both from a character and audience perspective, what The Bright Sessions is really about is these people who feel very isolated, feel very different, and alone, then finding themselves, others, and realizing they don’t have to lonely…”

I then asked Shippen if there were any episodes in particular that we’re personal or memorable for her:

“Every episode is personal to me in some way, maybe not necessarily because I personally experienced it, but because of the way I approach in writing those scripts is coming from a genuine place. 

As for memorable, we did a musical episode for our 50th episode which was hugely memorable. The writing process was incredibly different for that and I worked with my composer Evan Cunningham on the songs. I also think the Season 3 Finale episodes 39 & 40 were hugely memorable because that was the first time we ever recorded in a professional studio (we’d be moving as the characters would and did 10 hours of straight recording).

Those remain as my favorite episodes of all time because everyone just knocked it out of the park!”

I then asked Shippen who her favorite characters in The Bright Sessions were, if she had to pick:

“That’s so hard, I really do love all of them because they’ve all surprised me in different ways. I think Mark is one of my favorites (& easiest) to write because he’s snarky and charming, very much in the same way that Damien is― and I loved writing their dynamic specifically.

Andrew Nowak and Charlie Ian who play Mark and Damien had such amazing chemistry that it went in directions none of us were expecting and it was wonderful! 

Similarly, Julia Morizawa and Ian McQuown who play Dr. Bright and Agent Green, have brought layers and depth to their characters in ways I didn’t expect, so exploring their characters and dynamic (which is a huge part of The AM Archives) has been so fun! 

In the end though, I really do love them all!”

Next we talked a bit more about any difficulties when it came to developing any part of The Bright Sessions world in particular and Shippen said that the hardest character to write from a mechanical perspective has been Chloe (the mind reader, voiced by Anna Lore):

Your always writing two conversations on top of each other. She’d be having a conversation with someone she’s talking to, but then she’s hearing their thoughts and responding to their thoughts.”

“When it comes to the mechanics of writing someone who’s reading everyone’s thoughts, that was very challenging…”

We then got into theorizing where podcasts would be headed in the future and Shippen shared that this is something the community and creators are often discussing:

“We’re definitely going to see more large studios getting into the medium…”

With the audience of podcasting growing, she shared that it wouldn’t be surprising to see these companies begin to create more of their own original content.

Shippen then explained that what you often see in television or film, can (and already is) finding its way to podcasting, for instance through subscriptions. The most recent example is that of Luminary, a podcast subscription app where listeners can find her continuation to The Bright Sessions world, The AM Archives!

“I’m sure we’ll also see a diversification in the way podcast and their creators are supported from listener support, ads, touring, merchandise because, not any one way is sustainable for all creators…” 

I’m thrilled to have had the chance to chat with Lauren about The Infinite Noise, her wonderful podcast The Bright Sessions and delve more into her work as a podcast creator! Its exciting to see this podcast coming to life in book form and I hope readers will check out her debut!

If you haven’t listened to The Bright Sessions, what are you waiting for? Do you love relatable and complex character-driven stories? An ensemble cast you’ll fall in love with? Superpowers? Then check out Lauren Shippen’s podcast! 

If you are a fan of TBS, also keep an eye out this week for a special giveaway of The Infinite Noise! 💡🎙✨

Are you looking forward to reading The Infinite Noise? Have you listened to The Bright Sessions podcast? 🎙📚❤

The AM Archives Podcast Review {Literary Listens}

The AM ArchivesThe AM Archives created by Lauren Shippen

Release Date: April 23, 2019

Episodes: 1 (Ongoing)

Running Time: 24 Minutes

Release Schedule: Weekly

The AM Archives Podcast is available through Luminary

Summary: This sci-fi series picks up where hit podcast The Bright Sessions left off. The original series followed a group of therapy patients with supernatural abilities as they uncovered the secrets of their therapist, Dr. Bright. Six months after The Bright Sessions concludes we begin again with The AM Archives, a Luminary exclusive that tracks the mysterious Dr. Bright as she tries to reform the institution that once betrayed her. Along with time traveler Sam Barnes and ex-enemy Owen Green, Dr. Bright helps “Atypicals” learn how to use their abilities. But in an effort to defang The Atypical Monitors, the trio comes face to face with a patient unlike any other…

My Thoughts: The AM Archives brings you back into the world of The Bright Sessions with an all-new story to tell! This first episode reintroduces the listener to familiar characters like Dr. Bright, Sam, & Agent Green! The world of The AM was shrouded in mystery, however this series shows a new perspective to this core setting of The Bright Sessions universe!

This is a series that I’ve been really looking forward to because it is a spin-off to a favorite audio drama podcast of mine, The Bright Sessions!

The AM Archives Episode 1 is a new chapter in this universe that will leave listeners ready for all that’s to come next in this series.

Six months have passed with Dr. Bright, Sam, and Agent Green finalizing their work to the new AM facility.

Throughout the episode there is a lot of discussion (with ideas they bounce back & forth among each other) to ensure the new facility works in the best interest for not only its new image, but being more inclusive/personal to Atypicals as a whole, and the patients especially!

When fictional universes have continuations, sequels, etc. it can seem like there’s often rehash or excessive reminder of past events. With The AM Archives that is not the case!

The information that’s relayed to us, in my opinion, offers important reminders listeners ought to keep in mind (about the AM facility, Tiers, dynamics of the AM) that will be vital as the story progresses.

The world-building was definitely a highlight of this episode. While we’re all familiar with this universe of The Bright Sessions with Atypicals, the AM facility, etc., The AM Archives really symbolizes the growth to the organization and all the progress that’ll surely follow.

What I loved about this first episode was that I could hear the excitement, also anticipation that these characters are working towards and the change they are eager to bring to the world of Atypicals.

I’m looking forward to the new AM and how they really want to be more inclusive of Atypicals in their division now!

We’re introduced to a couple new characters right away–there’s Jackson Crawford, a new agent assigned to the facility who came all the way from The AM’s HQ.

From my perspective I see how his introduction may sort of symbolize this “old vs. new” view of The AM, but he’s very eager to help the organization as much as he can.

There’s also Maggs, Operations Manager for the AM! She’s also wanting to bring change to the AM as well and I loved that she’s all for making The AM feel more personal and inviting!

Overall I loved both Maggs & Jackson, their great introductions, and their interactions with Agent Green, Sam, & Dr. Bright! I can’t wait to learn more about them. There was also a new character named Dr. Sharpe who listeners get a small glimpse of in this episode and I can’t wait to learn more about her to!

The dynamic between Sam, Agent Green, & Dr. Bright was also great to listen to its something we got a lot more of near the end of The Bright Sessions, so I’m really looking forward to hearing how their relationships develop among each other!

To avoid major spoilers for the rest of the story I will say that the voice acting (writing/script included) and sound design really immerse you into this world and new adventure of The Bright Sessions! Everything comes together fantastically!

I’m incredibly excited to continue exploring The Bright Sessions universe and see where this new story is headed!

One thing to mention is that I found it funny that I hadn’t noticed until the end, the show is no longer in the format of audio recordings 😂🎙

The AM Archives is a must-listen for fans of The Bright Sessions! This first episode lays the foundation for what looks to be a great continuation to the series! From the return of past characters, to new introductions, immersive/detailed world-building of The AM, and a plot that will have you hooked, this is an audio drama you don’t want to miss! You’ll finish the first episode of The AM Archives wanting the next one right away! 🎙💡✨