The Spring 2021 Kids’ Indie Next List Preview

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Here is a preview of the titles on the Spring 2021 Kids’ Indie Next List flier, arriving at stores in the upcoming Kids’ Box mailing. The Spring Kids’ title list is also viewable as a collection in Edelweiss.

The four-page, full-color flier features the top 10 children’s titles for the spring publishing season and an additional 40 titles organized by age group. All Indie Next List picks are based on recommendations from booksellers at independent bookstores across the country and include a bookseller quote and full bibliographic information.

The nomination deadline for the Summer 2021 Kids’ Indie Next List is April 12, 2021. The list will focus on titles published in May, June, and July 2021. Nominations may be submitted via email, with the online nomination form, or through Edelweiss or NetGalley.

The Spring 2021 Kids’ Indie Next Great Reads

The Top Ten

1. The Project by Courtney Summers
(Wednesday Books, 9781250105738, $18.99)
“Courtney Summers is back with another electric gut-punch of a novel, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to have found myself a quivering mass of emotion after turning the last page of The Project. Only Summers can perfectly encapsulate the dueling states of fragility and ferocity that exist within young women when they find themselves alone in a world that isn’t designed to protect them from harm. I dare you to pick up this brilliant novel about two sisters and a mysterious cult — you won’t be able to put it down.”
—Cristina Russell, Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL

2. Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley
(Henry Holt and Co. Books for Young Readers, 9781250766564, $18.99, available March)
“This debut grabbed me from the start and kept me totally immersed in the story of a strong, self-described nerdy young female struggling with the normal problems of belonging, with the added element of being half Native American. This novel offers a rich combination of a young person’s struggle with identity plus the unique challenges of being associated with a tribe and the problems of meth use and addiction. Add in a pulse-pounding mystery on top of it, and you have a true page-turner.”
—Carol Putnam, Skylark Bookshop, Columbia, MO

3. Starfish by Lisa Fipps
(Nancy Paulsen Books, 9781984814500, $17.99, available March)
“Witty, poignant, and deeply moving, Starfish should be mandatory reading for anyone who has ever been made to feel inferior because of something they cannot change. In a story told in free verse, Lisa Fipps gives her protagonist, Ellie, a voice as big and as boundlessly beautiful as she is.”
—Mary Louise Callaghan, Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC

4. Mel Fell by Corey R. Tabor
(Balzer + Bray, 9780062878014, $17.99)
“This charming, exuberant picture book features Mel, a young kingfisher who has decided that today is her day to learn to fly. As the title suggests, things don’t initially go according to plan, but readers will delight in flipping the book around to cheer Mel along as her irrepressible optimism turns ‘Mel fell’ into ‘Mel flew.’ With its unusual and fun vertical format, this book has great read-aloud potential.”
—Brittany Baker, Trident Booksellers & Café, Boston, MA

5. As Far As You’ll Take Me by Phil Stamper
(Bloomsbury YA, 9781547600175, $17.99)
As Far As You’ll Take Me is a profound and relatable coming-of-age story about leaving home for the first time in search of true belonging. When closeted, socially anxious, oboe-playing Marty Pierce flees his small Kentucky hometown for London, he reinvents himself, going on to find an LGBTQ-friendly community of musicians and have a meet-cute with a guy coincidentally named Pierce. Stamper’s follow-up to The Gravity of Us will resonate strongly with readers struggling to break out of their shell or start over when they feel stuck.”
—Alyssa Raymond, Copper Dog Books, Beverly, MA

6. Kate in Waiting by Becky Albertalli
(Balzer + Bray, 9780062643834, $18.99, available April)
“Becky Albertalli’s heart and sense of humor shines in this delightful new book. She has managed to take a trope that’s been done before (where a girl and her gay best friend fall for the same guy) and make it fresh and interesting in a new way. Not only is it funny, it tackles some serious issues without ever feeling heavy-handed. There’s a particular scene where Kate, the protagonist, is spiraling in a web of anxiety, and I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with those feelings described so accurately. This will work well for fans and new readers alike.”
—Michael Reinken, Kepler’s Books, Menlo Park, CA

7. Red, White, and Whole by Rajani LaRocca
(Quill Tree Books, 9780063047426, $16.99)
“Don’t mind me, I’m just over here crying. What an incredibly beautiful, intense read. I’m in awe of how much LaRocca manages to fit into so few words, from Reha’s different friendships to her family connections to all the wonderful retellings of Indian stories. Every single metaphor is perfect, from the moon to the different blood cells. I can see this book being a great tool for writing teachers as well as an inspiration for young readers to look to stories and poetry for comfort in difficult times. A treasure.”
—Cecilia Cackley, East City Bookshop, Washington, DC

8. Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft
(Wednesday Books, 9781250623638, $18.99, available March)
Down Comes the Night is a breathtaking debut. Brilliant, healing, and affirming, this gothic fantasy is simply unforgettable. Wren is one of the most empathetic characters I’ve had the pleasure of reading recently. In a country in the midst of a war, Wren is a healer who puts her predisposed biases behind her in order to save someone she isn’t sure is worth saving. I loved every bit of this atmospheric book.”
—Cody Roecker, The Novel Neighbor, Webster Groves, MO

9. Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses by Kristen O’Neal
(Quirk Books, 9781683692348, $18.99, available April)
“This debut yanked me in and I could not put it down. Poignant and hilarious, this young adult story delves into the mental landscape of chronic illnesses but also brings werewolfism into the storyline. I love Brigid’s sense of humor, and her and Priya’s friendship is one we all need in our lives. A great recommendation for readers who are looking for a solid friendship-themed book. There is a fun hint of romance, but it doesn’t shift the story’s focus.”
—Candice Conner, The Haunted Book Shop, Mobile, AL

10. Big Feelings by Alexandra Penfold, Suzanne Kaufman (Illus.)
(
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 9780525579748, $18.99, available March)
“A great jumping-off point for discussions about all those big feelings! This is a beautiful book about working through whatever is happening and whatever you’re feeling. It doesn’t minimize one’s emotions, but rather shows tools for coping. I love looking at how each individual approaches the different situations — you could write a whole thesis on community and personal relationships with this book.”
—Tegan Tigani, Queen Anne Book Company, Seattle, WA

Ages 4 to 8

Bartali’s Bicycle: The True Story of Gino Bartali, Italy’s Secret Hero by Megan Hoyt, Iacopo Bruno (Illus.)
(Quill Tree Books, 9780062908117, $17.99)
“Elbows in. Head down. Hoyt’s writing puts us right in the saddle of this amazing true story. Striking compositions and sumptuous renderings illuminate the courageous experiences of a dedicated athlete and quiet hero who saved hundreds of lives in WWII but kept it a secret all his life. Sure to inspire another generation to keep their faces to the wind.”
—Julie Rowan-Zoch, Old Firehouse Books, Fort Collins, CO

Bear Can’t Wait by Karma Wilson, Jane Chapman (Illus.)
(Margaret K. McElderry Books, 9781481459754, $17.99, available March)
“Another sweet bear book from Karma Wilson, complete with beautiful, vibrant illustrations by Jane Chapman. This one teaches the lesson of patience in a simple, rhyming way little ones will love. Always a bestseller!”
—Dea Lavoie, Second Star to the Right Children’s Books, Denver, CO

Carpenter’s Helper by Sybil Rosen, Camille Garoche (Illus.)
(Schwartz & Wade, 9780593123201, $17.99, available March)
“This sweet children’s book features a little carpenter named Renata and two even smaller carpenters in the form of wrens who decide to build a nest in the bathroom Renata and her Papi are renovating. This book will likely generate interest in two hobbies: carpentry and bird-watching! The illustrations are lovely; the little birds come to life on the page.”
—Kate Storhoff, Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC

The Duck Who Didn’t Like Water by Steve Small
(Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 9781534489172, $17.99, available March)
“Duck avoids water at all costs, even the tiniest of drops from the sky. One night, a storm brings a hole to his roof and a new friend to his door — a frog! When they try to find Frog’s home, it’s nowhere to be found. That’s okay, because Duck and Frog get along rather well — even if Frog loves rain! This is a very sweet story about how life is a lot less damp when you’ve got a good friend with you. I want to give them both a hug!”
—Andrew King, University Book Store, Seattle, WA

The Little Library by Margaret McNamara, G. Brian Karas (Illus.)
(Schwartz & Wade, 9780525578338, $17.99, available April)
“I love this book with the fire of a thousand suns — I, too, was a slow reader when I was a kid, and it’s really nice to see this represented in a picture book in a positive way! Blending reading with woodworking is also a brilliant combination.”
—Kelsy April, Bank Square Books, Mystic, CT

Milo Imagines the World by Matt de la Peña, Christian Robinson (Illus.)
(G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 9780399549083, $18.99)
“I’m in tears. This book is beautiful and necessary. A he rides the subway with his sister, a little boy draws where he imagines the passengers live when they disembark. He realizes it’s hard to know what is really going on with people simply by looking at them. The pictures are so simple but beautiful and emotional.”
—Robin Stern, Books Inc., San Francisco, CA

More Than Fluff by Madeline Valentine
(Knopf Books for Young Readers, 9780593179055, $17.99, available March)
“Cute, adorable, fluffy Daisy duck just can’t take it anymore. Everyone wants to hug her, and all she wants is for everyone to stay out of her personal bubble. When her subtle hints don’t quite do the trick, Daisy boldly asks her friends for wing bumps, pinky shakes, and high fives. The perfect choice for those kiddos seeking personal space or just someone needing a little ‘me’ time, More Than Fluff gives young readers the words to ask for what they need.”
—Angie Tally, The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC

My First Day by Phung Nguyen Quang, Huynh Kim Lien
(Make Me a World, 9780593306260, $17.99)
“I want to climb inside these illustrations and explore them forever. The bold colors and flowing lines bring every page alive and capture readers immediately as we follow a young student on their first day of school along the Mekong River Delta.”
—Stephanie Heinz, PRINT: A Bookstore, Portland, ME

Regina Is NOT a Little Dinosaur by Andrea Zuill
(Schwartz & Wade, 9780593127285, $17.99, available April)
“Andrea Zuill captured my heart with her wonderful book Wolf Camp, she kept it safe and sound with Sweety, and she continues to make me feel warm and fuzzy with her newest, Regina Is NOT a Little Dinosaur. I don’t know what it is — the words? The personalities of the characters coming through in conversation bubbles? The expressive art? It must be all three, because each of Zuill’s books brings me such joy!”
—Liesl Freudenstein, Boulder Book Store, Boulder, CO

The Rock From the Sky by Jon Klassen
(Candlewick, 9781536215625, $18.99, available April)
“With never disappointing, always entertaining, and always lovely stories, Jon Klassen has outdone himself with this one! My children are huge fans of the absurd, dry, and slightly dark humor of his books, and The Rock From the Sky just takes it to another level. Parents and kids will request this one over and over.”
—Ryan Kimmett, Kismet Books, Verona, WI

Someone Builds the Dream by Lisa Wheeler, Loren Long (Illus.)
(Dial Books, 9781984814333, $19.99, available March)
“Representation matters, and this book has it in spades by simply presenting the world as it is and showing that everyone is valuable for their unique skills. Good picture books are a magical blend of simple prose and illustration that, when combined, become greater than their parts. And this is a really good one!”
—Alana Haley, Schuler Books, Grand Rapids, MI

Something’s Wrong!: A Bear, a Hare, and Some Underwear by Jory John, Erin Kraan (Illus.)
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers, 9780374313883, $18.99, available March)
“Haven’t we all had days where something feels not quite right? Well, Jeff the bear is having one of those days! Unable to identify the problem, he turns to his pal Anders the hare, who quickly figures it out and saves Jeff from feeling embarrassed in front of all the other woodland critters. Hilarious and heartwarming, this is a tale that begs to be read aloud again and again.”
—Amy Lane, Bards Alley, Vienna, VA

Sunny-Side Up by Jacky Davis, Fiona Woodcock (Illus.)
(Greenwillow Books, 9780062573070, $17.99)
“The images and color palette of this book really help to illustrate the feelings of a rainy day and the joy that can be found in imaginative play. I also love that the father is represented as the caregiver while the mother is the one coming home from a day of work.”
—Dana Grimes, Cover to Cover Books for Young Readers, Columbus, OH

Watercress by Andrea Wang, Jason Chin (Illus.)
(Neal Porter Books, 9780823446247, $18.99, available March)
“As her family drives along a road in rural Ohio, a girl’s parents suddenly stop when they see watercress growing by the side of the road. She’s embarrassed when she has to help collect it and refuses to eat it when it’s prepared for dinner. This prompts a family discussion of her parents’ childhoods in China that helps the girl gain appreciation for her parents and for the watercress. A lovely story about family heritage.”
—Cathy Berner, Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, TX

Wolfboy by Andy Harkness
(Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 9781547604425, $17.99)
Wolfboy is an edge-of-your-seat suspense story fueled by the all-too-common feelings associated with being hungry. It is a fantastically fun read-aloud with incredible images. The detail of color, texture, and light in the clay sculptures make for amazing spreads. Best enjoyed right after snack time!”
—Meghan Hayden, River Bend Bookshop, Glastonbury, CT

Ages 9 to 12

Across the Pond by Joy McCullough
(Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 9781534471214, $17.99, available March)
“This a wonderful story that makes you feel like the world is brimming with possibilities even when everything seems to be going wrong. A lovely coming-of-age story about family, friendship, and birding with a little history thrown in, Across the Pond will make you smile so wide your face will hurt and it will warm your heart so much you’ll never want to stop grinning.”
—Marielle Orff, Towne Book Center and Wine Bar, Collegeville, PA

Amber and Clay by Laura Amy Schlitz, Julia Iredale (Illus.)
(Candlewick, 9781536201222, $22.99, available March)
Amber and Clay is magnificent! It is a remarkable visit to the ancient world, where we readers (like the gods themselves) observe the difficult lives of mortals. Rhaskos is an enslaved stable boy who longs to release the art and grand thoughts that fill him. Melisto, the spoiled daughter of a wealthy father, burns with resentment over the love her mother withholds. Laura Amy Schlitz relates their painfully intertwined stories through vivid, urgent, poetic voices of both gods and mortals. The result is a stunning accomplishment, and a truly unforgettable read.”
—Christopher Rose, Andover Bookstore, Andover, MA

Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids by Cynthia L. Smith
(Heartdrum, 9780062869944, $16.99)
“Reading Ancestor Approved is like being wrapped in a family hug. While telling stories of the many wonderful Native Nations, it demonstrates the important role family plays. Through each story runs the beauty, resilience, and kindness of Native culture. Each author shares a story that honors their background and gives a glimpse into the wonderful world of the powwow. This book is a fabulous way to introduce children to our Native Nations and the wonders of the powwow. A must-read for 2021.”
—Sally Sue Lavigne, The Storybook Shoppe, Bluffton, SC

Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, Leigh Dragoon, Kit Seaton (Illus.)
(Disney-Hyperion, 9781368015882, hardcover, $21.99; 9781368018630, paperback, $12.99)
“Reminiscent of the whimsical magic of Howl’s Moving Castle, Brightly Woven features a strong female lead with a young wizard who is determined to put an end to a magical war. Sydelle’s world is flipped upside down when wizard Wayland North takes her on the adventure of a lifetime. Alexandra Bracken weaves a tale of dangerous wizards, crumbling mountains, and buried secrets that is compulsively readable.”
—Jessica Dushame, White Birch Books, North Conway, NH

Charlie Thorne and the Lost City by Stuart Gibbs
(Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 9781534443815, $17.99, available March)
“Twelve-year-old, super-smart super spy and extreme sportswoman Charlie Thorne is at it again in this heart-thumping sequel! This time, she’s in South America racing her way through the Amazon rainforest to track down the priceless treasure Charles Darwin left behind before it’s found by a ruthless KGB agent and a team of Italian siblings who’ve been looking for this treasure their whole lives. Pick this book up only if you’re ready to feel sweat on your brow and your heart beating in your chest when you’re transported into the biggest rainforest in the world to follow Charlie’s adventure.”
—Ali Teague, Bookworm of Edwards, Edwards, CO

The Deepest Breath by Meg Grehan
(HMH Books for Young Readers, 9780358354758, $16.99)
“This sweet story deals with a young girl, Stevie, and the many things she has anxiety about. There are so many things to learn and more come up every day, so Stevie can’t keep up — but a lot of us feel the same way! While she learns ways to combat her fears of the darkest parts of the ocean or her struggle learn all the stars and their constellations, she also fights with herself about the feelings she has around her classmate Chloe. An incredibly tender story beautifully told in verse, and dealing with some difficult topics to educate middle graders on, I think this will be an important book to pick up.”
—Nichole Cousins, The Yankee Bookshop, Woodstock, VT

Golden Gate (City Spies #2) by James Ponti
(Aladdin, 9781534414945, $17.99, available March)
“The youngest spies at MI6 are embarking on another mission. After thwarting a kidnapping attempt on the high seas, Sydney and Brooklyn are at odds. But they’ll need to figure it out if they’re going to join the other spies on a mission to uncover a mole and maybe find Mother’s children. I loved this second entry in the City Spies series! Once again, Ponti has taken a fantastic idea that could end up rather goofy and made it feel possible...and fun and exciting at the same time!”
—Jennifer Jones, Bookmiser, Roswell, GA

Ground Zero by Alan Gratz
(Scholastic Press, 9781338245752, $17.99)
“As expected, Gratz has delivered another powerful punch with Ground Zero. Brandon’s story begins on September 11, 2001, and Reshmina’s on September 11, 2019. How do they connect? With devastating narration, they tell their heartbreaking stories. Can they find common ground? Can the world? As we are reminded in the book, this is history for everyone now in school. We adults remember where we were. I was sitting with students who had parents working in the North Tower. Six of those parents never came home. Gratz puts us in the middle of the attacks with horrific accuracy and guides us back to hope.”
—Carolyn Roys, Anderson’s Bookshops, Naperville, IL

Houdini and Me by Dan Gutman
(Holiday House, 9780823445158, $16.99, available March)
“Eleven-year-old Harry is obsessed with Harry Houdini. In fact, Harry lives in the house the real Houdini lived in while in New York. When Harry is given an old flip-phone on his birthday, he starts receiving text messages from someone claiming to be the real Houdini contacting Harry from the other side. Is he really Houdini? Is this some sort of prank? Does he really want to change bodies with Harry? What would happen if they do swap bodies? Would Harry be trapped in 1921? A fascinating read for all fans of magic and Houdini.”
—Pat Trotter, Bookends On Main, Menomonie, WI

The House That Wasn’t There by Elana K. Arnold
(Walden Pond Press, 9780062937063, $16.99, available March)
“Charming, magical, and sweetly philosophical, The House That Wasn’t There is Elana K. Arnold at the top of her game. When Oak Carter’s family moves in next door to Alder Madigan and his mom, the first thing they do is cut down Alder’s beloved walnut tree. So, becoming best friends with Oak is the last thing Alder plans on doing. But the universe has other plans and so do a pair of adopted kittens, a mystical opossum, and possibly even Faith the school bus driver. The House That Wasn’t There is a story of connections and mystery, love and loss, family and friendship. I fell in love with this tender, kind, and wonderful book from page one.”
—Joy Preble, Brazos Bookstore, Houston, TX

The Memory Thief (Thirteen Witches #1) by Jodi Lynn Anderson
(Aladdin, 9781481480215, $17.99, available March)
“Rosie’s mom is incapable of loving her. Rosie tries to make up for it by pretending to write parental notes of encouragement, and writing stories for herself and her best friend, Germ. Imagine Rosie’s surprise when she discovers with the help of a ghost friend that her mom has been cursed by witches. Now that Rosie has been thrust into this new world with ghosts and witches and a moon goddess, she begins a quest to find the truth and save her mom. This first in a trilogy is a fun fantasy adventure about the power of story and believing in yourself.”
—Melissa Oates, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC

The Mysterious Disappearance of Aidan S. (as Told to His Brother) by David Levithan
(Knopf Books for Young Readers, 9781984848598, $16.99)
“The whole town is in an uproar when Aidan, Lucas’s older brother, completely vanishes. When Aidan is found in the attic almost a week later, that concern turns into frustration. None of the adults believe what Aidan is telling them, that he accessed another world through the old attic wardrobe, a portal that has now closed. What Lucas finds hardest to believe is that when Aidan describes the green skies and foreign creatures of Aveinieu, it seems that he would rather be back there than home with his family. A thought-provoking novel of magical realism that leaves much to the imagination in both the ordinary and extraordinary. Bound to become a modern classic.”
—Andrew King, University Book Store, Seattle, WA

A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus
(Margaret Ferguson Books, 9780823447053, $17.99)
“This is a heart-warmer! Three orphaned children, determined to stay together, are sent out of London to the safety of the country during the Blitz. All is not happy, but the library is a refuge. Love for reading and for family combine to make this one of the most satisfying books I have read in a long time. It stands right up with the Penderwicks and the Vanderbeekers, and it is perfect for middle-grade readers.”
—Carol Moyer, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC

Thornlight by Claire Legrand
(Greenwillow Books, 9780062696663, $16.99, available April)
Thornlight is an amazing story of two sisters and their quest to prevent their world from being destroyed by an evil Gulgot. The story is woven throughout with magical creatures, witches, and unicorns. The mission that Thorn and Brier embark on will keep you on the edge of your seat with surprises that would pique any reader’s interest.”
—Judith Lafitte, Octavia Books, New Orleans, LA

Unsolved Case Files: Escape at 10,000 Feet: D.B. Cooper and the Missing Money by Tom Sullivan
(Balzer + Bray, 9780062991515, $12.99, available March)
“Tom Sullivan’s Unsolved Case Files graphic novel series is sure to be a hit. First up is Escape at 10,000 Feet, the true story of the skyjacking of a flight to Seattle in November 1971 and the hijacker’s jump from the plane into the frigid night with the ransom money. Illustrations include reproductions of FBI records, cockpit transcripts, and text boxes that explain technical details. The target audience is middle-grade readers, but readers of all ages will get caught up in the investigation and the possibility of solving the crime themselves — the $200,000 ransom has never been found and may still be out there!”
—Susan Posch, The Book Shoppe, Boone, IA

For Teens

Amelia Unabridged by Ashley Schumacher
(Wednesday Books, 9781250253026, $18.99)
Amelia Unabridged is a love letter to bookstores, books, and the people who cherish them. Amelia is a book for the book lover, and I loved every single second I spent within its pages. It explores grief and loss while also reminding us that words and the stories they create are among life’s greatest gifts.”
—Isabella Ogbolumani, Buffalo Street Books, Ithaca, NY

Can’t Take That Away by Steven Salvatore
(Bloomsbury YA, 9781547605309, $17.99, available March)
“Salvatore brings every character to life in Can’t Take That Away. The characters are flawed and beautiful, and Carey and his friends remind me so much of me and my friends during my high school days. I am so happy young people today have books like this to read, and have the ability to be heard and seen in a way we didn’t have when I was growing up. Can’t Take That Away is going to be an important book in young people’s literature.”
—Rayna Nielsen, Garden District Book Shop, New Orleans, LA

The Cost of Knowing by Brittney Morris
(Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 9781534445451, $18.99, available April)
“Love, grief, power, and family all come together in The Cost of Knowing as Alex struggles to live his life as a young Black man grieving the loss of his parents and best friend. His grief must also contend with his anxiety and a mysterious power that allows him to see the future of anything he touches. When learning of an event that he would do anything to prevent, he must come to terms with the origins of his power and the consequences of his actions as a brother, boyfriend, and Black teenager. Morris dives deep into an emotionally nuanced story, layering grief, masculinity, and generational trauma that will leave readers with a powerful message about regret, choice, and knowledge. A book to support with full hearts, unashamed tears, and powerful voices.”
—Jessica Palacios, Once Upon a Time, Montrose, CA

The Electric Kingdom by David Arnold
(Viking Books for Young Readers, 9780593202227, $18.99)
“A thrilling story reminiscent of The Fifth Wave series, The Electric Kingdom has massive appeal for every type of reader. Taking place some years after the Fly Flu has wreaked havoc on the earth, three characters — Nico (along with her dog), Kit, and the Deliverer — work to rebuild life, love, and beauty in the wake of total devastation. Brilliant, compelling, and full of humanity, The Electric Kingdom is a thing of beauty.”
—Amanda Hurley, Tombolo Books, St. Petersburg, FL

Game Changer by Neal Shusterman
(Quill Tree Books, 9780061998676, $17.99)
“Readers who were obsessed with the Scythe series will not be disappointed by Game Changer. Ash is a high school football player who is oblivious to the world around him until he takes a big hit on the field. He enters another dimension where everything is off, from the school mascot to how his friends are treated. If you loved Scythe because of the way it took you into another world with powerful messages, you will be sure to enjoy this.”
—Deanna Bailey, Story on The Square, McDonough, GA

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna
(Delacorte Press, 9781984848697, $18.99)
“An interesting, immersive fantasy where women are treated as second-class citizens and killed if they are deemed to be impure. This all changes when Deka, deemed impure, survives death and joins the alaki, where she is trained to be an elite warrior in an army of women. With wonderful world-building and adventure, this book is perfect for fans of Children of Blood and Bone.”
—Cara Dyne-Gores, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, OH

Love in English by Maria E. Andreu
(Balzer + Bray, 9780062996510, $18.99)
“This is a beautiful YA novel, written from a teenage Argentinian immigrant’s point of view, skillfully represents the idiosyncrasies of Americans and sometimes-painful teenage interactions. In addition to the first-person narrative, there are also whimsical ‘handwritten’ notes Ana takes in her journal as part of her assignment for her English language class. Her musings about being transplanted to a new country and reuniting with her father, who came to America three years before she and her mom could join him, give a wonderfully nuanced perspective.”
—Emily Autenrieth, A Seat at the Table Books, Elk Grove, CA

Love Is a Revolution by Renée Watson
(Bloomsbury YA, 9781547600601, $18.99)
“When Nala Robertson meets the perfect guy at an activism event, she does everything she can to get to know him — including telling a few white lies that slowly but surely spiral out of control. This heartwarming story about honesty and self-love will inspire every young, plus-sized Black woman in the world to own their unique inner strength. Also, the romance is delightfully wholesome and adorable enough to satisfy any fan of the genre!”
—Jason Mills, The Book Bungalow, St. George, UT

Namesake by Adrienne Young
(Wednesday Books, 9781250254399, $18.99, available March)
Namesake is a beautiful conclusion to the story begun in Fable. In Namesake, you get to see all the characters grow is such a perfect way. The descriptions are beautiful, and I loved diving below the sea with Fable again. In this book, we follow Fable as she tries to find her way back to the Marigold through new alliances as well as old and new enemies, but we don’t know who will come through to help her. I didn’t want this book to end.”
—Blair Bayless, Copperfield’s Books, Calistoga, CA

Perfect on Paper by Sophie Gonzales
(Wednesday Books, 9781250769787, $18.99, available March)
“In Sophie Gonzales’ latest YA contemporary, Darcy Phillips runs a secret business giving students at her school love advice, and she’s very good at her job. But when she’s found out by the swoony Alexander Brougham, Darcy finds herself helping him win back his girlfriend in order to protect her secret. The ensuing hijinks are packed with humor, romance, and wisdom but most of all a wonderful sense of queer pride. Perfect on Paper reads a bit like what you’d get if you mixed Leah on the Offbeat and Netflix’s Sex Education, but Gonzales also captures a charming wit that’s uniquely hers. With snappy dialogue, a lovable cast of side characters, and important conversations about bisexuality, this book absolutely won my heart!”
—Julia DeVarti, Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI

Slingshot by Mercedes Helnwein
(Wednesday Books, 9781250253002, $18.99, available April)
“Irreverent and rip-off-the-bandage honest, this book is the coming-of-age story of the moment. It’s uncomfortable, messy, and everything a book about two teenagers falling in love for the first time should be. And it’s all that while being a beautifully singular reminder of how letting people into your life can heal you, break you, but also reveal you. This book made me frustrated, swoony, nostalgic, and reflective. I’ll have Grace Welles in my head for a lifetime.”
—Claire Phelan, Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, WA

Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi
(Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 9781534446007, $19.99, available March)
“What a sharp, terrific book. I love how Choi develops the characters with perfect details. The whole world of Yolk is beautifully built, from the vision of New York City through the eyes of both sisters to the return home to Texas, and every space in between. This family, these sisters — I’m rooting for them.”
—Rachel Barry, WORD Bookstores, Brooklyn, NY