There are novels about Black boys finding joy, nervy thrillers, fantasies filled with magic, angsty romances and much, much more.
Finch Kelly is a transgender teenager whose dream is to go to Georgetown University, the first step in his plan to become the country’s first openly transgender member of Congress. He believes the ticket into Georgetown is winning the National Speech & Debate Tournament, but when he finds out the year’s topic — should transgender students in public schools be allowed to use the bathroom of their choice? — he has to decide if arguing against his own humanity is a price he is willing to pay to achieve his dreams.
An epistolary novel told through emails, “Take Me With You When You Go” follows two siblings, Bea and Ezra, as they try to escape their abusive stepfather. When Bea runs away, Ezra thinks he’s been left to fend for himself, but then he finds an email address that Bea left for him. Theirs is a powerful and moving correspondence about what it means to find safety and build a life on one’s own terms.
A blend of historical fiction and fantasy, “The Witch Haven,” set in New York City in 1911, follows a 17-year-old seamstress named Frances Hallowell. When her boss attacks her, Frances, trying to defend herself, accidentally unleashes supernatural powers she didn’t know she had, and it kills him. Frances’s new abilities land her right in the middle of a mystical struggle that’s much bigger than she is — while she is also still trying to get to the bottom of her brother’s mysterious death.
Grey is not psychic, but everyone around her is, including all the women in her family and a whole bunch of other folks in La Cachette, La. Given everyone’s abilities, it’s all the more confusing that nobody in town seems to know what happened to Elora, Grey’s best friend, who walked into the swamp one day and was never seen again.
Uly, who is Black, and Sallie, who is white, are in a happy relationship. Then Sallie’s older sister, Leona, announces that she’s running for student-body president, promising to pressure the school to end the school’s “Send and Receive” policy of accepting students from smaller and poorer neighborhoods. Seeing racism in Leona’s message, Uly’s sister, Regina, decides to enter the race. Both candidates ask their siblings to be their campaign manager, which means Uly and Sallie are suddenly opponents in an election where the stakes grow ever higher. (Note that the novel does contain scenes of gun violence.)
A teenage romance set in the age of Covid, “Hello (From Here)” begins just hours after California announces shelter-in-place orders, when Max and Jonah meet while doing some last-minute quarantine grocery shopping. That chance encounter sparks a connection between the two, but they need to figure out if they can build and maintain a relationship at a time when distance is a way of life.
George M. Johnson, (“All Boys Aren’t Blue”) is back with a new memoir about Nanny, the grandmother who raised them (the author uses they/them pronouns). In “We Are Not Broken,” Johnson shares how Nanny, a breakout figure from “All Boys,” held the family together and provided the anchor they needed as they navigated growing up Black in America.
August Greene is a transgender teenager whose conservative parents don’t accept him and want him to live as girl. When he gets into the School of Performing Arts in New York City, he thinks his dream of becoming an actor are about to come true, but in order to go, he needs approval from his mother and father — approval they are willing to give on one condition: August must promise not to transition into the boy he knows he is meant to be.
Alma is a half-Chinese, half-Jewish teenager coming of age in 1980s New York City. When her parents divorce, her friends move away and she begins a flirtation with a boy on her block, her entire world tilts on its axis, and Alma has to figure out who she is in this next stage of her life.
Eliza Quan, a hardworking student journalist, is running to be editor in chief of the school newspaper, and she’s a shoo-in. But on the day of the vote, Len DiMartile, who joined the paper only a year ago, enters the race — and wins. Upset, Eliza writes a private essay about misogyny and the frustration of getting passed over for a job she worked hard for. But when the piece is mysteriously published without her approval, and goes viral, Eliza is pushed into a much larger conversation.
Derry and her eight sisters have special powers, a secret they keep because they live in a world where “witches” are feared and killed. To stay safe, they live in an house at the edge of a forest under the guidance of Frank, a shadowy man who grows their abilities, yes, but also severely restricts their freedom — in order to protect them, he says. One of their many rules is to never go into the forest, but when Derry’s sisters begin to disappear, she is forced to venture into the forbidden territory.
This novel in verse follows Sarai, a Puerto Rican student growing up in a gentrifying Bushwick, as she grapples with the serious truths of her circumstances — poverty, mental illness, how she fits into her heritage.
In “The Other Talk,” Kiely hopes to have a frank conversation with teenagers about racism, but from a new angle: In addition to explaining the ways that racism harms people of color, he wants to explore white privilege. Because, Kiely explains, “although many of us talk about racism, we just don’t talk about being white and all the privileges we get because we’re white.”
To get through high school, Gio needs to stay focused and keep his grades up, but that’s easier said than done: He’s battling anxiety, a preacher father who denounces his bisexuality and feelings for a new kid on his basketball team named David. To complicate matters , Gio’s mom returns to the scene after abandoning him years ago, wanting to reconnect.
The first book in a new series, “Beasts of Prey” follows two teenagers in the fictional city of Lkossa: Koffi, an indentured servant who works at the Night Zoo and dreams of freedom; and Ekon, a warrior in training. When a monster known as the Shetani attacks Lkossa, Koffi hopes to capture the beast to pay off her debts, while Ekon wants to slay the creature and prove his strength. Despite their competing goals, the two team up — but when it comes to the beast they’re relying on to change their fates, all is not as it seems.
When four teenagers unearth a time capsule that their parents buried in the ’80s, they think it will be a fun way to revisit the past. Instead they stumble on what appears to be evidence of a murder, including a bloody knife and a note that reads “I didn’t mean to kill anyone.” Suddenly they find themselves players in a dangerous game that started a generation earlier.