One of the nice things about the end of summer, along with the promise of fall jacket weather—jackets! Remember?—is that there are a bunch of exciting new books coming out for your fall-to-winter reading lists. And, fortunately, there is no dearth of really excellent stuff in Y.A. and kids literature on the horizon. We've been reading review copies all summer, and with the help of some bookseller friends—Sarah Gerard of McNally Jackson and Molly Templeton and Jenn Northington of WORD—have compiled this fall preview of teen-and-younger books you won't want to miss.
There are some themes. Dystopias and fantasies are still big, but authors are also reaching back into history, offering up re-imagined stories of the past to contemporary readers. There's a definite steampunk thing going on, plus magic, mystery, thrills, and fairy tales. Romance, too. Then there are the reality stories, but done in a new way—a teen who gets life-changing gastric bypass surgery, for example—and books that test the standards of what we've considered futuristic, whether in plot or structure or characterizations. Plus, updates on the classics, like the new graphic novel of A Wrinkle in Time. Suffice it to say, you will not be bored reading this fall. For you adults: These are your cross-under reads.
Every Day, by David Levithan. Northington says, "This book is really hard to describe, because the narrator, A, has no gender. Every day, A wakes up as a different person. And normally, this is fine, until the day that A meets Rhiannon. It reminds me of Jeanette Winterson's Written on the Body for the younger set." Frank Bruni writes of Every Day in the New York Times Book Review, "It demonstrates Levithan’s talent for empathy, which is paired in the best parts of the book with a persuasive optimism about the odds for happiness and for true love." (Knopf Books for Young Readers, August 28)
The Dark Unwinding, by Sharon Cameron. This book, set in Victorian times, was described to me as covetable for Y.A. readers who might also be fans of Downton Abbey. The main character, Katharine Tulman, 17, is sent by her aunt to have her uncle, who is allegedly squandering her inheritance, committed to an asylum. What she finds when she reaches him is something very different—he's a genius inventor, and not crazy at all, to start—and it forces her to make decisions that will change her life, and possibly all of England, forever. This is Cameron's debut novel. In case you're not convinced, Northington adds, "A heroine who is good at math! Plus, international espionage, steam-powered inventions, family secrets and madness, and a doomed love. This book is awesome." (Scholastic, September 1)
Origin, by Jessica Khoury. Another debut novel (Khoury is just 22 years old), this one tells the story of Pia, a girl engineered to be the start of a new immortal race by scientists in a secret lab in the Amazon rainforest. On the night of her 17th birthday Pia sneaks out of the compound and meets a boy from a nearby village. "Together, they embark on a race against time to discover the truth about Pia's origin--a truth with deadly consequences that will change their lives forever." Khoury told the Atlantic Wire that the idea came to her "like a bolt of lightning." Thirty days later she had the first draft. The immediacy of her vision is evident in the pacing of this book, which you'll probably speed-read, it's that good. Scott Steindorff and his Scott Pictures have acquired the film rights. (Penguin, Razorbill; September 4)
Carnival of Souls, by Melissa Marr. Templeton says, "Marr's Wicked Lovely series always surprises me; her writing seems effortless, but there's considerable darkness tucked into the bustling storylines. Now she's created a new world, a daimon city where a teenage girl tries to hide from her fate." (Harper, September 4)
The Broken Lands, by Kate Milford. Milford has written a prequel to her previous book, The Boneshaker. This one is set in an alternate-history version of 1877 New York in which magic and real life collide. Two spunky characters—Jin, a Chinese girl who travels about as part of a fireworks performance caravan, and Sam, a teenaged orphan and cardsharp of Coney Island—join forces to fight an evil that seeks to take hold of their city. If you loved The Alienist, you'll love this one. There's also a companion novella, The Kairos Mechanism, available September 7. (Clarion, September 4)
The Brides of Rollrock Island, Margo Lanagan. Says Templeton, "Lanagan's last book was the intense, beautiful, difficult Tender Morsels, which took apart the Grimms' 'Snow White and Rose Red' and rebuilt it in astonishing fashion. In The Brides of Rollrock Island, she transforms the myth of the selkies, those magical creatures that change skins, from woman to seal. A witch will lure sea-wives for the men of Rollrock Island, but there's always a price—and knowing Lanagan, it will be a heavy one." (Knopf Books for Young Readers, September 11)
Because It Is My Blood, by Gabrielle Zevin. Northington sums it up: "Future New York mafia! Anya is the bad-assest heroine I've met in a while—on her way to being a psychopath, but a really compelling psychopath." Godfather fans, this is your Y.A. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers, September 18)
The Diviners, by Libba Bray. This book attracted a lot of attention earlier this summer at BEA. Templeton explains why: "Libba Bray + 1920s New York City + the occult + a heroine with secret magical powers? Sounds like Bray's Gemma Doyle trilogy, but even better. Bonus: it's almost 600 pages! That'll keep you busy for a little while, at least." (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, September 18)
The Peculiar, by Stefan Bachmann. Gerard tells us, "HarperCollins has a really eye-grabbing book called The Peculiar, written by an 18-year-old classical musician (don't you just love to hate kids like that? But this book is really great), involving changelings (children who are half human, half faery)." She adds, "It's not your typical faery story—it has elements of steampunk and murder mystery that make it a really exciting, fresh read." (HarperCollins, Greenwillow; September 18)
The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater. The new book from the best-selling author of the Shiver trilogy opens fans to the world of another series. In the first book of four, we meet Blue Sargent, the daughter of the town psychic, who's grown up under the prediction that she will kill her true love with a kiss. This is a destiny she hasn't worried about, much, until she meets Dick Gansey and his cohort of "Raven Boys," with whom he's in search of a mythical Welsh prince. Gerard says, "It's about a girl who's clairvoyant and falls in love with a boy who's about to die—and she is the cause. Terrifying." (Scholastic, September 18.)
The Turning, by Francine Prose. Fans of Prose will be thrilled to see she's got a new Y.A. offering, billed as "The Turn of the Screw" for teens. From its description: "Jack is spending the summer on a private island far from modern conveniences. No Wi-Fi, no cell service, no one else on the island but a housekeeper and the two very peculiar children in his care. The first time Jack sees the huge black mansion atop a windswept hill, he senses something cold, something more sinister than even the dark house itself." We are intrigued and totally scared. Perfect. (Harper Teen, September 25)
In a Glass Grimmly, by Adam Gidwitz. A follow-up to Gidwitz's A Tale Dark and Grimm, "which expands to include Andersen's fairy tales, as well," says Gerard. "This is very exciting for anyone who loves contemporary fairy tale retellings, and all who love Adam Gidwitz." Note, also, the awesome cover art. This is not your grandmother's Jack and the Beanstalk. (Penguin, Dutton Childrens; September 27)
Skinny, by Donna Cooner. Cooner experienced gastric bypass surgery as an adult, and puts what she learned about the medical procedure and herself into the heartfelt telling of the story of Ever, a 300-plus-pound 15-year-old plagued not only with obesity but with a familiar, undermining voice in her head she calls Skinny. Ever decides to go through with the surgery in the hopes of combating Skinny and making her aspirations—like singing in the high school musical—come true. Cooner told The Atlantic Wire, "It's not not just a weight loss book, but also about overcoming that negative voice and becoming what we want to be." She adds, "This book felt like tapping into a vein for me, sharing things I had never told anyone." (Scholastic, October 1)
A Wrinkle in Time, The Graphic Novel, adapted & illustrated by Hope Larson. Exactly what it purports to be, this is one of our favorite Newbery award-winning books adapted as a graphic novel. Larson has posted a 26-page excerpt on her site, so you can get an advance peek at what Charles Wallace, Meg, and the Murry family, as well as Mrs. Whatsit, look like in illustrated form. Gerard says, and many will agree, "I'll be giving this to everyone I know." Also prime for gifting, though pricier, is the awesomely designed Quintet Collector's Edition, out October 30. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Margaret Ferguson Books; October 1).
Son, by Lois Lowry. This book is the long-awaited conclusion to the 4-part series that began with The Giver back in 1994. Lowry introduces a new character, Claire, and brings back Jonas, Gabriel, and Kira, with their stories intersecting to again explore "ideas of personal freedom and the bonds and boundaries of love." Kate Milford and I will be discussing the book in a future column on The Atlantic Wire. (Houghton Mifflin, October 2)
The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, by Catherynne M. Valente. Templeton says of this much-anticipated middle-grade sequel, "Valente is a magician, and her imagination appears to be endless. This Girl is the sequel to The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, which introduced us to smart, resourceful September, who was whisked away to Fairyland by the Green Wind. Her adventures there were beyond magical; she made friends with a Wyverary named A-L, toppled a complicated Marquess, and lost her shadow to a Glashtyn in order to save a Pooka child. When September falls back into Fairyland, she finds that her shadow has created her own kingdom in Fairyland Below. Shadows are tricksy things, and so is Valente's book, which pulls off the glorious feat of being just as full of her magical inventions (and references and borrowed creatures and lovely wordplay) as its predecessor — while being possibly even better." (Feiwel and Friends, October 2)
Summer and Bird, by Katherine Catmull. Gerard says, "Another middle grade title that's getting some buzz from fairy tale lovers is Summer and Bird by Katherine Catmull. A beautifully written story similar (in story) to Colin Melloy's Wildwood. Two sisters' parents were stolen in the middle of the night, and they have to venture into this magical world called Down to get them back. Sounds promising, right?" (Penguin, Dutton Juvenile; October 2)
The Spindlers, by Lauren Oliver. Gerard says Oliver's new middle-grade novel "is just the kind of lovely, weird story we've learned to love from Oliver." Kirkus called it "Richly detailed, at times poetic, ultimately moving; a book to be puzzled over, enjoyed and, ideally, read aloud." (HarperCollins, October 2)
This Is Not My Hat, by John Klassan. This one skews younger (it's a picture book), but it looks adorable. Gerard tells us, "Candlewick is one of my favorite publishers ... every title on their list is just exquisite. And they've got some really great titles coming out this fall. Of course, This Is Not My Hat, Jon Klassen's follow-up to I Want My Hat Back, is one of them." (Candlewick, October 9)
Otter and Odder, by James Howe. "Another picture book that may fly under the radar, but which is just so fantastic," says Gerard. It's illustrated by Chris Raschka (whose picture book A Ball for Daisy won the Caldecott last year)." Otter's author is the same James Howe you may recall from Bunnicula fame. "The story is that an otter falls in love with a fish—his food source, and everyone says that they can't be in love, that it's just 'not natural,'" explains Gerard. "But their love is so pure, I had tears in my eyes by the end. It's beautiful—a story, a lesson of love that every child needs." Aw. (Candlewick, October 9)
Ask the Passengers, by A.S. King. Says Northington, "I will read everything King writes, ever. She tackles the common themes of Y.A.—alienation, bullying, substance abuse—but does beautiful, dangerous, and fascinating things with them. In her newest, Astrid Jones tries to figure out what it means that she's falling in love with a girl." (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, October 23)
Not Exactly a Love Story, Audrey Couloumbis. From Templeton, this is one to watch for as we head into December: "Couloumbis's Newbery Honor book, Getting Near to Baby, broke my heart — and it was one of those books that I hadn't seemed at all interested in when I read the description. Two sisters coping with the death of their baby sister? Yikes. But Couloumbis writes with compassion and empathy, and I fell in love with those girls, who sat on their aunt's rooftop and figured grief out as best they could. Couloumbis's new book, her YA debut, is about a boy and a girl and a telephone: It's 1977, and, through a series of anonymous phone calls, 15-year-old Vinnie develops a relationship with the neighbor he has a crush on. Does this sound kind of odd? Yes. Am I really looking forward to letting Couloumbis blow my doubts out of the water again? Yes." (Random House Children's Books, December 11)