Big Vape: The Incendiary Rise of Juul
Jamie Ducharme (Holt)
When Ducharme’s 2019 Time article on Juul came out, it was pretty tough to walk around New York without seeing the vape device. I was excited when I found out that article was to grow into a book, and the story Ducharme offers is a bizarre, somewhat frightening page-turner (and is set to become a docuseries, to boot). —Carliann Rittman, reviews editor
Alex McElroy (Atria)
A woman named Sasha Marcus is harassed and canceled by men’s rights activists after speaking her mind in response to an internet troll in McElroy’s engrossing novel. Sasha then accepts a new gig helping her failed actor friend start a cult designed for men to purge themselves of toxic masculinity. McElroy’s conceit works on multiple levels, with incisive satire, earnest explorations of male identity, and a gripping plot.
The Anatomy of Desire
L.R Dorn (Morrow)
Told in the form of a true crime docuseries, this immensely clever updating of Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy focuses on the trial of fitness coach Cleo Ray, who’s been charged with the drowning murder of her female companion while they were canoeing on a California lake. Cleo claims it was an accident, and there were no witnesses.
How to Survive a Scandal
Samara Parish (Forever)
Escape to the English countryside with Parish’s refreshing Regency debut. Lady Amelia Crofton is poised to become a duchess, until an accident leaves her reputation compromised. To save her good name, she must marry titleless stranger Benedict Asterly. Both halves of this unlikely duo bring a heavy load of preconceptions about the other to their union, and it’s a delight to watch them work through their differences and lower their guards as love takes flight.
The Chosen and the Beautiful
Nghi Vo (Tordotcom)
Vo’s gorgeous full-length debut infuses The Great Gatsby with subtle, intoxicating magic: Gatsby’s decadent parties see the hedonists of the Jazz Age consuming demon blood along with alcohol; Daisy Buchanan uses a charm to float listlessly around her house; and queer, Asian American adoptee Jordan Baker—the novel’s narrator—can create magic from cut paper. Vo’s lyrical prose captures the spirit of Fitzgerald’s original while brilliantly reframing the narrative and subverting expectations at every turn.
American Cult: A Graphic History of Religious Cults in America from the Colonial Era to Today
Edited by Robyn Chapman (Silver Sprocket)
Take a tour through fanatical groups and their bizarre (and occasionally murderous) gurus in this artistically varied comics anthology, which supplies capsule histories of such fascinating movements and the people they attract, including the creepy contemporary sex cult NXIVM, the Manson family, and the utopian sect that swept up Louisa May Alcott.
All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler
Rebecca Donner (Little, Brown)
This espionage tale has an intriguing personal connection. Novelist Donner recreates the exploits of her great-great-aunt Mildred Harnack, the only American resistance leader in Nazi Germany. Enrolled as a PhD student in 1930s Berlin, the Milwaukee native helped Jews escape, distributed anti-fascist propaganda, and ferried secret intelligence to the Allies until she was discovered and arrested by the Gestapo in 1942.
A Boy Named Isamu: A Story of Isamu Noguchi
James Yang (Viking)
In this sensory-focused, richly illustrated picture book, Geisel Medalist Yang conjures a day from Japanese American artist Isamu Noguchi’s childhood.
Nic Stone (Crown)
Stone returns to middle grade with this engaging bildungsroman about a softball captain who learns of a career-ending injustice in her family’s past.
Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, Nicola Yoon (Quill Tree)
Six Black stars of the YA world join forces in this interwoven contemporary novel, which features six Black teen couples amid a summer blackout in New York City.
The Coldest Case
Martin Walker (Knopf)
With my passport looking like it’s going to be collecting dust for another summer, I’m setting my sights on a bit of escapism in the form of Walker’s latest Bruno, Chief of Police novel. It’s part of a wonderful mystery series set in southwest France, and the plots are as much about foie gras as foul play. Line up a chilly bottle of Bergerac sec and I’ll be set. —Jonathan Segura, executive editor
Catch the Rabbit
Lana Bastašić (Restless)
References to Alice in Wonderland lure the reader into this immersive and dreamlike road story about a Bosnian woman’s return home from Dublin. Lejla’s childhood memories surface as she reacquaints with her old friend Sara, who seeks Lejla’s help in finding her older brother. As their journey progresses, the psychological drama between the two friends intensifies, building to a surprising twist.
Auntie Poldi and the Lost Madonna: An Auntie Poldi Mystery
Mario Giordano (Mariner)
When a nun jumps off a Vatican palace roof following an exorcism, Auntie Poldi, a Bavarian émigré who has retired to Italy, gets implicated in the nun’s death and must try to clear her name. Meanwhile, Auntie Poldi freely shares her views on a variety of subjects, from the Italian mentality to sex. Be prepared for a wild, amusing ride in her company.
Brittainy Cherry (Montlake)
Single mother Emery Taylor is rock star Alex Smith’s biggest fan—so imagine her surprise when the grieving Oliver wanders into her bar and picks a drunken brawl. When she saves him from the crowd, it sparks an undeniable connection. Cherry handles the pair’s slow evolution from friends to lovers with impressive skill and emotional nuance, expertly tugging readers’ heartstrings as both Emery and Alex reckon with their painful pasts in hopes of a brighter future.
The Jasmine Throne
Tasha Suri (Orbit)
A princess imprisoned for her defiance, a maidservant who possesses forbidden magic, and the unexpected bond that develops between them drive the lush, exhilarating epic that launches Suri’s Burning Kingdoms trilogy. Readers will come for the complex, India-inspired worldbuilding and shifting political intrigue, and stay for the fierce critique of empire and powerful story of a love that blossoms amid danger and desperation.
Jordan Morris, Sarah Morgan, and Tony Cliff (First Second)
Morgan battles Imps as a side hustle in the climate-controlled dome of a future world where the rich hire out their monster killing. This adaptation of a sci-fi podcast combines satire of capitalist elitism and the gig economy with wacky personalities, snarky one-liners, and madcap adventures.
The Brilliant Abyss: Exploring the Majestic Hidden Life of the Deep Ocean and the Looming Threat That Imperils It
Helen Scales (Atlantic Monthly)
Fans of BBC Earth will relish this resonant paean to the depths of the ocean—and its eccentric inhabitants. Marine biologist Scales spotlights creatures that lurk far below the sea where light doesn’t reach, including jellyfish, whales, rare snails, and more, all while making a moving case that the ocean ought be protected.
It Began with Lemonade
Gideon Sterer, illus. by Lian Cho (Dial)
Sprightly art, filled with invention and wit, offers plenty to regard in this make-lemonade story with a twist.
How to Become a Planet
Nicole Melleby (Algonquin)
Under her mother’s concerned watch at the family’s Jersey Shore pizzeria, 12-year-old Pluto begins a tentative journey navigating her mental health in this compassionate novel with a strong sense of place.
The Girl from the Sea
Molly Knox Ostertag (Graphix)
The author of the Witch Boy trilogy combines queer teen romance, realism, and fantasy in an endearing graphic novel about a teen who’s ready to leave the close-knit island on which she lives.
The Day the Klan Came to Town
Bill Campbell and Bizhan Khodabandeh (PM Press)
Campbell’s graphic novel is a fictionalized version of a real event in 1923 in which 30,000 Klansmen converged on Carnegie, Pa., in an ominous display of white supremacy. But the residents of Carnegie—Catholics, Jews, and a growing population of immigrants—had other ideas. Campbell returned to his hometown to research the event and celebrate the inspirational story of a ragtag group of proto-Americans who united to battle the Klan in the streets. —Calvin Reid, senior news editor
The Confession of Copeland Cane
Keenan Norris (Unnamed)
Norris unfurls the vivid dystopian coming-of-age tale of Copeland Cane, an 18-year-old Black man navigating the absurdities of a racist police state in East Oakland, Calif. Copeland, a fugitive from law enforcement after his involvement in a protest, lays down his freewheeling “confession” to a journalist. His voice is strong and infectious, and Norris’s credible vision of a media-security empire, founded by xenophobic Trump minion Stephen Miller, brilliantly scales up the narrative tension.
The Hunting Wives
May Cobb (Berkley)
In an East Texas town, four bored well-to-do wives meet every Friday evening to go barhopping with the understanding it’s first names only and they don’t go all the way. But rules are meant to be broken, and one of them winds up a murder suspect after their booze-fueled antics lead to the death of a teenage cheerleader. This is the epitome of a guilty pleasure.
Katee Robert (Sourcebooks Casablanca)
Ancient Greek gods get down and dirty in Robert’s sizzling Dark Olympus series launch. Socialite Persephone Dimitriou runs away from a proposed political marriage to the tyrannical Zeus—and straight into the arms of brooding bad boy Hades. They agree to a winter’s long torrid affair that’s sure to drive Zeus crazy—but neither expects to fall in love. Just as swoon-worthy as it is kinky, this page-turning romance will have readers hooked.
My Heart Is a Chainsaw
Stephen Graham Jones (Saga)
Jones’s virtuosic latest is many things: a loving celebration of slasher movie tropes; a funny and moving coming-of-age tale; an incisive critique of American identity, gentrification, and colonialism; and a terrifying, no-holds-barred gore fest. It’s also distinctly summery—set on a (seemingly) idyllic lakeshore and culminating in the Fourth of July. This should be in every horror fiend’s beach bag.
Guy Delisle, trans. from the French by Helge Dascher and Rob Aspinall (Drawn & Quarterly)
Delisle, noted for his comics travelogues to Pyongyang and Jerusalem, recalls his own hometown, Quebec City, and the summers he spent alongside “old-timers” working the pulp mill machines at the same factory where his distant father served as an engineer, in a subtle and meditative observation of labor, class issues, and coming of age.
Can’t Knock the Hustle: Inside the Season of Protest, Pandemic, and Progress with the Brooklyn Nets’ Superstars of Tomorrow
Matt Sullivan (Dey Street)
Sportswriter Sullivan brilliantly recounts the historic NBA season he spent courtside with the Brooklyn Nets, and the team’s rise during a global pandemic from being players on the court to activists in the streets. This propulsive story paints a nuanced portrait of what social justice looks like today.
The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess
Tom Gauld (Holiday House/Porter)
Graphic novelist Gauld makes his picture book debut with a bedtime-oriented fairy tale inspired by a story he made up for his children.
Nidhi Chanani (First Second)
Pashmina creator Chanani's magical graphic novel features a time travel-enabling jukebox, which changes Shaheen's life when it sends her and a cousin to different eras of music history in search of Shaheen's missing father.
The Box in the Woods
Maureen Johnson (Harper/Tegen)
Following the boarding school saga of the Truly Devious series, true crime aficionado Stevie Bell investigates her first post-Ellingham mystery, a cold case from the 1970s, at a summer camp in this atmospheric standalone.
César Aira, trans. from the Spanish by Chris Andrews (New Directions)
Here's one for a single beach outing, which, clocking in at just under 100 pages, will leave the reader transformed. Longtime Aira fan Patti Smith reports in her forward that she was "drawn from the pandemic emptiness into a world filled to the brim." In its series of puzzles and coincidences, all revolving around a Providence man’s visit to Buenos Aires and the stories picked up from strangers, Aira achieves perfection.
Edward St. Aubyn (FSG)
In the semi-autobiographical Patrick Melrose novels, St. Aubyn turned his harrowing childhood, drug-addled young adulthood, and hard-won recovery into one of most dazzling literary achievements of the past 30 years. His new novel promises to bring St. Aubyn’s expansive intellect and acerbic wit to bear on a more universal set of issues, including mankind’s relationship to nature and the mechanics of biological inheritance. I can’t wait to go along for the ride. —David Adams, reviews editor
Maggie Shipstead (Knopf)
Shipstead makes the most of parallel narratives in this epic page-turner about a pioneering female aviator and the present-day movie star preparing to play her. Marian Graves learns to fly as a young woman during Prohibition, then joins the RAF during WWII and disappears after a circumnavigation of the globe in 1949. As actor Hadley Baxter learns about Marian’s life, details of her own tragic connection to an ill-fated flight come to light.
Mary Dixie Carter (Minotaur)
Delta Dawn has risen from humble roots to become a successful photographer of upscale children’s parties in New York City. After one job, Dawn can’t resist insinuating herself into the lives of a couple with an 11-year-old daughter and seizes the chance to move into their Brooklyn townhouse. Trouble follows in this suspenseful psychological thriller.
One Last Stop
Casey McQuiston (Griffin)
McQuiston follows smash hit Red, White & Royal Blue with another incandescent queer rom-com—with a time-travel twist. Brooklynite August Landry has a crush on Jane Su, a punk lesbian she sees on her daily Subway ride. But Jane’s no ordinary commuter—she’s displaced in time from the 1970s and doomed to ride the Q train in a never-ending loop. The ensuing romance is just as clever, quirky, and cute as McQuiston’s fans would expect.
Project Hail Mary
Andy Weir (Ballantine)
Scientist Ryland Grace wakes up alone on an abandoned spaceship with no memory of who he is or how he got there—and to save humanity from a fast approaching catastrophe he’ll have to piece together his past. Weir combines dizzyingly high stakes, thought-provoking science, and a series of shocking twists to create an un-put-downable page-turner. Add in the wry humor of Grace’s narration, and the result is must-read science fiction.
The Secret to Superhuman Strength
Alison Bechdel (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
The celebrated cartoonist takes on the symbiotic relationship between body and mind in a memoir of her lifelong obsessions with exercise and fitness trends, from feminist karate classes to finding Zen on ski slopes and bike trails. Here, she places herself in the literary lineage of enlightenment-seeking writers, from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Adrienne Rich and Jack Kerouac.
Chasing the Thrill: Obsession, Death, and Glory in America’s Most Extraordinary Treasure Hunt
Daniel Barbarisi (Knopf)
Sports journalist Barbarisi’s rollicking account interweaves his own efforts to find a chest of gold and jewels buried by New Mexico art dealer Forrest Fenn somewhere in the Rocky Mountains with colorful profiles of fellow treasure hunters, ruminations on the nature of obsession, and insights into how social media and conspiracy thinking turned a “lark” into a “community hazard” in which at least five people died.
My Two Border Towns
David Bowles, illus. by Erika Meza (Kokila)
Living on the U.S.-Mexico border, a boy and his father traverse from one side to the other on weekends in Bowles’s heartwarming picture book debut.
Last Gate of the Emperor (Last Gate of the Emperor #1)
Kwame Mbalia and Joel Makonnen (Scholastic Press)
Inspired by the history and lore of Ethiopia, Mbalia and Ethiopian prince Makonnen craft a cinematic, Afrofuturist tale about a boy who finds community and glory in an augmented-reality game.
Instructions for Dancing
Nicola Yoon (Delacorte)
Yoon’s highly anticipated third novel, about ballroom dancing and matters of the heart, follows 17-year-old Evie Thomas, who, having sworn off love, is given the power to see the fate of any kissing couple’s romance.
Brandon Taylor (Riverhead)
Taylor’s linked stories train a keen eye on academic ambition, the slippery nature of lust, and how small misunderstandings can lead to fraught personal fallouts. A man’s connection to two dancers in an open relationship provides the collection its structure and allows Taylor to investigate how those in control can manipulate and cajole others under their spell. In these marvelous stories, Taylor demonstrates a seemingly inexhaustible ability to render feelings precisely: “The calm that comes with the edge of pleasure after pain has given way to something sweeter.” —Seth Satterlee, reviews editor
How to Kidnap the Rich
Rahul Raina (HarperPerennial)
Delhi street vendor–turned–college prep consultant and con artist Ramesh Kumar gets in over his head after one of his clients becomes famous for breaking the record on a standardized test score (a test Ramesh took on behalf of the student, Rudi Saxena). Ramesh and Rudi tour the country and wind up kidnapped, which gives Ramesh an idea for a new, even more lucrative scam. Raina’s satire cuts especially deep with its commentary on the Indian caste system.
Jean Hanff Korelitz (Celadon)
Failed writer Jake Bonner, who teaches in a third-rate MFA program, steals a plot for a novel from one of his students, who conveniently dies soon after leaving the program. The book Jake subsequently publishes is a huge success, but then he receives a threatening email from someone who knows he’s a thief. Readers will agree: Korelitz has devised her own perfect plot.
The View Was Exhausting
Mikaella Clements and Onjuli Datta (Grand Central)
Clements and Datta offer readers a peak at the truth behind the tabloids in this sparkling fake relationship romance set on the French Riviera. British Indian movie star Win Tagore relies on white playboy Leo Milanowski, her longtime on-again, off-again publicity boyfriend, to help control her image in the eyes of the racist media. The staged summer fling they’re orchestrating now shouldn’t be any different—but as real feelings bubble up, so do devastating secrets.
Sword Stone Table: Old Legends, New Voices
Edited by Swapna Krishna and Jenn Northington (Vintage)
In this delightful and wide-ranging anthology, Krishna and Northington collect 16 diverse, masterful takes on Arthurian legend from genre heavy hitters. By turns funny, light, and hauntingly emotional, these strong, inventive tales offer gender- and race-bent adaptations of favorite characters and recast familiar stories in fresh, creative contexts. Lovers of Arthurian legends will be wowed, and the skill and innovation at play here make this a sure bet for any sci-fi/fantasy fan.
The Confidence Men: How Two Prisoners of War Engineered the Most Remarkable Escape in History
Margalit Fox (Random House)
This marvelous history recounts how two British army POWs in WWI orchestrated “the most singular prison break ever recorded.” The scheme involved a jury-rigged Ouija board and a fraudulent treasure hunt, and required the POWs to spend six months feigning madness at an insane asylum in Constantinople. Fox dives deep into the psychology of brainwashing and the ins and outs of confidence games to create a truly mesmerizing tale.
Sophie Blackall (Penguin/Paulsen)
Caldecott Medalist Blackall follows a recalcitrant feline named Max and his loving owner in this sweet tale.
Sisters of the Neversea
Cynthia Leitich Smith (Heartdrum)
Smith’s Peter Pan reboot centers stepsisters in a Creek and British family, offering an intelligent, thoroughly modern-lensed examination of the classic.
The Ones We’re Meant to Find
Joan He (Roaring Brook)
He traces an expansive near-future narrative that centers Asian sisterhood and family while ruminating on human nature, choice, and consequence.
The Final Girl Support Group
Grady Hendrix (Berkley)
Last year, it seemed as though everybody was raving about Hendrix’s The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires. I liked his Horrorstör, so I put Vampires on my to-read list. However, I might leapfrog over it to read The Final Girl Support Group first. I love the final girl trope, so any media that tackles it in a fresh way has my attention. —Drucilla Shultz, bookroom editor
The Killing Hills
Chris Offutt (Grove)
An Army CID agent helps his sheriff sister with a murder investigation in their rural Kentucky holler in this hardboiled country noir. It crackles with unforgiving violence and colorful characters possessing names such as Murvil Knox, Charley Flowers, and Fuckin’ Barney, but it also has endless depth, detailing PTSD and the region’s rampant opioid addiction problem. The prose and scope make this reminiscent not only of Winter’s Bone but of Faulkner.
A Ghost in the Throat
Doireann Ní Ghríofa (Biblioasis)
When I lived in Ireland, “summer holidays” meant shivering in some drafty old house in the country, haunted by ghosts of the past. Spend enough time in such places (and drink enough whiskey) and you not only come to believe in ghosts, but find yourself talking with them. This book is about just that sort of experience: the poet Doireann Ní Ghríofa survives a near tragedy and then finds herself in a dialogue with Eibhlín Dubh, an 18th-century widow whose grief over the murder of her husband was immortalized in a poem. She then writes a book about it. —Ed Nawotka, bookselling and international editor
The King of Infinite Space
Lyndsay Faye (Putnam)
Faye pulls off a delicious reimagining of Hamlet set in the present-day New York City theater world. After theater owner Jackson Dane dies, his son Benjamin finds a video from Jackson, in which he expresses his fears that his brother is trying to kill him. Faye adds magic to the intrigue by blending fantastical conceits from other Shakespeare plays, and adds a romance between Benjamin and his best friend, Horatio.
Great Pretender, vol. 1
Ryouta Furusawa, illus. by Daichi Marui (Seven Seas)
This is a manga adaptation of the Netflix original anime Great Pretender that’s already been released in Japan and will make its North American debut this summer. If you’ve seen the show, you can imagine my excitement at having the physical copy! It follows two con artists—one of Japan’s youngest and best and another from France—who are trying to make it big in America and get tangled up in some rather entertaining circumstances. —Gilcy Aquino, children’s editorial freelancer
The Last Mona Lisa
Jonathan Santlofer (Sourcebooks)
Since we’ve mostly lost all concept of reality, let’s mix fact and fiction and have some fun. Santlofer, a painter and veteran thriller writer, takes us back to August 1911, when the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre and went missing for two years. The truth about what happened is elusive, the chase nail-biting, the women beautiful—and can you imagine better places to armchair travel than Florence and Paris? —Louisa Ermelino, editor-at-large
Rachel Cusk (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
A series of power plays ensues on an English coastal property in Cusk’s insightful latest. A writer named M is drawn to L, a painter, and invites him to stay in a cabin next to her family’s house. After L arrives from New York City, a cascading set of circumstances make M feel increasingly isolated from her family and snubbed by L. Cusk’s breezy erudition is on full display in this tense and compressed story.
Alex Michaelides (Celadon)
I much enjoyed this author’s bestselling 2019 debut, The Silent Patient, a cleverly plotted psychological thriller about a therapist with his own emotional problems. Will Michaelides be able to repeat his success with another thriller centered on an obsessed therapist, which again mixes murder, psychotherapy, and Greek myth? It augurs well that Tennyson’s poetry, per our starred review, figures in this follow-up. —Peter Cannon, senior editor
Something New Under the Sun
Alexandra Kleeman (Hogarth)
Kleeman’s propulsive story of climate change and Hollywood unscrupulousness follows writer Patrick Hamlin’s ill-fated journey to Tinseltown to help with the adaptation of his novel. There, the synthetic WAT-R has replaced water, and a new type of dementia plagues the populace. As a personal indignity, Patrick is made a production assistant and given the task of ferrying an unpredictable former child star cast in the film. As always, Kleeman is imaginative and her work compulsively readable.
A Master of Djinn
P. Djèlí Clark (Tordotcom)
The alternate 1912 Cairo of Clark’s first novel is an irresistible-sounding combo of steampunk airships and mystical djinn. He introduces his central character, Fatma—an agent with the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities—in a hookah joint where clients puff magic-spiked tobacco. Our starred review called the book a “fantastic feat of postcolonial imagination.” The only question, really, is whether to read Clark’s novellas set in this world first, or dive right in. —Carolyn Juris, features editor
Francine Prose (Harper)
Simon Putnam, a young Jewish book editor, is tasked with working on a bodice ripper inspired by the Rosenberg trial in Prose’s canny look at Cold War society and sexual predation in the workplace. The plot thickens as the mystery unfolds as to why Simon’s boss, a WWII psyops veteran, is so intent on publishing the book, which is off brand compared to the house’s usual literary fare.
Camilla Läckberg (Knopf)
Vengeful Stockholm housewife Faye Adelheim, who sacrificed her career for her feckless, unfaithful husband and framed him for their daughter’s apparent murder in The Golden Cage, has since been living in hiding with her daughter and her mother, who survived an abusive husband. Now, in this high-stakes sequel, Faye faces the consequences of her secrets being exposed.
Golden Boy: A Murder Among the Manhattan Elite
John Glatt (St. Martin’s)
In 2015, Thomas Gilbert Jr., the Princeton graduate son of a wealthy hedge fund manager, shot his father dead in his parents’ Upper East Side apartment over a decrease in his allowance. In 2019, a jury rejected the 35-year-old Gilbert’s insanity defense, and he was sentenced to 30 years to life. Journalist Glatt examines what led Gilbert, who the prosecution argued was a sociopath, to commit a crime that rocked New York high society.
The Rescuer of Tiny Creatures
Curtis Manley, illus. by Lucy Ruth Cummins (Roaring Brook)
A child named Roberta shows compassion for the smallest invertebrates—including insects, earthworms, and spiders—in this gentle, wonder-filled narrative.
Stamped (For Kids): Racism, Antiracism, and You
Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi, adapted by Sonja Cherry-Paul, illus. by Rachelle Baker (Little, Brown)
National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Reynolds first offered an edifying YA remix of Kendi’s National Book Award–winning adult title; this adaptation makes their engaging American history of racism and anti-racism accessible for the middle grade crowd.
Tokyo Ever After
Emiko Jean (Flatiron)
A Japanese American teen in California discovers that her absent father is the crown prince of Japan and gets more than she bargained for when visiting his home country in this fast-paced, comedic novel for fans of The Princess Diaries.
My Begging Chart
Keiler Roberts (Drawn & Quarterly)
I adore being dropped inside Roberts’s askew gaze at domesticity, which in this archly funny and often breathtakingly poignant series of snapshots of life as a mother and artist also acts as a diary of the progression of her living with MS, a quietly radical realization of illness as daily life. There’s such a satisfying sense of recognition in how she documents oddities alongside sweeter moments, as if in attempt to hold on to time passing. —Meg Lemke, comics and graphic novels reviews editor
We Are the Brennans
Tracey Lange (Celadon)
After Sunday Brennan wrecks her car in a drunk driving accident, she returns from Los Angeles to her hometown in Westchester County, N.Y., where she has not set foot for six years. Her arrival, along with lingering tensions between her and her brothers, forces the Irish Catholic family to confront long-buried secrets. Lange portrays the Brennans with compassion and gritty realism, winning over readers from the beginning.
The Other Black Girl
Zakiya Dalila Harris (Simon & Schuster)
When I read The Other Black Girl was an even edgier The Devil Wears Prada, I wondered, “Does it get any better?” It did. Harris’s debut is set in the New York City offices of the publishing industry. Who among us can resist that juicy morsel? While you may be able to leave your house come June 1, you might not want to until you’ve read the last page of this timely, insightful social critique. —Stacey Gill, marketing manager
Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up at Night
Morgan Parker (Tin House)
Parker is a poetic superstar, and this, her debut collection, is one book I’ve long been hoping to find wedged in the overpacked shelf of a frowsty used bookshop in some small college town where no one reads poetry anymore. I’m fairly certain that would have been the only place to find it; it’s been out-of-print for some time. When last I dug around the web for a used copy, the price for even a poor one was running in the hundreds—and I can’t ever seem to get off the library’s waiting list for it. I’m thrilled to see Tin House bring it back into print—and with an introduction by Danez Smith, to boot! —John Maher, news and digital editor
The Perfume Thief
Timothy Schaffert (Doubleday)
A new Timothy Schaffert novel about a 72-year-old, queer American expat perfumer with a criminal past, who, with her 20-year-old roommate and a French singer, outmaneuvers the Nazis in WWII Paris—need I say more? I’ve been a fan of Schaffert’s for many years and was thrilled when he moved from contemporary into historical fiction. As always with Schaffert’s tales, the characters and their backstories are delicious and the story line is over-the-top. —Claire Kirch, Midwest correspondent
Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake
Alexis Hall (Forever)
Covid continues to put a damper on any plans for a summer fling, but falling in love with this charming rom-com is the next best thing. A bisexual single mother meets a gentle giant electrician on the set of a Great British Bake Off–style reality show—and Hall’s subversive, queer sensibilities and trademark wit make their romance a scrummy treat. I was whisked away. —Phoebe Cramer, reviews editor
Keith Ridgway (New Directions)
I was on a beach when I read Ridgway’s anti-novel Hawthorn & Child in 2013, a noirish phantasmagoria of two detectives going about their days in London. It wasn’t exactly a page-turner, but I couldn’t look away from it. He’s back with A Shock, after previously declaring he was done with writing. He told PW he wrote it while thinking about “how we use fiction to negotiate the world.” I can’t wait to dig in. —David Varno, reviews editor
Katherine St. John (Grand Central)
A Hollywood megastar hires his ex-wife, who’s looking to revive her flagging screen career, to play opposite him in a movie being directed by his recent film school graduate son on a Caribbean island. Everyone involved in the production has a secret agenda. This is intelligently told escapist fare wrapped around a kernel of #MeToo sisterhood.
Islands of Abandonment: Nature Rebounding in the Post-Human Landscape
Cal Flyn (Viking)
Flyn takes readers on a globe-trotting journey, introducing them to ecosystems that are recovering from disasters. All of the sites have been abandoned by humans and are flourishing in the wake. Flyn writes in stunning, hope-filled prose of slag heaps and volcano-ravished towns, and her tour feels especially crucial in a year when travel has been so hard to come by.
Somebody’s Daughter: A Memoir
Ashley C. Ford (Flatiron)
I’ve been a fan of Ford’s sharp writing since her early days at BuzzFeed. She’s profiled everyone from Missy Elliott to Anne Hathaway, and now, with her debut memoir, she turns the pen on herself, giving readers a glimpse into her own beginnings—as a young girl navigating love and the void left behind by her incarcerated father. Those starved to feel something post-pandemic are sure to be jolted back to life by this brilliant memoir. —Steph Buschardt, reviews editor
Brandon Webb & John David Mann (Bantam)
Navy SEAL sniper Finn, who has hitched a ride home from the Persian Gulf aboard the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, turns investigator when several apparent suicides on the massive warship turn out to be the work of a serial killer. Readers will be eager to check out this highly original update on a classic mystery trope.
Pop Song: Adventures in Art and Intimacy
Larissa Pham (Catapult)
Equal parts memoir-in-essays and incisive criticism, Pham’s luminous debut meditates on sex, love, trauma, and heartbreak, reflecting the author’s own personal experiences against that of contemporary art. Offering searing takes on everything from Frank Ocean’s Blonde to Agnes Martin’s minimalist paintings, this is a thrilling cerebral trip into the mind and heart, guided by an exciting literary voice.
Test Gods: Virgin Galactic and the Making of a Modern Astronaut
Nicholas Schmidle (Holt)
New Yorker writer Schmidle offers a brisk, page-turning account of Virgin Galactic’s space travel efforts, brilliantly capturing the company’s tumults and breakthroughs and bringing the passionate cast of characters to life. Good luck putting down this tense tale of daredevilry.
Trejo: My Life of Crime, Redemption, and Hollywood
Danny Trejo with Donal Logue (Atria)
Hollywood’s legendary “bad guy” tells his story in an intimate memoir that’s as unforgettable as the cult movies that made him famous. Trejo, who’s served time in Folsom and San Quentin State Prison, looks back at how he overcame his struggles with crime and addiction and turned them into inspiration for iconic roles alongside actors such as Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. The result is a suspenseful, true account that will have readers riveted.