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Ballad & Dagger (Outlaw Saints #1)

Daniel José Older (Disney/Riordan)

When Mateo Matisse learns he’s an initiated child of one of the gods of San Madrigal, a free Caribbean island nation that sank into the sea 15 years ago, he’s resistant. But Mateo must embrace his destiny when violence threatens his Brooklyn neighborhood of Little Madrigal. In the Riordan imprint’s first YA offering, an engrossing duology starter, Older explores themes of diaspora, colonialism, and identity in a vibrant, folklore-tinged urban fantasy that’s action-packed and filled with blossoming romance.

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The Ghosts of Rose Hill

R.M. Romero (Peachtree Teen)

When Miami Beach–born violinist Ilana is sent to Prague for the summer, she’s expected to study for the SAT; instead, she begins tending a deserted Jewish cemetery on the hill behind her aunt’s cottage, where she meets—and falls in love with—a ghost named Benjamin. Romero’s layered novel in verse is an intoxicating blend of the contemporary, the folkloric, and the historical, interlacing ghost story and romance in a captivating locale.

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The Honeys

Ryan La Sala (Scholastic)

In a family obsessed with their image, Mars’s gender-fluidity means he’s often excluded from traditions, like attending the prestigious Aspen Conservancy Summer Academy. But when his twin sister Caroline dies under tragic and mysterious circumstances, and it becomes clear to Mars that the academy is connected, he insists on attending in her place. Against the idyllic backdrop of a secluded summer retreat, La Sala blends the season’s heady depths with twisted horror in this tantalizing read.

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I Kissed Shara Wheeler

Casey McQuiston (Wednesday)

McQuiston’s YA debut spins a multifaceted mystery via scavenger hunt as narrated by sardonic bisexual high school senior Chloe Green. When the beautiful and universally beloved Shara Wheeler suddenly kisses Chloe and disappears, Chloe teams up with Shara’s boyfriend, Smith Parker, and Shara’s neighbor, Rory Heron, to find her by puzzling together clues that Shara left behind. Crisp writing, humorous dialogue, and fully realized characters and relationships keep things fresh and genuinely hopeful.

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Love Radio

Ebony LaDelle (Simon & Schuster)

Aspiring author Danielle Ford self-isolates following an incident, until classmate Prince—a Detroit radio relationship expert who has worries of his own—wagers that he can win her love in three dates. With the clock running down on their time together, Dani and Prince find that their romance may be just the thing they need to face their problems head-on. LaDelle’s telling blends comedic banter and poignant connection in a story about two Black teens giving love a chance.

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Our Crooked Hearts

Melissa Albert (Flatiron)

Two parallel story lines converge in unprecedented and terrifying ways in Albert’s dark and gripping contemporary fantasy, which features witchcraft alongside generational secrets and lies. In the present, 17-year-old Ivy grapples with the unsettling events of her everyday life and the realization that there’s more to her mother than meets the eye, while a lens on the past traces Ivy’s mother Dana, then 16, coming into her mysterious and destructive abilities, making for a riveting escapist read.

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