I come bearing gifts of great reading! Here’s a comprehensive guide to young adult speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, horror) being published in May 2021. Up first is a short list of the books I highly recommend, followed by a long list of basically every book being published.
Get your library cards and indie bookstore pre-orders ready, y’all.
June 1, 2021
A Chorus Rises by Bethany C. Morrow (A Song Below Water #2)
Teen influencer Naema Bradshaw has it all: she’s famous, stylish, gorgeous–and she’s an Eloko, a charismatic person gifted with a melody that people adore. Everyone loves her–until she’s cast as the villain who exposed a Siren to the whole world.
Dragged by the media, and canceled by her fans, no one understands her side: not her boyfriend, not her friends, not even her fellow Eloko. Villified by those closest to her, Naema heads to the Southwest where she is determined to stage a comeback… to her family, her real self, and the truth about her magic. What she finds is a new community in a flourishing group of online fans who support her.
At first, it feels like it used to–the fandom, the adoration, the community that takes her side–but when her online advocates start targeting other Black girls, Naema will realize that–for Black girls like her–even the privilege of fame has its limits. And only Naema can discover the true purpose of her power, and how to use it. – Tor Teen
The Darkness Outside Us by Eliot Schrefer
Two boys, alone in space. Sworn enemies sent on the same rescue mission.
Ambrose wakes up on the Coordinated Endeavor with no memory of a launch. There’s more that doesn’t add up: evidence indicates strangers have been on board, the ship’s operating system is voiced by his mother, and his handsome, brooding shipmate has barricaded himself away. But nothing will stop Ambrose from making his mission succeed–not when he’s rescuing his own sister.
In order to survive the ship’s secrets, Ambrose and Kodiak will need to work together and learn to trust each other . . . especially once they discover what they are truly up against. Love might be the only way to survive. – Katherine Tegen Books
The Witch King by H.E. Edgmon (The Witch King #1)
In Asalin, fae rule and witches like Wyatt Croft…don’t. Wyatt’s betrothal to his best friend, fae prince Emyr North, was supposed to change that. But when Wyatt lost control of his magic one devastating night, he fled to the human world.
Now a coldly distant Emyr has hunted him down. Despite transgender Wyatt’s newfound identity and troubling past, Emyr has no intention of dissolving their engagement. In fact, he claims they must marry now or risk losing the throne. Jaded, Wyatt strikes a deal with the enemy, hoping to escape Asalin forever. But as he gets to know Emyr, Wyatt realizes the boy he once loved may still exist. And as the witches face worsening conditions, he must decide once and for all what’s more important–his people or his freedom. – Inkyard Press
June 8, 2021
Fire with Fire by Destiny Soria
Dani and Eden Rivera were both born to kill dragons, but the sisters couldn’t be more different. For Dani, dragon slaying takes a back seat to normal high school life, while Eden prioritizes training above everything else. Yet they both agree on one thing: it’s kill or be killed where dragons are concerned.
Until Dani comes face-to-face with one and forges a rare and magical bond with him. As she gets to know Nox, she realizes that everything she thought she knew about dragons is wrong. With Dani lost to the dragons, Eden turns to mysterious and alluring sorcerers to help save her sister. Now on opposite sides of the conflict, each sister will do whatever it takes to save the other. But the two are playing with magic that is more dangerous than they know, and there is another, more powerful enemy waiting for them both in the shadows. – HMH Books for Young Readers
Girls at the Edge of the World by Laura Brooke Robson (Untitled #1)
In a world bound for an epic flood, only a chosen few are guaranteed safe passage into the new world once the waters recede. The Kostrovian royal court will be saved, of course, along with their guards. But the fate of the court’s Royal Flyers, a lauded fleet of aerial silk performers, is less certain. Hell-bent on survival, Principal Flyer, Natasha Koskinen, will do anything to save the flyers, who are the only family she’s ever known. Even if anything means molding herself into the type of girl who could be courted by Prince Nikolai. But unbeknownst to Natasha, her newest recruit, Ella Neves, is driven less by her desire to survive the floods than her thirst for revenge. And Ella’s mission could put everything Natasha has worked for in peril.
As the oceans rise, so too does an undeniable spark between the two flyers. With the end of the world looming, and dark secrets about the Kostrovian court coming to light, Ella and Natasha can either give in to despair . . . or find a new reason to live. – Dial Books
Of Princes and Promises by Sandhya Menon (St. Rosetta’s Academy #2)
Caterina LaValle is determined to show she’s still the queen of St. Rosetta’s Academy. Sure, her crown may be slightly askew after her ex-boyfriend, Alaric, cheated on her, but she’s a LaValle. She’ll find a way to march right back in there, her hands clutching the strings to the whole puppet show. This time, she’s going to be untouchable.
Rahul Chopra knows that moment he shared with Caterina LaValle at the winter formal meant something. Surely she feels it, too. He’s a little uncertain how someone like him (socially inept to a point way past “adorkable”) could fit into her world, but he’s loved Caterina for years. He knows they’ll find a way.
When Caterina finds out Alaric is taking a supermodel to the upcoming gala, she knows she cannot arrive without the perfect date. But the thought of taking another superficial St. R’s boy exhausts her. The solution? Sweet-but-clueless Rahul Chopra and a mysterious pot of hair gel with the power to alter the wearer into whatever his heart desires.
When Rahul tries it, he transforms instantly into RC–debonair, handsome, and charming. But transformation comes with a price: As Rahul enjoys his new social standing, the line between his two personas begins to blur. Will he give up everything, including Caterina, to remain RC? Or will this unlikely pair find their way back to each other? – Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
June 15, 2021
Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury (Blood Like Magic #1)
After years of waiting for her Calling–a trial every witch must pass in order to come into their powers–the one thing Voya Thomas didn’t expect was to fail. When Voya’s ancestor gives her an unprecedented second chance to complete her Calling, she agrees–and then is horrified when her task is to kill her first love. And this time, failure means every Thomas witch will be stripped of their magic.
Voya is determined to save her family’s magic no matter the cost. The problem is, Voya has never been in love, so for her to succeed, she’ll first have to find the perfect guy–and fast. Fortunately, a genetic matchmaking program has just hit the market. Her plan is to join the program, fall in love, and complete her task before the deadline. What she doesn’t count on is being paired with the infuriating Luc–how can she fall in love with a guy who seemingly wants nothing to do with her?
With mounting pressure from her family, Voya is caught between her morality and her duty to her bloodline. If she wants to save their heritage and Luc, she’ll have to find something her ancestor wants more than blood. And in witchcraft, blood is everything. – Margaret K. McElderry Books
Broken Web by Lori M. Lee (Shamanborn #2)
The Soulless is free from his centuries-long imprisonment. Now, he lurks in the Dead Wood recovering his strength, while Sirscha and her allies journey east to the shaman empire of Nuvalyn. Everyone believes she is a soulguide–a savior–but Sirscha knows the truth. She’s a monster, a soulrender like the Soulless, and if anyone discovers the truth, she’ll be executed.
But there’s nothing Sirscha won’t risk to stop the shaman responsible for the rot that’s killing her best friend. While the Soulless is formidable, like all shamans, his magic must be channeled through a familiar. If Sirscha can discover what–or who–that is, she might be able to cut him off from his power.
With Queen Meilyr bent on destroying the magical kingdoms, Sirscha finds herself caught between a war brewing in the east and the Soulless waiting in the west. She should be trying to unite what peoples she can to face their common enemies, but instead, her hunt for clues about the Soulless leads to a grim discovery, forcing Sirscha to question who her enemies really are. – Page Street Kids
Sisters of the Snake by Sasha Nanua, Sarena Nanua (Ria & Rani #1)
Princess Rani longs for a chance to escape her gilded cage and prove herself. Ria is a street urchin, stealing just to keep herself alive.
When these two lives collide, everything turns on its head: because Ria and Rani, orphan and royal, are unmistakably identical.
A deal is struck to switch places–but danger lurks in both worlds, and to save their home, thief and princess must work together. Or watch it all fall into ruin. – HarperTeen
June 22, 2021
Rising Like a Storm by Tanaz Bhathena (The Wrath of Ambar #2)
With King Lohar dead and a usurper queen in power, Gul and Cavas face a new tyrannical government that is bent on killing them both. Their roles in King Lohar’s death have not gone unnoticed, and the new queen is out for blood. What she doesn’t know is that Gul and Cavas have a connection that runs deeper than romance, and together, they just might have the strength and magic to end her for good.
Then a grave mistake ends with Cavas taken prisoner by the government. Gul must train an army of warriors alone. With alliances shifting and the thirst for vengeance growing, the fate of Ambar seems ever more uncertain. It will take every ounce of strength, love, and sacrifice for Gul and Cavas to reach their final goal–and build a more just world than they’ve ever known. – Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
The Lady or the Lion by Aamna Qureshi (Marghazar Trials #1)
Once there was a princess forced to choose a fate for her lover-to a future in the arms of a beautiful lady, or to death in the mouth of a lion? But what came first was the fate she would choose for herself.
As crown princess of Marghazar, Durkhanai Miangul will do anything to protect her people and her land. When her grandfather, the Badshah, is blamed for a deadly assault on the summit of neighboring leaders, the tribes call for his head. To assuage cries for war, the Badshah opens Marghazar’s gates to foreigners for the first time in centuries, in a sign of good faith. Enter Ambassador Asfandyar Afridi, a wry foreigner who admits outright that he is a spy. Stubborn, proud, and suspicious of foreigners, Durkhanai does not appreciate that he won’t bow to her every whim and instead talks circles around her.
And yet, she has to make him her ally to expose those truly responsible for the attack as more ambassadors from neighboring tribal districts arrive at court, each one of them with their own agenda and reasons to hide the truth.When a mysterious illness spreads through the village and the imperialists push hard on her borders, Durkhanai must sort through the ever shifting loyalties at court and her growing feelings for Asfandyar. Will she be able to leave the antics of a spoiled princess behind and become what her people need-a queen? – CamCat Books
June 29, 2021
A War of Swallowed Stars by Sangu Mandanna (The Celestial Trilogy #3)
A prince without his kingdom.
A kingdom without its princess.
The destruction of the stars themselves.
War is destroying the galaxy. Esmae has vanished without a trace. A terrifying, ravenous beast is devouring the stars one by one. Titania is offered a gift that may well be a curse. Alexi, the exiled prince, is asked to pay a heavy price for his mistakes. And far, far away, on a dark, mysterious planet, a sleeping god stirs awake.
War or family.
Pride or peace.
As the end of the world draws ever closer, Esmae and Alexi must decide how far they’ll go to win–and who they’ll sacrifice along the way. – Sky Pony
Eat Your Heart Out by Kelly deVos
Vivian Ellenshaw is fat, but she knows she doesn’t need to lose weight, so she’s none too happy to find herself forced into a weight-loss camp’s van with her ex-best friend, Allie, a meathead jock who can barely drive, and the camp owner’s snobby son. And when they arrive at Camp Featherlite at the start of the worst blizzard in the history of Flagstaff, Arizona, it’s clear that something isn’t right.
Vee barely has a chance to meet the other members of her pod, all who seem as unhappy to be at Featherlite as she does, when a camper goes missing down by the lake. Then she spots something horrifying outside in the snow. Something…that isn’t human. Plus, the camp’s supposed miracle cure for obesity just seems fishy, and Vee and her fellow campers know they don’t need to be cured. Of anything.
Even worse, it’s not long before Camp Featherlite’s luxurious bungalows are totally overrun with zombies. What starts out as a mission to unravel the camp’s secrets turns into a desperate fight for survival–and not all of the Featherlite campers will make it out alive.
A satirical blend of horror, body positivity, and humor, Kelly deVos’s witty, biting novel proves that everyone deserves to feel validated, and taking down the evil enterprise determined to dehumanize you is a good place to start. – Razorbill
Gearbreakers by Zoe Hana Mikuta (Gearbreakers #1)
The shadow of Godolia’s tyrannical rule is spreading, aided by their giant mechanized weapons known as Windups. War and oppression are everyday constants for the people of the Badlands, who live under the thumb of their cruel Godolia overlords.
Eris Shindanai is a Gearbreaker, a brash young rebel who specializes in taking down Windups from the inside. When one of her missions goes awry and she finds herself in a Godolia prison, Eris meets Sona Steelcrest, a cybernetically enhanced Windup pilot. At first Eris sees Sona as her mortal enemy, but Sona has a secret: She has intentionally infiltrated the Windup program to destroy Godolia from within.
As the clock ticks down to their deadliest mission yet, a direct attack to end Godolia’s reign once and for all, Eris and Sona grow closer–as comrades, friends, and perhaps something more… – Feiwel & Friends
The Chariot at Dusk by Swati Teerdhala (The Tiger at Midnight Trilogy #3)
Esha is reeling from Kunal’s betrayal, but she has a kingdom to rule from behind a thin smokescreen–pretending to be Princess Reha while she sends her most trusted soldiers to collect Reha and Kunal by any means necessary. Traitors, after all, must be punished.
But the Yavar are attacking from every front–tracking down Kunal and Reha in the remote mountains, kidnapping Harun–in search of legendary artifacts that will give them the power to break the precarious janma bond and release the destructive magic back into the lands.
Now that the race is on to find the missing artifacts, Esha must put aside her rage and work with Kunal again–but can she find the strength to forgive him, or will the Viper have her revenge at any cost? – Katherine Tegen Books
This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron
Briseis has a gift: she can grow plants from tiny seeds to rich blooms with a single touch.
When Briseis’s aunt dies and wills her a dilapidated estate in rural New York, Bri and her parents decide to leave Brooklyn behind for the summer. Hopefully there, surrounded by plants and flowers, Bri will finally learn to control her gift. But their new home is sinister in ways they could never have imagined–it comes with a specific set of instructions, an old-school apothecary, and a walled garden filled with the deadliest botanicals in the world that can only be entered by those who share Bri’s unique family lineage.
When strangers begin to arrive on their doorstep, asking for tinctures and elixirs, Bri learns she has a surprising talent for creating them. One of the visitors is Marie, a mysterious young woman who Bri befriends, only to find that Marie is keeping dark secrets about the history of the estate and its surrounding community. There is more to Bri’s sudden inheritance than she could have imagined, and she is determined to uncover it . . . until a nefarious group comes after her in search of a rare and dangerous immortality elixir. Up against a centuries-old curse and the deadliest plant on earth, Bri must harness her gift to protect herself and her family. – Bloomsbury YA
June 1, 2021
Curse of the Specter Queen by Jenny Elder Moke (Samantha Knox #1)
To stop them, Sam must solve a deviously complex cipher – one that will lead her on a treasure hunt to discover the ancient relic at the heart of the ritual: a bowl carved from the tree of life. Will she find the bowl and stop the curse of the Specter Queen, or will the ancient order bring about the end of the world? – Disney-Hyperion
Grace and Glory by Jennifer L. Armentrout (The Harbinger #3)
Trinity Marrow has lost the battle and her beloved Protector. Even with both demons and Wardens on her side, Trin may not win the war against the Harbinger. – Inkyard Press
The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin
For centuries, witches have maintained the climate, but now their control is faltering as the atmosphere becomes more erratic; the storms, more destructive. All hope lies with Clara, a once-in-a-generation Everwitch whose magic is tied to every season. – Sourcebooks Fire
Strange Creatures by Phoebe North
But as Annie searches for answers and finds a new relationship with a girl she did not expect, she makes startling discoveries about her brother’s disappearance–and has to decide how much of herself she’s willing to give up in order to keep hope alive. – Balzer + Bray
The Coming Storm by Regina M. Hansen
Beet is determined to find out what happened to her beloved cousin, and to prevent the same fate from befalling the handsome new boy in town who is winning her heart, whether she wants him to or not. Yet the sea always exacts a price. – Atheneum Books for Young Readers
June 8, 2021
All Our Hidden Gifts by Caroline O’Donoghue
Maeve’s strangely astute tarot readings make her the talk of the school, until a classmate draws a chilling and unfamiliar card–and then disappears. – Walker Books US
Daughter of Sparta by Claire M. Andrews
In this thrilling reimagining of ancient Greek mythology, a headstrong girl does whatever it takes to rise up and become the most powerful fighter her people have ever seen. – Jimmy Patterson
Seasons of Chaos by Elle Cosimano (Seasons of Chaos #1)
As immortal Seasons, Jack and Fleur wielded powerful magic in their roles as a Winter and a Spring. Yet there wasn’t magic strong enough to keep them apart, and they risked everything for their love, for the freedom to live their lives as they choose–together. – HarperTeen
After Sarah and Dani come across another ghost haunted by her own brutal murder, they set out to bring peace and safety to spirits like her. But when an old rival reenters Dani’s life, their unexpected friendship gives Dani a strange new feeling of belonging. As Dani starts to find his place in the living world, he’ll need to let go of his ghosts. – Bloomsbury YA
From thief to future queen, Nor’s story has only just begun. Attacks from the fay force Nor to question her friendship with Pel, while preparing for her life as a queen makes Nor wonder if this is the life she truly wants to lead. – Camcat Publishing
June 15, 2021
The Cruelest Mercy by Natalie Mae (The Kinder Poison #2)
After surviving the Crossing, Zahru has sworn off adventures. While crown prince Jet navigates the looming threat of war, she’s content to simply figure out what the future holds for them. But they’re dealt a devastating blow when prince Kasta returns with a shocking claim: he’s the true winner of the Crossing and the rightful heir, and he bears the gods’ mark as proof. Even more surprising–he’s not the only one. – Razorbill
June 22, 2021
A Season of Sinister Dreams by Tracy Banghart
Thrown together at court, Evra and Annalise find that they have the same goal: to protect their kingdom from the powerful men who are slowly destroying it. But neither is quick to trust the other–Evra’s visions suggest a threat to royal rule, and Annalise worries that her darkest secrets will be revealed. Their magic at odds, the young women circle each other, until the truth must come out. – Little Brown & Co
My Contrary Mary by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows (Mary #1)
Welcome to Renaissance France, a place of poison and plots, of beauties and beasts, of mice and . . . queens? – HarperTeen
Witchshadow by Susan Dennard (The Witchlands #4)
As villains from legend reawaken across the Witchlands, only the mythical Cahr Awen can stop the gathering war. Iseult could embrace this power and heal the land, but first she must choose on which side of the shadows her destiny will lie. – Tor Teen
June 29, 2021
Room Service by Maren Stoffels
A fancy hotel + no parents = party time for four friends celebrating a birthday weekend. But when an uninvited party guest seeking revenge turns up, the fun quickly turns into a nightmare. – Underlined