I come bearing gifts of great reading! Here’s a comprehensive guide to young adult speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, horror) being published in October 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.
October 5, 2021
The City Beautiful by Aden Polydoros – Inkyard Press
Chicago, 1893. For Alter Rosen, this is the land of opportunity, and he dreams of the day he’ll have enough money to bring his mother and sisters to America, freeing them from the oppression they face in his native Romania.
But when Alter’s best friend, Yakov, becomes the latest victim in a long line of murdered Jewish boys, his dream begins to slip away. While the rest of the city is busy celebrating the World’s Fair, Alter is now living a nightmare: possessed by Yakov’s dybbuk, he is plunged into a world of corruption and deceit, and thrown back into the arms of a dangerous boy from his past. A boy who means more to Alter than anyone knows.
Now, with only days to spare until the dybbuk takes over Alter’s body completely, the two boys must race to track down the killer–before the killer claims them next.
When Night Breaks by Janella Angeles (Kingdom of Cards #2) – Wednesday Books
The competition has come to a disastrous end, and Daron Demarco’s fall from grace is front-page news. But little matters to him beyond Kallia, the contestant he fell for who is now missing and in the hands of a dangerous magician. Daron is willing to do whatever it takes to find her. Even if it means unearthing secrets that lead him on a treacherous journey, risking more than his life and with no promise of return.
After falling through the mirror, Kallia has never felt more lost, mourning everything she left behind and the boy she can’t seem to forget. Only Jack, the magician who has all the answers but can’t be trusted, remains at her side. Together, they must navigate a dazzling world where mirrors show memories and illusions shadow every corner, ruled by a powerful showman who’s been waiting for Kallia to finally cross his stage. But beneath the glamour of dueling headliners and never-ending revelry, a sinister force falls like night over everyone, with the dark promise of more–more power beyond Kallia’s wildest imagination, and at a devastating cost.
The truth will come out, a kingdom must fall, hearts will collide.
And the show must finally come to an end.
October 12, 2021
Black Was the Ink by Michelle Coles – Tu Books
Malcolm Williams hasn’t been okay for a while. He’s angry and despondent and feels like nothing good ever happens for teens like him in D.C. All he wants is to be left alone in his room for the summer to draw or play video games–but no such luck. With growing violence in his neighborhood, his mother ships him off to his father’s family farm in Mississippi, and Malcolm is anything but pleased.
A few days after his arrival, his great-aunt tells him that the State is acquiring the farm to widen a highway. It’s not news Malcolm is concerned about, but someone plans to make it his concern. One minute Malcolm is drawing in the farmhouse attic, and the next he’s looking through the eyes of his ancestor Cedric Johnson in 1866.
As Cedric, Malcolm meets the real-life Black statesmen who fought for change during the Reconstruction era: Hiram Revels, Robert Smalls, and other leaders who made American history. But even after witnessing their bravery, Malcolm’s faith in his own future remains shaky, particularly since he knows that the gains these statesmen made were almost immediately stripped away. If those great men couldn’t completely succeed, why should he try?
Malcolm must decide which path to take. Can Cedric’s experiences help him construct a better future? Or will he resign himself to resentments and defeat?
Dragonblood Ring by Amparo Ortiz (Blazewrath Games #2) – Page Street Kids
Playing in the Blazewrath World Cup with Team Puerto Rico and the Sol de Noche
dragons had been Lana Torres’s dream come true–until it turned into a nightmare. To rid
the world of the dragon supremacists, Lana and her friends had to cancel the games forever.
Without the sport that brought them together, the whole team returns to Puerto Rico to
recover. But rest isn’t in the cards. Someone is kidnapping dragons and has set their sights on
the Sol de Noches.
To keep their dragons safe, Team Puerto Rico has to take down an underground cabal of evil
magic users who are fighting stolen dragons to the death. But even if they join forces with
Blazewrath-superstar-turned-international-fugitive Takeshi Endo, will they be able to
stop the most powerful witch the world has ever seen?
The Heartbreak Bakery by A. R. Capetta – Candlewick Press
Syd (no pronouns, please) has always dealt with big, hard-to-talk-about things by baking. Being dumped is no different, except now Syd is baking at the Proud Muffin, a queer bakery and community space in Austin. And everyone who eats Syd’s breakup brownies . . . breaks up. Even Vin and Alec, who own the Proud Muffin. And their breakup might take the bakery down with it. Being dumped is one thing; causing ripples of queer heartbreak through the community is another. But the cute bike delivery person, Harley (he or they, check the pronoun pin, it’s probably on the messenger bag), believes Syd about the magic baking. And Harley believes Syd’s magical baking can fix things, too–one recipe at a time.
Jade Fire Gold by June C.L. Tan – HarperTeen
In an empire on the brink of war . . .
Ahn is no one, with no past and no family.
Altan is a lost heir, his future stolen away as a child.
When they meet, Altan sees in Ahn a path to reclaiming the throne. Ahn sees a way to finally unlock her past and understand her lethal magical abilities.
But they may have to pay a far deadlier price than either could have imagined.
A stunning homage to the Xianxia novel with dangerous magic, fast-paced action, and a delightful romance, Jade Fire Gold isn’t one to miss!
Thronebreakers by Rebecca Coffindaffer (Crownchasers #2) – HarperTeen
Alyssa Farshot never wanted to rule the empire. But to honor her uncle’s dying wish, she participated in the crownchase, a race across the empire’s 1,001 planets to find the royal seal and win the throne. Alyssa tried to help her friend, Coy, win the crownchase, but just as victory was within their grasp, Edgar Voles killed Coy–and claimed the seal for himself.
Broken-hearted over her friend’s death, Alyssa is hell-bent on revenge. But Edgar is well protected in the kingship. Alyssa will have to rally rivals, friends, and foes from across the empire to take him down and change the course of the galaxy.
October 19, 2021
City of Shattered Light by Claire Winn – North Star Editions
As darkness closes in on the city of shattered light, an heiress and an outlaw must decide whether to fend for themselves or fight for each other.
As heiress to a powerful tech empire, seventeen-year-old Asa Almeida strives to prove she’s more than her manipulative father’s shadow. But when he uploads her rebellious sister’s mind to an experimental brain, Asa will do anything to save her sister from reprogramming–including fleeing her predetermined future with her sister’s digitized mind in tow. With a bounty on her head and a rogue AI hunting her, Asa’s getaway ship crash-lands in the worst possible place: the neon-drenched outlaw paradise, Requiem.
Gunslinging smuggler Riven Hawthorne is determined to claw her way up Requiem’s underworld hierarchy. A runaway rich girl is exactly the bounty Riven needs–until a nasty computer virus spreads in Asa’s wake, causing a citywide blackout and tech quarantine. To get the payout for Asa and save Requiem from the monster in its circuits, Riven must team up with her captive.
Riven breaks skulls the way Asa breaks circuits, but their opponent is unlike anything they’ve ever seen. The AI exploits the girls’ darkest memories and deepest secrets, threatening to shatter the fragile alliance they’re both depending on. As one of Requiem’s 154-hour nights grows darker, the girls must decide whether to fend for themselves or fight for each other before Riven’s city and Asa’s sister are snuffed out forever.
Hunting by Stars by Cherie Dimaline (The Marrow Thieves #2) – Amulet Books
Years ago, when plagues and natural disasters killed millions of people, much of the world stopped dreaming. Without dreams, people are haunted, sick, mad, unable to rebuild. The government soon finds that the Indigenous people of North America have retained their dreams, an ability rumored to be housed in the very marrow of their bones. Soon, residential schools pop up–or are re-opened–across the land to bring in the dreamers and harvest their dreams.
Seventeen-year-old French lost his family to these schools and has spent the years since heading north with his new found family: a group of other dreamers, who, like him, are trying to build and thrive as a community. But then French wakes up in a pitch-black room, locked in and alone for the first time in years, and he knows immediately where he is–and what it will take to escape.
Meanwhile, out in the world, his found family searches for him and dodges new dangers–school Recruiters, a blood cult, even the land itself. When their paths finally collide, French must decide how far he is willing to go–and how many loved ones is he willing to betray–in order to survive. This engrossing, action-packed, deftly-drawn novel expands on the world of Cherie Dimaline’s award-winning The Marrow Thieves, and it will haunt readers long after they’ve turned the final page.
Little Thieves by Margaret Owen – Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Vanja Schmidt knows that no gift is freely given, not even a mother’s love–and she’s on the hook for one hell of a debt. Vanja, the adopted goddaughter of Death and Fortune, was Princess Gisele’s dutiful servant up until a year ago. That was when Vanja’s otherworldly mothers demanded a terrible price for their care, and Vanja decided to steal her future back… by stealing Gisele’s life for herself.
The real Gisele is left a penniless nobody while Vanja uses an enchanted string of pearls to take her place. Now, Vanja leads a lonely but lucrative double life as princess and jewel thief, charming nobility while emptying their coffers to fund her great escape. Then, one heist away from freedom, Vanja crosses the wrong god and is cursed to an untimely end: turning into jewels, stone by stone, for her greed.
Vanja has just two weeks to figure out how to break her curse and make her getaway. And with a feral guardian half-god, Gisele’s sinister fiancé, and an overeager junior detective on Vanja’s tail, she’ll have to pull the biggest grift yet to save her own life.
Margaret Owen, author of The Merciful Crow series, crafts a delightfully irreverent retelling of “The Goose Girl” about stolen lives, thorny truths, and the wicked girls at the heart of both.
October 26, 2021
Tink and Wendy by Kelly Ann Jacobson – Three Rooms Press
What happens when Tinker Bell is in love with both Peter Pan and Wendy? In this sparkling re-imagining of Peter Pan, Peter and Wendy’s granddaughter Hope Darling finds the reclusive Tinker Bell squatting at the Darling mansion in order to care for the graves of her two lost friends after a love triangle gone awry. As Hope wins the fairy’s trust, Tink tells her the truth about Wendy and Peter–and her own role in their ultimate fate. Told in three alternating perspectives–past, present, and excerpts from a book called Neverland: A History written by Tink’s own fairy godmother–this queer adaptation is for anyone who has ever wondered if there might have been more to the story of Tinker Bell and the rest of the Peter Pan legend.
We Light Up the Sky by Lilliam Rivera – Bloomsbury YA
Pedro, Luna, and Rafa may attend Fairfax High School together in Los Angeles, but they run in separate spheres. Pedro is often told that he’s “too much” and seeks refuge from his home life in a local drag bar. Luna is pretending to go along with the popular crowd but is still grieving the unexpected passing of her beloved cousin Tasha. Then there’s Rafa, the quiet new kid who is hiding the fact that his family is homeless.
But Pedro, Luna, and Rafa find themselves thrown together when an extraterrestrial visitor lands in their city and takes the form of Luna’s cousin Tasha. As the Visitor causes destruction wherever it goes, the three teens struggle to survive and warn others of what’s coming–because this Visitor is only the first of many. But who is their true enemy–this alien, or their fellow humans?
October 5, 2021
Briarheart by Mercedes Lackey – Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Soon, Miriam is charged with being trained in both magic and combat to act as chief protector to her sister. But shadowy threats are moving closer and closer to their kingdom, and Miriam’s dark power may not be enough to save everyone she loves, let alone herself.
Crossbones by Kimberly Vale – Wattpad Books
Csilla. Kane. Lorelei. Each on a mission. The sea, however, has other plans. Dark tides are rising, and if they aren’t careful, they’ll surely drown.
I’m with the Banned by Marlene Perez (Afterlife #2) – Entangled: Teen
I never wanted to be a vampire queen.
Kingdom of the Cursed by Kerri Maniscalco (Kingdom of the Wicked #2) – Jimmy Patterson
One sister. Two sinful princes. Infinite deception with a side of revenge . . . Welcome to Hell.
Luminous by Mara Rutherford – Inkyard Press
Liora has spent her life in hiding, knowing discovery could mean falling prey to the king’s warlock, Darius, who uses mages’ magic to grow his own power.
The Rot by Siri Pettersen (Ravneringene #2) – Arctis
She has no identity. No family. No money. But the fate of the world rests in her hands.
Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson (Vespertine #1 – Margaret K. McElderry Books
The dead of Loraille do not rest.
Vial of Tears by Cristin Bishara – Holiday House
Two sisters become trapped in the underworld–and in the machinations of deities, shapeshifters, and ghouls–in this lush and dangerous Phoenician mythology-inspired fantasy.
October 12, 2021
Any Sign of Life by Rae Carson – Greenwillow Books
As she struggles with her new reality, Paige learns that the apocalypse did not happen by accident. And that there are worse things than being alone.
Stalked by monsters in the woods and her past, Anora finds safety in the quiet comforts of her small town life.
The Delusionist by Don Calame – Candlewick Press
Quinn’s illusions are as good as those in any Vegas act–but can he win a spot at a prestigious magic camp despite an upstaging partner, a cute rival, and a con-artist mentor?
The Gilded Cage by Lynette Noni (The Prison Healer #2) – Clarion Books
To survive this time, she’ll have to navigate a complicated web of lies before both sides of the battle turn against her and she loses everything.
The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker (The Keeper of Night #1) – Inkyard Press
A girl of two worlds, accepted by none… A half Reaper, half Shinigami soul collector seeks her destiny in this haunting and compulsively readable dark fantasy duology set in 1890s Japan.
October 19, 2021
The Color of Dragons by R.A. Salvatore & Erika Lewis – HarperTeen
Neither has any idea of the destiny that they both carry, or that their meeting will set off a chain of events that will alter every aspect of the life they know–and all of history thereafter.
The Shattered Castle by Jennifer A. Nielsen (Ascendance #5) – Scholastic Press
This former False Prince will need his best tricks and many allies at his side to hold Carthya together.
That Dark Infinity by Kate Pentecost – Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Cursed with this cycle of death and resurrection, the Ankou wants only to find the final rest that has been prophesied for him, no matter the cost.
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