Books We Can’t Wait to Read: Lydia’s YA picks

Happy 2018! I never make official New Year’s resolutions, but every January I tell myself, “Okay, this is definitely the year I’m going to read at least 150 books and keep track of every book I read in this handy reading tracker app/ spreadsheet/ Goodreads/ fancy journal,” and then somehow every December I find myself racking my brain, trying to remember all the amazing books I read and re-read that year. I read a lot, I’m just not very organized about it.

But for real! 2018 is my year, and it is already off to an amazing start for literature as a whole, but especially in young adult and middle grade books. 2018 is so promising, in fact, that I’m splitting my “2018 books I’m excited about” lists into two parts, for YA and middle grade.

This first part, a collection of YA books I’ve read and love or am greatly looking forward to, is a subjective puddle of unbridled and disorganized enthusiasm, with titles listed in order of publication date.

Obviously, this list is based both on my own taste and on the limited publishing catalogs available for 2018 (you’ll see it’s very front-loaded). There are certain things I’m predisposed to like in a book: if there’s a murder at a boarding school, preferable a boarding school that has the potential to be blanketed in a suffocating layer of beautiful, deadly snow, I’m there in a heartbeat. Is the story an inventive take on existing legends, folklore, or religion, such as the Robin Hood tale or West African folklore? I need it.  If the premise just sounds banana-pants crazy and amazingly hilarious—say, a high schooler leading a gang of resurrected teenage girls, or a teen journalist getting kidnapped by reclusive Siberian hermits—I want to have read it yesterday. My biggest soft spot is for real world/slice of life stories of complicated families, positive/realistic portrayals of queer life and love, and books that tackle all-too-real issues in today’s turbulent social climate (which are even better with a side of triumph and indefatigable humor).

Also, if you’re looking for some stellar “adult” fiction and nonfiction recommendations, our Literary Director Julie Wernersbach has a great list of 2018 books to check out.

Happy reading, y’all!


Read It, Loved It, Super-Duper Recommend:


Truly Devious  Maureen Johnson; January 16

From the moment I opened this book, I knew it was for me. The dedication reads: “For everyone who has ever dreamed of finding a body in the library.” How does she know, I whispered, and turned the page.

Johnson’s new book is a clever mystery about an 80-year-old unsolved murder at a progressive self-guided boarding school in remote Vermont, but it’s also a coming-of-age story starring Stevie, an observant true-crime aficionado dealing with imposter syndrome, great ambition, an anxiety disorder, and a modern-day copycat murderer. With the current resurgence in true crime media and interest in criminology, Stevie’s struggle to solve these mysteries—while learning where the line between investigation and invasion is—will resonate with a lot of readers.


The Prince and The Dressmaker  Jen Wang; February 13

Confession: I’ve read this perfect gem of a graphic novel twice and I will re-read it so many more times in the future. This friendship-turned-love-story between an ambitious, brilliant dressmaker and a delightful, sensitive prince who plays with gender expression is sweet, unique, and perfect for Valentine’s day. Wang’s art is fluid and lively and gorgeous, and her deft storytelling enchants as well as avoids the expected. I’m buying another copy the moment this book is published so I can loan it to everyone I know. Happy Valentine’s day, y’all.


Children of Blood and Bone: The Orisha Legacy  Tomi Adeyemi; March 6

Let’s be real: it’s impossible not to judge this book by its gorgeous cover. I’ve had this book on my GIVE IT TO ME list ever since the cover reveal, but even with my expectations set that high, I was not once disappointed. This smartly paced, brilliant fantasy built on West African culture and folklore features immersive world-building and my favorite sort of slow-burn, conflicted romance. Children of Blood and Bone has been collecting rave reviews and deserves every word.


Inkmistress  Audrey Coulthurst; March 6

I adored Coulthurst’s debut last year, Of Fire and Stars, and was so happy to get my hands on her second book, whose story follows Asra, a troubled demi-god and healer fighting to save Ina, the girl she loves, after a risky spell goes horribly awry and Ina sets out to seek revenge against the king. Coulthurst’s second novel is a darker, deadly return to the fantasy world we first saw in her debut and offers the same intricate plotting, fantastic world-building, and original, genuine queer relationships I loved in her first book.


The Astonishing Color of After  Emily X. R. Pan; March 20

This was another book I’d been watching for advance copies of ever since I heard of it, and I’m so glad I read it this early in the year, since I’m definitely going to read it again. Emily X. R. Pan’s lyrical debut is a heartfelt portrait of grief and the haunting magical realism that grows out of loss. Leigh’s story of discovering herself through art, family, and navigating different cultures will stay with you for a long time.


Emergency Contact  Mary H.K. Choi; March 27

This delightfully snarky and unexpectedly soft-hearted modern-day romance has some local excitement for us Texans. Penny is a freshman starting at University of Texas and dealing with all those freshman woes—finding her groove, missing (and not missing) her mom, getting used to her new roommate, and getting involved with her new roommate’s super-cool friend (who the new roommate has made her promise to not date). Choi’s writing is thoughtful and witty, and you can’t help but fall in love with Penny and Sam as the two slowly, carefully unwrap their own hearts over text and try not to wonder what might—or can’t—come next.


Dread Nation  Justina Ireland; April 3

Buckle up, y’all, this is one wild ride from start to finish, and I cannot think of two characters I’d rather accompany on a zombie-infested trek through post-Civil War America than Jane and Katherine, two outstanding students at the prestigious Ms. Preston’s School of Combat for ladies. This fantastical take on the years following the Civil War was partially inspired by Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but takes a fun premise and turns it into powerful allegory for the black American experience through history and the way black lives have been (and still are) valued in American society.



Currently Reading:

People Like Us  Dana Mele; February 27

We’re not yet a month into 2018 and I’m already reading my second Boarding School Murder Mystery novel (and I’m not even sorry). So far, this story has a promising cast of characters, including a bi/pansexual main character, a cyber-puzzle with deadly consequences, the usual backstabbing and toxic gossip, and of course, murder most foul. 2018 is looking like a promising year if we’re already blessed with two stellar, unique examples of this quite specific flavor of book.


The “I’ve never hit pre-order so fast” list (e.g., authors I already adore whose forthcoming books I am desperate to get my hands on):


The Belles  Dhonielle Clayton; February 6

Co-founder of Cake Literary, co-author of the Tiny Pretty Things series, COO of We Need Diverse Books, take no nonsense writer, lauded sensitivity reader, and all around rockstar-with-great-shoes Dhonielle Clayton brings us the opulent WOC-led fantasy of our dreams.



Leah On the Offbeat  Becky Albertalli; April 24

This third installment comes from the author of Simon VS. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and The Upside of Unrequited, and gives us more of the cool, cynical, rockstar we loved in Simon. I can’t waaaaait.




On the Come Up  Angie Thomas; May 1 (no cover art yet)

I read The Hate U Give twice last year, and gave a copy of it to all of my friends. Getting to see Angie Thomas at Austin’s African American Book Festival was one of the highlights of my year, and I can’t wait to read what she’s recently called “the book of my heart”.



Ship It  Britta Lundin; May 1

I’ve followed Britta Lundin on Twitter for a while now so I’m already familiar with how hilarious and nerdy she is, and have been loving her work on this little show called Riverdale (maybe you know it?) Now she’s written a coming of age novel about fandom and the queer teens learning about themselves through fanfiction and fanart and, of course, shipping fan pairings. I wish I could go back in time and hand this book to my teen self, but I’m happy to read it as a grown-up too.


Puddin’  Julie Murphy; May 8

Julie Murphy is back with another wickedly funny and super sweet story featuring hilarious, stereotype defying characters you spend the whole book cheering for. We were so lucky to have  her at the Texas Book Festival and now we’re even luckier she has another book coming out already! If you liked you Dumplin’ and Ramona Blue (and who didn’t!), hit that pre-order button now.



From Twinkle, With Love  Sandhya Menon; May 22

Did you love When Dimple Met Rishi as much as I did? Did you fangirl over Sandya Menon at the Texas Teen Book Festival as hard as I did? Are you as ready for Twinkle and her equally-instagrammable cover as I am? *fans self in anticipation*




A Thousand Beginnings and Endings   Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman (editors); June 26

This anthology of 15 stories re-imagining folklore and mythology from East and South Asia features some of my favorite authors and is edited by two brilliant people whose taste and authority I trust implicitly. I don’t read enough short stories, and I’m so looking forward to diving into this collection.



Finding Yvonne  Brandy Colbert; August 7

We were so lucky to get to host the inimitable Brandy Colbert at the 2017 Texas Book Festival for her dazzling book Little & Lion, and I can’t wait to dive into what promises to be another heartfelt story of beauty and hurt and the sort of honest, complicated truths we learn from real life. Colbert doesn’t give her readers any easy answers and I’m here for it.




Uhhh, That Sounds Awesome (or, books by authors I haven’t read yet but the premise has me hooked):

Love, Hate, and Other Filters  Samira Ahmed; January 16

Let’s Talk About Love  Claire Kann; January 23

The Dangerous Art of Blending In  Angelo Surmelis; January 30

The Hazel Wood  Melissa Albert; Jan 30

This Is Not A Love Letter  Kim Purcell; Jan 30

Winterfolk  Janel Kolby; February 6

After the Shot Drops  Randy Ribay; March 6

Tyler Johnson Was Here  Jay Coles; March 20

Picture Us in the Light  Kelly Loy Gilbert; April 10

The Way You Make Me Feel  Madeline Goo; May 8

Undead Girl Gang  Lily Anderson; May 8

Love and Other Carnivorous Plants  Florence Gonsalves; May 15

Anger Is a Gift  Mark Oshiro May 22


Mariam Sharma Hits the Road  Sheba Karim; June 5

The Bird and the Blade  Megan Bannen; June 5

Dear Rachel Maddow  Adrienne Kisner; June 5

Monday’s Not Coming  Tiffany D. Jackson; June 5

Sometime After Midnight  L. Phillips; June 12

Not The Girls You’re Looking For  Amina Mae Safi; June 19

Notes from My Captivity  Kathy Parks; July 10

I’m Not Missing  Carrie Fountain; July 10

Wrong in All The Right Ways  Tiffany Brownlee; July 17

Heretics Anonymous  Katie Henry; August 7

The Forest Queen  Betsy Cornwell; August 7

Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish  Pablo Cartaya; August 21

In Another Time  Caroline Leech; August 28