When We Make It
by Elisabet Velasquez
Dial Books, 384 pages, $19.99
This empowering debut young adult novel by Elisabet Velasquez will deeply touch your life, likely causing you to laugh and cry out loud. Passionate, stormy, and honest, When We Make It is a coming-of-age story that will move you and leave you rooting for the main character long after you have finished reading. Sarai is a first-generation Puerto Rican eighth-grader who sees the beauty and pain in life with full clarity and without the sentimental idealism that people normally associate with poetic talent. Along with her older sister, she takes you through the pressures of mental illness, sexual assault and toxic masculinity, poverty, and the gentrification of her home in Brooklyn. Openly questioning things around her, along with her Boricua identity, she learns to navigate through her teenage years with determination and braveness. Despite the odds appearing to be stacked against her, Sarai comes out on top, learning to embrace and celebrate herself. This book will tune into your heart and make you feel seen.
Before We Disappear
by Shaun David Hutchinson
Harperteen, 512 pages, $17.99
Jack Nevin is a master of thievery and trickery, and with his consistent supply of stolen tricks, he proves to be a profitable and invaluable assistant to a revered stage magician of the early 1900s, The Enchantress. However, Jack’s pilfering catches up with him and the pair are forced to make a getaway to America. Luckily, they are able to find steady work on the West coast at Seattle’s Alaska–Yukon–Pacific World’s Fair Exposition, which improves their financial outlook, although they are forced to reconcile with the fact that they are not the shining stars of the show. Jack tries to uncover the secrets of this seemingly transcendental performance, but he discovers much more than he expected. He forms a bond with the behind-the-scenes master of tricks, and due to this growing affection, he is forced to choose between his employer, who has given him everything in life so far, and the boy who promises to give him so much in the future. Shaun David Hutchinson’s Before We Disappear is a love story that provides all the twists and turns of a well-crafted heist story. Lovers of historical fiction and fantasy will also enjoy the book and be captivated by its many forms of magic.
Here’s to Us
by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
Quill Tree Books, 480 pages, $19.99
Here’s to Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera is the captivating follow-up to the pair’s romantic bestseller, What If It’s Us. It is a thrilling read on its own, but it’s even better if you have previously enjoyed the first novel. A breezy tale with a tone of optimism, it is a story that wears its heart on its sleeve. Ben has been working on his fantasy manuscript with writing partner and fabulous kisser Mario throughout his first year of college. Arthur has recently returned to New York City for an internship on Broadway, although he is in a perfectly happy long-distance relationship with his boyfriend from his hometown. Yet, sparks fly when Ben and Arthur happen to come into close contact again, reviving old passions. They decide to persevere on their well-trodden, comfortable and separate paths, knowing that things between them didn’t work out the first time around. Little do they realize, however, that the universe seems to have other ideas in mind and paves the way for a series of encounters that make them both question their feelings for each other.
by SJ Sindu
Soho Press, 336 pages, $26.00
Ten-year-old Kalki Sami was born with blue skin and so believes himself to be the reincarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu. Apparently convinced that their blue-skinned son can work miracles and heal the sick, Kalki’s parents opened an ashram in their home state of Tamal Nadu in India so that he can dispense wisdom and cures to trusting pilgrims. However, his failure to cure his aunt causes Kalki to question his parents’ motivation and everything he has ever been told about himself. As tragedy after tragedy befalls his family, Kalki is plagued by worries and self-doubt as he grows toward adulthood and the need to take responsibility for his own thoughts and behaviors. Things become even more complicated when Kalki and his dad go on a sort of world tour to publicize his seemingly miraculous abilities, and a visit to New York that leads to an encounter with a long-lost friend might just serve as the tipping point for Kalki’s independence. SJ Sindu’s Blue-Skinned Gods is a fascinating story of self-discovery that takes in a range of cultures and beliefs not commonly found in contemporary fiction.
The Orphan Witch
by Paige Crutcher
St. Martin’s Griffin, 352 pages, $30.99
Persephone May grew up in the foster care system after being abandoned as a baby. Having been alone for all her life, she wants nothing more than a place where she can truly belong. Unfortunately, her presence seems to be associated with strange occurrences such as levitating objects and weather disturbances, which quickly drive away anyone who might otherwise be willing to include her in their family. As a consequence, even as an adult, Persephone never stays in one place for long, and she certainly never makes friendships or attachments. When yet another uncontrolled incident of power means that she has to leave yet another job and town, Persephone decides to accept an invitation to the mysterious Wile Isle, which might just be offering everything she has ever wanted. However, life on the isle soon proves to be far from uncomplicated, as Persephone finds herself dealing with long-running curses, deeply buried secrets, and deadly family feuds. Paige Crutcher’s The Orphan Witch is magical tale of mystery, intrigue, and the importance of finding your place in the world. It’s a quirky story of good versus evil that is sure to engage readers.