September is a huge month for YA book lovers. Marie Lu, Tim Federle, Andrew Smith and Ibi Zoboi all have new titles. I'm adding at least 16 books to my TBR list. Here are seven of my top picks.
Nate Expectations by Tim Federle–September 18
It’s no secret I’m a passionate fan of the Nate series. Cue the swooning and the texts to everyone I’ve ever met when I heard there would be a third Nate book. For those of you wondering what the heck a Nate book is, get thee to a bookstore immediately to purchase Better Nate Than Ever and Five, Six, Seven, Nate! Honest, funny, theater kid geekdom.
(Okay, technically the Nate books are middle grade, but Nate's a freshman in Nate Expectations, and there was no way I was writing a post about September books without including Nate.)
Simon & Schuster’s summary: When the news hits that E.T.: The Musical wasn’t nominated for a single Tony Award—not one!—the show closes, leaving Nate both out of luck and out of a job. And while Nate’s cast mates are eager to move on (the boy he understudies already landed a role on a TV show!), Nate knows it’s back to square one, also known as Jankburg, Pennsylvania. Where horror (read: high school) awaits.
Desperate to turn his life from flop to fabulous, Nate takes on a huge freshman English project with his BFF, Libby: he’s going to make a musical out of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations. (What could possibly go…right?) But when Nate’s New York crush ghosts him, and his grades start to slip, he finds the only thing harder than being on Broadway is being a freshman — especially when you’ve got a secret you’re desperate to sing out about.
In addition to the Lambda Literary Award-winning Nate series, Tim Federle penned the fantastic YA book The Great American Whatever. Federle’s also the author of a series of books for alcoholics, I mean alcohol recipe books with a literary twist, including bestsellers Tequila Mockingbird and Gone with the Gin.
If you need a daily laugh, or ten, follow Tim Federle on Twitter.
Pride by Ibi Zoboi–September 18
Here’s a Pride and Prejudice retelling I can totally get behind! Ibi Zoboi, a National Book Award finalist, updates the Jane Austen classic with a mash-up of first love, cultural identity, class and gentrification, all set in Brooklyn with characters of color.
I love writers who aren’t afraid to go there—to the truth, to the things that make us uncomfortable. Ibi Zoboi is one of those authors! Telling the truth and being uncomfortable will help us find our way into a new world.
Zoboi spoke eloquently at the SCBWI L.A. Conference in August as part of the Culture, Identity and Writing: Where do They Intersect? panel. “I’m on the outside looking in,” she said.
Outsider status seems to be a defining trait for writers.
She also shared the joy that came when she included spirituality in her work. This is a topic I’d love to ask her more about. Other wisdom: “Storytellers have a knack for telling other people’s stories.”
Most shocking to me was that it took her 15 years to be published. Which just puts an exclamation point on the necessity of persistence.
Here’s the summary of Pride from publisher Balzer + Bray (Harper Collins):
Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.
When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.
But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.
Wildcard by Marie Lu–September 18
Last year Marie Lu gave us Warcross, an AI thriller shelved as science fiction, but only if you’re not keeping up with technology. Virtual reality is already part of the fabric of our lives, and with it comes both beautiful possibilities and dark web sorcery. Every day, we are one step closer to the near future that Lu imagined.
Summary from G.P. Putnam Son’s Books for Young Reader (Penguin Random House): Emika Chen barely made it out of the Warcross Championships alive. Now that she knows the truth behind Hideo’s new NeuroLink algorithm, she can no longer trust the one person she’s always looked up to, who she once thought was on her side.
Determined to put a stop to Hideo’s grim plans, Emika and the Phoenix Riders band together, only to find a new threat lurking on the neon-lit streets of Tokyo. Someone’s put a bounty on Emika’s head, and her sole chance for survival lies with Zero and his ruthless crew. But Emika soon learns that Zero isn’t all that he seems–and his protection comes at a price.
Caught in a web of betrayal, with the future of free will at risk, how far will Emika go to take down the man she loves?
Check out Marie Lu’s Tumblr.
American Road Trip by Patrick Flores-Scott–September 18
I haven’t read Patrick Flores-Scott before, but American Road Trip seems like a good place to start. Described as a raw, honest YA about two Mexican-American teens on a road trip odyssey to heal their brother’s PTSD following his tour in Iraq, this book sounds intense and real. Qualities I value.
Summary from Christy Ottaviano Books (Henry Holt/Macmillan): With a strong family, the best friend a guy could ask for, and a budding romance with the girl of his dreams, life shows promise for Teodoro “T” Avila. But he takes some hard hits the summer before senior year when his nearly perfect brother, Manny, returns from a tour in Iraq with a devastating case of PTSD. In a desperate effort to save Manny from himself and pull their family back together, T’s fiery sister, Xochitl, hoodwinks her brothers into a cathartic road trip.
Told through T’s honest voice, this is a candid exploration of mental illness, socioeconomic pressures, and the many inescapable highs and lows that come with growing up—including falling in love.
Check out Patrick Flores-Scott’s website.
Black Wings Beating by Alex London–September 25
Adam Silvera says this about Black Wings Beating: “Epic thrills, heart-punching romance, and a marvel of a hero.” I’m a little concerned for my safety since Adam is the king of the gut punch with They Both Die at The End and History is All That You Left Me. I mean, I will never recover from History. So there must be something completely wrong with me that I cannot wait to read Black Wings Beating.
Summary from the publisher Farrar Straus and Giroux (Macmillan): The people of Uztar have long looked to the sky with hope and wonder. Nothing in their world is more revered than the birds of prey and no one more honored than the falconers who call them to their fists.
Brysen strives to be a great falconer—while his twin sister, Kylee, rejects her ancient gifts for the sport and wishes to be free of falconry. She’s nearly made it out, too, but a war is rolling toward their home in the Six Villages, and no bird or falconer will be safe.
Together the twins must journey into the treacherous mountains to trap the Ghost Eagle, the greatest of the Uztari birds and a solitary killer. Brysen goes for the boy he loves and the glory he's long craved, and Kylee to atone for her past and to protect her brother's future. But both are hunted by those who seek one thing: power.
In this first young-adult fantasy novel in a trilogy, Alex London launches a soaring saga about the memories that haunt us, the histories that hunt us, and the bonds of blood between us.
Learn more about the author at his website.
Rabbit & Robot by Andrew Smith–September 25
September seems to be all about new books from some of my favorite male authors because here comes Andrew Smith with Rabbit & Robot, which sounds just as bizarre as his last release, Grasshopper Jungle. Which happens to be one of my all-time favorite novels.
Let’s get right to the summary from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: Cager has been transported to the Tennessee, a giant lunar-cruise ship orbiting the moon that his dad owns, by Billy and Rowan to help him shake his Woz addiction. Meanwhile, Earth, in the midst of thirty simultaneous wars, burns to ash beneath them. And as the robots on board become increasingly wild and cannibalistic, and the Earth becomes a toxic wasteland, the boys wonder if they’ll be stranded alone in space forever.
Follow Andrew Smith’s happening on Facebook.
For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig–September 25
It’s always fun when an author gives a favorite secondary character their own series. Heilig’s done that with Jetta, a fantastic development for pansexual rep! In this new trilogy, Jetta’s surrounded by a queer cast. I couldn’t be more excited!
From publisher Greenwillow (Harper Collins): Jetta’s family is famed as the most talented troupe of shadow players in the land. With Jetta behind the scrim, their puppets seem to move without string or stick—a trade secret, they say. In truth, Jetta can see the souls of the recently departed and bind them to the puppets with her blood.
But ever since the colonizing army conquered their country, the old ways are forbidden, so Jetta must never show, never tell. Her skill and fame are her family’s way to earn a spot aboard the royal ship to Aquitan, where shadow plays are the latest rage, and where rumor has it the Mad Emperor has a spring that cures his ills—and could cure Jetta’s, too. Because seeing spirits is not the only thing that plagues her.
But as rebellion seethes and as Jetta meets a young smuggler, she will face truths and decisions that she never imagined—and safety will never seem so far away.
Follow Heilig on Instagram.
But Wait! There's More!
If only there was a stop-time machine so we’d have all the time in the world for new noves! A few more amazing books debuting this month:
And the Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness, Illustrated by Rovina Cai--September 4
Patrick Ness + fantastic illustrations + upside down tale of Moby Dick= intriguing!
A Room Away From the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma--September 4
A ghost story set in a home for troubled girls deep in the heart of New York City.
Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman--September 11
A mixed race teen struggles to find her way back to her love of music in the wake of her sister’s tragic death.
Dream Country by Shannon Gibney--September 11
Five generations of young people from a single African and American family pursuing an elusive dream of freedom.
Rule by Ellen Goodlett--September 11
Three girls. Three deadly secrets. Only one can wear the crown.
Kens by Raziel Reid--September 18
Heterosexuality is so last season: Kens is the gay Heathers meets Mean Girls, a shocking parody for a whole new generation.
Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton--September 18
Once, a witch made a pact with a devil. The legend says they loved each other, but can the story be trusted at all?
Unstoppable Moses: A Novel by Tyler James Smith--September 25
A seventeen-year-old boy has one week in the aftermath of a disastrous prank to prove to the authorities, and to himself, that he’s not a worthless jerk who belongs in jail.
A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney--September 25
A fresh take on Alice in Wonderland as urban fantasy with a black teen heroine. Yes, please!