The spring and summer are stuffed with exciting new releases for young adult readers. Who better to ask for a reading recommendation than a young adult? We had two Seattle-area teenagers from the TeenTix Newsroom pick and review a handful of the season’s biggest releases — here’s what they thought.
“The Cost of Knowing” by Brittney Morris (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, $18.99). Fresh off the heels of her acclaimed novel “SLAY,” Morris returns with a story about Alex Rufus, a boy whose psychic powers enable him to foresee the death of his younger brother. This vision forces Alex to contemplate what lengths he would go to in order to support his family members. Some themes in the book — especially the exploration of manhood — felt a bit childish, especially in contrast with conversations about sex and death, making for a novel slightly uneven in tone and intended audience. While “The Cost of Knowing” grapples with tragedy and racism, it also centers the beauty of joyous, close-knit familial connections.
“The Ones We’re Meant to Find” by Joan He (Roaring Brook Press, $18.99, out May 4). First-class world-building abounds in He’s second novel, an apocalyptic glimpse into a future where climate change wreaks havoc on civilization. The book features two seemingly parallel stories: Celia is stuck on a deserted island and struggling to get back to her family; meanwhile, her sister Kasey is attempting to unravel the story behind Celia’s disappearance. As secrets emerge and society crumbles, “The Ones We’re Meant to Find” explores love, loss and the cost of a better future. Most importantly, the book does not dumb itself down for a young adult audience. He brings up philosophical questions — Does our past define our present? Who deserves to be saved? — and allows the reader to ponder these ideas for themselves.
“Firekeeper’s Daughter” by Angeline Boulley (Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, $18.99). Boulley’s action-packed debut novel follows Daunis Fontaine, a young Ojibwe girl who gets drawn into an FBI investigation after she witnesses the murder of her best friend. Daunis navigates her newfound role as an undercover informant, her budding attraction to her brother’s hockey teammate and her tribal heritage. Amid the novel’s twists and turns, she discovers the importance of tradition and the true nature of love. While not every section of the nearly 500-page novel seemed necessary, Boulley does an excellent job of educating readers about Ojibwe culture while keeping the novel engaging for younger audiences.
— Reviews by Anya Shukla
“Cool for the Summer” by Dahlia Adler (Wednesday Books, $18.99, out May 11). Adler highlights the teen bisexual experience in “Cool for the Summer,” a delightful, lighthearted romantic comedy. The main character, Lara, is likable and relatable without being overly quirky or depressingly dull. Alongside Lara is a diverse cast of side characters; the inclusion of aromantic-asexual and nonbinary characters is commendable, although it sometimes borders on tokenism. Both of the love interests — Jasmine, an enigmatic, fashionable photographer, and Chase, a sweet but boring football player — were likable even if the endgame couple was obvious. Reading a low-stakes YA novel set outside pandemic times, when the biggest concerns are who to date and what to wear to prom, was incredibly refreshing. This book is not here to break your heart, it’s here to make you laugh, and that’s exactly what many people need right now.
“Witches Steeped in Gold” by Ciannon Smart (HarperTeen, $18.99). If you’re looking for a unique high fantasy adventure, “Witches Steeped in Gold” is the book for you. With tough, independent female protagonists and an interesting magic system centered on gold conduits and warring factions, Smart uses Jamaican folklore and culture to craft a rich, compelling fantasy world. It’s almost too rich at times; near the middle, the narrative gets bogged down by details about every single side character and historical event, which, while fascinating, also often slows down the action.
“She’s Too Pretty to Burn” by Wendy Heard (Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, $18.99). Inspired by “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” this artsy, Gothic, lesbian thriller is fast-paced and electrifying, with enough twists and turns to keep readers on the edges of their seats. Mick and Veronica are interesting protagonists with a complex, compelling relationship, and the antagonist, who is revealed near the end of the novel after a series of hints and misdirects, is genuinely terrifying. Most of the characters aren’t necessarily good people — Nico leads a group of environmental terrorists who commit serious crimes, often with deadly results — but Mick and Veronica, while morally ambiguous at the beginning, gradually learn from their mistakes and correct their behavior without becoming entirely different people. “She’s Too Pretty to Burn” starts off feeling like a standard, summery, Sapphic YA novel but quickly develops into a unique, sexy psychological thriller that readers won’t be able to put down.
— Reviews by Anabelle Dillard