‘Both Sides Now’ by Peyton Thomas (Dial Books, August 24)
Finch Kelly is a transgender teenager whose dream is to go to Georgetown University, the first step in his plan to become the country’s first openly transgender member of Congress. He thinks the ticket to Georgetown wins the National Speech & Debate Tournament, but when he finds out this year’s topic – should transsexual students in primary schools be allowed to use the bathroom they want? – he must decide whether arguments against his own humanity are a price he is willing to pay to achieve his dreams.
‘Take Me With You When You Go’ by David Levithan and Jennifer Niven (Knopf Books for Young Readers, August 31)
An epistolary novel told via emails, “Take Me With You When You Go” follows two siblings, Bea and Ezra, as they try to escape their abusive stepfather. When Bea runs away, Ezra thinks he has been allowed to fend for himself, but then he finds an email address that Bea left for him. Theirs is a strong and moving correspondence about what it means to find security and build a life on your own terms.
‘The Witch Haven’ by Sasha Peyton Smith (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, August 31)
A mixture of historical fiction and fantasy, “The Witch Haven”, located in New York City in 1911, follows a 17-year-old seamstress named Frances Hallowell. When her boss attacks her, Frances accidentally releases to unleash supernatural powers she did not know she had, and it kills him. France’s new abilities land her right in the middle of a mysterious battle that is much bigger than she is – while she’s still trying to get to the bottom of her brother’s mysterious death.
‘Dark and Shallow Lies’ by Ginny Myers Sain (Razorbill, September 7)
Gray is not psychic, but everyone around her is, including all the women in her family and a whole lot of other people in La Cachette, La. Given everyone’s abilities, it’s even more confusing that no one in town seems to know what happened to Elora, Grey’s best friend who one day went into the swamp and was never seen again.
Uly, who is black, and Sallie, who is white, are in a happy relationship. Sallie’s big sister, Leona, then announces that she’s running for president, promising to pressure the school to end the school’s ‘Send and Receive’ policy to receive students from smaller and poorer neighborhoods. Uly’s sister, Regina, sees racism in Leona’s message and decides to take part in the race. Both candidates ask their siblings to be their campaign leader, which means that Uly and Sallie are suddenly opponents in an election where the stakes are growing ever higher. (Note that the novel contains scenes of gun violence.)
‘Hello (From Here)’ by Chandler Baker and Wesley King (Dial Books, September 7)
A teenage romance at Covid’s age, “Hello (from here),” begins just hours after California announces orders at the venue where Max and Jonah meet while shopping at last-minute quarantined purchases. The random encounter triggers a connection between the two, but they need to find out if they can build and maintain a relationship at a time when distance is a way of life.
‘We Are Not Broken’ by George M. Johnson (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, September 7)
George M. Johnson, (“All Boys Aren’t Blue”) is back with a new memoir about Nanny, the grandmother who raised them (the author uses the / them pronoun). In “We Are Not Broken,” Johnson shares how Nanny, a breakout character from “All Boys,” held the family together and provided the anchor they needed as they navigated growing up Black in America.
‘Act Cool’ by Tobly McSmith (Quill Tree Books, September 7)
August Greene is a transgender teenager whose conservative parents do not accept him and want him to live as a girl. When he enters the School of Performing Arts in New York City, he thinks his dream of becoming an actor is coming true, but to go he must have the approval of his mother and father – approval, they are willing to pass on a condition: August must promise not to pass on to the boy he knows he is meant to be.
‘Alma Presses Play’ by Tina Cane (Make Me a World, September 14)
Alma is a half-Chinese, half-Jewish teenager who came of age in New York in the 1980s. When her parents divorce, her friends move away and she begins a flirtation with a boy on her block, her whole world tilts around its axis, and Alma has to find out who she is in this next phase of her life.
‘Not Here to Be Liked’ by Michelle Quach (Katherine Tegen Books, September 14)
Eliza Quan, a hard-working student journalist, runs for editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, and she is a shoo-in. But on polling day, Len DiMartile, who joined the newspaper just a year ago, enters the race – and wins. Confused, Eliza writes a private essay on misogyny and the frustration of being passed over for a job she worked hard for. But when the piece is mysteriously released without her approval and goes viral, Eliza is pushed into a much larger conversation.
Derry and her eight sisters have special powers, a secret they keep because they live in a world where “witches” are feared and killed. To stay safe, they live in a house on the edge of a forest led by Frank, a shady man who grows their abilities, yes, but also severely restricts their freedom – to protect them, he says. One of their many rules is to never enter the forest, but when Derry’s sisters begin to disappear, she is forced to venture into the forbidden area.
‘When We Make It’ by Elisabet Velasquez (Dial Books, September 21)
This novel in verse follows Sarai, a Puerto Rican student who grows up in a gentrifying Bushwick while struggling with the serious truths of her circumstances – poverty, mental illness, how she fits into her legacy.
In “The Other Talk,” Kiely hopes to have an honest conversation with teens about racism, but from a new angle: In addition to explaining the ways in which racism harms people of color, he wants to explore white privileges. Because, Kiely explains, “even though many of us talk about racism, we just do not talk about it being white and all the privileges we get because we are white. ”
To get through high school, Gio has to stay focused and keep his grades up, but that’s easier said than done: He struggles with anxiety, a preacher father who condemns his bisexuality and feelings for a new kid on his basketball team named David. To complicate matters, Gio’s mother returns to the scene after leaving him many years ago and would like to reconnect.
‘Prey’s Beasts’ by Ayana Gray (September 28, GP Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, September 28)
The first book in a new series, “Beasts of Prey” follows two teenagers in the fictional town of Lkossa: Koffi, an indentured servant who works in the Night Zoo and dreams of freedom; and Ekon, a warrior in training. When a monster known as Shetani attacks Lkossa, Koffi hopes to capture the beast to pay off his debt, while Ekon will kill the creature and prove his strength. Despite their competing goals, the two go together – but when it comes to the beast they depend on to change their destinies, not everything is as it seems.
‘Time Will Tell’ by Barry Lyga (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, September 28)
When four teenagers find a time capsule that their parents buried in the ’80s, they think it’s going to be a fun way to relive the past. Instead, they stumble across what appear to be signs of a murder, including a bloody knife and a note that reads “I did not mean to kill anyone.” Suddenly, they find themselves as players in a dangerous game that started a generation earlier.