What's Up in YA

Queer Fantasy, Jewish American Stories, and More YA Book Talk: May 15, 2023

Hey YA Readers!

I hope things are bright and cheery for you and if they aren’t — because we live in a world as people so chances are some of you are going through it — I hope you’ve got a good book by your side.

Book Riot has a new podcast for you to check out if you’re looking for more bookish content in your life. First Edition will include interviews, lists, rankings, retrospectives, recommendations, and much more, featuring people who know and love books. You can subscribe to First Edition on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or your podcatcher of choice.

Let’s dive into all things new books this week, as well as books that feature the dynamic Jewish American experience.

Bookish Goods

enamel pin in the shape of a bookshop on a pink background.

Book Shop Enamel Pin by ReadandWonder

This book shop enamel is so adorable. I want to climb inside and peruse the shelves, don’t you? $6.

New Releases

May has had such a nice array of new releases. You could call it a beautiful bouquet, even. I’ve pulled two very different new hardcovers out this week, but you can peep the whole list over here.

from here book cover

From Here by Luma Mufleh

There are few memoirs written exclusively for teens, though the ones that exist are so excellent (there are far more graphic memoirs, which also fall under the “excellent” umbrella). This one follows Luma as she comes of age in 1980s Jordan and realizes she is gay — there was no word for this in Arabic. She knew she had to keep this piece of herself secret for her own safety, given that she could be killed for her sexuality in her conservative religious culture.

So she begins looking for an out. She gets it by being accepted into college in the U.S., but applying for asylum requires so many tough decisions about her future, as well as the family she might have to leave behind.

Luma is the founder of Fugees Family, which helps support and educate new refugees in America and this book is not only a powerful memoir but it’s a book that offers an inside look to the refugee experience — something that’s still too rarely explored.

transmogrify book cover

Transmogrify! by g. haron davis

What exactly is the trans experience? The answer is that it is as diverse as trans people themselves. This is a short story collection that explores transness through fantasy lens, allowing trans and nonbinary people to be magical beings and more.

Contributors to this collection are knock out and include AR Capetta and Cory McCarthy, g. haron davis, Mason Deaver, Jonathan Lenore Kastin, Emery Lee, Saundra Mitchell, Cam Montgomery, Ash Nouveau, Sonora Reyes, Renee Reynolds, Dove Salvatierra, Ayida Shonibar, Francesca Tacchi, and Nik Traxler.

For a more comprehensive list of new releases, check out our New Books newsletter.

Riot Recommendations

Jewish American Heritage Month is here, and over the last few years, the number of YA books by or about Jewish Americans has been increasing. Let’s take a look at a few titles from the last handful of years.

This list is not comprehensive, nor is it meant to be! I’ve stuck pretty strictly to Jewish American, here, so there will not be books set outside of the U.S.

camp book cover

Camp by L.C. Rosen

A screwball comedy set at a queer summer camp, Rosen’s books follows Jewish Randy Kapplehoff as he prepares for another fun summer. He’s eager to reinvent himself this year, though, in order to catch the attention of the cute boy who only seems to be into straight-acting guys. So what happens when Randy — now Del — starts to get that guy’s attention? How much of changing himself is worth it for love? Is it worth it at all?

color me in book cover

Color Me In by Natasha Diaz

Sixteen-year-old Nevaeh Levitz has always lived in an affluent NYC suburb and as such, has never had to exactly confront her heritage as a biracial Jewish girl. But once her parents split and she’s moving with her mother to Harlem, things change. Suddenly, as a white passing girl, she’s being told by her cousins she doesn’t understand what they experience on a daily basis when it comes to prejudice and discrimination.

Rather than fight injustice with them, though, Nevaeh stays quiet. That is, until she discovers a secret from her mom’s past and finds herself falling in love. Suddenly, the silence she’s selected is no longer an option and she has to come face-to-face with who she is and what that means in the world.

how to excavate a heart book cover

How to Excavate a Heart by Jake Maia Arlow

A Sapphic Jewish romance at Christmas? Yes, please!

Shari runs into May with her Subaru, and that was not the plan. Shari’s got a month long internship she’s excited about but in addition to dealing with the accident, she’s also struggling to get over the big breakup she just experienced.

Then Shari’s taken up a dog walking gig. And guess who is there? It’s May. Now the two of them are thrown together again, and it might upend everything. Especially as they’re snowed in together on Christmas Eve…

it's a whole spiel book cover

It’s A Whole Spiel edited by Katherine Locke and Laura Silverman

What better way to dig into a ton of new-to-you and beloved-to-you voices than to pick up an anthology? This collection features a wide range of Jewish teens navigating everything from summer camp to pranks at a Hanukkah party and more. It includes Jewish characters of diverse backgrounds, including those who are queer and disabled.

Contributors include Adi Alsaid, Nova Ren Suma, David Levithan, and more.

little and lion book cover

Little and Lion by Brandy Colbert

An incredible story about mental illness and the tolls it can take on a family — even one that’s close and open with one another. Colbert renders Lion(el) through both his highs and his lows of bipolar, and she creates a likable-but-flawed character in his sister Suzette (Little). Little is a bisexual Jewish black girl, struggling with how much of herself to show in her boarding school in Massachusetts, but this summer back in California has taught her the importance of being true to herself in every capacity and owning it, rather than hiding it.

we cant keep meeting like this book cover

We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Quinn Berkowitz’s family are wedding planners and and Tarek Mansour’s are caterers. They’ve been together their whole loves as their parents work various weddings, and last year, Quinn finally admitted her feelings for Tarek in a rambling email. He left for college without a response.

Now it’s summer again and Quinn worries what it’s going to be like when they see each other again. It’s…not great! They’re fighting and bickering, and now Quinn can see nothing but Tarek’s faults.

So why does she still have such feelings for him? How can she break down his silence and get to the heart of how he feels?

Another one you’ll want on your radar if you don’t have it there already is the highly-decorated When The Angels Left The Old Country by Sacha Lamb (it’s super queer!).

As always, thanks for hanging out! We’ll see you on Thursday with your paperback releases and YA book news.

Until then, happy reading!

— Kelly Jensen, currently reading The Fall of Whit Rivera by Crystal Maldonado