What's Up in YA

YA Nonfiction and Reckoning with America’s Past and Present

Hey YA Readers!

On the latest episode of Hey YA, Erica and I talked about recent and upcoming YA nonfiction titles and during the discussion, I talked about Brandy Colbert’s recent release Black Birds in the Sky. It’s an incredible read about the Tulsa Massacre of 1921, highlighting Tulsa’s Black Wall Street and the thriving Black communities there and in other parts of Oklahoma. This book is packaged in an extremely appealing way for both young adult readers who may not usually gravitate toward nonfiction, as well as those who do, and the book being available on shelves at Target gives it both big visibility for the category of YA nonfiction but also for its look at a topic that’s been under-explored in classrooms (and likely will continue to be, thanks to anti-“Critical Race Theory” legislation). Black Birds In The Sky a riveting and vital read — and it’s one of a number of excellent YA releases on the topic this year. Across The Tracks: Remembering Greenwood, Black Wall Street, and the Tulsa Massacre by Alverne Ball and Stacey Robinson explores this history in their graphic novel released in May, while Hilary Beard adapted the work of Tim Madigan’s The Burning: Black Wall Street and the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 for young adults earlier this year, too.

Collage of three books about the Tulsa Massacre: Black Birds in the Sky, Across the Tracks, and The Burning

When I finished Colbert’s book, I fell down a number of research rabbit holes, which is one of the things that makes nonfiction so great. I’m someone who is fascinated by stories we don’t get to hear, and usually, those stories are from and by marginalized communities. Wherever you live, especially in the United States, you’ll find these histories around you. For me, finishing the book reminded me of my endless fascination with Cairo, Illinois (pronounced Kay-roe), a community at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. It’s a town that’s dealt with a significant loss of population over the last half century or more, and it’s one that’s been rattled by its racist history. Equally fascinating, though, is the discrimination within the town led Black residents to choose to develop their own suburb outside Cairo called Future City. There’s very little information about that town’s history, though thanks to its geography, it, like Cairo, has struggled to withstand flooding. It’s not flourished nor grown and though a handful of residents still live there, it’s essentially a ghost town.

Ron Powers discusses Cairo, Future City, and other Illinois communities that have a notable racist past in his 1991 adult nonfiction book Far From Home: Life and Loss in Two American Towns, but it’s one of the only titles out there exploring communities like it. James W. Loewen, another white author who did earlier this year, dug into communities across the country that were — and some which still are — sundown towns in his adult title Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism. This book, as well as Powers, talk a bit about Anna, Illinois, which ProPublica took a deep dive into in 2018, specifically looking at its racist history and the acronym associated with its name.

book cover for the overground railroad young reader edition

It’s not hard to understand why, then, tools like The Green Book were vital resources for Black Americans in the 20th century. Candacy Taylor’s forthcoming adaptation for young readers of her own adult book, Overground Railroad: The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America (January) offers a look at not just the essential role the Green Book played for Black people who wanted to travel, but that it also served as a tool of resistance — those who had their businesses listed as places where racial segregation wasn’t de facto or de jure took a courageous stand.

Some Black people believe a modern adaption of The Green Book wouldn’t be a radical idea today.

As racial violence continues, finding places that are safer to rest in, to dine in, and to patronize is crucial. Places like Cairo and Anna were among the communities unsafe for Black people to pass through, let alone rest in, and as Colbert and others explained in their books on the Tulsa Massacre, even in communities where Black life flourished, the undercurrent and indeed, the retaliation against Black excellence, remained.

A not-small number of these communities still exist today.

Young adult nonfiction is flourishing right now, and it’s not hard to understand why. Not only are the titles timely, but they’re timeless, and as the above-mentioned explore, they offer a window from the past into the whys and hows of modern society. We haven’t moved much from what allowed The Tulsa Massacre to happen, and certainly, we haven’t made travel across the country safer for marginalized people — the reality is, so many have forgotten the real and grave dangers that Black people especially encounter going about daily life in a white supremacist driven America. So many of us don’t recognize or think about the fact communities like Cairo and Anna, as well as Tulsa and countless others that can be named and those which can’t, not only have a charged history but that history remains part of the fabric which makes them what they are today.

And indeed, even where there was and is hope for utopian communities for people of the global majority in America, those stories haven’t been told, haven’t been recorded, and remain under explored in literature, in research, and in the public view.

This is where books like Colbert’s do tremendous service, especially for young readers. They offer a look at under-told stories of the past, encouraging exploration into one’s own backyard, and, as the case is in America, a reminder that this country has been colonized, and even groups which are marginalized now have a tangled and complicated relationship with the Native and Indigenous communities from whom this land was stolen and settled.

Thanks for hanging out today and I hope you’ll find the time to dig into the stories of your own community between picking up the incredible books above.

We’ll see you on Thursday for your YA news and new books.

Until then, happy reading!

— Kelly Jensen, @heykellyjensen on Instagram.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at with a free trial!

What's Up in YA

What’s *On* That List of Books Texas Lawmakers Want Removed?: Your YA News and New Books, November 11, 2021

Hey YA Readers!

Somehow, we’re almost half-way through another month. The end of the year sure does seem to fly by.

With that, it won’t be a huge surprise that the next couple of months will be lighter on news and new book releases as the publishing world begins to wrap up their years and prepare for the new one ahead.

Let’s dive into what’s going on this week.

YA Book News

New YA Books

Please note that with supply chain issues, paper supply challenges, and the pandemic more broadly, publication dates are changing at a pace I can’t keep up with. Some release dates may be pushed back. If a book catches your attention, the smartest thing to do right now is to preorder it or request it from your library. It’ll be a fun surprise when it arrives. This goes, too, for any books you might be planning to purchase for the holidays — the sooner you pick up the hard copies, if that’s your preference, the better.


Aurora’s End by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (series)

Ballad of Dinah Caldwell by Kate Brauning

Catch the Light by Kate Sweeney

Court by Tracy Wolff (series)

Forgotten Memories of Vera Glass by Anna Priemaza

I’ll Keep You Close by Jeska Verstegen and translated by Bill Nagelkerke

Roxy by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman

A Snake Falls To Earth cover

A Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger

Starling by Isabel Strychacz

The Year I Stopped Trying by Katie Heaney

Year of the Reaper by Makiia Lucier


Each of Us a Desert by Mark Oshiro

The Ever-Cruel Kingdom by Rin Chupeco (series)

Heiress Apparently by Diana Ma (series)

Lies Like Poison by Chelsea Pitcher

The Nemesis by S. J. Kincaid (series)

Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao

Sasha Masha by Agnes Borinsky

Stormbreak by Natalie C. Parker (series)

YA Book Talk at Book Riot

Thanks for hanging out, y’all, and we’ll see you again on Saturday for some YA ebook deals, then on Monday with some more YA nonfiction talk.

Until then, happy reading!

— Kelly Jensen, @heykellyjensen on Instagram.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at with a free trial!

What's Up in YA

New YA Nonfiction Comics For Your TBR

Hey YA Readers!

November is all about nonfiction, and as someone who loves nonfiction — and young adult nonfiction specifically — it’s the perfect opportunity to explore the depth and breadth of titles out there. Let’s begin by getting to know some recent young adult nonfiction in comic form.

Many of the nonfiction comics in YA are memoirs, but not all of them are. Some of them are biographies, while others take a look at any number of topics and dive in, pairing information with art.

I’m sticking with YA nonfiction comics from the last year or two, and they range from stories of migrants to stories of groundbreaking reporters and more. In many cases, I’ve also included even more great nonfiction for further reading (and that’s one of the things I love so much about nonfiction: once you find a topic that interests you, the number of books out there to take you further in your reading journey is almost limitless!).

the american dream book cover

The American Dream? A Journey on Route 66 Discovering Dinosaur Statues, Muffler Man, and the Perfect Breakfast Burrito by Shing Yin Khor

Growing up in Malaysia, Shing had seen what life in America was life in the media, and when they immigrated to Los Angles, they were exposed to some of those media features, as well as more through American media. It was the Grapes of Wrath that led them to thinking about American road trips and the idea of the American dream.

This immersive graphic memoir is about a (reverse) trip on Route 66, about nostalgia culture, and what it means to be an American. Shing doesn’t shy away from highlighting the racist realities of said nostalgia — see “American owned” signage at hotels — while also discussing that alongside the kitsch and stunningly bad replicas of Native American art and culture, their trip led them to seeing and learning more about Native Americans than they had before. There’s a lot of fun quirk here, too, including a neat aside about the history of Muffler men. The art is an excellent companion to the text and despite being quite simple, conveys so much in that simplicity.

huda f are you book cover

Huda F Are You? by Huda Fahmy (November 23)

Huda moved from a community where she was the only Muslim-American hijabi in her class to Dearborn, Michigan, and when she does, she has an identity crisis. No longer was the thing that once made her stand out a thing that made her unique in her school — Dearborn has a huge Muslim-American population, and now, Huda is unsure who she is or where she fits in.

This is a funny and relatable comic, and I loved how Huda wrote it as a lengthy flashback through her identity crisis, bringing readers from the watershed moment in the first couple of pages back to it in the last few. But that timeframe is only a few months, and yet, so much transpires and it’s hard not to absolutely root for Huda (even when she does some cringeworthy things).

The art is bright, expressive, and really fun.

the incredible nellie bly book cover

The Incredible Nellie Bly: Journalist, Investigator, Feminist, and Philanthropist by Luciana Cimino, illustrated by Sergio Algozzino, and translated by Laura Garofalo 

I’ve read a LOT of books about Nellie Bly and while this one wasn’t my favorite entry, I’m including it because of its graphic rendering and because this is a book in translation, which is fascinating. There’s little nonfiction in translation for YA readers and even less in graphic format.

Framed with a fictional character named Miriam, the book follows Miriam as she interviews Bly as a means of getting courage to stand up for women’s rights at the Columbia School of Journalism in 1921. The focus is on the bigger pieces of Bly’s life, and it includes references to some of the fun anecdotes about her trip around the world.

This is a nice introduction to one groundbreaking woman’s work in investigative journalism, and the digital art is pleasant to look at as well. Once you read this one, I’d recommend picking up the YA nonfiction title Ten Days a Madwoman and/or the adult crossover title Sensational: The Hidden History of America’s “Girl Stunt Reporters.”

kent state book cover

Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio by Derf Backderf

This one’s on my TBR and the only reason I haven’t yet picked it up is that it’s an oversized tomb (good to know if you’re someone who has limited shelf space). But Backderf wrote one of my favorite crossover comics, My Friend Dahmer, and I suspect this crossover comic is just as powerful.

Published last year in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Kent State shooting, Backderf dives deep into interviews and the primary documents surrounding the events. He offers perspective of the students who were murdered and what it means to dissent. This one could be paired nicely with Deborah Wiles’s fictional take in Kent State.

passport book cover

Passport by Sophia Glock (November 30)

Though Sophie is American, she spent very little of her young life in America. Her parents’ jobs required a lot of moving. Now, living in Central America, Sophie discovers a letter she was never supposed to see and learns the truth behind her parents’ jobs: they’re agents working for the CIA.

Now Sophie has to figure out what of her life is the truth and what of it is but a web of intricate lies.

Not having yet read this one, I can’t speak to the art, but if the cover is any indication, it looks like a lush and gorgeous comic.

run: book one book cover

Run: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell (Illustrator), and L. Fury (Illustrator)

This companion series to the highly decorated March graphic series follows the months after the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In so many ways, what’s explored here — police brutality, white supremacy, and the continued acts of suppressing the rights of Black people to vote — parallel today’s world.

Lewis may have passed, but his story and legacy continue to live on and the graphic format really allows for experiencing his work in a powerful way.

travesia book cover

Travesía: A Migrant Girl’s Cross-Border Journey/El Viaje de Una Joven Migrante as told by Michelle Gerster and illustrated by Fiona Dunnett

This one didn’t resonate for me, but I’m including it because the format and presentation are unique and for the right reader, this book will be a huge hit.

Gricelda is 15-years-old and along with her mother and younger brother, attempt to cross the Mexican border into the US for a new and better life. What’s already a tough journey becomes even more treacherous when they’re smuggled by el Guero, who promises them safety. But he may not live up to his promises.

This is intimate and raw, and in a lot of ways, reads textually and visually more like a picture book than a comic. It’s in dual English and Spanish, as well. The book would make a good introduction to the realities that migrants live, and it could be nicely paired with either the adult or young reader edition of Reyna Grande’s The Distance Between Us.

I hope you added some great nonfiction comics to your TBR, and prepare to add even more excellent YA nonfiction to your wish list through the rest of the month.

We’ll see you again on Thursday for all of your YA book news and new book releases.

— Kelly Jensen, @heykellyjensen on Instagram.

What's Up in YA

The Big Library Read’s YA Thriller Pick and More of Your YA Book News and New Books: November 4, 2021

Hey YA Readers!

It’s been a quieter week in terms of YA book news, and chances are, we’ll see a quieter few weeks as we roll out of 2021 (but maybe we won’t — it’s been a weird year, so who knows?). The good news is this means you’ve got time to catch up on the latest YA book releases, as well as those books that’ve been teetering on your TBR.

Let’s dive in.

YA Book News

Note: I’ve not included book challenges, as you can follow those weekly on Book Riot. I round ’em up on Fridays, and the previous week’s are linked later in the newsletter.

New YA Book Releases

Please note that with supply chain issues, paper supply challenges, and the pandemic more broadly, publication dates are changing at a pace I can’t keep up with. Some release dates may be pushed back. If a book catches your attention, the smartest thing to do right now is to preorder it or request it from your library. It’ll be a fun surprise when it arrives. This goes, too, for any books you might be planning to purchase for the holidays — the sooner you pick up the hard copies, if that’s your preference, the better.


Briar Girls by Rebecca Kim Wells

Dreams Lie Beneath by Rebecca Ross

Every Line of You by Naomi Gibson

A Face for Picasso book cover

A Face for Picasso by Ariel Henley (nonfiction)

Faith: Greater Heights by Julie Murphy (series)

Fat Angie: Homecoming by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo (series)

Freedom Swimmer by Wai Chim

Gilded by Marissa Meyer

Girls of Fate and Fury by Natasha Ngan (series)

A Hot Mess by Jeff Fleischer (nonfiction)

In The Ballroom with a Candlestick by Diana Peterfreund

Into The Bloodred Woods by Martha Brockenbrough

Margot Mertz Takes It Down by Carrie McCrossen and Ian McWethy

The Reckless Kind by Carly Heath

A Rush of Wings by Laura E. Weymouth

Skin of the Sea book cover

Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen (series)

Spin Me Right Round by David Valdes

The Story of More: Young Reader Edition by Hope Jahren (nonfiction)

Sway With Me by Syed M. Masood

Terciel and Elinor by Garth Nix (series)

When We Were Them by Laura Taylor Namey

You Can Go Your Own Way by Eric Smith

You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao


book cover for archenemies

Archenemies by Marissa Meyer (series)

Beautiful Wild by Anna Godbersen

Blame It On The Mistletoe by Beth Garrod

The Camelot Betrayal by Kiersten White (series)

Come On In by Adi Alsaid

A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey

The Enigma Game by Elizabeth Wein

Finding My Voice by Marie Myung-Ok Lee

food-related stories book cover

Food-Related Stories by Gaby Melian (nonfiction)

Going Viral by Katie Cicatelli-Kuc

The Grimrose Girls by Laura Pohl (series)

Lost Roads by Jonathan Maberry (series)

Seven Dirty Secrets by Natalie D. Richards

Storm The Earth by Rebecca Kim Wells (series)

Supernova by Marissa Meyer (series)

Those Who Prey by Jennifer Moffett

Warriors of Wing and Flame by Sara B. Larson (series)

This Week at Book Riot

As always, thanks for hanging out, and we’ll see you again on Saturday with some YA ebook deals. Monday will launch a series of newsletters focused on YA nonfiction in honor of my favorite bookish celebration, Nonfiction November.

Until then, happy reading!

— Kelly Jensen, @heykellyjensen on Instagram.

What's Up in YA

7 YA Books Coming in 2022 To TBR

Hey YA Readers!

As we’re running full-speed into the end of another year — somehow it is November already! — let’s take a moment to peep some of the new books hitting shelves in 2022. There’s not a unifying theme to these other than they’ve hit my radar and look like excellent reads to preorder and/or TBR ASAP.

Some of these are by names you’ll know, while others are by newer authors. It sure looks like we’re in for some outstanding books in our future to pair with the piles and piles of other books we’re going to sink into as soon as we can.

all my rage book cover

All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir (March 1)

I’m really looking forward to seeing Tahir flex her writing muscles with a contemporary title. The story follows Misbah and Toufiq, who were arranged in marriage in Pakistan. A tragedy rocks their young lives and they move to rural California to start anew, opening up a small hotel.

Fast forward to today. Salahudin and Noor are close friends in rural California until a fight rocks their relationship. Now Sal works to save his family’s hotel business as his mother Misbah’s health is declining and Noor hides her college applications while working her uncle’s liquor store. Though The Fight has changed Sal and Noor, the challenges of their lives today may, ultimately, bring their friendship back together.

hell followed with us book cover

Hell Followed with Us by Andrew Joseph White (June 7)

Benji is a 16-year-old trans boy who is on the run, escaping the fundamentalist cult which raised him and has now brought Armageddon, destroying much of the world’s population. He finds refuge from the monsters brought by the Armageddon in a local LGBTQ+ shelter for teens. Benji is smitten with the good-looking leader of the group, Nick, who knows that the cult’s bioweapon is mutating Benji into a monster — one strong enough to take down the rest of the population. Nick offers Benji a safe place to stay with the group, so long as he promises not to unleash his power, except to protect the group. But then Benji learns Nick has some secrets of his own and he may not be able to keep his promise.

This looks like a super fresh apocalyptic and cult story.

the lesbiana's guide to catholic school book cover

The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School by Sonora Reyes (May 17)

After she was outed by her best friend and crush, Yamilet Flores is starting over. She’s hoping to not draw attention to herself at her new mostly-white, mostly-wealthy Catholic school, and that includes keeping her sexuality under wraps. But….then she meets Bo and she starts to fall. Except, Yami doesn’t know if she truly has feelings for Bo or she’s simply enraptured by Bo’s ability to be fully herself.

a million quiet revolutions book cover

A Million Quiet Revolutions by Robin Gow (March 22)

Aaron and Oliver have always been close. Their small, rural town didn’t allow them to meet many other queer young people, and they’ve shared numerous milestones together as trans teens. When Aaron moves away, the pair are rocked and challenged, but they find solace in seeking out stories of American heroes of the past they believed to be queer. It’s through reclaiming the stories of the past that Aaron and Oliver — their adopted names — are able to better understand themselves and relationship to one another.

This is a dual point-of-view novel in verse.

mirror girls book cover

Mirror Girls by Kelly McWilliams (February 8)

I adored McWilliams’s debut, and I’m so eager for this sophomore effort.

Charlie and Magnolia are twins who were separated at birth — their parents had been in an interracial romance and were lynched. It’s now the era of the Civil Rights Movement and Charlie in Harlem is a Black organizer while Magnolia, who is white passing, is to be the heir of a cotton plantation.

After a curse and a death, the sisters are unexpectedly reunited in Eureka, Georgia, where they both need to collaborate to break the curse and work to untangle the complex racial realities that exist for them as individuals, as twin sisters, and more broadly, in the shifting historical moment.

this rebel heart book cover

This Rebel Heart by Katherine Locke (April 5)

Here’s a setting I don’t think I’ve seen before in YA: post-World War II Communist Budapest, during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.

The story follows Csilla, whose parents were publicly murdered by the Communist police. Now she must decide whether or not she’ll work to fight for the country she loves — despite how it’s ruined her life and the lives of those she loves — or if she’ll need to make and escape and start anew in a foreign land.

Bonus on this one for a story told through the eyes of a queer main character.

queen of the tiles book cover

Queen of the Tiles by Hanna Alkaf

Okay, this is set at a Scrabble competition and includes a mystery to uncover the truth behind the mysterious death of the reigning Scrabble Queen. SOLD. SOLD. SOLD.

This is but the tip of the iceberg for exciting forthcoming YA, y’all. Picking seven to highlight was so hard — and I hope you’re eager for these, too.

As always, thanks for hanging out. I’ll see you again on Thursday with a look at this week’s YA news and new books. Until then, happy reading!

— Kelly Jensen, @heykellyjensen on Instagram.

What's Up in YA

YA “Best Of” Lists Begin, ON THE COME UP Filming, and More YA Book News and New Books: October 28, 2021

Hey YA Readers!

Let’s catch up on the latest in YA book news and new YA books. I hope you’ve got your favorite treats ready to celebrate Halloween this weekend and some excellent reads, too.

YA Book News

New YA Books

Please note that with supply chain issues, paper supply challenges, and the pandemic more broadly, publication dates are changing at a pace I can’t keep up with. Some release dates may be pushed back. If a book catches your attention, the smartest thing to do right now is to preorder it or request it from your library. It’ll be a fun surprise when it arrives. This goes, too, for any books you might be planning to purchase for the holidays — the sooner you pick up the hard copies, if that’s your preference, the better.


i'm dreaming of a wyatt christmas book cover

Daughter of a Dead Empire by Carolyn Tara O’Neil

Disability Visibility edited by Alice Wong (nonfiction, young reader edition!)

I’m Dreaming of a Wyatt Christmas by Tiffany Schmidt

Journey to the Heart of the Abyss by London Shah (series)

The Other Side of the Sky by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Rest Easy by Warona Jolomba


A Golden Fury by Samantha Cohoe

Magic Dark and Strange by Kelly Powell

This Week at Book Riot

Image of a cream colored candle in front of YA book spines.

‘Tis the season to burn a delicious candle while you’re reading, and this YA Reader candle — orange, sandalwood, coconut scented — is perfectly fitting. $10.

Thanks for hanging out, and we’ll see you on Saturday with some ebook deals!

— Kelly Jensen,

@heykellyjensen on Instagram.

(psst: did you know both (Don’t) Call Me Crazy and Body Talk, my two most recent anthologies, are on sale for the low price of $2 this month in ebook format? Now you do!).

What's Up in YA

🦇🦇 Sink Your Teeth Into Spooky YA Short Story Collections

Hey YA Readers!

We’re only a few days out from the best holiday of the year, and though horror is perfect for reading all year long, this time of the year makes it especially appealing.

Over the last handful of years, YA anthologies have been abundant, covering so many great topics both in fiction and in nonfiction. Horror short stories have always been part of YA, and they’ve been anthologized for a long time. It’s been nice to see more and more of these collections recognized for their strengths and see new ones popping onto shelves.

These collections are perfect for when you want to read your scares in bite size portions. Maybe you read a couple of stories between trick-or-treaters knocking at your door or you light a candle, put on some atmospheric music, and allow yourself a night of doing nothing but reading a collection start to finish.

Maybe, too, you’ll want to pop on one of Book Riot’s anniversary celebration tees or sweatshirts to really vibe out.

banquet for hungry ghosts book cover

A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts by Ying Chang Compestine, illustrated by Coleman Polhemus

Just optioned for adaptation, this collection of eight short stories plays with Chinese legends and history. In Chinese tradition, if someone dies unjustly or hungry, they come back to haunt the living — while some are satisfied by food, others continue their haunting. The stories in this collection travel through China’s history, and each includes a recipe and historical notes for taking the stories off page, too.

his hideous heart book cover

His Hideous Heart edited by Dahlia Adler

How many ways can Edgar Allan Poe’s classic stories be retold? This collection showcases how even some of the most beloved horror tales can take on fresh, clever life. Tiffany D. Jackson, Stephanie Kuehn, Lamar Giles, Tessa Gratton, and Dahlia Adler especially shine, bringing the gothic feel and atmosphere to their stories. Not all of the retellings are horror and this might actually be what makes these stories shine — they can be surprising in their take.

The first half of the anthology features 13 beloved YA authors doing their thing, and the second half includes the original Poe tales.

slasher girls and monster boys book cover

Slasher Girls and Monster Boys edited by April Genevieve Tucholke

Tucholke edits (and includes one of her own) a really solid short story collection with horror tales for every kind of reader — those who prefer their scares more psychological, as well as those who like ’em a little more gruesome. This is a stellar cast of authors, and some of the creepiest YA short stories you can find.

Slasher Girls & Monster Boys was selected as one of the three first-ever Summer Scares winners in 2019, too.

a small charred face book cover

A Small Charred Face by Kazuki Sakuraba and translated by Jocelyn Allen

YA books in translation are rare, and rarer still are short story collections in translation for YA readers. This one checks both boxes and offers a really fresh mythos around vampires. These three loosely connected stories explore the Bamboo, or vampires who thrive off human blood and bamboo. They’re from the mountains of China, but when humans begin to invade their homeland, many are forced to see asylum in Japan. The first story follows a Bamboo who rescues a human who then grows up alongside him; the second follows a bamboo and human duo who love to play tricks on people; the final story explores the mythology of the bamboo.

through the woods book cover

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Easily one of the creepiest short story collection in comics, Emily Carroll’s art sings alongside her 5 eerie tales. Readers will see familiar horror tropes twisted and reimagined, including a take on “The Green Ribbon” (one of my favorites!). What’s especially chilling in this collection is Carroll doesn’t always seek out the happy ending . . . or an ending at all.

vampires never get old book cover

Vampires Never Get Old edited by Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker

The pink cover gets me every single time. This one’s next on my own TBR, and I’m so eager to dive into eleven vampire stories that give these creatures even more fresh spins. Among the knock-out contributor list are Victoria Schwab (her short story in this one is being adapted!), Laura Ruby, Samira Ahmed, Mark Oshiro, and more. Not only does this promise some chills but also some laughs — and frankly, I think finding that balance of horror and humor is just what I’m needing now.

I hope your week is full of more treats than tricks, and I’ll see you again on Thursday with your YA book news and new books.

Until then, happy reading!

— Kelly Jensen, @heykellyjensen on Instagram.

(psst: did you know both (Don’t) Call Me Crazy and Body Talk, my two most recent anthologies, are on sale for the low price of $2 this month in ebook format? Now you do!).

What's Up in YA

Horror for Teens, The Death of Dystopia, and More YA Book News and New Books: October 21, 2021

Hey YA Readers!

I hope you’re having the best kind of October available to you and you’re able to find a good book or two. Let’s catch up on the latest in YA book news and new YA books this week.

A note, too: in Monday’s newsletter, I mentioned the main character in Baby and Solo being gay. He is not — his brother, however, was a member of the LGBTQ community during his life. I wanted to clarify that, since it matters pretty heavily to what Joel, the main character, wrestles with. (So many books, so many details, and so many distractions in life!).

YA Book News

There’s a lot of interesting horror-themed news and features this week!

New YA Books This Week

Please note that with supply chain issues, paper supply challenges, and the pandemic more broadly, publication dates are changing at a pace I can’t keep up with. Some release dates may be pushed back. If a book catches your attention, the smartest thing to do right now is to preorder it or request it from your library. It’ll be a fun surprise when it arrives. This goes, too, for any books you might be planning to purchase for the holidays — the sooner you pick up the hard copies, if that’s your preference, the better.


Bad Girls Never Say Die by Jennifer Mathieu

book cover for hunting by stars by cherie dimaline

Hunting By Stars by Cherie Dimaline (series)

Lies My Memory Told Me by Sacha Wunsch

Little Thieves by Margaret Owen

On Top of Glass by Karina Manta (nonfiction)

Out of the Fire by Andrea Contos

A Rebel in Auschwitz by Jack Fairweather (nonfiction)

That Dark Infinity by Kate Pentecost

Where Echoes Lie by Shannon Schuren

Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood

The Woman All Spies Fear by Amy Butler Greenfield (nonfiction)


book cover for miss meteor

City of Shattered Light by Claire Winn

Girl Crushed by Katie Heaney

Miss Meteor by Tehlor Kay Mejia and Anna-Marie McLemore

YA Book Talk on Book Riot

As always, thanks for hanging out, y’all. We’ll see you on Saturday for some ebook deals and on Monday for more YA book talk.

Until then, happy reading!

— Kelly Jensen, @heykellyjensen on Instagram.

What's Up in YA

“The Hypothetical Is The Safest Space to Feel Unsure”: Lisabeth Posthuma on Abortion in YA Lit

Hey YA Readers!

baby and solo book cover

One of the best books — and among the overlooked gems — I read this year was Lisabeth Posthuma’s excellent Baby & Solo. The book, set in the 90s, is a story of growing up a middle class gay white boy in the midwest, and it dives into the stakes of that life during that time. There are a lot of topics thread through the story, and one of them is an abortion narrative.

Given the realities of abortion access in America, and specifically, the lack of access to it in Texas, there’s a lot to remember about how this health care impacts teenagers as much as it does adults. In Texas, Jane’s Due Process is one organization ensuring legal access to reproductive healthcare, including abortions, for teenagers in the state.

As I grappled with talking about abortion and teenagers, I knew a book list wouldn’t be enough. I pulled a list together on my personal blog and in doing so, realized there were likely YA authors who could talk about it in a compelling, thought-provoking way. So it was only natural that I would see if Posthuma would like to lend her voice on abortion in young adult literature.

Without further ado, I’ll leave the words to her.

lisabeth posthuma head shot
Lisabeth Posthuma

As a self-admitted ’90s nostalgic, I was thrilled when I stumbled upon full seasons of The Real World on a streaming platform. Like many of the MTV generation, I was obsessed with this show in its original run. Essentially the first reality television series, the concept was novel at the time—seven total strangers from varying backgrounds living together for five months all while every moment of their lives are filmed. It was groundbreaking in concept and in the resulting content. Never before had a TV show for the young adult market spanned so many controversial and relevant social issues from the perspective of those with lived experience. For me personally, it was The Real World, not the real world, where I was first exposed to people who were openly LGBTQIA+. It was also here that my eyes were opened to racial injustice, the AIDS epidemic, and people battling drug and alcohol addiction. And it was here where I was first learned about abortion.  

Looking back on growing up in Small Conservative Town, Midwest State, I’m surprised that I made it to age thirteen without someone inculcating me with their strong opinions about abortion. I had heard the word before by that age, but I honestly didn’t know what it was until I watched a Season Two episode of The Real World where a cast member weighs the decision of whether or not to terminate her unplanned pregnancy. Varying viewpoints are civilly shared by her roommates before the woman decides to go through with the abortion, and at the end of the half-hour, she’s shown recovering from the procedure. 

At the time, I assumed there was a “correct” choice for this woman to make, or, at least, that I should feel strongly about her options. At thirteen, so much was still riding on my ability to categorize everything into terms of “right” and “wrong.” Kids are conditioned to view the world in that dichotomy, after all, yet, I wasn’t informed enough about the complexities of any “pro” or “anti” stance to choose a side with any conviction. This was long before the word “nuance” would enter into to our cultural vernacular, and without it, there was no way to accurately explain the limbo I felt in when I thought about abortion.

This half-hour of television would end up being my only exposure to an earnest discussion on abortion for many years. It was regarded as revolutionary television when discussed on The Real World, as the subject of abortion was virtually absent from most other media targeting the young adult audience. The topic was all-but banned from my high school (and from many high schools across the country). Regardless of the fact that many young people were being faced with a decision about abortion, including several people I knew personally, it seemed like it was just too taboo a subject to talk about. 

A lot has changed in young adult media in the last thirty years. One doesn’t need to look very far these days to find stories with LGBTQIA+ themes, or ones about people struggling with addiction, or highlighting the realities of racial injustice. Scripted and non-scripted television, movies, and YA Lit have finally begun making strides toward greater representation and diversity of their storylines and storytellers. And while there’s definitely been an increase in abortion-focused stories in young adult media in recent decades (including my debut novel Baby & Solo and all of the titles on this Book Riot list from 2015), it’s still rare to come across abortion in a YA novel, despite it being one of the most relevant subjects of the last half-century.

This is a problem.

It’s at best naïve and at worst irresponsible to treat abortion as anomalous when an estimated 1 in 4 women will have one by the time they are forty-five years old—half of which will occur during their young adult years. Knowing abortion affects so many people who make up the young adult demographic, it’s a disservice not to acknowledge the subject’s necessary place in YA media. Though public discourse about abortion continues to be divisive and heated, young adult content creators can provide our audiences with low-stakes avenues through which to wrestle with their difficult feelings about difficult subjects. Realistic fiction is a valuable gateway to rediscovering the lost art of uncertainty, for recognizing the gray within the false narrative of a black-and-white world. In fact, it might be the most fertile soil for empathy to grow in.

I’m learning that the hypothetical is the safest space to feel unsure. It’s seemingly the only place where there’s no urgency to form the “right” opinion. It’s where people can privately challenge their own thoughts, explore nuances, and ultimately grow in their understanding about the issues that affect them. I wish that at thirteen I’d had more safe places to contemplate issues like abortion, but I didn’t. As an adult, however, I’m grateful that I can join with other writers who want change things for this generation’s YA audience. I am hopeful that as abortion continues to be a relevant subject, even more authors will seize the opportunity to create these spaces for teens, too.

Lisabeth Posthuma was a high school teacher, a photographer, and most importantly, a video rental clerk before becoming a writer. She holds an English degree from one of those really expensive private liberal arts colleges that no one can afford (including her). She grew up obsessed with teen soaps, which her therapist says explains a lot, and likes to brag about that one time she attended the cast party for The OC. Orange is her favorite color because in first grade no one chose it, and she felt sorry for it. She currently lives in Michigan where the winters are too long.

Thank you, Lisabeth, and I deeply appreciate the idea of fiction being a safe space for teens to navigate those gray areas. Whether or not abortion is a choice they agree with for themselves or others, the reality is abortion is healthcare and should not be outlawed. YA fiction provides such an outstanding avenue for exploring the topic and more, for helping both young people and those who care for them, understand why this healthcare is a legal right.

Big thanks for reading today, YA fans, and we’ll see you on Thursday.

— Kelly Jensen, @heykellyjensen on Instagram and person who will keep pushing Baby & Solo to readers this year and beyond. Yes, those are nods to Han Solo and Dirty Dancing, both part of the story’s setting in a video rental store.

What's Up in YA

Adult Books for YA Readers, Great YA Comics, and More YA Book News and New Books: October 14, 2021

Hey YA Readers!

Let’s catch up on the latest in YA book news and new books. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been reading a lot lately, and I’ve been adding more books to my to-read than I have in a long time.

YA Book News

New YA Books

Please note that with supply chain issues, paper supply challenges, and the pandemic more broadly, publication dates are changing at a pace I can’t keep up with. Some release dates may be pushed back. If a book catches your attention, the smartest thing to do right now is to preorder it or request it from your library. It’ll be a fun surprise when it arrives. This goes, too, for any books you might be planning to purchase for the holidays — the sooner you pick up the hard copies, if that’s your preference, the better.


Any Sign of Life by Rae Carson

Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (series)

The Brightest Night by Jennifer L. Armentrout (series)

Book cover for The Delusionist

The Delusionist by Don Calame

Dragonblood Ring by Amparo Ortiz (series)

Ferryman by Claire McFall

The Gilded Cage by Lynette Noni (series)

The Heartbreak Bakery by A. R. Capetta

I Am Margaret Moore by Hannah Capin

Jade Fire Gold by June CL Tan

Keeper of the Night by Kylie Lee Baker (series)

Oksi by Mari Ahokoivu, translated by Silja-Maaria Aronpuro

Our Way Back to Always by Nina Moreno

Remember Me by Estelle Laure

Thronebreaker by Rebecca Coffindaffer


book cover of daughters of jubilation

Daughters of Jubilation by Kara Lee Corthron

Echo After Echo by A. R. Capetta

Fat Angie, Rebel Girl Revolution by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo

Golden Boys Beware by Hannah Capin (this is a new title)

The Starlight Claim by Tim Wynne-Jones

YA This Week at Book Riot

Thanks for hanging out, and we’ll see you on Saturday for some YA ebook deals. I’ve got a special guest newsletter on Monday coming up, too!

I hope you’re reading your next favorite book.

— Kelly Jensen, @heykellyjensen on Instagram.