December is going to be a strange month for many industries, including publishing, which has considerably slowed down in the amount of young adult novels it’s releasing during the holiday season. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Instead, it’s a reminder that we all deserve the time and space to slow down and snuggle up with the small list of books we’re happy to highlight this month ranging from thoughtful, magic-laden romance to the secret lives of high-profile socialites.
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At nearly 400 pages, Diana Pinguicha’s A Curse of Roses is a whirlwind sapphic novel based on a Portuguese legend. Our protagonist, Princess Yzabel, is facing a unique struggle: She has a form of magic that would be a dream in some contexts, but it’s a nightmare in hers. Whenever she touches food, it transforms into flowers—and unfortunately, her city is in the midst of a famine. Luckily, there’s hope for Yzabel. The talented Fatyan, a Enchanted Moura (a sort of legendary being), can teach her how to better control her magic and save her people, though her success depends on getting a kiss from the princess who’s already set to marry someone else. Take note: A Curse of Roses has many religious overtones, with Yzabel wondering whether she can reconcile her queerness with her faith.
I read Karen M. McManus’s 2017 novel, One of Us Is Lying, which follows a group of high school students, Bronwyn, Addy, Nate, Cooper, and Simon, at the center of a murder mystery, in less than 24 hours. Now, after publishing Two Can Keep a Secret in January 2019 and One of Us Is Next in January 2020, we’re granted a standalone novel as McManus introduces readers to Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah Story, whose lives are becoming twisted and secretive. I won’t spoil the full plot for you, but read this book, especially if you enjoy slowly unraveling books that feel impossible to put down. The Cousins will stress you out in the best way possible.
Queer theater kids, this book is for you. Robin Talley’s The Love Curse of Melody McIntyre is a fun and lighthearted romantic comedy that follows Melody, a stage manager who falls for Odile, the star of her play. If you enjoyed Talley’s Our Own Private Universe (2017) and Becky Albertalli’s Leah on the Offbeat (2018), then it’s definitely worth adding this book to your to-read list.
If you enjoy YA that includes epic romances, royal families, and the potential to become a franchise, then Heiress Apparently is the perfect read. When Gemma Huang moved from Illinois to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career, she never expected for her journey to take her to Beijing. But when her big break brings her to China, she learns that she’s the splitting image of one of the city’s most famous socialites. Heiress Apparently is a thoughtful and fun read about family secrets and what we unknowingly inherit from those who came before us.
After originally being released in 1992, Finding My Voice is being republished! The 192-page book largely stands the test of time. Marie Myung-Ok Lee’s tale follows Ellen Sung, an Korean American high schooler who falls in love only to realize that not even love can protect her from the racism of her small town or from her family’s high expectations. Finding My Voice is a staple that deserves permanent space on your bookshelf.
If the March 2019 college admissions scandal rocked your world—and kept you reading about all of the drama that quickly unfolded—then step into Admission, a fictionalized take on the bribery. Chloe’s entire world changes when the FBI arrives at her house to arrest her famous mother, and she’s forced to reckon with what it means to be in the midst of a scandal and the role she played in the scam.
A heartwarming story about masculinity and finding yourself, Just Our Luck introduces readers to Leo, an anxious Greek American boy who’s dealing with two main issues. After Leo loses a fight at school, his dad tries to force him to “man up,” despite the fact that Leo is not at all interested in participating in stereotypically masculine activities. And when Leo’s grandmother dies, she leaves him several rules, including prohibiting him from ever approaching a member of the Paros family because his family believes the Paros family cursed them decades ago. These two issues collide when Leo meets Evey Paros, a girl who quickly becomes the key to freedom—and the reason he’s now willing to break all of the rules.