The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey LeeMagical Realism. The last in a family of talented aromateurs, 16-year-old Mim and her mother use their heightened sense of smell to craft perfectly scented love elixirs. It's a rare talent, and Mim will lose it if she ever falls in love herself. However, resisting romance (and living up to her mom's expectations) isn't so easy for Mim, especially after a mistakenly delivered elixir puts her in the path of her secret crush. If you love the diverse characters and magical realism of Anna-Marie McLemore's books, or the complex mother-daughter relationships of Sarah Dessen's, don’t miss The Secret of a Heart Note.
Carve the Mark by Veronica RothScience Fiction. Though the energy of the Current provides singular powers to everyone in the nearby nation-planets, Cyra's "currentgift" is more of a curse: it plagues her with constant pain that she can transfer to others by touch. Cyra's power-hungry brother, the ruler of the Shotet people, uses her as a weapon, but he also provides relief in the form of Akos, an enemy prisoner from Thuvhe whose gift can stop Cyra's pain. As Akos and Cyra forge an unexpected bond, each has to decide where their true loyalty lies. Blending fantasy and science fiction, author Veronica Roth delivers the immersive world-building her fans expect, this time in a brutal, interplanetary setting.
History is All You Left Me by Adam SilveraFiction. Griffin and Theo are no longer a couple by the time Theo drowns, yet Griffin is still devastated. Already dealing with OCD and the painful fallout from their thorny breakup, Griffin is disoriented by Theo's death, and his confusion colors his understanding of his past, his future, and his relationships -- with Theo, with his friend Wade, and with Theo's last boyfriend, Jackson. With alternating chapters describing "history" and "today," you can watch Griffin's romance and grief unfold at the same time, each making the other more poignant. For another emotionally intense read about love, loss, and big questions, try Shaun David Hutchinson's We Are the Ants.
Ever the Hunted by Erin SummerillFantasy. Imprisoned for poaching and facing execution, 17-year-old archer Britta is offered a deal: a full pardon in exchange for tracking down the person who killed her father, the king's bounty hunter. Naturally, Britta accepts, even after she's told that the alleged murderer is her best friend (and secret love), Cohen McKay. The resulting quest leads her to explore her magical powers, venture into rival kingdoms, and sift through layers of deception in order to uncover the truth about her father's death. First in a duology, this debut fantasy will appeal to readers who love adventures starring fiercely determined heroines.
Love and First Sight by Josh SundquistFiction. In his first novel, Paralympian and YouTuber Josh Sundquist introduces 16-year-old Will, who's proving his independence by transferring from his school for the blind to a mainstream high school. The transition is rough, but it improves after he makes friends, including shy, artistic Cecily. As Will's feelings for Cecily grow, he makes the tough decision to have experimental surgery, giving him eyesight for the first time…and showing him that his new friends have been lying to him about Cecily. Readers who enjoy this thoughtful, compelling book about a blind character grappling with issues of friendship and trust may also like Eric Lindstrom's Not If I See You First.
He Said, She Said by Kwame AlexanderFiction. In both football and dating, Omar is player. He's got a college scholarship in the bag, and he's popular with girls -- except for Claudia, a Harvard-bound activist who isn't impressed by sports or swagger. After Omar's friends bet that he can't win over Claudia ("She's Oprah. You're Flavor Flav."), he commits himself to her latest protest. For her part, Claudia sees through Omar, but she's happy to use his local celebrity status for her cause. As they work together, however, both are surprised by their genuine attraction. Dual narrators allow for plenty of quick banter in this "lighthearted, socially conscious romance" (Horn Book Magazine).
Joyride by Anna BanksFiction. A chance meeting leads to unexpected consequences for two Florida teens in this moving, realistic story. While Carly is responsible and devoted to her family (especially her parents, who've been deported to Mexico), Arden is reckless and loves causing trouble for his overbearing, racist father (who happens to be the sheriff). After a dramatic encounter outside a convenience store, Carly reluctantly becomes Arden's pranking partner, and they strike up a fragile relationship -- one that might be too fragile to withstand the harsh truth about Arden's dad's anti-immigrant activities. For another "relevant, risky, and romantic" (School Library Journal) read, try Marie Marquardt's Dream Things True.
Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara FarizanFiction. Sixteen-year-old Leila knows that she likes girls, but she's tried to avoid romantic entanglements -- she's just not ready to deal with judgement from her upscale private school classmates or her conservative Iranian American parents. Then daring, flirty new girl Saskia arrives, and Leila is lovestruck…but also frustrated by Saskia's confusing behavior. At a loss to figure out what she really wants, Leila confides in both her theater crew friends and in Lisa, an estranged childhood friend who proves to be surprisingly understanding. Balancing drama, humor, and heartfelt emotion, this romantic read will satisfy those who want more inclusive coming-of-age stories.
Like No Other by Una LaMarcheFiction. In a meet-cute worthy of a rom-com, Devorah and Jaxon share a promising flirtation while they're trapped together in a stuck elevator. The challenges to their relationship don't begin until after they're back in the real world of Crown Heights, Brooklyn: Devorah's devout Hasidic faith (not to mention her family) forbids her from dating, especially dating someone like Jaxon, who isn't even Jewish. Still, the spark between them is undeniable, leaving Devorah searching for a way to make her own choices without abandoning her beliefs. Fans of Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor and Park are sure to fall for this realistic, heartfelt tale of star-crossed love.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire SáenzFiction. In the summer of 1987, Aristotle meets Dante. Both are 15 years old and Mexican American, but otherwise they're nothing alike: artistic Dante is an only child of intellectual parents who don't believe in secrets, while brooding Ari's family never talks about his brother in prison or his father's traumatic experiences in the Vietnam War. Nevertheless, the boys become close friends, and Dante's open attitudes start to crack Ari's carefully constructed shell. Award-winning author Benjamin Alire Sáenz's "lyric prose and pitch-perfect dialog" (Library Journal) honestly portrays the inner life of a frustrated teen guy figuring out who he is and who he wants to be.
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