Indestructible Object by Mary McCoy (15th)
For the past two years, Lee has been laser-focused on two things: her job as a sound tech at a local coffee shop and her podcast “Artists in Love,” which she cohosts with her boyfriend Vincent.
Until he breaks up with her on the air right after graduation.
When their unexpected split, the loss of her job, and her parent’s announcement that they’re separating coincide, Lee’s plans, her art, and her life are thrown into turmoil. Searching for a new purpose, Lee recruits her old friend Max and new friend Risa to produce a podcast called “Objects of Destruction,” where they investigate whether love actually exists at all.
But the deeper they get into the love stories around them, the more Lee realizes that she’s the one who’s been holding love at arm’s length. And when she starts to fall for Risa, she finds she’ll have to be more honest with herself and the people in her life to create a new love story of her own.
The Hellion’s Waltz by Olivia Waite (15th)
It’s not a crime to steal a heart…
Sophie Roseingrave hates nothing more than a swindler. After her family lost their piano shop to a con man in London, they’re trying to start fresh in a new town. Her father is convinced Carrisford is an upright and honest place, but Sophie is not so sure. She has grave suspicions about silk-weaver Madeline Crewe, whose stunning beauty doesn’t hide the fact that she’s up to something.
All Maddie Crewe needs is one big score, one grand heist to properly fund the weavers’ union forever. She has found her mark in Mr. Giles, a greedy draper, and the entire association of weavers and tailors and clothing merchants has agreed to help her. The very last thing she needs is a small but determined piano-teacher and composer sticking her nose in other people’s business. If Sophie won’t be put off, the only thing to do is to seduce her to the cause.
Will Sophie’s scruples force her to confess the plot before Maddie gets her money? Or will Maddie lose her nerve along with her heart?
The Natural Mother of the Child by Krys Malcolm Belc (15th)
As a nonbinary, transmasculine parent, Krys Malcolm Belc has thought a lot about the interplay between parenthood and gender. Giving birth to his son Samson clarified his gender identity and allowed him to project a more masculine self. And yet, when his partner Anna adopted Samson, the legal documents listed Belc as “the natural mother of the child.”
By considering how the experiences contained under the umbrella of “motherhood” don’t fully align with Belc’s own experience, The Natural Mother of the Child journeys both toward and through common perceptions of what it means to have a body and how that body can influence the perception of a family. The Natural Mother of the Child is a visual memoir-in-lyric-essays, an archive of Belc’s queerness. By engaging directly with the documentation often thought to constitute a record of one’s life—childhood photos, birth certificates—Belc creates a new kind of life record, one that addresses his own ambivalence about the “before” and “after” so prevalent in trans stories, which feels apart from his own.
The Natural Mother of the Child is the story of a person moving past societal expectations to take control of his own narrative, with prose that delights in the intimate dailiness of family life and explores how much we can ever really know when we enter into parenting.
Bath Haus by P.J. Vernon (15th)
A young gay man in a perfect marriage will do anything to keep a dangerous indiscretion from his loving husband.
Oliver Park, a recovering addict from Indiana, finally has everything he ever wanted: sobriety and a loving, wealthy partner in Nathan, a prominent DC trauma surgeon. Despite their difference in age and disparate backgrounds, they’ve made a perfect life together. With everything to lose, Oliver shouldn’t be visiting Haus, a gay bathhouse. But through the entrance he goes, and it’s a line crossed. Inside, he follows a man into a private room, and it’s the final line. Whatever happens next, Nathan can never know. But then, everything goes wrong, terribly wrong, and Oliver barely escapes with his life.
He races home in full-blown terror as the hand-shaped bruise grows dark on his neck. The truth will destroy Nathan and everything they have together, so Oliver does the thing he used to do so well: he lies.
What follows is a classic runaway-train narrative, full of the exquisite escalations, edge-of-your-seat thrills, and oh-my-god twists. P. J. Vernon’s Bath Haus is a scintillating thriller with an emotional punch, perfect for readers curious for their next must-read novel.
The Legend of Auntie Po by Shing Yin Khor (15th)
Part historical fiction, part magical realism, and 100 percent adventure. Thirteen-year-old Mei reimagines the myths of Paul Bunyan as starring a Chinese heroine while she works in a Sierra Nevada logging camp in 1885.
Aware of the racial tumult in the years after the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act, Mei tries to remain blissfully focused on her job, her close friendship with the camp foreman’s daughter, and telling stories about Paul Bunyan–reinvented as Po Pan Yin (Auntie Po), an elderly Chinese matriarch.
Anchoring herself with stories of Auntie Po, Mei navigates the difficulty and politics of lumber camp work and her growing romantic feelings for her friend Bee. The Legend of Auntie Po is about who gets to own a myth, and about immigrant families and communities holding on to rituals and traditions while staking out their own place in America.
The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris (15th)
In the waning days of the Civil War, brothers Prentiss and Landry—freed by the Emancipation Proclamation—seek refuge on the homestead of George Walker and his wife, Isabelle. The Walkers, wracked by the loss of their only son to the war, hire the brothers to work their farm, hoping through an unexpected friendship to stanch their grief. Prentiss and Landry, meanwhile, plan to save money for the journey north and a chance to reunite with their mother, who was sold away when they were boys.
Parallel to their story runs a forbidden romance between two Confederate soldiers. The young men, recently returned from the war to the town of Old Ox, hold their trysts in the woods. But when their secret is discovered, the resulting chaos, including a murder, unleashes convulsive repercussions on the entire community. In the aftermath of so much turmoil, it is Isabelle who emerges as an unlikely leader, proffering a healing vision for the land and for the newly free citizens of Old Ox.
House of Agnes by Fiona Zedde (16th)
A lesbian romance filled with intrigue and sizzling sexual tension as enemies discover that the other side of hatred…is desire.
Agnes Noble is private, mysterious, and untouchable. She rules House of Agnes, the most exclusive escort agency on the East Coast, with a diamond fist. Crossing her is a mistake no one makes twice.
Investigative reporter Lola Osbourne is not afraid. She’s gunning for the House and its so-called queen. She’ll make sure no other innocent gets dragged into Agnes’s alluring web, to be used and discarded the way Lola’s sister was.
But her plan to get close to the elusive madam shatters the moment her eyes meet the Queen’s. One look and everything’s different. More complicated. Dangerous.
Now, Lola’s not just fighting to topple a queen from her throne, she’s also scrambling to escape their explosive collision with her suddenly vulnerable heart intact.
Skye Falling by Mia McKenzie (22nd)
When she was twenty-six and broke, Skye didn’t think twice before selling her eggs and happily pocketing the cash. Now approaching forty, Skye still moves through life entirely—and unrepentantly—on her own terms, living out of a suitcase and avoiding all manner of serious relationships. Maybe her junior high classmates weren’t wrong when they voted her “Most Likely to Be Single” instead of “Most Ride-or-Die Homie,” but at least she’s always been free to do as she pleases.
Then a twelve-year-old girl tracks Skye down during one of her brief visits to her hometown of Philadelphia and informs Skye that she’s “her egg.” Skye’s life is thrown into sharp relief and she decides that it might be time to actually try to have a meaningful relationship with another human being. Spoiler alert: It’s not easy.
Things get even more complicated when Skye realizes that the woman she tried and failed to pick up the other day is the girl’s aunt, and now it’s awkward. All the while, her brother is trying to get in touch, her mother is being bewilderingly kind, and the West Philly pool halls and hoagie shops of her youth have been replaced by hipster cafés.
Violet Ghosts by Leah Thomas (22nd)
Dani’s best friend, Sarah, is a ghost. But maybe that’s normal when you’ve spent your childhood running from an abusive parent.
Dani and Sarah might be more than friends, though Dani dares not say so. Dani is afraid that if he tells Sarah he’s trans, she won’t bother haunting him anymore. Sarah’s got good reason to distrust boys, having been strangled by one.
After Sarah and Dani come across another ghost haunted by her own brutal murder, they set out to bring peace and safety to spirits like her. But when an old rival reenters Dani’s life, their unexpected friendship gives Dani a strange new feeling of belonging. As Dani starts to find his place in the living world, he’ll need to let go of his ghosts.
Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor (22nd)
In the series of linked stories at the heart of Filthy Animals, set among young creatives in the American Midwest, a young man treads delicate emotional waters as he navigates a series of sexually fraught encounters with two dancers in an open relationship, forcing him to weigh his vulnerabilities against his loneliness. In other stories, a young woman battles with the cancers draining her body and her family; menacing undercurrents among a group of teenagers explode in violence on a winter night; a little girl tears through a house like a tornado, driving her babysitter to the brink; and couples feel out the jagged edges of connection, comfort, and cruelty.
One of the breakout literary stars of 2020, Brandon Taylor has been hailed by Roxane Gay as “a writer who wields his craft in absolutely unforgettable ways.” With Filthy Animals he renews and expands on the promise made in Real Life, training his precise and unsentimental gaze on the tensions among friends and family, lovers and others. Psychologically taut and quietly devastating, Filthy Animals is a tender portrait of the fierce longing for intimacy, the lingering presence of pain, and the desire for love in a world that seems, more often than not, to withhold it.
Antiman by Rajiv Mohabir (22nd)
Growing up a Guyanese Indian immigrant in Central Florida, Rajiv Mohabir is fascinated by his family’s abandoned Hindu history and the legacy of his ancestors, who were indentured laborers on British sugarcane plantations. In Toronto he sits at the feet of Aji, his grandmother, listening to her stories and songs in her Caribbean Bhojpuri. By now Aji’s eleven children have immigrated to North America and busied themselves with ascension, Christianity, and the erasure of their heritage andCaribbean accents. But Rajiv wants to know more: where did he come from, and why does he feel so out of place?
Embarking on a journey of discovery, he lives for a year in Varanasi, on the banks of the Ganges, perfecting his Hindi and Bhojpuri and tracing the lineage of his Aji’s music. Returning to Florida, the cognitive dissonance of confederate flags, Islamophobia, and his father’s disapproval sends him to New York, where finds community among like-minded brown activists, work as an ESL teacher, and intoxication in the queer nightlife scene. But even in the South Asian paradise of Jackson Heights, Rajiv feels like an outsider: “Coolie” rather than Desi. And then the final hammer of estrangement falls when his cousin outs him as an “antiman”—a Caribbean slur for men who love men—and his father and aunts disown him.
But Aji has taught Rajiv resilience. Emerging from the chrysalis of his ancestral poetics into a new life, he embraces his identity as a poet and reclaims his status as an antiman—forging a new way of being entirely his own. Rapturous, inventive, and devastating in its critique of our own failures of inclusion, Antiman is a hybrid memoir that helps us see ourselves and relationships anew, and announces an exciting new talent in Rajiv Mohabir.
Blackout by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, Nicola Yoon (22nd)
A summer heatwave blankets New York City in darkness. But as the city is thrown into confusion, a different kind of electricity sparks…
A first meeting.
And maybe the beginning of something new.
When the lights go out, people reveal hidden truths. Love blossoms, friendship transforms, and new possibilities take flight.
Star Eater by Kerstin Hall (22nd)
Elfreda Raughn will avoid pregnancy if it kills her, and one way or another, it will kill her. Though she’s able to stomach her gruesome day-to-day duties, the reality of preserving the Sisterhood of Aytrium’s magical bloodline horrifies her. She wants out, whatever the cost.
So when a shadowy faction approaches Elfreda with an offer of escape, she leaps at the opportunity. As their spy, she gains access to the highest reaches of the Sisterhood, and enters a glittering world of opulent parties, subtle deceptions, and unexpected bloodshed.
Gearbreakers by Zoe Hana Mikuta (29th)
The shadow of Godolia’s tyrannical rule is spreading, aided by their giant mechanized weapons known as Windups. War and oppression are everyday constants for the people of the Badlands, who live under the thumb of their cruel Godolia overlords.
Eris Shindanai is a Gearbreaker, a brash young rebel who specializes in taking down Windups from the inside. When one of her missions goes awry and she finds herself in a Godolia prison, Eris meets Sona Steelcrest, a cybernetically enhanced Windup pilot. At first Eris sees Sona as her mortal enemy, but Sona has a secret: She has intentionally infiltrated the Windup program to destroy Godolia from within.
As the clock ticks down to their deadliest mission yet, a direct attack to end Godolia’s reign once and for all, Eris and Sona grow closer―as comrades, friends, and perhaps something more…
This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron (29th)
Briseis has a gift: she can grow plants from tiny seeds to rich blooms with a single touch.
When Briseis’s aunt dies and wills her a dilapidated estate in rural New York, Bri and her parents decide to leave Brooklyn behind for the summer. Hopefully there, surrounded by plants and flowers, Bri will finally learn to control her gift. But their new home is sinister in ways they could never have imagined–it comes with a specific set of instructions, an old-school apothecary, and a walled garden filled with the deadliest botanicals in the world that can only be entered by those who share Bri’s unique family lineage.
When strangers begin to arrive on their doorstep, asking for tinctures and elixirs, Bri learns she has a surprising talent for creating them. One of the visitors is Marie, a mysterious young woman who Bri befriends, only to find that Marie is keeping dark secrets about the history of the estate and its surrounding community. There is more to Bri’s sudden inheritance than she could have imagined, and she is determined to uncover it . . . until a nefarious group comes after her in search of a rare and dangerous immortality elixir. Up against a centuries-old curse and the deadliest plant on earth, Bri must harness her gift to protect herself and her family.
Stranger Things: Rebel Robin by AR Capetta (29th)
High school is a monster, and it’s eating everyone Robin knows. As sophomore year starts, Robin’s Odd Squad friends have decided to try to be just like everyone else. Her best friends couple up and expect her to come along for the ride. They can’t stop talking about school and college and careers. But Robin has bigger problems–she’s been hiding out with the band kids since middle school, hoping nobody would notice that she’s something even stranger than a French horn player who can speak four languages: she’s gay.
She’s convinced the only way she can learn to be herself is by fleeing to Europe for a summer to experience real life. But she has no money, no permission, and no one to share the adventure with. How is she supposed to be her true self in Hawkins, Indiana? The weirdest girl in Hawkins has spent her whole life trying to fit in. Now, she’s going to break out.
Sprinkled with Easter eggs that reference our favorite Stranger Things characters, this contemporary coming-of-age story set in the ’80s is about one girl’s realization that the only person she needs to be accepted by is herself.