The famous Rodgers and Hammerstein song proclaims that it’s June that’s busting out all over, but in the world of publishing, it seems as though it’s gonna be May. (I am not the one who can pass up an *NSYNC joke, even it’s lame. I’m sorry.)
In addition to multiple highly anticipated fantasy titles hitting shelves this month, the YA section of your local bookstore is soon to be full to bursting with new releases, stories that run the gamut from queer rom-coms and competitive meet-cutes involving family restaurants to stories of family betrayals and secret government agencies staffed by teen witches. What a time to be a reader, is what I’m saying.
Release Date: May 3 from Delacorte Press
Why You’ll Love It: This long-awaited to the New York Times bestseller (and TikTok favorite) We Were Liars returns to the Sinclair family’s lush private island in 1987 to tell the story of the original Liars’ mothers and the “absolute worst thing you ever did, back then”. Full of plot twists, betrayal, and ugly famliy secrets, fans of the first novel will no doubt love it.
Publisher’s Description: A windswept private island off the coast of Massachusetts.
A hungry ocean, churning with secrets and sorrow.
A fiery, addicted heiress. An irresistible, unpredictable boy.
A summer of unforgivable betrayal and terrible mistakes.
Welcome back to the Sinclair family.
They were always liars
Release Date: May 3 from St. Martin’s Press
Why You’ll Love It: The YA debut from Casey McQuiston, the author of bestselling queer romances Red, White & Royal Blue and One Last Stop, I Kissed Shara Wheeleris a sweet story about friendship, found family, and figuring out who you are set against the background of a deeply conservative Alabama Christian school. After Shara Wheeler disappears, she leaves behind a series of notes for three people she’s kissed recently, and they’ll have to join forces to solve the mystery of how to find her—and maybe even learn to understand themselves along the way.
Publisher’s Description: Chloe Green is so close to winning. After her moms moved her from SoCal to Alabama for high school, she’s spent the past four years dodging gossipy classmates and a puritanical administration at Willowgrove Christian Academy. The thing that’s kept her going: winning valedictorian. Her only rival: prom queen Shara Wheeler, the principal’s perfect progeny.
But a month before graduation, Shara kisses Chloe and vanishes.
On a furious hunt for answers, Chloe discovers she’s not the only one Shara kissed. There’s also Smith, Shara’s longtime quarterback sweetheart, and Rory, Shara’s bad boy neighbor with a crush. The three have nothing in common except Shara and the annoyingly cryptic notes she left behind, but together they must untangle Shara’s trail of clues and find her. It’ll be worth it, if Chloe can drag Shara back before graduation to beat her fair-and-square.
Thrown into an unlikely alliance, chasing a ghost through parties, break-ins, puzzles, and secrets revealed on monogrammed stationery, Chloe starts to suspect there might be more to this small town than she thought. And maybe—probably not, but maybe—more to Shara, too.
Release Date: May 10 from Little, Brown
Why You’ll Love It: An unconventional murder mystery explores issues of racism and Islamaphobia in America as aspiring Indian American journalist Safiya Mirza investigates the death of the son of Iraqi refugees. Its innovative story is told through prose, images, text messages, and other types of mixed media that help highlight its larger themes about social media, disinformation, and hate speech, Hollow Fires is one of the most original titles hitting shelves this month.
Publisher’s Description: Safiya Mirza dreams of becoming a journalist. And one thing she’s learned as editor of her school newspaper is that a journalist’s job is to find the facts and not let personal biases affect the story. But all that changes the day she finds the body of a murdered boy.
Jawad Ali was fourteen years old when he built a cosplay jetpack that a teacher mistook for a bomb. A jetpack that got him arrested, labeled a terrorist—and eventually killed. But he’s more than a dead body, and more than “Bomb Boy.” He was a person with a life worth remembering.
Driven by Jawad’s haunting voice guiding her throughout her investigation, Safiya seeks to tell the whole truth about the murdered boy and those who killed him because of their hate-based beliefs.
Release Date: May 10 from Clarion Books
Why You’ll Love It: Veronica has spent her life managing her hip dysplasia, undergoing multiple surgeries, and learning to live with the pain and the scars it has caused. But she loves swimming and longs to audition to become one of the mermaids at the local Central Florida theme park known as Mermaid Cove. But her conservative Peruvian parents have their own ideas about what kind of activities are appropriate for their daughter, and have been keeping secrets of their own about her condition. (Read an excerpt from Breathe and Count Back From Ten here.)
Publisher’s Description: In this gorgeously written and authentic novel, Verónica, a Peruvian-American teen with hip dysplasia, auditions to become a mermaid at a Central Florida theme park in the summer before her senior year, all while figuring out her first real boyfriend and how to feel safe in her own body.
Verónica has had many surgeries to manage her disability. The best form of rehabilitation is swimming, so she spends hours in the pool, but not just to strengthen her body Her Florida town is home to Mermaid Cove, a kitschy underwater attraction where professional mermaids perform in giant tanks . . . and Verónica wants to audition. But her conservative Peruvian parents would never go for it. And they definitely would never let her be with Alex, her cute new neighbor.
She decides it’s time to seize control of her life, but her plans come crashing down when she learns her parents have been hiding the truth from her—the truth about her own body.
Release Date: May 10 from Quill Tree Books
Why You’ll Love It: Cafe Con Lychee follows the stories of Theo and Gabi, two queer teens whose parents own rival food shops: An Asian American cafe and a Puerto Rican bakery. But when they’re forced to join forces to try and save their parents’ stories from being driven under by competition from the town’s new fusion restaurant, they’ll discover they may have more in common than they originally thought. Food and adorable enemies to lovers romance? Yes, please.
Punisher’s Description: Theo Mori wants to escape. Leaving Vermont for college means getting away from working at his parents’ Asian American café and dealing with their archrivals’ hopeless son Gabi who’s lost the soccer team more games than Theo can count.
Gabi Moreno is miserably stuck in the closet. Forced to play soccer to hide his love for dance and iced out by Theo, the only openly gay guy at school, Gabi’s only reprieve is his parents’ Puerto Rican bakery and his plans to take over after graduation.
But the town’s new fusion café changes everything. Between the Mori’s struggling shop and the Moreno’s plan to sell their bakery in the face of the competition, both boys find their dreams in jeopardy. Then Theo has an idea—sell photo-worthy food covertly at school to offset their losses. When he sprains his wrist and Gabi gets roped in to help, they realize they need to work together to save their parents’ shops but will the new feelings rising between them be enough to send their future plans up in smoke?
Release Date: May 17 from Knopf Books for Young Readers
Why You’ll Love It: A historical novel set in 1940s California that wrestles with issues of friendship, class, and race in a way that manages to feel both fresh and timely, all centered around a pair of charming heroines with big hearts. Sign us up.
Publisher’s Description: Ginny Rose and Peggy were best friends at seven, picking peaches on hot summer days. Peggy’s family owned the farm, and Ginny Rose’s were pickers, escaping the Oklahoma dust storms. That didn’t matter to them then, but now, ten years, hard miles, and a world war later, Ginny Rose’s family is back in town and their differences feel somehow starker. Especially since Peggy’s new best friend, Lisette, is a wealthy banker’s daughter.
Still, there’s no denying what these girls have in common—families with great fissures that are about to break wide open.
So when Ginny Rose imagines a radical plan to try to heal the rift in her family, these three not-quite-friends come together to see it through. They sense that this is a moment for them all—to prove they have the power to make things happen. To know that they can build better futures for themselves in a changing world.
Release Date: May 31 from Kokila
Why You’ll Love It: The YA debut from (hilarious) culture critic R. Eric Thomas, Kings of B’More has all the fizzy joy of the best sort of 1980s teen romps, mixed with the sort of important and necessary representation that those sorts of stories desperately lacked at the time. The story of two queer Black boys and their epic final adventure together before one of them has to move out of state prior to their all-important junior year, it’s a frothy celebration of Black joy and the enduring power of friendship.
Publisher’s Description: With junior year starting in the fall, Harrison feels like he’s on the precipice of, well, everything. Standardized testing, college, and the terrifying unknowns and looming pressures of adulthood after that—it’s like the future wants to eat him alive. Which is why Harrison is grateful that he and his best friend Linus will face these things together. But at the end of a shift at their summer job, Linus invites Harrison to their special spot overlooking the city to deliver devastating news: he’s moving out of state at the end of the week.
To keep from completely losing it—and partially inspired by a cheesy movie-night pick by his Dad—Harrison plans a send-off a la Ferris Bueller’s Day Off that’s worthy of his favorite person. If they won’t be having all the life-expanding experiences they thought they would, Harrison will squeeze them all into their last day. They end up on a mini road trip, their first Pride, and a rooftop dance party, all while keeping their respective parents, who track them on a family location app, off their trail. Harrison and Linus make a pact to do all the things—big and small—they’ve been too scared to do. But nothing feels scarier than saying goodbye to someone you love
Release Date: May 31 from Penguin Books
Why You’ll Love It: Look if the idea of a story about a group of girls living in an alternate England and working for a centuries-old secret government bureau of witches doesn’t grab you immediately, I don’t know what to tell you. Except that there’s also a witch civil war, an oracle that prophecies a young warlock will bring about genocide, and a group of friends torn about how to stop it.
Publisher’s Description: At the dawn of their adolescence, on the eve of the summer solstice, four young girls—Helena, Leonie, Niamh, and Elle—took the oath to join Her Majesty’s Royal Coven, established by Queen Elizabeth I as a covert government department. Now, decades later, the witch community is still reeling from a civil war and Helena is now the reigning High Priestess of the organization. Yet Helena is the only one of her friend group still enmeshed in the stale bureaucracy of HMRC. Elle is trying to pretend she’s a normal housewife, and Niamh has become a country vet, using her powers to heal sick animals. In what Helena perceives as the deepest betrayal, Leonie has defected to start her own more inclusive and intersectional coven, Diaspora. And now Helena has a bigger problem. A young warlock of extraordinary capabilities has been captured by authorities and seems to threaten the very existence of HMRC. With conflicting beliefs over the best course of action, the four friends must decide where their loyalties lie: with preserving tradition, or doing what is right.
Release Date: May 31 from Flatiron Books
Why You’ll Love It: This charming follow-up to Emiko Jean’s 2021 debut Tokyo Ever After continues the story of Izumi Tanaka, now a princess of Japan in her own right. But in order to help her newly reunited parents find their happily ever after, she’ll struggle to balance her newfound royal duties with her own dreams, and have to navigate a tricky balance between the two
Publisher’s Description: When Japanese-American Izumi Tanaka learned her father was the Crown Prince of Japan, she became a princess overnight. Now, she’s overcome conniving cousins, salacious press, and an imperial scandal to finally find a place she belongs. She has a perfect bodyguard turned boyfriend. Her stinky dog, Tamagotchi, is living with her in Tokyo. Her parents have even rekindled their college romance and are engaged. A royal wedding is on the horizon! Izumi’s life is a Tokyo dream come true.
Her parents’ engagement hits a brick wall. The Imperial Household Council refuses to approve the marriage citing concerns about Izumi and her mother’s lack of pedigree. And on top of it all, her bodyguard turned boyfriend makes a shocking decision about their relationship. At the threat of everything falling apart, Izumi vows to do whatever it takes to help win over the council. Which means upping her newly acquired princess game.
But at what cost? Izumi will do anything to help her parents achieve their happily ever after, but what if playing the perfect princess means sacrificing her own? Will she find a way to forge her own path and follow her heart?
Lacy Baugher Milas is the Books Editor at Paste Magazine, but loves nerding out about all sorts of pop culture. You can find her on Twitter @LacyMB.