The buzz for Adalyn Grace’s YA fantasy debut All the Stars and Teeth (Imprint) began to build last summer with early praise by bestselling authors Tomi Adeyemi and Hafsah Faizal, and a cover reveal and excerpt by Entertainment Weekly’s website, touting the title as potentially one of the biggest YA books of 2020. Appearances on several other “Anticipated Books of 2020” lists quickly followed. And since its official release on February 4, the enthusiasm for All the Stars and Teeth has only grown. Grace has described her tale as a “high fantasy about a morally gray princess who has to team up with a pirate to save her kingdom from a magical new threat.” Readers now know that there are vengeful mermaids, a stowaway, and plenty of danger in the mix as well.

The title shipped an initial 75,000 copies and debuted in the #2 spot on the February 23 New York Times young adult hardcover bestseller list as Grace embarked on a five-city West Coast tour with Adeyemi from February 4–8. And on February 10, Grace wrapped up the initial phase of her launch with a solo appearance at Changing Hands in Tempe, Ariz., a bit of home turf (she is a graduate of Arizona State University and splits her time between Arizona and San Diego). In all, she spoke to more than 400 readers over the course of the tour.

The publicity and marketing teams at Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group coordinated a number of other efforts to dovetail with the on-sale date for All the Stars and Teeth, including an immersive online campaign consisting of a trailer, website and a quiz that encourages readers to “Choose Your Magic.” Fellow YA authors and influencers received a mailing containing the book and such themed swag as a custom message in a bottle, a bath bomb, a signed bookplate, and an enamel pin. And on the magazine front, Marie Claire featured an author interview with Grace, and the book was additionally spotlighted in the #7 slot on the “EW Must List” in Entertainment Weekly’s February print issue.

Grace took the reins on some of her own promotion as well. “I really appreciate my readers, and I feel like I’ve gotten to take an organic approach to building buzz for this book because of them,” she said. “They’ve been the ones writing reviews, interviewing me for their blogs, making character art and graphics, sharing beautiful Bookstagram photos, and so much more. Prior to publication, I also put together a crew of excited readers I call the Barracudas, who have been absolutely amazing in helping me with promotion, and who all had the chance to read an early copy of the book. I always try to thank readers whenever I see them hyping up the book, because I just appreciate the heck out of it, and it makes this whole promotion thing feel more natural.”

When considering what the special sauce attracting readers to her book might be, Grace said, “I think two of the most important elements of fantasy are the characters and the world. I really tried to home in on those by creating a massive world that stands entirely on its own, and by creating a balanced group of characters to explore it.” She added that the crew starring in her tale is “another element of the story I think readers are really connecting with. It’s a ragtag group of four—a morally gray princess, a mysterious pirate, a vicious mermaid, and a healer who is just trying to keep everyone out of trouble.”

Erin Stein, publisher at Imprint and Grace’s editor, echoes her author’s assessment, praising Grace’s development of “this intricate kingdom of seven unique islands and magics with a complicated political situation and legacy.” Stein believes that the book’s setting “feels truly like a new world for readers to explore.” But, she added, “the real appeal for [the team at Macmillan] and for her readers, I think, is Adalyn’s characters. Amora [the princess] is ambitious and loving and a fully realized complicated human being. She’s not perfect, but she is struggling to become the person she thinks she should be—and isn’t that true of all of us?”

Grace will have more face-to-face time with readers throughout the spring, noting that she has events and travel booked into May so far. And, when she’s not meeting and greeting, Grace is polishing the follow-up to All the Stars and Teeth. “I’m finishing edits for the sequel, which I can’t wait to share with everyone just as soon as it’s ready!” she said. “Readers can expect adventure, more romance, new islands, magical shenanigans, and a few additions to the crew.”

All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace. Imprint, $17.99 Feb. ISBN 978-1-250-30778-1