Magic, Mischief, and Heartbreak: Spotlight on Dhonielle Clayton

Dhonielle Clayton has been very busy. The New York Times–bestselling author of The Belles series, Clayton is coauthor of the Tiny Pretty Things duology, which was adapted as a hit Netflix original series, and author of the forthcoming middle grade fantasy series The Marvellers.

Clayton is also the COO of the nonprofit We Need Diverse Books, a grassroots organization working for increased racial diversity in books for children and young readers, and the owner of CAKE Literary, a creative kitchen specializing in decadent literary confections.

And if that weren’t enough, Clayton is preparing for the October release of Shattered Midnight (Disney Hyperion), the second novel in the Mirror series, an innovative four-book fairy tale that follows one family—and the curse that plagues it—over several generations. The series starter, Broken Wish, was written by Julie C. Dao. The final two books in the series are forthcoming from J.C. Cervantes and L. L. McKinney.

In Shattered Midnight, Zora Broussard finds herself in 1920s New Orleans with a beautiful singing voice, a pair of enchanted red shoes, and otherwise little more than the clothes on her back. Zora is on the run from a tragic accident caused by her magic and wants nothing more than to blend in and be rid of the powers that make her a target—especially as a Black woman in the South.

Shattered Midnight is one piece of a unique story puzzle with the Mirror series following behind the über-talented Julie C. Dao’s Broken Wish,” Clayton says. “The 1920s in New Orleans was a peculiar place to write a fantasy story full of magic, mischief, and heartbreak, but it provided an interesting and exciting challenge to dive into history not often seen and infuse it with magic.”

Dismantling Racial Oppression: Spotlight on Crystal Marie Fleming

Crystal Marie Fleming never planned on becoming a YA author. A critical race sociologist, internationally recognized expert on racism and anti-racism, and professor of sociology and Africana studies at SUNY Stony Brook, Fleming’s first two books were Resurrecting Slavery: Racial Legacies and White Supremacy in France and the primer How to Be Less Stupid About Race: On Racism, White Supremacy and the Racial Divide.

And while her third book, the YA title Rise Up! How You Can Join the Fight Against White Supremacy (Oct.), may seem like a bit of a departure, Fleming says her agent, Michael Bourret, probably had in mind something for young readers when they started working together.

“The project is really the brainchild of Brian Geffen, my editor at Henry Holt for Young Readers, who asked me to consider writing a book about racism and anti-racism for teens,” Fleming says. “He knew about my scholarship and writing on white supremacy and envisioned a primer on the history and ongoing realities of racial oppression that would also highlight the work of organizations and advocates who have been working toward justice and equity for centuries.”

Fleming says she’s excited to bring scholarly insights about racism to young audiences and to inspire young readers to view themselves as change agents. “I think what’s unique about Rise Up! is that it presents youth with a very honest appraisal of our nation’s history as well as an in-depth understanding of white supremacy as a system of power,” she says. “That structural understanding—which combines historical and sociological analysis—is really key to dismantling racial oppression.”

Another of the book’s unique features is the depth of research and further reading that’s integrated into the text. “There are nearly 80 endnotes,” Fleming says. “I took the research very seriously, not only because I’m an academic, but because I want readers to have a plethora of resources to sustain their anti-racism journey for the long haul.”

Plague Does Not Play Favorites: Spotlight on Makiia Lucier

Makiia Lucier didn’t plan on writing a plague novel during a global pandemic. It just sort of happened that way.

“I have always been fascinated by plague—which is a strange thing to admit, I know—mostly because plague does not play favorites,” says Lucier, whose novels have appeared on best-book lists from IndieBound, the American Booksellers Association, and the American Library Association. “Plague does not care if you’re rich or poor, Black or white, a nice person or a rotten person. Plague can happen to anyone.”

The result of Lucier’s fascination is the romantic standalone fantasy Year of the Reaper—out in November from HMH Books for Young Readers—which was written before the Covid-19 pandemic. “I found myself curious about the aftermath of plague, and the Black Death of the 14th century in particular,” says Lucier, who grew up on the Pacific island of Guam. “What happened to the survivors, to those forced to carry on?”

In Year of the Reaper, enemy soldiers ambush Lord Cassia, an engineer’s apprentice on a royal mission. And when a plague devastates the kingdom, Cas winds up in a prison cell at the mercy of an unrelenting illness. When Cas finally returns home, three long years later, everything has changed. But when an assassin begins targeting allies of the queen, Cas must hunt down the killer before it’s too late.

Lucier, who lives with her family in North Carolina, is also the author of A Death-Struck Year, a novel set in Portland Ore., during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918; Isle of Blood and Stone, which received a starred review from Publishers Weekly; and Song of the Abyss, which Kirkus calls a “delightful romantic adventure flavored with ancient legends and salty ocean lore.”

And given the prepublication buzz for Year of the Reaper, Lucier’s fans should be delighted. Juliet Marillier, author of the popular Blackthorn & Grim and Warrior Bards series, calls the book a “beautifully crafted novel containing everything I love in an epic fantasy: complex characters and relationships,excellent worldbuilding, and a compelling story full of twists and turns.”

The Book of My Heart: Spotlight on Shanna Miles

Shanna Miles calls her debut novel, For All Time (Sept.), the “book of her heart” because it blends genre and history, two things the author loves to experiment with. “Through the lens of a teen romance,” Miles says, “readers follow two kids of color as they meet and fall for one another across multiple lifetimes and periods in history.”

In the genre-bending YA novel, Tamar and Fayard relive their tragic love story again and again. The pair has lived thousands of lives—watching the world rise and fall—and with each new life, there is a single constant: their love and fight to be together. Despite innumerable lives, Tamar and Fayard never learn how their story ends. But, when they finally learn how to break their cycle, will they be able to make the sacrifice?

Miles, who holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of South Carolina and a master’s degree in library media from Georgia State University, feels the novel will help bring much-needed diversity to books for young adult readers. “As a school librarian I’ve been searching for more teen romance featuring kids of color,” she says. “And there’s nothing more exciting than discussing history and diversity in YA with readers, writers, and librarians.”

And Krista Vitola, a senior editor at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, says that For All Time will appeal to fans of the Outlander series, The Sun Is Also a Star, and An Ember in the Ashes. “Part romance, part historical fiction, part speculative, this teen novel is an epic story about two young adults whose love knows no bounds,” Vitola said in a statement. “It’s unlike any novel I’ve read before, and we are certain Tamar and Fayard’s relationship across the ages will sweep readers away.”