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Velinxi. Andrews McMeel, $18.99 paper (432p) ISBN 978-1-5248-7649-4

Sixteen-year-old Vicky Tan navigates e-sports’ misogynistic atmosphere in this high-octane solo debut, originally a webcomic, by Velinxi (the Scum Villain series). Vicky has always supported her older brother, Virgil, username Aeneid, a top-ranked player of popular pvp game Xenith Orion, which is notorious for its boys’ club environment. She edits his videos, curates his social media presence, and cheers him on at tournaments. She also secretly moonlights as an equally high-ranked Xenith player; concealing her gender to avoid harassment, she plays online using voice modulators and the username Aegis. After landing a spot in a tournament, she must decide if she wants to fight for agency in her own life or to live in Virgil’s—and her alter ego’s—shadow forever. Velnixi’s bold lines, striking shadows, dynamic paneling, and vibrant, textured palettes stunningly illustrate Vicky’s cloud-nine highs and subterranean lows. This powerfully emotional graphic novel, set against a bombastic technicolor e-sports backdrop, tenderly navigates tumultuous, nuanced relationships and necessary conversations regarding toxic bro culture and being one’s authentic self. Vicky and Virgil cue as East Asian. Ages 13–17. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/19/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Twelfth Grade Night (Arden High #1)

Molly Horton Booth and Stephanie Kate Strohm, illus. by Jamie Green. Disney-Hyperion, $24.99 (160p) ISBN 978-1-368-06465-1

Booth (Nothing Happened), Strohm (Restless Hearts), and Green (Brothers in Arms) channel William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night in this joyful graphic novel series opener. Human twins Viola and Sebastian have been inseparable until, as the duo prepare to transition into Arden High, a school populated by humans, fairies, and satyrs alike, Sebastian opts to go to St. Anne’s boarding school, instead. Juggling feelings of abandonment and elation at being able to finally dress how she wants (“I just felt more and more uncomfortable in those skirts. I wanted to dress more like Sebastian,” Vi says of her middle school uniforms), Vi meets and crushes on enigmatic human poet Orsino. But things get messy when Orsino recruits her to help him woo his own crush. Green’s distinct and whimsical character designs, coupled with a rich color palette, skillfully render Arden’s ephemeral fairy-realm setting. The creators pay homage to the source material by modernizing core elements while staying true to the original’s spirit. The twins’ struggles to forge their own personhoods, and Vi’s exploration of her gender and sexual identity, enrich the narrative. Characters are portrayed with varying skin tones. Ages 12–up. Agents: (for Booth) Alex Slater, Trident Media Group; (for Strohm) Molly Ker Hawn, Bent Agency; (for Green) Chad Beckerman, CAT Agency. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/19/2022 | Details & Permalink

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The Sevenfold Hunters

Rose Egal. Page Street Kids, $18.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-64567-616-4

In this bustling debut from Egal, teenage students at an elite London-based academy secretly train to hunt and kill vampiric aliens plaguing a dystopian future-Earth. Somali hijabi Abyan Farax Guled, leader of The Sevenfold, Carlisle Academy’s top-ranked hunting squad, wants nothing more than to destroy the Nosaru, parasitic aliens that infect and usurp human bodies. After her squad mate Jared dies in action, Abyan, who’s clinically depressed, has trouble letting go. When Jared’s former girlfriend, “golden-brown” skinned Artemis Garrett-Coleman, is assigned to the Sevenfold as his replacement, she and Abyan butt heads. But, despite Artemis’s poor exam scores and subpar combat skills, Carlisle’s administration refuses to decommission her. Upon realizing that there’s something ominous going on within the academy, the pair, joined by the rest of the Sevenfold, must put aside their differences and defy orders to uncover the truth. Rapid pacing provides little time for emotional beats to land and leaves romantic subplots to falter. Nevertheless, Egal capably combines familiar tropes—academic intrigue, mysterious shadow organizations, and good old-fashioned vampire hunting—with innovative sci-fi elements to deliver an adrenaline-fueled galactic war adventure. Ages 14–up. Agent: Garrett Alwert, Emerald City Literary. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/19/2022 | Details & Permalink

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A Scatter of Light

Malinda Lo. Dutton, $18.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-525-55528-5

This raw and bittersweet story by Lo, a 2013-set standalone companion to Last Night at the Telegraph Club, follows MIT-bound 18-year-old Aria West, who’s anticipating spending her summer visiting friends on Martha’s Vineyard, like she does every year. But those plans are canceled when a classmate circulates topless photos of Aria online just before graduation. Disappointed and blaming her for the photo leak, Aria’s parents send her to stay with her paternal grandmother in “the remote woods of Marin County” outside of San Francisco, where she immediately connects with gender-nonconforming singer-songwriter Steph Nichols. Led by Steph, Steph’s possessive girlfriend, and their acerbic friend Mel Lopez, Aria immerses herself in San Francisco’s joyous LBGTQ culture. Aria’s enthusiastic exploration of her sexuality, her growing feelings for Steph, and her discovery of old photos, videotapes, and papers from her divorced parents’ complicated history turn what she assumed would be a lonely summer in exile into a transformative experience. Aria’s vulnerable narration is an intensely driving force in this expansive tale of yearning, self-discovery, and first love. Aria is white and Chinese; Mel is Latinx-cued; most other characters read as white. Ages 14–up. Agent: Michael Bourret, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/19/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Night of the Raven, Dawn of the Dove

Rati Mehrotra. Wednesday, $18.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-250-82368-7

Eighteen-year-old Katyani feels as if her life is not entirely her own in this fluidly plotted, medieval India–set fantasy by Mehrotra (Markswoman, for adults). When Katyani was three, Queen Hemlata of Chandela saved her from death by creating a soul bond between them; their tie means that she always knows the queen’s location and feelings, making Katyani the perfect bodyguard. Now one of the Garuda, elite royal protectors, she’s responsible for the safety of the entire royal family and serves as an adviser to Crown Prince Ayan. After a barrage of assassination attempts jeopardizes Ayan’s safety, a reluctant Katyani must accompany him to an ethics and military arts school. There she’s tasked with protecting him from the dangerous creatures who inhabit the surrounding area while he learns from a monster-fighting sage. Katyani and the teacher’s son, 19-year-old Daksh, are immediately and openly hostile toward each other, but when war breaks out and secrets from her past are revealed, she realizes that her loyalties may lead her to betrayal. Katyani’s bold, vivacious personality and a swoony enemies-to-lovers romance imbue this tense, action-packed narrative with wry humor. Ages 14–up. Agent: Mary C. Moore, Kimberly Cameron & Assoc. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/19/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Henry Hamlet’s Heart

Rhiannon Wilde. Charlesbridge Teen, $18.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-62354-369-3

An 18-year-old grapples with sudden feelings for his best friend in Australian author Wilde’s upbeat, 2008-set debut rom-com. Henry Hamlet, the unpopular, introverted school captain at Brisbane Northolm Grammar School for Boys, is worried about not having a clear life plan. As graduation looms, he finds it difficult to juggle tumultuous relationships with an uncertain future: his grandmother pressures him to pursue his art, while his parents believe success lies in his academic prowess, and his friends have begun fixating on romance, something that Henry wants nothing to do with. That is, until his best friend, Lennon Cane—sports star, serial heartbreaker, and aspiring photographer—kisses him during a game of truth or dare, which sparks confusing emotions in Henry. After Len admits wanting to pursue a relationship with Henry, the two begin dating, but when Len unexpectedly pulls away, Henry struggles to cope with potentially losing both his best friend and their budding relationship. Wilde deftly captures classic adolescent boys’ dialogue, while Henry’s constant, occasionally heartbreaking self-doubt is mitigated by his endearing and at times hilariously overwrought internal narrative in this sincere romance. Characters present as white. Ages 14–up. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/19/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Anne of Greenville

Mariko Tamaki. Hachette/de la Cruz, $18.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-368-07840-5

Tamaki (Cold) puts a modern spin on Anne of Green Gables in this finely detailed rendering of half-Japanese, half-white, and “deliciously queer” Anne Shirley, and her new life in the “Ultimate Small Town.” Anne—whose dyed orange hair and sequined jumpsuits make her stand out in a crowd—has just moved to Greenville with her mothers: portrait photographer Millie and Lucy, the new vice principal at Greenville High. Though Anne is not initially well-received—she announces her presence to the town square by hanging tiny papier-mâché disco balls on lampposts and performing on orange leather roller skates to “Funkytown”—she makes fast friends with warmhearted, “moss and fluorescent and forest and pine green”–haired Berry. Together, the duo contend with racist and homophobic classmates, but things get complicated when Anne crushes on Gilly, a tall blond girl whose friend group is responsible for Anne’s mistreatment. Though secondary characters—particularly the bullies—feel rote, Anne’s effervescent voice, overwhelming open-mindedness, and tenderly depicted struggle to create joy in a change-resistant town prove both a balm and a primer for how to live as one’s truest self. Most characters read as white. Ages 14–up. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/19/2022 | Details & Permalink

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The Restless Dark

Erica Waters. HarperTeen, $18.99 (400p) ISBN 978-0-0631-1590-3

After serial killer Joseph Kincaid plummeted into Georgia’s Cloudkiss Canyon while pursuing amateur environmental scientist Lucy Wilson, his body was never found. Two years later, popular true crime podcast Human Beasties hosts the Killer Quest, a weeklong hunt for Kincaid’s remains with a $20,000 reward. Lucy, now 17, secretly joins the contest, believing that the discovery will finally set her mind at ease (“I’m alive and Kincaid isn’t. And now I’m going to find his bones and prove it”). There she meets 18-year-old Carolina Cassels, whose ex-boyfriend’s mysterious death and father’s religious abuse causes her to believe there’s evil inside her; the two team up with charming, seemingly carefree college sophomore and psychology major Maggie Rey. As the girls, all white-cued, search for the bones, and Lucy and Maggie fall for each other, they must confront increasingly antagonistic contestants and their own fraught pasts. Switching between Lucy and Carolina’s perspectives, Waters (The River Has Teeth) attentively acknowledges the appeal of true crime while confronting the ways in which it can be exploitative. Employing a touch of the supernatural to create a consistently creepy environment, Waters crafts a smart and memorable thriller. Ages 13–up. Agent: Lauren Spieller, Triada US. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/19/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Princess of Souls

Alexandra Christo. Macmillan/Feiwel and Friends, $18.99 (416p) ISBN 978-1-250-84174-2

Teenagers battle a tyrannical, undying king in this starry-eyed, “Rapunzel”–inspired standalone by Christo (the Into the Crooked Place series). Pale-skinned Selestra Somniatis spends most days confined to a tower on Floating Mountain, waiting to replace her mother, Theola, as King Seryth’s witch, a position whose duties include prophesying deaths in the annual Festival of Predictions. Participants must survive three potentially fatal encounters over a fortnight, one of which Theola foretells. Should they perish, their soul will be devoured by Seryth to extend his life. Those who live, however, are granted a wish and given the opportunity to let the king and his army hunt them until month’s end. Seryth will cede his immortality to anyone who bests him—a never-before-achieved feat—but light-brown-skinned soldier Nox Laederic, hoping to avenge his father’s murder, is determined to be the first. When Selestra delivers Nox’s prediction as practice, she intertwines their fates, and the pair are forced to work together or perish. While the plot is predictable, vividly rendered backdrops and plentiful action coupled with Selestra and Nox’s alternating first-person accounts and snarky banter candidly chronicle their heady burgeoning romance. Ages 13–up. Agent: Emmanuelle Morgen, Stonesong. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/19/2022 | Details & Permalink

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If You Could See the Sun

Ann Liang. Inkyard, $18.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-335-91584-9

A Chinese American scholarship student with an inexplicable ability to turn invisible uses her newfound power to monetize her peers’ secrets in Liang’s imaginative debut. Unlike her affluent classmates, 17-year-old Alice Sun has only her hard-earned “established streak of success” going for her. After receiving news that her parents can’t afford the tuition for her next semester at the prestigious Beijing-based Airington International Boarding School, she’s faced with transferring to a local Beijing academy or moving in with her auntie to attend school in Maine. But when she suddenly finds herself able to turn invisible, she uses this gift for leverage. With help from her academic rival Henry Li, they anonymously create the Beijing Ghost, a phone app that allows students to request Alice uncover secrets and scandals for a fee. As the tasks escalate to a criminal level, however, the cost becomes greater than Alice anticipated. Liang paints a clear picture of what it’s like to struggle for certain advantages that are seemingly handed to others, skillfully exploring themes of classism and privilege via a sympathetic protagonist who feels—sometimes literally—invisible. Ages 13–up. Agent: Katherine Rushall, Andrea Brown Literary. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/19/2022 | Details & Permalink

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