Two major players in the world of young adult publishing have teamed up to launch a book imprint: Seventeen Fiction from Harlequin Teen, which will debut September 27 with Something in Between, a novel by another familiar name in YA: Melissa de la Cruz. The story centers on the daughter of Filipino immigrants, who is living the American dream until she learns that her family is in the U.S. illegally and may be deported. De la Cruz’s novel represents the crux of the new imprint, which will focus on empowered female characters and explore topics and situations that highlight the challenges and joys of being a teenager today.

That editorial mission, in turn, reflects those of both Harlequin Teen and Seventeen. The former, founded in 2009, is dedicated to publishing compelling, girl-centered commercial fiction across a variety of genres. And teen media brand Seventeen, which reaches more than 15 million readers in print and online each month, has for almost 70 years aimed to help girls navigate adolescence.

Though Seventeen also produces lifestyle guides, advice books, and nonfiction e-books, Seventeen Fiction from Harlequin Teen marks the brand’s inaugural foray into fiction books. Distributed by HarperCollins (which acquired Harlequin in 2014), the new imprint will release four works of realistic fiction annually, in hardcover and e-book.

The next additions to the list are Rebels Like Us by Liz Reinhardt, centering on a Brooklyn girl transplanted to the rural South, due in March 2017; and Jennifer Yu’s Four Weeks, Five People, a May 2017 title about five troubled teens who undergo personal transformations while attending a summer program.

Natashya Wilson, Harlequin Teen’s executive editor, noted that the similarities in editorial goals led to the joint venture. “This imprint was inspired by Seventeen and Harlequin Teen’s mutual love for a terrific story that can entertain and inspire readers,” she said. “With Seventeen, we found a partner who shared our enthusiasm for championing compelling fiction featuring diverse characters, relevant themes, and realistic storylines that both our readers are interested in.”

The new publishing venture involves a true hands-on collaboration between the partners. Harlequin Teen and Seventeen staffers consider submissions together to acquire projects. “Both teams then contribute notes and work with the authors to deliver the strongest possible editorial,” Wilson explained. “Harlequin is providing the book publishing and production expertise, and Seventeen will include excerpts of the novels in the magazine and highlight them on their many wonderful platforms to reach the widest possible readership.”

First Out of the Gate

Featuring real-life themes and characters, de la Cruz’s Something in Between is, in Wilson’s view, “the perfect title” to launch Seventeen Fiction from Harlequin Teen. “It is a timely story about identity, family, friendship, and figuring out who you are and where you belong,” she added. For de la Cruz, whose bestselling YA series include the Descendants, Au Pairs, and Blue Bloods, the novel is “a story very close to my heart,” as it was inspired by her own experiences as a Filipino-American who, like her heroine, became entangled in immigration issues as a young woman. “We moved to the United States when I was 12, but when my parents got their green cards, my sister and I were over 21, so we weren’t considered legal,” she explained. “For a long time we were in limbo, caught in a loophole the government has since closed. We were told that if we left the country, there was no guarantee we’d be able to return, which was upsetting and embarrassing.”

Though her new novel does not tell her family’s exact story, the life of her heroine, Jasmine de los Santos, is likewise turned upside-down when she discovers that her immigration status renders her ineligible to receive a prestigious scholarship award. “There are similarities in our lives, but Jasmine’s story is more high-stakes than mine – for dramatic purposes,” said de la Cruz, who finally became a U.S. citizen several years ago, at the age of 40.

In part, that event paved the way for Something in Between. The author (whom Wilson also signed to write two additional novels for the Harlequin Teen imprint) explained, “If I hadn’t received my citizenship, I wouldn’t have felt confident writing this story. It was a difficult but very meaningful novel to write, and I do think this is the best book I’ve ever written. I’m honored that it is the launch novel for Seventeen Fiction from Harlequin Teen. We now need diverse books more than ever, and I feel very lucky to be able to write this one.”

Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz. Seventeen Fiction from Harlequin Teen, $18.99 Sept. ISBN 978-0-373-21238-5