Start the year off right with Book Riot’s Most Anticipated Books of 2020, our round-up of the most exciting new releases of the year. Preorder, add ’em to your TBR, and shout these titles from the rooftops!
Okay, technically DC started releasing this all-ages book as three 80-page issues in October, but the collected hardcover drops in May. It’s inspired by a famous 1946 radio storyline in which Superman takes on the KKK—a story which led to a significant decrease in Klan membership IRL—but Yang makes the Chinese American kids who the KKK is targeting the viewpoint characters rather than cyphers for Superman to rescue. Gurihiru’s art is always unbelievably charming, and here it makes the difficult subject matter more kid-friendly without losing any impact. I love Golden Age Superman, I love the original story, and I know I’ll love this book.
Mike Chen wrote one of my favorite books last year, Here and Now and Then, a warm and fuzzy, character-driven, angsty sci-fi time machine full of awesomeness. That’s why I can’t wait to read this year’s A Beginning at the End about a found family fighting for one another. Set in post-apocalyptic San Francisco after a global pandemic has wiped out most of the world’s population, a former pop star, a jaded event planner, and a father and daughter are brought together by circumstance. Reports of another outbreak throw the fragile society into panic, but there’s always room for a little hope at the end of the world.
After the Ilori invade earth, they ban all creative expressions. Ellie, a human, breaks the rules by keeping a secret library. Morris, an alien, has been raised to be emotionless, and should turn Ellie in when he finds her library. But he finds himself drawn to human music, and to Ellie. They’re breaking the rules in a dangerous world, and the only solution lies thousands of miles away. This unlikely pair must embark on a journey with their favourite books and albums for company. Combining so many wonderful elements together, this book sounds like it’ll be as heartwarming as it will be emotionally devastating.
The only thing I love more than a good western/rancher/cowboy romance is one that features a second chance love story between a former rodeo champ and his childhood best friend. Who is now a celebrity chef. With amnesia. I can only imagine what the wildly and widely talented Rebekah Weatherspoon will do with all of these delightful pieces, and Weatherspoon’s particular brand of relatable love story—the type that features adults who behave like actual adults—may be exactly what we need in 2020.
It’s been 20 years since Megan Whalen Turner’s witty and clever Eugenides first appeared in the award-winning The Thief, stealing readers’ hearts. Throughout the years and five books, we’ve seen Eugenides grow (although he is still too clever for his own good), watched the lands of Eddis and Attolia unite and change, explored other characters’ stories (Sophos! my sweet boy!), and been surprised by twists even when we know there are going to be unexpected turns. It’s going to be a bittersweet moment when the book finally lands in our hands and we have to say goodbye to these characters and stories we’ve loved for so long.
If you’re a fan of Blizzard Entertainment, then you’ve definitely heard the buzz about their first Overwatch original novel! It will focus on Efie Oladele, the 11-year-old genius who builds Numbani’s robotic champion, Orisa. As tensions rise between humans and humanoid robots known as Omnics, Efie must fashion Orisa into a full-fledged hero to prevent a second global war. I know we’re in the capable hands of Nicky Drayden, whose acclaimed novel, The Prey of Gods (2017), has been featured in the New York Times Best of New Science Fiction and Fantasy. It’s the news you didn’t know you wanted until you got it!
Ottessa Moshfegh creates horrible characters that are unreliable, irresistible, monster-women who possess a core of sadness that I find hard to resist. My Year of Rest and Relaxation was about a woman who decided to spend an entire year sleeping. Eileen was about a self-loathing, angry woman trapped in a small town. And Death in Her Hands promises something similar when an elderly widow finds a note in the woods that reads: “Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body.” Sparse and ominous, this novel promises the kind of dark, psychological horror that I can’t wait to read.
Marie Lu’s first historical fiction novel is a dreamlike story about music, magic, and the Mozart siblings. The Kingdom of Back focuses on Nannerl Mozart, a musical prodigy who hopes her talent and compositions will become world renowned. As her younger brother, Wolfgang, attains the type of fame Nannerl dreams of, she meets a mysterious stranger from the Kingdom of Back. He offers Nannerl a chance at immortality—but at what cost? Lu weaves magic and intrigue into the true story of Nannerl’s life, and the end result is spellbinding.
Danez Smith—National Book Award finalist, co-host of the VS. podcast for the Poetry Foundation, and one of my favorite poets to follow on Twitter—is back this January with their latest poetry collection: Homie (which, in a brilliant title-page twist, isn’t actually the book’s name). I read Smith’s 2017 collection, Don’t Call Us Dead, at the recommendation of countless other Rioters, and their enthusiasm did not disappoint. Grappling with contemporary issues of race, gender, and sexuality, Smith’s poems are intense, but early reviews of Homie note that this collection—an homage to friendship—is also full of unexpected moments of warmth.
In the third book in the Nevermoor series, Morrigan Crow has survived her first year as a member of the Wundrous Society, but a new challenge is ready to be tackled: she must learn to master the Wretched Arts that threaten to consume and reveal the truth about her. On the outskirts, a mysterious illness called Hollowpox is affecting the Wunimals of Nevermoor, turning them into vicious Unnimals. Morrigan sets off to find the cure for Hollowpox in order to save the city she loves. This is such a fun middle grade series and I cannot wait.
From the fact that it’s about a 1980s field hockey team (girls + sports!) to its coverage of the New England town’s past and ties to the original 1692 witch trials, literally everything about this book screams my name. I’m also excited to read about the dynamic of the girls on the team, as I love stories about female camaraderie and friendship (and enemyship) and watching those interactions unfold. For now, I’ll be over here waving a field hockey stick in anticipation until its release day!
The Invisible Life of Addie La Rue
Addie La Rue is a French girl who makes a deal with the devil to live forever and ends up cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets. Described by Schwab as a love story between Addie and the devil, and also with a human boy, she compared it to a cross between Life Before Life and The Golem and the Jinni. The release date is still uncertain, and there is not yet an ISBN or cover to go with the title, but repeated comments from Schwab assure it’s still coming in 2020. Schwab has been sharing about this story on social media for at least a year and a half now, and fans are clamoring for it.
It seems hard to believe it, but it has already been four years since the release of Gyasi’s incredible debut novel, Homegoing, about two half-sisters in 18th century Ghana and three centuries of their descendants. It was a New York Times bestseller and received heaps of praise and acclaim. I still think about it often. So you better believe I was thrilled to read Transcendent Kingdom! It’s another beautiful masterpiece, about a Ghanaian family in Alabama, and a PhD candidate in neuroscience who hopes to find a cure for the addiction and depression she witnesses around her, as she struggles with her faith. It’s a powerful gut punch.
It’s almost here: book three in Hilary Mantel’s double Man Booker Prize–winning series about the life of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s right-hand man. When we last saw self-made man Cromwell, he’d orchestrated the downfall of Anne Boleyn. But court intrigue, scheming religious factions, and would-be invaders abroad all threaten Cromwell’s tenuous grasp on power—and his relationship with the mercurial, demanding king. Publication of The Mirror and the Light has been delayed several times, so here’s hoping it’s still coming this year. Mantel’s deft investigation of why we seek power (and at what cost) feels more relevant than ever.
Grady Hendrix is one of the best horror authors of our time. So as a horror fiction fanatic, I’m thrilled to see this author delving into vampire fiction. If you’ve ever thought Dracula should be a little bit more like Steel Magnolias, then this is the book for you. Or maybe you think your book club would make excellent vampire slayers. This book is also for you. Patricia is a housewife living in Charleston, South Carolina in the 1990s, enjoying her quiet life raising two kids and attending regular book club meetings. But when a vampire moves into town, it’s up to Patricia and her book club to stop him.
I can’t even count the number of times I’ve gifted or recommended We Are Never Meeting in Real Life. It’s also one of the only books I warn people about reading in public (strangers might look at you oddly when you burst out laughing in the middle of the doctor’s office.) On the surface, Irby’s essays might just seem like hilarious anecdotes from her life, but look a little closer and you’ll see that each piece possesses an intense amount of depth. It’s no surprise to anyone that my most anticipated book of 2020 is her new essay collection Wow, No Thank You, which features Irby’s new life with her wife in a small midwestern town.
Libba Bray’s Diviners series is full of everything I love in YA: a diverse cast of complex, flawed, smart teenagers who find family with each other, make a lot of mistakes, and go through intense and believable change; brilliant world building; a rich and fascinating setting; creative magic; and a story that’s perfectly balanced between fast-paced action and character development. I can’t wait to dive back into the creepy, glittering world of a supernatural 1920s New York City, and to see what’s in store for this crew of characters I love in the conclusion to this always surprising and beautifully written series.
This upcoming sci-fi tale caught my attention because of its main players. These include a ship captain, the damaged child she finds and takes in, and a woman haunted by her past. With two strong female characters, an interesting setting (space? yes, please), and characters with pasts that follow them, it has so many things I look for when reading. If you’re looking for sci-fi that is character-driven, Jimenez’s book might be for you. I’m just glad it comes out in January, so none of us have to wait very long.
The cavalcade of mysteries and murders at Ellingham Academy have been a huge pleasure to read, and it’s a bittersweet moment for Johnson to end the series with book number three. Her ability to twist and turn the plot in shocking yet organic ways is a masterstroke of mystery writing. The protagonist, Stevie, is a perfect guide through the intersecting timelines, and overturns plucky teen detective clichés. It’s invigorating to read such a beautifully constructed story, and not even see any of the scaffolding that holds it together. I can’t wait to see how the heir to Agatha Christie ends her series.
This is a debut by Sonja K. Solter, and it’s heart-wrenching. Told with a poetic narrative in the first person through the eyes of a 10-year-old girl, it dares us to observe the victim’s internal and external struggles: the disbelief from loved ones, her own feelings of guilt and disgust, the way relationships get a new shape, all consumed by the grief, and shame, and pain. But this book is also a journey of hope, of finding stronger family ties with those who believe the victim, the sufferer’s understanding of her own innocence. Recalling her own identity and finding a new self despite the shadows that always lurk too close to the surface.
Lobizona is a YA Urban Fantasy that covers the real life crisis of family separation among immigrant families. Manuela Azul is an undocumented immigrant whose life is upended after attacks on her family. Manuela’s search leads to another lineage story embedded in folklore and magic.
Apparently I’m not the only one anticipating this Disney-Hyperion YA Fantasy—it’s already a #1 New Release on Amazon (under Teen and YA Loners and Outcasts Fiction)! I have to admit, the gorgeous yet badass cover attracted me to Scavenge the Stars. I’m typically not a fan of seafaring books, but the mysterious and illustrious city of Moray and determined heroine Amaya captivated me. Be warned: there are tons of…plank-hangers towards the end (sea what I did there?)
A soap opera darling and telenovela hunk will be firing up your life in this new Alexis Daria novel. Jasmine Lin Rodriguez just found her face splashed across the tabloids after a public breakup. Not ideal, right? The smartest thing to do is to create a “Leading Lady Plan” to not commit the same mistakes, and follow it perfectly. But her new costar in the bilingual romantic comedy she is starring in is not helping. At all. The media, the secrets, their careers, everything is against them, but Jasmine and Ashton are going to find a way to make it work.
In a housing project in 1969 New York, everyone knows Deacon Sportcoat as a drunk, but also fairly reliable, old man who would never hurt a fly. But one day, Sportcoat marches up to a teenage drug dealer and shoots him, surprising everyone, including himself. The story that unfolds is told through an engaging and unexpected web of community, vice, and strange connections. The vibrant community is full of characters that jump off the page. This book is a bit of a slow burn; I spent a good chunk of it wondering exactly where it was taking me. It’s hard to describe this book, but it’s absolutely worth the journey.
There have been attempts at copycatting the gossip app Simon created in the year following his death, but none have come close to being able to fulfill the desire for gossip. Then a dangerous new game of Truth of Dare pops up, and this is one version that you definitely do not want to bow out on if you’re tagged. Because even though the game has changed, the secrets are just as dark and ones that people want to keep there. This follow-up thriller involves a new set of characters and this dangerous new game, but will surely prove to be just as gripping and intense as the first one.
Readers looking for fresh, new voices will want to pick up b, Book, and Me, a story about two friends struggling to move into adulthood in a South Korean town. b and Rang are best friends who face the world together. They deal with bullying, absent parents, and feeling out of place. But then tensions develop between them when Rang reveals b’s poverty to their class at school, and they find themselves alone. The novel is written in short sections that capture what it’s like to grow up in a world that can be isolating and violent. It’s a perfect novel for lovers of translated fiction and coming-of-age stories alike.
Kiranmala is back and ready for action in the multiverse! Prince Lal is in trouble and Kiran finds herself dealing with evil serpents and a prophesy about the upcoming battle between good and evil. This is a series that doesn’t take much for me to handsell to my students, and recently I had a student talking it up to his friends who all put it on hold. The first book featured in Uma Krishnaswami’s Horn Book Review article about prism texts, and this series is just plain fun! (Shout out for Shady Sadie the Science Lady!) If you can get a hold of the audiobook, DasGupta reads them herself and she is an absolute treasure.
As if I wasn’t already excited for Lim’s follow-up to 2019’s Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune, it comes along with the most perfect book title and premise ever?? Magical. Paris. Tea Shop?? YES PLEASE. So, similar to the sweet fabulist-romcom style of Lim’s debut, this new book follows a young woman’s culinary and magical adventures. Vanessa has always been able to read fortunes in tea leaves, but the ability to see death is a new power. Determined to get rid of her abilities, she heads off to Paris for the adventure of a lifetime.
When the Heavy Vinyl series first pubbed through BOOM! Box (originally titled Hi-Fi Fight Club), I was immediately in love, in part because of its strong Empire Records vibes. The series takes place in late ’90s New Jersey, where the young protagonist lands her dream job at a local record store only to learn that the shop is a front for a teen girl vigilante fight club. When the series ended, I feared it would never return. But hallelujah! In March, they’re releasing this original graphic novel, which continues the delightful story.
This is the fifth book in the Wayward Children series. The series is about children who find portals to different worlds and then are sent back for a variety of reasons. Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children is the place for children who are having difficulties adjusting to their birth world and want to return to their chosen worlds. The books aren’t a strict progression of events; they tell the stories of various characters. I’ve devoured this series and can’t wait for the next installment.
Twelve-year-old Libby has Turner syndrome, which means she was born with one X chromosome. Although this sometimes comes with its own challenges, she has a passion for science and a supportive family that makes her life wonderful. When her big sister Nonny announces that she’s pregnant, Libby worries about the baby and whether it will be born healthy. So she makes a deal with the universe: if she wins the grand prize for a science contest and gives all the money to Nonny and her husband, then the baby will be born healthy. And along the way, she discovers how to handle the uncertainty of whether life will turn out as we expect it to.
This 1942 cult classic by Adel Kamel (1916–2005) was re-discovered and re-issued in Arabic in 2014, to great acclaim. Kamel wrote only a few works, and all of them seemingly between 1938 and 1942. In the vein of Egyptian social satirists Waguih Ghali and Albert Cossery, Kamel’s page-turning work satirizes power. Titled Malim the Great in Arabic, the book follows Malim (Penny), who is a carpenter’s apprentice, and Khaled, the quixotic son of a pasha. With a foreword by Adel Kamel fan (and Nobel laureate) Naguib Mahfouz.
Cornwell’s previous YA fairytale retellings have delivered on atmospheric settings, beautiful writing, and fiercely feminist characters and themes. So when I heard about this queer adaptation of “Snow-White and Rose-Red” with twins living in a circus, I knew I needed to read this book. Sister books and circus settings are two of my favorite things in stories. I’m itching to read about Rosie and Ivory and the quest to save their mother’s circus from a corrupt priest.
N.K. Jemisin is one of the greatest fantasy writers of all time, so very little in the bookish community can top discovering she has a new book coming out. The City We Became explores the six souls of New York City. The novel is based on her short story “The City Born Great,” which you can read in her fantastic short story collection How Long ’til Black Future Month. This novel is the first in Jemisin’s first urban fantasy series, and it’s sure to be dark, weird, and full of complex characters and magic. I may be a rural Southerner, but I cannot wait to read about the souls of New York City.
In Aiden Thomas’s debut, a transgender teen summons a ghost in an attempt to show he’s a real brujo, and finally get his traditional Latinx family to accept his gender. But poor Yadriel’s got another problem. That ghost ends up being Julian Diaz, the bad boy of his school who demands to know what happened to him. It’s an inclusive paranormal romance set during Día De Muertos, and I am so wildly excited for what promises to be a beautifully diverse story of love and friendship. The summer of 2020 needs to get here faster.
A Long Petal of the Sea is a novel about the very human desire of home. When General Franco and his Fascists succeed in overthrowing the Spanish government, hordes of Spaniards suddenly become refugees, one of which is a young widow names Roser. From the chaos, her life becomes connected to an army doctor named Victor Dalmau, who also happens to be the brother of Roser’s dead love. The two marry and voyage to Chile, where they must embrace exile while witnessing the ongoing battles of freedom in their new home and abroad, always dreaming of the day they can return home to Spain.
I’ve sadly spent the majority of this year in a reading slump, and this book brought me back to life in the best way possible: by tugging on my heart strings and making me bawl my eyes out. Naomi and Nicholas have a seemingly perfect relationship—but secretly, Naomi is completely over him and wants out of the relationship. However, she doesn’t want to foot the nonrefundable wedding bill for the lavish ceremony Nicholas’s mother has planned. But when Naomi finds out that Nicholas is also playing along, it becomes a full-out war of who can make the other crack first. Have your tissues ready and thank me later.
In K.M. Szpara’s capitalist dystopia, people pay off their debts by becoming “dociles,” a form of indentured labor, and many take Dociline, a drug that makes them servile. Elisha becomes the docile to Alex, heir to the Dociline empire, but refuses to take the drug. The novel portrays an abusive BDSM relationship and then takes that on, exploring questions of consent, love, and protest. Szpara leaves no rock unturned as he writes of the difficulty of achieving any real free will in a system that is systematically turned against you while insisting you have opportunity. This dynamic, queer novel attacks the very framework of capitalism.
Mexican Gothic, an historical novel set in the 1950s, features a glamorous debutante named Noémi traveling to a remote house in the Mexican countryside to rescue her newlywed cousin from a mysterious threat, namely her menacing but seductive English husband. The novel has the makings of a classic gothic tale like Jane Eyre or Rebecca, but don’t we deserve a fresh take on the horrors of marriage, domesticity, and dynastic wealth? Silvia Moreno-Garcia showed a Jazz Age inflected with Mexican culture and mythology in Gods of Jade and Shadow, so I think we’re in for a real treat that will both honor and update my very favorite genre.
A woman who is Too Much is a woman who reacts to the world with ardent intensity and is familiar to lashes of shame and disapproval, from within as well as without. This new frank book about the female gaze encourages women to reconsider the beauty of their excesses: emotional, physical, and spiritual. Rachel Vorona Cote braids cultural criticism, theory, and storytelling together in her exploration of how culture grinds away women’s bodies, souls, and sexualities, forcing them into smaller lives than they desire.
Excuse me while I write about this book every single chance I get, because I’m just that excited about it. I mean, near future dystopia set in the Southwest with queer fascist-fighting librarians and bookwagons? *swoon* Not to mention Sarah Gailey has been an auto-buy author for me ever since I read American Hippo. Their writing and world-building is just so goshdang good! And after reading about hippos and cowboys in an alternate history of the American South, I can’t wait to see what they do with a story set in the not-too-distant future.
Too many people slept on the first book in Hearne’s shelf-breaking Seven Kennings series, A Plague of Giants, when it came out in 2017. From the start, I was enamored not only with the story of a world war, sparked by the invasion of the mysterious Bone Giants, but also with the unique way that story was told: by the bard Fintan, who can take the shape (and thus the POV) of those he’s met. The second book looks to expand the world even further with new characters and new insights into the diverse “kennings” (various flavors of magic) that make this story sing.
I have needed this sequel since the second I finished reading Dread Nation—probably more accurately: since the moment I started reading Dread Nation. Ireland’s reimagining of a history where the Civil War was interrupted by the dead coming to life and schools making Native American and Black teens learn how to combat the restless dead was amazing. I cannot wait for Jane McKeene’s new adventure—and look at that cover. LOOK AT IT!
In Albert’s debut, The Hazel Wood, Alice Proserpine went into the Hazel Wood to rescue her mother and escaped the Hinterland with a new understanding of who she really is. In the sequel, Alice is trying to live a nonmagical life, but someone (or something) is killing other Hinterland survivors. Meanwhile, Ellery Finch is having his own adventures in the Hinterland…The Hazel Wood was one of my very favorite books of 2018 and I cannot WAIT to return to its dangerously enticing world.
In the finale to the Montague Siblings trilogy, Adrian Montague sets off to gather his late mother’s possessions in the Caribbean. Adrian has spent his life under pressure as the sole heir to his father’s estate, but he soon discovers that elder siblings “Monty” and Felicity went missing over a decade ago. The journey to reunite the siblings and bring them home is filled with curses and more dark family secrets. Follow the Montagues as they traverse the sugar fields of Barbados, the haunted streets of New Orleans, and head into uncharted waters, together at last.
Rukmini is an internet-famous artist who one day uploads a cover of established artist Neela Devaki’s song. When the two women musicians meet, they begin a fast and intense friendship. But the friends’ relationship suffers when Rukmini skyrockets to fame while Neela’s celebrity stagnates. The fallout of their friendship culminates in…a subtweet. Complex female friendship! Making art as a woman of color! The double-edged sword of being visible! What more could you want? I am convinced this latest novel by musician and writer Vivek Shraya will be her best book yet (and I love her other books).