May is an important month — along with Mental Health Awareness month, we recognize Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month. To honor both of these important times, I wanted to focus the bulk of the books best on the list this month on titles that focus on mental health or are by an AANHPI author in order to share and spread awareness about mental health and celebrate the contributions of the diverse and talented group of AANHPI authors.
The Salt Grows Heavy by Cassandra Khaw
A deliciously queer and horror-fueled novella about a mermaid, a plague doctor and their creeptastic children. This might be your first introduction to Cassandra Khaw but it shouldn’t be your last.
Synopsis: You may think you know how the fairy tale goes: a mermaid comes to shore and weds the prince. But what the fables forget is that mermaids have teeth. And now, her daughters have devoured the kingdom and burned it to ashes.
On the run, the mermaid is joined by a mysterious plague doctor with a darkness of their own. Deep in the eerie, snow-crusted forest, the pair stumble upon a village of ageless children who thirst for blood, and the three “saints” who control them.
The mermaid and her doctor must embrace the cruelest parts of their true nature if they hope to survive.
Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley
Some books are created to wake you up and Angeline Boulley’s debut novel, Firekeeper’s Daughter did that. It deserves all the accolades it received and more for being thrilling, heartbreaking and galvanizing. I’m thrilled to read a companion novel that promises to be all that and more and uncover more of the secrets and stories of Sugar Island.
Synopsis: Perry Firekeeper-Birch has always known who she is – the laidback twin, the troublemaker, the best fisher on Sugar Island. Her aspirations won’t ever take her far from home, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. But as the rising number of missing Indigenous women starts circling closer to home, as her family becomes embroiled in a high-profile murder investigation, and as greedy grave robbers seek to profit off of what belongs to her Anishinaabe tribe, Perry begins to question everything.In order to reclaim this inheritance for her people, Perry has no choice but to take matters into her own hands. She can only count on her friends and allies, including her overachieving twin and a charming new boy in town with unwavering morals. Old rivalries, sister secrets, and botched heists cannot – will not – stop her from uncovering the mystery before the ancestors and missing women are lost forever. Sometimes, the truth shouldn’t stay buried.
Release Date: May 02, 2023, via Macmillan. Order Here.
I’m Not Supposed To Be In The Dark by Riss M. Neilson
Paranormal romance has got to be one of the most entertaining of YA subgenres. And if you’re waiting for news about the new Twilight show (or maybe wishing that networks and producers would adapt something else for a change), you should check out Riss M. Neilson’s chilling and romantic novel that’s sure to enchant new and established paranormal readers.
Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Aria Cayetano dreams of ghosts. She used to see them too, but thanks to a special tea brewed by her grandfather, Aria’s connection to the spirit world has been severed. Until a decades old rosebush suddenly dies across the street, convincing Aria that something supernatural is happening in her neighborhood.
She aches to investigate it, but the rosebush sits on her ex best friend Derek Johnson’s front lawn, and she can’t question him because he hates her now. Aria doesn’t know what drove them apart years ago, but she does know Derek’s been acting strange for weeks, sneaking out in the dead of night to who knows where.
Then, days after the rosebush dies, Derek begins speaking to her again. At least Aria thinks it’s him. Until she discovers there’s a ghost inside of Derek that will take his life if it doesn’t find what it’s searching for. As Aria and Derek race to uncover the mystery, another kind of magic takes them by surprise: love. But Aria has to decide how far she’s willing to go to save Derek, especially when helping the ghost means tapping into whatever the tea has buried inside of her.
Release Date: May 9, 2023, via Macmillan/Henry Holt & Co. Order Here.
To Shape A Dragon’s Breath by Moniquill Blackgoose, narrated by Charley Flye
Tender, thrilling and brimming with fire, this indigenous dragon story is one of the more exciting books I’ve had the pleasure of reading recently. Charley Flyte’s narration creates a truly immersive experience as you listen. I urge you to pick this audiobook (or its print/e-book partner) immediately.
Synopsis: The remote island of Masquapaug has not seen a dragon in many generations—until fifteen-year-old Anequs finds a dragon’s egg and bonds with its hatchling. Her people are delighted, for all remember the tales of the days when dragons lived among them and danced away the storms of autumn, enabling the people to thrive. To them, Anequs is revered as Nampeshiweisit—a person in a unique relationship with a dragon.
Unfortunately for Anequs, the Anglish conquerors of her land have different opinions. They have a very specific idea of how a dragon should be raised, and who should be doing the raising—and Anequs does not meet any of their requirements. Only with great reluctance do they allow Anequs to enroll in a proper Anglish dragon school on the mainland. If she cannot succeed there, her dragon will be killed.
For a girl with no formal schooling, a non-Anglish upbringing, and a very different understanding of the history of her land, challenges abound—both socially and academically. But Anequs is smart, determined, and resolved to learn what she needs to help her dragon, even if it means teaching herself. The one thing she refuses to do, however, is become the meek Anglish miss that everyone expects.
Anequs and her dragon may be coming of age, but they’re also coming to power, and that brings an important realization: the world needs changing—and they might just be the ones to do it.
Release Date: May 09, 2023, via Random House Audio. Order Here.
Mihi Ever After: A Giant Problem by Tae Keller
Tae Keller is a must buy author for me. Ever since her When You Trap A Tiger and The Science of Breakable Things, I’ve been a loyal Tae Keller fan. I’m delighted that there’s another in her Mihi adventures, which is an adorable and empowering series for all ages.
Synopsis: After just barely surviving their last trip to the Rainbow Realm, Mihi Whan Park and her friends Reese and Savannah know that stepping back through the library refrigerator and into the magical fairy-tale world would be a dangerous choice. But when they discover that Mihi’s nemesis, Genevieve, has crossed through the fridge and into the Rainbow Realm herself, Mihi, Reese, and Savannah decide they must bring her home.Through the refrigerator they go, and when they arrive, they find the world has changed. Atop an enormous beanstalk, a greedy giant wreaks havoc on the realm, and Genevieve isn’t the only one who needs saving. Now Mihi and her friends must team up with villains, concoct a magical disguise, and infiltrate a party full of the most fearsome creatures in all the land. What could possibly go wrong?
Release Date: May 16, 2023, via Macmillan. Order Here.
Don’t Ask If I’m Okay by Jessica Kara
A novel of grief and vulnerability, Don’t Ask If I’m Okay follows a teenager’s healing after being involved in a car accident that killed his best friend.
Synopsis: A year ago, Gage survived a car accident that killed his best friend, Hunter. Without the person who always brought out the best in him, Gage doesn’t know who he is. He likes working as a fry cook and loves his small-town friends and family, but they weren’t in the wreck and he can’t tell them how much he’s still
hurting. He just wants to forget all his pain and move on.So when his stepdad shows him a dream job opening in one of his idol’s restaurants, Gage knows this is his chance to convince everyone and himself that he’s fine. To try to push past his grief once and for all, Gage applies for the job, asks out a crush, and volunteers to host a memorial for Hunter.But the more Gage tries to ignore his grief, the more volatile it becomes.When his temper finally turns on the people he loves, Gage must decide what real strength is–holding in his grief until it destroys him, or asking for help and revealing his broken heart for all to see.
Release Date: May 16, 2023, via Page Street Books. Order Here.
Painted Devils by Margaret Owen
Everyone’s favorite con-artist is back in this highly-anticipated follow up to Little Thieves, one of my favorite books of 2021. I can’t wait to find out what this scrappy little thief is up to.
Synopsis: Let’s get one thing straight – Vanja Schmidt wasn’t trying to start a cult. After taking down a corrupt margrave, breaking a deadly curse, and finding romance with the vexingly scrupulous junior prefect Emeric Conrad, Vanja had one great mystery left: her long-lost birth family . . . and whether they would welcome a thief. But in her search for an honest trade, she hit trouble and invented a god, the Scarlet Maiden, to scam her way out. Now that lie is growing out of control–especially when Emeric arrives to investigate and the Scarlet Maiden manifests to claim him as a virgin sacrifice. For his final test to become a prefect, Emeric must determine if Vanja is guilty of serious fraud or if the Scarlet Maiden–and her claim to him–is genuine. Meanwhile, Vanja is chasing an alternative sacrifice that could be their way out. The hunt leads her not only into the lairs of monsters and the paths of gods, but also the ties of her past. And with what should be the simplest way to save Emeric hanging over their heads,
he and Vanja must face a more dangerous question: Is there a future for a thief and a prefect, and at what price?From the indie bestselling author Margaret Owen comes the thrilling next installment in the Little Thieves trilogy with all new interior illustrations from the author.
Release Date: May 16, 2023, via Macmillan. Order Here.
Venom & Vow by Anna-Marie McLemore and Elliot McLemore
Fake identities and battling royals abound in this debut fantasy from Anna-Marie McLemore and Elliot McLemore. Not only is the representation in this exciting but the idea that Anna-Marie, known for beautiful, transcendent magical realism, is trying out fantasy should make this title a must read.
Synopsis: Cade McKenna is a transgender prince who’s doubling for his brother. Valencia Palafox is a young dama attending the future queen of Eliana. Gael Palma is the infamous boy assassin Cade has vowed to protect. Patrick McKenna is the reluctant heir to a kingdom, and the prince Gael has vowed to destroy.Cade doesn’t know that Gael and Valencia are the same person. Valencia doesn’t know that every time she thinks she’s fighting Patrick, she’s fighting Cade. And when Cade and Valencia blame each other for a devastating enchantment that takes both their families, neither of them realizes that they have far more dangerous enemies.
Release Date: May 16, 2023, via Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends. Order Here.
Forever Is Now by Mariama J. Lockington
A debut novel novel in verse, Forever Is Now is a beautiful book about mental health by Stonewall Honor-winning author and poet, Mariama J. Lockington.
Synopsis: I’m safe here.
That’s how Sadie feels, on a perfect summer day, wrapped in her girlfriend’s arms. School is out, and even though she’s been struggling to manage her chronic anxiety, Sadie is hopeful better times are ahead. Or at least, she thought she was safe. When her girlfriend reveals some unexpected news and the two witness a violent incident of police brutality unfold before them, Sadie’s whole world is upended in an instant.
I’m not safe anywhere.
That’s how Sadie feels every day after—vulnerable, uprooted. She retreats inside as the weeks slip by and relies on her phone to stay connected to the outside world. When Sadie’s therapist gives her a diagnosis for her debilitating panic—agoraphobia—she starts on a path of acceptance and healing. Meanwhile, Sadie’s best friend, Evan, updates her on the protests taking place in their city. Sadie wants to be a part of it, to use her voice and affect change. But how do you show up for your community when you can’t even leave your house?
I can build a safe place inside myself.
That’s what Sadie learns over the course of one life-changing summer, with some help from her family, her best friend, an online platform for activists, and a magnetic crush she develops for the new boy next door.
Release Date: May 23, 2023, via Macmillan. Order Here.
Four Months Past Florence by Emily Paige Wilson
For fans of novels in verse and realistic contemporary YA fiction, Four Months Past Florence is a must read for readers of all ages.
Synopsis: Four Months Past Florence is the story of Millie Willard, a high school junior from a small, coastal town in South Carolina with dreams of becoming a hard-hitting journalist, despite feeling sidelined in her current position as the weatherwoman for her school’s newspaper, The Bloom. Little does she know, Hurricane Florence is brewing off the coast with plans to change everything. Four Months Past Florence is a thunderous page turner that will leave you believing that, just maybe, the kids are all right.
Release Date: May 30, 2023, via Andrews McMeel. Order Here.
The Alchemy of Moonlight by David Ferraro
A runaway queer teenager becomes entangled with a family of werewolves in this paranormal romance that I am so excited for.
Synopsis: Trapped in a world of straight expectations, queer marquis Emile longs for independence. So, when his aunt declares he must marry to produce an heir or be disowned, he runs away disguised as a servant until he can come of age and reclaim his inheritance.
All Emile needs to do is keep his head down and bide his time, but he quickly stumbles into a mystery beyond his imagination. While working in the service of the intimidating Count Montoni and his family, Emile learns that they suffer from a strange affliction every full moon, which requires full sedation. And when he discovers a mangled corpse on the estate the same night as suspicious family arguments break out, he reports it. But Emile cannot guess what lengths Count Montoni is willing to go to to keep his family’s secrets safe. As Emile becomes more entangled in the household and its paranormal origins, his inquiries draw the attention of the handsome doctor, Bram, and the count’s charismatic nephew, Henri.
But how can Emile earn the esteem of the earnest doctor, while keeping his own identity and desires a secret? And how can he trust–let alone love–Henri, a man as mercurial as the ever-changing moon? To find the love he deserves and survive the Montoni family, Emile will have to risk his title as well as his life.
Release Date: May 30, 2023, via Page Street Books. Order Here.
Featured Image Courtesy of Tor Publishing Group, Henry Holt and Company, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), Feiwel & Friends, Andrews McMeel Publishing, Page Street Publishing.