If you feel like you’re drowning under a pile of must-read books this month, just know that you’re not alone. The first weeks of September alone have seen as many new releases hit shelves as several previous months combined and if you’re feeling spoiled for choice—or personally attacked, depending on your perspective—there’s absolutely a reason for that. Though the leaves have barely started to turn and temperatures are still running only slightly less warm than fifth-level-of-Hell in most of the country, publishing has already turned its eyes to the lucrative Christmas shopping season and how it can tempt us to fill all our stockings by the chimney with new books.
In short, there are so many fantastic titles arriving in September that no book editor could possibly hope to cover them all—and you, dear readers, will likely be seeing reviews and features on many of them well into next month. (Hopefully, none of you will mind too much.) From new titles from favorite authors to buzzy debuts and exciting sequels, there are enough great books headed our way this month to keep most readers busy all Fall long. (Sorry that October—and another deluge of great titles—is headed our way in just a few weeks.
Here are our picks for the best YA books hitting shelves in September.
The Sunbearer Trials by Aiden Thomas
Release Date: September 6 from Feiwel & Friends
Why You’ll Love It: Deftly mixing elements of Mexican culture and folklore with familiar YA fantasy tropes. Aiden Thomas’s The Sunbearer Trials is a fast-paced story featuring an inventive spin on the dystopian teen competition made so popular by stories like The Hunger Games.
Thomas’s work shines brightest in the earnest relationships the narrative builds between its eclectic, delightfully queer cast of main characters, and its unique, detailed worldbuilding helps this series stand out from the pack.
Publisher’s Description: As each new decade begins, the Sun’s power must be replenished so that Sol can keep traveling along the sky and keep the evil Obsidian gods at bay. Ten semidioses between the ages of thirteen and eighteen are selected by Sol himself as the most worthy to compete in The Sunbearer Trials. The winner carries light and life to all the temples of Reino del Sol, but the loser has the greatest honor of all?they will be sacrificed to Sol, their body used to fuel the Sun Stones that will protect the people of Reino del Sol for the next ten years.
Teo, a 17-year-old Jade semidiós and the trans son of Quetzal, goddess of birds, has never worried about the Trials…or rather, he’s only worried for others. His best friend Niya?daughter of Tierra, the god of earth?is one of the strongest heroes of their generation and is much too likely to be chosen this year. He also can’t help but worry (reluctantly, and under protest) for Aurelio, a powerful Gold semidiós and Teo’s friend-turned-rival who is a shoo-in for the Trials. Teo wouldn’t mind taking Aurelio down a notch or two, but a one-in-ten chance of death is a bit too close for Teo’s taste.
But then, for the first time in over a century, Sol chooses a semidiós who isn’t a Gold. In fact, he chooses two: Xio, the 13-year-old child of Mala Suerte, god of bad luck, and…Teo. Now they must compete in five mysterious trials, against opponents who are both more powerful and better trained, for fame, glory, and their own survival.
The Weight of Blood by Tiffany D. Jackson
Release Date: September 6 from Katherine Tegan Books
Why You’ll Love It: In a sea of great releases this month, Tiffany Jackson’s The Weight of Blood probably has the most memorable (and most disturbing) premise on this list. A retelling of Stephen King’s classic horror novel Carrie centered around a small town’s first integrated prom, the story explores both overt and internalized racism, as a Black teen mistreated by her classmates finally gets her revenge. Jackson deftly weaves multiple formats together and taps into our collective true crime obsession to frame the horrific events of this tale in such a way that feels all too realistic and probable.
Publisher’s Description: When Springville residents—at least the ones still alive—are questioned about what happened on prom night, they all have the same explanation… Maddy did it.
An outcast at her small-town Georgia high school, Madison Washington has always been a teasing target for bullies. And she’s dealt with it because she has more pressing problems to manage. Until the morning a surprise rainstorm reveals her most closely kept secret: Maddy is biracial. She has been passing for white her entire life at the behest of her fanatical white father, Thomas Washington.
After a viral bullying video pulls back the curtain on Springville High’s racist roots, student leaders come up with a plan to change their image: host the school’s first integrated prom as a show of unity. The popular white class president convinces her Black superstar quarterback boyfriend to ask Maddy to be his date, leaving Maddy wondering if it’s possible to have a normal life.
But some of her classmates aren’t done with her just yet. And what they don’t know is that Maddy still has another secret… one that will cost them all their lives.
Blood of Troy by Claire M. Andrews
Release Date: September 6 from Little, Brown Books for Young Readersz
Why You’ll Love It: The highly anticipated sequel to Claire Andrews’ Daughter of Sparta, Blood of Troy inserts its heroine into the world of the Trojan War and puts its signature feminist spin on its story, recasting the traditionally male heavy myth as an explicitly female story.
Sent by Zeus to guard his daughter Helen (yes, that Helen), she’ll have to use all her skills as a warrior to keep her queen safe, and solve the mystery of why the gods of Olympus are so interested in the outcome of this war—and in her.
Publisher’s Description: A year after Daphne saved the powers of Olympus by defeating Nyx, the Goddess of Darkness, she’s haunted by still-looming threats, her complicated feelings for the god Apollo, and the promise she made to the Olympian gods that she would help them again when they called upon her. When their command comes, it is deceptively simple: secure herself a spot as one of Queen Helen’s guards.
A war is coming, and all of Sparta must be prepared.
In the midst of a treaty summit among the monarchs of Greece, Daphne and Helen uncover a plot of betrayal—and soon, a battle begins. As the kingdoms of Greece clash on the shores of Troy and the gods choose sides, Daphne must use her wits, her training, and her precarious relationship with Apollo to find a way to keep her queen safe, stop the war, and uncover the true reason the gods led her to Troy.
I’m the Girl by Courtney Summers
Release Date: September 13 from Wendesday Books
Why You’ll Love It: A thriller about wealth, privilege, and dangerously predatory behavior, I’m the Girl is powerful and disturbing by turns. This is something you probably expected if you’ve read anything Courtney Summers has written before, but the skill with which she tackles difficult emotional topics with unflinching honest remains as impressive and compelling as ever.
Publisher’s Description: When sixteen-year-old Georgia Avis discovers the dead body of thirteen-year-old Ashley James, she teams up with Ashley’s older sister, Nora, to find and bring the killer to justice before he strikes again. But their investigation throws Georgia into a world of unimaginable privilege and wealth, without conscience or consequence, and as Ashley’s killer closes in, Georgia will discover when money, power and beauty rule, it might not be a matter of who is guilty—but who is guiltiest.
Defend the Dawn by Brigid Kemmerer
Release Date: September 20 from Bloomsbury Childrens
Why You’ll Love It: The highly anticipated sequel to Brigid Kemmerer’s Defy the Night, Defend the Dawn takes us back to the kingdom of Kandala, where tensions are still running high between rich nobles and struggling rebels, all of whom are desperate for the Moonflower that’s the only cure for the fever sickness running rampant in the country. But the arrival of (the charming, hot, and vaguely roguish) Capt. Rian Blakemor offers the possibility of trade with a neighboring kingdom, and royal apothecary Tessa Cade and King’s Justice Prince Corrick set out on an uncertain journey that may well be a trap. Slower paced and very clearly a middle of a trilogy installment, Kemmerer’s story is nevertheless a compelling read.
Publisher’s Description: The kingdom of Kandala narrowly avoided catastrophe, but the embers of revolution still simmer. While King Harristan seeks a new way to lead, Tessa and Prince Corrick attempt to foster unity between rebels and royals.
But the consuls who control the Moonflower will not back down, and Corrick realizes he must find a new source for the lifesaving Elixir.
When an emissary from the neighboring kingdom of Ostriary arrives with an intriguing offer, Tessa and Corrick set out on an uncertain journey as they attempt to mend their own fractured relationship.
This could be their only chance to keep the peace and bring relief to the people of Kandala, but danger strikes during the journey to Ostriary, and no one is who they seemed to be. . .
The 99 Boyfriends of Micah Summers by Adam Sass
Release Date: September 20 from Viking Books for Young Readers
Why You’ll Love It: A breezy, queer contemporary rom-com with from the author of Surrender Your Sons, The 99 Boyfriends of Micah Summer will charm readers with its cute premise, fairytale feel and honestly adorable lead.
When Instagram artist Micah Summers decides to stop drawing fantasy boyfriends and find one in real life, a missed connections encounter sparks an adventure around Chicago to find true love by casting himself as his very own Prince Charming attempting to find the owner of a lost piece of clothing. Along the way, he’ll learn that real relationships aren’t necessarily storybook perfect—but that’s what makes them worth it.
Publisher’s Description: Micah is rich, dreamy, and charming. As the “Prince of Chicago,”—the son of local celebrity sports radio host known as the King of Chicago—he has everything going for him. Unfortunately, he’s also the prince of imaginary meet-cutes, since he’s too nervous to actually ask boys out.
Instead, Micah draws each crush to share on Instagram with a post about their imaginary dates. Ninety-nine “boyfriends” later, his account is hugely popular, and everyone is eagerly awaiting Boy 100. So is Micah. He’s determined that Boy 100 will be different. This time, Micah will sweep the boy off his feet, for real!
So when Micah flirts with a hot boy on the L who’s wearing a vegan leather jacket and lugging a ton of library books, he is sure this is Boy 100. But right before he can make his move and ask for the boy’s number, the guy rushes off the train, leaving behind his pumpkin-embroidered jacket. The jacket holds clues to the boy’s identity, so Micah and his friends set off on a quest to return it. Along the way, Micah will discover that the best relationships aren’t fairy tales. In fact, the perfect fit—and true love—might be closer than he thinks.
Rust in the Root by Justina Ireland
Release Date: September 20 from Balzer + Bray
Why You’ll Love It: Justina Ireland’s bestselling Dread Nation series successfully mixed historical fiction, fantasy, and social commentary to form a compelling tale of a United States torn apart when zombies rise during the Battle of Gettysburg. Her latest, titled Rust in the Root may be about Black mages responsible for maintaining the magical machines that power the economy during the Great Depression rather than girls trained to kill the undead, but it wrestles with many of the same themes of oppression, racism, and exploitation.
Publisher’s Description: It is 1937, and Laura Ann Langston lives in an America divided—between those who work the mystical arts and those who do not. Ever since the Great Rust, a catastrophic event that blighted the arcane force called the Dynamism and threw America into disarray, the country has been rebuilding for a better future. And everyone knows the future is industry and technology—otherwise known as Mechomancy—not the traditional mystical arts.
Laura disagrees. A talented young mage from Pennsylvania, Laura hopped a portal to New York City on her seventeenth birthday with hopes of earning her mage’s license and becoming something more than a rootworker
But six months later, she’s got little to show for it other than an empty pocket and broken dreams. With nowhere else to turn, Laura applies for a job with the Bureau of the Arcane’s Conservation Corps, a branch of the US government dedicated to repairing the Dynamism so that Mechomancy can thrive. There she meets the Skylark, a powerful mage with a mysterious past, who reluctantly takes Laura on as an apprentice.
As they’re sent off on their first mission together into the heart of the country’s oldest and most mysterious Blight, they discover the work of mages not encountered since the darkest period in America’s past, when Black mages were killed for their power—work that could threaten Laura’s and the Skylark’s lives, and everything they’ve worked for.
The Killing Code by Ellie Marney
Release Date: September 20 from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Why You’ll Love It: Real historical fiction titles in the young adult space can often seem few and far between (and most that exist tend to be shot through with some flavor of magic or dystopia or some other popular trend). Which is part of the reason that Ellie Marney’s The Killing Code feels like such a breath of fresh air. Set against the backdrop of World War II, the story follows four young female codebreakers who join forces to track down a dangerous serial killer. Beyond its clearly well researched historical elements, the novel offers its readers not just an intriguing murder mystery but manages to explore issues of class, race, and sexuality at the same time.
Publisher’s Description: Virginia, 1943: World War II is raging in Europe and on the Pacific front when Kit Sutherland is recruited to help the war effort as a codebreaker at Arlington Hall, a former girls’ college now serving as the site of a secret US Signals Intelligence facility in Virginia. But Kit is soon involved in another kind of fight: Government girls are being brutally murdered in Washington DC, and when Kit stumbles onto a bloody homicide scene, she is drawn into the hunt for the killer.
To find the man responsible for the gruesome murders and bring him to justice, Kit joins forces with other female codebreakers at Arlington Hall—gossip queen Dottie Crockford, sharp-tongued intelligence maven Moya Kershaw, and cleverly resourceful Violet DuLac from the segregated codebreaking unit. But as the girls begin to work together and develop friendships—and romance—that they never expected, two things begin to come clear: the murderer they’re hunting is closing in on them…and Kit is hiding a dangerous secret.
Foul Lady Fortune by Chloe Gong
Release Date: September 27 from Margaret K. McElderry Books
Why You’ll Love It: A spinoff novel based on one of the best characters from Chloe Gong’s mega-popular Our Violent Ends series?? Are you kidding?? Fans of Gong’s previous work will need no reason more than this to pick up Foul Lady Fortune, but thankfully, this book is a thrilling read in its own right, with plenty of intrigue, politics, and enemies to lovers vibes.
Whre Gong’s debut duology was a Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1930s Shanghai, Foul Lady Fortune charts its own path—with a little help from As You Like It—telling a brand new story about Rosalind Lang as she attempts to atone for many of the wrongs she has done. Now working as an assassin and spy for the Nationalists, she must infiltrate a foreign publishing company to help solve a murder.
Publisher’s Description:It’s 1931 in Shanghai, and the stage is set for a new decade of intrigue.
Four years ago, Rosalind Lang was brought back from the brink of death, but the strange experiment that saved her also stopped her from sleeping and aging—and allows her to heal from any wound. In short, Rosalind cannot die. Now, desperate for redemption from her traitorous past, she uses her abilities as an assassin for her country.
Code name: Fortune.
But when the Japanese Imperial Army begins its invasion march, Rosalind’s mission pivots. A series of murders is causing unrest in Shanghai, and the Japanese are under suspicion. Rosalind’s new orders are to infiltrate foreign society and identify the culprits behind the terror plot before more of her people are killed.
To reduce suspicion, however, she must pose as the wife of another Nationalist spy, Orion Hong, and though Rosalind finds Orion’s cavalier attitude and playboy demeanor infuriating, she is willing to work with him for the greater good. But Orion has an agenda of his own, and Rosalind has secrets that she wants to keep buried. As they both attempt to unravel the conspiracy, the two spies soon find that there are deeper and more horrifying layers to this mystery than they ever imagined
How to Succeed in Witchcraft by Aislinn Brophy
Release Date: September 27 from Putnam
Why You’ll Love It: A charming debut about a young queer witch who auditions for the school musical to try and win a scholarship, the magical vibes turn out to be a lot less important than the relatable day to day dilemmas that will be familiar to any teen (past or present). Thoughtful handling of issues surrounding race and gender help this story stand out, as well as its deft depiction of an inappropriate student/teacher relationship and the importance of speaking out even if you’re not entirely sure you’ll be believed.
Publisher’s Description: Shay Johnson has all the makings of a successful witch. Now that she’s a junior at T.K. Anderson Magical Magnet School, she’s one step closer to winning the full-ride Brockton Scholarship—her ticket into the university of her dreams. Her main competition? Ana freaking Álvarez. The key to victory? Impressing Mr. B, drama teacher and head of the scholarship committee.
When Mr. B persuades Shay to star in this year’s aggressively inclusive, racially diverse musical—at their not-quite-diverse school—she agrees, wearily, even though she’ll have to put up with Ana playing the other lead. But with rehearsals underway, Shay realizes Ana is…not the despicable witch she’d thought. Perhaps she could even be a friend—or more. And Shay could use someone in her corner once she finds herself on the receiving end of Mr. B’s unpleasant and unwanted attention. When Shay learns she’s not the first witch to experience his inappropriate behavior, she must decide if she’ll come forward. But how can she speak out when the scholarship—and her future—are on the line?
Secrets So Deep by Ginny Myers Sain
Release Date: September 27 from Razorbill
Why You’ll Love It: Ginny Myers Sain’s debut Dark and Shallow Lies proved she was more than capable of writing dark, atmospheric and positively heartbreaking fiction. Secrets So Deep is more of the same, following the story of a young girl who returns to the site of her mother’s drowning looking for answers. As she attempts to untangle the truth of what happened—and why she can’t remember it—she’ll get help (and maybe something more) from Cole Culver, the son of of her mother’s college friends, and from Willa herself, who also also happens to be the director of the camp both teens are attending.
Publisher’s Description: Twelve years ago, Avril’s mother drowned at Whisper Cove theater, just off the rocky Connecticut coastline. It was ruled an accident, but Avril’s never been totally convinced. Local legend claims that the women in the waves—ghosts from old whaling stories—called her mother into the ocean with their whispering. Because, as they say at Whisper Cove, what the sea wants, the sea will have.
While Avril doesn’t believe in ghosts, she knows there are lots of different ways for places, and people, to be haunted. She’s spent the past twelve years trying to make sense of the strange bits and pieces she does remember from the night she lost her mother. Stars falling into the sea. A blinding light. A tight grip on her wrist. The odd sensation of flying. Now, at seventeen, she’s returning to Whisper Cove for the first time, and she might finally unravel the mystery of what really happened.
As Avril becomes more involved with camp director Willa and her mysterious son Cole, Whisper Cove reveals itself to her. Distances seem to shift in the strange fog. Echos of long-past moments bounce off the marsh. And Avril keeps meeting herself—and her dead mother—late at night, at the edge of the ocean.
Lacy Baugher Milas is the Books Editor at Paste Magazine, but loves nerding out about all sorts of pop culture. You can find her on Twitter @LacyMB.