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9 New Paperbacks You Won't Be Able To Put Down

From literary fiction to YA, here are some fantastic books out in paperback this month!

Posted on August 2, 2021, at 9:16 a.m. ET

True Story by Kate Reed Petty (Penguin Books; Aug. 3)

This debut novel unfolds like a mystery, flitting between genres to weave an inventive tale hinging on a depressingly familiar premise: a high school party, a passed-out girl, drunk teenage boys, possible sexual assault. Petty used to be a professional ghostwriter, and you can see that influence in how she effortlessly narrates from the point of view of a former lacrosse player bro to a high school girl writing her college application essay. We slowly learn what really happened that night, but it’s the ingenuity of Petty’s genre bending that keeps you hooked until the very end. —T.O. (From "29 Summer Books You Won't Be Able To Put Down")

His Only Wife by Peace Azdo Medie

Perhaps my favorite fall fiction came from Peace Adzo Medie, whose debut novel is, at its core, a story that kept me tied to the page, told in masterful, seamless prose. It follows Afi Tekple, a seamstress in training from a small town in Ghana who marries a wealthy man at the request of his mother. She barely knows Elikem Ganyo, but his mother — who took Afi and her own mother in after Afi’s father died over 10 years ago — is hoping Afi will be able to convince Elikem to leave the woman he’s currently living with (also the mother of his child). But this marriage isn’t what Afi is expecting, and when she realizes her new husband won’t be part of her daily life in her new swanky Accra apartment, she decides to take advantage of the comforts made possible by her sudden and substantial rise in status, exploring her independence and ambition amid the backdrop of the city’s young elites. Medie depicts a vivid and dazzling Accra, and it’s impossible not to root for Afi as she finds her footing within it. —Arianna Rebolini (From "29 Books We Couldn’t Put Down This Year")

Milk Fed by Melissa Broder (Scribner; August 3)

Anything by Melissa Broder is an immediate must-read for me; her 2018 novel, The Pisces, was one of my favorites of that year, managing to be both merman erotica and an astute, unflinching examination of depression. Her new novel — which follows 24-year-old Rachel, whose personal religion of calorie restriction is tested when she falls for a young Orthodox Jewish woman who works at her favorite froyo shop — has the same precise blend of desire, disgust, spirituality, and existential ache that makes Broder’s depiction of the human experience so canny —Arianna Rebolini (From "75 Books To Add To Your 2021 TBR List")

More Than Just a Pretty Face by Syed M. Masood (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; Aug. 3)

Danyal is a hot aspiring chef, but he's tired of people (including his crush, Kaval) thinking he's lacking in the cerebral department. So when he gets a shot at winning an academic championship and proving he's more than people see on the outside, he grabs it, taking teammate Bisma, who's decidedly not interested in him, along for the ride. But the more time they spend together, the greater the chemistry, leading Danyal to wonder if he's finally found the one girl who likes him for what's going on upstairs. —Dahlia Adler (From "17 YA Romances That'll Make You Melt This Summer")

Raybearer by Jordan Ifeuko (Amulet Books; Aug. 3)

At the beginning of my review copy of Raybearer, Jordan Ifueko describes how this is the book she needed growing up as a fairy tale–loving daughter of Nigerian immigrants who could never find herself in the available YA fantasy novels. While there are more choices today — novels by Nnedi Okorafor, Tochi Onyebuchi, and Tomi Adeyemi all spring to mind — diversity is still underrepresented in YA fantasy. Raybearer is an excellent and needed addition to the genre, and the writing and characters immediately captivated me. Tarisai can only be touched by her mother, who rarely visits her, and even when her mother does visit, she rarely glances at or speaks to her. To win her mother’s visits, Tarisai must excel in academics, which she desperately tries to do as one tutor replaces another. When her mother sends her to the empire’s capital of Aritsar to murder the prince, Tarisai realizes the mother she’s worshipped her entire childhood has never deserved her devotion. But bound by djinn magic, denying her mother’s commands is no easy task. —Margaret Kingsbury (From "17 Summer Must-Reads For Fantasy Lovers")

Lobizona by Romina Garber (Wednesday Books; Aug. 17)

This is a young adult fantasy that feels very of this moment. It begins with ICE pounding on a door and the protagonist, Manu, hiding under the bed with her mother. Manu has lived her entire life in hiding; she wears sunglasses that hide her strangely shaped eyes, her mother fled from Argentina when she was too young to remember, and they’ve lived as undocumented refugees in Miami ever since. Manu hides something from her mother as well — every month on the full moon, she dreams she’s in another world — a magical world where she belongs. After her neighbor is attacked and her mother arrested by ICE, Manu can only find the answers to who or what she is by going to that dream place. Steeped in Argentine folklore of lobizonas (werewolves) and brujas (witches), this is such an important story to tell, and it’s also an engrossing read. While a little heavy on the YA tropes at times, the lush setting and folklore more than make up for it (and those YA tropes will probably be enjoyed by many). This is the first book in what’s currently a two-book series. —Margaret Kingsbury (From "17 Summer Must-Reads For Fantasy Lovers")

Now That I've Found You by Kristina Forest (Square Fish; Aug. 24)

Fresh off her adorable debut rom-com, Forest is back with some more lovey goodness in this story of a girl named Evie who finds herself blacklisted from her Hollywood dream. The only way to get back into the industry's good graces is to appeal to her famous but reclusive grandmother, Gigi, and to do that, she'll need help from the last person to see Gigi pre-disappearance: the hot and morally questionable Milo. Together, they roam the streets of NYC in search of Evie's grandma, having no idea they might find love along the way. —Dahlia Adler (From "17 YA Romances That'll Make You Melt This Summer")

Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar (HarperTeen; Aug. 24)

Sheetel is the daughter of a star and a mortal, but she otherwise lives a completely normal life. She’s annoyed by her nosy aunt, hides a musician boyfriend from her overly protective father, and worries about her grades. Then her star self, which she’s kept hidden, starts calling to her: Her brilliantly white star hair refuses to be dyed, she begins to hear the stars singing to her, and one day, the star song overwhelms her with magic and her touch sends her father into a coma. Desperate to save him, Sheetal and her best friend travel to the stars to ask Sheetel’s mother for star blood, which can cure humans. But when Sheetel arrives at the star palace, her mother’s family forces her into a magical music competition. Only if she wins can she return to her father and save him. In an interview, Thakrar told me she "adapted the source material (Vedic astrology), peppered in bits of mythology here and there (like the story of Gajendra and the crocodile), and even made up [her] own myth (the creation of diamonds) to create ... a modern and feminist original fairy tale." It’s a beautiful and complex YA fantasy about self-discovery and familial love. —Margaret Kingsbury (From "17 Summer Must-Reads For Fantasy Lovers")

Sisters by Daisy Johnson (Riverhead; Aug. 24)

Sisters is a twisting, compelling read from start to finish. Johnson provides a masterful look into the relationship of sisters June and September, born 10 months apart. Exiled to their aunt's beat-up old summer house, the girls explore every crumbling inch and wander the beach as the events of the previous months unfold. The house creates a haunting, intimate sense of place, and as their single mother sleeps through the days, the reader is left alone with the two girls. Johnson's language is evocative and hypnotic, a reminder of why she was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for her previous novel, Everything Under. Fans of Shirley Jackson and Barbara Comyns will recognize this skillful kind of creepy. Anyone wanting to get lost in a perfect eerie read will appreciate it just as much. —Heidi and Michael Bender, owners; Split Rock Books (From "38 Great Books To Read This Fall, Recommended By Our Favorite Indie Booksellers" ●


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