34 New Summer Books You Won’t Be Able To Put Down

From literary fiction to science fiction and fantasy and memoir, these are the best beach reads.

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You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi (Atria Books; out now)

Five years after the death of her husband, Feyi is still in mourning, but she'd like not to be. And so she finds the perfect guy to bring her back into dating and sex, but she isn't prepared for the way things spiral from her introduction to his friend group. From there, it's a blink until she's spending the summer at the island home of a wealthy celebrity chef and experiencing sizzling and forbidden chemistry with a man who, like Feyi, is bisexual. He both makes her feel alive and respects her connection to the dead. But with no easy path forward for them, they'll both have to consider what they're prepared to sacrifice for an uncertain romantic future. Emezi once again absolutely slays a new-for-them genre, with tenderhearted characters and an immaculate balance of realistic dialogue and lyrical prose. —Dahlia Adler (From “49 Books Coming Out This Spring You Won't Be Able To Put Down”)

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Yerba Buena by Nina LaCour (Flatiron Books; May 31)

LaCour's debut into adult fiction is a remarkable journey featuring two aching women on perpendicular paths towards a crossroads of connection. Sara Foster ran away from home at 16, reeling from a series of shattering losses. After years of trying to put the pieces of herself together, she's working as a bartender in Los Angeles. Emelie Dubois enters her seventh year (and fifth major) of her undergraduate program, taking a job impulsively to arrange flowers at Yerba Buena. The glamorous restaurant has more to draw her eye than just a paycheck, however, as she enters into an affair with the married owner. When Sara and Emelie cross paths at Yerba Buena, there is an immediate connection. But as Emelie has just started to find purpose, and Sara's past has just started to find her, is there any hope for them to find their own way in the world and a way towards each other? —Rachel Strolle

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The Mutual Friend by Carter Bays (Dutton; June 7)

This debut novel from the co-creator of How I Met Your Mother is a winding adventure through myriad lives and relationships dominated by social media. Alice, a nanny who’s pursuing her dream of becoming a doctor and studying for the MCAT, moves in with a chaotic new roommate, Roxy, a city hall employee who never looks up from her phone. Alice’s brother Bill, meanwhile, is a tech entrepreneur with a hit app and a newfound fascination with Buddhism. Set in summer 2015 in New York City, these characters use social media in all sorts of familiar and cringe-inducing ways, from scrolling through someone’s Instagram and scoffing at their corny captions to making strained small talk on a dating app, thirst-snooping on a stranger’s Twitter, or learning of a friend’s death via Facebook. This novel is a charming modern epic that romps between several concurrent storylines, but everything coalesces masterfully as all the scattered puzzle pieces fit together. (Full disclosure: I have watched certain episodes of HIMYM dozens of times over. Still, surely any fan of the series will love Mutual Friend.) —Emerson Malone

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Cult Classic by Sloane Crosley (MCD; June 7)

A book about a woman who’s stuck in a seemingly endless loop of dates with all her ex-boyfriends? I was hooked from the first chapter. Cult Classic is easily the funniest fiction I’ve read this year. Crosley brings the same offbeat humor she utilized to acclaim in her nonfiction to this novel that defies easy categorization. Riotously funny, suspenseful, weird, and insightful, it’s a unicorn of a book that’s a perfect summer read if you’re looking for something that’ll make you laugh while keeping you on your toes. —David Vogel

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Nuclear Family by Joseph Han (Counterpoint; June 7)

The Chos are an upwardly mobile Korean American family faced with sudden humiliation when son Jacob is filmed trying to cross the DMZ to visit family in North Korea. They don’t know that he’s been possessed by the ghost of his late grandfather. As the family grapples with the fallout of his actions, they’re forced to confront their own trauma. —Tomi Obaro (From “26 Books To Get Excited About This Year”)

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Just by Looking at Him by Ryan O'Connell (Atria; June 7)

You know you're in for a ride when the opening paragraph of a novel vividly describes genitalia, Elliott has a doting long-term boyfriend and a TV staff writing job that gives him money to burn, but when a dalliance with a sex worker leads to a full-blown preoccupation, he realizes he's clearly not happy with the status quo. Between facing constant ableism, a toxic boss, and his secret cash-paid sex life, Elliott's being held together by glue, tape, and too much wine, and he knows it. But how does one go about reclaiming life in a world that makes it clear yours is worth less? O'Connell's novel is a candid and darkly funny narrative about navigating life, love, and alcohol addiction, and Hollywood as a gay man with cerebral palsy. —Dahlia Adler

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Tracy Flick Can’t Win by Tom Perrotta (Scribner; June 7)

In this follow-up to 1998’s Election, protagonist Tracy Flick is now an assistant principal at a high school in suburban New Jersey. She’s in midlife malaise, divorced with a tween daughter, and halfheartedly dating an unremarkable, clingy doctor. The sequel is more sophisticated and grown-up, providing a more nuanced 21st-century perspective. The story focuses on two local school elections: the replacement for the retiring principal and the inaugural member of the school’s alumni Hall of Fame. Tracy and Vito Falcone, a former pro football player making amends in getting sober, seem like shoo-ins for the respective positions, but then some dark horse competitors threaten to derail the contests. Initially, I thought the novel’s title was an idiom — but as the story unfolds, I realized maybe it’s a conspiracy. Perrotta balances multiple storylines of interpersonal drama between students, alumni, and faculty members. His writing style makes for an ideal beach read. —Emerson Malone

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Sirens & Muses by Antonia Angress (Ballantine Books; July 12)

Writing about being an artist can be tough. It’s hard to portray the struggles as well as the joys of being a creative person in a way that a general audience can understand, but Angress has done this delicately and with flair in her astounding debut, Sirens & Muses. By telling the story through the alternating perspectives of four different characters from wildly varying backgrounds, with differing life experiences and skill levels, she makes it difficult for readers to judge. Even if it’s not always possible to agree with how the characters behave, they all provide perspectives that deepen a reader’s understanding of the issues at play in this story about the complexities of life as an artist. Gripping, provocative, and supremely entertaining, this is one to watch out for. —David Vogel

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Nevada by Imogen Binnie (MCD x FSG Originals; June 7)

This is hands down my favorite book of the summer. Rarely are LGBTQ+ people in fiction allowed to be the full, complex beings they are in real life, but Binnie manages to accomplish this herculean task with ease in Nevada. Maria, the narrator, is funny, messy, complicated, infuriating, and lovable, all at the same time. These contradictions made me love her all the more because I recognized my queer friends in the way Maria is depicted. Binnie’s fiction has so much to say about the queer and trans experience, bodily autonomy, community, and the ways queer people process trauma. I want more queer fiction like this, and I’m so glad a wider audience is going to get to experience it. —David Vogel

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Body Grammar by Jules Ohman (Vintage; June 14)

Lou's always shied away from suggestions that she become a model, until a tragedy sends her running from everything in her old life, including the best friend she deeply loves. She manages to fail upward into incredible success, but no matter where she walks, nothing is truly complete without the girl she left behind. As Lou forges new relationships, she never quite lands on where or who she's meant to be, even while her dreams of becoming a photographer and giving her heart to Ivy loom in the distance. Ohman deftly crafts a heart-aching, healing, and clarifying journey of self-acceptance, trauma recovery, and queer love in this debut coming-of-age novel. —Dahlia Adler

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One’s Company by Ashley Hutson (W.W. Norton & Company; June 14)

This novel hooked me from the very first line. Bonnie Lincoln has just won the lottery. Choosing to live with her winnings while flying under the radar, she decides to do something drastic: move to an isolated mountain town to re-create the apartment seen in the hit show Three’s Company, including how the set changes over the seasons. With money, you can do anything. Her best friend Krystal wants to drag her back to reality, but all Bonnie wants to do is to escape the trauma of her past by living out her ultimate fantasy. Hutson’s prose is both simple and captivating, containing nuggets of wisdom that peek into the complexity of humanity. —Farrah Penn

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Dele Weds Destiny by Tomi Obaro (Knopf; June 28)

This marvelous debut novel from Obaro, BuzzFeed News’ deputy culture editor, follows the decadeslong friendship of Enitan, Zainab, and Funmi as they prepare for the lavish wedding of Funmi’s daughter, Destiny. Set in Nigeria, the story begins as the friends are reunited in the present day before delving into how they first met. Against the backdrop of student protests in the 1980s, these very different women forge bonds that are tested by love affairs and tragedy. It’s an unforgettable and complex portrait of female friendship. —Karolina Waclawiak (From “26 Books To Get Excited About This Year”)

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Kaleidoscope by Cecily Wong (Dutton; July 5)

Wong’s insightful and compelling novel follows two sisters in a moving and complex look at ambition and success. The Brightons are a Chinese American biracial family who have achieved the American dream by creating Kaleidoscope, a shopping empire that deals in luxury goods. Morgan, the eldest daughter, is the one who receives all the favorable press and praise while her sister, Riley, lives in her shadow. When one life-altering event changes everything Riley thought she knew, she embarks on a journey to come to terms with the truth. —Farrah Penn

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Self Portrait With Ghost: Short Stories by Meng Jin (Mariner Books; July 5)

A photographer reminisces about a past lover she learned has died, a single mother tries to beautify herself to keep the attentions of a rich widower, a young woman brings the baby she nannies on illicit dates with a man from her village — the stories in this collection, the second book by author Meng Jin, are strange and captivating narratives featuring women protagonists who are prickly and inscrutable, aching for better futures in China and America. Later stories are more contemporary; we watch a young girl named Selena grow from middle school to adulthood and navigate her complicated friendship with a girl named Ruth. Jin’s writing is sharp and corrosive— a great follow-up from a talented writer. —Tomi Obaro

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Other Names for Love by Taymour Soomro (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux; July 12)

Fahad is a 16-year-old from Pakistan, who is gay but not out. His father, Rafik, has forced him to spend his summer not in London, where his mother is, but in the village where their family farm, recently bequeathed to Rafik after the death of his uncle, is located. The farm gives the family the great wealth and political influence that Rafik craves. Fahad eventually befriends a local teen named Ali, and as their relationship deepens both emotionally and physically, danger lurks. The novel alternates in points of view between the father and the son and spans over decades, lending an emotional richness and ambition to this impressive debut. —Tomi Obaro

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All This Could Be Different by Sarah Thankam Mathews (Viking; Aug. 2)

On the surface, All This Could Be Different is a story about a millennial who graduates into the precarious workforce during a recession. As Sneha, the narrator, searches for fulfillment as a queer immigrant living in America, she finds community in unexpected places. While I was reading, the thing that initially blew me away was the clarity of Mathews’ writing and the accuracy with which she describes experiences I’d previously taken for granted. Her writing is funny, incisive, and straightforward. As the novel expands, it becomes about the struggle to build a life worth living when the world seems like it's collapsing, a topic that remains timely as ever. This book gave me a lot to ponder, but ultimately left me hopeful. —David Vogel

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Afterlives by Abdulrazak Gurnah (Riverhead; Aug. 23

First published in 2020 by the UK publisher Bloomsbury, this epic novel by the recent Nobel Prize winner Gurnah explores the interconnected lives of characters living in the midst of German colonization of mainland Tanzania. Among the characters we meet are Khalifa and Asha, a young married couple, bound in an arranged marriage and struggling to make ends meet; Ilyas, a German-speaking young man and friend of Khalifa’s who joins the German World War I effort, and his sister, Afiya, who having suffered physical abuse seeks comfort in the home of Khalifa and Asha and eventually develops a romantic relationship with a young man named Hamza. Spanning from around 1907 to after independence in 1961, Gurnah masterfully shows how the effects of colonialism ripple and disrupt decades after the fact. —Tomi Obaro

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My Government Means to Kill Me by Rasheed Newson (Flatiron; Aug. 23)

This book is a truly unique queer coming-of-age novel. It centers around Trey Singleton, a gay Black man who leaves his wealthy upbringing in Indianapolis and moves to New York city during the mid-1980s. Structured as a series of “Lessons,” it’s fast paced and episodic in structure. Trey is a winning narrator with a unique voice, and is someone readers can root for as they follow his stories. This book is sexy, hilarious, and empathetic and features more than a few cameos from historical figures of the period (both revered and reviled) that will have readers raising their eyebrows in astonishment. Don’t miss this one. It brings a refreshing new voice to the field of fictional narratives of the AIDS epidemic. —David Vogel

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Under the Skin: The Hidden Toll of Racism on American Lives and on the Health of Our Nation by Linda Villarosa (Doubleday; June 14)

Villarosa, a health journalist and contributor to The 1619 Project, has put together a damning view of the anti-Black racism endemic to the US healthcare system. Illustrated with sobering personal accounts and thoroughly researched, the book connects vast racial inequities, from maternal and birth mortality rates to environmental injustice to modern physicians with extreme implicit biases against Black people. “Even after science finds a cure for COVID-19,” Villarosa writes, “racism in medicine is the harder virus to kill.” Under the Skin is an eye-opening and necessary text that will fundamentally change the way you look at healthcare in the US. —Emerson Malone

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Rogues: True Stories of Grifters, Killers, Rebels and Crooks by Patrick Radden Keefe (Doubleday; June 28)

Fresh off the heels of the publication of Empire of Pain, Keefe’s Sackler family exposé, the popular New Yorker staff writer is back with this collection of some of his reporting for the magazine, from his profile of the late Anthony Bourdain to the global hunt for El Chapo. —Tomi Obaro (From “26 Books To Get Excited About This Year”)

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Acne by Laura Chinn (Hachette Books; July 19)

Actor Laura Chinn opens her memoir with a chapter that almost everyone can relate to: struggling with acne and its detrimental effects on self-esteem. But ultimately, suffering from persistent acne was what led her to soul-searching. Throughout her book, Chinn explores her childhood and adulthood through a raw and humorous lens, from moving to Los Angeles to Florida, her parents’ divorce, her biracial identity, her experience with drinking and partying, and much more. It’s an engaging and touching journey that’s sure to resonate with many. —Farrah Penn

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Dirtbag, Massachusetts by Isaac Fitzgerald (Bloomsbury; July 19)

The former BuzzFeed Books founder’s intimate debut essay collection spans Fitzgerald’s childhood in Boston, precarious adolescence in rural Massachusetts, class-defined high school years in a wealthy boarding school, and adulthood in San Francisco while tackling timely topics like masculinity and body image, class, addiction, and what we inherit from our parents. Equal parts illuminating and poignant, Fitzgerald’s essays attempt to untangle what it means to be a man in this world and in his own body. —Karolina Waclawiak (From “26 Books To Get Excited About This Year”)

Science Fiction & Fantasy

Wrath Goddess Sing by Maya Deane (William Morrow; June 7)

Deane's cutting, powerful, and utterly majestic debut centers Achilles as a trans woman, a demigod who escaped the heroic expectations of a people who couldn't accept her as she was only to be pulled back from her new life with a gift of physical transformation. Complete with her mother Athena's promise that she'll be able to bear her own fruit, Achilles returns to the Myrmidon clan a skilled and vicious warrior, joining the pursuit to rescue the famously beautiful Helen from captivity. But when she tracks down Helen on her own, Achilles discovers there's far more to the woman and her capture than anyone knows, and to enter her orbit is to tussle with a power far beyond her wildest imagination, and to embark on a journey from which she may never return. —Dahlia Adler

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Juniper & Thorn by Ava Reid (Harper Voyager; June 21)

This riveting, atmospheric dark fantasy unflinchingly explores the disturbing roots of classic fairy tales. Marlinchen and her three sisters are the last true witches. Marlinchen, the youngest and most powerful of the three, can read people’s secrets with a touch, while her other sisters can glimpse into the future and create healing potions. Their cursed wizard father hires their magic out while keeping them separate from and ignorant of the world outside their home. However, the two eldest sisters often sneak out at night. The novel opens with Marlinchen’s first night sneaking out with her sisters. They attend a ballet where Marlinchen immediately becomes riveted by the male lead. As Marlinchen continues to escape at night to seek out the ballet, her father becomes increasingly tyrannical. Meanwhile, everyone in town whispers about a monster on the loose and its ruthless murders. —Margaret Kingsbury

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The Book of Gothel by Mary McMyne (Redhook; July 26)

This gorgeous, feminist retelling of “Rapunzel” immediately captivates. Haelewise is the daughter of a midwife who made a bargain with Haelewise’s father that she would suppress her magic and embrace Christianity. Haelewise, however, made no such bargain, and her magic refuses to be suppressed from the start, fighting its way to notice by causing fainting fits. The magic also allows Haelewise to feel the presence of souls as they enter and depart the world, making her unusually gifted for midwifery. The townsfolk fear Haelewise and her possible witchcraft, so after her mother’s death, Haelewise flees the town and escapes into the forbidden forest, where she finds Mother Gothel living in a tower and trains with her in old magic. However, it’s clear that Mother Gothel is hiding something from Haelewise, and when a princess fleeing an unwanted marriage finds refuge in the tower, the secrets slowly start unfolding. Readers of Naomi Novik and Katherine Arden will adore this new fairytale fantasy. —Margaret Kingsbury

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Everything for Everyone: An Oral History of the New York Commune, 2052–2072 by M. E. O’Brien and Eman Abdelhadi (Common Notions; Aug. 1)

This is a really fascinating glimpse into a future New York City after a revolution has transformed the US and much of the world into an anti-fascist, communist utopia. No more capitalism, no more military, no more police. People live in communes, taking care of one another and the Earth. The two authors place themselves into this fictional future by interviewing people who participated in the revolution or in the managing/founding of communes for a book they’re compiling. The interviewees represent a diverse and intersectional range of identities, from a Chinese immigrant who went from being imprisoned in internment camps in the US to participating in revolutions in both China and the US and becoming a trauma healer, to a child victim of a white supremacist cult who went from being a vocal advocate of the cult to participating in its downfall and escaping into an adulthood supporting teenagers and embracing their nonbinary identity. This hybrid novel is both necessary and empowering, providing a hypothetical foundation for an ideal future. —Margaret Kingsbury

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The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean (Aug. 2; Tor Books)

Dean's debut novel is a delightfully weird exploration of motherhood, queerness, and escaping patriarchal norms. Centuries earlier, as the book eaters believe, an alien species arrived on Earth and left behind information gatherers disguised as humans, then forgot about them for unknown reasons. These aliens form their own little archaic world. Most eat books instead of food, though some eat human minds. These mind-eaters become dragons, used as weapons to maintain patriarchal control over the families. Because women are rare, their fertility is tightly managed, and they're not allowed to stay with their children. Book eater Devon, however, deeply loves her children and refuses to leave them. She will do whatever it takes, commit whatever evils necessary, to ensure her mind-eater son's survival and that they remain together. —Margaret Kingsbury

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Babel by R.F. Kuang (Harper Voyager; Aug. 23)

This brilliant historical fantasy takes place in an alternative Victorian-era Oxford. Silver bars can be activated through translation to do magical tasks, from the mundane (heating tea) to the essential (holding up a bridge). Because of the nature of silversmithing, people who can speak multiple languages are crucial, especially less common languages in England. To that end, a professor from Babel — Oxford's translation tower and the world center of silver working — essentially steals Chinese children with promising language skills and whisks them away to England. Robin Swift, the protagonist, is one such child. He spends his childhood learning languages, and if he tarries he faces the professor's wrath. When he arrives at Oxford to begin classes, he befriends other outsiders like him: charismatic Rami, who’s originally from India and quickly becomes Robin's best friend, brilliant and principled Victoire, who’s originally from Haiti, and stubborn Letty, a white woman born to wealth but who refuses to be married off by her father. These four become everything to one another, but they cannot escape Babel's fractious, colonialist politics. Kuang deftly explores the period and its legacy of racism and colonialism while also fully committing to Robin's character arc. It's an impressive, emotional read. —Margaret Kingsbury

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Historical Fiction

Ordinary Monsters by J.M. Miro (Flatiron; June 7)

This sprawling historical fantasy feels like a perfect blend of Miss Peregrine, Penny Dreadful, and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell vibes. Charlie and Marlowe are on the run from a man made of smoke, trying to hide the powers that make them a target. Charlie is a 16-year-old whose body heals itself completely despite the pain he has experienced in his lifetime. Marlowe is a foundling who glows bluish and has the ability to melt or mend flesh. They are taken to a school outside Edinburgh where others with gifts, called Talents, are being brought to learn more about what they can do. But the institute that is supposed to be teaching them harbors secrets in its walls; as they work to discover their true power, they must learn what is after them. You'll love following these characters on their adventures and delight in the possibilities of the next two installments. —Rachel Strolle

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Miss Aldridge Regrets by Louise Hare (Berkley Books; July 5)

Lena's life is falling apart. Instead of a life on the London theater stage, she's singing in a basement club in Soho, passing as white and hiding her mixed-race heritage. Plus, she just got dumped by her married lover. But a rare opportunity presents itself in the form of a stranger's offer: a ticket on the Queen Mary to New York, and the promise she'll be met with a leading role on Broadway. With her dreams in sight, and a murder at the club she's all too willing to get away from, she heads off to America. Death follows her aboard, however, when she gets brought into a wealthy family’s circle and one of them is killed. A dazzling mystery unfurls in this historical voyage that feels like a new classic. —Rachel Strolle

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Together We Burn by Isabel Ibañez (Wednesday Books; May 31)

The Zalvidar family has run a famous dragon fighting arena for 500 years, but when someone sabotages their five hundredth anniversary show, unleashing the dragons and causing mayhem and death, 18-year-old flamenco dancer Zarela Zalvidar’s father almost dies. He’ll never be able to fight dragons again. Zarela is determined to save her family’s arena, but it seems like everyone is against her. The head of the Dragon Guild refuses to believe sabotage was involved in the arena’s disaster and instead blames Zarela’s father. He forces her to pay a heavy fine to the guild. The only way to save the arena is to become a Dragonadoor like her father, but after a dragon killed her mother when Zarela was a child, she fears dragons almost as much as she fears losing her family’s legacy. She hires the stubborn and attractive Arturo Díaz de Montserrat to train her as a Dragonadoor, but he believes it’s wrong to fight the dragons. She has four weeks to learn dragon fighting skills to earn enough money to save the arena, but in the meantime, she also has a crime to solve. Someone is out to ruin the Zalvidor family, and they’re willing to murder to get their way. I listened to this intense fantasy on audio, delightfully narrated by Ana Osorio. —Margaret Kingsbury

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It’s All in How You Fall by Sarah Henning (Poppy Books; May 31)

Henning's (Throw Like a Girl) sports knowledge and passion bleeds from every page in this contemporary romance about an aspiring elite gymnast named Caroline whose dreams are dashed by an injury. With gymnastics off the table for Caro, she needs to find a new endorphin-producing passion, and she's got the green light to play any other sport. The problem is, her life's been so dominated by gymnastics that she knows nothing about the rest of them. Enter Alex Zavala, her brother's hot best friend who's happy to show Caro the ropes...and the fields, the courts, and everything else she might need to find her new love. She's determined to pay back his kindness in any way she can, which means trying to hook him up with her friend he's been crushing on. It's all well and good, until Caroline realizes that truly going for the gold means confronting her own developing feelings for Alex. —Dahlia Adler

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We Weren’t Looking to Be Found by Stephanie Kuehn (Disney-Hyperion; June 21)

Kuehn has long been established as a master of blending psychology and fiction, but she veers from her usual thriller path in her newest, a candid and poignant coming-of-age about addiction, privilege, mental health, and self-advocacy from the margins. When Dani and Camila meet at a treatment facility, their existence on opposite ends of the socioeconomic spectrum immediately puts a wedge between them that only the promise of a joint quest can shrink. Luckily, that's exactly what awaits them when they discover a music box full of letters from a previous patient and determine to figure out her identity in order to catch a glimpse into their possible futures. Kuehn pulls no punches in this moving and nuanced friendship story that'll have you wishing you could check on the characters long after the book is done. —Dahlia Adler

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Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney (Flatiron; Aug. 30)

Alice Feeney is back with another gritty, twisty thriller that’s impossible to put down. A family celebration ends in murder when Daisy’s family gets together for their Nana’s 80th birthday. They’ve gathered in Nana’s dilapidated gothic house on the tiny tidal island where she lives, but by midnight she is found dead. They’re cut off from the rest of the world with no help in sight, so there’s little they can do. But when another family member is found dead, it’s clear that someone plans to kill them one by one. Now Daisy needs to figure out her family’s secrets in order to unravel the current mystery at hand before it’s too late. —Farrah Penn

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