The train ride to Hogwarts is a long one, so when you finally run out of chocolate frogs (or Galleons for that matter), I have five YA books all for you.
There are a lot of exciting sequels coming up, and if you’ve left preparation for the last minute, don’t panic: here are four forthcoming books and how you can catch before they come out!
1. When She Reigns – Jodi Meadows
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A lush fantasy world and slow burn plot that’ll keep you thinking until the final book on September 10th, pick up this book if you want an amazing story that’ll make you feel things. Plus you’ll love the complexity of the characters and their relationships.
2. Wayward Son – Rainbow Rowell
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Where to start: Carry On
This series is a great take on wizard school. We start in the last year. Simon Snow’s got a lot of power, but he’s not good at using it. Also he’s pretty sure his roommate is a secret vampire. And something is eating magic in great, horrible swathes. Also, LGBTQAA+.
3. Supernova – Marissa Meyer
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This is a post-Utopian urban fantasy about villainy and revenge. Superpowers, syndicates, and spy craft make this different from other entries into the genre, and you’ll find the characters awfully charming or charmingly awful. Sides are set in stone, and one person’s interests might contradict.
4. Children of Virtue and Vengeance – Tomi Adeyemi
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Where to start: Children of Blood and Bone
Magic and it’s users were killed off by ruthless invaders, but now there’s one chance to bring it back. To do so will require crossing territory filled with beasts and magic, side by side with an enemy, but the greatest struggle may be controlling the magic that’s left.
Featured image via Hope Walks Blog
What makes a fantasy series successful isn’t the number of dragons its author jams into it. Given the grand scale of fantasy, both readers and writers can sometimes forget that stories don’t necessarily come from big stakes, but from small moments. Although the genre deviates from reality, the center of any story is an emotional one: an exploration, however abstract, of the things that make us human. (Or, at least, what makes elves human enough that we bother reading on.)
Clearly, Tomi Adeyemi has done something right—more than one thing, by the looks of it. At only twenty-three years old, Adeyemi scored a shockingly lucrative book deal for Children of Blood and Bone, a YA fantasy trilogy inspired by Nigerian culture & mythology. One Entertainment Weekly article entitled “Is Tomi Adeyemi the next J.K. Rowling?” emphasizes Adeyemi’s cultural feat: “it’s not every day that an unknown-23-year-old sells the movie rights to an unpublished fantasy trilogy for seven figures.” In a rare move, Fox 2000 bypassed the optioning phase entirely and purchased the rights directly. Adeyemi credits her Nigerian immigrant parents with much of her success, claiming that they instilled a hard work ethic into her from an early age. But perhaps some of her success has come from the weight of her mission: “Write a story that’s so good and so black that everyone’s going to have to read it—even if they’re racist.”
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Many think that writers primarily sort themselves into one of two categories: plot writers and character writers. In reality, there are at least four. There are good plot & character writers—and there are the others.
Adeyemi self-identifies as a writer to whom plot comes more naturally, but that doesn’t mean she neglects her characters. After writing the plot, she told attendees at her 2019 BookCon panel, she spends “every draft” figuring out the ways in which the plot changes her characters. “Fantasy has to be human,” she emphasized. “Fantasy needs to be especially human.” Authors can get caught up in the gravitas of their own worlds, often forgetting that our own reality holds the same high stakes. The world tends to be ending, not as a prophecy but as a general statement of fact. That tends not to be our main motivation on any given day. Even if you are an activist whose primary focus is societal responsibility, there are friends and events and moments that matter to us outside of that objective. Adeyemi discussed the ways in which some high fantasy can draw a low level of engagement:
There are a lot of popular fantasy series that are the fantasy series of our day, and I just don’t care about those people. I don’t care if they get killed by a dragon. I don’t care if it happens – I’m hoping for it to happen. I know I cracked a character when I fall in love with something about that character. The most epic moments in our lives… for you it’s epic, but for someone else, it’s nothing. Reality is something different to every single person.
As for good and evil, the binary of most works of fantasy, Adeyemi believes it’s all a bit more complicated than that. “I have to believe what my characters believe,” she admitted, but at the same time, “I have to acknowledge what is right and wrong about those beliefs. Everybody is a little bit right, and that’s why they keep coming against each other.” In order to create engaging characters, we have to acknowledge that evil is a buzzword, not a motivation. “I’m not letting people off the hook,” she emphasized, “but I find the percentage of people being bad for bad reasons is incredibly small.”
So… is Adeyemi the next J.K. Rowling? Probably not—it’s a different fantasy world that inspired her from an early age.
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Avatar: The Last Airbender inspired Adeyemi’s worldbuilding and changed her perception of the role culture could play in a story. She recalled one Twitter user recommending A:TLA to cure their Children of Blood and Bone book hangover:
I was so honored because that’s the world I want to live in. Even when it wasn’t my dream to be a writer, it was my dream to create a world that people get lost in. A lot of people were so inspired by Harry Potter, but for me it’s Avatar. Culture is more than what people wear, what they eat. It’s the way they interact with each other in the world. So it was a joy to do that with my own heritage.
Of course, Adeyemi wasn’t always as successful in her world building. Improvement is just as much practice as it is understanding the mechanics of storytelling—arguably, you can’t understand those mechanics until you practice! “All my fantasy worlds before were like, ‘ok, now they can do lightning!’ They didn’t have depth,” Adeyemi explained, “but now, I can build a world with heart and meaning.”
Featured Image Via Shondaland.com.
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According to Publisher’s Weekly, Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi won big at last night’s 24th annual Audie Awards. Held in Manhattan, the awards recognize outstanding audiobooks and spoken-word entertainment. Children of Blood and Bone is the debut novel from young author Tomi Adeyemi, and it depicts the story of a young woman called Zélie Adebola who leads her clan of maji against a brutally oppressive regime. A popular YA fantasy novel, the book the first in a highly-anticipated series and has already climbed the ranks of The New York Times’ bestseller list. The audiobook’s narrator is Bahni Turpin, known for her roles in Malcolm X and Cold Case Files.
The book took home the award for Top Audiobook of the Year, a well deserved win for such a striking debut. Other highlights of the evening included Edoardo Ballerini winning Best Male Narrator for his narration of Watchers by Dean Koontz, Julia Whelan taking home Best Female Narrator for Educated by Tara Westover, and Richard Armitage nabbing Best Audio Drama for The Martian Invasion of Earth by HG Wells.
Tomi Adeyemi and Bahni Turpin are no doubt very pleased with their win. We look forward to seeing more entries in this series!
Featured Image Via Publisher’s Weekly.
The Nebula Awards may honor the most out-of-this-world science fiction and fantasy, but its finalists are highly representative of the diverse world we’re living in. White men may still dominate high school reading lists (and the government, depending on your country of origin), but women and nonbinary authors of color are filling the rosters for one of genre fiction’s most prestigious awards. Chances are, you’ve read some of these. And chances are even higher you’ll love all the ones you haven’t.
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Categories for winners include Best Novel, Novella, Novelette, and Short Story. There’s also a specific prize for YA sci-fi and fantasy: The Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Fiction. Since there are fifty nominations in total across each category, let’s focus on the ten nominees for Best Novel and The Andre Norton Award, two categories in which some real some real magic is happening. First, let’s take a minute to reflect on exactly how big a deal these awards are: YA superstars J.K. Rowling (who you know) and Holly Black (who you really should) have both been Nebula Award-winners.
Now that we’ve established the prestige level of this award (to clarify: massively high), let’s consider that, in these two categories, female and nonbinary authors of color comprise fully half of the nominees. In case this actually needs establishing, that’s a massive deal.
Though the other categories don’t boast such incredible statistics, they’re still strikingly diverse. The Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation has two particularly high-profile works among its nominees: Janelle Monae‘s album Dirty Computer; Boots Riley‘s film Sorry to Bother You, and Ryan Coogler‘s international sensation Black Panther. (This list seems to indicate that including Tessa Thompson will statistically increase your chances of a nomination. Is this true? True enough.)
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YA has always been a particularly diverse genre, quick to shirk the confines of more traditional literary fiction. As the YA craze reaches a wider audience, it has more people to represent. Let’s just say the genre has risen to the challenge. For example, let’s look at underrated YA romance release Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann, depicting the experiences of an asexual and biromantic black teenage girl with a nuanced and thoughtful touch. Many feel that the publishing world’s interest in YA reflects an alarming cultural trend: a departure from the classics and other works of value. But literary fiction is a genre like any other—it’s not a synonym for good. Publishers aren’t the only ones all over YA fiction; readers gravitate towards the books that represent their own experiences.
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Diverse YA releases like Tomi Adeyemi‘s Children of Blood and Bone, a fantasy debut inspired by Nigerian mythology, have gotten massive attention—from media coverage to a reported seven-figure book deal. And everybody’s talking about Samira Ahmed‘s upcoming Internment, a dystopian novel in which American Muslims are detained in camps. While many are quick to complain about the market’s saturation with YA genre fiction, readers shouldn’t be so eager to decry its literary value—some of these dystopian worlds no longer come with all the logic of an Internet personality quiz. Instead, these groundbreaking authors are using technology and magic as metaphors to comment upon reality.
Image Via Samira Ahmed Twitter
YA is growing increasingly diverse from the top down—even lesser-known releases are incorporating richer cultural contexts into their works. An underrated December release, The Disasters by queer author M.K. England, features a world in which space exploration has been driven by African and Middle-Eastern science and technology. It’s all space ships, shenanigans, Muslim calls to prayer, and seriously making sure you’re not wearing a bright turquoise hijab when avoiding interplanetary mercenaries in a crowd! (Looking at you, character-who-will-not-be-named.)
Though many are quick to associate sci-fi in particular with white teen boys thirsting after Princess Leia, these skeptics should maybe slow down with the assumptions.
Featured Image Via Fierce Reads.