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Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant


Ready for a super-sweet YA romance that’ll kick off your 2021 with some happy swooning? Good! Bryant’s Happily Ever Afters is Jane the Virgin meets To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Tessa Johnson has never felt like the main character, but she can pen herself as one in the stories she writes. When she’s accepted into a creative writing program at a prestigious art school, this should be her time to shine — but Tessa suffers from writer’s block. The perfect remedy? Creating her very own a list of romance novel–inspired steps to a happily ever after. Her eyes are set on Nico as her goal prince charming, but then there’s the sweet and sensitive boy next door who’s unknowingly throwing off her plan. Bryant’s debut is exactly what we all need to cast away those post-holiday blues.

—Farrah Penn

Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour

Houghton Mifflin

Mateo Askaripour’s blazing debut follows Darren Vender, aka Buck, a young Black Brooklyn native who goes from shift supervisor at Starbucks to sales wunderkind at Sumwun, a remote counseling tech startup. Sumwun’s CEO — well intentioned but suffering from a severe god complex — takes Buck under his wing, but conveniently looks the other way as Buck, Sumwun’s lone Black sales agent, is hit with racism running the gamut from microaggressions (like when he has to role-play calls with white coworkers mimicking AAVE) to outright aggressions disguised as hazing (like when those coworkers dump a bucket of white paint on his head). Still, Buck is great at sales and skyrockets to success. The only problem is he loses himself — and his connections to his home and community — in the process. It’s a fast-paced, sharp, hilarious story with a lot of heart, and though both the blatant racism and indulgent startup culture might seem exaggerated, it’s a good idea to resist the urge to read it as satire: In an LA Times interview, Askaripour said, “No Black person would describe what Darren experiences as surprising or absurd.”

—Arianna Rebolini

Outlawed by Anna North

Bloomsbury Publishing

In an alternate version of late-1800s America, babies are a hot commodity after a flu wiped out much of the population. Ada, a young newlywed, hasn’t gotten pregnant yet; in a world where women who are unable to have children are treated like witches, her only choice is to become an outlaw. She joins up with the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang, a group of misfits who refuse to conform to gender or societal norms. But their dream of creating a utopia for outcasts comes with a dangerous plan — one that Ada isn’t sure she can live with.

—Kirby Beaton

The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr.

G.P. Putnam’s Sons

On a plantation in the Deep South, two enslaved young men, Isaiah and Samuel, find moments of intimacy in the barn where they share duties tending to the animals. There, they can let their love — and a rare sense of hope — bloom. But their love threatens the system of the plantation. And when an older man, who is also enslaved, starts preaching of sin, others on the plantation begin to turn against each other. Isaiah and Samuel’s love brings the plantation, and the weight of its prisoners’ histories, to a powerful moment of reckoning.

—Kirby Beaton

The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh by Molly Greeley

William Morrow

A queer reimagining of Pride and Prejudice’s Anne de Bourgh, this novel follows Anne as she breaks free of the laudanum-filled, sheltered life her parents forced upon her. Armed with her vast inheritance, she flees to London, staying with her cousin Col. John Fitzwilliam as she attempts to join high society and forge a new identity — one that is uniquely her own.

—Kirby Beaton

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