- The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
Genre: YA Dystopia
Rating (by Goodreads): 3.98
“It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the 10th annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to out charm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.”
Twelve years after the first Hunger Games book was released, Suzanne Collins is launching us back into the world of Panem. This time, we’re reading about the origin of the Hunger Games’ most infamous antagonist, President Snow. This prequel takes place well before Katniss Everdeen came into the picture, and tells the tale of Snow before he was in power. When this news was announced, plenty of people were excited, while others were horrified at the idea of Snow possibly being redeemed. However, it can be agreed by everyone that we’re intrigued. A movie for the prequel is already in the works as well, with Hunger Games director Frances Lawrence returning for the project.
2. A Burning by Megha Majumdar
Release date:June 2nd
Genre: Contemporary fiction, Cultural
Rating (by Goodreads): 4.25
“Jivan is a Muslim girl from the slums, determined to move up in life, who is accused of executing a terrorist attack on a train because of a careless comment on Facebook. PT Sir is an opportunistic gym teacher who hitches his aspirations to a right-wing political party, and finds that his own ascent becomes linked to Jivan's fall. Lovely--an irresistible outcast whose exuberant voice and dreams of glory fill the novel with warmth and hope and humor--has the alibi that can set Jivan free, but it will cost her everything she holds dear.”
Megha Majumdar releases her debut novel, A Burning, this summer. The story is told from three different perspectives, and centers around a tragic terrorist attack and a girl wrongly accused. The perspectives begin to intersect, leading to a complex and thought provoking plot. The book is described by critics as risky, ambitious, and wonderfully plotted. A Burning will be available and on shelves early this summer, on June 2nd.
3. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Release date: June 2nd
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating (by Goodreads): 4.53
“The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it's not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it's everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters' storylines intersect?”
In The Vanishing Half, Brit Bennett delves into American history that weaves different generations together. The book takes place in the 1960s, and tells the story of two twin sisters. The girls run away at sixteen to New Orleans, but soon find their dream of a new life is not so easily in reach. Tragically, the twins find themselves on opposite paths: one returning to the town they grew up in, and the other living her life passing as a white woman. This is Brit Bennett’s second novel, and is already being praised for the well developed characters, unique voice, and strong storyline.
4. The Dragons, The Giant, The Women by Wayétu Moore
Release Date: June 2nd
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir
Rating (by Goodreads): 4.86
“When Wayétu Moore turns five years old, her father and grandmother throw her a big birthday party at their home in Monrovia, Liberia, but all she can think about is how much she misses her mother, who is working and studying in faraway New York. Before she gets the reunion her father promised her, war breaks out in Liberia.”
In this autobiography, Wayétu Moore describes her journey as a child experiencing hardship as her family fled their home, as well as the struggles she faced as an immigrant in America. Moore’s story carries the reader through her childhood, her experience moving to America, and ultimately returning to Liberia. Moore’s memoir has already been described as moving, brilliantly crafted in terms of creative structure and voice.
5. You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat
Release Date:June 9th
Genre: Fiction, LGBTQ
Rating (by Goodreads): 4.03
“On a hot day in Bethlehem, a 12-year-old Palestinian-American girl is yelled at by a group of men outside the Church of the Nativity. She has exposed her legs in a biblical city, an act they deem forbidden, and their judgement will echo on through her adolescence. When our narrator finally admits to her mother that she is queer, her mother’s response only intensifies a sense of shame: “You exist too much,” she tells her daughter.”
In You Exist Too Much, Zaina Arafat tells the story of her protagonist's journey through childhood into adolescence. The story is told in different flashes, travelling between the United States and the Middle East. Arafat writes her character’s journey from young girl, to aspiring writer, to her first relationship with her girlfriend, to battling destructive behaviors. As the character struggles to balance her cultural, religious, and sexual identities, she ultimately finds herself in recovery for love addiction.The book has been described as intriguing, thought provoking, and has been praised for its willingness to tackle sexuality, mental illness, and other complex issues.
6. I Hold a Wolf by the Ears by Laura van dan Berg
Release Date: June 9th
Genre: Fiction, Short Story Collection
Rating (by Goodreads): 4.65
“Both timeless and urgent, these eleven stories confront misogyny, violence, and the impossible economics of America with van den Berg's trademark spiky humor and surreal eye.”
I Hold a Wolf by the Ears is a collection of dark short stories about struggling women. The stories tackle a variety of issues: mental health, grief, toxic relationships, violence, and more. Van dan Berg wields these issues and her characters in a chilling way that both highlights the female experience and leaves the reader terrified. This is Laura van fan Berg’s first collection after her prize winning Isle of Youth. According to critics, it does not disappoint. The stories have been described as enriching with beautifully crafted narratives.
7. How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue
Release date: June 16th
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Cultural
Rating (by Goodreads): 3.92
“Pipeline spills have rendered farmlands infertile. Children are dying from drinking toxic water. Promises of clean-up and financial reparations to the villagers are made—and ignored. The country’s government, led by a brazen dictator, exists to serve its own interest. Left with few choices, the people of Kosawa decide to fight back. Their struggle would last for decades and come at a steep price.”
In the fictional African Village of Kosawa, Mbue’s characters are suffering the consequences of the selfishness of an American oil company. Pipeline spills have caused environmental damage, The story is told through a girl named Thula and follows how her and her family fight for the people and the place they love.This is Mbue’s second novel, and has been deemed epic, poignant, and powerful.
8. Notes on a Silencing by Lacy Crawford
Trigger Warning: Sexual assault
Release date: July 7th
Rating (by Goodreads): 4.58
“When the elite St. Paul's School recently came under state investigation after extensive reports of sexual abuse on campus, Lacy Crawford thought she'd put behind her the assault she'd suffered at St. Paul's decades before, when she was fifteen. Still, when detectives asked for victims to come forward, she sent a note.”
In Notes on a Silencing, Lacy Crawford tells her story as a woman seeking justice for a sexual assault that took place during her time at high school. Crawford unveils the corruption of power that took place at her high school, and the lengths many adults went to to bury the events that traumatized her in order to protect two men’s futures. Crawford’s commentary regarding gender, privilege, and religion throughout the memoir is perfectly weaved into the coming of age survivor story. Readers have called the memoir compelling, balanced, and nuanced.
9. Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey
Trigger Warning: Domestic abuse
Release Date: July 28th
Genre: True Crime
Rating (by Goodreads): 4.48
“At age nineteen, Natasha Trethewey had her world turned upside down when her former stepfather shot and killed her mother. Grieving and still new to adulthood, she confronted the twin pulls of life and death in the aftermath of unimaginable trauma and now explores the way this experience lastingly shaped the artist she became.”
Pulitzer prize winning poet Natasha Tethewey shares her story of loss, grief, and domestic abuse in her new memoir, Memorial Drive. The book takes place during Atlanta in 1985 and explores the aftermath of her mother’s murder while also suffering from the effects of racism and domestic abuse. The heartbreaking but beautifully written story will be available this summer in late July.
10. Afterland by Lauren Beukes
Release Date: July 28th
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia
Rating (by Goodreads): 4.33
“Cole and her twelve-year-old, Miles, are on the lam. Fleeing across the American West, they're desperate to find a safe haven. Until they do, they must maintain their disguise--as mother and daughter. Because Miles, a boy, is the most valuable commodity in the world.”
Lauren Buekes brings a world in which 99% of the male population has died due to a world-wide pandemic. Main characters Cole and her son, Miles, must stay on the run to escape the dangers that are after them. Among the dangers is Cole’s own sister. The book has been described as a feminist thriller that is eye opening, suspenseful, and compelling. This is one of many of Lauren Buekes works, as she is an award winning novelist, and has written for television as well. Afterland is the perfect summer read, and will be in stores July 28th!
11. The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi
Release date: August 4th
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Cultural
Rating (by Good Reads): 4.44
“One afternoon, in a town in southeastern Nigeria, a mother opens her front door to discover her son’s body, wrapped in colorful fabric, at her feet. What follows is the tumultuous, heart-wrenching story of one family’s struggle to understand a child whose spirit is both gentle and mysterious.”
In The Death of Vivek Oji, Akwaeke Emezi brings to life the character Vivek, a young man living in Nigeria. As he is moving from adolescence into adulthood, Vivek suffers from blackouts that separate him from his surroundings. The story is one of friendship as Vivek finds solace in the women around him, especially his cousin Osita. It is one of family, exploring Vivek’s dynamic with his distant father and overprotective mother. Finally, it is one of crisis and mystery as an astonishing act of violence leads to death. Emezi’s novel is described as heart-wrenching, with phenomenal prose and a controlled narrative.
12. Luster by Raven Leilani
Release date: August 4th
Rating (by Goodreads): 4.19
“Razor sharp, darkly comic, sexually charged, socially disruptive, Luster is a portrait of a young woman trying to make sense of her life in a tumultuous era. It is also a haunting, aching description of how hard it is to believe in your own talent and the unexpected influences that bring us into ourselves along the way.”
Luster tells the story of Edie, a twenty three year old who has just lost her job in publishing and has found herself with nowhere to go. Out of desperation, she ends up staying with the man she’s been sleeping with-- and his wife and daughter. She now witnesses the marriage that is crumbling first hand, and also finds herself being a sort of mentor for their daughter, Akila, as Edie is one of the few black women Akila has had the opportunity to know. The story is bold, unique, and compelling as you follow Edie through this journey as she pursues her dream of being an artist while navigating various difficulties.
13. The Queen of Tuesday by Darin Strauss
Release date: August 18th
Rating (by Goodreads): 3.17
“This indelible romance begins with a daring conceit—that the author’s grandfather may have had an affair with Lucille Ball. Strauss offers a fresh view of a celebrity America loved more than any other.”
The Queen of Tuesday sheds light on the life of one of one of the most influential women in the history of Hollywood. Lucille Ball was beloved and on screen, was a success. Behind the scenes, however, her marriage was damaging and she struggled to bear the pressure placed on her. The book is part memoir and part novel, with Strauss using imagination to paint creative imagined events. The novel has been called captivating, well written, and easy to escape into.
14. This Is The Night Our House Will Catch Fire by Nick Flynn
Release date: August 25th
Rating (by Goodreads): 4.33
“When Nick Flynn was seven years old, his mother set fire to their house. The event loomed large in his imagination for years, but it’s only after having a child of his own that he understands why.”
Nick Flynn returns to the ground where he grew up, where his mother set their home on fire. He does so with his young daughter to reflect on his own childhood, and forms his memories into bedtime stories. Flynn delves into his own mind, the aftermath of his mother’s actions, leading to him even threatening to burn his own home down. The journey is raw, haunting, and powerful.
15. Sisters by Daisy Johnson
Release date: August 25th
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Rating (by Goodreads): 4.17
“Born just ten months apart, July and September are thick as thieves, never needing anyone but each other. Now, following a case of school bullying, the teens have moved away with their single mother to a long-abandoned family home near the shore. In their new, isolated life, July finds that the deep bond she has always shared with September is shifting in ways she cannot entirely understand. A creeping sense of dread and unease descends inside the house.”
Daisy Johnson writes an exploration of two sisters with a seemingly inseparable bond. July and September rely on one another for everything. After being bullied at their school, they move away, along with their single mother, to the shore. After the move, their bond seems to shift, perhaps drifting away for the first time. They push the boundaries of behavior, leading to shocking revelations that not only impact their past, but their future as well. Daisy Johnson is the youngest author to have been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for her debut novel, and now brings us Sisters, an intriguing examination of the bond between siblings.
As we enter summer, you have no shortage of book recommendations. If you’re stuck in the house, still having the urge to travel, pick up a book! Go to Panem this May with The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, or to New Orleans with The Vanishing Half, or visit the coast of the North York Moors with Sisters. In times like this, books can be a great way to escape and consume new stories, characters, and lives.