Happy new year, everyone!
Yes, I know that I disappeared again in December, but it’s because I was reading 26 books in a desperate rush to complete my Goodreads challenge (but that’s a story for another day). Today I’m bringing you my most anticipated books of 2021. There are probably about five more 2021 releases I can name that I have my eyes on, but for the sake of keeping this post short, I’ve narrowed my list down to 14 books!
Clues to the Universe by Christina Li
Synopsis: The only thing Rosalind Ling Geraghty loves more than watching NASA launches with her dad is building rockets with him. When he dies unexpectedly, all Ro has left of him is an unfinished model rocket they had been working on together.
Benjamin Burns doesn’t like science, but he can’t get enough of Spacebound, a popular comic book series. When he finds a sketch that suggests that his dad created the comics, he’s thrilled. Too bad his dad walked out years ago, and Benji has no way to contact him.
Though Ro and Benji were only supposed to be science class partners, the pair become unlikely friends: Benji helps Ro finish her rocket, and Ro figures out a way to reunite Benji and his dad. But Benji hesitates, which infuriates Ro. Doesn’t he realize how much Ro wishes she could be in his place?
As the two face bullying, grief, and their own differences, Benji and Ro must try to piece together clues to some of the biggest questions in the universe.
Why I’m excited: I usually don’t read middle grade, but when I do I’m pretty much never disappointed. This one is set in the 80s, and I’ve heard from early reviewers that it’s very emotional and amazing. I can’t wait to read about the beautiful friendship that forms between the protagonists!
Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart
Synopsis: Iraya has spent her life in a cell, but every day brings her closer to freedom—and vengeance.
Jazmyne is the queen’s daughter, but unlike her sister before her, she has no intention of dying to strengthen her mother’s power.
Sworn enemies, these two witches enter a precarious alliance to take down a mutual threat. But revenge is a bloody pursuit, and nothing is certain—except the lengths they will go to win this game.
Deadly, fierce, magnetically addictive: this Jamaican-inspired fantasy debut is a thrilling journey where dangerous magic reigns supreme and betrayal lurks beneath every word.
Why I’m excited: If I had to rank the books on this post based on how excited I am for them, this would probably be in the top three. It’s set in a Jamaican-inspired world, and ahhhh, did you read that synopsis? Betrayal and badass girls—I can’t wait!
Counting Down With You by Tashie Bhuiyan
Synopsis: Karina Ahmed has a plan. Keep her head down, get through high school without a fuss, and follow her parents’ rules—even if it means sacrificing her dreams. When her parents go abroad to Bangladesh for four weeks, Karina expects some peace and quiet. Instead, one simple lie unravels everything.
Tutoring the school’s resident bad boy was already crossing a line. Pretending to date him? Out of the question. But Ace Clyde does everything right—he brings her coffee in the mornings, impresses her friends without trying, and even promises to buy her a dozen books (a week) if she goes along with his fake-dating facade. Though Karina agrees, she can’t help but start counting down the days until her parents come back. T-minus twenty-eight days until everything returns to normal—but what if Karina no longer wants it to?
Why I’m excited: A Bangladeshi girl fake dates the school bad boy! This book sounds like so much fun, and according to the author (whom I follow on Twitter and is absolutely hilarious), it’ll contain tons of Gen Z humor!
The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He
Synopsis: Cee awoke on an abandoned island three years ago. With no idea of how she was marooned, she only has a rickety house, an old android, and a single memory: she has a sister, and Cee needs to find her.
STEM prodigy Kasey wants escape from the science and home she once trusted. The eco-city—Earth’s last unpolluted place—is meant to be sanctuary for those committed to planetary protection, but it’s populated by people willing to do anything for refuge, even lie. Now, she’ll have to decide if she’s ready to use science to help humanity, even though it failed the people who mattered most.
Why I’m excited: I actually wasn’t a fan of Descendant of the Crane by the same author, but I’m willing to give her another chance because the premise of this is so intriguing! Also I’m not ashamed to say that the gorgeous cover played a role in my excitement—I remember being so stunned when I first saw it.
Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar
Synopsis: Everyone likes Humaira “Hani” Khan—she’s easy going and one of the most popular girls at school. But when she comes out to her friends as bisexual, they invalidate her identity, saying she can’t be bi if she’s only dated guys. Panicked, Hani blurts out that she’s in a relationship…with a girl her friends absolutely hate—Ishita “Ishu” Dey. Ishu is the complete opposite of Hani. She’s an academic overachiever who hopes that becoming head girl will set her on the right track for college. But Ishita agrees to help Hani, if Hani will help her become more popular so that she stands a chance of being elected head girl.
Despite their mutually beneficial pact, they start developing real feelings for each other. But relationships are complicated, and some people will do anything to stop two Bengali girls from achieving happily ever after.
Why I’m excited: Another fake dating book with a Bangladeshi protagonist—but this time it’s sapphic! I can’t wait for this because The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar is one of my favorite books of 2020. And I’m actually in love with the cover it’s so cute!
One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
Synopsis: For cynical twenty-three-year-old August, moving to New York City is supposed to prove her right: that things like magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist, and the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can’t imagine how waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner and moving in with too many weird roommates could possibly change that. And there’s certainly no chance of her subway commute being anything more than a daily trudge through boredom and electrical failures.
But then, there’s this gorgeous girl on the train.
Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges and swoopy hair and soft smile, showing up in a leather jacket to save August’s day when she needed it most. August’s subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon, she discovers there’s one big problem: Jane doesn’t just look like an old school punk rocker. She’s literally displaced in time from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help her. Maybe it’s time to start believing in some things, after all.
Why I’m excited: This is kinda NSFW, so skip the underlined sentence if you want to avoid that kind of stuff, but I saw a tweet by one of the people who were blessed with an arc of OLS where they were wondering how the smut in the book was going to work if the only place the main characters can see each other is on the subway, and then they tweeted that they had gotten their answer, and I’m extremely curious about what it was! Also, Casey McQuiston has such amazing queer rep and humor in their books—I have no doubt that this’ll be a hit like Red, White & Royal Blue!
Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
Synopsis: Welcome to Niveus Private Academy, where money paves the hallways, and the students are never less than perfect. Until now. Because anonymous texter, Aces, is bringing two students’ dark secrets to light. Talented musician Devon buries himself in rehearsals, but he can’t escape the spotlight when his private photos go public. Head girl Chiamaka isn’t afraid to get what she wants, but soon everyone will know the price she has paid for power. Someone is out to get them both. Someone who holds all the aces. And they’re planning much more than a high-school game…
Why I’m excited: This has gotten phenomenal early reviews, and I’m throwing my hat in that it’s going to be one of the standout YA debuts of 2021. It’s a dark academia that examines racism and white supremacy, with Black queer main characters!
The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri
Synopsis: Imprisoned by her dictator brother, Malini spends her days in isolation in the Hirana: an ancient temple that was once the source of the powerful, magical deathless waters — but is now little more than a decaying ruin.
Priya is a maidservant, one among several who make the treacherous journey to the top of the Hirana every night to clean Malini’s chambers. She is happy to be an anonymous drudge, so long as it keeps anyone from guessing the dangerous secret she hides.
But when Malini accidentally bears witness to Priya’s true nature, their destinies become irrevocably tangled. One is a vengeful princess seeking to depose her brother from his throne. The other is a priestess seeking to find her family. Together, they will change the fate of an empire.
Why I’m excited: This is set in an Indian-inspired world, and it follows two morally grey girls who form an alliance and slowly fall in love. Admittedly, I was a little disappointed by Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri, but her writing and worldbuilding were great. I’m eager to give her another chance… for the sapphics.
Gearbreakers by Zoe Hana Mikuta
Synopsis: The shadow of Godolia’s tyrannical rule is spreading, aided by their giant mechanized weapons known as Windups. War and oppression are everyday constants for the people of the Badlands, who live under the thumb of their cruel Godolia overlords.
Eris Shindanai is a Gearbreaker, a brash young rebel who specializes in taking down Windups from the inside. When one of her missions goes awry and she finds herself in a Godolia prison, Eris meets Sona Steelcrest, a cybernetically enhanced Windup pilot. At first Eris sees Sona as her mortal enemy, but Sona has a secret: She has intentionally infiltrated the Windup program to destroy Godolia from within.
As the clock ticks down to their deadliest mission yet, a direct attack to end Godolia’s reign once and for all, Eris and Sona grow closer–as comrades, friends, and perhaps something more…
Why I’m excited: Mecha giants, found family, and enemies to lovers romance between two Korean girls!! Also, the author is a ’00 liner, which makes me :0 because she’s the same age as my older sister, and she’s already publishing a book.
She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan
Synopsis: In a famine-stricken village on a dusty yellow plain, two children are given two fates. A boy, greatness. A girl, nothingness…
In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected.
When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, propelled by her burning desire to survive, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes, no matter how callous, to stay hidden from her fate.
After her sanctuary is destroyed for supporting the rebellion against Mongol rule, Zhu takes the chance to claim another future altogether: her brother’s abandoned greatness.
Why I’m excited: She Who Became the Sun‘s ao3 tags, as provided by the author on Twitter, are: “Alternate History, No Fate But What We Make, Bury Your Cishets, Competence, Murder Monks, Implausibly Beautiful Eunuch OC, desire leads to the dark side, Star-Crossed Lovers, Fealty Kink, Kneeling, Revenge, Existential Shame, Compassion, A+ Parenting, bite me confucius.” The vibes this historical fantasy set in 14th century China is giving off are Immaculate. I think it’ll contain wonderful explorations of gender, a healthy dose of fealty trope, and ~yearning~. Also someone pointed out that the title is a pun because the main character takes on her brother’s identity and becomes… the son, lmao.
How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao
Synopsis: Nancy Luo is shocked when her former best friend, Jamie Ruan, top ranked junior at Sinclair Prep, goes missing, and then is found dead. Nancy is even more shocked when word starts to spread that she and her friends–Krystal, Akil, and Alexander–are the prime suspects, thanks to “The Proctor,” someone anonymously incriminating them via the school’s social media app.
They all used to be Jamie’s closest friends, and she knew each of their deepest, darkest secrets. Now, somehow The Proctor knows them, too. The four must uncover the true killer before The Proctor exposes more than they can bear and costs them more than they can afford, like Nancy’s full scholarship. Soon, Nancy suspects that her friends may be keeping secrets from her, too.
Why I’m excited: Me and Katie are mutuals on Twitter (I still can’t believe that cool people follow me on that cursed app and see my cursed tweets), and I love her Twitter account so much! She’s so friendly, but also passionately advocates for diversity in literature and publishing. Katie has stated that her reason for writing this book is that murdering students to get to the top of the class is such an Asian-American thing to do, and she’s absolutely right! I can’t wait to feverishly turn this book’s pages, eager to find out the truth behind Jamie Ruan’s death, and relate to the academic stress that the main characters experience.
A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee
Synopsis: Felicity Morrow is back at Dalloway School.
Perched in the Catskill mountains, the centuries-old, ivy-covered campus was home until the tragic death of her girlfriend. Now, after a year away, she’s returned to graduate. She even has her old room in Godwin House, the exclusive dormitory rumored to be haunted by the spirits of five Dalloway students—girls some say were witches. The Dalloway Five all died mysteriously, one after another, right on Godwin grounds.
It’s Ellis Haley’s first year at Dalloway, and she’s already amassed a loyal following. A prodigy novelist at seventeen, Ellis is a so-called “method writer.” She’s eccentric and brilliant, and Felicity can’t shake the pull she feels to her. So when Ellis asks Felicity for help researching the Dalloway Five for her second book, Felicity can’t say no. Given her history with the arcane, Felicity is the perfect resource.
And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway–and in herself.
Why I’m excited: Just the phrase “dark academia with lesbians” is enough to convince me. But I’m also really excited for this because Victoria Lee’s debut novel, The Fever King, was amazing!
Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao
Synopsis: A YA Pacific Rim meets The Handmaid’s Tale retelling of the rise of Wu Zetian, the only female emperor in Chinese history. The duology will follow an 18-year-old re-imagining of her as she avenges her sister’s murder by an intensely patriarchal military system that pairs boys and girls up to pilot giant magical mecha based on creatures from East Asian myth (Nine-Tailed Fox, Moon Rabbit, etc.), but in which boy pilots are treated like celebrities, while girl pilots must serve as their concubines.
Why I’m excited: A love triangle that ends in polyamory, mechas, Chinese history, and smashing the patriarchy! This is another book that would make it to the top three if I were to rank these books based on my excitement levels. Also this is an excellent opportunity to plug the interview I did with the author!!
Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee
Synopsis: Jade, the mysterious and magical substance once exclusive to the Green Bone warriors of Kekon, is now known and coveted throughout the world. Everyone wants access to the supernatural abilities it provides, from traditional forces such as governments, mercenaries, and criminal kingpins, to modern players, including doctors, athletes, and movie studios. As the struggle over the control of jade grows ever larger and more deadly, the Kaul family, and the ancient ways of the Kekonese Green Bones, will never be the same.
The Kauls have been battered by war and tragedy. They are plagued by resentments and old wounds as their adversaries are on the ascent and their country is riven by dangerous factions and foreign interference that could destroy the Green Bone way of life altogether. As a new generation arises, the clan’s growing empire is in danger of coming apart.
The clan must discern allies from enemies, set aside aside bloody rivalries, and make terrible sacrifices… but even the unbreakable bonds of blood and loyalty may not be enough to ensure the survival of the Green Bone clans and the nation they are sworn to protect.
Why I’m excited: Yes, I rated Jade City and Jade War 3 and 2 stars respectfully, but I’m still going to read the finale of the Green Bone Saga. Even though I didn’t enjoy the first two books because of personal reasons, I can still see the merit in them—Fonda Lee’s worldbuilding is phenomenal, and I’m already invested in the clan war between the Mountain and No Peak. I can’t just not find out how it concludes. Jade Legacy will also be following a new generation of characters, so I am Looking.
I don’t want to jinx anything, but I think I’m finally back. I was such a bad blogger in the second half of 2020, but I’m going into the new year with more laidback reading and writing goals, so hopefully I can find a healthy balance between those two hobbies and blogging in 2021. Watch out for my end of the year posts that’ll hopefully be published in January! Also I’m finally setting some time aside for blog hopping and comment replying after an eternity—I really missed talking to you all!