The Texas Library Association annual conference is one of the best (if not the best) professional library conferences in the nation. I think it fairly rivals ALA and librarians from other states tell me their own state conferences don’t compare. This year was really great – tons of valuable sessions about kidlit and collection management and how to better make your library space a welcoming one for all people, including in particular trans people and people experiencing homelessness.
Long gone are the days when I was so thrilled by the prospect of “free” books that I participated in the initial frenzy in the exhibit halls. Now I wait about 15 minutes for the stampede to die down before venturing in myself, asking a few specific questions – What diverse genre fiction do you have? What are you most excited about in the upcoming season? What do you think has been overlooked? – of the very friendly, passionate, and knowledgeable people staffing the publishers’ booths. (That said, I did still get my foot stomped on the first day by an overzealous attendee who wasn’t paying enough attention to the people around her in her quest for books.) The stack below are the books I’m most excited about adding to the library collection and promoting on our shelves (and reading myself!).
Nyxia Unleashed by Scott Reintgen
This is the sequel to Nyxia, one of the three books I discussed in my post on the mini-trend of teens competing with each other to go to outer space. I really enjoyed it, and I appreciated the diversity of its ensemble cast, including the Black protagonist Emmett. I feel like it flew a bit under the radar compared to other big sci fi and fantasy titles, but it’s exciting and fun and also asks the deep questions that SF is so good at. I’m excited to read the second book in the trilogy and hope it doesn’t suffer from a middle book slump. Nyxia Unleashed publishes July 17 from Crown Books for Young Readers.
Contagion by Erin Bowman
Bowman kicks off the first in a new sci fi/horror series with Contagion, about a crew of people who go on a rescue mission to a distant planet after receiving an SOS message – but what they find is horrifying. I tend to prefer my horror on the written page as opposed to the screen, and the fact that it’s also set in space only makes it more appealing. It’s being pitched as Alien meets The Thing. Contagion publishes July 24 by HarperTeen.
Mirage by Somaiya Daud
One of the few genre fiction titles I found that’s explicitly diverse, Mirage is a big science fiction story about a girl in a subjugated star system who’s kidnapped in order to serve as the body double for a hated princess – and must endure all the danger that entails. There also looks to be a bit of romance and lots of adventure. This seems really fun and like it’s a really big, epic kind of story, which I’m always yearning for more of in teen SF. Plus the cover is gorgeous. Mirage publishes August 28 by Flatiron Books.
Damsel by Elana K. Arnold
Arnold, who has previously stuck to contemporaries, takes a dive into fairy tales with Damsel. It’s an explicitly feminist story, with the “damsel” of the title waking up after being rescued from imprisonment and being forced to fall into the traditional fairy tale role. She’ll be a queen to the prince who rescued her, or so the rite demands – but all is not what it seems. Kelly has loved Arnold’s realistic stories, and I’m excited she’s written a fantasy story now too – it’s the perfect entree into her writing for me. Damsel publishes October 2 by Balzer + Bray.
Fire & Heist by Sarah Beth Durst
I like everything Sarah Beth Durst has ever written, so I picked this one up on name recognition alone. It thrilled me even more to learn that her newest book combines my two favorite genres: heist stories and fantasy. It’s about humans who can turn into dragons and steal treasure, like Ocean’s 8 if the women were shapeshifters. I’m pretty psyched. (That’s actually an understatement.) This may be the first book I crack open after I finish up the mystery I’m currently reading. Fire & Heist publishes December 4 by Crown Books for Young Readers.