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October Most Anticipated: 16 New Books We Want More Than Candy

September 27 2021
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We’re easing into the season of spookiness with these October new releases! Ranging from quirky mysteries to supernatural suspense, there’s something here for everyone, no matter what their scare tolerance level is. So put these books on the October to-do list, along with pumpkin picking, The Nightmare Before Christmas-watching, and cider sipping.

Grave Reservations
by Cherie Priest

Megan’s Pick #1: GRAVE RESERVATIONS has everything I love in a quirky mystery—a psychic travel agent, a cold case she’s helping to crack for the Seattle PD, and, of course, a body count. Sprinkle in a ragtag supporting cast and some karaoke, and you’ve got a fun detective romp with a supernatural twist, coming out just in time for Halloween!

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Grave Reservations
Cherie Priest

A psychic travel agent and a Seattle PD detective solve a murder in this quirky mystery in the vein of Lisa Lutz’s The Spellman Files and Charlaine Harris’s Aurora Teagarden series.

Meet Leda Foley: devoted friend, struggling travel agent, and inconsistent psychic. When Leda, sole proprietor of Foley's Flights of Fancy, impulsively re-books Seattle PD detective Grady Merritt’s flight, her life changes in ways she couldn’t have predicted.

After watching his original plane blow up from the safety of the airport, Grady realizes that Leda’s special abilities could help him with a cold case he just can’t crack.

Despite her scattershot premonitions, she agrees for a secret reason: her fiancé’s murder remains unsolved. Leda’s psychic abilities couldn’t help the case several years before, but she’s been honing her skills and drawing a crowd at her favorite bar’s open-mic nights, where she performs Klairvoyant Karaoke—singing whatever song comes to mind when she holds people’s personal effects. Now joined by a rag-tag group of bar patrons and pals alike, Leda and Grady set out to catch a killer—and learn how the two cases that haunt them have more in common than they ever suspected.

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The Lincoln Highway
by Amor Towles

Sara’s Pick #1: I fell in love with Amor Towles’ writing after reading A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW, so it should come as no surprise that I am incredibly excited for his latest novel, THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY. The book follows Emmett, having just finished his work farm sentence for involuntary manslaughter, as he dreams of heading West with his brother and starting a new life. Unfortunately, two of his friends from the farm have escaped and have very different plans for Emmett’s future. A master of prose, Towles’s immersive and beautiful writing style is sure to capture the imagination and probably make you cry once or twice.

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The Lincoln Highway
Amor Towles

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Smile
by Sarah Ruhl

Elizabeth’s Pick: There’s no reason I should have felt surprised when reading SMILE by Sarah Ruhl—I knew of her Pulitzer-finalist pedigree, and the memoir came highly recommended by none other than Gloria Steinem. Also I work in a profession in which I’m surrounded by brilliant novels and, even better, colleagues and peers who can recommend the very best, so my TBR has pretty high standards. Nevertheless, upon finishing SMILE, I realized that the book in my hands might be some of the best writing I’d ever read. On the surface, the book chronicles the ten years following Sarah’s sudden and inexplicable facial paralysis from Bell’s Palsy after giving birth to twins, but it’s so much more than the story of her condition. Rather, Sarah—with her MacArthur genius-level flair for words and playwright’s eye for poetry—seamlessly melds her personal experience with meditations on philosophy, healing, and history, and her own identity as an artist, woman, and mother. Most surprising of all is the lighthearted and hopeful tone the memoir carries throughout, and lessons about radical self-acceptance in a world which demands anything but. It’s a primer on compassion and thoughtfulness guaranteed to have you looking at the faces around you—masked or otherwise—in a whole new light.  

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Smile
Sarah Ruhl

The extraordinary story of one woman’s ten-year medical and metaphysical odyssey that brought her physical, creative, emotional, and spiritual healing, by a MacArthur genius and two-time Pulitzer finalist.

With a play opening on Broadway, and every reason to smile, Sarah Ruhl has just survived a high-risk pregnancy when she discovers the left side of her face is completely paralyzed. She is assured that 90 percent of Bell’s palsy patients see spontaneous improvement and experience a full recovery. Like Ruhl’s own mother. But Sarah is in the unlucky ten percent. And for a woman, wife, mother, and artist working in theater, the paralysis and the disconnect between the interior and exterior brings significant and specific challenges. So Ruhl begins an intense decade-long search for a cure while simultaneously grappling with the reality of her new face—one that, while recognizably her own—is incapable of accurately communicating feelings or intentions.

In a series of piercing, witty, and lucid meditations, Ruhl chronicles her journey as a patient, wife, mother, and artist. She explores the struggle of a body yearning to match its inner landscape, the pain of postpartum depression, the story of a marriage, being a playwright and working mom to three small children, and the desire for a resilient spiritual life in the face of illness.

Brimming with insight, humility, and levity, Smile is a triumph by one of America’s leading playwrights. It is an intimate examination of loss and reconciliation, and above all else, the importance of perseverance and hope in the face of adversity.

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We Are Not Like Them
by Christine Pride

Emily’s Pick #1: This is a book I keep telling all my friends to read because, first, the praise is so high, and second, there’s so much to talk about once it’s finished. Jen and Riley have been friends for decades, but their interracial friendship is tested when Jen’s white cop husband shoots a Black teen, severely injuring him. Riley was recently promoted to TV anchor (and notably the first Black anchor in Philadelphia) and reports on the story. This event prompts the friends to have discussions of race and privilege that they never had before. As the narrative alternates between Jen and Riley, it evokes gut-wrenching themes of generational trauma, biases, police reform, and more.

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We Are Not Like Them
Christine Pride

“Now these women, they can WRITE!” —Terry McMillan, New York Times bestselling author of It’s Not All Downhill from Here

We Are Not Like Them will stay with you long after you turn the last page.” —Laura Dave, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Thing He Told Me

Told from alternating perspectives, an evocative and riveting novel about the lifelong bond between two women, one Black and one white, whose friendship is indelibly altered by a tragic event—a powerful and poignant exploration of race in America today and its devastating impact on ordinary lives.

Jen and Riley have been best friends since kindergarten. As adults, they remain as close as sisters, though their lives have taken different directions. Jen married young, and after years of trying, is finally pregnant. Riley pursued her childhood dream of becoming a television journalist and is poised to become one of the first Black female anchors of the top news channel in their hometown of Philadelphia.

But the deep bond they share is severely tested when Jen’s husband, a city police officer, is involved in the shooting of an unarmed Black teenager. Six months pregnant, Jen is in freefall as her future, her husband’s freedom, and her friendship with Riley are thrown into uncertainty. Covering this career-making story, Riley wrestles with the implications of this tragic incident for her Black community, her ambitions, and her relationship with her lifelong friend.

Like Tayari Jones’s An American Marriage and Jodi Picoult’s Small Great Things, We Are Not Like Them explores complex questions of race and how they pervade and shape our most intimate spaces in a deeply divided world. But at its heart, it’s a story of enduring friendship—a love that defies the odds even as it faces its most difficult challenges.

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The Book of Magic
by Alice Hoffman

Holly's Pick: THE BOOK OF MAGIC by Alice Hoffman is the breathtaking finale to her Practical Magic series. The Owens family has been cursed for centuries, denying them from their true loves. But at last, the existing Owens witches are determined to break the spell. In a frantic attempt to save one man’s life, three generations of Owens women travel from Paris to London to the English countryside, while uncovering long-held family secrets. This spellbinding and enchanting conclusion is the perfect way to end the cherished magical series that I, and so many other readers, have held so dearly for years. 

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The Book of Magic
Alice Hoffman

Master storyteller Alice Hoffman brings us the conclusion of the Practical Magic series in a spellbinding and enchanting final Owens novel brimming with lyric beauty and vivid characters.

The Owens family has been cursed in matters of love for over three-hundred years but all of that is about to change. The novel begins in a library, the best place for a story to be conjured, when beloved aunt Jet Owens hears the deathwatch beetle and knows she has only seven days to live. Jet is not the only one in danger—the curse is already at work.

A frantic attempt to save a young man’s life spurs three generations of the Owens women, and one long-lost brother, to use their unusual gifts to break the curse as they travel from Paris to London to the English countryside where their ancestor Maria Owens first practiced the Unnamed Art. The younger generation discovers secrets that have been hidden from them in matters of both magic and love by Sally, their fiercely protective mother. As Kylie Owens uncovers the truth about who she is and what her own dark powers are, her aunt Franny comes to understand that she is ready to sacrifice everything for her family, and Sally Owens realizes that she is willing to give up everything for love.

The Book of Magic is a breathtaking conclusion that celebrates mothers and daughters, sisters and brothers, and anyone who has ever been in love.

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Cackle
by Rachel Harrison

Sara’s Pick #2: The spooky season is upon us! And while outright horror might be out of the question for some, that doesn't mean there's not some great supernatural fiction recommendations for those looking to get in the spirit. Case in point, CACKLE is a witchy tale of friendship and empowerment, with a little magic on the side. Annie has recently been dumped, and moves to a small town to take a new teaching job, but things are looking up. Her new friend Sophie is teaching her to live her best life, something she seems adept at, even if the other townsfolk seem a little wary of her and her less-than-conventional ways.

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Cackle
Rachel Harrison

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These Silent Woods
by Kimi Cunningham Grant

Sara’s Pick #3: Imagine living alone in the woods for years on end with your child, relying only on two people to help protect your fragile, isolated existence. But in order to keep his daughter Finch hidden and safe, that's what former soldier Cooper has done. However, with his daughter's growing curiosity and a disastrous turn of events, their perfectly preserved world comes crashing down. THESE SILENT WOODS is a novel full of suspense and dark secrets, following a father and daughter as they use their wits and bond to survive the unpredictability of nature, and of people.

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These Silent Woods
Kimi Cunningham Grant

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The Ex Hex
by Erin Sterling

Heather’s Pick #1: Witchy books are welcome year-round in my house, but I can’t imagine a better month than October to treat myself to Erin Sterling’s THE EX HEX. When Rhys broke Vivienne’s heart and left town nine years ago, Vivienne gave into her ill-advised but totally understandable urge to place a hex on her ex. But it was nothing too serious . . . right? Wrong! Rhys is besieged by calamities from the moment he steps foot back in Graves Glen, to the point where he and Vivi must team up to reverse the spell in order to protect their beloved hometown. You don’t have to be a powerful witch to foretell a potential reconciliation between the pair, so I am very much looking forward to seeing this second-chance romance play out while sipping a hot apple cider on a cool fall day...

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The Ex Hex
Erin Sterling

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Where They Wait
by Scott Carson

Heather’s Pick #2: Scott Carson’s supernatural thriller WHERE THEY WAIT landed on my fall must-read list the instant I learned that Stephen King had dubbed it “mesmerizing.” I mean, what more do we need to know?! Alright, okay, here’s the deal: The novel centers on a down-on-his-luck journalist named Nick Bishop who accepts an assignment to write a feature article about a new mindfulness app, Clarity. As part of his research, Nick begins using the app, which includes a series of “Sleep Songs” that help him nod off—but also trigger terrifying nightmares. To make matters worse, the singer’s voice begins to haunt his waking hours, and Nick learns the creators of Clarity have ulterior motives for hiring him, specifically, to write the article. See? A top-notch pick for any Halloween reading list.

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Where They Wait
Scott Carson

Where They Wait is so readable you’ll be a couple of hundred pages in before you realize you’re terrified…and then you can’t put it down. Mesmerizing.” —Stephen King

“Tense and twisty.” —Charlaine Harris, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Southern Vampire Mysteries

“A taut, creepy techno-chiller that will leave you hearing ghosts.” —Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts and Survivor Song

A new supernatural novel about a sinister mindfulness app with fatal consequences from the New York Times bestselling author of the “grips from the first page” (Stephen King) thriller The Chill.

Recently laid-off from his newspaper and desperate for work, war correspondent Nick Bishop takes a humbling job: writing a profile of a new mindfulness app called Clarity. It’s easy money, and a chance to return to his hometown for his first visit in years. The app itself seems like a retread of old ideas—relaxing white noise and guided meditations. But then there are the “Sleep Songs.” A woman’s hauntingly beautiful voice sings a ballad that is anything but soothing—it’s disturbing, really, more of a warning than a relaxation—but it works. Deep, refreshing sleep follows.

So do nightmares. Vivid and chilling, they feature a dead woman who calls Nick by name and whispers guidance—or are they threats? And soon her voice follows him long after the song is done. As the effects of the nightmares begin to permeate his waking life, Nick makes a terrifying discovery: no one involved with Clarity has any interest in his article. Their interest is in him.

An atmospheric and haunting thriller perfect for our times, Where They Wait proves that “horror has a new name and it’s Scott Carson” (Michael Connelly, #1 New York Times bestselling author).

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The Book of Mother
by Violaine Huisman

Emily’s Pick #2: Every time I read a book in translation, I’m struck by how different the writing feels—and I’m always unable to say exactly why. It happened to me with Elena Ferrante, Cixin Liu, and now with Violaine Huisman’s prize-winning French novel. In THE BOOK OF MOTHER, Violaine (even though it’s a novel, the main character has the same name as the author) grows up in Paris with a free-spirited mother, “Maman,” who taught her to love life, but whose moods swiftly changed after she was hospitalized due to a breakdown. Violaine dives into Maman’s backstory and personality with such depth, and it’s this probing way of writing that makes the rise and descent of Maman that much more heartbreaking—you see each piece of her journey in clear, microscopic view. 

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The Book of Mother
Violaine Huisman

A gorgeous, critically acclaimed debut novel about a young woman coming of age with a dazzling yet damaged mother who lived and loved in extremes.

A prizewinning tour de force when it was published in France, Violaine Huisman’s remarkable debut novel is about a daughter’s inextinguishable love for her magnetic, mercurial mother. Beautiful and charismatic, Catherine, a.k.a. “Maman,” smokes too much, drives too fast, laughs too hard, and loves too extravagantly. During a joyful and chaotic childhood in Paris, her daughter Violaine wouldn’t have it any other way.

But when Maman is hospitalized after a third divorce and a breakdown, everything changes. Even as Violaine and her sister long for their mother’s return, once she’s back Maman’s violent mood swings and flagrant disregard for personal boundaries soon turn their home into an emotional landmine. As the story of Catherine’s own traumatic childhood and adolescence unfolds, the pieces come together to form an indelible portrait of a mother as irresistible as she is impossible, as triumphant as she is transgressive.

With spectacular ferocity of language, a streak of dark humor, and stunning emotional bravery, The Book of Mother is an exquisitely wrought story of a mother’s dizzying heights and devastating lows, and a daughter who must hold her memory close in order to let go.

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I Love You but I've Chosen Darkness
by Claire Vaye Watkins

Emily’s Pick #3: I’m so excited to read this book! That title caught my eye immediately—it sets you up for a sad, original, somewhat sassy story, and from having read the plot, that definitely sounds about right! Struggling with postpartum depression, a female writer (coincidentally named after the author herself) travels to California for a speaking engagement, and thus begins an experimental, surreal trip through the Mojave Desert that spirals into meeting ghosts of the past, each ringing with California history. I love a good road trip novel, but so many of them turn out the same way, so I’m very intrigued by this one that seems to capture the narrator’s true inner thoughts-run-wild after spending time alone. But what really got me was Jenny Offill’s blurb, “There’s some kind of genius sorcery in this novel. It’s startlingly original, hilarious and harrowing by turns, finally transcendent.” Talk about an emotional roadmap through a book!

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I Love You but I've Chosen Darkness
Claire Vaye Watkins

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Taste
by Stanley Tucci

Sharon’s Pick: When I saw Stanley Tucci bring Caesar Flickerman to life in The Hunger Games movie, I immediately admired the magnetism and charisma he brought to the role and have since been invested in his career. In addition to catching up on his CNN show Searching for Italy before the premiere of season two, I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy of his upcoming memoir, TASTE. In his memoir, Tucci centers his love of food, discussing his upbringing around food in his Italian American family, shooting foodie films like Julie & Julia, and falling in love over dinner. It’s safe to say I’m hungry for this book!

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Taste
Stanley Tucci

From award-winning actor and food obsessive Stanley Tucci comes an intimate and charming memoir of life in and out of the kitchen.

Stanley Tucci grew up in an Italian American family that spent every night around the kitchen table. He shared the magic of those meals with us in The Tucci Cookbook and The Tucci Table, and now he takes us beyond the savory recipes and into the compelling stories behind them.​

Taste is a reflection on the intersection of food and life, filled with anecdotes about his growing up in Westchester, New York; preparing for and shooting the foodie films Big Night and Julie & Julia; falling in love over dinner; and teaming up with his wife to create meals for a multitude of children. Each morsel of this gastronomic journey through good times and bad, five-star meals and burned dishes, is as heartfelt and delicious as the last.

Written with Stanley’s signature wry humor, Taste is for fans of Bill Buford, Gabrielle Hamilton, and Ruth Reichl—and anyone who knows the power of a home-cooked meal.

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Greedy: Notes from a Bisexual Who Wants Too Much
by Jen Winston

Megan’s Pick #2: In GREEDY, Jen Winston’s debut essay collection about sex positivity, gender, and bisexuality, they take common stereotypes of what it means to be bisexual and flip them on their heads. This #BiCon has written a Bi-ble to remind readers that being greedy is an asset, not a flaw. If you’re a fan of Samantha Irby or Michael Arceneaux, you’ll love GREEDY, too!

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Greedy: Notes from a Bisexual Who Wants Too Much
Jen Winston

A hilarious and whip-smart collection of essays, offering an intimate look at bisexuality, gender, and, of course, sex. Perfect for fans of Lindy West, Samantha Irby, and Rebecca Solnit—and anyone who wants, and deserves, to be seen.

If Jen Winston knows one thing for sure, it’s that she’s bisexual. Or wait—maybe she isn’t? Actually, she definitely is. Unless…she’s not?

Jen’s provocative, laugh-out-loud debut takes us inside her journey of self-discovery, leading us through stories of a childhood “girl crush,” an onerous quest to have a threesome, and an enduring fear of being bad at sex. Greedy follows Jen’s attempts to make sense of herself as she explores the role of the male gaze, what it means to be “queer enough,” and how to overcome bi stereotypes when you’re the posterchild for all of them: greedy, slutty, and constantly confused.

With her clever voice and clear-eyed insight, Jen draws on personal experiences with sexism and biphobia to understand how we all can and must do better. She sheds light on the reasons women, queer people, and other marginalized groups tend to make ourselves smaller, provoking the question: What would happen if we suddenly stopped?​​

Greedy shows us that being bisexual is about so much more than who you’re sleeping with—it’s about finding stability in a state of flux and defining yourself on your own terms. This book inspires us to rethink the world as we know it, reminding us that Greedy was a superpower all along.

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State of Terror
by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny

Heather’s Pick #2: What do you get when you pair Louise Penny, a bestselling thriller writer at the top of her game, with former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose decades of government service make her one of the world’s foremost experts on US politics and foreign affairs? You get the whip-smart, scarily feasible novel STATE OF TERROR, about a newly sworn-in White House administration tasked with uncovering and disarming the shadowy, international cabal behind a series of deadly threats to the United States. Something tells me that we may come to this story out of curiosity about its authors but that we’ll stay for the white-knuckle suspense.

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State of Terror
Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny

From the #1 bestselling authors Hillary Clinton and Louise Penny comes a novel of unsurpassed thrills and incomparable insider expertise—State of Terror.

After a tumultuous period in American politics, a new administration has just been sworn in, and to everyone’s surprise the president chooses a political enemy for the vital position of secretary of state.

There is no love lost between the president of the United States and Ellen Adams, his new secretary of state. But it’s a canny move on the part of the president. With this appointment, he silences one of his harshest critics, since taking the job means Adams must step down as head of her multinational media conglomerate.

As the new president addresses Congress for the first time, with Secretary Adams in attendance, Anahita Dahir, a young foreign service officer (FSO) on the Pakistan desk at the State Department, receives a baffling text from an anonymous source.

Too late, she realizes the message was a hastily coded warning.

What begins as a series of apparent terrorist attacks is revealed to be the beginning of an international chess game involving the volatile and Byzantine politics of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran; the race to develop nuclear weapons in the region; the Russian mob; a burgeoning rogue terrorist organization; and an American government set back on its heels in the international arena.

As the horrifying scale of the threat becomes clear, Secretary Adams and her team realize it has been carefully planned to take advantage of four years of an American government out of touch with international affairs, out of practice with diplomacy, and out of power in the places where it counts the most.

To defeat such an intricate, carefully constructed conspiracy, it will take the skills of a unique team: a passionate young FSO; a dedicated journalist; and a smart, determined, but as yet untested new secretary of state.

State of Terror is a unique and utterly compelling international thriller cowritten by Hillary Rodham Clinton, the 67th secretary of state, and Louise Penny, a multiple award-winning #1 New York Times bestselling novelist.

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Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World
by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Kelly’s Pick: If you’re a Hamilton or In The Heights fan, you have to hear Lin-Manuel Miranda narrate the audiobook edition of ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DIVE INTO THE WATERS OF THE WORLD by Benjamin Alire Sáenz—the highly anticipated sequel to his critically acclaimed, multiple award-winning novel ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE. This must-listen picks up immediately where the first novel leaves off, following Ari and Dante as they navigate the highs and lows of their budding relationship against the backdrop of the AIDS epidemic in America. I’ve been waiting for this sequel since I listened to the first one because I cannot get enough of these characters and their special bond. Miranda’s narration beautifully brings this next chapter of their story to life.

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Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World
Benjamin Alire Sáenz

The highly anticipated sequel to the critically acclaimed, multiple award-winning novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is an achingly romantic, tender tale sure to captivate fans of Adam Silvera and Mary H.K. Choi.

In Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, two boys in a border town fell in love. Now, they must discover what it means to stay in love and build a relationship in a world that seems to challenge their very existence.

Ari has spent all of high school burying who he really is, staying silent and invisible. He expected his senior year to be the same. But something in him cracked open when he fell in love with Dante, and he can’t go back. Suddenly he finds himself reaching out to new friends, standing up to bullies of all kinds, and making his voice heard. And, always, there is Dante, dreamy, witty Dante, who can get on Ari’s nerves and fill him with desire all at once.

The boys are determined to forge a path for themselves in a world that doesn’t understand them. But when Ari is faced with a shocking loss, he’ll have to fight like never before to create a life that is truthfully, joyfully his own.

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Frankie & Bug
by Gayle Forman

Nadia’s Pick: I absolutely loved reading FRANKIE & BUG, Gayle Forman’s middle grade debut novel. Set in 1987 in Venice, California, this powerful coming-of-age story follows a young girl named Bug and her new friend Frankie as they learn about family, friendship, allyship, and finding your way in a complicated world. I adored the nostalgic references, the characters’ attempt to solve a mystery, and most of all, the strong relationships Bug has with her family—the one she was born in to and the one she found with the people around her. This uplifting story is a must-read!

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Frankie & Bug
Gayle Forman

In the debut middle grade novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Gayle Forman comes a poignant and powerful coming-of-age story that follows a young girl and her new friend as they learn about family, friendship, allyship, and finding your way in a complicated world.

It’s the summer of 1987, and all ten-year-old Bug wants to do is go to the beach with her older brother and hang out with the locals on the boardwalk. But Danny wants to be with his own friends, and Bug’s mom is too busy, so Bug is stuck with their neighbor Philip’s nephew, Frankie.

Bug’s not too excited about hanging out with a kid she’s never met, but they soon find some common ground. And as the summer unfolds, they find themselves learning some important lessons about each other, and the world.

Like what it means to be your true self and how to be a good ally for others. That family can be the people you’re related to, but also the people you choose to have around you. And that even though life isn’t always fair, we can all do our part to make it more just.

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MENTIONED IN:

October Most Anticipated: 16 New Books We Want More Than Candy

By Off the Shelf Staff | September 27, 2021

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Photo credit: iStock / tirlikk

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