Welcome back to the second part of our The Pond’s Most Anticipated Reads series, friends! It’s great to see you again and I hope you all are reading some lovely books. 💜
Welcome to Part II of The Pond’s Most Anticipated Reads of ’19
After doing a lot of research on the diverse books releasing in 2019, I had initially planned to write a simple ‘top 8 most anticipated books of 2019’, but after browsing Goodreads for hours, it occurred to me that one post about my top picks for 2019 was impossible and was not worth the pain. Therefore, today’s post is the second post of my week-long event of The Pond’s Most Anticipated Reads of 2019!
A few days ago, I shared with you all about my top eight sequels that I’m dying to read. Although I had a lot of fun putting that post together, I’m particularly excited about today’s post – my top eight(een) diverse debuts you and I can’t miss in 2019. All of you know how much I love and support reading diverse books. So it is my hope that, after reading this post, you’ll feel super excited about the new and wonderful voices we’ll get to see in 2019 too.
(So, OKAY, yes. I cheated. I was originally going to do eight, but that was impossible too. There’s just so many promising books out there and I could not for the life of me choose a mere eight. So eight[een] it is!)
So without further ado, here is my list of books you need to read! Prepare to have your TBR’s get a little heavier.
1. The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf
Melati Ahmad looks like your typical moviegoing, Beatles-obsessed sixteen-year-old. Unlike most other sixteen-year-olds though, Mel also believes that she harbors a djinn inside her, one who threatens her with horrific images of her mother’s death unless she adheres to an elaborate ritual of counting and tapping to keep him satisfied.
But there are things that Melati can’t protect her mother from. On the evening of May 13th, 1969, racial tensions in her home city of Kuala Lumpur boil over. The Chinese and Malays are at war, and Mel and her mother become separated by a city in flames.
With a 24-hour curfew in place and all lines of communication down, it will take the help of a Chinese boy named Vincent and all of the courage and grit in Melati’s arsenal to overcome the violence on the streets, her own prejudices, and her djinn’s surging power to make it back to the one person she can’t risk losing.
Okay, so, I won’t be missing this book because I’ve already read it! (On that note, I’m on the book tour for The Weight of Our Sky, so be sure to visit my blog on February 7th!) You can’t miss this book. It’s a historical fiction that takes place in Malaysia during the racial riots in 1969. Please read this book and add it to your TBR’s; it is so important that this story is read and its story passed onto others.
Why you should add this to your list too: Read this book for its mental illness representation, the wonderful Malay representation (the dialogues are a gem), and how this historical fiction centers on an important part of Malaysian history.
Releases February 5th 2019! Add this book on Goodreads.
2. We Set the Dark on Fire by by Tehlor Kay Mejia
At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her bright future depends upon no one discovering her darkest secret—that her pedigree is a lie. Her parents sacrificed everything to obtain forged identification papers so Dani could rise above her station. Now that her marriage to an important politico’s son is fast approaching, she must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society, where famine and poverty rule supreme.
On her graduation night, Dani seems to be in the clear, despite the surprises that unfold. But nothing prepares her for all the difficult choices she must make, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio. Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or to give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love?
I feel like it’s been a long time since this book was first announced, but my excitement for it has never waned. Though this book reminds me of the books of dystopian-romances with teens taking down the hegemonic powers that be, I’m absolutely here for it and cannot wait to read it next month. (Next month!! I can’t wait!)
Why you should add this to your list too: We Set the Dark on Fire sounds like it’ll be part-politics, part-social commentary, part-romance, and part-resistance/fighting oppressors! And the main character is Latinx and there’s a f/f romance as well. Heck, I’m excited.
Releases February 26th 2019! Add this book on Goodreads.
3. The Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds
When Jack and Kate meet at a party, bonding until sunrise over their mutual love of Froot Loops and their favorite flicks, Jack knows he’s falling—hard. Soon she’s meeting his best friends, Jillian and Franny, and Kate wins them over as easily as she did Jack. Jack’s curse of almost is finally over.
But this love story is . . . complicated. It is an almost happily ever after. Because Kate dies. And their story should end there. Yet Kate’s death sends Jack back to the beginning, the moment they first meet, and Kate’s there again. Beautiful, radiant Kate. Healthy, happy, and charming as ever. Jack isn’t sure if he’s losing his mind. Still, if he has a chance to prevent Kate’s death, he’ll take it. Even if that means believing in time travel. However, Jack will learn that his actions are not without consequences. And when one choice turns deadly for someone else close to him, he has to figure out what he’s willing to do—and let go—to save the people he loves.
I came for the cover (isn’t it gorgeous?) and stayed for the book’s wickedly awesome and compelling premise. I kinda need to know what happens. The Opposite of Always sounds like it’s out to break my heart too, but I’ll be staying hydrated for 2019, so bring on the tears and heartache and existential themes! It also reminds me a lot of Life is Strange, and if this book is anything like the game, I will be absolutely shattered. My goodness, I need this book. Where’s my time machine?
Why you should add this to your list too: This sounds like a time-travel novel that will raise really important questions about the choices we make, how our actions have consequences, and what we do for the people we love. It’s also about two Black teens falling in love, are awkward, and banter! This book is irresistible to me already.
Releases March 12th 2019! Add this book on Goodreads.
4. Descendant of the Crane by Joan He
Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, but when her beloved father is murdered, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of an unstable kingdom. Determined to find her father’s killer, Hesina does something desperate: she engages the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by death… because in Yan, magic was outlawed centuries ago.
Using the information illicitly provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust even her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant and alluring investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of her kingdom at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?
The book cover for this is ART. And this gorgeous book is currently sitting in my inbox waiting to be read because I’m part of the Descendant of the Crane street team! I can’t wait to read this, especially since it’s an Asian high fantasy! Heck, I’m so excited for this. And all of you should be excited for this too!
Why you should add this to your list too: A Chinese-inspired high fantasy! Royal Asians! Magic! Possibly a romance?! Complex worldbuilding apparently akin to Game of Thrones without the rampant misogyny and sexual violence! What’s not to love?
Releases April 2nd 2019! Add this book on Goodreads.
5. A Place For Wolves by Kosoko Jackson
James Mills isn’t sure he can forgive his parents for dragging him away from his life, not to mention his best friend and sister, Anna. He’s never felt so alone.
Enter Tomas. Falling for Tomas is unexpected, but sometimes the best things in life are.
Then their world splits apart. A war that has been brewing finally bursts forward, filled with violence, pain, and cruelty. James and Tomas can only rely on each other as they decide how far they are willing to go―and who they are willing to become―in order to make it back to their families.
My goodness, this book sounds so incredible, terrifying, and heartwrenching. Even though I’ve never seen myself as a historical fiction fan, it’s fascinating that some of my very favourite books are historical fiction — which I think is a good sign for me and that I’ll probably love A Place for Wolves.
Why you should add this to your list too: First of all, it’s set in the Kosovo War. (What’s the Kosovo War? That was exactly my question, so after looking it up, I was floored; my excitement for this book amplified five-fold.) It is also m/m, and the main characters are Black and Portuguese. I look forward, albeit anxiously, to seeing how the characters will navigate a time of strife, violence, and fear.
Releases April 2nd 2019! Add this book on Goodreads.
6. The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala
Esha is a legend, but no one knows. It’s only in the shadows that she moonlights as the Viper, the rebels’ highly skilled assassin. She’s devoted her life to avenging what she lost in the royal coup, and now she’s been tasked with her most important mission to date: taking down the ruthless General Hotha.
Kunal has been a soldier since childhood, training morning and night to uphold the power of King Vardaan. His uncle, the general, has ensured that Kunal never strays from the path—even as a part of Kunal longs to join the outside world, which has been growing only more volatile.
Then Esha’s and Kunal’s paths cross—and an unimaginable chain of events unfolds. Both the Viper and the soldier think they’re calling the shots, but they’re not the only players moving the pieces. As the bonds that hold their land in order break down and the sins of the past meet the promise of a new future, both rebel and soldier must make unforgivable choices.
I love that we are beginning to get more stories written by Indian authors, about Indian characters! The Tiger at Midnight sounds like an absolutely delightful fantasy, particularly because I love reading stories about assassins. Esha sounds like an awesome character and I can’t wait to meet her come April!
Why you should add this to your list too: This book is inspired by ancient Indian history and Hindu mythology! This is the first book of, what it sounds like, a very promising and exciting trilogy, so definitely add this book to your radar!
Releases April 23rd 2019! Add this book on Goodreads.
7. I Wish You All The Best by Mason Deaver
When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.
But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.
This is a book that can change the world and I really think that this book can save lives. It centers on a non-binary teen (and they are depicted on the cover!!) and, heck, just from reading the blurb, I want nothing but happiness for Ben, my child, because they deserve it — and all non-binary folx out there deserve happiness too.
Why you should add this to your list too: If you want to read more queer literature this year, add this book to your list! I think everyone could benefit from reading a book about a non-binary teen and a romance between two queer teens. Add this to your list IMMEDIATELY.
Releases May 14th 2019! Add this book on Goodreads.
8. The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad
Fatima lives in the city of Noor, a thriving stop along the Silk Road. There the music of myriad languages fills the air, and people of all faiths weave their lives together. However, the city bears scars of its recent past, when the chaotic tribe of Shayateen djinn slaughtered its entire population — except for Fatima and two other humans. Now ruled by a new maharajah, Noor is protected from the Shayateen by the Ifrit, djinn of order and reason, and by their commander, Zulfikar.
But when one of the most potent of the Ifrit dies, Fatima is changed in ways she cannot fathom, ways that scare even those who love her. Oud in hand, Fatima is drawn into the intrigues of the maharajah and his sister, the affairs of Zulfikar and the djinn, and the dangers of a magical battlefield.
I’m going to be honest: the book cover stole my heart, but, I have a good feeling that the story is going to take my heart and take it for a ride. The Candle and the Flame sounds absolutely incredible, and I’m super fascinated and compelled by its historical elements as well as its fantastical ones.
Why you should add this to your list too: First of all, it sounds like a wickedly awesome blend of history and fantasy. Second, it’s set along the Silk Road, which, if you really think about it, is absolutely amazing to think about in today’s day and age. Third, a West-Asian fantasy with djinn? Heck yes!
Releases May 14th 2019! Add this book on Goodreads.
9. We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the king. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways.
War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the king on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.
I feel like I’ve been waiting for this book for a long time, and I’m thrilled that it’s almost finally here! We Hunt the Flame sounds like a sweeping fantasy that will explore themes like identity and overcoming obstacles. Furthermore, there will be a new cover for this book and I cannot wait to see it!
Why you should add this to your list too: Not only is it set in a world inspired by Ancient Arabia, has enemies to lovers between two awesome characters who sound powerful and vulnerable in their own right, and is a fantasy! Yes please.
Releases May 14th 2019! Add this book on Goodreads.
10. Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai
When eleven-year-old Jingwen moves to a new country, he feels like he’s landed on Mars. School is torture, making friends is impossible since he doesn’t speak English, and he’s often stuck looking after his (extremely irritating) little brother, Yanghao.
To distract himself from the loneliness, Jingwen daydreams about making all the cakes on the menu of Pie in the Sky, the bakery his father had planned to open before he unexpectedly passed away. The only problem is his mother has laid down one major rule: the brothers are not to use the oven while she’s at work. As Jingwen and Yanghao bake elaborate cakes, they’ll have to cook up elaborate excuses to keep the cake making a secret from Mama.
My goodness, this book sounds like it’ll be so relatable, delightful, and so much fun. Pie in the Sky sounds like it’ll be a wonderful middle-grade novel, and I cannot wait to see Lai’s gorgeous illustrations in this book. (You can see some of Lai’s work – AND HER DOGS!!! – on her Instagram!)
Why you should add this to your list too: I’m definitely picking this up for the blend of immigrant narrative and experience with baking cakes and themes of family. And the fact that this will be told in prose with graphic novel elements? Count me in.
Releases May 14th 2019. Add this book on Goodreads.
11. Midsummer’s Mayhem by Rajani LaRocca
Inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the story follows an 11-year-old Indian-American girl whose dream of winning a celebrity chef-judged baking contest stirs up trouble when she bakes with a mysterious boy from the woods and people around her start acting loopy. Publication is scheduled for summer 2019.
Not only does the cover look absolutely DELIGHTFUL, it also sounds like Midsummer’s Mayhem is going to be so much fun to read. I studied A Midsummer Night’s Dream in high school (which was a million years ago), so to see this retelling led by an Indian-American kid with a lot of food and baking? I need it.
Why you should add this to your list too: There’s going to be a bit of a mystery in this book (and middle-grade mysteries are the best and are so charming), a heck ton of food descriptions that will leave you feeling hungry, and explores family and childhood. I’m planning to be the first in line to read this book!
Releases June 4th 2019! Add this book on Goodreads.
12. All of Us With Wings by Michelle Ruiz Keil
Seventeen-year-old Xochi loves her job as live-in governess for tween genius Pallas, enchanted by the girl’s pagan rock star parents and the storybook Victorian mansion they share with their band, Lady Frieda. Determined to deserve the fairy tale life she’s fallen into, Xochi does her best to put Pallas’s needs before her own–ignoring the grief that lingers from her grandmother’s death and rejecting her growing attraction to Pallas’s guitar player dad, who shares her half Mexican heritage and troubled past.
Then, on the night of the Vernal Equinox with a party raging in the house below, Xochi and Pallas perform a riot-grrrl ritual that unintentionally summons the Waterbabies.
When her new life and past traumas collide, Xochi must come to terms with her complicated feelings for Pallas’s father, save the mother who abandoned her and find a way to send the Waterbabies home before the San Francisco fog extinguishes their fierce magic.
This book sounds like one heck of a wild ride, and reading the book’s blurb makes me so, so excited to read this. Not only does the story sound unique, fresh, and interesting, I’m over the moon that this also has fantasy elements and that it is set in a post-punk San Francisco and centers on a Latinx teen. I really need my time machine, right now.
Why you should add this to your list too: All of Us With Wings is a mythology-inspired debut, set in a post-punk San Francisco fairy tale. The main character, Xochi, is Latinx, and I can’t wait to meet her. I also hear that there’s queer rep! Heck, I’m so excited to read this; I just don’t have the words to articulate how excited I am.
Releases June 18th 2019! Add this book on Goodreads.
13. Wicked Fox by Kat Cho
No one in modern-day Seoul believes in the old fables anymore, which makes it the perfect place for Gu Miyoung and her mother to hide in plain sight. Miyoung is a Gumiho, a nine-tailed fox, who must eat the souls of men to survive. She feeds every full moon—eating the souls of men who have committed crimes, but have evaded justice. Her life is upended when she kills a dokkaebi, a murderous goblin, in the forest just to save the life of a human boy. But after Miyoung saves Jihoon’s life, the two develop a tenuous friendship that blooms into romance forcing Miyoung to choose between her immortal life and Jihoon’s.
I’m loving how more and more stories are incorporating mythology – that isn’t Greek mythology – into contemporary settings. Wicked Fox is a story I’ve been eager to read ever since it was first announced, and we get it in June. A romance between an immortal gumiho and a human boy? I NEEEEEEED.
Why you should add this to your list too: If you loved A Thousand Beginnings and Endings (which I certainly did!), then I think you’ll love this too. Korean mythology! A forbidden romance between an immortal being and a human! Set in modern-day Seoul!
Releases June 25th 2019! Add this book on Goodreads.
14. Color Me In by Natasha Diaz
A YA novel based on the author’s own story, is about a mixed-race Jewish girl as she faces coming-of-age issues before she has decided who she is and where she fits within her two very different worlds—one in Harlem and the other in Westchester County.
My goodness, this book sounds so good and splendid and my heart needs it. Color Me In is based on Diaz’s personal experiences, and will explore issues like identity, racism, colourism, and belonging — and all of you know how much I love and need these stories. Above all, I’m so happy that Diaz can tell her own story, and I’m also happy for other teens out there who will find themselves in this book.
Why you should add this to your list too: Color Me In follows a biracial teen who is white-passing, and will examine the privileges of being white-passing and also examines the racism and microaggressions associated with being mixed-race. I think these are incredibly important discussions to have, so Color Me In is UNMISSABLE.
Releases August 20th 2019! Add this book on Goodreads.
15. A River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy
Set in a North African-inspired fantasy world, two sisters—one with magick of light and persuasion and one with magick of blood and bone—must compete in a duel to the death for the right to inherit the queendom.
This book unfortunately doesn’t have a cover yet, but that isn’t stopping me from feeling super super super excited for this book! I love that we’re seeing more African stories, and A River of Royal Blood sounds wicked, delightful, bloody, and amazing. I also love sister stories, but sister-rival stories? I am not ready.
Why you should add this to your list too: African-inspired fantasy! Black royalty! Sister relationships! Magic and high stakes! It’s everything I love and want from a story, and you should add this to your radars immediately.
Releases Fall 2019! Add this book on Goodreads.
16. Slay by Brittney Morris
Slay is the tale of 17-year-old Kiera Johnson, a black teen game developer battling a real-life troll intent on ruining the Black Panther-inspired online role-playing card game she has created and that has become especially popular among black gamers worldwide. But when an African-American teen, Jamal Rice, is murdered during a dispute over the in-game currency (“Slay Coins”), Slay is widely disparaged in the mainstream media and elsewhere as a racist, exclusionist, and violent hub for thugs and criminals.
Faced with the threat of an anti-white discrimination lawsuit, Kiera suspects that a rich, white, male classmate at the private school that she attends, Wyatt, is behind it. Desperate to maintain her secret identity as Slay’s developer, Kiera proposes a virtual duel to resolve the dispute: if she wins, Wyatt drops the idea of litigation. If Wyatt wins, Kiera hands over to him complete control of the game.
I have never slammed the ‘Want to Read’ button on Goodreads so fast when I heard about this book. This book sounds incredible; not only does it incorporate gaming (which makes my gamer heart sing), it looks like it’ll include some important and needed discourse about race, particularly about how the Black community are perceived and the harm they experience.
Why you should add this to your list too: Not only does this book center around gaming, it also looks like it’ll have some socio-political commentary. Also, the main character is a Black girl who is a game developer? I need this. And I’m excited for all my Black gaming and techy friends who are excited for this book!
Releases Fall 2019! Add this book on Goodreads.
17. Ghost Squad by Claribel Otega
The hurricane-swept town of St. Augustine is the only home Lucely Luna has ever known. It’s the same home her father grew up in, and his parents before him. In fact, all of the deceased relatives in the Luna family now live as firefly spirits in the weeping willow tree in their backyard.
Shortly before Halloween, a mysterious storm appears on the radar heading towards St. Augustine, causing Lucely’s firefly spirits to lose their connection to this world. In an effort to save them, Lucely finds a spell to bring them back to life, but accidentally brings more spirits to the town than she’d planned. Ghosts start showing up all around town, some more dangerous than others, wreaking havoc.
Lucely will have to band together with her best friend and occult buff, Syd, along with Syd’s witch grandmother, Babette, and her tubby tabby, Chunk, to fight the haunting head on, save the town, and save her firefly spirits all before the full moon culminates on Halloween.
This is a book I’ve been waiting for a long long time, and I’m so thrilled for it to be here in September THIS YEAR! This book has been pitched as a blend of Coco and Dominican folklore. It sounds absolutely delightful and magical — and I have a feeling the cover is going to be gorgeous too.
Releases September 3rd 2019! Add this book on Goodreads.
18. The Dragon Warrior by Katie Zhao
In the book, a 12-year-old girl wanting to find her place in a secret society of warriors embarks on a journey to fight her way through gods and demons in various Chinatowns, in order to find a secret island where her missing father might be.
Diverse middle-grade novels have my whole heart – they are such a joy to read and are so much fun as well. When I heard that The Dragon Warrior was coming out, I was instantly on board. I have a good feeling about the cover as well (have you seen diverse middle-grade book covers?! they’re amazing!) so I can’t wait for the reveal!
Why you should add this to your list too: An Asian girl trying to join a society of warriors? A journey story? Gods and demons, supposedly from Chinese folklore? YES PLEASE. Also, based on some of the excerpts that Zhao has shared on her Twitter… this sounds like it’s going to be a fun book.
Releases October 2019! Add this book on Goodreads.
What can you do with this list?
- You can pre-order these books. (I also encourage supporting your local indie booksellers!)
However, I know that not everyone is in the position to pre-order books, so here are some other things you can do to support these debuts:
- Add this book to your Goodreads.
- Write your own blog post about the debuts you are excited for. Not everyone knows what the latest releases are, so simply talking about them goes a long way.
- Include or talk about these books in your book club.
- Spread the word about the book. Talk about the books in your own platforms (whether it be Twitter, Instagram, Facebook – anywhere!) and tell your friends outside the book communities about it!
- Support the author. Retweet the author’s tweets about their books and follow them too.
- Recommend these books to your local library, if possible.
What debuts are you excited for?
I had so much fun putting this list together. I hope you enjoyed reading this list and I hope you found some books to add to your (probably already extremely heavy; not even sorry!) to-read list.
Be sure to visit us again in a few days, where I’ll be sharing with you another list: Eight Diverse Books That I’m Excited For In 2019. This is a list I’m really excited for (heck, I’m excited for all the lists), but I promise this list will be a great one!
In case you missed it, don’t forget to have a read of the first post of this week-long series of The Pond’s Most Anticipated Reads, Eight Sequels Releasing in 2019 That Will Inevitably Destroy Me (In a Good Way).
So friends, how about you? I’d love to hear about the debuts that you’re excited to read.
- What debuts are you looking forward to in 2019?
- Are you excited for any of the above books as well?
- Have you read any ARCs of them and have some insight? What should we be excited for?