Caffeine Book Tours Recap

Our friends at Caffeine Book Tours recently wrapped up an excellent tour in support of Xiran Jay Zhao’s Iron Widow. Make sure to catch up with all the participants below!

August 23, 2021

  • A Cup of Cyanide: “Anime as f*ck, seeped in historical Chinese influence, characters, and mythology, and one hell of a power trio!”
  • Lyrical Reads: “Iron Widow digs deep to dismantle the misogyny in a sci-fi/fantasy world that has lifted historical figures and planted them into this new context.”
  • Solace in Reading: “Iron Widow is life-changing, especially for me as an Asian woman, and it’s great to see sexism and the patriarchy called out and challenged in a fantasy novel.”
Credit: Lyrical Reads

August 24, 2021

  • B for Bookslut: “Iron Widow is definitely written with a lot of heart, passion, and soul; it practically leaps off the pages and I was dragged hook, line, and sinker into Zetian’s world.”
  • It’s Just a Coffee Addicted Bibliophile: “This is a fast-paced feminist retelling of the only female Chinese Emperor that had me sitting on the edge of my seat.”
  • Kristy’s Book Reviews: “I just want everyone to read and love this book because I sure did. . . . The wait for book 2 is going to kill me off honestly!”

August 25, 2021

  • Books & Bookish: “All in all, Iron Widow is a breathtaking, thrilling debut novel that defies the norms of a typical YA book.”
  • This Belle Reads Too: “I have no qualms about the book. Iron Widow enraptured me from the beginning till the end.”

August 26, 2021

  • Binded by Letters: “A book that was a godd*mn powerful dose of futuristic robots, powerful strategies, and a female lead to bow down for. “
  • Kymiee Tries to Read: “I loved the intensity of emotions, the pace of the story, and how compelling it was.”
  • The Paper Reels: Book Spotlight

August 27, 2021

  • China Sorrows: “Wu Zetian, you are stunning. And this is one of my favourite books of the year.”
  • Mel to the Any: “This story is truly so powerful, so beautiful, and so high on my recommendations lists for you all!”
  • Myths n’ Mis-adventures: “I’ve never read a book that is so unabashedly about toppling the patriarchy. It’s gutsy and powerful and delivers blow after blow relentlessly.”

Thank you to everyone who took part in the blog tour and a big thanks to Shealea at Caffeine Book Tours for putting it together!

Are you ready for Iron Widow?

Iron Widow
By Xiran Jay Zhao
400 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735269934 | Penguin Teen Canada
Release Date: September 21, 2021
The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain. When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected – she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​ To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way – and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

Both Sides Now: A Q&A with Peyton Thomas

Peyton Thomas just released his adorable and thought-provoking debut, Both Sides Now, and we’re so excited – it’s one of our #Penguin10 titles this fall! Peyton graciously dropped by the blog to answer some questions, so read on!

Q&A with Peyton Thomas

Tell us a little bit about the book! What inspired you?

Debate was my life in high school. I sacrificed a lot of weekends to arguing with total strangers. I traveled all over Canada for competitions, meeting kids from across the country, and sometimes from far beyond its borders, and yelling at them. I’m grateful for those experiences. They opened my mind, introduced me to new viewpoints, and made me a more empathetic and thoughtful person.

So I love debate, but I’m very wary of bad actors abusing it. There is, in particular, a trend of right-wingers hollering “debate me, bro!” at any marginalized person who asks to be left alone, please. Trans people are especially vulnerable to this kind of bad-faith bullying. I began to wonder: When is debate helpful? How is it abused? Is there a point where an intellectual exercise becomes a very real threat to a person’s well-being? Setting my story on the high school debate circuit allowed me to engage very literally with these questions.

How similar are you and Finch? Did you put any of your personality into other characters? Which character is the most “you”?

I’ve seen many a reviewer describe Both Sides Now as #OwnVoices – which is very funny, because Finch is the polar-whole-entire-opposite of my high school self! I didn’t come out until my mid-twenties; Finch figured it out in middle school. I was raised with a very conservative religious outlook, while Finch is pretty progressive. And I went to an all-girls’ school, which meant no hunks like Jonah roaming around. I spent a lot of time being quite sure that I liked boys, but less sure where I came down on girls – the exact opposite of Finch’s dilemma.

Maybe this is the best way to put it: Finch is the person I wish I’d been when I was younger. He’s just so sure of himself, in ways that I never was.

We do have a fair bit in common, though. We’re both on the shy side, but we still love a good argument. We’re hopeless romantics, although we’d never actually admit it. And we’re doing constant battle with our perfectionist streaks.

Ari Schechter is closer to who I was in high school. She’s questioning the worldview she grew up with, probing the gap between who she is and who her parents would like her to be. She’s very ambitious, but she’s vulnerable, too, in ways she doesn’t even realize. Can she be a jerk? Yes. But she can be so much more than that.

Did you ever have to debate heavy/personal topics in school? How difficult was it for you to get into Finch’s headspace to argue against his (and your) identity?

I spend a lot of time in Finch’s headspace, truth be told. I probably debate someone about my transness once a day. Many a trans person finds themselves constantly forced to justify their every decision – to their family, their friends, their never-ending supply of online trolls, whoever. We’re not always debating in a formal setting, like Finch, with a podium and a timekeeper, and a panel of judges. But we’re never really off the clock, either. It can be really exhausting.

And yet, there’s a reason we come back to these debates, time and time again: we want to win hearts, change minds; we know debate can do that. When I struggled, in high school, with a debate resolution, it was usually something that went against my religious and political beliefs. Abortion, maybe. Gay marriage. The wall that Israel built in the West Bank. I didn’t realize I could be wrong about these issues until I debated them.

Who would you cast as your characters in a movie adaptation?

Miles McKenna plays Finch on the cover of Both Sides Now, so he’s the obvious choice. The musician Cavetown also looks a lot like Finch. Oh, and my friend Tom Phelan, who was one of the first trans boys to play one on TV – as a teenager, he’d have been Finch from Central Casting. He’s a little too old to play Finch now, and way too punk rock. Alas.

This is your debut novel (congrats!) – what advice do you have for budding writers?

Hilary Mantel is one of my favorite authors. People like to ask her if she writes every day, or if she just waits for inspiration to strike. Her answer? “Of course I write every day, what do you think I am, some kind of hobbyist?” I regret to report that, in my experience, this is the only way to do it. Every day. Period. End of.

Before I became a full-time author of fiction, I wrote scripts for video games. That job was the first time I’d ever made a capital-L Living off of writing. It was also the first time I’d ever been required to write 10,000 words a week if I wanted to keep my job. Was it a grind? God, yes. Did it teach me how to meet my deadlines whether I felt ~inspired~ or not? Also yes.

So that’s my very simple advice. Get into a daily writing habit. Weekdays, weekends, holidays. Do it for fifteen minutes, or ten, or five. Come back to it, again and again, no matter how inspired you’re feeling. And see how sharp, vivid, alive your writing gets. Live for it.

What other LGBTQIA+ books/authors would you recommend for fans of Both Sides Now?

We’re in a real boom of books by trans men about trans men! Both Sides Now shares a debut year with The Passing Playbook by Isaac Fitszimons, Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee, and May the Best Man Win by Z.R. Ellor, all of which I highly recommend.

I’d like to suggest, also, that my readers check out books by and about trans women. There seem to be fewer of these in YA, which is a real shame. Meredith Russo’s YA novel If I Was Your Girl is lovely, and I really loved Canadian author Hazel Jane Plante’s Little Blue Encyclopedia (for Vivian) – which isn’t YA, but probably won’t scandalize anyone in that age bracket. Kai Cheng Thom – also Canadian! – writes a lot of excellent non-fiction, including an advice column for Xtra that my readers should check out.

You write music reviews for Pitchfork and other outlets. What are some artists/songs you’re currently obsessed with?

I’m going to take this opportunity to be very sneaky and cryptic and embed my writing playlist for the next book I’m working on. https://tidal.com/browse/playlist/f033d1a0-f3fb-424c-9e30-251cb9bb6f39

Can any of you bright sparks piece together the plot based on the contents of this list? Let’s find out.

What are you working on now?

When I’m not reviewing Peppa Pig for Pitchfork, I’m working on a second book. Two hints, in addition to the playlist I linked above:

  1. The working title is “Two Slow Dancers”.
  2. You already know the characters.

Pandemic question: What’s the one thing you just can’t live without these days?

The Pioneer Woman’s recipe for peanut-butter pie. It takes ten minutes to make, and it’s ambrosial.

Thanks for joining us, Peyton! Both Sides Now is available now, make sure you pick it up from your favorite bookstore!

Did you miss Peyton’s launch at Glad Day Bookshop? Catch up on our Instagram or YouTube (includes captions):

And for our Canadian friends, you have until Tuesday, August 31 to enter this giveaway for a chance to win a copy of Both Sides Now!


Both Sides Now
By Peyton Thomas
300 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735269750 | Penguin Teen Canada
There’s only one thing standing between Finch Kelly and a full-blown case of high school senioritis: the National Speech & Debate Tournament. Taking home the gold would not only be the pinnacle of Finch’s debating career, but the perfect way to launch himself into his next chapter: college in Washington, DC, and a history-making career as the first trans congressman. What could possibly go wrong? Well, for starters, Finch could develop a teeny tiny crush on his very attractive, very taken, and very gay debate partner, Jonah. Never mind that Finch has never considered whether he’s interested in more than just girls. And that dream of college in DC? Finch hasn’t exactly been accepted anywhere yet, let alone received the full-ride scholarship he’ll need to make this dream a reality. Worst of all, though, is this year’s topic for Nationals: transgender rights. If he wants to cinch the gold, and get into college, Finch might have to argue against his own humanity. People say there are two sides to every argument. But, as Finch is about to discover, some things – like who you are and who you love – are not up for debate.

Peyton Thomas: website | twitter

CTV Your Morning Kids’ Book Segment on School Readiness

Our Marketing and Publicity Director, Vikki VanSickle, was on CTV’s Your Morning today to talk about some of her top kids book picks for back to school. Check out our titles from her recommendations below and don’t forget to watch her segment for the full list!

AGES 3-7

Carol and the Pickle-Toad
By Esmé Shapiro
48 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735263987 | Tundra Books
In the big city, people wear all kinds of hats. Not everyone wears a toad as a hat, but some people do . . . and some of those toad hats can be VERY bossy! Carol has always followed the orders of her demanding toad hat at the expense of her own inner voice. But when her toad hat is plucked away by a pigeon, how will Carol know what to do? After spending so long being told what to eat and do and paint, Carol’s not sure what SHE wants, and nothing feels quite right. Feeling lost, she creates a new hat – a toad made out of pickles and eggs – to help guide her. Even though her new pickle-toad doesn’t make a sound, Carol can hear it loud and clear! But when a pigeon takes away THAT hat too, Carol begins to understand that there is a big, booming voice that lives inside herself . . . and that it’s well worth listening to! For any reader who’s doubted their own voice and talents, or felt like a bossy friend or family member is always drowning them out, Carol and the Pickle-Toad is an inspiring invitation to listen to your own heart and stand on your own two feet – even better if you’re wearing very tall boots.

AGES 6-10

Anne’s School Days
By Kallie George
Illustrated by Abigail Halpin
72 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267206 | Tundra Books
Anne loves autumn in Avonlea, and she’s been enjoying her first three weeks of school. It helps that she walks to school with and sits next to her kindred spirit, Diana Barry. However, one day, Gilbert Blythe joins the class. According to Diana, he’s very handsome, and smart too. However, Gilbert immediately gets on Anne’s nerves. When he pulls on Anne’s braid and calls her “Carrots” because of her red hair, enough is enough. How can Anne enjoy school when Gilbert is ruining everything? Anne vows never to talk to Gilbert again, and even stops going to school for a time when her teacher forces Anne to sit next to her rival. But later, when Anne has an accident on the pond and her wooden plank sinks, who should come to her rescue but her nemesis, Gilbert Blythe?

AGES 12+

Both Sides Now
By Peyton Thomas
300 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735269750 | Penguin Teen Canada
There’s only one thing standing between Finch Kelly and a full-blown case of high school senioritis: the National Speech & Debate Tournament. Taking home the gold would not only be the pinnacle of Finch’s debating career, but the perfect way to launch himself into his next chapter: college in Washington, DC, and a history-making career as the first trans congressman. What could possibly go wrong? Well, for starters, Finch could develop a teeny tiny crush on his very attractive, very taken, and very gay debate partner, Jonah. Never mind that Finch has never considered whether he’s interested in more than just girls. And that dream of college in DC? Finch hasn’t exactly been accepted anywhere yet, let alone received the full-ride scholarship he’ll need to make this dream a reality. Worst of all, though, is this year’s topic for Nationals: transgender rights. If he wants to cinch the gold, and get into college, Finch might have to argue against his own humanity. People say there are two sides to every argument. But, as Finch is about to discover, some things – like who you are and who you love – are not up for debate.

Tuesdays with Tundra

Tuesdays with Tundra

Tuesdays with Tundra is an ongoing series featuring our new releases. The following title is now available in stores and online!

Both Sides Now
By Peyton Thomas
300 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735269750 | Penguin Teen Canada
There’s only one thing standing between Finch Kelly and a full-blown case of high school senioritis: the National Speech & Debate Tournament. Taking home the gold would not only be the pinnacle of Finch’s debating career, but the perfect way to launch himself into his next chapter: college in Washington, DC, and a history-making career as the first trans congressman. What could possibly go wrong? Well, for starters, Finch could develop a teeny tiny crush on his very attractive, very taken, and very gay debate partner, Jonah. Never mind that Finch has never considered whether he’s interested in more than just girls. And that dream of college in DC? Finch hasn’t exactly been accepted anywhere yet, let alone received the full-ride scholarship he’ll need to make this dream a reality. Worst of all, though, is this year’s topic for Nationals: transgender rights. If he wants to cinch the gold, and get into college, Finch might have to argue against his own humanity. People say there are two sides to every argument. But, as Finch is about to discover, some things – like who you are and who you love – are not up for debate.

We can’t wait to see you reading this title! If you share this book online, remember to please tag @PenguinTeenCa so that we can re-post.

Summer Thrillers

Putting the YA in FriYAY

Summer is the perfect time to lose yourself in a good thriller – here’s a list of current (and upcoming) titles for you to pick up!

A Lesson in Vengeance
By Victoria Lee
384 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593305829 | Delacorte Press
Felicity Morrow is back at the Dalloway School to finish her senior year after the tragic death of her girlfriend. 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. Felicity was once drawn to the dark legacy of witchcraft. She’s determined to leave that behind her now; but it’s hard when Dalloway’s occult history is everywhere. And when the new girl won’t let her forget it. It’s Ellis Haley’s first year at Dalloway. A prodigy novelist at seventeen, Ellis is 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. And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway – and in herself.

Dark and Shallow Lies
By Ginny Myers Sain
432 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593403969 | Razorbill
La Cachette, Louisiana, is the worst place to be if you have something to hide. This tiny town, where seventeen-year-old Grey spends her summers, is the self-proclaimed Psychic Capital of the World – and the place where Elora Pellerin, Grey’s best friend, disappeared six months earlier. Grey can’t believe that Elora vanished into thin air any more than she can believe that nobody in a town full of psychics knows what happened. But as she digs into the night that Elora went missing, she begins to realize that everybody in town is hiding something – her grandmother Honey; her childhood crush Hart; and even her late mother, whose secrets continue to call to Grey from beyond the grave. When a mysterious stranger emerges from the bayou – a stormy-eyed boy with links to Elora and the town’s bloody history – Grey realizes that La Cachette’s past is far more present and dangerous than she’d ever understood. Suddenly, she doesn’t know who she can trust. In a town where secrets lurk just below the surface, and where a murderer is on the loose, nobody can be presumed innocent – and La Cachette’s dark and shallow lies may just rip the town apart.

Eat Your Heart Out
By Kelly DeVos
352 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593204825 | Razorbill
Vivian Ellenshaw is fat, but she knows she doesn’t need to lose weight, so she’s none too happy to find herself forced into a weight-loss camp’s van with her ex-best friend, Allie, a meathead jock who can barely drive, and the camp owner’s snobby son. And when they arrive at Camp Featherlite at the start of the worst blizzard in the history of Flagstaff, Arizona, it’s clear that something isn’t right. Vee barely has a chance to meet the other members of her pod, all who seem as unhappy to be at Featherlite as she does, when a camper goes missing down by the lake. Then she spots something horrifying outside in the snow. Something . . . that isn’t human. Plus, the camp’s supposed “miracle cure” for obesity just seems fishy, and Vee and her fellow campers know they don’t need to be cured. Of anything. Even worse, it’s not long before Camp Featherlite’s luxurious bungalows are totally overrun with zombies. What starts out as a mission to unravel the camp’s secrets turns into a desperate fight for survival – and not all of the Featherlite campers will make it out alive. A satirical blend of horror, body positivity, and humor, Kelly deVos’s witty, biting novel proves that everyone deserves to feel validated, and taking down the evil enterprise determined to dehumanize you is a good place to start.

Tell Me When You Feel Something
By Vicki Grant
336 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735270091 | Penguin Teen Canada
It seemed like a cool part-time program – being a “simulated” patient for med school students to practice on. But now vivacious, charismatic Viv lies in a very real coma. Cellphone footage just leads to more questions. What really happened? Other kids suspect it was not an intentional overdose – but each has a reason why they can’t tell the truth. Through intertwining and conflicting narratives, a twisted story unfolds of trust betrayed as we sift through the seemingly innocent events leading up to the tragic night. Perhaps simulated patients aren’t the only people pretending to be something they’re not. . . . The perfect after-school job turns deadly in this contemporary YA thriller that exposes the dark reality of #MeToo in the world of medicine, for fans of Karen McManus and Holly Jackson.

That Weekend
By Kara Thomas
336 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781524718367 | Delacorte Press
It was supposed to be the perfect prom weekend getaway. But it’s clear something terrible happened when Claire wakes up alone and bloodied on a hiking trail with no memory of the past forty-eight hours. Now everyone wants answers – most of all, Claire. She remembers Friday night, but after that . . . nothing. And now Kat and Jesse – her best friends – are missing. What happened on the mountain? And where are Kat and Jesse? Claire knows the answers are buried somewhere in her memory. But as she’s learning, everyone has secrets – even her best friends. And she’s pretty sure she’s not going to like what she remembers.

The Ivies
By Alexa Donne
320 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593303702 | Crown BFYR
Everyone knows the Ivies: the most coveted universities in the United States. Far more important are the Ivies. The Ivies at Claflin Academy, that is. Five girls with the same mission: to get into the Ivy League by any means necessary. I would know. I’m one of them. We disrupt class ranks, club leaderships, and academic competitions . . . among other things. We improve our own odds by decreasing the fortunes of others. Because hyper-elite competitive college admissions is serious business. And in some cases, it’s deadly. Alexa Donne delivers a nail-biting and timely thriller about teens who will stop at nothing to get into the college of their dreams. Too bad no one told them murder isn’t an extracurricular.

The Woods Are Always WatchingThe Woods Are Always Watching
By Stephanie Perkins
240 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525426028 | Dutton BFYR
Best friends Neena and Josie spent high school as outsiders, but at least they had each other. Now, with college and a two-thousand-mile separation looming on the horizon, they have one last chance to be together – a three-day hike deep into the woods of the Pisgah National Forest. Simmering tensions lead to a detour off the trail and straight into a waking nightmare. . .and then into something far worse. Something that will test them in horrifying ways. Stephanie Perkins, the bestselling author of There’s Someone Inside Your House, returns with a heart-stopping, gut-wrenching novel about friendship, survival, and navigating unmarked paths even as evil watches from the shadows.

They’ll Never Catch Us
By Jessica Goodman
336 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593114322 | Razorbill
Stella and Ellie Steckler are only a year apart, but their different personalities make their relationship complicated. Stella is single-minded, driven, and she keeps to herself. Cross-country running is her life and she won’t let anything get in the way of being the best. Her sister Ellie is a talented runner too, but she also lets herself have fun. She has friends. She goes to parties. She has a life off the course. The sisters do have one thing in common, though: the new girl, Mila Keene. Both Stecklers’ lives are upended when Mila comes to town. At first, Ellie and Stella view the new star athlete as a threat. But soon Ellie can’t help but be drawn to her warm, charming personality. After her best friend moved away and her first boyfriend betrayed her, Ellie’s been looking for a friend to share her secrets. Stella finds herself noticing the ways she and Mila are similar. Mila is smart and strong – she’s someone Stella can finally connect with. As the two get closer, Stella becomes something she vowed she’d never be: distracted. With regionals approaching and college scouts taking notice, the pressure is on. Each girl has their future on the line and they won’t let friendships get in their way. But then, suddenly, Mila goes out on a training run and never returns. No one knows what happened, but all eyes are on the Steckler sisters.

When All the Girls Are Sleeping
By Emily Arsenault
448 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593180792 | Delacorte Press
Windham-Farnswood Academy is beautiful, prestigious, historic – the perfect place for girls to prep for college. But every student knows all is not as it seems. Each January, the Winter Girl comes knocking. She’s the spirit who haunts the old senior dorm, and this year is no exception. For Haley, the timing couldn’t be worse. This month marks the one-year anniversary of the death of her ex-best friend, Taylor. When a disturbing video of Taylor surfaces, new questions about her death emerge. And it actually looks like Taylor was murdered. Now, as Haley digs into what really happened last year, her search keeps bringing her back to the Winter Girl. Haley wants to believe ghosts aren’t real, but the clues – and the dark school history she begins to undercover – say otherwise. Now it’s up to her to solve the mystery before history has a chance to repeat itself and another life is taken.

You’re So Dead
By Ash Parsons
400 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593205129 | Philomel Books
Plum Winter has always come in second to her sister, the unbelievably cool, famous influencer Peach Winter. And when Peach is invited to an all-expenses-paid trip to a luxurious art-and-music festival for influencers on a private island in the Caribbean, Plum decides it’s finally her time to shine. So she intercepts the invite – and asks her two best friends, Sofia and Marlowe, to come along to the fest with her. It’ll be a spring break they’ll never forget. But when Plum and her friends get to the island, it’s not anything like it seemed in the invite. The island is run-down, creepy, and there doesn’t even seem to be a festival – it’s just seven other quasi-celebrities and influencers, and none of the glitz and glamour she expected. Then people start to die . . . Plum and her friends soon realize that someone has lured each of them to the “festival” to kill them. Someone has a vendetta against every person on the island – and no one is supposed to leave alive. So, together, Plum, Sofia, and Marlowe will do whatever it takes to unravel the mystery of the killer, and fight to save themselves and as many influencers as they can, before it’s too late.