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

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 Reading 2021

Summer is here and we’re ready to soak up some sun . . . and books! During our Penguin Teen Social in May, we listed the ten books we’re definitely reading this summer – how many of these are on your TBR?

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.

Aetherbound
By E. K. Johnston
256 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735231856 | Dutton BFYR
Set on a family-run interstellar freighter called the Harland and a mysterious remote space station, E. K. Johnston’s latest is story of survival and self-determination. Pendt Harland’s family sees her as a waste of food on their long-haul space cruiser when her genes reveal an undesirable mutation. But if she plays her cards right she might have a chance to do much more than survive. During a space-station layover, Pendt escapes and forms a lucky bond with the Brannick twins, the teenage heirs of the powerful family that owns the station. Against all odds, the trio hatches a long-shot scheme to take over the station and thwart the destinies they never wished for.

All Our Hidden Gifts
By Caroline O’Donoghue
384 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536213942 | Walker Books US
After Maeve finds a pack of tarot cards while cleaning out a closet during her in-school suspension, she quickly becomes the most sought-after diviner at St. Bernadette’s Catholic school. But when Maeve’s ex–best friend, Lily, draws an unsettling card called The Housekeeper that Maeve has never seen before, the session devolves into a heated argument that ends with Maeve wishing aloud that Lily would disappear. When Lily isn’t at school the next Monday, Maeve learns her ex-friend has vanished without a trace. Shunned by her classmates and struggling to preserve a fledgling romance with Lily’s gender-fluid sibling, Roe, Maeve must dig deep into her connection with the cards to search for clues the police cannot find – even if they lead to the terrifying Housekeeper herself. Set in an Irish town where the church’s tight hold has loosened and new freedoms are trying to take root, this sharply contemporary story is witty, gripping, and tinged with mysticism.

Instructions for Dancing
By Nicola Yoon
384 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735271234 | Penguin Teen Canada
Evie Thomas doesn’t believe in love anymore. Especially after the strangest thing occurs one otherwise ordinary afternoon: She witnesses a couple kiss and is overcome with a vision of how their romance began . . . and how it will end. After all, even the greatest love stories end with a broken heart, eventually. As Evie tries to understand why this is happening, she finds herself at La Brea Dance studio, learning to waltz, fox-trot, and tango with a boy named X. X is everything that Evie is not: adventurous, passionate, daring. His philosophy is to say yes to everything – including entering a ballroom dance competition with a girl he’s only just met. Falling for X is definitely not what Evie had in mind. If her visions of heartbreak have taught her anything, it’s that no one escapes love unscathed. But as she and X dance around and toward each other, Evie is forced to question all she thought she knew about life and love. In the end, is love worth the risk?

Radha & Jai’s Recipe for Romance
By Nisha Sharma
336 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780553523294 | Crown BFYR
Radha is on the verge of becoming one of the greatest kathak dancers in the world . . . until a family betrayal costs her the biggest competition of her life. Now she has left her Chicago home behind to follow her stage mom to New Jersey. At the Princeton Academy of the Arts, Radha is determined to leave performing in her past and reinvent herself from scratch. Jai is captain of the Bollywood Beats dance team, ranked first in his class, and is an overachiever with no college plans. Tight family funds means medical school is a pipe dream, which is why he wants to make the most out of high school. When Radha enters his life, he realizes she’s the exact ingredient he needs for a show-stopping senior year. With careful choreography, both Radha and Jai will need to face their fears (and their families) if they want a taste of a happily ever after.

Rising Like a Storm
By Tanaz Bhathena
432 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267053 | Penguin Teen Canada
With King Lohar dead and a usurper queen in power, Gul and Cavas face a new tyrannical government that is bent on killing them both. Their roles in King Lohar’s death have not gone unnoticed, and the new queen is out for blood. What she doesn’t know is that Gul and Cavas have a connection that runs deeper than romance, and together, they just might have the strength and magic to end her reign for good. Then a grave mistake ends with Cavas being taken prisoner. Gul is left to train an army of warriors alone. With alliances shifting and the thirst for vengeance growing, the fate of Ambar seems ever more uncertain. It will take every ounce of strength, love, and sacrifice for Gul and Cavas to reach their final goal – and build a more just world than they’ve ever known.

Six Crimson Cranes
By Elizabeth Lim
464 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593300916 | Knopf BFYR
Shiori’anma, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted. But it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother. A sorceress in her own right, Raikama banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes. She warns Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die. Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and uncovers a dark conspiracy to seize the throne. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in a paper bird, a mercurial dragon, and the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to forswear – no matter what the cost.

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.

The Great Godden
By Meg Rosoff
256 Pages | Ages 14+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780735268319 | Penguin Teen Canada
This is the story of one family, one dreamy summer. . . . In a holiday house by the sea, our watchful narrator sees everything, including many things they shouldn’t, as their brother and sisters, parents, and older cousins fill hot days with wine and games and planning a wedding. Enter two brothers: irresistible, charming, languidly sexy Kit and surly, silent Hugo. Suddenly there’s a serpent in this paradise – and the consequences will be devastating.

Tremendous Things
By Susin Nielsen
272 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735271203 | Penguin Teen Canada
We all have moments that define us. For the comically clueless Wilbur, his moment happened on the first day of middle school, when someone shared his private letter with the entire student body. It revealed some of Wilbur’s innermost embarrassing thoughts that no one else should ever know. Now it’s the start of ninth grade and Wilbur hasn’t been able to escape that major humiliation. His good friend Alex stuck by him, but Alex doesn’t have as much time since he started dating Fabrizio. Luckily, Wil can confide in his best friend: his elderly neighbor Sal. Also, Wil’s in the school band, where he plays the triangle. They’re doing an exchange program with students from Paris, and Wilbur’s billet, Charlie, a tall, chic young woman who plays the ukulele and burps with abandon, captures his heart. Charlie likes him, but only as a friend. So Alex, Fabrizio, and Sal host a Queer Eye-style intervention to get Wil in shape and to build his confidence so he can impress Charlie when their band visits Paris, and just maybe replace humiliation with true romance in the City of Love.

Penguin Teen Canada Trivia Night: Killer Thrillers

This month, we’re testing our general knowledge and hanging out with some of our fave authors for another virtual trivia night! Join us on Wednesday, June 23rd at 7:30 pm Eastern on Zoom. We’ll be joined by Vicki Grant (Tell Me When You Feel Something), Ryan Douglass (The Taking of Jake Livingston), and Karen M. McManus (The Cousins) who will be asking questions around the subjects of medicine, ghosts, and family. RSVP here and we’ll “see” you there!

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.

The Taking of Jake Livingston
By Ryan Douglass
256 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984812537 | Putnam BFYR
Sixteen-year-old Jake Livingston sees dead people everywhere. But he can’t decide what’s worse: being a medium forced to watch the dead play out their last moments on a loop or being at the mercy of racist teachers as one of the few Black students at St. Clair Prep. Both are a living nightmare he wishes he could wake up from. But things at St. Clair start looking up with the arrival of another Black student – the handsome Allister – and for the first time, romance is on the horizon for Jake. Unfortunately, life as a medium is getting worse. Though most ghosts are harmless and Jake is always happy to help them move on to the next place, Sawyer Doon wants much more from Jake. In life, Sawyer was a troubled teen who shot and killed six kids at a local high school before taking his own life. Now he’s a powerful, vengeful ghost and he has plans for Jake. Suddenly, everything Jake knows about dead world goes out the window as Sawyer begins to haunt him. High school soon becomes a different kind of survival game—one Jake is not sure he can win.

The Cousins
By Karen M. McManus
336 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525708001 | Delacorte BFYR
Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah Story are cousins, but they barely know each another, and they’ve never even met their grandmother. Rich and reclusive, she disinherited their parents before they were born. So when they each receive a letter inviting them to work at her island resort for the summer, they’re surprised . . . and curious. Their parents are all clear on one point – not going is not an option. This could be the opportunity to get back into Grandmother’s good graces. But when the cousins arrive on the island, it’s immediately clear that she has different plans for them. And the longer they stay, the more they realize how mysterious – and dark – their family’s past is. The entire Story family has secrets. Whatever pulled them apart years ago isn’t over – and this summer, the cousins will learn everything.


Questions or concerns? Follow us on Twitter or email us at YoungReaders@penguinrandomhouse.com!