The Downstairs Girl and More

You might have seen that Reese Witherspoon recently announced Stacey Lee’s The Downstairs Girl as her Late Summer YA book club pick and we couldn’t agree more! We love all of Stacey’s books, make sure you check them out!

The Downstairs Girl
By Stacey Lee
384 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781524740955 | Putnam BFYR
By day, seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan works as a lady’s maid for the cruel daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Atlanta. But by night, Jo moonlights as the pseudonymous author of a newspaper advice column for the genteel Southern lady, “Dear Miss Sweetie.” When her column becomes wildly popular, she uses the power of the pen to address some of society’s ills, but she’s not prepared for the backlash that follows when her column challenges fixed ideas about race and gender. While her opponents clamor to uncover the secret identity of Miss Sweetie, a mysterious letter sets Jo off on a search for her own past and the parents who abandoned her as a baby. But when her efforts put her in the crosshairs of Atlanta’s most notorious criminal, Jo must decide whether she, a girl used to living in the shadows, is ready to step into the light. With prose that is witty, insightful, and at times heartbreaking, Stacey Lee masterfully crafts an extraordinary social drama set in the New South.

Need another reason to read The Downstairs Girl? Here are our FIVE reasons to add it to your TBR.

Luck of the Titanic
By Stacey Lee
384 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781524740986 | Putnam BFYR
Valora Luck has two things: a ticket for the biggest and most luxurious ocean liner in the world, and a dream of leaving England behind and making a life for herself as a circus performer in New York. Much to her surprise though, she’s turned away at the gangway; apparently, Chinese aren’t allowed into America. But Val has to get on that ship. Her twin brother Jamie, who has spent two long years at sea, is there, as is an influential circus owner, whom Val hopes to audition for. Thankfully, there’s not much a trained acrobat like Val can’t overcome when she puts her mind to it. As a stowaway, Val should keep her head down and stay out of sight. But the clock is ticking and she has just seven days as the ship makes its way across the Atlantic to find Jamie, perform for the circus owner, and convince him to help get them both into America. Then one night the unthinkable happens, and suddenly Val’s dreams of a new life are crushed under the weight of the only thing that matters: survival.

Outrun the Moon
By Stacey Lee
416 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780147516916 | Putnam BFYR
Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to break from the poverty of Chinatown, San Francisco in 1906, and an education at St. Clare’s School for Girls is her best hope. Although St. Clare’s is off-limits to all but the wealthiest white girls, Mercy gains admittance through a mix of cunning and a little bribery, only to discover that getting in was the easiest part. Not to be undone by a bunch of spoiled heiresses, Mercy stands strong – until disaster strikes. On April 18, a historic earthquake rocks San Francisco, destroying Mercy’s home and school. Now she’s forced to wait with her classmates for their families in a temporary park encampment. Though fires might rage, and the city may be in shambles, Mercy can’t sit by while they wait for the army to bring help – she still has the “bossy” cheeks that mark her as someone who gets things done. But what can one teenage girl do to heal so many suffering in her broken city?

Under a Painted Sky
By Stacey Lee
384 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780147511843 | Putnam BFYR
All Samantha wanted was to move back to New York and pursue her music, which was difficult enough being a Chinese girl in Missouri, 1849. Then her fate takes a turn for the worse after a tragic accident leaves her with nothing and she breaks the law in self-defense. With help from Annamae, a runaway slave she met at the scene of her crime, the two flee town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls. Disguised as Sammy and Andy, two boys heading for the California gold rush, each search for a link to their past and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. Until they merge paths with a band of cowboys turned allies, and Samantha can’t stop herself from falling for one. But the law is closing in on them and new setbacks come each day, and the girls will quickly learn there are not many places one can hide on the open trail.

And if you want to hear Stacey talk about writing historical fiction, catch up on our HerStory Tea Time from last fall!

A Taste for Love: A Q&A with Jennifer Yen

In honor of AAPI Heritage Month (and just because we loved A Taste for Love), we asked author Jennifer Yen a few questions about her sweet – in more ways than one! – new romcom!

Q&A with Jennifer Yen

Tell us a bit about A Taste for Love! What inspired you?

I originally pitched A Taste for Love as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice meets the Great British Baking Show, with matchmaking Asian mommas! While it is a young adult romcom, it’s actually a story about all kinds of love: for yourself, your family and friends, and of course, for that special someone! I was inspired to write it because growing up, I wanted to see characters like me finding and falling in love. I also wanted to write a book that highlighted the experience of growing up as Asian American diaspora.

Are you a baker yourself? If so, what’s your specialty?

I do bake, though I’m not anywhere near Liza’s level! My favorite pastries to bake are cakes, because I love the different flavors you can layer in through the cake, icing, and toppings. One of my hopes once COVID has passed is taking lessons on how to decorate them!

Related: if you were on a cooking show, what would be your signature dish?

I’ll let you in on a (not so well kept) secret . . . I’m a terrible cook! However, when I do attempt something, I stick to the dishes my mom taught me. My favorite is her vegetarian sushi.

Who is your favorite Jane Austen hero and/or heroine?

There’s a reason why I chose Pride and Prejudice as my first retelling. Elizabeth and Darcy have a very special place in my heart.

What’s your favorite romance trope?

Oh my goodness . . . there’s so many! I love enemies-to-lovers, friends-to-lovers, one-sided (they think) love, there’s only one bed, stoic versus sunshine, I could go on. . . .

If you could write a modern version of any classic novel, what would it be? Why?

This will probably surprise a lot of people, but I would love to write an epic fantasy like Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en. It was the book my dad used to read me at bedtime when I was growing up, and I remember being so enthralled by the characters and their adventures.

What’s your number one piece of writing advice (either that you give people or that you’ve received)?

The best advice I’ve ever received from several authors – the most recent of whom was the wonderful Sarah Kuhn – is that successful writers are the ones who don’t give up. Publishing is tough, and you’ll face a lot of challenges, but perseverance is key to making it through. As for the advice that I give, it’s to know your strengths. Start from there so you have the confidence to tackle the parts that are most challenging to you.

What are you working on next?

I have a few projects in the works, but there are only two I can talk about right now. The first is my second book, Love, Decoded, a modern day retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma. My protagonist is Gigi Wong, James’ younger sister. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Jennifer Yen novel without delicious food, family drama, and a banter-filled romance, so there’s that too! The second is Every Body Shines, a fat positive anthology I contributed to that’s coming out in June 2021. My short story, “A Perfect Fit,” features a girl who must become the hero of her own story if she wants to be a princess at prom.

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

I think anyone who knows me knows I will say BOBA TEA! Granted, I don’t always get the boba, but I live for milk tea. Also, with social distancing, I can’t live without my phone and computer! They’re my connection to the world.

Thanks for joining us, Jennifer! A Taste for Love is out now, make sure you pick it up from your favorite bookstore!


A Taste for Love
By Jennifer Yen
336 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593117521 | Razorbill
To her friends, high school senior Liza Yang is nearly perfect. Smart, kind, and pretty, she dreams big and never shies away from a challenge. But to her mom, Liza is anything but. Compared to her older sister Jeannie, Liza is stubborn, rebellious, and worst of all, determined to push back against all of Mrs. Yang’s traditional values, especially when it comes to dating. The one thing mother and daughter do agree on is their love of baking. Mrs. Yang is the owner of Houston’s popular Yin & Yang Bakery. With college just around the corner, Liza agrees to help out at the bakery’s annual junior competition to prove to her mom that she’s more than her rebellious tendencies once and for all. But when Liza arrives on the first day of the bake-off, she realizes there’s a catch: all of the contestants are young Asian American men her mother has handpicked for Liza to date. The bachelorette situation Liza has found herself in is made even worse when she happens to be grudgingly attracted to one of the contestants; the stoic, impenetrable, annoyingly hot James Wong. As she battles against her feelings for James, and for her mother’s approval, Liza begins to realize there’s no tried and true recipe for love.

Jennifer Yen: website | twitter | instagram

Meet the Flyy Girls

If you’re looking for a short, sweet, and totally addictive series to binge, let us introduce you to the Flyy Girls! Veteran author Ashley Woodfolk pens a gorgeous and dynamic series of four Harlem high schoolers, each facing a crossroads of friendship, family, and love and you can catch up with three of them right now!

Lux: The New Girl
By Ashley Woodfolk
144 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593096024 | Penguin Workshop
Lux Lawson is on a spree. Ever since her dad left, she’s been kicked out of every school that would take her, and this is her last chance: Harlem’s Augusta Savage School of the Arts. If this doesn’t work, Lux is off to military school, no questions asked. That means no more acting out, no more fights, and definitely no boyfriends. Focus on her photography and make nice friends. That’s the deal. Enter the Flyy Girls, three students who have it all together. The type of girls Lux needs to be friends with to stay out of trouble. And after charming her way into the group, Lux feels she’s on the right track. But every group has their secrets, including Lux. And when the past starts catching up with her, can she keep her place as a Flyy Girl? In this searing series opener, Lux takes center stage as she figures out just how hard it can be to start over.

Micah: The Good Girl
By Ashley Woodfolk
144 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593096055 | Penguin Workshop
Micah Dupree had always liked being the “good girl.” She was happy painting, going to church, and acing her school projects. After all, she had a perfect older brother to live up to. But when he unexpectedly dies, Micah’s world is turned upside-down. With her anxiety growing, a serious boyfriend in the picture, and new feelings emerging, Micah begins to question what being the “good girl” really means . . . and if it’s worth it, anyway.

Noelle: The Mean Girl
By Ashley Woodfolk
144 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593096086 | Penguin Workshop
There are only three things that matter to Noelle Lee: her family, school, and the cello. She doesn’t care if people see her as selfish or mean because she knows she has her priorities in order. That’s why when her dad loses his job, Noelle doesn’t hesitate to work more hours at her grandparents’ restaurant. Seeing her girls and dealing with her ex-boyfriend have to take a backseat so she can help her family and prepare for her school‘s fall showcase. But things get more complicated when Noelle realizes she can’t stop thinking about Tobyn, one of the other Flyy Girls. With her bad attitude getting even worse, Noelle starts to wonder if working hard even matters, especially if she can’t keep her life from falling apart around her.

Keep an eye out this August for the fourth installment to complete your collection!

Tobyn: The It Girl
By Ashley Woodfolk
144 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593096116 | Penguin Workshop
Tobyn Wolfe knows she’s destined to be a rock star. She sings, she dances, and she’s got that “It” factor. Her dreams are even closer within her reach when she meets Maybe Someday – an incredible all-female band – during a night out with her older sister, Devyn. Joining their band would be the perfect way to show off her amazing vocals. It’s too bad her mom can’t see this. She wants Tobyn to go to college and become a serious musician, not follow in Devyn’s footsteps and wind up a struggling artist. Can Tobyn prove to her mom that she knows what’s best, or will her dreams end up becoming a horrible nightmare?

5 YA Romances We Love

Valentine’s Day is around the corner, so if you’re looking for a cute read, we have some suggestions (obviously)! We have so many favourites but we made ourselves pick five to start with – what else would you add to this list?

For fans of The Great British Bake Off and other baking shows:

A Taste for Love
By Jennifer Yen
336 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593117521 | Razorbill
To her friends, high school senior Liza Yang is nearly perfect. Smart, kind, and pretty, she dreams big and never shies away from a challenge. But to her mom, Liza is anything but. Compared to her older sister Jeannie, Liza is stubborn, rebellious, and worst of all, determined to push back against all of Mrs. Yang’s traditional values, especially when it comes to dating. The one thing mother and daughter do agree on is their love of baking. Mrs. Yang is the owner of Houston’s popular Yin & Yang Bakery. With college just around the corner, Liza agrees to help out at the bakery’s annual junior competition to prove to her mom that she’s more than her rebellious tendencies once and for all. But when Liza arrives on the first day of the bake-off, she realizes there’s a catch: all of the contestants are young Asian American men her mother has handpicked for Liza to date. The bachelorette situation Liza has found herself in is made even worse when she happens to be grudgingly attracted to one of the contestants; the stoic, impenetrable, annoyingly hot James Wong. As she battles against her feelings for James, and for her mother’s approval, Liza begins to realize there’s no tried and true recipe for love.

We love #OwnVoices:

The Sun Is Also a Star
By Nicola Yoon
384 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780735267008 | Penguin Teen Canada
This book is inspired by Big History (to learn about one thing, you have to learn about everything). In The Sun Is Also a Star, to understand the characters and their love story, we must know everything around them and everything that came before them that has affected who they are and what they experience. Two teens – Daniel, the son of Korean shopkeepers, and Natasha, whose family is here illegally from Jamaica – cross paths in New York City on an eventful day in their lives – Daniel is on his way to an interview with a Yale alum, Natasha is meeting with a lawyer to try and prevent her family’s deportation to Jamaica – and fall in love.

The classic tearjerker:

The Fault in Our Stars
By John Green
352 Pages | Ages 14+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780142424179 | Dutton BFYR
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten. From John Green, the #1 bestselling author of Turtles All the Way Down, The Fault in Our Stars is insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw. It brilliantly explores the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

Read the book, watch the movie!

The Prom
By Saundra Mitchell, Bob Martin, Chad Beguelin, and Matthew Sklar
240 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9781984837547 | Viking BFYR
Emma Nolan and Alyssa Greene share the same goal: debut as a couple at their senior prom. Only a few things stand in their way – okay, maybe more than a few. For one, Alyssa hasn’t come out yet. It’s not that she doesn’t want to, but with a mother on the PTA who will stop at nothing to prevent same-sex couples from attending prom, it’s not a conversation she’s eager to have – with good reason. Before long, Mrs. Greene has the entire town backing her up, and it’s starting to look as though Emma and Alyssa won’t get their happily-ever-after. Then, out of the blue, two Broadway stars arrive on the scene to fight on the girls’ behalf (and get a little publicity along the way). But when their good intentions fall flat, it’s up to Emma and Alyssa to take matters into their own hands and show their small Indiana town – and the world – that love is love is love.

Nerds, this one’s for you:

Super Fake Love Song
By David Yoon
368 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984812230 | Putnam BFYR
When Sunny Dae – self-proclaimed total nerd – meets Cirrus Soh, he can’t believe how cool and confident she is. So when Cirrus mistakes Sunny’s older brother Gray’s bedroom – with its electric guitars and rock posters – for Sunny’s own, he sort of, kind of, accidentally winds up telling her he’s the front man of a rock band. Before he knows it, Sunny is knee-deep in the lie: He ropes his best friends into his scheme, begging them to form a fake band with him, and starts wearing Gray’s rock-and-roll castoffs. But no way can he trick this amazing girl into thinking he’s cool, right? Just when Sunny is about to come clean, Cirrus asks to see them play sometime. Gulp. Now there’s only one thing to do: Fake it till you make it.

The Graceling Realm Series

Calling all fantasy fans! If you haven’t read Kristin Cashore’s Graceling Realm series . . . what are you waiting for? The epic fourth book comes out next week and we can’t wait to dive right back into the world – catch up now so you can join us!

Graceling
By Kristin Cashore
512 Pages | Ages 14+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780547258300 | HMH
Graceling tells the story of the vulnerable-yet-strong Katsa, who is smart and beautiful and lives in the Seven Kingdoms where selected people are born with a Grace, a special talent that can be anything at all. Katsa’s Grace is killing. As the king’s niece, she is forced to use her extreme skills as his brutal enforcer. Until the day she meets Prince Po, who is Graced with combat skills, and Katsa’s life begins to change. She never expects to become Po’s friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace – or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

Fire
By Kristin Cashore
512 Pages | Ages 14+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780142415917 | Dial BFYR
It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. In King City, the young King Nash is clinging to the throne, while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. War is coming. And the mountains and forest are filled with spies and thieves. This is where Fire lives, a girl whose beauty is impossibly irresistible and who can control the minds of everyone around her. Exquisitely romantic, this companion to the highly praised Graceling has an entirely new cast of characters, save for one person who plays a pivotal role in both books. You don’t need to have read Graceling to love Fire. But if you haven’t, you’ll be dying to read it next.

Bitterblue
By Kristin Cashore
608 Pages | Ages 14+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780142426012 | Dial BFYR
When Queen Bitterblue took the throne of Monsea, she was a child, and her advisers ran the kingdom for her. Now she is beginning to question their decisions, especially how they handle the legacy of her father Leck, who ruled through his Grace – a special talent for mind-altering – and his taste for darkness and violence. Bitterblue needs to know Monsea’s past to lead it into the future, so she begins exploring the city streets at night, disguised and alone. As she does, she meets two thieves, who hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

Winterkeep
By Kristin Cashore
528 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780803741508 | Dial BFYR
For the past five years, Bitterblue has reigned as Queen of Monsea, heroically rebuilding her nation after her father’s horrific rule. After learning about the land of Torla in the east, she sends envoys to the closest nation there: Winterkeep – a place where telepathic foxes bond with humans, and people fly across the sky in wondrous airships. But when the envoys never return, having drowned under suspicious circumstances, Bitterblue sets off for Winterkeep herself, along with her spy Hava and her trusted colleague Giddon. On the way, tragedy strikes again – a tragedy with devastating political and personal ramifications. Meanwhile, in Winterkeep, Lovisa Cavenda waits and watches, a fire inside her that is always hungry. The teenage daughter of two powerful politicians, she is the key to unlocking everything – but only if she’s willing to transcend the person she’s been all her life.