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!

Our New Fave Books for AAPI Heritage Month 2021

May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month and while we believe you should be reading diverse books all year round, 2021 has produced so many amazing new titles from AAPI authors! Here are the ones we’re loving this year, including some of our most anticipated books this summer (and one #Penguin10 title!).

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.

American Betiya
By Anuradha D. Rajurkar
368 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984897152 | Knopf BFYR
Rani Kelkar has never lied to her parents, until she meets Oliver. The same qualities that draw her in – his tattoos, his charisma, his passion for art – make him her mother’s worst nightmare. They begin dating in secret, but when Oliver’s troubled home life unravels, he starts to ask more of Rani than she knows how to give, desperately trying to fit into her world, no matter how high the cost. When a twist of fate leads Rani from Evanston, Illinois to Pune, India for a summer, she has a reckoning with herself – and what’s really brewing beneath the surface of her first love. Braiding together themes of sexuality, artistic expression, and appropriation, she gives voice to a girl claiming ownership of her identity, one shattered stereotype at a time.

Continuum
By Chella Man
Illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky
64 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780593223482 | Penguin Workshop
“What constructs in your life must you unlearn to support inclusivity and respect for all?” This is a question that artist, actor, and activist Chella Man wrestles with in this powerful and honest essay. A story of coping and resilience, Chella journeys through his experiences as a deaf, transgender, genderqueer, Jewish person of color, and shows us that identity lies on a continuum – a beautiful, messy, and ever-evolving road of exploration. Pocket Change Collective is a series of small books with big ideas from today’s leading activists and artists.

From Little Tokyo, With Love
By Sarah Kuhn
432 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593327487 | Viking BFYR
If Rika’s life seems like the beginning of a familiar fairy tale – being an orphan with two bossy cousins and working away in her aunts’ business – she would be the first to reject that foolish notion. After all, she loves her family (even if her cousins were named after Disney characters), and with her biracial background, amazing judo skills, and red-hot temper, she doesn’t quite fit the princess mold. All that changes the instant she locks eyes with Grace Kimura, America’s reigning rom-com sweetheart, during the Nikkei Week Festival. From there, Rika embarks on a madcap adventure of hope and happiness – searching for clues that Grace is her long-lost mother, exploring Little Tokyo’s hidden treasures with cute actor Hank Chen, and maybe . . . finally finding a sense of belonging. But fairy tales are fiction and the real world isn’t so kind. Rika knows she’s setting herself up for disappointment, because happy endings don’t happen to girls like her. Should she walk away before she gets in even deeper, or let herself be swept away?

Last Night at the Telegraph Club
By Malinda Lo
416 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525555254 | Dutton BFYR
Release Date: January 19, 2021
Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu can’t remember exactly when the question took root, but the answer was in full bloom the moment she and Kathleen Miller walked under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club. America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall in love, especially not in Chinatown. Red-Scare paranoia threatens everyone, including Chinese Americans like Lily. With deportation looming over her father – despite his hard-won citizenship – Lily and Kath risk everything to let their love see the light of day.

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.

Perfectly Parvin
By Olivia Abtahi
320 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593109427 | Putnam BFYR
Parvin Mohammadi has just been dumped – only days after receiving official girlfriend status. Not only is she heartbroken, she’s humiliated. Enter high school heartthrob Matty Fumero, who just might be the smoking-hot cure to all her boy problems. If Parvin can get Matty to ask her to Homecoming, she’s positive it will prove to herself and her ex that she’s girlfriend material after all. There’s just one problem: Matty is definitely too cool for bassoon-playing, frizzy-haired, Cheeto-eating Parvin. Since being herself hasn’t worked for her in the past (see aforementioned dumping), she decides to start acting like the women in her favorite rom-coms. Those women aren’t loud, they certainly don’t cackle when they laugh, and they smile much more than they talk. But Parvin discovers that being a rom-com dream girl is much harder than it looks. Also hard? The parent-mandated Farsi lessons. A confusing friendship with a boy who’s definitely not supposed to like her. And hardest of all, the ramifications of the Muslim ban on her family in Iran. Suddenly, being herself has never been more important. Olivia Abtahi’s debut is as hilarious as it is heartfelt–a delightful tale where, amid the turmoil of high school friendships and crushes, being yourself is always the perfect way to be.

Red Tigress
By Amélie Wen Zhao
448 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525707837 | Delacorte Press
Ana Mikhailov is the only surviving member of the royal family of Cyrilia. She has no army, no title, and no allies, and now she must find a way to take back the throne or risk the brutal retribution of the empress. Morganya is determined to establish a new world order on the spilled blood of non-Affinites. Ana is certain that Morganya won’t stop until she kills them all. Ana’s only chance at navigating the dangerous world of her homeland means partnering with Ramson Quicktongue again. But the cunning crime lord has schemes of his own. For Ana to find an army, they must cross the Whitewaves to the impenetrable stone forts of Bregon. Only, no one can be certain what they will find there. A dark power has risen. Will revolution bring peace – or will it only paint the streets in more blood.

Renegade Flight
By Andrea Tang
320 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984835123 | Razorbill
Viola Park’s life is over. She’s gone from planning her future as a pilot-in-training to resigning herself to life on the ground. And it’s all because she made one tiny, not-altogether-legal maneuver on the prestigious GAN Academy’s entrance exam. It’s bad enough that she didn’t get into the Academy, but getting caught cheating? It’s probably the worst thing Vi could imagine. Still, there are perks that come with Vi’s family legacy at the school, and when Vi learns that recent pilot disappearances have left the Academy desperate for recruits, she does what any good Park would do – uses her connections to wiggle her way back in. But instead of matriculating with the regular class of future Peacekeepers, Vi is forced to enter as a probationary student, which means she’ll have to work twice as hard to prove herself worthy of a place in the cockpit of one of the legendary dragon mechs. Lucky for Vi, the Academy has set up a combat tournament for all students, and the prize is a guaranteed spot in the Peacekeeper corps. Unlucky for Vi, she’ll have to compete against her probie classmates, including Nicholas Lee, a mysterious boy prone to throwing Vi off her game. And as more Peacekeepers go missing, what starts out as a ploy to save her reputation turns into a fight for the future of Peacekeepers everywhere, and if Vi can’t master her mech combat skills, she might not survive the battle.

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.

Tell Me My Name
By Amy Reed
336 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593109724 | Dial BFYR
On wealthy Commodore Island, Fern is watching and waiting – for summer, for college, for her childhood best friend to decide he loves her. Then Ivy Avila lands on the island like a falling star. When Ivy shines on her, Fern feels seen. When they’re together, Fern has purpose. She glimpses the secrets Ivy hides behind her fame, her fortune, the lavish parties she throws at her great glass house, and understands that Ivy hurts in ways Fern can’t fathom. And soon, it’s clear Ivy wants someone Fern can help her get. But as the two pull closer, Fern’s cozy life on Commodore unravels: drought descends, fires burn, and a reckless night spins out of control. Everything Fern thought she understood – about her home, herself, the boy she loved, about Ivy Avila – twists and bends into something new. And Fern won’t emerge the same person she was. An enthralling, mind-altering fever dream, Tell Me My Name is about the cost of being a girl in a world that takes so much, and the enormity of what is regained when we take it back.

The Queen’s Secret
By Melissa De La Cruz
320 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525515944 | Putnam BFYR
Lilac’s birthright makes her the Queen of Renovia, and a forced marriage made her the Queen of Montrice. But being a ruler does not mean making the rules. For Lilac, taking the throne means giving up the opportunity to be with love of her life, the kingdom’s assassin, Caledon Holt. Worse, Cal is forced to leave the castle when a horrific set of magical attacks threatens Lilac’s sovereignty. Now Cal and Lilac will have to battle dark forces separately, even though being together is the only thing that’s ever saved them. In the riveting conclusion to Melissa De La Cruz’s fantasy duet, love, and magic are at war, and victory rests on a knife’s edge.

Coming Soon:

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.

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.

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.

Join Us for a HerStory Tea Time

Need some plans this long weekend? Join us for our first ever HerStory Tea Time on Monday, October 12 at 12pm PST/3pm EST! We’ll be chatting all things historical fiction with some incredible YA authors including Elizabeth Wein (The Enigma Game), Sherri L. Smith (The Blossom and the Firefly), Virginia Frances Schwartz (Among the Fallen), and Stacey Lee (The Downstairs Girl). Make sure to RSVP here to get the link!

The Enigma Game
By Elizabeth Wein
448 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780735265288 | Penguin Teen Canada
A German soldier risks his life to drop off the sought-after Enigma Machine to British Intelligence, hiding it in a pub in a small town in northeast Scotland, and unwittingly bringing together four very different people who decide to keep it to themselves. Louisa Adair, a young teen girl hired to look after the pub owner’s elderly, German-born aunt, Jane Warner, finds it but doesn’t report it. Flight-Lieutenant Jamie Beaufort-Stuart intercepts a signal but can’t figure it out. Ellen McEwen, volunteer at the local airfield, acts as the go-between and messenger, after Louisa involves Jane in translating. The planes under Jamie’s command seem charmed, as Jamie knows where exactly to go, while other squadrons suffer, and the four are loathe to give up the machine, even after Elisabeth Lind from British Intelligence arrives, even after the Germans start bombing the tiny town.

The Blossom and the Firefly
By Sherri L. Smith
320 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781524737900 | Putnam BFYR
Japan 1945. Taro is a talented violinist and a kamikaze pilot in the days before his first and only mission. He believes he is ready to die for his country . . . until he meets Hana. Hana hasn’t been the same since the day she was buried alive in a collapsed trench during a bomb raid. She wonders if it would have been better to have died that day . . . until she meets Taro. Here, with achingly beautiful prose, Smith weaves a tale of love in the face of death, of hope in the face of tragedy, set against a backdrop of the waning days of the Pacific War.

Among the Fallen
By Virginia Frances Schwartz
304 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823441020 | Holiday House
Though haunted by nightmarish flashbacks and withering in the miserable conditions of Tothill prison, an infamous Victorian workhouse, Orpha perseveres, doing what she can to befriend and protect the other girls imprisoned alongside her. She doesn’t speak about what happened – no one would listen. No one would believe her. But then a mysterious letter arrives, offering her a place at Urania cottage. This experimental home aims to rehabilitate so-called fallen women – many of them victims of sexual abuse, suffering not only the trauma of their experiences, but the blame and loss of reputation and livelihood. It sounds too good to be true – but with nowhere else to go, Orpha decides to take her chance. Soon she discovers her unknown savior is none other than Charles Dickens, whose writing deals extensively with the plight of the lower class, and whose friendship and guidance offers Orpha a new way to express herself. With the support of the other women of Urania and the promise of a real future, Orpha will have to confront the darkest parts of her past – and let go of her secrets.

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.

Putting the YA in FRIYAY: 5 Reasons to Read The Downstairs Girl

For National Hat Day on January 15th, we put the spotlight on Stacey Lee’s upcoming The Downstairs Girl and if you’re not already convinced you should read it based on the gorgeous cover, here are five more reasons to pick it up in August.

1. Features a Chinese-American girl in 1860s America

Protagonist Jo Kwan is independent and determined. Despite spending most of her time in the shadows, she slowly finds her way into the light.

2. Jo Kwan leads a double life

Jo spends her days working as a lady’s maid for the cruel daughter of one of Atlanta’s wealthiest men. But at night, she writes a newspaper advice column as “Dear Miss Sweetie”.

3. Swoony romance

Jo finds herself falling for her publisher’s handsome son, but she has to hide her true identity from him. Do we need to say more?

4. Stacey Lee is a founding member of We Need Diverse Books

In addition to being a critically acclaimed author, Stacey Lee works with WNDB to promote diverse literature to a young audience.

5. A fascinating insight into suffragists and the New South

There are very few YA novels that cover this particular time period, and Stacey has done extensive research to make sure her New South setting is as realistic as possible.

The Downstairs Girl comes out August 13th, 2019. Add it on Goodreads here.