Most Anticipated 2022 Reads
SLAY by Brittney Morris
Although this book came out in 2019, I waited far too long to get my hands on a copy. It tells the story of a teenaged Black girl game developer named Kiera Johnson and her game SLAY, a massive multiplayer online card battler game inspired by Black culture. Kiera’s identity as the game developer is kept secret until an unexpected tragedy brings the game into the news and a racist threatens to take Kiera to court.
Full disclosure: I finished this book in days because I found Kiera’s personal journey and the world of SLAY very engrossing as a Black non-binary femme gamer. Be on the lookout for my review of this book coming soon to The Afro YA.
The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow
Last year, I happened to nab a digital copy of this book on sale because its premise seemed up my alley. In short, a Black girl who loves books and an alien who loves music must work together to save the world. Set in a dystopian world controlled by aliens known as IIori, Ellie Baker maintains a secret library until she is discovered by an Illori commander. Although the commander is supposed to deliver Ellie to be executed, their secret love of pop music results in their bonding with Ellie, and the two of them decide to rebel against the IIori.
Books and music are in my top five favorite personal comforts, so how can I not read about people who love these things trying to save the world? Not to mention, the book’s cover is gorgeous.
Moonflower by Kacen Callender
Kacen Callender has been one of my favorite Black queer YA authors in recent years, and when I found out that they had a middle-grade book about a heavy topic that was personal to me, my interest was piqued. The novel stars a non-binary twelve-year-old named Moon who travels to the spirit world each night hoping to never return to the world of the living.
This novel is an allegory for depression and suicidal ideation, and Kacen Callender revealed in a Publisher’s Weekly article that it was partly inspired by his own experiences. Given that you’re never too young to experience depression, I am interested to see how Callender presents this experience through a child’s eyes.
StarLion by Leon Langford
Although I have written about this YA fantasy book elsewhere, I have yet to take the time to actually read it. The premise alone sounds exciting: a young boy named Jordan has the power to control gravity, but he gets arrested. Instead of going to jail, he decides to go undercover at superhero training camp featuring the Gods of Olympus. When he learns of a world-threatening plot, Jordan must join forces with other superheroes in training to stop it.
I have a soft spot for characters who don’t act so heroically when they first start out, so Jordan piques my interest. Did I mention the book’s cover looks fun and exciting?
Right Where I Left You by Julian Winters
A year or so ago, I heard that author Julian Winters was working on a queer Black YA book set at a fictional version of Comic-Con. This book turned out to be Right Where I Left You, and based on this premise and my enjoyment of Winters’s previous books, I am excited for this. Right Where I Left You tells the story of two queer boys of color, Isaac and Diego, who are best friends. Isaac tries to get a pair of passes to Legend Con to spend time with Diego before college, but things don’t go as planned when Isaac’s old crush Davi shows up.
Not only am I curious about how Isaac and Diego manage to have a good time despite not getting convention passes, I’m also excited to see how their relationship will change when one of them seems to start catching feelings for the other. This is a geeky friends-to-lovers book that I have been dying to read, so I will definitely be on the lookout for it.
The Afro YA promotes black young adult authors and YA books with black characters, especially those that influence Pennington, an aspiring YA author who believes that black YA readers need diverse books, creators, and stories so that they don’t have to search for their experiences like she did.
Latonya Pennington is a poet and freelance pop culture critic. Their freelance work can also be found at PRIDE, Wear Your Voice magazine, and Black Sci-fi. As a poet, they have been published in Fiyah Lit magazine, Scribes of Nyota, and Argot magazine among others.