Most Anticipated 2023 Reads

2023 promises some fantastic YA reads by Black authors.

One of my most anticipated favorites comes from promising author Amber McBride, while another book has been on my TBR for ages.

With life being what it is, I can’t promise that I will get to all of these books. Nonetheless, I will do my best to write about 2023 Black YA reads, as well as some older books that I have been meaning to get to. Without further ado, here are my most anticipated Black YA reads for 2023. 

We Are All So Good at Smiling by Amber McBride

This is a book I heard about through the Twitter grapevine last year. The premise alone had me sold—a novel in verse telling the story of a Black hoodoo-practicing, fairy-tale-loving girl named Whimsy as she navigates clinical depression and a mysterious garden from her past. However, my anticipation for this book increased once I read the author’s previous book, Me, Moth (briefly reviewed here), which featured clinical depression from a different perspective.




Cool. Awkward. Black., edited by Karen Strong

This YA short story anthology is dedicated to Black nerds and features all sorts of subgenres, such as fantasy, sci-fi, and slice-of-life. I found out about this anthology on Twitter the same day We Are All So Good at Smiling was released. Having been a Black teen nerd turned Black nerdy adult, this anthology is totally up my alley.





As You Walk on By by Julian Winters 

Y’all know that I have been a Julian Winters fan from the moment he debuted with the book How To Be Remy Cameron (reviewed here). Imagine my surprise when I found out on Twitter that he has a new book coming out this year. Described as “The Breakfast Club meets Can’t Hardly Wait,” the book tells the story of seventeen-year-old Theo Wright as he seeks refuge in an empty bedroom during a house party following a promposal gone wrong. While there, he meets other teens who are also avoiding the party and learns he is not as alone in his troubles as he thinks.



Nothing Burns as Bright as You by Ashley Woodfolk

I will read almost any author if they do a novel-in-verse, and Ashley Woodfolk is no exception. Of course, it helps that I enjoyed one of her previous books, The Beauty That Remains (review here). This particular book came out last year, but I still want to try and get it if the publisher ever decides to support the worker’s union. Described as “an impassioned standalone tale of queer love, grief, and the complexity of female friendship,” the book tells the story of two girls troubled by a tumultuous history. 




Fate of Flames by Sarah Raughley

This book has been on my TBR for so long. I bought it after I saw a Twitter post describing it as “Pacific Rim meets Sailor Moon.” Part of the official synopsis is as follows:

Phantoms, massive beasts of nightmare, began terrorizing the world. At the same time, four girls—the Effigies—appeared, each with a unique power to control a classical element. Since then, they have protected the world from the Phantoms. At the death of one Effigy, another is chosen, pulled from her normal life into the never-ending battle.

When Maia unexpectedly becomes the next Fire Effigy, she resists her new calling. A quiet girl with few friends and almost no family, she was much happier to admire the Effigies from afar. Never did she imagine having to master her ability to control fire, to protect innocent citizens from the Phantoms, or to try bringing together the other three Effigies.

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.