Written by: Andrea Marks-Joseph
There’s some seriously atmospheric, unforgettable literature releasing this month! August’s most-anticipated list features two Young Adult novels set at mysterious boarding schools with possible links to witchcraft, a suspenseful ballet thriller from the author of Dare Me, and a Historical Noir story from the critically acclaimed author of Mexican Gothic.
This month also has three of my favourite book covers of the year: a Latinx fake-dating celebrity Romance, a Memoir from a man who hid his disability for over a decade, and a Middle Grade sports novel with a young Black girl at the centre. Also on the list is a joyous anthology that celebrates Black boyhood, and a Domestic Thriller about women who somehow seem to ‘have it all.’ Let’s dive right in!
1. The Husbands by Chandler Baker (3 August - Mystery, Thriller)
The Husbands is a novel that asks: to what lengths will a woman go for a little more help from her husband? It’s an intriguing Domestic Thriller with a sense of mystery, humor, and feminist fun. While house hunting in an exclusive suburban neighborhood, Nora meets a group of high-powered women whose husbands are enviably supportive. When she agrees to help with a resident's wrongful death case, she is pulled into the lives of those women, and finds there is something distinctly strange going on to ensure their secret to having it all. The novel has already been picked up for an on-screen adaptation, with Kristin Wiig to star!
2. A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee (3 August - Young Adult Thriller)
Said to be perfect for fans of Wilder Girls, this is an unsettling, atmospheric thriller set at a boarding school that has a haunting history of witchcraft. Ellis, a first year at Dalloway and prodigy novelist, asks Felicity, a returning student who just wants to get on with schoolwork, for help to uncover the much-whispered-about mystery of the five girls who died in their boarding house. A Lesson in Vengeance confronts grief, mental illness, and desire. It’s the perfect read for fans of dark academia, particularly if you love the idea of queering the genre.
3. The Turnout by Megan Abbott (3 August - Thriller)
There’s always been something dark and mesmerizing behind the beauty of ballet. Cinematic classics like Centre Stage and Black Swan, or the recently adapted novel for Netflix Tiny Pretty Things, have shown us that the competitive nature of ballet school is the perfect home for tales of shifting power dynamics, sisterhood, and secrets. The Turnout is “a sharp and strange dissection of family ties and sexuality, femininity and power” from the award-winning author of Dare Me. It has the pressure of the big annual performance, a suspicious accident, familial tension, and an interloper who threatens the school’s delicate balance. Megan Abbott captivates us with the drama, pain and prestige of ballet, brilliantly infusing it with the ambition, rage and desire she’s known for.
4. Like a Love Song by Gabriela Martins (3 August - Young Adult Romance)
Gabriela Martins’ debut novel is filled with all the fabulous fake-dating celebrity romance goodness we could dream of! This is a love story between Natalie, a chart-topping Brazilian pop star, and her PR-appointed fake boyfriend, a soft-hearted British indie film star. It’s got the fun, warm, rom-com vibe we will always need —with the added bonus of authentic Latinx representation, and a gorgeous illustrated cover complete with the perfect ballgown, red carpet steps and a boy wearing patterned socks!
5. Black Boy Joy edited by Kwame Mbalia (3 August - Middle Grade Anthology)
Anthologies are a great way to widen your world with bite-sized reading experiences: You can discover new authors, realize you enjoy a specific genre, and meet so many different characters. Written by seventeen bestselling Black male and non-binary authors, Black Boy Joy is a vibrant collection of stories, comics, and poems about “the power of joy and the wonders of Black boyhood.” The stories cover everything from picking out a fresh first-day-of-school outfit to saving the universe in an epic intergalactic race. This is the kind of book that would be an excellent back-to-school gift, and will hopefully find a home in many community and school libraries.
6. Blind Man’s Bluff: A Memoir by James Tate Hill (3 August - Memoir)
In addition to its brilliant cover which mimics the author’s level of eyesight, this book has the most perfect title: Blind Man’s Bluff tells the story of James Tate Hill, who shares with us all the ways he pretended not to be visually impaired. He risked his life every time he crossed a street, but continued to do so for fifteen years. James takes us through his life with family, friends, romantic relationships and schooling; covering both his past and present marriage, pop culture moments, and examining the motivations for his behaviour. Blind Man’s Bluff is said to be an emotional, unflinching, enjoyable, and ultimately optimistic novel. I expect it will be a thought-provoking read that will stay on my mind for a while.
7. Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (17 August - Historical Noir)
Silvia Moreno-Garcia follows up her critically-acclaimed, wildly popular novel Mexican Gothic with a story set in the politically-heightened Mexico of the 70s —a period of student protests, police corruption, and brutal violence. While there’s a focus on the political intrigue and a missing-person mystery, I’m most interested in the real-life details Moreno-Garcia has written into this novel: The popularity of Romance comics in Mexico at the time, the government's suppression of rock music, the fierce student activism, and the character who is a member of the paramilitary group the government used to kill that rebellion. The author has made an effort to point out that this is not gothic or speculative fiction in any way. Velvet Was the Night is categorically Noir, in the sense that it is deeply atmospheric, with lower-stakes and slower pacing; The kind of story to savour. I look forward to getting lost in it.
8. Fast Pitch by Nic Stone (31 August - Middle Grade Fiction)
Between the recent Euro Championship, the Olympics, and Ted Lasso, it feels like the whole world is connected over a love and fascination of sports and the community that builds around it. Fast Pitch continues the feeling that it’s always about more than ‘just winning the game.’ The novel follows Shenice, the 12-year-old captain of her all-Black softball team, as she learns about her family history, which distracts her from the championship. The story discusses race, social justice, and sportsmanship. It gives us the magic of teammates, second chances, and learning about leadership. Nic Stone is also one of the authors who wrote the coming-soon-to-Netflix book ‘Blackout’ which you can read about here.
9. The Witch Haven by Sasha Peyton Smith (31 August - Young Adult Fantasy)
The Witch Haven is the spellbinding story of seventeen-year-old Frances in 1911 New York City, who discovers she has magical powers while grieving the mysterious death of her brother. She suddenly finds herself at a school for witches, thrust into an otherworldly battle, while trying to uncover the truth of what happened to her brother. I love what the author wrote here about the role her grandmother played in the decision to disguise this magic school as a sanatorium. She ends by describing her novel as “a book about magic and the question of who gets to have real power, but it is also a book about the isolation of grief and the anger of teenage girls.”