Hello there! I’m Shealea, the girl who hardly ever shuts up. And speaking of, it’s that wonderful time of the year where I compile all the upcoming books that I’m most excited about and gently warn all of you that I’ll probably never shut up about them come next year. Or even earlier than that, if I’m totally honest. In simpler words, I’m here to share my most anticipated 2021 book releases!
There’s a running joke that readers tend to gush about the same five books that they love. (Raise your hand if you’re guilty of this, too.) But when it comes to upcoming titles that we want to get our hands on? The options seem to be endless. Trust me, I wouldn’t be able to select just five 2021 book releases to feature on my blog.
Without further ado, let’s dive into…
21 of my most anticipated 2021 book releases!
Rise of the Red Hand by Olivia Chadha
[ 19 January 2021 from Erewhon Books ]
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Set in a futuristic dystopian South Asia, a streetrat turned revolutionary and a disillusioned hacker son of a politician team up to take down a ruthlessly technocratic government that sacrifices its poorest citizens to maintain elite rule.
WHY I’M EXCITED: SFF with themes of environmentalism, classism, climate justice, and human greed are my newest obsession. And Olivia Chadha’s upcoming novel checks all my boxes. I’m expecting cyberpunk vibes and badassery!
A Pho Love Story by Loan Le
[ 09 February 2021 from Simon & Schuster ]
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: For years, the Mais and the Nguyens have been at odds, having owned competing, neighboring pho restaurants. Bao and Linh have avoided each other for most of their lives, but a sudden chance encounter leads to sparks flying.
WHY I’M EXCITED: Feuding families and “forbidden” romance in a contemporary setting? And with food at the heart of it all? I’m starving for a taste of this Vietnamese-American rom-com.
A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth
[ 23 February 2021 from Simon Pulse ]
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: For centuries, the Eight Courts of Folk have lived among us, concealed by magic and bound by law to do no harm to humans. This arrangement has long kept peace in the Courts — until a series of murders rocks the city of Toronto and threatens to expose faeries to the human world.
WHY I’M EXCITED: My high school years were consumed by my love for Julie Kagawa’s The Iron Fey series, and my gut is telling me that I’ll love A Dark and Hollow Star just as much. Also: murder mystery, urban fantasy setting, and queer faeries!!!
Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron
[ 02 March 2021 from Forever ]
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: When her father moves a Muslim bachelor across the hall in the hopes that she will marry him, Reena Manji is determined to prove him wrong. But when Reena’s career takes a nosedive, Nadim happily agrees to fake an engagement so they can enter a couples video cooking contest.
WHY I’M EXCITED: I thoroughly enjoyed Heron’s debut novel, and Accidentally Engaged sounds like my kind of rom-com. Prickly heroines, unreasonable families, fake engagements, and foodie content!
The Descent of the Drowned by Ana Lal Din
[ 15 March 2021 from White Tigress Press ]
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: In the struggle to protect the people they love and rebuild their identities, Roma’s and Leviathan’s destinies interlock as an immortal tyrant hunts an ancient treasure that will doom humankind.
WHY I’M EXCITED: I am so fascinated by the fact that this debut novel is set in a colonized Indo-Persian world and draws inspiration from Pre-Islamic Arabian mythology. Plus, that cover just screams intrigue!
Sugar and Spite by Gail D. Villanueva
[ 20 April 2021 from Scholastic ]
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Using her grandfather’s arbularyo magic, Jolina brews a batch of gayuma, a powerful love potion, to stop Claudine’s bullying. And it works! But magic always comes with a cost, and the price might just be too high.
WHY I’M EXCITED: That stunning cover (featuring two young Filipino girls!) is enough to have me screeching from the mountaintops. Sugar and Spite is my most anticipated middle-grade fantasy!
Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart
[ 20 April 2021 from HarperTeen ]
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Sworn enemies, two witches enter a precarious alliance to take down a mutual threat. But revenge is a bloody pursuit, and nothing is certain — except the lengths they will go to win this game.
WHY I’M EXCITED: I only know three things about this debut: (1) it has Black witches, (2) it’s a Jamaican-inspired fantasy, and (3) Joel absolutely swears that I’m going to love it. I’m very much inclined to agree.
Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee
[ 04 May 2021 from Quill Tree Books ]
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Noah Ramirez thinks he’s an expert on romance. He has to be for his popular blog, the Meet Cute Diary, a collection of trans happily ever afters. There’s just one problem — all the stories are fake.
WHY I’M EXCITED: A rom-com where a transgender teen finds love? Fake dating? Forced proximity? And said teen has a blog? Meet Cute Diary is a dream come true!
The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He
[ 04 May 2021 from Roaring Book Press ]
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: The story follows two young girls. Cee woke up on an abandoned island, with only a single memory: that she has a sister to find. Meanwhile, Kasey is a STEM prodigy who works for the eco-city, Earth’s last unpolluted place.
WHY I’M EXCITED: I’m pretty simple: I see a book with Joan He’s name on it, I need it like air. I’m already preparing myself for some amazing genre-bending and intense pain.
Son of the Storms by Suyi Davies Okungbowa
[ 11 May 2021 from Orbit Books ]
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: In the city of Bassa, Danso is a scholar who longs for a life beyond rigid family and political obligations. A way out presents itself when Lilong shows up wounded in his barn. She comes from the Nameless Islands — which, according to Bassa lore, don’t exist –and neither should the mythical magic of ibor she wields.
WHY I’M EXCITED: Ever since I read Tasha Suri’s Realm of Ash, I’ve been curious about scholarly protagonists in adult fantasy. Son of Storm promises a tale riddled with violent conquests, historical revisionism, and forbidden magic. It sounds glorious.
Happy Endings by Thien-Kim Lam
[ 18 May 2021 from Avon ]
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Trixie Nguyen is determined to make her sex toy business a success, proving to her traditional Vietnamese parents that she can succeed in a nontraditional career. She’s made a fresh start in Washington DC, and her first pop-up event is going well — until she runs into the ex who dumped her. With a Post-it note.
WHY I’M EXCITED: The double entendre in the title has me giggling madly. A sexy and steamy second-chance romance between a sex toy shop owner and a cute chef? It’s my ideal romance novel described in one sentence.
Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean
[ 25 May 2021 from Flatiron Books ]
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Tokyo Ever After follows Izumi Tanaka, a Japanese-American girl who lives in a mostly white California town. But when she discovers that her father is the Crown Prince of Japan, her life suddenly becomes a whirlwind.
WHY I’M EXCITED: I adored Emiko Jean’s Empress of All Seasons, but my faithful Princess Diaries-loving heart is telling me that Tokyo Ever After will instantly become my new obsession in 2021. I’m already in tears, just thinking about having this book in my hands.
Love and Other Natural Disasters by Misa Sugiura
[ 08 June 2021 from HarperTeen ]
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: When Nozomi Nagai pictured the ideal summer romance, a fake one wasn’t what she had in mind. That was before she met the perfect girl. Willow is gorgeous, glamorous, and…heartbroken? And when she enlists Nozomi to pose as her new girlfriend to make her ex jealous, Nozomi is a willing volunteer.
WHY I’M EXCITED: I’ve always been a sucker for the fake dating trope. But sapphic fake dating with queer women of color? Be right back, my heart is crying softly.
The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri
[ 08 June 2021 from Orbit Books ]
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: In a fantasy world inspired by the history and epics of India, a captive princess and a maidservant — in possession of forbidden magic — become unlikely allies on a treacherous journey to save their empire from the princess’s traitor brother.
WHY I’M EXCITED: Listen, after reading her first two books, I’m convinced that Tasha Suri is the queen of soft, slow-burn romance. And now that she’s releasing a book that has a sapphic slow-burn romance? I am beyond excited!
Gearbreakers by Zoe Hana Mikuta
[ 29 June 2021 from Feiwel & Friends ]
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: The shadow of Godolia’s tyrannical rule is spreading, aided by their giant mechanized weapons known as Windups. War and oppression are everyday constants for the people of the Badlands. Two girls on opposite sides of a war discover they’re fighting for a common purpose—and fall for each other.
WHY I’M EXCITED: A cyberpunk novel with mechas and mecha sword-fighting! Found family! Queer Asian girls! Enemies-to-lovers! I have astronomically high hopes for Gearbreakers, and I am so eager for its release.
She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan
[ 20 July 2021 from Tor Books ]
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: In a famine-stricken village on a dusty yellow plain, two children are given two fates. A boy, greatness. A girl, nothingness. But when the boy dies, the girl assumes his identity to enter a monastery and to stay hidden from her fate.
WHY I’M EXCITED: She Who Became the Sun is a fantasy reimagining of the rise of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty. Historical fantasy with queer Asian characters? It’s what we deserve!
How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao
[ 03 August 2021 from Bloomsbury YA ]
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Nancy Luo is shocked when her former best friend, Jamie Ruan, goes missing, and then is found dead. Nancy is even more shocked when word starts to spread that she and her friends are the prime suspects, thanks to “The Proctor,” someone anonymously incriminating them via the school’s social media app.
WHY I’M EXCITED: Honestly, I’m too much of a soft baby to read thrillers. But a YA thriller with intense dark academia vibes and Asian teens? Katie Zhao is about to make me fall in love with this genre.
A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee
[ 03 August 2021 from Delacorte Press ]
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: A Lesson in Vengeance is pitched as a dark, twisty, atmospheric thriller about a boarding school haunted by its history of witchcraft and two girls dangerously close to digging up the past.
WHY I’M EXCITED: Victoria Lee’s Feverwake duology still lives rent-free in my brain, and I have full faith that A Lesson in Vengeance is going to be darker, gayer, and even more explosive! I’m just buzzing with excitement.
Jade Fire Gold by June C.L. Tan
[ 02 November 2021 from HarperTeen ]
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: In order to save her grandmother from a cult of dangerous priests, a peasant girl cursed with the power to steal souls enters a tenuous alliance with an exiled prince bent on taking back the Dragon Throne.
WHY I’M EXCITED: I vaguely remember this debut being pitched as Dark Katara teaming up with Zuko. And you know what? I need that power duo in my life!
The Shaadi Scam by Lillie Vale
[ 2021 from Putnam ]
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Coming from Putnam in fall 2021, a romantic comedy about an Indian American woman who signs herself and her boyfriend up for a matchmaking website to prove to her meddling family that he’s her perfect match—but the site instead matches her with the man who once broke her heart.
WHY I’M EXCITED: Not much has been revealed about Lillie Vale’s sophomore novel. But just the idea of matchmaking gone wrong, a love triangle, and a second-chance romance in one book? I’m already sold.
Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao
[ 2021 from Penguin Teen ]
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Iron Widow follows an 18-year-old girl as she avenges her sister’s murder by an intensely patriarchal military system that pairs boys and girls up to pilot giant magical mecha based on creatures from East Asian myth (Nine-Tailed Fox, Moon Rabbit, etc.), but in which boy pilots are treated like celebrities, while girl pilots must serve as their concubines.
WHY I’M EXCITED: With a love triangle ending in a polyamorous relationship, Iron Widow is bound to break molds and stir up controversy. And in this house, we love to see it. Also: mechas, Asian women smashing the patriarchy, and revenge-driven plots!
Predicted Obsessions for 2021
Honestly, consolidating all my most anticipated book releases in just one blog post gets harder and harder each year. Especially as more marginalized authors earn book deals and are given the chance to publish their stories (yay!).
It’s a good thing that I plan on starting a monthly shout-out for 2021 book releases once the new year starts. With so many fantastic titles coming our way, I really want to do more in actively promoting them!
But aside from the challenge of narrowing down the titles I’m most looking forward to, I also think that ‘anticipated book releases’ lists are helpful in determining if your reading tastes have changed by the end of the year.
Personally, my lists from previous years had always been dominated by science fiction and fantasy books. In fact, it’s both bewildering and heartening to see that my love for the contemporary and romance genres is slowly resurfacing now, as evidenced by the books featured in this current list. Additionally, I have a few picks that aren’t from my usual preferred genres, such as mystery and thriller. In other words, it’s great to find reassurance that I haven’t been stagnating as a reader and that I’m still widening my range and curiosity.
Moreover, while I was writing this list of most anticipated 2021 book releases, I noticed that I tend to gravitate towards certain themes or tropes. Just for fun, I’ve enumerated my observations below. Here are my predicted obsessions for 2021!
- Cyberpunk and mecha elements
- Dark academia
- Fake dating/engagement
- Foodie romantic comedies
- Good ol’ genre-bending novels
- Odes to early or childhood favorites (see Princess Diaries and The Iron Fey)
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I’d love to hear from you!
🌻 Which 2021 book releases are you most anticipating? Did any of my picks make it to your list, too?
🌻 Have your reading tastes radically or subtly change this year? If yes, in what way?
🌻 What are your predicted obsessions for 2021? In other words, which themes and tropes do you see yourself getting addicted to next year?