Our favorites this month include a summer surprise for fans of The Hunger Games hungry for more, a propulsive debut about a gay teenager who can bring plants and animals back to life, and an unnerving work of psychological suspense.
Learn more about these and all of our picks for the Best Books of the Month.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
If you read The Hunger Games in one sitting, settle in for the long haul once more—because The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is nearly impossible to put down. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes takes place a decade after the war between the Districts and the Capitol, and even the "winning" side is still trying to recover. For the tenth anniversary, the Head Gamemaker brings in students from the Academy to act as a mentor to each of the tributes, and one of these students is 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow—President Snow, when we met him in The Hunger Games. Snow gets assigned the girl tribute from District 12, an underdog to be sure, but Lucy Gray Baird is her own flavor of Katniss—very different in style and personality, but no less compelling. You want her to succeed. And I felt the same about Snow, who, while still arrogant and entitled, finds himself questioning the purpose of the Games and the treatment of the tributes. There's so much I want to tell you about this novel, but I really want you to experience it all for yourself, because The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is incredibly exciting, thought-provoking, and relevant. Now, hurry up and read it because I’m dying to talk to someone about this book. —Seira Wilson
Boys of Alabama by Genevieve Hudson
When Max’s parents move the family from Germany to Alabama for a job in the auto industry, shy, gay Max embraces the South wholly: the breath-stealing heat, the intimacy of group prayer, the larger-than-life personalities, and the effortless friendship of the football team he joins. As Max’s relationship deepens with a femme boy named Pan, so does his fascination with a dangerous and charismatic local strain of Christianity. The adults are harboring as many secrets as the teenagers, and the book explores how emotional vulnerability and physical brutality each carry equal power to hurt. Simple sentences, subtly shifted diction, and the suppleness of point of view that comes from not using quotation marks make this story difficult to put down and genuinely unique. A beautifully inscribed invitation to see masculinity, the American South, and even God through fresh eyes, suggesting that what most defines us is what we celebrate and mourn. —Katy Ball
Take Me Apart by Sara Sligar
In Sligar’s moody and atmospheric debut novel, Kate Aitken has recently left her journalist job in New York under unhappy circumstances, prompting a move to her aunt’s house in a small Northern California town. Theo Brand, the grown son of famed photographer Miranda Brand—whose mysterious and sudden death still inspires town gossip—hires Kate to sort through his mother’s work and personal effects. As Kate untangles the ephemera of Miranda’s life, she uncovers a largely unknown public figure dealing with the pressures of career, marriage, and motherhood—all while herself becoming more entrenched in the lives of Theo and his two young children. This psychological thriller will make you slightly uncomfortable—in the way only the best thrillers do—and the reader is rewarded with a satisfying ending. A uniquely feminist twist on a well-known and loved genre. —Sarah Gelman
A summer surprise for Hunger Games fans hungry for more; a propulsive debut about a gay teenager who can bring plants and animals back to life; and an unnerving work of psychological suspense.