Anyone who knows me knows I’m a huge Taylor Swift fan, and in honor of her birthday, and 2020 coming to an end, I wanted to take the time to combine two of my loves: Taylor Swift, and books! So without further ado, here are thirty one book recommendations for 2021 releases based off of your favorite Taylor Swift album. This list also doubles as a list of my most anticipated reads of 2021. I haven’t read most of these, and so I’m mostly going off of the synopsis and any reviews that are already out!
I’m also doing a giveaway over on my Instagram, where I’ll be picking two winners (one international, one US based) to win a preorder of any book I’ve mentioned here, as well as a Taylor Swift bookmark from carlasalley on Etsy!
- ✩: I’ve read an ARC of this!
- ♡: Author’s debut!
To quickly access an era, and the books mentioned:
- Taylor Swift (Clues to the Universe, Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating, You Have a Match )
- Fearless (Happily Ever Afters, Kisses and Croissants, Love and Other Natural Disasters, Tokyo Ever After)
- Speak Now (The Meet-Cute Project, Once Upon a Quinceañera, A Taste for Love, XOXO)
- Red (Last Chance Books, Perfect on Paper, You’ve Reached Sam)
- 1989 (I Think I Love You, Meet Cute Diary, Like Home, People We Meet on Vacation)
- Reputation (Ace of Spades, Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry, How We Fall Apart)
- Lover (Counting Down with You, Like a Love Song, Rise to the Sun)
- Folklore (Honey Girl, A Lesson in Vengeance, One Last Stop)
- Evermore (The Chosen and the Beautiful, Down Comes the Night, As Far as You’ll Take Me, Lost in the Never Woods)
Clues to the Universe by Christina Li ♡ (January 12, 2021)
I first heard about Clues to the Universe on Twitter a few weeks ago, when I came across some tweets about how Clues to the Universe had destroyed people emotionally. I’m always a sucker for anything that makes me sad, and Clues to the Universe appears to do just that. The description reminds me so much of the debut era; just trying to get a handle on everything when your world has turned upside down, trying to figure out who you are, all while still having that youthful innocence.
The only thing Rosalind Ling Geraghty loves more than watching NASA launches with her dad is building rockets with him. When he dies unexpectedly, all Ro has left of him is an unfinished model rocket they had been working on together.
Benjamin Burns doesn’t like science, but he can’t get enough of Spacebound, a popular comic book series. When he finds a sketch that suggests that his dad created the comics, he’s thrilled. Too bad his dad walked out years ago, and Benji has no way to contact him.
Though Ro and Benji were only supposed to be science class partners, the pair become unlikely friends: Benji helps Ro finish her rocket, and Ro figures out a way to reunite Benji and his dad. But Benji hesitates, which infuriates Ro. Doesn’t he realize how much Ro wishes she could be in his place?
As the two face bullying, grief, and their own differences, Benji and Ro must try to piece together clues to some of the biggest questions in the universe.
Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar (May 25, 2021)
Abida Jaigirdar’s The Henna Wars was one of my favorite reads this year. I buddy read it with some friends, and was moved to tears multiple times. When I heard about Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating, I instantly knew it’d be one of my most anticipated reads of 2021. After all, fake dating and a sapphic relationship? What more could I ask for? The description alone gives me The Outside, Tied Together with a Smile, and I’m Only Me When I’m With You vibes, and I can’t wait to read about Hani and Ishu’s journey.
Everyone likes Humaira “Hani” Khan—she’s easy going and one of the most popular girls at school. But when she comes out to her friends as bisexual, they invalidate her identity, saying she can’t be bi if she’s only dated guys. Panicked, Hani blurts out that she’s in a relationship…with a girl her friends absolutely hate—Ishita “Ishu” Dey. Ishu is the complete opposite of Hani. She’s an academic overachiever who hopes that becoming head girl will set her on the right track for college. But Ishita agrees to help Hani, if Hani will help her become more popular so that she stands a chance of being elected head girl.
Despite their mutually beneficial pact, they start developing real feelings for each other. But relationships are complicated, and some people will do anything to stop two Bengali girls from achieving happily ever after.
You Have a Match by Emma Lord ✩ (January 12, 2021)
I absolutely loved Emma Lord’s first book, Tweet Cute, and so words can’t even describe how excited I was for You Have a Match. You Have a Match is everything that the debut era is harboring feelings for your best friend and wondering if you should act on them, while trying to figure out where you fit in, learning that the people who are in your life at a certain moment might not be there forever, & your place in this world. You Have a Match is a love story, yes, but it’s not just about Abby and Leo (who, might I add are the perfect example of a well-written childhood friends to lovers dynamic), or Savvy and [redacted], but more so the love that we have for where we grew up, for the people we know – our families, and our friends, and what makes it home. Caitlyn recently reviewed You Have a Match recently, and you can read her review here!
When Abby signs up for a DNA service, it’s mainly to give her friend and secret love interest, Leo, a nudge. After all, she knows who she is already: Avid photographer. Injury-prone tree climber. Best friend to Leo and Connie…although ever since the B.E.I. (Big Embarrassing Incident) with Leo, things have been awkward on that front.
But she didn’t know she’s a younger sister.
When the DNA service reveals Abby has a secret sister, shimmery-haired Instagram star Savannah Tully, it’s hard to believe they’re from the same planet, never mind the same parents—especially considering Savannah, queen of green smoothies, is only a year and a half older than Abby herself.
The logical course of action? Meet up at summer camp (obviously) and figure out why Abby’s parents gave Savvy up for adoption. But there are complications: Savvy is a rigid rule-follower and total narc. Leo is the camp’s co-chef, putting Abby’s growing feelings for him on blast. And her parents have a secret that threatens to unravel everything.
But part of life is showing up, leaning in, and learning to fit all your awkward pieces together. Because sometimes, the hardest things can also be the best ones.
Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant (January 5, 2021) ♡
Happily Ever Afters is a make-your-own-fairytale, and as mentioned earlier, anything with fairytales I automatically associate with Fearless. But even if the title wasn’t “Happily Ever After”, I’d still strongly associate it with Fearless. From Fearless to Fifteen, the You Belong with Me music video (which reminds me of how Sam is described), Happily Ever After simply reminds me of the Fearless era.
Sixteen-year-old Tessa Johnson has never felt like the protagonist in her own life. She’s rarely seen herself reflected in the pages of the romance novels she loves. The only place she’s a true leading lady is in her own writing—in the swoony love stories she shares only with Caroline, her best friend and #1 devoted reader.
When Tessa is accepted into the creative writing program of a prestigious art school, she’s excited to finally let her stories shine. But when she goes to her first workshop, the words are just…gone. Fortunately, Caroline has a solution: Tessa just needs to find some inspiration in a real-life love story of her own. And she’s ready with a list of romance novel-inspired steps to a happily ever after. Nico, the brooding artist who looks like he walked out of one of Tessa’s stories, is cast as the perfect Prince Charming.
But as Tessa checks off each item off Caroline’s list, she gets further and further away from herself. She risks losing everything she cares about—including the surprising bond she develops with sweet Sam, who lives across the street. She’s well on her way to having her own real-life love story, but is it the one she wants, after all?
Kisses and Croissants by Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau ✩ (April 6, 2021)
Kisses and Croissants just simply has to be Fearless. Fearless is all about figuring out who you are once you’ve achieved your dreams, to learning who you are once you’ve moved out of your hometown, without your parents – which is what Mia’s doing for the first time in her life. Not to mention, the romantic setting of Paris, which is where the majority of Kisses and Croissants takes place, simply fits the vibes of Fearless perfectly.
Sixteen-year-old Mia, an American girl at an elite summer ballet program, has six weeks to achieve her dreams: to snag an audition with one of the world’s best ballet companies. But there’s more to Paris than ballet–especially when a charming French boy, Louis, wants to be her tour guide–and the pair discover the city has a few mysteries up its sleeve.
Love and Other Natural Disasters by Misa Sugiura (June 8, 2021) ♡
Love and Other Natural Disasters reminds me of Fearless, with a sweet summer romance, paired with trying to prove that you’re better than a stand-in. Songs like You Belong with Me, Untouchable, and Hey Stephen instantly come to mind. Fake dating is one of my favorite tropes, and I cannot wait to read Love and Other Natural Disasters next summer.
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.
Because Nozomi has a master plan of her own: one to show Willow she’s better than a stand-in, and turn their fauxmance into something real. But as the lies pile up, it’s not long before Nozomi’s schemes take a turn toward disaster…and maybe a chance at love she didn’t plan for.
Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean (May 25, 2021)
Tokyo Ever After gives me such strong Fearless vibes, and that might just be because I strongly associate Fearless with fairytales. With songs like Superstar, Love Story, and lyrics such as “this ain’t a fairytale, I’m gonna find someone someday who might actually treat me well, this is a big world, that was a small town”, how could I not associate Tokyo Ever After with Fearless? I got such strong The Princess Diaries vibes from this synopsis (Meg Cabot’s books were a staple of my childhood) and instantly had to add it to my TBR once I saw it.
Izumi Tanaka has never really felt like she fit in—it isn’t easy being Japanese American in her small, mostly white, northern California town. Raised by a single mother, it’s always been Izumi—or Izzy, because “It’s easier this way”—and her mom against the world. But then Izzy discovers a clue to her previously unknown father’s identity…and he’s none other than the Crown Prince of Japan. Which means outspoken, irreverent Izzy is literally a princess.
In a whirlwind, Izzy travels to Japan to meet the father she never knew and discover the country she always dreamed of. But being a princess isn’t all ball gowns and tiaras. There are conniving cousins, a hungry press, a scowling but handsome bodyguard who just might be her soulmate, and thousands of years of tradition and customs to learn practically overnight.
Izzy soon finds herself caught between worlds, and between versions of herself—back home, she was never “American” enough, and in Japan, she must prove she’s “Japanese” enough. Will Izumi crumble under the weight of the crown, or will she live out her fairytale, happily ever after?
The Meet-Cute Project by Rhiannon Richardson (January 12, 2021) ✩♡
The Meet-Cute Project is one of the cutest books I’ve read so far, and I’m incredibly excited for it to be released. While there are some adorable meet-cutes and romantic moments in The Meet-Cute Project, there’s also a lot of conversations about growing up (Never Grow Up, anyone?) and weddings — making Speak Now the perfect album for it. There’s this youthful innocence and hope that only comes from “Old Taylor”, that also radiates through The Meet-Cute Project.
Mia’s friends love rom-coms. Mia hates them. They’re silly, contrived, and not at all realistic. Besides, there are more important things to worry about—like how to handle living with her bridezilla sister, Sam, who’s never appreciated Mia, and surviving junior year juggling every school club offered and acing all of her classes.
So when Mia is tasked with finding a date to her sister’s wedding, her options are practically nonexistent.
Mia’s friends, however, have an idea. It’s a little crazy, a little out there, and a lot inspired by the movies they love that Mia begrudgingly watches too.
Mia just needs a meet-cute.
Once Upon a Quinceañera by Monica Gomez-Hira (March 2, 2021) ✩
Once Upon a Quinceañera is giving me major Speak Now vibes. Ball gowns instantly make me think of Enchanted, but working with a deeply regrettably ex? That’s Haunted, The Story of Us, Last Kiss, and If This Were a Movie right there. I can’t wait to find out more about what happened between Carmen and Mauro, and hopefully Ariana will learn to mellow out a bit.
Carmen Aguilar just wants to make her happily ever after come true. Except apparently “happily ever after” for Carmen involves being stuck in an unpaid summer internship! All she has to do is perform! In a ball gown! During the summer. In Miami.
Fine. Except that Carmen’s company is hired for her spoiled cousin Ariana’s over the top quinceañera.
And of course, her new dance partner at work is none other than Mauro Reyes, Carmen’s most deeply regrettable ex.
If Carmen is going to move into the future she wants, she needs to leave the past behind. And if she can manage dancing in the blistering heat, fending off Mauro’s texts, and stopping Ariana from ruining her own quinceañera Carmen might just get that happily ever after after all.
A Taste for Love by Jennifer Yen (February 2, 2021) ♡
The minute I saw A Taste of Love described as The Bachelor meets Pride and Prejudice meets The Great British Bake-Off, I added it to my TBR immediately. After all, two of my guilty pleasures, and a retelling of one of my favorite classics? Count me in. There’s something about A Taste for Love that reminds me of Speak Now. I’m sensing some The Story of Us vibes, mixed with some Never Grow Up, some Innocent and some Enchanted vibes.
To her friends, high school senior Liza Yang is nearly perfect. Smart, kind, and pretty, she dreams big and never shies away from a challenge. But to her mom, Liza is anything but. Compared to her older sister Jeannie, Liza is stubborn, rebellious, and worst of all, determined to push back against all of Mrs. Yang’s traditional values, especially when it comes to dating.
The one thing mother and daughter do agree on is their love of baking. Mrs. Yang is the owner of Houston’s popular Yin & Yang Bakery. With college just around the corner, Liza agrees to help out at the bakery’s annual junior competition to prove to her mom that she’s more than her rebellious tendencies once and for all. But when Liza arrives on the first day of the bake-off, she realizes there’s a catch: all of the contestants are young Asian American men her mother has handpicked for Liza to date.
The bachelorette situation Liza has found herself in is made even worse when she happens to be grudgingly attracted to one of the contestants; the stoic, impenetrable, annoyingly hot James Wong. As she battles against her feelings for James, and for her mother’s approval, Liza begins to realize there’s no tried and true recipe for love.
XOXO by Axie Oh (July 13, 2021) ♡
Speak Now was the first album to come to mind for XOXO. Jaewoo being “the kind of boy who would uproot her careful plans” instantly reminded me of “you made a rebel of a careless man’s careful daughter” and “the way you move is like a full on rainstorm / and I’m a house of cards / you’re the kind of reckless that should send me running / but I kinda know that I won’t get far”.
Cello prodigy Jenny has one goal: to get into a prestigious music conservatory. When she meets mysterious, handsome Jaewoo in her uncle’s Los Angeles karaoke bar, it’s clear he’s the kind of boy who would uproot her careful plans. But in a moment of spontaneity, she allows him to pull her out of her comfort zone for one unforgettable night of adventure…before he disappears without a word.
Three months later, when Jenny and her mother arrive in South Korea to take care of her ailing grandmother, she’s shocked to discover that Jaewoo is a student at the same elite arts academy where she’s enrolled for the semester. And he’s not just any student. He’s a member of one of the biggest K-pop bands in the world—and he’s strictly forbidden from dating.
When a relationship means throwing Jenny’s life off the path she’s spent years mapping out, she’ll have to decide once and for all just how much she’s willing to risk for love.
Last Chance Books by Kelsey Rodkey (May 18, 2021) ♡
I actually get some Red vibes from Last Chance Books! More specifically, I Knew You Were Trouble comes to mind when I think of falling in love with someone that you shouldn’t be in love with, and doing it anyways — someone who’s competition. I could also see Begin Again, and Everything Has Changed applying to Madeline and Jasper!
Don’t you just love the smell of old books in the morning?
Madeline Moore does. Books & Moore, the musty bookstore her family has owned for generations, is where she feels most herself. Nothing is going to stop her from coming back after college to take over the store from her beloved aunt.
Nothing, that is—until a chain bookstore called Prologue opens across the street and threatens to shut them down.
Madeline sets out to demolish the competition, but Jasper, the guy who works over at Prologue, seems intent on ruining her life. Not only is he taking her customers, he has the unbelievable audacity to be… extremely cute.
But that doesn’t matter. Jasper is the enemy and he will be destroyed. After all—all’s fair in love and (book) wars.
Perfect on Paper by Sophie Gonzales ✩ (March 9, 2021)
Perfect on Paper was one of my favorite 2021 ARCs that I’ve read this year, and I’m incredibly excited for it to come out next March. Without giving too much away, Perfect on Paper reminded me of 22 (“happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time”), of Begin Again, and of Holy Ground most of all, but I think there can be arguments made for most of Red.
Her advice, spot on. Her love life, way off.
• Can give you the solution to any of your relationship woes―for a fee.
• Uses her power for good. Most of the time.
• Really cannot stand Alexander Brougham.
• Has maybe not the best judgement when it comes to her best friend, Brooke…who is in love with someone else.
• Does not appreciate being blackmailed.
However, when Brougham catches her in the act of collecting letters from locker 89―out of which she’s been running her questionably legal, anonymous relationship advice service―that’s exactly what happens. In exchange for keeping her secret, Darcy begrudgingly agrees to become his personal dating coach―at a generous hourly rate, at least. The goal? To help him win his ex-girlfriend back.
Darcy has a good reason to keep her identity secret. If word gets out that she’s behind the locker, some things she’s not proud of will come to light, and there’s a good chance Brooke will never speak to her again.
Okay, so all she has to do is help an entitled, bratty, (annoyingly hot) guy win over a girl who’s already fallen for him once? What could go wrong?
You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao (2021) ♡
Red is one of my favorite albums, and it’s a pretty accepted fact that Red is Taylor’s most heart-breaking album. While we don’t have too much information about You’ve Reached Sam just yet, you can’t tell me that songs like “Sad Beautiful Tragic” and lyrics like “I can’t say hello to you and risk another goodbye” don’t fit You’ve Reached Sam perfectly. I’m ready to be heartbroken.
Heartbroken after her boyfriend’s death, Julie calls him to hear his voicemail—but he picks up. It’s their second chance at goodbye, but the connection’s temporary. The longer they talk, the more impossible it is to let him go.
I Think I Love You by Auriane Desombre (March 2, 2021) ♡
Enemies to friends to lovers, with a film festival at stake — How is this not 1989? 1989 is quite literally the enemies-to-friends-to-lovers album, with songs like Bad Blood, You are in Love, I Wish You Would, and I cannot wait to read I Think I Love You, for the pining, and to see who ends up winning the first-prize trip to the film festival.
Arch-nemeses Emma, a die-hard romantic, and more-practical minded Sophia find themselves competing against one another for a coveted first-prize trip to a film festival in Los Angeles . . . what happens if their rivalry turns into a romance?
Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee (May 4, 2021) ♡
When I saw this utterly adorable fake Netflix trailer retweeted on my timeline, I was so hyped — I mean, fake dating, platonic ships, and hate-to-love? I feel like Meet Cute Diary reminds me of “we’re young and we’re reckless/we’ll take this way too far/it’ll leave you breathless/or with a nasty scar” from Blank Space, and “we’re a crooked love in a straight line down/makes you wanna run and hide/but it made us turn right back around” from 1989, especially with the common themes of deception, love, and finding yourself.
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. What started as the fantasies of a trans boy afraid to step out of the closet has grown into a beacon of hope for trans readers across the globe.
When a troll exposes the blog as fiction, Noah’s world unravels. The only way to save the Diary is to convince everyone that the stories are true, but he doesn’t have any proof. Then Drew walks into Noah’s life, and the pieces fall into place: Drew is willing to fake-date Noah to save the Diary. But when Noah’s feelings grow beyond their staged romance, he realizes that dating in real life isn’t quite the same as finding love on the page.
In this charming novel by Emery Lee, Noah will have to choose between following his own rules for love or discovering that the most romantic endings are the ones that go off script.
Like Home by Louisa Onomé (February 23, 2021) ♡
I’m a huge musical theatre fan, and when I saw there was a book with In the Heights as its comparative title, I was immediately stoked! Like Home reminds me of 1989 for many reasons, and I’m really getting Out of the Woods, Shake it Off, and Wildest Dreams vibes from it.
Chinelo, or Nelo as her best friend Kate calls her, is all about her neighborhood Ginger East. She loves its chill vibe, ride-or-die sense of community, and her memories of growing up there. Ginger East isn’t what it used to be, though. After a deadly incident at the local arcade, all her closest friends moved away, except for Kate. But as long as they have each other, Nelo’s good.
Only, Kate’s parents’ corner store is vandalized, leaving Nelo shaken to her core. The police and the media are quick to point fingers, and soon more of the outside world descends on Ginger East with promises to “fix” it. Suddenly, Nelo finds herself in the middle of a drama unfolding on a national scale.
Worse yet, Kate is acting strange. She’s pushing Nelo away at the exact moment they need each other most. Nelo’s entire world is morphing into something she hates, and she must figure out how to get things back on track or risk losing everything—and everyone—she loves.
People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry (May 11, 2021)
1989, with its crop tops, high waisted skirts, glitter and soft dreamlike state remind me of People We Meet on Vacation. After reading Emily Henry’s debut, Beach Read, earlier this year, I was incredibly excited to hear that Emily Henry was releasing another book next year — People We Meet on Vacation. I’m incredibly curious to find out what happened two years ago to make these two best friends stop talking, and equally just as interested in this friends-to-lovers relationship. Can you say You are in Love, New Romantics, and Out of the Woods?
Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart–she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown–but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.
Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since.
Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together–lay everything on the table, make it alright. Miraculously, he agrees.
Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?
Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé (June 10, 2021) ♡
I’m a sucker for dark academia, and when I saw Ace of Spades described as Gossip Girl meets Get Out, I immediately knew I had to put it on my TBR. (I will say, Gossip Girl is the blueprint for dark academia, and no I don’t take any criticism). And what better album to associate Ace of Spades with than reputation? After all, reputation focuses on public perception, secrets, innermost vulnerability, fame and gossip, and Ace of Spades seems like it’ll do the same – all while exploring the barriers Black students face in academia.
Welcome to Niveus Private Academy, where money paves the hallways, and the students are never less than perfect. Until now. Because anonymous texter, Aces, is bringing two students’ dark secrets to light. Talented musician Devon buries himself in rehearsals, but he can’t escape the spotlight when his private photos go public. Head girl Chiamaka isn’t afraid to get what she wants, but soon everyone will know the price she has paid for power. Someone is out to get them both. Someone who holds all the aces. And they’re planning much more than a high-school game…
Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney (May 4, 2021) ♡
Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry seems to be everything that reputation is. With the premise of an anonymous account exposing Quinn’s secret lists, and forcing her to face her fears, I’m reminded of the Why She Disappeared poems that accompanied reputation – lines like “May your heart remain breakable But never by the same hand twice” And even louder: “without your past, you could never have arrived- so wondrously and brutally, by design or some violent, exquisite happenstance …here. and in the death of her reputation, she felt truly alive” instantly came to mind when I looked at the synopsis for Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry. Not to mention, reputation follows Taylor’s journey as she sheds the reputation given to her from the media, finds herself, and her love — similar to how Quinn does.
Quinn keeps lists of everything—from the days she’s ugly cried, to “Things That I Would Never Admit Out Loud,” to all the boys she’d like to kiss. Her lists keep her sane. By writing her fears on paper, she never has to face them in real life. That is, until her journal goes missing…
An anonymous account posts one of her lists on Instagram for the whole school to see and blackmails her into facing seven of her greatest fears, or else her entire journal will go public. Quinn doesn’t know who to trust. Desperate, she teams up with Carter Bennett—the last known person to have her journal—in a race against time to track down the blackmailer.
Together, they journey through everything Quinn’s been too afraid to face, and along the way, Quinn finds the courage to be honest, to live in the moment, and to fall in love.
How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao (August 3, 2021)
How We Fall Apart is another highly anticipated read for me. It screams of Pretty Little Liars, One of Us is Lying, Gossip Girl, and all of the other mystery-thrillers that made up my childhood. And once again, How We Fall Apart completely has reputation vibes. Just look up the reputation prologue and tell me it doesn’t remind you of How We Fall Apart – especially “We think we know someone, but the truth is that we only know the version of them that they have chosen to show us.”
When Nancy Luo’s former best friend Jamie Ruan, the top ranked junior at Sinclair Prep, goes missing, Nancy is shocked. She’s even more shocked when Jamie is found dead.
The police suspect murder, and Nancy and her three friends become the prime suspects-thanks to The Proctor, someone set on publicly incriminating them via the school’s social media app. The quartet used to be Jamie’s closest friends – and she knew dangerous secrets about each of them that could ruin their reputations as the other top- ranking students. For Nancy, the stakes are even higher, because unlike her wealthy friends, she could lose her full ride scholarship, too.
As the group struggles to clear their names while maintaining their perfect GPAS, they race to uncover Jamie’s true killer-before the Proctor exposes all of their darkest secrets. But Nancy can’t help but suspect that one of her friends is lying. Or is there a missing piece in her own memory that could expose the truth-not just about Jamie’s fate, but also about herself?
Counting Down with You by Tashie Bhuyian (May 4 2021) ♡
I’m getting major Lover vibes from the Counting Down with You cover! And just from this description, I feel like Cruel Summer is going to be its anthem. I mean, fake dating with a bad boy? Tell me that isn’t “I love you ain’t that the worst thing you’ve ever heard” in a lyric.
How do you make one month last a lifetime?
Karina Ahmed has a plan. Keep her head down, get through high school without a fuss, and follow her parents’ rules—even if it means sacrificing her dreams. When her parents go abroad to Bangladesh for four weeks, Karina expects some peace and quiet. Instead, one simple lie unravels everything.
Karina is my girlfriend.
Tutoring the school’s resident bad boy was already crossing a line. Pretending to date him? Out of the question. But Ace Clyde does everything right—he brings her coffee in the mornings, impresses her friends without trying, and even promises to buy her a dozen books (a week) if she goes along with his fake-dating facade. Though Karina agrees, she can’t help but start counting down the days until her parents come back. T-minus twenty-eight days until everything returns to normal—but what if Karina no longer wants it to?
Like A Love Song by Gabriela Martins (August 3, 2021) ♡
I was actually talking to Gabhi when I got the idea for this post! Like a Love Song is one of my most anticipated releases, and she told me that Lover was one of the albums that she’d listened to while writing Like a Love Song. Like a Love Song is Gabhi’s debut, and one that I’ve been hyped for ever since I came across Gabhi’s notion pages for Nati and Will. Fake dating between a pop-star and an indie film star? What else could I ask for?
Fake boyfriend. Real heartbreak?
Natalie is living her dream: topping the charts and setting records as a Brazilian pop star…until she’s dumped spectacularly on live television. Not only is it humiliating—it could end her career.
Her PR team’s desperate plan? A gorgeous yet oh-so-fake boyfriend. Nati reluctantly agrees, but William is not what she expected. She was hoping for a fierce bad boy—not a soft-hearted British indie film star. While she fights her way back to the top with a sweet and surprisingly swoon-worthy boy on her arm, she starts to fall for William—and realizes that maybe she’s the biggest fake of them all. Can she reclaim her voice and her heart?
Rise to the Sun by Leah Johnson (July 6, 2021)
I love books that are set in a specific number of days, and after reading – and loving – Leah Johnson’s debut, You Should See Me in a Crown, Rise to the Sun instantly shot to my most anticipated reads. I’m really interested to see how Olivia & Toni’s journeys intertwine! The concept of a music festival immediately brought to mind Loverfest (or I guess, the idea of Loverfest, since Loverfest was an entire era ago, and folklovermore fest is more likely to happen now), but I was also reminded of Cornelia Street, Daylight, and It’s Nice to Have a Friend from this description.
Three days. Two girls. One life-changing music festival.
Toni is grieving the loss of her roadie father and needing to figure out where her life will go from here — and she’s desperate to get back to loving music. Olivia is a hopeless romantic whose heart has just taken a beating (again) and is beginning to feel like she’ll always be a square peg in a round hole — but the Farmland Music and Arts Festival is a chance to find a place where she fits.
The two collide and it feels like something like kismet when a bond begins to form. But when something goes wrong and the festival is sent into a panic, Olivia and Toni will find that they need each other (and music) more than they ever imagined.
Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers (February 23, 2021) ♡
I haven’t really read books with the married in Vegas trope, so I’m incredibly excited for Honey Girl! I think fleeing and finding home in someone is very much a folklore album, especially when you consider lyrics like “I think I’ve seen this film before so I’m leaving out the side door” from exile and “i’m setting off, but not without my muse, no, not without you” from the lakes, and for that, I’m pairing Honey Girl with folklore.
With her newly completed PhD in astronomy in hand, twenty-eight-year-old Grace Porter goes on a girls’ trip to Vegas to celebrate. She’s a straight A, work-through-the-summer certified high achiever. She is not the kind of person who goes to Vegas and gets drunkenly married to a woman whose name she doesn’t know…until she does exactly that.
This one moment of departure from her stern ex-military father’s plans for her life has Grace wondering why she doesn’t feel more fulfilled from completing her degree. Staggering under the weight of her father’s expectations, a struggling job market and feelings of burnout, Grace flees her home in Portland for a summer in New York with the wife she barely knows.
In New York, she’s able to ignore all the annoying questions about her future plans and falls hard for her creative and beautiful wife, Yuki Yamamoto. But when reality comes crashing in, Grace must face what she’s been running from all along—the fears that make us human, the family scars that need to heal and the longing for connection, especially when navigating the messiness of adulthood.
A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee (August 3, 2021)
While it’s easy to immediately attribute anything dark academia to reputation, I actually think A Lesson in Vengeance is actually more folklore than reputation. After all, ivy-covered campus, and haunted dormitories reminds me of this almost-but-not-quite preppy aesthetic that folklore carries. folklore was a product of isolation, and a product of reflecting, and that’s exactly what Felicity has to do — face the Dalloway darkness, and the darkness in herself — this is me trying, my tears ricochet, and mirrorball, anyone?
Felicity Morrow is back at Dalloway School.
Perched in the Catskill mountains, the centuries-old, ivy-covered campus was home until the tragic death of her girlfriend. Now, after a year away, she’s returned to graduate. She even has her old room in Godwin House, the exclusive dormitory rumored to be haunted by the spirits of five Dalloway students—girls some say were witches. The Dalloway Five all died mysteriously, one after another, right on Godwin grounds.
Witchcraft is woven into Dalloway’s history. The school doesn’t talk about it, but the students do. In secret rooms and shadowy corners, girls convene. And before her girlfriend died, Felicity was drawn to the dark. She’s determined to leave that behind her now; all Felicity wants is to focus on her senior thesis and graduate. But it’s hard when Dalloway’s occult history is everywhere. And when the new girl won’t let her forget.
It’s Ellis Haley’s first year at Dalloway, and she’s already amassed a loyal following. A prodigy novelist at seventeen, Ellis is a so-called “method writer.” She’s eccentric and brilliant, and Felicity can’t shake the pull she feels to her. So when Ellis asks Felicity for help researching the Dalloway Five for her second book, Felicity can’t say no. Given her history with the arcane, Felicity is the perfect resource.
And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway–and in herself.
One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston (June 1, 2021) ✩
Even before I read One Last Stop, I just knew august would be the Taylor Swift song I’d associate with One Last Stop. After all, with the main character being called August, and lyrics like “Slipped away in a moment in time, ‘cause it was never mine” and “Cancelled my plans just in case you’d call” and “Living for the hope of it all”, there’s no way I could associate One Last Stop with another album. Not to mention, invisible string with “time, curious time, gave me the blues and then purple-pink skies / and it’s cool baby, with me / and isn’t it just so pretty to think / all along there was some Invisible string / tying you to me?”, and this is me trying being the song for any 20-something facing an existential crisis, folklore really is the soundtrack to One Last Stop. You can also check out my spoiler-free One Last Stop review here.
Cynical twenty-three-year old August doesn’t believe in much. She doesn’t believe in psychics, or easily forged friendships, or finding the kind of love they make movies about. And she certainly doesn’t believe her ragtag band of new roommates, her night shifts at a 24-hour pancake diner, or her daily subway commute full of electrical outages are going to change that.
But then, there’s Jane. Beautiful, impossible Jane.
All hard edges with a soft smile and swoopy hair and saving August’s day when she needed it most. The person August looks forward to seeing on the train every day. The one who makes her forget about the cities she lived in that never seemed to fit, and her fear of what happens when she finally graduates, and even her cold-case obsessed mother who won’t quite let her go. And when August realizes her subway crush is impossible in more ways than one—namely, displaced in time from the 1970s—she thinks maybe it’s time to start believing.
The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo (June 1, 2020) ♡
I’m writing this shortly after listening to Evermore for the first time, so I could be completely off with the vibes, but gold rush and happiness reminds me so much of The Great Gatsby, with lyrics like “what must it be like to grow up that beautiful?”, “”the green light of forgiveness” and “i hope she’ll be your beautiful fool” that I couldn’t help matching The Chosen and the Beautiful, a The Great Gatsby retelling from Jordan Baker’s perspective, to it.
Immigrant. Socialite. Magician.
Jordan Baker grows up in the most rarefied circles of 1920s American society―she has money, education, a killer golf handicap, and invitations to some of the most exclusive parties of the Jazz Age. She’s also queer, Asian, adopted, and treated as an exotic attraction by her peers, while the most important doors remain closed to her.
But the world is full of wonders: infernal pacts and dazzling illusions, lost ghosts and elemental mysteries. In all paper is fire, and Jordan can burn the cut paper heart out of a man. She just has to learn how.
Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft (March 2, 2021) ♡✩
When I first got the idea for this post, I knew I had to include Down Comes the Night in some way, and had reached out to my friend Em (@adaptationbrain on Twitter; blog launching next week!), who was the only other person I knew who had read it and asked her thoughts on which Taylor era fit best. She initially suggested folklore, but shortly after the evermore surprise announcement, texted me suggesting that maybe everlore would be a better fit. And she was right! ‘tis the damn season with its nostalgic vibes is a Wren/Una song, with willow being the perfect Hal/Wren song. This gothic romance with a bi MC, enemies to lovers and hauntingly beautiful prose, is simply so captivating, and I can’t wait for everyone to read it when it comes out in March.
Honor your oath, destroy your country.
Wren Southerland is the most talented healer in the Queen’s Guard, but her reckless actions have repeatedly put her on thin ice with her superiors. So when a letter arrives from a reclusive lord, asking Wren to come to his estate to cure his servant from a mysterious disease, she seizes the chance to prove herself.
When she arrives at Colwick Hall, Wren realizes that nothing is what it seems. Particularly when she discovers her patient is actually Hal Cavendish, the sworn enemy of her kingdom.
As the snowy mountains make it impossible to leave the estate, Wren and Hal grow closer as they uncover a sinister plot that could destroy everything they hold dear. But choosing love could doom both their kingdoms.
As Far as You’ll Take Me by Phil Stamper (February 9, 2020) ✩
For some reason, I’ve been thinking of As Far as You’ll Take Me as evermore. Music is a huge part of As Far as You’ll Take Me, as well as the themes of isolation, reflection and creativity. Without the isolation brought on by quarantine, evermore (and folklore) wouldn’t exist, and that’s one of the main reasons I thought of As Far as You’ll Take Me when thinking of evermore book recommendations. Marty struggles with figuring out who he is outside of Kentucky, his friends, and his first boyfriend, and Marty’s story really reminds me of happiness. I was lucky enough to read As Far as You’ll Take Me prior to it’s release, and I’m excited to share my thoughts with you all next month! Spoiler alert: It’s a 5-star read for me, and I absolutely loved it.
Marty arrives in London with nothing but his oboe and some savings from his summer job, but he’s excited to start his new life–where he’s no longer the closeted, shy kid who slips under the radar and is free to explore his sexuality without his parents’ disapproval.
From the outside, Marty’s life looks like a perfect fantasy: in the span of a few weeks, he’s made new friends, he’s getting closer with his first ever boyfriend, and he’s even traveling around Europe. But Marty knows he can’t keep up the facade. He hasn’t spoken to his parents since he arrived, he’s tearing through his meager savings, his homesickness and anxiety are getting worse and worse, and he hasn’t even come close to landing the job of his dreams. Will Marty be able to find a place that feels like home?
Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas (March 23, 2021)
I originally thought about pairing Lost in the Never Woods with folklore, simply due to the “tried to change the ending, Peter losing Wendy” lyric in cardigan, but with evermore’s release and the conspiracy theories about the connection between dorothea and marjorie, I knew I had to recommend Lost in the Never Woods with evermore. I’m also sensing the potential of a no body, no crime parallel as well, but who’s to tell? Anyone who knows me knows I love retellings, and after reading and loving Cemetery Boys last year, I couldn’t be any more excited for Lost in the Never Woods.
When children go missing, people want answers. When children go missing in the small coastal town of Astoria, people look to Wendy for answers.
It’s been five years since Wendy and her two brothers went missing in the woods, but when the town’s children start to disappear, the questions surrounding her brothers’ mysterious circumstances are brought back into light. Attempting to flee her past, Wendy almost runs over an unconscious boy lying in the middle of the road, and gets pulled into the mystery haunting the town.
Peter, a boy she thought lived only in her stories, claims that if they don’t do something, the missing children will meet the same fate as her brothers. In order to find them and rescue the missing kids, Wendy must confront what’s waiting for her in the woods.
If you liked this post, or even if you didn’t, please consider donating to please consider donating to relief funds for Filipinos affected by Typhoon Ulysses and learn more here, and check out this carrd.co, which has resources to learn more about the history of the US criminal justice system, the prison-industrial complex, and institutional reform.
A major thank you to Caitlyn, Mary, Bella from rainstormreads, Emily from adaptationbrain, and some of my non-blogger friends (Jamie, Julianne & Saima) for letting me bug you again and again over the last few weeks for second opinions!
If you’re still reading this, you deserve an award. What 2021 release are you most excited about? Let me know in the comments!