I love a good series like anybody else, but sometimes all I want is a really solid, satisfying standalone. The past few years have brought many such debuts into my life, meaning that I’ve gotten to experience some absolutely amazing sophomore novels. These sophomore standalones are not at all related to their previous debut, but can rival the best of them.
Take a look at what I consider some of the best second novels! I guarantee that there are no sophomore slumps in this article!
These Authors’ Second Novels Are Just as Good as Their Firsts
1. Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Rumi Seto spends a lot of time worrying she doesn’t have the answers to everything. What to eat, where to go, whom to love. But there is one thing she is absolutely sure of—she wants to spend the rest of her life writing music with her younger sister, Lea. Then Lea dies in a car accident, and she’s sent to live with her aunt in Hawaii while she deals with her own grief. Rumi is struggling to navigate the loss of her sister, her mother’s abandonment, and the absence of music in her life. Then boy-next-door surfer Kai and grief-filled eighty-year-old George Watanabe help her find her way back to music. Aching, powerful, and unflinchingly honest, Summer Bird Blue explores big truths about insurmountable grief, unconditional love, and how to forgive even when it feels impossible.
2. The Cold Is in Her Bones by Peternelle van Arsdale
One girl must uncover secrets of the past to save her friend from a terrible curse in this dark and mesmerizing story of love, revenge, and redemption inspired by the myth of Medusa. Milla’s whole world is her family’s farm, so when bright-eyed Iris comes to stay, Milla is eager to cure her loneliness and make a friend. However, Iris has a secret she is forbidden to share: her village is cursed by a demon who possesses girls at random and the townspeople live in terror of who is next. Now, the demon is coming for Iris. Suspenseful and vividly imagined, The Cold Is in Her Bones is a novel about the dark, reverberating power of pain, the yearning to be seen and understood, and the fragile optimism of love.
3. Dealing in Dreams by Lilliam Rivera
If you loved Lilliam Rivera’s debut, The Education of Margot Sanchez, then you really don’t want to miss this! Nalah leads the fiercest all-girl crew in Mega City. That role brings with it violent throwdowns and access to the hottest bodega clubs, but Nalah quickly grows weary of her questionable lifestyle. Her dream is to get off the streets and make a home in the exclusive Mega Towers. To make it there, Nalah must prove her loyalty to the city’s benevolent founder and cross the border in search of a mysterious gang with the help up a reluctant guide. Nalah must choose whether or not she’s willing to do the unspeakable to get what she wants. Can she discover that home is not where you live but whom you chose to protect before she loses the family she’s created for good?
4. Love from A to Z by S.K. Ali
Suspended from school for standing up to an Islamophobic teacher, Zayneb is headed to Doha to stay with family, resigned to be “nicer” and let the injustices of the world slide off her shoulders from now on. Adam is headed to Doha too, struggling with his recent MS diagnosis, and resigned to keep his illness from his friends and family. Alone, both are playing roles for others. Together, they’ll learn to live their truths… The second novel from acclaimed author S.K. Ali is perfectly marvelous.
5. Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
Margaret Rogerson serves up an imaginative fantasy about an apprentice at a magical library who must battle a powerful sorcerer to save her kingdom. Elisabeth lives to protect the grimoires, locked away in the Great Libraries of the world, hiding their dangerous spells and enamoring personalities (yes, you read that right!) from the sorcerers who wish to use them for evil purposes. When someone begins destroying the most powerful of grimoires, attacking the Great Libraries, Elisabeth must team up with a sorcerer and his demonic servant to try to save the world. Extra feels for the swoony romantic tension.
6. Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch
Addie is visiting Ireland for her aunt’s over-the-top destination wedding with her brother, Ian, whom seems to be bent on making her miserable as she tries to escape heartbreak. When Addie discovers the unusual guidebook, Ireland for the Heartbroken, she finds herself trapped in a small car with Ian and his cute, Irish-accented best friend, Rowan, on a whirlwind tour of the Emerald Isle. A heartwarming road trip through Ireland filled with love, adventure, and the true meaning behind the word family is the perfect summer read.
7. Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi
On paper, college dropout Pablo Rind doesn’t have a whole lot going for him between his graveyard shift at a twenty-four-hour deli in Brooklyn and his mountains of credit card debt. On the other hand, pop juggernaut Leanna Smart has enough social media followers to populate whole continents. Her brand is unstoppable. When Leanna and Pablo meet at 5:00 a.m. at the bodega in the dead of winter it’s absurd to think they’d be A Thing. But as they discover who they are, who they want to be, and how to defy the deafening expectations of everyone else, Lee and Pab turn to each other. Which, of course, is when things get properly complicated.
8. She’s the Worst by Lauren Spieller
Sisters April and Jenn haven’t been close in years. Jenn’s too busy with school, the family antique shop, and her boyfriend, and April would rather play soccer and hang out with the boy next door. But when April notices her older sister is sad about staying home for college, she decides to do something about it. The girls set off to revive a pact they made as kids: spend an epic day exploring the greatest hits of their childhood and all that Los Angeles has to offer. Then April learns that Jenn has been keeping a secret that could rip their family—and their feuding parents—apart. With only one day to set things right, the sisters must decide if their relationship is worth saving, or if the truth will tear them apart for good.
9. Our Wayward Fate by Gloria Chao
Ali Chu knows that as the only Asian person at her school in middle-of-nowhere Indiana, she must be bland as white toast to survive. Her autopilot existence is disrupted when she finds out that Chase Yu, the new kid at school, is also Taiwanese. Despite some initial resistance due to the they belong together whispers from their classmates, Ali and Chase soon spark a chemistry rooted in competitive martial arts, joking in two languages, and, most importantly, pushing back against the discrimination they face. When Ali’s mom finds out about their relationship, she forces Ali to end it, leaving Ali to dig into why her mother disapproves of her relationship by uncovering secrets about her family and Chase.
10. Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw
Be careful of the dark, dark wood… Especially the woods surrounding the town of Fir Haven. Some say these woods are magical. Haunted, even. Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth as her family has always shared a special connection with the woods. It’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman—the boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago—in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing. But Nora can feel an uneasy shift in the woods at Oliver’s presence. And it’s not too long after that Nora realizes she has no choice but to unearth the truth behind how the boy she has come to care so deeply about survived his time in the forest, and what led him there in the first place.
For as long as there have been fairy tales, we have been warned to fear what lies within the dark, dark woods and Shea Ernshaw shows us why.