Our new book releases in 2021 roundup—May edition—is here! See what we’ve read in the past month, including titles from Seth Rogen, Stacey Abrams, and more.
Our new book releases for April 2021 was so fun to put together that we’re back with our next installment. This time, we’re tackling our favorite releases for May.
There are no restrictions here—it’s whatever the Hypable staff has been reading and wants to tell you about. As a whole, we tend to lean into YA fantasy and sci-fi genres, but you may also come across some horror, romance, thriller, historical, and contemporary tales. We may even throw in a non-fiction book once in a while if it strikes our fancy.
Some of our books get the V.I.P treatment, which means they’ll also have full reviews on the Hypable website. Check out Hypable’s book section for all our literary coverage!
New book releases May 2021
Table of Contents
Click on any of the titles to jump to that review!
- Aetherbound by E.K. Johnston (Young Adult, Sci-Fi, Space Opera)
- The Atmospherians by Alex McElroy (Adult, Contemporary, Satire, Cults)
- Counting Down with You by Tashie Bhuiyan (Young Adult, Own Voices, Rom-Com)
- Fake by Kylie Scott (Adult, Contemporary, Romance)
- The Last Fallen Star by Graci Kim (Middle Grade, Fantasy, Adventure)
- Mister Impossible by Maggie Stiefvater (Young Adult, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy)
- The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He (Young Adult, Dystopian, Sci-Fi)
- Playing the Palace by Paul Rudnick (LGBTQIA+, New Adult, Rom-Com)
- Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall (Adult, Contemporary, Romance, LGBTQIA+)
- Version Zero by David Yoon (Adult, Technothriller, Science-Fiction)
- While Justice Sleeps by Stacey Abrams (Adult, Own Voices, Political Thriller)
- Yearbook by Seth Rogen (Autobiography, Humor)
- You Will Get Through This Night by Daniel Howell (Self-Help, Non-Fiction)
Better late than never titles
- Dustborn by Erin Bowman (Young Adult, Western, Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopian)
‘Aetherbound’ by E.K. Johnston — May 5, 2021
Aetherbound is a book about characters rather than action, though there’s some of that, too. It feels like a slice-of-life story where we’re invited to view snapshots of one person’s journey through space and then sent on our way. This isn’t the kind of book I’d normally enjoy (I’m a plot-driven rather than a character-driven kind of person), but there’s something deceptively charming about it.
In all honesty, this book has everything I like in a novel. It’s a good science-fiction tale set amongst the stars; it has a rich history full of wars and empires and rebellions; it has a sympathetic main character and a cute boy; plus, there is an obvious and intense of love of cheese within these pages.
You’ll find a content warning at the beginning of the book, and for good reason. We meet Pendt when she is only five years old and follow her until she is 18. Throughout that time, she counts her calories and is treated as though she is subhuman because she does not carry a useful kind of magic in her veins. However, if you can stomach the way she’s treated in the beginning, you’ll find plenty to celebrate in the end.
This book is about forging your own path and using your own choices as your stepping stones. It’s also about freedom, duty, and family—whether it’s made up of blood relatives or near strangers. Where this book lacked conflict, it made up for with truly good characters. If E.K. Johnston ever writes a sequel, I will happily pick it up. — Karen Rought
‘The Atmospherians’ by Alex McElroy — May 18, 2021
Set in an alternate timeline of modern day, where toxic masculinity has become somewhat of a pandemic and male apologists are more prevalent (or at least, more outspoken), The Atmospherians by Alex McElroy centers on a disgraced former “wellness”/social media influencer and her childhood friend’s endeavor to start a cult. The goal? Rehabilitate men so they no longer suffer from toxic masculinity and all of the nasty traits that come along with it. What follows is an odd novel that skewers everything from the “wellness” industry to action films, social media influence to the drive for success.
I enjoyed the satire when I fully felt in on the joke and the skewering. I loved the way it analyzed meaningless phrases that seem powerful unless actually thought through. I also appreciated the way the author goes into such detail about different kinds and actions of toxic masculinity, both explicitly pointed out as well as just described in a subtle manner.
In addition to the discussion of toxic masculinity (or rather, as a part of it), this novel has a LOT of depictions of eating disorders that could be triggering for some people. It’s pretty central to the plot, so I wanted to put that out there as an important trigger warning for potential readers.
All in all, I was fascinated by The Atmospherians. It’s a refreshing piece of satire that confronts toxic elements of our culture today, such as the drive for quick fixes and wellness, as well as the heightening of toxic masculinity in a way that makes normal real-world instances feel all the more pressing. It’s an excellent thought experiment, and I’m glad I picked it up (even though I have a strong feeling that some things went over my head or beyond my comprehension). — Danielle Zimmerman
‘Counting Down with You’ by Tashie Bhuiyan — May 4, 2021
Counting Down with You by Tashie Bhuiyan is such a lovely, lovely YA debut novel. This #OwnVoices story, inspired by the author’s experience with her own family and community growing up, is all about bravery, boundaries, and knowing when one should take precedence over the other. The romance at the heart of this novel is incredibly sweet and pure, with swoon-worthy moments in almost every chapter. I love the way the main couple complements each other, always inspiring the other person to be brave and just the best version of themselves they can be. (But they’re also very aware of limits and, in those cases, support each other without question or judgement.)
But the most important and engaging aspect of this novel is the way in which it explores identity, both internally and amongst a larger group. Not to give anything away, but this book doesn’t necessarily end the way that you think it will, and it’s all the better for it. It stays true to its characters and the boundaries/limits the main character outlines from the get-go. And yet, although there’s struggle with those limits and fear of disappointing (or even angering) family, there’s still so much love there.
The author does an excellent job of outlining the tensions in some more traditionally-minded Bangladeshi families in such a nuanced way that really opened my eyes to why “Just do what you want. It’s your life,” isn’t actually a viable path for children in these family situations. I appreciate the exploration and explanation of these family dynamics because they’re not something I’ve read or come across before.
Counting Down with You is a sweet YA romance you’ll become addicted to. Its exploration of identity, bravery, and personal limits, as well as its depiction of love and responsibility within the confines of particular Bangladeshi family dynamics makes for the perfect, heartwarming read for the summer. — Danielle Zimmerman
‘Fake’ by Kylie Scott — May 18, 2021
I have not yet met a Kylie Scott book I haven’t loved. And I truly don’t believe I ever will. Whether it’s a series or standalone, strangers or second chance, I am here for every character, storyline, trope, and nuance Kylie Scott has up her sleeve. Just last month, I sang the praises of Pause, and I meant every word. Now it’s time to talk about Fake.
I must confess, I think I like Fake even better. I know, I know. This introduction to a whole new world inside the Stage Dive universe is a fabulous fake relationship farce story, which I’ve come to truly love in the last few years.
Norah and Patrick are an incredible pair, and their road to romance is full of all the ups and downs you would expect from any decent fake relationship. I don’t want to give another tiny bit of their love story away, so I’ll leave that for you to discover, but I do need to comment on the colorful cast of characters I hope we get to visit again and again as this new world unfolds.
There is such a wide variety of personalities and experiences represented in the characters surrounding Norah and Patrick in Fake that I couldn’t help but start dreaming of all the stories that might blossom from this series starter.
So, if you’ve never experienced the glory of Kylie Scott before, Fake is as good a book as any to step into. You really cannot go wrong, though, whichever of her magnificent stories you choose as the start to your wonderful journey. Read my full review. — Kristen Kranz
‘The Last Fallen Star’ by Graci Kim — May 4, 2021
When it comes to new book releases in 2021, this is a must-read. Every Rick Riordan Presents book is unique and magical, and The Last Fallen Star by Graci Kim is no exception. This book follows Riley Oh as she navigates a world of magic, even though she doesn’t have any of her own. On the day her sister is to receive her Gi and become a full-fledged witch, the pair plan to use a spell to let Riley share her sister’s power. Then, of course, everything goes wrong.
There are a lot of reasons why I love this book. First and foremost, it’s based on Korean mythology and legend, and the magical system is vibrant and dynamic. The worldbuilding is next level, and everything within the pages of this novel is so cinematic. And that’s not even getting to the three-dimensional characters, the mythical monsters, or the amazing twists and turns.
What I may love most, however, is the fact that Riley’s journey is reflective of anyone who’s ever felt a part of a world where they didn’t quite belong. She wants to be like everyone else because being different can make you stick out when you’d rather just blend in. But as Riley will soon learn—and the readers alongside her—being different is a blessing in disguise. Read my full The Last Fallen Star review, plus an interview with the author, Graci Kim. — Karen Rought
‘Mister Impossible by Maggie Stiefvater — May 18, 2021
Generally speaking, the act of picking up the second installment in a trilogy all but guarantees that by the end, the reader will be left with some angsty emotions. Mister Impossible, the second installment in Maggie Stiefvater’s The Dreamer Trilogy, achieves that level of yearning for the final book, while also evoking something entirely unexpected—a sense of longing for the past. In this case, the unwritten words in between those set down in The Raven Cycle.
Prior to reading Call Down the Hawk, two characters in particular never phased me as ones that I would be willing to read the entire life history of—Declan and Matthew Lynch. But as it turns out, I would lay down my life if it spared both the eldest and youngest Lynch brothers, respectively, an ounce of pain. Mister Impossible picks up directly where Call Down the Hawk leaves readers as Ronan forges his own path into self-discovery as a Dreamer and what it means now that Bryde has stepped out of Ronan and Hennessey’s dreams.
It helps that while Bryde is no longer an echo, he has not fully come into focus in Mister Impossible. He is a puzzle that we try to solve through Ronan and Hennesey’s point of view, but also through Declan and Adam’s detached perspective. The events of the story could easily slip into a fast-paced unraveling of secrets and setups for the final chapter of the Lynch brother’s story. But I’ve come to learn with any Stiefvater novel, every word on the page has meaning. Some hidden intention that will shift the entirety of the next book. A word that will say, “See, it was there for you all along!”
Which is what makes Mister Impossible not a book where you pick it up, put it down, and stare at an imaginary publication deadline for Book 3; it is one that does what great series’ novels do: makes you want to go back into the text, pick apart clues, look at how details change the way you’ve read everything else. And let it be known, Mister Impossible contains one revelation that will not only make you want to pick up Call Down the Hawk immediately, but reach even further back to revisit Gansey, Blue, and Noah. — Brittany Lovely
‘The Ones We’re Meant to Find’ by Joan He — May 4, 2021
This book is told in turns. Kasey is a brilliant scientist more comfortable analyzing data than holding a conversation with another person. As she searches for her missing sister, we learn their world is on the brink of extinction. Natural disasters have forced much of the population into ecocities, which float above the Earth’s surface, but this only offers a temporary solution.
We also explore a deserted island alongside Cee, who sees in black and white and has partial memories of her past. She is driven to the ocean, knowing her sister is out there somewhere, searching for her. But while she tries and fails countless times, nothing changes, and she always returns to the island. That is, until one day when a strange boy shows up—the first person she’s seen in over three years.
If you’ve read Joan He before, then you can certainly expect three things from her books: evocative writing, surprising twists, and lots and lots of pain. The Ones We’re Meant to Find explores sisterly bonds, first love, environmental stewardship, what it means to be human, and the benefits and dangers inherent in technology.
It is truly hard to explain this book without spoiling it, so suffice it to say that you won’t regret picking it up. If nothing else, it will make you think about the consequences of our present actions and the repercussions we may be forced to face in the future. It is a novel that speaks to current circumstances and holds a warning of what our world could one day look like. As for new book releases in May 2021, it’s a no brainer– Karen Rought
‘Playing the Palace’ by Paul Rudnick — May 25, 2021
A delightful rom-com that spans continents, Playing the Palace by Paul Rudnick pairs a slightly hot-mess event architect who’s had his heart broken one too many times and an openly gay English prince with trust issues who’s set to inherit the throne. Sparks fly as soon as they meet, but, as you might guess, chaos ensues.
Let’s get the easy comparisons out of the way: Playing the Palace is a novel very much in the same vein as Red, White & Royal Blue and Boyfriend Material. However, this book’s strength lies in the main characters, Carter and Prince Edgar, being comfortable as openly gay as well as them not going through the whole enemies-to-lovers drama. Don’t get me wrong, I love that trope. But the way this book gets straight to their relationship and questions of what they mean to one another is really refreshing. Their chemistry is immediate and off-the-charts, and the way they notice/feed even the smallest quirks of one another is so endearing.
As you’d expect, these colorful characters both have an even more colorful circle of friends and family. They’re all highly entertaining and do a great job of fleshing out the main characters while also carving out their own space in the story. I can’t quite pick an MVP of the secondary character lineup, but it has to be either Carter’s Aunt Miriam or Edgar’s right-hand man James. These two characters had me snickering every time they opened their mouths, or, really, just took up real estate on the page.
One final aspect of Playing the Palace that I enjoyed is the way in which it depicts the royal family. This fictitious royal family, while far from perfect or wholly benevolent, is more accepting and laid back, suggesting what the monarchy could look like if their primary function was as a family. They still emanate power and command respect, but they throw into sharp relief all of the failings of the current English monarchy.
If you’re looking for a fun royal romance to breeze through this summer, be sure to put Playing the Palace at the top of your list. — Danielle Zimmerman
‘Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake’ by Alexis Hall — May 18, 2021
If you spent a better part of the pandemic bingeing The Great British Bake-Off and are in the mood for a romance as complicated as figuring out what a Battenberg cake is, then Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake is the novel for you. Set in the beautiful British countryside—in a ballroom rather than a tent—hopeful bakers set their sights on a prize of £10,000 with some bonus bragging rights. Named after a Shakespearean character who doesn’t even make it on stage, Rosaline Palmer has the same identity issues as she tries to see herself as more than just a thrown away reference in another person’s story.
Rosaline tends to measure out how her relationships on the show are rising rather than her cakes, a flaw she is willing to recognize, but not shine a light on. Rather than serving a detriment to her contributions on the show, Rosaline captures the attention of not only the producers who shape her origin story to within an inch of its originality, but also two of this season’s contestants.
Juggling her responsibilities as a single mother, a best friend, a daughter, and a girlfriend, Rosaline discovers that being known in name only isn’t all it is cracked up to be. Rather than be the toss-away character, Hall shapes the story of this Rosaline into a fully developed person worthy of all the love that comes her way regardless of the story anyone wants to tack onto her. A rewarding and fun read that captures a behind-the-scenes look at just how unglamorous baking a masterpiece in under four hours truly is, Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake is a must-read for Pride month.
And, if you are so inclined, feel free to try the recipes in the back of the book! — Brittany Lovely
‘Version Zero’ by David Yoon — May 25, 2021
This book hits uncomfortably close to home. It tells the story of Max, who is fired from his job at Wren (an obvious combination of Facebook and Twitter) because he noticed they were selling people’s information to the United States government, as well as the Russian government. If this sounds familiar, just know this is only the beginning.
Every website, every product, every anecdote in this book feels lifted from our own timeline but with the names and a few details changed. Version Zero is all the more terrifying not because it could happen but because it absolutely already is.
Max’s narration is short and snappy. It bleeds tech talk and millennial slang. It paints vivid images of the disparity between rich and poor, white and Black or Brown, men and women, old and young. It does this simply, in as few words as possible, and yet they land so much harder because of it. There is something bold and refreshing to see people stripped of their flowery descriptors. It allows us to view them in a much more honest light.
Version Zero proposes we must break it to fix it. The it in question is a myriad of things—the internet, tech companies, billionaires, corporations, nosy governments, pretend allies, you name it. But with money and power on the line, it’s not going to be easy. This is the perfect book to read if you’re looking for new book releases in May 2021.– Karen Rought
‘While Justice Sleeps’ by Stacey Abrams — May 11, 2021
Fast-paced and full of political intrigue and danger, Stacey Abrams’ newest thriller While Justice Sleeps is the perfect summer read.
I’ve never been a habitual reader of political thrillers, but Stacey Abrams may have just made a fan out of me with While Justice Sleeps. This novel is a fantastic political thriller that’s easily accessible for those new to the genre as well as those who may not be well-versed in the ins, outs, and minutiae of politics. Abrams’ extensive knowledge of the system, its strengths as well as its vulnerabilities and loop holes, is on full display throughout the novel as she makes effortless work of distilling and conveying even the most complicated concepts and situations as they relate to the law and the inner-workings of the United States government.
I realize that may sound a bit dull, but, in fact, at Abrams’ fingertips, it’s quite the opposite. She infuses such energy and stakes into even the most mundane aspects of government life, going into just enough detail in explaining concepts and how that detail affects the plot and the characters without overloading the reader with unnecessary bureaucracy. For instance, I’ve never found D.C. parties to be all that interesting (as, to me, it’s just a bunch of egomaniacs boasting to each other in a room), but Abrams writes those interactions with such nuance that even the slightest glance had me eager to read more. — Danielle Zimmerman
Yearbook by Seth Rogen — May 11, 2021
The official tagline of Seth Rogen’s Yearbook should be “come for the funny stories, stay for the celebrity gossip.” There were certain things I expected when I pressed play on the actor/writer/director/producer’s self-narrated audiobook, but it ended up delivering so much more!
In each chapter of Yearbook, Rogen regales readers with hilarious tales that range from taking drugs in his youth, to taking drugs as an adult. There are also a few stories that don’t involve drugs, but as you might expect, they’re significantly outnumbered. Seth Rogen has made a reputation for himself as Hollywood’s most productive stoner, and Yearbook makes it clear that those claims have not been exaggerated. For most of the book, you’ll feel like you’re sitting down at a party with Rogen, exchanging crazy stories. A very one-sided exchange, but still.
The book is as laugh-out-loud funny as you’d hope, and some of its funniest moments come at the expense of the stars who are famous friends of Seth Rogen, and others you’d likely never expect to appear in his memoir. He pulls no punches in retelling some absolutely bonkers tales involving George Lucas, Tom Cruise, Nicholas Cage, Snoop Dogg, and even Beyoncé, and his funny viewpoints on Hollywood culture were some of my favorite parts of Yearbook.
On top of his filmmaking credits and stoner stigma, Seth Rogen has recently been celebrated for his political Twitter takedowns, including his most recent criticism of Ted Cruz. That side of the star also shines through in Yearbook as he narrates a thoughtful chapter defending the use of cannabis, and even an insightful critique of Twitter itself that includes personal accounts of conversations with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. All in all, Yearbook is a perfect reflection of its funny, bold, and intelligent author. If you’re a fan, or even if you’re just intrigued, it’s a read you’ll enjoy. — Kendra Cleary
You Will Get Through This Night by Daniel Howell — May 18, 2021
Daniel Howell has been regaling his audience on YouTube for years with relatable, comedic stories about his life. But in his new book, You Will Get Through This Night, Howell digs even deeper, while effectively tackling the all-too important topic of mental health along the way.
Speaking out about mental health isn’t anything new for Howell. His “Daniel and Depression” video (a personal favorite of mine) has racked up 3.6 million views since it was released back in 2017. So when Howell announced that he’d be writing a book about mental health, I jumped at the chance to read it.
Over the years, I’ve read quite a few books on the subject of anxiety and depression in my own mental health journey, but what I enjoyed most about You Will Get Through This Night is its ease of use. The book is described as a practical guide to mental health, and from the get-go, it’s easy to see why. Split up into three sections (This Night: learn how to manage your thoughts and feelings in tough times; Tomorrow: Change your everyday habits to be healthier and happier; The Days After That: Understanding your behavior and how to treat yourself with compassion to tackle life’s challenges), the book makes it easy for readers to flip to sections they most need to digest in the moment, or skip over the parts they’re not ready to tackle yet if they opt to read cover to cover.
You Will Get Through This Night isn’t a traditional memoir, but there’s still a lot of Howell himself seeped into the pages. I think one of the places where the book shines brightest is in Howell’s penchant for opening up about his own struggles with depression and anxiety with equal parts wit, humor, and sobering honesty.
As with so many of his videos, Howell’s stories often feel like the warm hug of a familiar friend who understands that bettering one’s mental health is a marathon, not a sprint. And regardless of whether you’ve been watching his content online for years like me, or if you’ve never even heard of Howell before reading this review, You Will Get Through This Night offers up something for anyone who might be looking to do a bit of self-reflecting on how they can better their minds. — Pamela Gocobachi
Better late than never books
Sometimes we get a little behind on our giant to-be-read piles. This section is for books we couldn’t leave off our list just because they’re not new book releases in May 2021!
‘Dustborn’ by Erin Bowman — April 20, 2021
If you’re a fan of the movie Waterworld (1995), there’s a chance you’ll enjoy this book. Instead of being set on a planet covered in one giant ocean, it’s set on one that has been reduced to dust. Water is a commodity nobody can afford to live without, and even though life is tough in the wastes, the people who have survived are even tougher.
A man named the General attacks Delta of Dead River’s pack while she’s away, looking for someone branded with a map to the Verdant, an oasis somewhere on the other side of the barren planet. In other words, they’re looking for her. She must save her pack without giving up her biggest bargaining chip—a way to salvation.
It’s difficult to express exactly how much I loved this book. Every chapter was a perfect puzzle piece that fit into the entire picture. Every detail comes full circle, and the ending is equal parts heartbreaking and hopeful. If you love dystopian novels and post-apocalyptic worlds, Dustborn by Erin Bowman deserves a prominent place on your bookshelf. — Karen Rought