2021 contemporary + some historical standalone (jan-jun) | on my radar #3

back again with another ON MY RADAR segment in which i talk and babble about books that i’m excited about. this time, it’s standalone in the contemporary and historical genre that are releasing in the first half of 2021.

the contemporary (romance) genre is one of my favorite books to read whenever i’m feel like i need a break from heavy fantasy reads. unsurprisingly, as i compiled this list, it just kept growing in number. this post will contain almost 40 titles that i’m highly anticipating so it’ll be longer than usual. i hope you’re ready for an onslaught of books!

check out other blog posts of 2021 releases from january to june:
part 1: sequels of series i’ve started
part 2: fantasy standalone
part 3: new series
part 4: contemporary standalone + a little historical

the release dates are subjected to changes. i’ll edit them if i noticed any difference. click on the titles to be directed to the goodreads page.

preorder any book from Book Depository with my link!

one of the good ones
– maika & maritza moulite

age range: YA
genre: contemporary, mystery/thriller, social justice

i’m planning to read one of the good ones this month. it’s already in my phone ready to be read. i believe this will be a raw take on prejudice, racism and police brutality experienced by the Black community. while fighting against injustice, happi questions why only certain lives are deemed more worthy than others. do check the trigger warnings as this book will be dealing with a lot of heavy topics.

trigger warnings:

happily ever afters
– elise bryant

age range: YA
genre: contemporary, romance

new in town, tessa is accepted into a creative writing program. unfortunately for her, words disappeared during her first workshop. caroline, tessa’s best friend, has the greatest idea: tessa needs her own love story to draw inspiration from. while the love triangle trope isn’t my favorite, i’m still anticipating the outcome between tessa, a prince charming-esque brooding artist named nico and sweet sam who lives across the street from her.

clues to the universe
– christina li

age range: MG
genre: historical fiction

my initial thought was that clues to the universe is a contemporary but as it’s set in the 1980s, it’s historical fiction. this is one of my most anticipated releases of 2021. ro and benji are polar opposites but formed an unlikely friendship. it’s going to be a beautiful, sweet and heartbreaking story about two people who have to deal with grief.

trigger warnings:

last night at the telegraph club
– malinda lo

age range: YA
genre: historical fiction, LGBT, romance

set during the time of the Red Scare (wikipedia: promotion of a widespread fear of a potential rise of communism or anarchism by a society or state), it is dangerous for lily and kathleen to fall in love in 1954 san francisco’s chinatown. apart from this romance, lily’s father is facing a potential deportation despite earning US citizenship. in last night at the telegraph club, themes of racism and homophobia will be widely explored as lily is a queer chinese-american living in a tumultuous period.

trigger warnings:
  • coming out themes, external & internalised lesbomisia, queermisia, heteronormative language, sexism & misogyny, racism & racial slurs, deportation discussed, and death of a father
  • taken from rachel’s goodreads

the knockout
– sajni patel

age range: YA
genre: contemporary, romance

kareena is fighting for a spot in the US muay thai open which could lead to the Olympics. in the midst of chasing her dreams, she’s worried about how the desi community would see her competing in a sport that’s “too rough for girls”. ALSO, she’s falling for the “world’s most perfect Indian” amit. all in all, i’m ready for this romance and witnessing kareena’s muay thai journey. i really liked sajni patel’s the trouble with hating you. PLUS, the author was a MMA fighter so her take on muay thai will be interesting to read.

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make up break up
– lily menon

age range: adult
genre: contemporary, romance

as i’ve already read make up break up, i can tell you that i absolutely adored the rivalry (and secret yearning) between annika and hudson. sandhya menon’s adult romance debut is no disappointment. this enemies-to-lovers in a startup business setting was filled with sassy banters and intense moments.

a taste for love
– jennifer yen

age range: YA
genre: contemporary, romance

i mean, a relentless matchmaking mom who handpicked only asian american men to the baking contest liza is competing in? WHAT A SCHEME FROM MAMA YANG. also, bubble tea in the cover + delicious pastries? i am in. the mother-daughter dynamic will be fun to read about.

fat chance, charlie vega
– crystal maldonado

age range: YA
genre: contemporary, romance

fat chance, charlie vega is about a fat brown girl struggling with her mom’s expectations to be slimmer, smaller and lighter. everything that she isn’t. when charlie finally meets a boy who makes her heart flutter, he actually asks amelia, charlie’s best friend, out. now she’s confused. exploration of body positivity and biracial identity are highlights of fat chance, charlie vega.

trigger warnings:

love is a revolution
– renée watson

age range: YA
genre: contemporary, romance

featuring a plus sized Black teen, a huge focus in love is a revolution is self-love and self-care. nala falls in love with tye, who’s very involved in his community, and told little white lies in order to have more in common with him. through imani, who is an activist and nala’s cousin, there are conversations about varying issues of the socio-economics, political and environmental nature. i can’t wait to dive right into this one with nala as the protagonist.

red, white, and whole
– rajani larocca

age range: MG
genre: historical, poetry

according to rajani larocca, many elements of red, white, and whole are inspired from her own experience as an immigrant in the 1980s. while reha is torn between her indian community and her american friends, she finds out that her mother was diagnosed with leukemia. i might just bawl my eyes out with this middle grade that’s written in verse.

much ado about you
– samantha young

age range: adult
genre: contemporary, romance

when passed over a promotion, evie spontaneously booked a trip to a quaint english village where she’ll be working as a temp at a bookstore called “much ado about books”. when she meets the charming farmer, roane, this holiday might end up with her getting more than she expected.

a pho love story
– loan le

age range: YA
genre: contemporary, romance

pho restaurant rivalry in a pho love story means that there will be a lot of pho involved and a forbidden romance. both of which i love to read about. the mais and the nguyens have been long at odds so linh and bao have never intentionally met until one fine day. these two vietnamese-american teens will have to navigate this age old feud and their feelings simultaneously.

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yolk
– mary h.k. choi

age range: YA
genre: contemporary

i’ve never actually read the synopsis until today but had my eyes stuck on this gorgeous yellow cover since it was revealed. yolk is about two korean-american estranged sisters meeting when they find out one of them is dying. the sisters are completely different: jayne is scraping by in life while june has a fancy lifestyle. this will be a compelling read into the lives of the sisters and how deep this sisterhood runs despite them not having any connections prior.

trigger warnings:
  • cancer, eating disorder

once upon a quinceañera
– monica gomez-hira

age range: YA
genre: contemporary, romance

carmen desires for her happily ever after but sadly, she’s stuck in an unpaid (!!! experience don’t feed you!!!) summer internship which required her to perform while wearing a ball gown. even worse, she’s hired to do that for her pampered cousin’s quinceañera! AND WORSER, her dance partner is her ex. what a disaster. fingers crossed that carmen actually gets her HEA.

she’s too pretty to burn
– wendy heard

age range: YA
genre: contemporary, LGBT, retelling, thriller

this will probably be the only thriller book in this list because i’m a scaredy-cat. inspired by the picture of dorian grey, this sapphic psychological thriller involves “One fire. Two murders. Three drowning bodies. One suspect . . . one stalker.” while i haven’t read the picture of dorian grey, i’m intrigued by this gender-swapped re-imagination.

with you all the way
– cynthia hand

age range: YA
genre: contemporary, romance

all i know is i’m ready for the family drama. ada’s boyfriend cheated on her AND her mother’s having an affair. why?! this will be a wild rollercoaster ride with ada contemplating about sex. from the reviews that i’ve read, i believe that the conservation surrounding sex isn’t super explicit, and hence why it’s YA. i loved cynthia hand’s the afterlife of holly chase and the books that she co-written with brodi ashton and jodi meadows. i’ll pick this up when i’m in need of some insane drama.

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second first impressions
– sally thorne

age range: adult
genre: contemporary, romance

retirement home + two rich and eccentric 90 year-olds + one hot, tattooed man + one beautiful woman = second first impressions. having read the hating game and 99 percent mine, i’m ready for sally thorne’s third book. i’m waiting for an exciting romance to happen!

the forest of stolen girls
– june hur

age range: YA
genre: historical, mystery

okay, so i read june hur’s the silence of bones and fell in love with her debut novel which means i’ll be picking up every single book she’ll be publishing from now. on top of it being a mystery novel about 13 girls + 1 father’s disappearance, it’s set in 1426, joseon korea. trust me when i say i’ll be picking this up on release day.

kate in waiting
– becky albertalli

age range: YA
genre: contemporary, romance, LGBT

get ready for a pair of best friends, a straight girl and a gay boy, falling in love with their long-distance crush named matt. things are going to get messy and this iron-clad friendship might come crashing down. as i’ve mentioned before, love triangles aren’t really my fave but it’s becky albertalli.

dial a for aunties
– jesse q. sutanto

age range: adult
genre: contemporary, romance, mystery

I DID NOT KNOW THAT THIS INVOLVED A MURDER FROM THAT SUNNY, BRIGHT BOOK COVER. honestly, i was chuckling the whole time while reading the synopsis… i don’t think accidentally killing one’s blind date AND accidentally shipping the body to a billionaire’s wedding is funny BUT, there’s a group of meddling aunties who are willing to help hide a corpse. i know i’m going to love the mother-daughter-aunties dynamics alongside the chinese-indonesian culture.

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counting down with you
– tashie bhuiyan

age range: YA
genre: contemporary, romance

according to tashie bhuiyan, counting down with you is a deeply personal love letter to young brown girls from her. fake dating the bad boy + bangladeshi-american main character + conversations about mental health + awesome girl friends = i NEED THIS BOOK IMMEDIATELY, PLEASE.

trigger warnings:
  • parental abuse (verbal and psychological), panic attacks

luck of the titanic
– stacey lee

age range: YA
genre: historical

stacey lee’s the downstairs girl has been on my radar for a while now. plus, luck of the titanic has a beautiful cover. I MEAN THIS BOOK IS “loosely inspired by the recently uncovered account of six Titanic survivors of Chinese descent.” and there’s the pair of british-chinese acrobat twin. more people need to know about this. i’m not looking forward to the ending considering that this is a tragedy…

people we met on vacation
– emily henry

age range: adult
genre: romance, contemporary

poppy and alex have been best friends for 10 years but things went south two years ago. now, they’re going on their final vacation together. friends-to-lovers trope is one of my fav tropes ever. i enjoyed reading beach read by emily henry so i’m definitely picking this up once it was published.

from little tokyo, with love
– sarah kuhn

age range: YA
genre: romance, contemporary

having read sarah kuhn’s fluffy romance in i love you so mochi, i added from little tokyo, with love immediately into my tbr. though not set in actual tokyo, rika and grace’s romance will begin at little tokyo in LA. i imagine their romance will be hard to keep under wraps as grace is a beloved actor in america. can’t wait for this!

the other side of perfect
– mariko turk

age range: YA
genre: romance, contemporary

the synopsis broke my heart. i can’t even begin to imagine how devastated one might be when an accident just shattered their purpose and dream. sadly, that happened to alina whose potential ballet career is no longer a viable choice. as alina transitions from that, she starts to ponder the racism that she faced in the dance industry. i believe themes such as moving forward, accepting the hard truths, falling in love and achieving personal growth will be shown through alina’s journey.

made in korea
– sarah suk

age range: YA
genre: romance, contemporary

two entrepreneurial korean-american teens having a rivalry because they’re competing to be the top school-run korean beauty enterprise? count me in!!! valerie and wes have their own reasons for setting up a business in their school. i’m expecting a fluffy romance with a focus on the business aspect in made in korea.

last chance books
– kelsey rodkey

age range: YA
genre: romance, contemporary

this is yet another book about rivals!! I’M LIVING FOR THIS. this time, the businesses are book related which makes my bookworm heart flutter even more. madeline’s taking over her family-owned bookstore but jasper’s prologue, that opened recently across the street, is threatening her business.

the marvelous mirza girls
– sheba karim

age range: YA
genre: romance, contemporary

first thing that caught my eye is the beautiful cover. in the marvelous mirza girls, noreen took a trip to new delhi, india with her mother to lessen the grief after her aunt passed away. there she meets charming kabir who helped noreen rediscover herself. i can’t wait to dive into the rich culture of india and noreen’s journey in finding her voice once again.

tokyo ever after
– emiko jean

age range: YA
genre: romance, contemporary

AAAAKKK!!! it’s the princess diaries premise!! izumi finds out she’s AN ACTUAL PRINCESS OF JAPAN because her unknown father is the CROWN PRINCE OF JAPAN. also, she might be falling for her bodyguard!!! once she’s at japan, years of customs and traditions are thrusted upon her to learn and absorb. on top of that, izumi struggles with her biracial identity of being a japanese-american because she can never be “japanese” enough or “american” enough.

sixteen scandals
– sophie jordan

age range: YA
genre: historical, romance

at age 16, primrose yearns to explore the outside world as she’s finally of age to enter society. however, her birthday was causally dismissed by her mother. one act of rebellion between her and her best friend landed with primrose meeting a mysterious, charming stranger.

not my problem
– ciara smyth

age range: YA
genre: contemporary, romance, LGBT

when aideen helpfully pushed her nemesis, meabh, down the stairs so that the latter can escape from her extracurriculars, she wasn’t expecting anybody to hear that AND not report it. in fact, aideen received more requests. not my problem is going to be a ride.

malibu rising
– taylor jenkins reid

age range: adult
genre: historical

it just takes one night for shit to go down. i’ve actually not read the synopsis of malibu rising before writing this post. basically, it’s about four siblings who have troubles and secrets of their own. malibu in 1983 will be an interesting place to visit through taylor jenkins reid’s writing.

trigger warnings:

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one last stop
– casey mcquiston

age range: adult
genre: contemporary, romance, LGBT

hold up! nobody told me that there’s an element of TIME TRAVELLING in one last stop. how am i only noticing that now? when august fell in love with her subway crush, jane, she never expected that her crush isn’t of the current time and august has to help jane get back to the 1970s. i thought this would just be a fluffy contemporary romance but turns out, it’s so much more!

ace of spades
– faridah àbíké-íyímídé

age range: YA
genre: contemporary, mystery/thriller, LGBT

i’m thrilled for ace of spades. newly elected prefects, devon and chiamaka, are facing a faceless enemy who’s starting to spill their secrets that threatens their lives. as much as it’s a race against time to find out who is behind this, ace of spades explores important issues such as institutionalised and systematic racism, being a queer person of color, and socio-economic statuses.

trigger warnings:
  • homophobia, racism

an emotion of great delight
– tahereh mafi

age range: YA
genre: contemporary, romance

this is going to be a really sad book. an emotion of great delight is an in-depth and emotional look into a muslim family after US declared war upon iraq, and the consequences of that on the muslim community. while the world around shadi is high with tension, she’s facing troubles of her own. “Her brother is dead, her father is dying, her mother is falling apart, and her best friend has mysteriously dropped out of her life.” my heart will be broken.

the ghosts we keep
– mason deaver

age range: YA
genre: contemporary, romance, LGBT

another book that i’ll have my heart broken over. liam finds solace in his late older brother’s friend, marcus, after ethan was killed in a hit-and-run. the ghosts we keep is about grief “But it’s also about why we live. Why we have to keep moving on, and why we should.” i’m going to be destroyed. prepare the tissues for the tears.

we can’t keep meeting like this
– rachel lynn soloman

age range: YA
genre: contemporary, romance

well, if you want to know how awkward it is to face rejection by silent treatment with the dude going to college after the girl confessed her feelings for him via email, and then they’re forced to work in weddings after weddings because their families’s businesses are tied together, we can’t keep meeting like this is here for you. can i please have this already?

love and other natural disasters
– misa sugiura

age range: YA
genre: contemporary, romance, LGBT

nozomi and willow conspired a plan to make the latter’s ex jealous by fake dating. however, nozomi truly have feelings for willow and is determined to show willow how great of a girlfriend she can be. yes, this sapphic fake dating with POC should be on your tbr too!

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oh my.. this post was incredibly long because of the amount of releases in may. insanity! i think most of these releases you would have already added to your tbr but i still want to shout them out and keep a list for myself. it would be fun to check back by the end of the year to see how many i’ve actually read. that being said, i’m on the hunt for books releasing from july to december, so if you have any recommendations, do let me know!

oh, and i already have more titles added into my list that are releasing from january to june. help me?

let’s chat:
which book are you looking forward the most to?

8 thoughts on “2021 contemporary + some historical standalone (jan-jun) | on my radar #3”

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