New Book Releases: May 21, 2019

27 days left for me! I know many of you are finishing up school this week and next week, and I must say that I am officially jealous! Here’s to dragging ourselves to the finish line!

As with the rest of May, this week’s Spotlight is pretty lengthy, but most of the books are either YA or picture books. I only found a handful of 3-6 and 5-8 titles this week. Titles with more than two starred professional review have a * beside the title.

*We Are the Perfect Girl by Ariel Kaplan

Aphra Brown is bold and outgoing. Her best friend, Bethany, is achingly beautiful. Individually, they could both do a little better in the self-esteem department, but together? Together, they have what it takes to win over Greg D’Agostino, a proverbial “ten,” who happens to be fluent in six languages–seven if you count the language of smoldering gazes…What begins as an honest mistake turns into an elaborate deception, wherein Bethany goes on dates with Greg while Aphra coaches her on what to say, and texts him in the guise of Bethany, trying and failing, all the while, to tamp down her own hopeless crush. I

PAGES: 384
GENRE: realistic fiction, retelling
THEMES: friendship, self-esteem
READALIKES: My So-Called Bollywood Life (Sharma), To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (Han)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred, Kirkus starred, SLJ starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Told from Aphra’s point of view, this romance offers equal amounts amusement and relatable teen challenges, among them sibling resentment, self-esteem, and codependency, shown through realistically flawed characters.” (Publishers Weekly, 4 Mar 2019 )


The Pursuit of Miss Heartbreak Hotel by Moe Bonneau

Debut author! Ours is an age-old tale of two betties, apple-Jacks forever, when suddenly one goes ace gorgeous and then naturally, massive popular. Said popular betty ditches other, unsaid, unpopular betty for superhit cool crowd. Girls don’t speak again for four years until a chance meeting reunites them…What do you do when Ms. Ancient History comes waltzing back into your life? If you’re Lu Butler, dodging sweet but clueless boys while secretly crushing hard on girls, you fall.

PAGES: 267
GENRE: realistic fiction
THEMES: LGBT+, end of senior year
READALIKES: I Wish You All the Best (Deaver), The Lost Coast (Capetta), We Contain Multitudes (Henstra)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Lu’s exuberantly original narrative propels the reader through a roller coaster of emotions that includes not only the nerve-wracking pursuit of Eve but also the death of a beloved grandmother and the bittersweet nostalgia of high school’s final days.” (Booklist starred review, 1 May 2019)


The Missing Season by Gillian French

Whenever another kid goes missing in October, the kids in the old factory town of Pender know what is really behind it: a monster out in the marshes that they call the Mumbler. That’s what Clara’s new crew tells her when she moves to town. Bree and Sage, who take her under their wing. Spirited Trace, who has taken the lead on this year’s Halloween prank war. And magnetic Kincaid, whose devil-may-care attitude andair of mystery are impossible for Clara to resist. Clara doesn’t actually believe in the Mumbler–not like Kinkaid does. But as Halloween gets closer and tensions build in the town, it’s hard to shake the feeling that there really is something dark and dangerous in Pender. Lurking inthe shadows. Waiting to bring the stories to life.

PAGES: 294
GENRE: thriller, mystery
THEMES: fear, Halloween
READALIKES: Two Can Keep a Secret (McManus), Crash (McMann)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “A spare, spectral thriller that catches like a hook and doesn’t let go.” (Booklist starred review, 1 Apr 2019)


*Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson

Brooklyn, 1998. Biggie Smalls was right: Things done changed. But that doesn’t mean that Quadir and Jarrell are cool letting their best friend Steph’s music lie forgotten under his bed after he’s murdered–not when his rhymes could turn any Bed Stuy corner into a party. With the help of Steph’s younger sister Jasmine, they come up with a plan to promote Steph’s music under a new rap name: the Architect. Soon, everyone wants a piece of him. When his demo catches the attention of a hotheaded music label rep, the trio must prove Steph’s talent from beyond the grave. As the pressure of keeping their secret grows, Quadir, Jarrell, and Jasmine are forced to confront the truth about what happened to Steph. Only, each has something to hide.

PAGES: 380
GENRE: realistic fiction
THEMES: hip-hop music, Brooklyn, NY, 1990s culture
READALIKES: On the Come Up (Thomas), Rani Patel In Full Effect (Patel), With the Fire on High (Acevedo)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred, Publishers Weekly starred, Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Thoroughly engrossing and as infectious as Steph’s lyrics: a testament to the unbreakable bonds of friendship and a love letter to Brooklyn and hip-hop in the late ’90s.” (Kirkus starred review, 15 Mar 2019)


*Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Debut author! This is an adult novel that released last week, but it looks so good! As the son of the president of the U.S. Alex is cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. When he gets into an altercation with the British prince, both nations decide to stage a truce to keep U.S./British relations. But what started out as a fake friendship, developed into something deeper for Alex and Henry. With a relationship that could upend both nations, they both must find their courage and learn to let their true colors shine through.

PAGES: 425
GENRE: romance
THEMES: royalty, family expectations, LGBT+
READALIKES: How Not to Ask a Boy to Prom (Goslee), Carry On (Rowell)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred, Kirkus starred, Publishers Weekly starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Although Alex and Henry’s relationship is the heart of the story, their friends and family members are all rich, well-drawn characters, and their respective worlds feel both realistic and larger-than-life.” (Kirkus, 15 Mar 2019)

Keep This To Yourself by Tom Ryan

It’s been a year since the Catalog Killer terrorized the sleepy seaside town of Camera Cove, killing four people before disappearing without a trace. Like everyone else in town, eighteen-year-old Mac Bell is trying to put that horrible summer behind him–easier said than done since Mac’s best friend Connor was the murderer’s final victim. But when he finds a cryptic message from Connor, he’s drawn back into the search for the killer–who might not have been a random drifter after all. Now nobody–friends, neighbors, or even the sexy stranger with his own connection to the case–is beyond suspicion. Sensing that someone is following his every move, Mac struggles to come to terms with his true feelings towards Connor while scrambling to uncover the truth.

PAGES: 309
GENRE: mystery, thriller
THEMES: murder, serial killers, LBGT+
READALIKES: White Rabbit (Roehrig), The Wicker King (Ancrum), The Naturals (Barnes)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Suspicion turns to paranoia in Ryan’s clever whodunit, which uses classic misdirection to keep Mac, and thus readers, from guessing the shocking truth.” (Booklist, 1 Apr 2019)


Going off Script by Jen Wilde

Seventeen-year-old Bex is thrilled when she gets an internship on her favorite tv show, Silver Falls. Unfortunately, the internship isn’t quite what she expected…instead of sitting in a crowded writer’s room volleying ideas back and forth, Production Interns are stuck picking up the coffee. Determined to prove her worth as a writer, Bex drafts her own script and shares it with the head writer–who promptly reworks it and passes it off as his own! Bex is understandably furious, yet…maybe this is just how the industry works? But when they rewrite her proudly lesbian character as straight, that’s the last straw! It’s time for Bex and her crush to fight back.

PAGES: 292
GENRE: realistic fiction
THEMES: internships, media, LGBT+, plagiarism
READALIKES: Little Black Dresses, Little White Lies (Stampler), Queens of Geek (Wilde)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Readers who are willing to suspend their disbelief that an intern would write a script that is stolen by the showrunner will enjoy this story immensely.” (SLJ, 1 May 2019)


Girl Gone Viral by Arvin Ahmadi

She builds entire worlds from scratch- Mars craters, shimmering lakes, any virtual experience her heart desires. But she can’t code her dad back into her life. When he disappeared after her tenth birthday, leaving only a cryptic note, Opal tried desperately to find him. And when he never turned up, she enrolled at a boarding school for technical prodigies and tried to forget. Until now. Because WAVE, the world’s biggest virtual reality platform, has announced a contest where the winner gets to meet its billionaire founder. The same billionaire who worked closely with Opal’s dad. The one she always believed might know where he went. The one who maybe even murdered him. What begins as a small data hack to win the contest spirals out of control when Opal goes viral, digging her deeper into a hole of lies, hacks, and manipulation. How far will Opal go for the answers-or is it the attention-she’s wanted for years?

PAGES: 416
GENRE: science fiction
THEMES: virtual reality, missing persons, grief
READALIKES: All Rights Reserved (Katsoulis), Monday’s Not Coming (Jackson), Warcross (Lu)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Like all great sf stories, this leaves readers with some weighty questions to ponder at the close of the book, and how much of our privacy we’re willing to sacrifice for personalized web content is one of them.” (Booklist starred review, 1 May 2019 )


Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small

Best friends Marine Duval and Kate Sanders have trained since childhood at the Paris Opera Ballet School, where they’ve forged an inseparable bond through shared stories of family tragedies and a powerful love for dance. When the body of a student is found in the dorms just before the start of their final year, Marine and Kate begin to ask themselves how far they would go for the ultimate prize: to be named the one girl who will join the Opera’s prestigious corps de ballet.

PAGES: 304
GENRE: realistic fiction
THEMES: ballet, friendship, dance school
READALIKES: Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy (Kiem), Life in Motion (Copeland)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “A cerebral debut that will appeal to readers—and there are more than a few—interested in the cutthroat ballet universe.” (Booklist, 1 May 2019)


*Brave Face: A Memoir by Shaun David Hutchinson

Shaun David Hutchinson was nineteen. Confused. Struggling to find the vocabulary to understand and accept who he was and how he fit into a community in which he couldn’t see himself. The voice of depression told him that he would never be loved or wanted, while powerful and hurtful messages from society told him that being gay meant love and happiness weren’t for him. A million moments large and small over the years all came together to convince Shaun that he couldn’t keep going, that he had no future. And so he followed through on trying to make that a reality.

PAGES: 356
GENRE: memoir, autobiography
THEMES: depression, LGBT+, suicide
READALIKES: Hey, Kiddo (Krosozka), Bloom (Panetta)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred, Publishers Weekly starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY:Brave Face serves not just as a personal story but as a guide to help queer and questioning readers survive—better yet, to thrive—against all odds, in defiance of a world that so often appears to want them to fade away.” (Booklist starred review, 15 Apr 2019)


Birthday by Meredith Russo

Eric: There was the day we were born. There was the minute Morgan and I decided we were best friends for life. The years where we stuck by each other’s side–as Morgan’s mom died, as he moved across town, as I joined the football team, as my parents started fighting. But sometimes I worry that Morgan and I won’t be best friends forever. That there’ll be a day, a minute, a second, where it all falls apart and there’s no turning back the clock.

Morgan: I know that every birthday should feel like a new beginning, but I’m trapped in this mixed-up body, in this wrong life, in Nowheresville, Tennessee, on repeat. With a dad who cares about his football team more than me, a mom I miss more than anything, and a best friend who can never know my biggest secret. Maybe one day I’ll be ready to become the person I am inside. To become her. To tell the world. To tell Eric. But when?

PAGES: 275
GENRE: romance
THEMES: transgender, secrets, coming of age
READALIKES: Boy Meets Boy (Levithan), If I Was Your Girl (Russo)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Russo does a superb job of capturing and dramatizing Morgan’s agony and Eric’s confusion, exciting her readers’ deep empathy.” (Booklist starred, 15 Apr 2019)


Amelia Westlake Was Never Here by Erin Gough

Harriet Price is the perfect student: smart, dutiful, over-achieving. Will Everhart is a troublemaker who’s never met an injustice she didn’t fight. When their swim coach’s inappropriate behavior is swept under the rug, the unlikely duo reluctantly team up to expose his misdeeds, pulling provocative pranks and creating the instantly legendary Amelia Westlake–an imaginary student who helps right the many wrongs of their privileged institution.

PAGES: 356
GENRE: romance
THEMES: LGBT+, feminism, Australia
READALIKES: I Am Princess X (Priest), The Imaginary (Harrold)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “With its enemies-to-lovers romance and its ethical core, this Australian import gives readers plenty of high-stakes drama. A vigilante justice story with a moral compass and a tender heart.” (Booklist, 15 Apr 2019)


The Usual Suspects by Maurice Broaddus

Thelonius Mitchell is tired of being labeled. He’s in special ed, separated from the ‘normal’ kids at school who don’t have any ‘issues.’ That’s enough to make all the teachers and students look at him and his friends with a constant side-eye. (Although his disruptive antics and pranks have given him a rep too.) When a gun is found at a neighborhood hangout, Thelonius and his pals become instant suspects. Thelonius may be guilty of pulling crazy stunts at school, but a criminal? T isn’t about to let that label stick.

PAGES: 285
GENRE: realistic fiction
THEMES: bullies, special education
READALIKES: Restart (Korman), Ghost (Reynolds)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Readers will love watching these two uniquely gifted black boys explore the complicated tensions between impulses and choices, independence and support, turnin’ up and getting through.” (Kirkus starred review, 1 Mar 2019)

Serena: The Littlest Sister by Karlin Gray (Author) and Monica Ahanonu (Illustrator)

Serena Williams is one of the biggest names in sports, but she grew up the littlest of five girls in her family. While sharing a room and playing tennis with her older sisters, Serena had to figure out how to be her own person–on and off the court. This empowering biography showcases the rise of the youngest Williams sister and how her family played a part in her path to becoming the strong woman and star athlete she is today. Bold, colorful illustrations highlight the tight sisterhood and tennis action of Serena’s childhood and teenage years.

GENRE: picture book biography
THEMES: hard work, perseverance, tennis
READALIKES: Sisters: Venus and Serena Williams (Winter), Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams (Cline-Ransome)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “In a market saturated with picture book biographies about Serena, the unique artwork is what makes this one notable.” (SLJ, 1 Mar 2019)

Parker Bell and the Science of Friendship by Cynthia Platt (Author) and Rea Zhai (Illustrator)

Budding scientist Parker Bell really wants to win the school Science Triathlon and follow in the footsteps of her idols, chimpanzee expert Jane Goodall and astronaut Mae Jemison. She’s sure that if she teams up with her trivia whiz BFF, Cassie, they will dominate the Science Bee, Egg Drop, and Animal Adaptation Presentation. When Cassie invites her new friend, Theo, to join their team, Parker is worried – that Theo won’t help them win and might steal her best friend. As the three work together, Parker learns that you don’t have to be the best to be a real scientist and a good friend.

PAGES: 152
GENRE: realistic fiction
THEMES: STEM, friendship, science
READALIKES: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Young Readers Edition (Kamkwamba), All’s Faire in Middle School (Jamieson)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “A lighthearted read that will offer comfort to young children that others too face challenges of friendship, teamwork and competition.” (Kirkus, 1 Mar 2019)

Camp Shady Crook by Lee Gjertsen Malone

For Archie, the start of summer means another stint at Camp Shady Brook, where there is a lot more to the camp than meets the eye–just like Archie and his now blended family. But thanks to a con Archie developed last year, he’s finally somebody…and he’s not going to lose that status to the new girl, Vivian. For Vivian, thanks to an incident That Shall Not Be Named or Spoken Of, her summer of exotic travels with Mom and Dad has turned into traveling to a dump of a summer camp in the middle of nowhere. But thanks to perfect timing, Vivian soon finds herself in a ring of kids trying to out-con each other–and discovers Camp Shady Brook is more like Camp Shady Crook.

PAGES: 288
GENRE: realistic fiction
THEMES: summer camp
READALIKES: Holes (Sachar), Spy Camp (Gibbs)

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Malone’s funny mystery of evolving relationships and self-realizations depicts all the emotions most young campers experience at summer camp. The result is a playful and relatable story with an enticing touch of mischief.” (Booklist, 15 May 2019)

Our Flag Was Still There: The True Story of Mary Pickersgill and the Star-Spangled Banner by Jessie Hartland

If you go to the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, you can see a massive American flag: thirty feet tall and forty-two feet long. That’s huge! But how did it get there? And where did it come from? The story of this giant flag begins in 1812 and stars a major on the eve of battle, a seamstress and her mighty helpers, and a poet named Francis Scott Key. This isn’t just the story of one flag. It’s the story of “The Star Spangled-Banner,” a poem that became our national anthem, too.

GENRE: nonfiction picture book
THEMES: freedom, US history, American flag
READALIKES: Blue Sky White Stars (Naberhaus), Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag (Sanders)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “there is so much to like about this, including the folk art–style artwork with childlike appeal, the emphasis on the women who constructed the flag, and the important ways a symbol can influence a country for generations.” (Booklist starred review, 15 Apr 2019)

*The Last Peach by Gus Gordon

The story of two indecisive bugs contemplating eating the last peach of the summer in a hilarious picture book about anticipation and expectation.

GENRE: picture book
THEMES: anticipation, delayed satisfaction
READALIKES: James and the Giant Peach (Dahl)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred, Publishers Weekly starred, Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Collages of fragments of printed words in French, combined with artwork done in watercolor, crayon, and pencil, are surrounded by generous white space, which offsets the round, juicy, delectable peach and the somewhat wacky sartorial dress of the bug-eyed insects with humor and delight.” (Booklist starred review, 1 May 2019)

*The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown by Mac Barnett (Author) and Sarah Jacoby (Illustrator)

What is important about Margaret Wise Brown? A picture book biography of Margaret Wise Brown, the legendary author of Goodnight Moon, The Runaway Bunny, and other beloved children’s classics.

Librarians, you really need to read the full Kirkus review of this book. Can a book review be moving? Apparently, it can. Hands-down the best, most emotional book review I’ve ever read.

GENRE: picture book biography
THEMES: authors
READALIKES: Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White (Sweet)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred, Kirkus starred, Publishers Weekly starred, SLJ starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “The important thing is that you wrote this picture book—this picture book about Margaret Wise Brown. A runaway success.” (Kirkus, 1 Mar 2019)

*Camp Tiger by by Susan Choi (Author) and John Rocco (Illustrator)

Every year, a boy and his family go camping at Mountain Pond. Usually, they see things like an eagle fishing for his dinner, a salamander with red spots on its back, and chipmunks that come to steal food while the family sits by the campfire. But this year is different. This year, the boy is going into first grade, and his mother is encouraging him to do things on his own, just like his older brother. And the most different thing of all…this year, a tiger comes to the woods.

GENRE: picture book
THEMES: camping, family
READALIKES: A Campfire Tail (Marsh), Flashlight (Boyd)
STARS AND AWARDS: Booklist starred, Kirkus starred, Publishers Weekly starred, SLJ starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “This beautiful paring of text and illustrations is an excellent choice for group sharing and can spark discussion about ways to cope with new situations.” (SLJ starred review, 1 May 2019)



  • Here’s an idea for a TPTproduct. You’ve identified “read-alikes” for countless books.
    How about making a list of a lot of them (or all of them).
    Personally, I would take such info and put in address stickers to put inside the front covers of books.

    • LOL–I like the way you think, Linda! I will keep it in mind!


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