New Release Spotlight: October 1, 2019, Part I (YA)

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Two things about this week’s list:

  1. It’s a 3-part list again! The publishers and authors are just on a roll lately with some seriously amazing titles. YA posts today (this list), then middle grades on Tuesday, and picture books on Wednesday. I’m shifting my usual Tues-Thurs timing since my Monthly Library Challenge for October debuts this Thursday.
  2. A huge thanks to all of you who sent me both positive and constructive feedback after last week’s Spotlight format experiment. I had a few requests to list the themes, genres, and age groups underneath my commentary, so I have added that back in this week.

Please keep the feedback coming! I truly want to make this weekly list as useful as possible for you, so let me know if you’d like me to add or try something new. I have thick skin, so please don’t worry about “hurting my feelings” with constructive criticism. After 3 1/2 years of creating these weekly lists, I’m a bit bored with them. I know how useful they are for you, so I do not plan to stop doing them, but I am very open to experimenting with something new!

As always, titles with a * by them received two or more starred professional reviews. Here are this week’s fabulous YA titles…

*Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All by Laura Ruby

This is the story of two women: one living and one dead. The living girl is Frankie, a teen girl abandoned with her sister in a Chicago 1941 orphanage. The dead girl is a ghost named Pearl. Pearl narrates the story, and as she watches Frankie live her life, Pearl’s own story (and her history) begins to unfurl.

Both SLJ and Booklist starred this title.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: WWII, ghosts, orphans, siblings

Resurrection Girls by Ava Morgyn

Debut author! This book has a sad story behind it. While she was writing this book, the author’s own daughter died in an accident. Much of her own grief went into this story of loss, sadness, and healing.

Resurrection Girls is about Olivia, a teen girl whose three-year old brother drowned in an accident three years ago. Olivia feels responsible because she was flirting with a boy instead of watching her brother when he drowned. With her parents grieving in their own ways, it’s easy for Olivia to become saddled with responsibilities but otherwise become ignored. Olivia soon meets a new neighbor–Kara–who introduces Olivia to drugs and alcohol and convinces her to write letters of hope to death row inmates.

  • Genre(s): magical realism
  • Recommended for: Grades 8+
  • Themes: grief, guilt, death, drugs, alcohol

Now Entering Addamsville by Francesca Zappia

When Zora Novak is framed for a crime she didn’t commit, she must track down the true culprit and clear her name before it’s too late. But in a small Indiana town obsessed with ghosts, getting people to believe the truth might prove to be impossible.

Last year, a 12th grade student at my school donated her copy of Zappia’s Eliza and Her Monsters to the library. She said it was one of the best books she’d ever read–high praise coming from a young lady who reads YA fiction voraciously. Though this title received no starred reviews, the professional and Goodreads reviews praise the story’s wide appeal to teen readers. My 12th grader is a college student now, and I sure hope she makes some time to read this book, too.

  • Genre(s): mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: detectives, ghosts, murder, psychic ability

*The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake

Debut author! This book received a whopping FIVE starred reviews! It’s loosely-based on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

Wrecks seem to run in the Larkin family: Tall, funny, musical Violet can’t stop partying with the wrong people, and her brilliant, sensitive younger brother Sam attempts to take his own life. Shipped back to their family’s hometown while Sam is in treatment, Violet is haunted by her family’s missing piece – the lost shipwreck she and Sam dreamed of discovering when they were children. There she discovers something new about herself when she meets fellow wreck hunter Liv, and learns what it takes to swim up from disaster.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, romance, retelling
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: siblings, grief, mental health, depression, anxiety

*Angel Mage by Garth Nix

I’ve always had Garth Nix books in my libraries, but they have never gotten as much checkout as other fantasy series like Flanagan’s The Ranger’s Apprentice and Scott’s Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series. I started reading Sabriel a couple of years ago but just couldn’t get into it. Still, Nix does have plenty of fans out there. This title received three starred reviews, so it’s definitely worth a look for your dark fantasy readers.

More than a century has passed since Liliath crept into the empty sarcophagus of Saint Marguerite, fleeing the Fall of Ystara. But she emerges from her magical sleep still beautiful, looking no more than nineteen, and once again renews her single-minded quest to be united with her lover, Palleniel, the archangel of Ystara.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, romance, adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: angels, quests

The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis

Five girls sold into a life of prostitution go on the run together when one of them accidentally kills a man.

This book received a starred review from Kirkus, but I can’t help but compare it to a book I really did not like (Defy by Sara B. Larson). In that book, as in this one, young girls are born or sold into a life of sex work, living together in a “Welcome House” (in Defy, they were called “breeding houses”). Though I know this happens in real life, the idea of it is just disgusting and turns my stomach and makes me hate men (because I don’t see too many women using the sex houses, do you?). This book is a western (which I love!), but women forced into sex work just is not what I choose to read for my fiction.

  • Genre(s): adventure, fantasy, dystopia, western
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: prostitution, girl power, murder

*The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

I probably don’t need to say anything about this one since it’s by Ruta Sepetys, and her books nail it every single time, and her books always wins all the awards. From the looks of the early reviews, this one will rank right up there with her other books. I’ll be reading it, too, no doubt. I love Ruta Sepetys just as much as every other YA reader. Her writing has a way of squeezing all the emotion right out of me.

Sepetys is sticking with what works for her–well-researched, character-driven stories about little-known historical events. This one is set in Spain in 1957, a time when Spain was experiencing a growth in new business and tourism. Daniel is an aspiring photographer and son of an oil tycoon. He meets Ana, a maid in the Madrid hotel where he and his parents are staying. Ana’s life and freedoms contrast greatly with Daniel’s, and when he begins to uncover governmental secrets and lies, he puts both of their lives in danger.

Four starred reviews for The Fountains of Silence, but I doubt anyone’s surprised at that. Ruta Sepetys is like the YA version of Kate Dicamillo and Mo Willems.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: Spain, dictators, Francisco Franco, identity, fascism, post-war society (Spanish Civil War)

10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston

For as long as I can remember, I have read at least one Christmas book in December, especially in the days leading up to Christmas Day. This is going to be my holiday book this year. The premise isn’t something that would likely happen in real life, but it sounds fun nonetheless. Give this book to fans of Menon’s rom-com When Dimple Met Rishi.

Sophie’s boyfriend Griffin breaks up with her suddenly just before Christmas vacation. Heartbroken, Sophie seeks refuge at her grandmother’s house, where her boisterous relatives gather for the holidays. As happens in many families, everyone seems to know the “perfect match” for Sophie. So Sophie agrees to allow them to set her up on ten blind dates during her Christmas vacation.

  • Genre(s): romance, humor
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: Christmas, blind dates, large families




Looking for more? This week’s Spotlight was so long that I split it into three parts:



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