New Release Spotlight: October 8, 2019 (Part I–YA)

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It’s another three-list week! I’ve included links to the middle grade and picture book lists at the bottom of this post. I had really hoped to do just one list this week, but it’s not possible with this number of fantastic releases. How could I possibly choose some to leave off? It’s easier to do three lists.

Playlist: The Rebels and Revolutionaries of Sound by James Rhodes (Author) and Martin O’Neill (Illustrator)

Piano maestro James Rhodes introduces today’s readers to seven of the greatest composers of all time.

This picture book for older readers shows how Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and others were the original rock stars and are responsible for every track on today’s phones. So perfect for band and music teachers!

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-11
  • Themes: classical music, composers

*Ordinary Hazards: A Memoir by Nikki Grimes

There have been several author memoirs for young adults published recently: Brave Face by Shaun David Hutchinson, Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson, Hey, Kiddo by Jarett Krosoczka, and now Ordinary Hazards. Authors that bare their own pain for so many young readers hold a special place in my heart. Far too many young people desperately need to hear these stories of survival from authors they read and know.

Growing up with a mother suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and a mostly absent father, Nikki Grimes found herself terrorized by babysitters, shunted from foster family to foster family, and preyed upon by those she trusted. At the age of six, she poured her pain onto a piece of paper late one night – and discovered the magic and impact of writing.

Three starred reviews. Told in free verse.

  • Genre(s): memoir, biography, free verse
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-adult
  • Themes: mental illness, trauma, abuse

The Library of Lost Things by Laura Taylor Namey

I need this book in my life! I can think of at least two 12th graders who would love it also. Because it includes lots of quotes from contemporary YA and classic literature, it’s a great pick for bibliophiles looking for romance. Give this to fans of Picoult’s Between the Lines.

High school senior Darcy Wells surrounds herself with books. She works in a bookstore and memorizes lines from classic poetry. Her mother, who appears perfect on the outside, is a hoarder who shops compulsively and fills the house with her many purchases. Enter Asher, an older boy facing serious emotional and physical challenges following a car accident.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: literature, hoarding, mental illness, rehabilitation, car accidents

In the Hall with the Knife by Diana Peterfreund

A book inspired by…the board game Clue? Yep! Give this to students who love Karen McManus and Sara Shepard. I love what Peterfreund did with the character names, too. A sequel is planned.

When a storm strikes at Blackbrook Academy, an elite prep school nestled in the woods of Maine, a motley crew of students–including Beth ‘Peacock’ Picach, Orchid McKee, Vaughn Green, Sam ‘Mustard’ Maestor, Finn Plum, and Scarlett Mistry–are left stranded on campus with their headmaster. Hours later, her body is found hanging in the conservatory and it’s very clear her death was no suicide. With this group of students who are all hiding something, nothing is as it seems, and everyone has a motive for murder.

  • Genre(s): mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: murder, secrets, Clue (board game)

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

Wow, this sounds like a feminist Lord of the Flies mixed with The Handmaid’s Tale. At age 16, girls are sent to the wilderness for a year to release their seductiveness and magic. Once their “Grace Year” is complete, the girls either become wives and mothers or slaves. This story is about rebellious Tierney as she encounters the many dangers of her Grace Year.

Trigger warnings include: sex slavery, violence, blood and guts. Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): dystopia, horror
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: misogyny, sex roles, rebellion, males who fear females

The Athena Protocol by Shamim Sarif

Athena is a small, underground group of female spies. Their mission is to carry out vigilante justice (capture, not kill) against those who violate women’s rights. Jessie is one of three Athena agents working in the field, but when she accidentally kills someone, she’s stripped of her agent status. Striking out on her own (and with no one watching her back), Jessie investigates traffickers as her former teammates have been assigned to bring her down.

This is, by all accounts I’ve seen, action-packed and engrossing. Give The Athena Protocol to students looking for a thriller with a feminist twist. I know a 9th grade girl who loves Chris Bradford novels who will love this book! Pair it with Caleb Roehrig’s Death Prefers Blondes.

  • Genre(s): thriller, action-adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: human trafficking, crime, spies

By Any Means Necessary by Candice Montgomery

On the day Torrey moves and officially becomes a college freshman, he gets a call that might force him to drop out before he’s even made it through orientation: the bank is foreclosing on the bee farm his Uncle Miles left him. He tries balancing his old life in L.A. with his new classes, new friends, and (sort of) new boyfriend in San Francisco, but as the farm heads for auction, the pressure of juggling everything threatens to tear him apart.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 9+
  • Themes: prejudice, racism, college, LGBT+

I Know You Remember by Jennifer Donaldson

After three years away, Ruthie Hayden arrives in her hometown of Anchorage, Alaska to devastating news: her best friend Zahra has been missing for a few days. Ruthie vows to do whatever it takes to find her.

Zahra vanished from a party just days before Ruthie’s return, but the more people she talks to, the more she realizes that the Zahra she knew disappeared long before that fateful night. Darker still are the rumors that something happened to Zahra while Ruthie was gone, something that changed her forever.

Great reviews all around for this mystery, but the Booklist review mentions that the “twist” at the end comes out of nowhere. I personally hate that as it feels inauthentic, and because of this criticism, I don’t see myself investing time in this book (despite the Alaska setting and missing-person mystery, which I usually love).

  • Genre(s): mystery, thriller
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: missing persons, best friends, crime, Alaska, addiction

Orpheus Girl by Brynne Rebele-Henry

Debut author! This one sounds so interesting to me because I know nothing about these “reeducation camps” except that I’ve heard that they exist. It might be interesting to draw parallels to Iran–where homosexuality is punishable by death–by pairing this with Ellis’s Moon at Nine or Farizan’s If You Could Be Mine.

Abandoned by a single mother she never knew, 16-year-old Raya–obsessed with ancient myths–lives with her grandmother in a small conservative Texas town. For years Raya has fought to hide her feelings for her best friend and true love, Sarah. When the two are outed, they are sent to Friendly Saviors: a re-education camp meant to “fix” them and make them heterosexual. Upon arrival, Raya vows to assume the role of Orpheus, to return to the world of the living with her love–and after she, Sarah, and the other teen residents are subjected to abusive and brutal “treatments” by the staff, Raya only becomes more determined to escape.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: LGBT+, “reeducation camps,” Texas

Enough Is Enough: How Students Can Join the Fight for Gun Safety by Michelle Roehm McCann

Young people are suffering the most from the epidemic of gun violence–as early as kindergarten students are crouching behind locked doors during active shooter drills. Teens are galvanizing to speak up and fight for their right to be safe. They don’t just want to get involved, they want to change the world.

The book explains America’s gun violence issues–myths and facts, causes and perpetrators, solutions and change-makers–and provides a road map for effective activism.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: gun control, school shootings, gun violence, teen activism

Rogue Heart by Axie Oh

Do your students love Marie Lu and Marissa Meyer? Warcross, Legend, and Cinder are hugely popular with teens, and this one would make a great read-alike.

Companion to Rebel Soul. Neo Beijing, 2201. To escape the ghosts of her past, eighteen-year-old telepath Ama works by day in a bakery and cafe, and moonlights as a lounge singer in a smoky bar at night. She’s anonymous, she’s safe from the never-ending world war, and that’s how she’d like to stay. But then a resistance group called PHNX recruits her to help save young girls from a government experiment exactly like the one she fled. Soon, Ama is traveling with the resistance on a series of dangerous missions, using her telepathic and telekinetic powers to infiltrate authoritarian Alliance operations and gain intelligence for the democratic resistance.





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  • I’m looking for the lists of past years of book reviews. Is it here somewhere?
    Thank you!

    • Hi, Jo,
      To save space, my Spotlights only go back to June 2019. I am on a larger platform now, so I don’t need to delete them anymore, but I cannot recover the ones before June 2019. You can find all the Spotlights I do have by clicking the New Releases tab at the top.

      If you are looking for my individual book reviews, you can click the Reviews tab at the top. I have hundreds of those, and they go all the way back to 2011!


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