New Release Spotlight: January 7, 2020 (YA)

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Welcome to January! As promised, January holds a TON of new releases. There are so many this month that I will once again split my New Release Spotlights into three parts: YA on Tuesday, middle grades on Wednesday, and picture books on Thursday. Today, we’re starting with the latest YA titles. All of the titles on this week’s list have already been input into “The Ginormous,” a searchable Google spreadsheet of titles, authors, genres, themes, and recommended grade levels. “The Ginormous” is updated several times each week, so be sure to bookmark it for easy access!

You know how I can tell Valentine’s Day is coming up? So many romance books this week! Of the 20 books on today’s list, I’ve listed romance as a major genre on nine of them. The book that looks most interesting to me this week is The Light Between Us by Andrew Fukuda. The storyline sounds intriguing and unique, and I enjoyed Fukuda’s Hunt trilogy when I read it several years ago.

*All the Days Past, All the Days to Come by Mildred D. Taylor

Cassie Logan, first met in Song of the Trees and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, is a young woman now, searching for her place in the world, a journey that takes her from Toledo to California, to law school in Boston, and, ultimately, in the 60s, home to Mississippi to participate in voter registration. She is witness to the now-historic events of the century: the Great Migration north, the rise of the civil rights movement, preceded and precipitated by the racist society of America, and the often violent confrontations that brought about change.

Multiple starred reviews.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: prejudice, civil rights, racism, segregation, African-Americans, Mississippi

Every Other Weekend by Abigail Johnson

Adam Moynihan’s life used to be awesome. Straight As, close friends and a home life so perfect that it could have been a TV show straight out of the 50s. Then his oldest brother died, and his family fell apart.

Jolene Timber’s life is nothing like the movies she loves–not the happy ones anyway. As an aspiring director, she should know, because she’s been re-imagining her life as a film ever since she was a kid. But her parents’ divorce left her stuck in the middle, and Jolene just wants the fighting to stop.

Forced to spend every other weekend in the same apartment building, Adam and Jolene form a friendship. Soon, the worst part of their lives becomes the one thing they most look forward to.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-11
  • Themes: family problems, divorce, grief, brothers, emotional abuse

Flowers in the Gutter: The True Story of the Edelweiss Pirates, Teenagers Who Resisted the Nazis by K.R. Gaddy

Fritz, Gertrud, and Jean were classic outsiders: their clothes were different, their music was rebellious, and they weren’t afraid to fight. But they were also Germans living under Hitler, and any nonconformity could get them arrested or worse. As children in 1933, they saw their world change. Their earliest memories were of the Nazi rise to power and of their parents fighting Brownshirts in the streets, being sent to prison, or just disappearing.

As Hitler’s grip tightened, these three found themselves trapped in a nation whose government contradicted everything they believed in. And by the time they were teenagers, the Nazis expected them to be part of the war machine. Fritz, Gertrud, and Jean and hundreds like them said no. They grew bolder, painting anti-Nazi graffiti, distributing anti-war leaflets, and helping those persecuted by the Nazis. Their actions were always dangerous. The Gestapo pursued and arrested hundreds of Edelweiss Pirates. In World War II’s desperate final year, some Pirates joined in sabotage and armed resistance, risking the Third Reich’s ultimate punishment.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): narrative nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: WWII, Adolf Hitler, Germany, Nazis, resistance, world history, war, courage

Loveboat Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen

Debut author!

“Our cousins have done this program,” Sophie whispers. “Best kept secret. Zero supervision.” And just like that, Ever Wong’s summer takes an unexpected turn. Gone is Chien Tan, the strict educational program in Taiwan that Ever was expecting. In its place, she finds Loveboat: a summer-long free-for-all where hookups abound, adults turn a blind eye, snake-blood sake flows abundantly, and the nightlife runs nonstop. But not every student is quite what they seem.

  • Genre(s): romance, humor
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: Chinese-Americans, Taiwan, strict parents, summer camp, parental expectations, coming-of-age

*Just Breathe by Cammie McGovern

David Scheinman is the popular president of his senior class, battling cystic fibrosis. Jamie Turner is a quiet sophomore, struggling with depression. The pair soon realizes that they’re able to be more themselves with each other than they can be with anyone else, and their unlikely friendship starts to turn into something so much more. But neither Jamie nor David can bring themselves to reveal the secrets that weigh most heavily on their hearts–and their time for honesty may be running out.

Booklist and Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): romance, realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: mental illness, cystic fibrosis, alternating perspectives, depression

Furious Thing by Jenny Downham

Lexi’s angry. And it’s getting worse. If only she could stop losing her temper and behave herself, her stepfather would accept her, her mom would love her like she used to, and her stepbrother would declare his crushing desire to spend the rest of his life with her. She wants these things so badly, she’s determined to swallow her anger and make her family proud.But pushing fury down doesn’t make it disappear. Instead, it simmers below the surface waiting to erupt…And there’ll be fireworks when it does.

Teach your students the term “gaslighting” when booktalking this title. It is a term I’ve only learned recently, but it perfectly describes situations where abusers play the victim. For more gaslighting, check out Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios.

I’m planning to read this one.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: anger management, gaslighting, emotional abuse, stepfamilies, bullying, coming of age

*19 Love Songs By David Levithan

A resentful member of a high school Quiz Bowl team with an unrequited crush.

A Valentine’s Day in the life of Every Day‘s protagonist “A.”

A return to the characters of Two Boys Kissing.

19 Love Songs, from New York Times bestselling author David Levithan, delivers all of these stories and more. Born from Levithan’s tradition of writing a story for his friends each Valentine’s Day, this collection brings all of them to his readers for the first time. With fiction, nonfiction, and a story in verse, there’s something for every reader here.

Multiple starred reviews.

  • Genre(s): romance, short stories
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: LGBT+, unrequited love, Valentine’s Day, multiple formats, identity

Jane Anonymous by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Seven months. That’s how long I was kept captive. Locked in a room with a bed, refrigerator, and adjoining bathroom, I was instructed to eat, bathe, and behave. I received meals, laundered clothes, and toiletries through a cat door, never knowing if it was day or night. The last time I saw the face of my abductor was when he dragged me fighting from the trunk of his car. And when I finally escaped, I prayed I’d never see him again. Now that I’m home, my parents and friends want everything to be like it was before I left. But they don’t understand that dining out and shopping trips can’t heal what’s broken inside me. I barely leave my bedroom. Therapists are clueless and condescending. So I start my own form of therapy–but writing about my experience awakens uncomfortable memories, ones that should’ve stayed buried. How far will I have to go to uncover the truth of what happened–and will it break me forever?

…and I’ll be reading this one, too! The Goodreads reviews are pretty good right now, and I think this would be ridiculously easy to booktalk. Give this to fans of Stolen by Lucy Christopher. Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): thriller
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: kidnapping, trauma, loss, psychological thriller, confessional

Nameless Queen by Rebecca McLaughlin

Debut author! Everyone expected the king’s daughter would inherit the throne. No one expected me.

It shouldn’t be possible. I’m Nameless, a class of citizens so disrespected, we don’t even get names. Dozens of us have been going missing for months and no one seems to care.

But there’s no denying the tattoo emblazoned on my arm. I am to be queen. In a palace where the corridors are more dangerous than the streets, though, how could I possibly rule? And what will become of the Nameless if I don’t?

  • Genre(s): fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: royalty, caste system, oppression

*Stolen Justice: The Struggle for African American Voting Rights by Lawrence Goldstone

Following the Civil War, the Reconstruction era raised a new question to those in power in the US: Should African Americans, so many of them former slaves, be granted the right to vote?

In a bitter partisan fight over the legislature and Constitution, the answer eventually became yes, though only after two constitutional amendments, two Reconstruction Acts, two Civil Rights Acts, three Enforcement Acts, the impeachment of a president, and an army of occupation. Yet, even that was not enough to ensure that African American voices would be heard, or their lives protected. White supremacists loudly and intentionally prevented black Americans from voting — and they were willing to kill to do so.

Booklist and Hornbook starred.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 6+
  • Themes: suffrage, voting rights, African-Americans, prejudice, racism, white supremacists, Civil War Reconstruction, Supreme Court, US History, elections

How to Speak Boy by Tiana Smith

Quinn and Grayson have been fierce speech and debate rivals for years. They can’t stand each other, either in competition or in real life. But when their AP Government teacher returns their school assignments to the wrong cubbies, they begin exchanging anonymous notes without knowing who the other one is. Despite their differences, the two come together through their letters and find themselves unknowingly falling for the competition. Before the state tournament, the two of them need to figure out what they want in life, or risk their own future happiness. After all, what’s the point of speech and debate if you can’t say what’s in your heart?

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 9+
  • Themes: academic rivalry, Idaho, debate team, rumors

Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim

Retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo. When Amaya rescues a mysterious stranger from drowning, she fears her rash actions have earned her a longer sentence on the debtor ship where she’s been held captive for years. Instead, the man she saved offers her unimaginable riches and a new identity, setting Amaya on a perilous course through the coastal city-state of Moray, where old-world opulence and desperate gamblers collide. Amaya wants one thing: revenge against the man who ruined her family and stole the life she once had. But the more entangled she becomes in this game of deception-and as her path intertwines with the son of the man she’s plotting to bring down-the more she uncovers about the truth of her past. And the more she realizes she must trust no one?

This is the first book in an expected duology.

  • Genre(s): retelling, fantasy, adventure, romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: The Count of Monte Cristo, rags-to-riches, con artists, sword-fighting

The Thousand Steps by Helen Brain

The Fiery Spiral, book 1. On the brink of execution, 16 year old Ebba den Eeden is unexpectedly elevated from the bunker deep in South Africa’s Table Mountain where she has lived all her life, believing–as do all the other teenagers who toil daily to make their food and power the bunker–that the world “Above” is uninhabitable due to a nuclear holocaust. Instead, she is heiress to a massive fortune―one that everyone wants to control. While dealing with the machinations of the High Priest, his handsome son Hal, and the rules and regulations of a society and religion she doesn’t understand, she must also try to save her three friends, still stuck in the bunker and facing execution any day.

  • Genre(s): dystopia, science fiction, mythology
  • Recommended for: Grades 6-Adult
  • Themes: South Africa, Apartheid, orphans, gods and goddesses, racism, discrimination

Three Things I Know Are True by Betty Culley

Debut author! Life changes forever for Liv when her older brother, Jonah, accidentally shoots himself with his best friend Clay’s father’s gun. Now Jonah needs round-the-clock care just to stay alive, and Liv feels like she’s the only person who can see that her brother is still there inside his broken body.

With Liv’s mom suing Clay’s family, there are divisions in the community that Liv knows she’s not supposed to cross. But Clay is her friend, too, and she refuses to turn away from him–just like she refuses to give up on Jonah.

BCCB starred.

  • Genre(s): free verse, realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: grief, gun violence, gun control debate, compassion, verse, blue collar towns, traumatic brain injury, Maine

Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez

Debut author! Ximena is the decoy Condesa, a stand-in for the last remaining Illustrian royal. Her people lost everything when the usurper, Atoc, used an ancient relic to summon ghosts and drive the Illustrians from La Ciudad. Now Ximena’s motivated by her insatiable thirst for revenge, and her rare ability to spin thread from moonlight. When Atoc demands the real Condesa’s hand in marriage, it’s Ximena’s duty to go in her stead. Using the opportunity to get close to Atoc, she can steal his relic and return the true aristocrata to their rightful place. But a masked vigilante, a warm-hearted princess, and a thoughtful healer challenge Ximena, and her mission becomes more complicated. There could be a way to overthrow the usurper without starting another war, but only if Ximena turns her back on revenge–and her Condesa.

Inspired by Inca and Bolivian history. No starred reviews, but that Goodreads rating is really high. I’ve added this to my TBR list.

  • Genre(s): fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-Adult
  • Themes: magic, royal decoys, prejudice, enemies, revolution, orphans, imperialism, genocide

The Map from Here to There by Emery Lord

It’s senior year, and Paige Hancock is finally living her best life. She has a fun summer job, great friends, and a super charming boyfriend who totally gets her. But senior year also means big decisions. Weighing “the rest of her life,” Paige feels her anxiety begin to pervade every decision she makes. Everything is exactly how she always wanted it to be–how can she leave it all behind next year? In her head, she knows there is so much more to experience after high school. But in her heart,is it so terrible to want everything to stay the same forever?

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: anxiety, high school seniors, Indiana, coming of age

Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Katherine Webber

A grieving girl. An unexpected boy. A perfect love story…until it isn’t perfect at all. Sometimes a broken heart is all you need to set you free…Reiko loves the endless sky and electric colors of the Californian desert. It is a refuge from an increasingly claustrophobic life of family pressures and her own secrets. Then she meets Seth, a boy who shares a love of the desert and her yearning for a different kind of life. But Reiko and Seth both want something the other can’t give them. As summer ends, things begin to fall apart. But the end of love can sometimes be the beginning of you.

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 9+
  • Themes: grief, heartbreak, summer romance, Palm Springs, California, social status

This Light Between Us: A Novel of World War II by Andrew Fukuda

In 1935, ten – year – old Alex Maki, from Bainbridge Island, Washington, is disgusted when he’s forced to become pen pals with Charlie Levy of Paris, France–a girl. He thought she was a boy. In spite of Alex’s reluctance, their letters continue to fly across the Atlantic, along with the shared hopes and dreams of friendship. Until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the growing Nazi persecution of Jews force both young people to confront the darkest aspects of human nature. From the desolation of an internment camp on the plains of Manzanar to the horrors of Auschwitz and the devastation of European battlefields, the only thing they can hold onto are the memories of their letters. But nothing can dispel the light between them.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: WWII, Pearl Harbor, pen pals, Bainbridge, Washington, Paris, France, Japanese Internment, friendship, epistolary (partially)


Throw Like a Girl by Sarah Henning

When softball star Liv Rodinsky throws one ill-advised punch during the most important game of the year, she loses her scholarship to her fancy private school, her boyfriend, and her teammates all in one fell swoop. With no other options, Liv is forced to transfer to the nearest public school, Northland, where she’ll have to convince its coach she deserves a spot on the softball team, all while facing both her ex and the teammates of the girl she punched… Every. Single. Day.

Enter Grey, the injured star quarterback with amazing hair and a foolproof plan: if Liv joins the football team as his temporary replacement, he’ll make sure she gets a spot on the softball team in the spring. But it will take more than just a flawless spiral for Liv to find acceptance in Northland’s halls, and behind that charismatic smile, Grey may not be so perfect after all.

Give this one to fans of Miranda Kenneally. No starred reviews, but several professional reviews praise the book’s strong characterizations. SLJ Express also mentions that there is no sex and only mild swearing.

  • Genre(s): sports fiction, romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: Zero-Tolerance Policies, bullying, football, softball, strong female protagonist, coaches

We Used to Be Friends by Amy Spalding

Told in alternating timelines.

At the start of their senior year in high school, James (a girl with a boy’s name) and Kat are inseparable, but by graduation, they’re no longer friends. James prepares to head off to college as she reflects on the dissolution of her friendship with Kat while, in alternating chapters, Kat thinks about being newly in love with her first girlfriend and having a future that feels wide open. Over the course of senior year, Kat wants nothing more than James to continue to be her steady rock, as James worries that everything she believes about love and her future is a lie when her high-school sweetheart parents announce they’re getting a divorce.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: alternating timelines, family problems, heartbreak, LGBT+




Looking for more? Here are this week’s new releases for middle grades and picture books:



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