New Release Spotlight: March 3, 2020 (YA Titles)

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This week is another whopper list, so I’ve split it into three parts: YA, middle grade, and picture books. All are linked at the bottom of this page.

This is the YA list, which is generally recommended for Grades 7-12. We have new titles this week from the incomparable Marie Lu, Mindy McGinnis, Cassandra Clare, Orlagh Collins, and Marie Rutkoski. This list of 15 titles does not reflect all the YA books I found for this week; rather, I’m balancing a variety of genres, diverse characters, and popular authors. I was originally aiming for 10 titles per list this week, but the YA list was just too awesome!

As always, titles with a * by them received two or more starred professional reviews. This week’s YA and middle grade Spotlights are linked at the bottom of this post. And don’t forget The Ginormous book list, which is close to 500 titles now!

The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

Two siblings. Two brilliant talents. But only one Mozart.

Born with a gift for music, Nannerl Mozart has just one wish–to be remembered forever. But even as she delights audiences with her masterful playing, she has little hope she’ll ever become the acclaimed composer she longs to be. She is a young woman in 18th century Europe, and that means composing is forbidden to her. She will perform only until she reaches a marriageable age–her tyrannical father has made that much clear.

And as Nannerl’s hope grows dimmer with each passing year, the talents of her beloved younger brother, Wolfgang, only seem to shine brighter. His brilliance begins to eclipse her own, until one day a mysterious stranger from a magical land appears with an irresistible offer. He has the power to make her wish come true–but his help may cost her everything.

I’m so excited that this title is coming up in my YA book club! SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction, fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: magic, princes, classical music, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, siblings, brothers and sisters, abuse, 18th Century, Europe

All the Invisible Things by Orlagh Collins

Ever since her mom died and her family moved to a new town four years ago, sixteen-year-old Vetty Lake has hidden her heart. She’d rather keep secrets than risk getting hurt–even if that means not telling anyone that she’s pretty sure she’s bisexual.

But this summer, everything could change. Vetty and her family are moving back to her old neighborhood, right across the street from her childhood best friend Pez. Next to Pez, she always felt free and fearless. Reconnecting with him could be the link she needs to get back to her old self.

Vetty quickly discovers Pez isn’t exactly the boy she once knew. He has a new group of friends, a glamorous sort-of-girlfriend named March, and a laptop full of secrets. And things get even more complicated when she feels a sudden spark with March.

As Vetty navigates her relationship with Pez and her own shifting feelings, one question looms: Does becoming the girl she longs to be mean losing the friendship that once was everything to her?

PLEASE NOTE from the SLJ review: “There are numerous realistic conversations about sex and porn, as well as a scene involving masturbation, making this a better choice for mature readers.”

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: death of a parent, grief, childhood friends, bisexuality, secrets, coming of age, self-acceptace, London, LGBT+

Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare

Cordelia Carstairs is a Shadowhunter, a warrior trained since childhood to battle demons. When her father is accused of a terrible crime, she and her brother travel to London in hopes of preventing the family’s ruin. Cordelia’s mother wants to marry her off, but Cordelia is determined to be a hero rather than a bride. Soon Cordelia encounters childhood friends James and Lucie Herondale and is drawn into their world of glittering ballrooms, secret assignations, and supernatural salons, where vampires and warlocks mingle with mermaids and magicians. All the while, she must hide her secret love for James, who is sworn to marry someone else.

But Cordelia’s new life is blown apart when a shocking series of demon attacks devastate London. These monsters are nothing like those Shadowhunters have fought before–these demons walk in daylight, strike down the unwary with incurable poison, and seem impossible to kill. London is immediately quarantined. Trapped in the city, Cordelia and her friends discover that their own connection to a dark legacy has gifted them with incredible powers–and forced a brutal choice that will reveal the true cruel price of being a hero.

No starred reviews, but you know you need this in your library! Grade level recommendations are 8-12, but I’ve always had Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter books in my middle schools, too. They are popular, and I’ve never had a complaint. And what a gorgeous cover!

  • Genre(s): dark fantasy, supernatural
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: demons, magic, brothers and sisters, heroines, strong girls, fathers, London, forced marriage, Shadowhunters, quarantine

*Wicked As You Wish by Rin Chupeco

Many years ago, the magical Kingdom of Avalon was left desolate and encased in ice when the evil Snow Queen waged war on the powerful country. Its former citizens are now refugees in a world mostly devoid of magic. Which is why the crown prince and his protectors are stuck in…Arizona.

Prince Alexei, the sole survivor of the Avalon royal family, is in hiding in a town so boring, magic doesn’t even work there. Few know his secret identity, but his friend Tala is one of them. Tala doesn’t mind–she has secrets of her own. Namely, that she’s a spellbreaker, someone who negates magic.

Then hope for their abandoned homeland reignites when a famous creature of legend, and Avalon’s most powerful weapon, the Firebird, appears for the first time in decades. Alex and Tala unite with a ragtag group of new friends to journey back to Avalon for a showdown that will change the world as they know it.

Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, folklore
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: princes, Avalon, secrets, hidden identity, Snow Queen, magic, legends, Filipino traditions, folklore

The Phantom Twin by Lisa Brown

Isabel spent her life following Jane’s lead. Literally–of the two conjoined twins, Jane was always the stronger one, both physically and emotionally. But when Jane dies on the operating table during a risky attempt to separate the twins, Isabel is left alone. Or is she? Soon, Jane returns, attached to Isabel from shoulder to hip just like she used to be. Except Isabel is the only person who can see Jane–a ghost, a phantom limb, a phantom twin.

For more conjoined twins, pair this with Sarah Crossan’s One.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, graphic novel
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-11
  • Themes: conjoined twins, sisters, grief, death of a sibling, ghosts, carnival sideshows, prosthetics, found families, muckraking journalism

Salty, Bitter, Sweet by Mayra Cuevas

Aspiring chef Isa’s family life has fallen apart after the death of her Cuban abuela and the divorce of her parents. She moves in with her dad and her new stepmom, Margo, in Lyon, France, where Isa feels like an outsider in her father’s new life. Isa balances her time between avoiding the awkward, “why-did-you-cheat-on-Mom” conversation with figuring out how a perpetually single woman can at least be a perpetually single chef.

The upside of Isa’s world being turned upside-down?

Her father’s house is located only 30 minutes away from the restaurant of world-famous Chef Pascal Grattard, who runs a prestigiously competitive international kitchen apprenticeship. The prize job at Chef Grattard’s renowned restaurant also represents a transformative opportunity for Isa who is desperate to get her life back in order–and desperate to prove she has what it takes to work in an haute kitchen. But Isa’s stress and repressed grief begin to unravel when the attractive, enigmatic Diego shows up unannounced with his albino dog.

Pair with Acevedo’s With the Fire on High or Fiore’s Taste Test.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 8+
  • Themes: cooking, grief, Cuba,Lyon, France, stepfamilies, death, contests, pregnancy (stepmother), #ownvoices

Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

The world is not tame. Ashley knows this truth deep in her bones, more at home with trees overhead than a roof.

So when she goes hiking in the Smokies with her friends for a night of partying, the falling dark and creaking trees are second nature to her. But people are not tame either. And when Ashley catches her boyfriend with another girl, drunken rage sends her running into the night, stopped only by a nasty fall into a ravine.

Morning brings the realization that she’s alone–and far off trail. Lost in undisturbed forest and with nothing but the clothes on her back, Ashley must figure out how to survive with the red streak of infection creeping up her leg.

SLJ calls this Hatchet for the older crowd, and all professional reviews I read mention that it’s fast-paced and un-put-downable.

  • Genre(s): adventure, survival, thriller
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: wilderness, Smoky Mountains, breaking up, cheating boyfriends, lost, bad decisions made while drunk

Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales

Will Tavares is the dream summer fling–he’s fun, affectionate, kind–but just when Ollie thinks he’s found his Happily Ever After, summer vacation ends and Will stops texting Ollie back. Now Ollie is one prince short of his fairytale ending, and to complicate the fairytale further, a family emergency sees Ollie uprooted and enrolled at a new school across the country. Which he minds a little less when he realizes it’s the same school Will goes to…except Ollie finds that the sweet, comfortably queer guy he knew from summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High. This Will is a class clown, closeted–and, to be honest, a bit of a jerk.

Ollie has no intention of pining after a guy who clearly isn’t ready for a relationship, especially since this new, bro-y jock version of Will seems to go from hot to cold every other week. But then Will starts “coincidentally” popping up in every area of Ollie’s life, from music class to the lunch table, and Ollie finds his resolve weakening.

The last time he gave Will his heart, Will handed it back to him trampled and battered. Ollie would have to be an idiot to trust him with it again. Right? Right.

After reading four professional reviews, I’m surprised this title didn’t get starred. Goodreads is also very high, with over 600 ratings at this time. It sounds like a must for high school libraries, and it’s going on my TBR.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: LGBT+, coming out, bullying, heartbreak, secrets, cancer

When We Were Magic by Sarah Gailey

Alexis has always been able to rely on two things: her best friends, and the magic powers they all share. Their secret is what brought them together, and their love for each other is unshakeable–even when that love is complicated. Complicated by problems like jealousy, or insecurity, or lust. Or love.

That unshakeable, complicated love is one of the only things that doesn’t change on prom night.

When accidental magic goes sideways and a boy winds up dead, Alexis and her friends come together to try to right a terrible wrong. Their first attempt fails–and their second attempt fails even harder. Left with the remains of their failed spells and more consequences than anyone could have predicted, each of them must find a way to live with their part of the story.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, supernatural, mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: magic, witches, murder, LGBT+, lesbians, friendship, good character development, diverse characters

The Light in Hidden Places by Sharon Cameron

Sixteen-year-old Catholic Stefania Podgorska has worked in the Diamant family’s grocery store for four years, even falling in love with one of their sons, Izio; but when the Nazis came to Przemysl, Poland, the Jewish Diamants are forced into the ghetto (and worse) but Izio’s brother Max manages to escape, and Stefania embarks on a dangerous course–protecting thirteen Jews in her attic, caring for her younger sister, Helena, and keeping everything secret from the two Nazi officers who are living in her house.

This one sounds so intense! For more hiding of Jews during WWII, pair it with The Book Thief or White Bird by R.J. Palacio. SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: WWII, Poland, quartering soldiers, secrets, hiding Jews, Holocaust, Nazis, courage, selflessness, based on a true story

Every Reason We Shouldn’t by Sara Fujimura

Sixteen-year-old figure skater Olivia Kennedy’s Olympic dreams have ended. She’s bitter, but enjoying life as a regular teenager instead of trying to live up to expectations of being the daughter of Olympians Michael Kennedy and Midori Nakashima…until Jonah Choi starts training at her family’s struggling rink. Jonah’s driven, talented, going for the Olympics in speed skating, completely annoying…and totally gorgeous. Between teasing Jonah, helping her best friend try out for roller derby, figuring out life as a normal teen and keeping the family business running, Olivia’s got her hands full. But will rivalry bring her closer to Jonah, or drive them apart?

Give this one to fans of Katie Van Ark’s The Boy Next Door.

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: ice skating, Asian-Americans, family legacy, famous parents, Olympics, competition

Fly Like a Girl: One Woman’s Dramatic Fight in Afghanistan and on the Home Front by Mary Jennings Hegar

Teen readers edition of Shoot Like a Girl.

On July 29, 2009, Air National Guard Major Mary Jennings Hegar was shot down while on a Medevac mission in Afghanistan. Despite being wounded, her courageous actions saved the lives of her crew and their patients, earning her the Purple Heart as well as the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor Device. That day also marked the beginning of a new mission: convincing the U.S. Government to allow women to serve openly on the front line of battle for the first time in American history.

  • Genre(s): narrative nonfiction, memoir
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: strong women, pilots, military, Afghanistan, courage, Purple Heart recipients, females in the military, sexual assault

Havenfall by Sara Holland

Hidden deep in the mountains of Colorado lies the Inn at Havenfall, a sanctuary that connects ancient worlds–each with their own magic–together. For generations, the inn has protected all who seek refuge within its walls, and any who disrupt the peace can never return.

For Maddie Morrow, summers at the inn are more than a chance to experience this magic first-hand. Havenfall is an escape from reality, where her mother sits on death row accused of murdering Maddie’s brother. It’s where Maddie fell in love with handsome Fiorden soldier Brekken. And it’s where one day she hopes to inherit the role of Innkeeper from her beloved uncle.

But this summer, the impossible happens–a dead body is found, shattering everything the inn stands for. With Brekken missing, her uncle gravely injured, and a dangerous creature on the loose, Maddie suddenly finds herself responsible for the safety of everyone in Havenfall. She’ll do anything to uncover the truth, even if it means working together with an alluring new staffer Taya, who seems to know more than she’s letting on. As dark secrets are revealed about the inn itself, one thing becomes clear to Maddie–no one can be trusted, and no one is safe…

I’m a big fan of Holly Black, so I think this is right up my alley! Another one on the TBR…

  • Genre(s): fantasy, thriller
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: magic, hotels, missing persons, murder, parent in prison, grief, parallel worlds, plot twists, suspense

If These Wings Could Fly by Kyrie McCauley

Debut author! Tens of thousands of crows invading Auburn, Pennsylvania, is a problem for everyone in town except seventeen-year-old Leighton Barnes. For Leighton, it’s no stranger than her house, which inexplicably repairs itself every time her father loses his temper and breaks things.

Leighton doesn’t have time for the crows–it’s her senior year, and acceptance to her dream college is finally within reach. But grabbing that lifeline means abandoning her sisters, a choice she’s not ready to face.

With her father’s rage worsening and the town in chaos over the crows, Leighton allows herself a chance at happiness with Liam, her charming classmate, even though falling in love feels like a revolutionary act.

Balancing school, dating, and survival under the shadow of sixty thousand feathered wings starts to feel almost comfortable, but Leighton knows that this fragile equilibrium can only last so long before it shatters.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, magical realism
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: crows, parental abuse, domestic violence, Auburn, Pennsylvania, anger management, sisters

The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski

Where Nirrim lives, crime abounds, a harsh tribunal rules, and society’s pleasures are reserved for the High Kith. Life in the Ward is grim and punishing. People of her low status are forbidden from sampling sweets or wearing colors. You either follow the rules, or pay a tithe and suffer the consequences. Nirrim keeps her head down, and a dangerous secret close to her chest.

But then she encounters Sid, a rakish traveler from far away, who whispers rumors that the High Kith possess magic. Sid tempts Nirrim to seek that magic for herself. But to do that, Nirrim must surrender her old life. She must place her trust in this sly stranger who asks, above all, not to be trusted.

This is set in the same world as Rutkoski’s previous Winners Trilogy.

  • Genre(s): fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: LGBT+, lesbians, magic, romance, social class, secrets, espionage





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