New Release Spotlight: May 19, 2020 (YA Titles)

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Another big week for May new releases! I’ve split this week into three lists again: YA, Middle Grade, and Picture Books. All three are linked at the bottom of this post.

One title on this week’s YA list has been hotly-anticipated for months: the new Hunger Games prequel from Suzanne Collins. The publisher has locked it down pretty tight–I’ve found zero pre-pub reviews, not even from professional sources. Sadly, it’s not about Haymitch but President Snow instead. Not sure I’m interested in his story, but I’ll read it nonetheless. Suzanne Collins is an amazing writer, so if anyone can make me empathize with President Snow, it’s Suzanne Collins.

As always, titles with a * by them received two or more starred professional reviews. This week’s picture book and middle grade Spotlights are linked at the bottom of this post. And don’t forget The Ginormous book list, which hit 700 titles this week!

*We Are Not from Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez

Pulga has his dreams.
Chico has his grief.
Pequeña has her pride.

And these three teens have one another. But none of them have illusions about the town they’ve grown up in and the dangers that surround them. Even with the love of family, threats lurk around every corner. And when those threats become all too real, the trio knows they have no choice but to run: from their country, from their families, from their beloved home.

Crossing from Guatemala through Mexico, they follow the route of La Bestia, the perilous train system that might deliver them to a better life–if they are lucky enough to survive the journey. With nothing but the bags on their backs and desperation drumming through their hearts, Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña know there is no turning back, despite the unknown that awaits them. And the darkness that seems to follow wherever they go.

FOUR starred reviews! Pair with Steve Schafer’s The Border.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, survival, magical realism
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: Guatemala, Mexico, Central America, US-Mexico border, escape, danger, friendship, refugees, American Dream, violence, migrants, immigration

Just a Boy and a Girl in a Little Canoe by Sarah Mlynowski

Sam’s summer isn’t off to a great start. Her boyfriend, Eli, ditched her for a European backpacking trip, and now she’s a counselor at Camp Blue Springs: the summer camp her eleven-year-old self swore never to return to. Sam expects the next seven weeks to be a total disaster.

That is, until she meets Gavin, the camp’s sailing instructor, who turns her expectations upside down. Gavin may have gotten the job just for his abs. Or that smile. Or the way he fills Sam’s free time with thrilling encounters–swimming under a cascade of stars, whispering secrets over s’mores, embarking on one (very precarious) canoe ride after dark. It’s absurd. After all, Sam loves Eli. But one totally absurd, completely off-the-wall summer may be just what Sam needs. And maybe, just maybe, it will teach her something about what she really wants.

Interestingly, professional reviews are all positive, but several early Goodreads reviews gave this very low ratings. Reasons include cheating in a long-term relationship and the inclusion of too much sex and alcohol/drugs for a YA book. I do love me a good summer camp book, so this may be one I read and review at some point.

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: summer camp, camp counselors, dating, summer, growing up

*Poisoned Water: How the Citizens of Flint, Michigan, Fought for Their Lives and Warned the Nation by Candy J. Cooper and Marc Aronson

In 2014, Flint, Michigan, was a cash-strapped city that had been built up, then abandoned by General Motors. As part of a plan to save money, government officials decided that Flint would temporarily switch its water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River. Within months, many residents broke out in rashes. Then it got worse: children stopped growing. Some people were hospitalized with mysterious illnesses; others died. Citizens of Flint protested that the water was dangerous. Despite what seemed so apparent from the murky, foul-smelling liquid pouring from the city’s faucets, officials refused to listen. They treated the people of Flint as the problem, not the water, which was actually poisoning thousands.

Through interviews with residents and intensive research into legal records and news accounts, journalist Candy J. Cooper, assisted by writer-editor Marc Aronson, reveals the true story of Flint. Poisoned Water shows not just how the crisis unfolded in 2014, but also the history of racism and segregation that led up to it, the beliefs and attitudes that fueled it, and how the people of Flint fought-and are still fighting-for clean water and healthy lives.

Booklist and SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): narrative nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 6+
  • Themes: water pollution, Flint, Michigan, corruption, protests, racism, poverty, segregation, civil rights, public health


Breath Like Water by Anna Jarzab

Susannah Ramos has always loved the water. A swimmer whose early talent made her a world champion, Susannah was poised for greatness in a sport that demands so much of its young. But an inexplicable slowdown has put her dream in jeopardy, and Susannah is fighting to keep her career afloat when two important people enter her life: a new coach with a revolutionary training strategy, and a charming fellow swimmer named Harry Matthews.

As Susannah begins her long and painful climb back to the top, her friendship with Harry blossoms into passionate and supportive love. But Harry is facing challenges of his own, and even as their bond draws them closer together, other forces work to tear them apart. As she struggles to balance her needs with those of the people who matter most to her, Susannah will learn the cost—and the beauty—of trying to achieve something extraordinary.

  • Genre(s): romance, sports
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: swimming, athletes, competition, first love, relationships, ambition, sports

Date Me, Bryson Keller by Kevin van Whye

Debut author! Everyone knows about the dare: Each week, Bryson Keller must date someone new–the first person to ask him out on Monday morning. Few think Bryson can do it. He may be the king of Fairvale Academy, but he’s never really dated before.

Until a boy asks him out, and everything changes.

Kai Sheridan didn’t expect Bryson to say yes. So when Bryson agrees to secretly go out with him, Kai is thrown for a loop. But as the days go by, he discovers there’s more to Bryson beneath the surface, and dating him begins to feel less like an act and more like the real thing. Kai knows how the story of a gay boy liking someone straight ends. With his heart on the line, he’s awkwardly trying to navigate senior year at school, at home, and in the closet, all while grappling with the fact that this “relationship” will last only five days. After all, Bryson Keller is popular, good-looking, and straight…right?

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: coming out, LGBT+, dating, secrets high school, gay males

The Ballad of Songbirds And Snakes by Suzanne Collins

It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to outcharm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.
The odds are against him. He’s been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined – every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute…and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.

Am I excited about the new Hunger Games prequel? Yes. Am I sad that it’s about President Snow and not Haymitch. YES. Will I read it anyway? Um, yes.

I can not find one pre-pub review of this book. No professional reviews. No “normal people” reviews. I guess they did not want any secrets getting out!

  • Genre(s): dystopia, survival
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12 (that’s the publisher’s recommendation, not mine or any reviewer’s)
  • Themes: The Hunger Games, prequels, mentors, survival

Atomic Women: The Untold Stories of the Scientists Who Helped Create the Nuclear Bomb by Roseanne Montillo

They were leaning over the edge of the unknown and afraid of what they would discover there: Meet the World War II female scientists who worked in the secret sites of the Manhattan Project. Recruited not only from labs and universities from across the United States but also from countries abroad, these scientists helped in–and often initiated–the development of the atomic bomb, taking starring roles in the Manhattan Project. In fact, their involvement was critical to its success, though many of them were not fully aware of the consequences.

  • Genre(s): narrative nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 6-10
  • Themes: WWII, female scientists, atomic bomb, Manhattan Project




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