New Release Spotlight: August 25 (YA)

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It’s a three-list week again! This is the YA list. This week’s Middle Grades and Picture Book lists are linked at the bottom of this post.

I’m seeing an uptick this week in horror and thrillers, perhaps ahead of Halloween? My YA pick of the week is The Companion by Katie Alender. I read Alender’s Bad Girls Don’t Die several years ago–loved it!


The New Release Spotlight began in May 2016 as a way to help librarians keep up with the many new children’s and YA books that are released each week. Every Tuesday, school librarian Leigh Collazo compiles the New Release Spotlight using a combination of Follett’s Titlewave, Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes and Noble. As always, titles with a * by them received two or more starred professional reviews. Recommended grade levels represent the range of grade levels recommended by professional book reviewers.

The titles on this week’s list are #936-#943 on The Ginormous book list.

*Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger (Author) and Rovina Cai (Illustrator)

Debut author! Imagine an America very similar to our own. It’s got homework, best friends, and pistachio ice cream. There are some differences. This America been shaped dramatically by the magic, monsters, knowledge, and legends of its peoples, those Indigenous and those not. Some of these forces are charmingly everyday, like the ability to make an orb of light appear or travel across the world through rings of fungi. But other forces are less charming and should never see the light of day.

Elatsoe lives in this slightly stranger America. She can raise the ghosts of dead animals, a skill passed down through generations of her Lipan Apache family. Her beloved cousin has just been murdered, in a town that wants no prying eyes. But she is going to do more than pry. The picture-perfect facade of Willowbee masks gruesome secrets, and she will rely on her wits, skills, and friends to tear off the mask and protect her family.

Kirkus and Booklist starred. Grade level recommendations are all over the place with this title. It’s rated YA, and while Booklist recommends Grades 9-12, SLJ recommends Grades 5+.

  • Genre(s): fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grade 5-12
  • Themes: magic, powers, Apache, indigenous peoples, murder, asexuality, Texas, urban legends, folklore, colonialism

The Assignment by Liza Wiemer

SENIOR YEAR. When an assignment given by a favorite teacher instructs a group of students to argue for the Final Solution, a euphemism used to describe the Nazi plan for the genocide of the Jewish people, Logan March and Cade Crawford are horrified. Their teacher cannot seriously expect anyone to complete an assignment that fuels intolerance and discrimination. Logan and Cade decide they must take a stand.

As the school administration addressed the teens’ refusal to participate in the appalling debate, the student body, their parents, and the larger community are forced to face the issue as well. The situation explodes, and acrimony and anger result. What does it take for tolerance, justice, and love to prevail?

Again, this book has a wide range of recommended grade levels. SLJ recommends Grades 6-8, while Kirkus recommends Grades 9-12.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 6-12
  • Themes: senior year, school assignments, discrimination, racism, intolerance, debates, Holocaust, antisemitism, white supremacy, world history, activism, standing up for what’s right

A Cloud of Outrageous Blue by Vesper Stamper

Edyth grew up in a quiet village with a loving family, before losing everything she holds dear in the blink of an eye. Suddenly sent to live in a priory and work with ancient texts, Edyth must come to terms with her new life and the gifts she discovers in herself.

But outside the priory, something much worse is coming. With the reappearance of a boy from her past and the ominous Great Plague creeping closer and closer to the priory, it will be up to Edyth to rise above it all and save herself.

Booklist starred. The Kirkus review is considerably less-positive than other reviews I found.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction, romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: Bubonic Plague, medieval Europe, synesthesia, 14th Century, nuns, England, orphans

Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare

Quinn Maybrook and her father have moved to tiny, boring Kettle Springs, to find a fresh start. But what they don’t know is that ever since the Baypen Corn Syrup Factory shut down, Kettle Springs has cracked in half.

On one side are the adults, who are desperate to make Kettle Springs great again, and on the other are the kids, who want to have fun, make prank videos, and get out of Kettle Springs as quick as they can.

Kettle Springs is caught in a battle between old and new, tradition and progress. It’s a fight that looks like it will destroy the town. Until Frendo, the Baypen mascot, a creepy clown in a pork-pie hat, goes homicidal and decides that the only way for Kettle Springs to grow back is to cull the rotten crop of kids who live there now.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): horror
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: clowns, mascots, small towns, Missouri, murder, tradition, pranks, stunts, YouTube, slashers, social unrest, conflict between adults and teens, social commentary

Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles

Debut author! Book 1 in the Kingdom of Cards duology. In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Kirkus starred. Give to fans of Garber’s Caraval.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, thriller
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: magic, magicians, circuses, missing persons, competitions, performance arts

Now That I’ve Found You by Kristina Forest

Following in the footsteps of her überfamous grandma, eighteen-year-old Evie Jones is poised to be Hollywood’s next big star. That is until a close friend’s betrayal leads to her being blacklisted…

Fortunately, Evie knows just the thing to save her floundering career: a public appearance with America’s most beloved actress–her grandma Gigi, aka the Evelyn Conaway. The only problem? Gigi is a recluse who’s been out of the limelight for almost twenty years. Days before Evie plans to present her grandma with an honorary award in front of Hollywood’s elite, Gigi does the unthinkable: she disappears.

With time running out and her comeback on the line, Evie reluctantly enlists the help of the last person to see Gigi before she vanished: Milo Williams, a cute musician Evie isn’t sure she can trust. As Evie and Milo conduct a wild manhunt across New York City, romance and adventure abound while Evie makes some surprising discoveries about her grandma–and herself.

Professional reviews are mixed.

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: grandmothers, grandparents, celebrity, fame, betrayal, missing persons, African Americans, musicians, rom-coms

Kind of a Big Deal by Shannon Hale

There’s nothing worse than peaking in high school. Nobody knows that better than Josie Pie. She was kind of a big deal―she dropped out of high school to be a star! But the bigger you are, the harder you fall. And Josie fell. Hard. Ouch. Broadway dream: dead.

Meanwhile, her life keeps imploding. Best friend: distant. Boyfriend: busy. Mom: not playing with a full deck? Desperate to escape, Josie gets into reading.

Literally. She reads a book and suddenly she’s inside it. And with each book, she’s a different character: a post-apocalyptic heroine, the lead in a YA rom-com, a 17th century wench in a corset.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: bookish, reading, dropping out, fame, performance arts, coming of age, storytelling, Montana, nanny jobs

The Companion by Katie Alender

The other orphans say Margot is lucky. Lucky to survive the horrible accident that killed her family. Lucky to have her own room because she wakes up screaming every night. And finally, lucky to be chosen by a prestigious family to live at their remote country estate.

But it wasn’t luck that made the Suttons rescue Margot from her bleak existence at the group home. Margot was handpicked to be a companion to their silent, mysterious daughter, Agatha. At first, helping with Agatha–and getting to know her handsome older brother–seems much better than the group home. But soon, the isolated, gothic house begins playing tricks on Margot’s mind, making her question everything she believes about the Suttons…and herself. Margot’s bad dreams may have stopped when she came to live with Agatha–but the real nightmare has just begun.

  • Genre(s): horror, thriller, suspense
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: orphans, car accidents, foster families, gothic literature




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