New Release Spotlight: September 8, 2020 (YA Titles)

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After almost a year, we’ve officially hit 1000 titles on The Ginormous book list this week! I started The Ginormous in October 2019. It started as a resource just for myself, but I shared it early on for all librarians because it is such an incredible resource. Love love love The Ginormous!

In an attempt to make these weekly Spotlights more useful for you, I’m trying something new with this week’s Spotlight. For each of this week’s three Spotlights, I’ve picked my top 5 favorite titles for each age group. If I could only buy five titles for my library, these are the five I would choose and why I would choose them. The rest of the titles that would have made the list previously will still be listed and searchable on The Ginormous. I’m hoping this will streamline the creation of my lists, enable me to feature more books on The Ginormous, and make the New Release Spotlights true spotlights of the very best of the week.

For a full list of this week’s YA titles, see #994-#1006 on The Ginormous book list.


*The Cat I Never Named: A True Story of Love, War, and Survival by Amra Sabic-El-Rayess (Author) and Laura L. Sullivan (Author)

In 1992, Amra was a teen in Bihac, Bosnia, when her best friend said they couldn’t speak anymore. Her friend didn’t say why, but Amra knew the reason: Amra was Muslim. It was the first sign her world was changing. Then Muslim refugees from other Bosnian cities started arriving, fleeing Serbian persecution. When the tanks rolled into Bihac, bringing her own city under seige, Amra’s happy life in her peaceful city vanished.

But there is light even in the darkest of times, and she discovered that light in the warm, bonfire eyes of a stray cat. The little calico had followed the refugees into the city and lost her own family. At first, Amra doesn’t want to bother with a stray; her family doesn’t have the money to keep a pet. But with gentle charm this kitty finds her way into everyone’s heart, and after a few near miracles when she seems to save the family, how could they turn her away?

Why I chose it: THREE starred reviews! I also love memoirs, and I always love anything about refugees and countries outside the USA.

  • Genre(s): memoir, biography, nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: Bosnia, Muslims, refugees, military states, cats, family, safety, war

*Charming as a Verb by Ben Philippe

Henri “Halti” Haltiwanger can charm just about anyone. He is a star debater and popular student at the prestigious FATE academy, the dutiful first-generation Haitian son, and the trusted dog walker for his wealthy New York City neighbors. But his easy smiles mask a burning ambition to attend his dream college, Columbia University.

There is only one person who seems immune to Henri’s charms: his “intense” classmate and neighbor Corinne Troy. When she uncovers Henri’s less-than-honest dog-walking scheme, she blackmails him into helping her change her image at school. Henri agrees, seeing a potential upside for himself.

Soon what started as a mutual hustle turns into something more surprising than either of them ever bargained for.

Why I chose it: I love that it’s a romance featuring a Haitian American boy and a Black girl. It’s also about a big lie and hustle that the two cook up together, so that’s always a win in my book. This book received two starred reviews: BCCB and SLJ.

  • Genre(s): romance, humor
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: debate, private schools, Haitian-Americans, New York City, teens with jobs, dog walkers, hustles, blackmail, integrity, honesty

The Other Side of the Sky by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Prince North’s home is in the sky, in a gleaming city held aloft by intricate engines, powered by technology. Nimh is the living goddess of her people on the Surface, responsible for providing answers, direction—hope.

North’s and Nimh’s lives are entwined—though their hearts can never be. Linked by a terrifying prophecy and caught between duty and fate, they must choose between saving their people or succumbing to the bond that is forbidden between them.

Why I chose it: I love these two authors together! These Broken Stars is one of my favorite YA books–it’s been a go-to recommendation for my high schoolers for many years. I also love the idea of two worlds that are unaware of one another: one that relies on technology and science, and the other that relies on magic and faith.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, science fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 8+
  • Themes: prophecies, fate, princes, royalty, diseases, powers, magic, gods and goddesses

Beauty Mark: A Verse Novel of Marilyn Monroe by Carole Boston Weatherford

From the day she was born into a troubled home to her reigning days as a Hollywood icon, Marilyn Monroe (née Norma Jeane Mortenson) lived a life that was often defined by others.

This book tells Marilyn’s story in a way that restores her voice to its rightful place: center stage. Revisiting Marilyn’s often traumatic early life—foster homes, loneliness, sexual abuse, teen marriage—through a hard-won, meteoric rise to stardom that brought with it exploitation, pill dependency, and depression, the lyrical narrative continues through Marilyn’s famous performance at JFK’s birthday party, three months before her death.

Why I chose it: Author Carole Boston Weatherford is a powerhouse in literature for young people. Her books are practically guaranteed to be good. But I also like that it reads like it’s from Marilyn Monroe’s perspective. It’s like reading her personal diary. It’s also Kirkus starred. I wish they had made Marilyn’s iconic mole a bit more realistic on the cover. It’s just a perfect black circle–yikes.

  • Genre(s): free verse, poetry, biography
  • Recommended for: Grades 7+
  • Themes: Hollywood, acting, actresses, foster homes, sexual abuse, addiction, depression, mental health, Marilyn Monroe, fame, abuse, reluctant readers

The Snow Fell Three Graves Deep: Voices from the Donner Party by Allan Wolf

In 1846, a group of emigrants bound for California face a choice: continue on their planned route or take a shortcut into the wilderness. Eighty-nine of them opt for the untested trail, a decision that plunges them into danger and desperation and, finally, the unthinkable.

This is a retelling of the ill-fated journey of the Donner party across the Sierra Nevadas during the winter of 1846–1847. Narrated by multiple voices, including world-weary, taunting, and all-knowing Hunger itself, this novel-in-verse examines a notorious chapter in history from various perspectives, among them caravan leaders George Donner and James Reed, Donner’s scholarly wife, two Miwok Indian guides, the Reed children, a sixteen-year-old orphan, and even a pair of oxen.

Back matter includes an author’s note, select character biographies, statistics, a time line of events, and more.

Why I chose it: Hunger is one of the eight narrators! Plus, this is the author who wrote a similar multiple-narrator novel about the Titanic, The Watch That Ends the Night. Both books have non-traditional narrators. I remember that The Watch That Ends the Night has the iceberg and a rat on the ship as narrators. Such a unique way to present history!

  • Genre(s): free verse, historical fiction, thriller
  • Recommended for: Grades 9-12
  • Themes: novel in verse, Donner Party, cannibalism, multiple voices, alternating perspectives, based on a true story, nature, weather, snow, winter, hazardous conditions, survival, westward expansion, 19th Century



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.


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