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New Release Spotlight: December 7, 2021

It’s kind of a quiet week for new books, and none of the titles really stand out to me as must-haves. It’s just that time of year!

This week’s Spotlight titles are #2151-#2163 on The Ginormous book list.

If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich

Eighteen-year-olds Ruben Montez and Zach Knight are two members of the boy-band Saturday, one of the biggest acts in America. Along with their bandmates, Angel Phan and Jon Braxton, the four are teen heartthrobs in front of the cameras and best friends backstage.

But privately, the pressure to stay in the closet has Ruben confiding in Zach.

On a whirlwind tour through Europe with an unrelenting schedule and minimal supervision, the two come to rely on each other more and more, and their already close friendship evolves into a romance. But when they decide they’re ready to tell their fans and live freely, Zach and Ruben realize they will never truly have the support they need.

How can they hold tight to each other when their whole world is coming apart?

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: boy bands, musicians, teen heartthrobs, celebrity, coming out, LGBTQIA+, gay boys, Europe, concert tours
  • Protagonist description: two boys, both gay, one is Spanish American, one is white, both ~age 18

The Coldest Touch by Isabel Sterling

Elise Beaumont is cursed. With every touch, she experiences exactly how her loved ones will die. And after her brother’s death–a death she predicted but was unable to prevent–Elise is desperate to get rid of her terrible gift, no matter the cost.

Claire Montgomery also has a unique relationship with death, mostly because she’s already dead. Technically, anyway. Claire is a vampire, and she’s been assigned by the Veil to help Elise master her rare Death Oracle powers.

At first, Elise is reluctant to work with a vampire, but when she predicts a teacher’s imminent murder, she’s determined to stop the violent death, even if it means sacrificing her own future to secure Claire’s help.

The trouble is, Claire and Elise aren’t the only paranormals in town–a killer is stalking the streets, and Claire can’t seem to shake the pull she feels toward Elise, a romance that could upend the Veil’s mission. But as Elise and Claire grow closer, Elise begins to wonder–can she really trust someone tasked with securing her loyalty? Someone who could so easily kill her? Someone who might hold the key to unraveling her brother’s mysterious death?

  • Genre(s): supernatural, romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: supernatural powers, predicting death, premonitions, vampires, bisexuality, LGBTQIA+, immortality, alternating perspectives, death of a sibling (older brother drowned five months ago)
  • Protagonist description: two alternating perspectives: one is a female human with supernatural abilities, age 16, white, queer; female love interest is an eternally 17-year old vampire and is also white

Heart of the Impaler by Alexander Delacroix

Debut author! Vlad Dracula has long lived in the shadows cast by his bloodthirsty father, the voivode, and his older brother, Mircea. Despite their cruelty, Vlad has yearned to prove himself worthy of the throne his whole life. In the cold halls of the voivode’s palace, Vlad can only rely on his cousin and closest friend, Andrei Musat.

When Vlad and Andrei meet Ilona Csáki, the daughter of an influential boyar, they each find themselves inextricably drawn to her. But then Ilona is betrothed to Mircea as part of a political alliance, and Vlad’s resentfulness of his brother begins to seethe into something far darker.

Ilona has no desire to marry the voivode’s eldest son, but love and marriage are the least of her worries. The royal family’s enemies have already tried to put an arrow through her back–and if anyone discovers her blossoming feelings for Andrei and Vlad, she may just wish they’d succeeded.

Beneath the shadow of impending war, the only battle that will be deadlier than the one for Ilona’s life will be the one for her heart.

  • Genre(s): historical fiction, dark romance
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: Vlad the Impaler, Vlad III, cousins, brothers, Transylvania, Romania, Wallachia, Dracula, 15th Century, love triangles
  • Protagonist description: female and 2 male cousins, all three are white and Romanian, all are part of the ruling class

No Beauties or Monsters by Tara Goedjen

Rylie hasn’t been back to the military base in Twentynine Palms since her father died. She left a lot of memories out there, buried in the sand of the Mojave Desert. Memories about her dad, her old friends Nathan and Lily, and most of all, her enigmatic grandfather, a man who cut ties with Rylie’s family before he passed away. But her mom’s new work assignment has sent their family to Twentynine Palms again, and now, Rylie’s in the one place she never wanted to return to.

At least her old friends are happy to welcome her home. Well, some of them, anyway. It turns out Lily is gone, vanished into the desert. To make matters worse, there are whispers around town of a mysterious killer on the loose.

But it isn’t just Twentynine Palms that feels frightening–there’s something wrong with Rylie, too. She’s seeing things she can’t explain. Visions of monstrous creatures that stalk the night.

Somehow, it all seems to be tied to her grandfather and the family cabin he left behind. Rylie wants the truth, but she doesn’t know if she can trust herself. Are the monsters in her head really out there? Or could it be that the deadliest thing in the desert…is Rylie herself?

  • Genre(s): science fiction, thriller, mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Themes: Mojave Desert, monsters, visions, fear, grandparents, grandfathers, family secrets, missing persons, space and time, amnesia, California
  • Protagonist description: girl, white, HS senior; secondary cast is diverse

Out of the Fire by Andrea Contos

It wasn’t the kidnapping that ruined Cass Adams’s life. It was the letters that came after. The pink envelopes that appear in her car, her locker, her bedroom. Notes from the man she escaped, telling her that he’s always there, always watching.

And that someday, he’ll be back for her.

The police say there’s nothing they can do, and Cass resigns herself to live in fear until she reconnects with three old friends–three girls ready to exact vengeance on those who wronged them.

But the deeper Cass digs, the more shocking the truth becomes, especially when she discovers that the person who ruined her life may be the only one who can save it.

  • Genre(s): thriller, mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: kidnapping, abduction, escape, stalking, revenge, strong female friendships, feminism, abuse, racism
  • Protagonist description: 4 female friends–2 are white, one Black, one Japanese American

The Upper World by Femi Fadugba

During arguably the worst week of Esso’s life, an accident knocks him into an incredible world–a place beyond space or time, where he can see glimpses of the past and future. But if what he sees there is true, he might not have much longer to live, unless he can use his new gift to change the course of history.

Rhia’s past is filled with questions, none of which she expects a new physics tutor to answer. But Dr. Esso’s not here to help Rhia. He’s here because he needs her help–to unravel a tragedy that happened fifteen years ago. One that holds the key not only to Rhia’s past, but to a future worth fighting for.

  • Genre(s): science fiction, thriller
  • Recommended for: Grades 8-12
  • Themes: time travel, glimpses of future, changing the future, London, England, math, physics, gang violence
  • Protagonist description: male and female; both Black; the boy’s family is from Benin; the girl is in foster care

Liars’ Room by Dan Poblocki

Simon is a liar. Stella and Alex know this about their new stepbrother, so they aren’t bothered by his stories about their new house. Wildwyck, a former schoolhouse for misbehaved boys, might have plenty of creaks and shadows, but the twins know that ghosts aren’t real. But Simon is getting harder and harder to ignore, as his cries for attention become increasingly dangerous and difficult to explain.

Stella and Alex have to consider…could Simon actually be telling the truth? As they look for answers, they learn that the history of Wildwyck is more sinister than they could have imagined. And when a shocking truth is revealed, it’s not clear who can be trusted anymore.

Will the three siblings be able to put aside their differences to save their family…before it’s too late?

  • Genre(s): mystery, scary stories, horror
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: stepfamilies, stepsiblings, lying, twins, ghosts, honesty, haunted houses, Catskill Mountains, multiple perspectives, sibling rivalry
  • Protagonist description: most characters are white

Strangeville School Is Totally Normal by Darcy Miller (Author) and Brett Helquist (Illustrator)

Harvey Hill just wants other kids to think he’s normal. So he’s happy to start fresh as the newest kid at Strangeville Middle School. Except Strangeville is anything but normal. Something sinister swims in the drinking fountain, the cafeteria could swallow you whole, and a giant rat named Cuddles is on the loose. And don’t even get the vice principal started on the third-floor supply closet. In fact, don’t even think about it. What supply closet?

At least Harvey has his guide and sort-of new friend Stella Cho to show him the ropes. School newspaper reporter, first chair flugelhorn, and hiding a secret of her own, Stella shows Harvey that maybe “normal” is overrated. But when Stella goes missing while trying to solve the secret of the supply closet (oh that supply closet!), Harvey must embrace what makes him unique to save his new friend and his new school.

  • Genre(s): humor, fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 2-7
  • Themes: new kid in school, middle school, strange happenings, school newspaper, normality, secrets, school stories
  • Protagonist description: boy, white, 5th grader; and girl, Asian American, 5th grader

Saving the Day: Garrett Morgan’s Life-Changing Invention of the Traffic Signal by Karyn Parsons (Author) and R. Gregory Christie (Illustrator)

Before Garrett Morgan became a successful inventor and saved countless lives with his creations, he was a little boy with a head full of ideas on how to make life better for everyone.

At a tumultuous time filled with racism and discrimination, Garrett became a prominent business man and skilled inventor who produced the traffic signal, a gas mask, and others objects still used today.

This second book from the award-winning children’s film series founded by Karyn Parsons, Sweet Blackberry, comes a little-known story about a man whose talent would be a gift to the world.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book biography
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: STEM, inventors, African Americans, traffic signals, road accidents, early 20th Century, US history
  • Protagonist description: African American male

Bisa’s Carnaval by Joana Pastro (Author) and Carolina Coroa (Illustrator)

It’s time for Carnaval and Clara cannot wait to celebrate her favorite holiday with family, but especially with her great-grandmother.

Even if Bisa can’t attend, Clara knows the Carnaval parade will still be special. Costumed lovingly by their bisa, everyone takes to the street for the annual parade. But even among all the colors, costumes, music, and dancing, something is missing…or is it someone?

With lush, lyrical text and bright, colorful illustrations, this book takes readers to one of the most exciting holidays of the year and reminds us that no matter who or where you are, love is always worth celebrating.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: Grades K-4
  • Themes: Carnaval, great grandparents, parades, traditions, holidays, Portuguese language, Brazil
  • Protagonist description: young Brazilian girl living in Brazil

Walrus Song by Janet Lawler (Author) and Timothy Basil Ering (Illustrator)

What’s the ruckus?
What’s that sound?
Walrus calls and songs astound—
Honk, honkkkk! HOOO, HOOOOT!

Diving, feasting, twirling–catch a glimpse of the joy found in a walrus’s icy home. Follow as it plays hide-and-seek with a friend, lounges on an ice floe, and demonstrates an impressive repertoire of sounds.

Janet Lawler celebrates the many wonders of being a walrus in a story that’s brought to life through Timothy Basil Ering’s exuberant artwork. Readers curious to learn more will find a glossary at the end, along with some cool walrus facts: Did you know that a walrus can eat more than four thousand clams in a feeding frenzy–and that some walruses weigh more than a car?

  • Genre(s): nonfiction picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: winter, walruses, polar animals, snow, ice, glossary at end, fact book, ocean

Ashoka the Fierce: How an Angry Prince Became India’s Emperor of Peace by Carolyn Kanjuro (Author) and Sonali Zohra (Illustrator)

As a boy, Ashoka was overlooked as a successor to his father, the emperor. He grew to become arrogant, impatient, and above all, angry. Wanting nothing more than to be king, Ashoka learned to be cunning, and when he finally managed to ascend to the throne, he was eager for war. But after a particularly brutal battle, Ashoka was heartbroken and haunted by the death and devastation he had caused. This moment marked a momentous change of heart.

Upon returning home, Ashoka’s wife encouraged him to study and practice the Buddhist teachings and to move beyond his destructive past. When Ashoka finally met a wise Buddhist monk, it transformed the way he saw the world and the role of an emperor. Ashoka spent the rest of his days tirelessly working to help his people and promoting the qualities of compassion, tolerance, and virtue.

  • Genre(s): picture book biography
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: emperors, war, death, changes of heart, Buddhism, compassion, Southeast Asia
  • Protagonist description: male emperor of an ancient Southeast Asian empire

Light for All by Margarita Engle (Author) and Raúl Colón (Illustrator)

Discover the myriad contributions that all immigrants have made as they come to join family or start their own lives together in a new country they call home. Coming with their hopes, dreams, and determination, generations of immigrants have made the fabric of this country diverse, vivid, and welcoming.

This vibrant and timely celebration demonstrates the thousands of immigrants who built America and the importance of having acceptance and light for everyone.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3
  • Themes: immigrants, Statue of Liberty, US history, freedom, equality, empathy, acceptance
  • Protagonist description: variety of immigrants to the United States




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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