New Release Spotlight – YA Books – Week of January 30, 2024

There is so much new YA to love this week! It wasn’t easy to choose this week’s top pick. I’m stuck between three titles, so I’m going to talk about all three…

We’ll start with Poemhood! This is a poetry anthology from 37 Black poets, edited by Amber McBride, Taylor Byas, and Erica Martin. I am a huge fan of teaching poetry year-round (not just an isolated “poetry unit”). Poetry is usually short, can be read in just a few minutes, and has plenty of deep themes and literary devices. This anthology features classic and contemporary Black writers – a library essential for sure!

Next up is Red! This is a retelling of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. I was that weirdo in high school who actually liked The Scarlet Letter. Red is on my TBR because of the abortion-in-a-conservative-town theme. I’ve read several abortion-themed YA titles lately. It’s such an important topic that needs to be talked about openly.

My third favorite is Wander in the Dark! This is about two privileged, African American half-brothers. They don’t know (or really like) each other well, but one of them ends up falsely-accused of murdering a rich, white girl after a party. This is a detective story that has the half-brothers trying to figure out who did kill Chloe Danvers in order to clear the brother’s name. I also love that it’s set in New Orleans!

The links to the Google Slides presentation, printable booklist, and Ginormous Book List are at the bottom of this page.

If you are looking for the Middle Grade or Picture Book Spotlights for this week, they are also linked at the bottom of this page.

Since this is the last Spotlight for January 2024, the printable list and Google Slides presentation are now complete. I will start a new presentation and list for February. If you’ve been waiting until the presentation is complete to download it, you can now do it. I will not add any new titles to the January presentation or printable list.


Poetry Anthology
Poemhood: Our Black Revival

Author: multiple poets; edited by Amber McBride, Taylor Byas, and Erica Martin

Publication date: January 30, 2024

Genre: poetry anthology

Recommended for: Grades 8-12

Themes: Black culture, racism, prejudice, discrimination, Black history, folklore, generational trauma, Jim Crow laws, Harlem Renaissance

Protagonist: various Black protagonists

Starred reviews: Kirkus, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly

Pages: 160

Notes: 37 contributors include: Kwame Alexander, Ibi Zoboi, Nikki Giovanni, Audre Lorde, Gwendolyn Brooks, Sonia Sanchez, James Baldwin; includes black and white photographs

See it on Amazon


Starring thirty-seven poets, with contributions from acclaimed authors, including Kwame Alexander, Ibi Zoboi, and Nikki Giovanni, this breathtaking Black YA poetry anthology edited by National Book Award finalist Amber McBride, Taylor Byas, and Erica Martin celebrates Black poetry, folklore, and culture.

Come, claim your wings.

Lift your life above the earth,

return to the land of your father’s birth.

What exactly is it to be Black in America?

Well, for some, it’s learning how to morph the hatred placed by others into love for oneself; for others, it’s unearthing the strength it takes to continue to hold one’s swagger when multitudinous factors work to make Black lives crumble. For some, it’s gathering around the kitchen table as Grandma tells the story of Anansi the spider, while for others it’s grinning from ear to ear while eating auntie’s spectacular 7Up cake.

Black experiences and traditions are complex, striking, and vast—they stretch longer than the Nile and are four times as deep—and carry more than just unimaginable pain—there is also joy.

Featuring an all-star group of thirty-seven powerful poetic voices, including such luminaries as Kwame Alexander, James Baldwin, Ibi Zoboi, Audre Lorde, Nikki Giovanni, and Gwendolyn Brooks, this riveting anthology depicts the diversity of the Black experience by fostering a conversation about race, faith, heritage, and resilience between fresh poets and the literary ancestors that came before them.

Edited by Taylor Byas, Erica Martin, and Coretta Scott King New Talent Award winner Amber McBride, Poemhood will simultaneously highlight the duality and nuance at the crux of so many Black experiences with poetry being the psalm constantly playing.

Wander in the Dark

Author: Jumata Emill

Publication date: January 30, 2024

Genre: thriller, mystery

Setting: New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Recommended for: Grades 7-12

Themes: brothers, murder, falsely accused, detective stories, blended families, family problems, privilege, alternating perspectives, crime, systemic racism

Protagonist: alternates between two half-brothers; both are black; one is age 16 and one is age 18

Starred reviews: Booklist and Publishers Weekly

Pages: 256

See it on Amazon


Amir Trudeau only goes to his half brother Marcel’s birthday party because of Chloe Danvers.

Chloe is rich, and hot, and fits right into the perfect life Marcel inherited when their father left Amir’s mother to start a new family with Marcel’s mom. But Chloe is hot enough for Amir to forget that for one night.

Does she want to hook up? Or is she trying to meddle in the estranged brothers’ messy family drama? Amir can’t tell. He doesn’t know what Chloe wants from him when, in the final hours of Mardi Gras, she asks him to take her home and stay—her parents are away and she doesn’t want to be alone.

Amir never finds out, because when he wakes up, Chloe is dead—stabbed while he was passed out on the couch. And in no time, Amir becomes the only suspect. A Black teenager caught fleeing the scene of a rich white girl’s murder? All of New Orleans agrees: the case is open-and-shut.

Amir is innocent. He has a lawyer, but unless someone can figure out who really killed Chloe, things don’t look good for him. His number one ally? Marcel. Their relationship is messy, but Marcel knows that Amir isn’t a murderer—and maybe proving his innocence will repair the rift between them.

To find Chloe’s killer, Amir and Marcel need to dig into her secrets. And what they find is darker than either could have guessed. Parents will go to any lengths to protect their children, and in a city as old as New Orleans, the right family connections can bury even the ugliest truths.

Regency Romance
Yours from the Tower

Author: Sally Nicholls

Publication Date: January 30, 2024

Genre: historical fiction, regency romance

Setting: 1896, England (Liverpool, London, and Perthshire)

Recommended for: Grades 8-12

Themes: friendship, epistolary, traditional gender roles, women’s rights, Victorian era, marriage market, gossip, privilege

Protagonist: 3 female friends, all British, all cued white, all recent graduates from a British boarding school

Starred reviews: Publishers Weekly

Pages: 256

See it on Amazon


Tirzah, Sophia, and Polly are best friends who’ve left boarding school and gone back to very different lives. 

The year is 1896, and Polly is teaching in an orphanage, Sophia is scouting for a rich husband at the London Season, and Tirzah is stuck acting as an unpaid companion to her grandmother. 

In a series of letters buzzing with atmosphere and drama, the friends air their dreams, hopes, frustrations, and romances. 

Can this trio of very different young women—one industrious, one artful, and one in exile—find happiness and love near the dawn of the Edwardian era? 

Just Say Yes

Author: Goldy Moldavsky

Publication Date: January 30, 2024

Genre: rom-com, romance

Setting: New York City, USA; 2007

Recommended for: Grades 8-12

Themes: undocumented immigrants, green card marriage, DREAMers, scheming, dating websites, living with uncertainty

Protagonist: female, age 17, Peruvian American, HS senior

Starred reviews: SLJ

Pages: 320

See it on Amazon


Jimena Ramos had no idea she was undocumented.

Now she’s seventeen, and she needs to figure out a way to stay in New York City, the only home she can remember. There’s only one possibility that will get her a green card quickly enough: Jimena is going to find an American to marry her.

She’s got one excellent candidate: Vitaly, her next-door neighbor and friend, the only person she trusts with her secret. But Vitaly’s got his own plans for the future. He’s a definite no.

So Jimena tries online dating. She decides to approach this marriage like a business transaction. She figures out a plan that just might save her and make her a citizen at last.

But of course, she can’t stop thinking about Vitaly.

The Dark Fable

Author: Katherine Harbour

Publication date: January 30, 2024

Genre: fantasy

Recommended for: Grades 8-12

Themes: special abilities, invisibility, thieves, heists, magic, found family, secrets, international criminal networks, love triangles, orphans, past trauma

Protagonist: female, age 18, white, orphan

Starred reviews: no starred reviews

Pages: 384

See it on Amazon


Evie Wilder is an orphan who has gone through most of her life unnoticed . . . until she’s caught up in a dramatic heist and captures the attention of the Dark Fable. They have chosen her for a reason: she can turn invisible. This skill would make Evie a treasured asset to the legendary group of thieves known for spiriting away obscure and occult artifacts.

Evie cannot resist their allure and is eager to join this newfound family. But she discovers there are more skeletons in the Dark Fable’s past than she could have ever imagined. And these secrets might be the answer to her own tragic past.

No one is who they seem to be and the price of uncovering the Dark Fable’s cryptic history just might be fatal . . .

Retelling of The Scarlet Letter

Author: Annie Cardi

Publication Date: January 30, 2024

Genre: realistic fiction, classic retelling

Setting: small, religious conservative town called Hawthorne

Recommended for: Grades 8-12

Themes: poverty, new in town, church attendance, shunning, bullying, secret pasts, The Scarlet Letter, abuse, abortion, misogyny, ostracized by family and community, statutory rape

Protagonist: female, age16, white

Starred reviews: no starred reviews

Pages: 256

See it on Amazon


Moving to Hawthorne was something Tess and her mom never anticipated, but after Tess’s mom loses her job, it’s their only option. Tess’s grandparents welcome them into their home, on the condition that Tess and her mom attend church, something Mom isn’t too pleased about. But Tess enjoys the church community, finding a place in youth group and the church choir. Faith fills a void Tess didn’t know she had.

After a very personal decision goes public, Tess faces daily harassment and rejection by her former friends, and singing in the church choir is no longer an option. When she meets some kids in the music room, her only place of solace in the school, she finds they don’t judge her for what’s happened, and she learns to find her voice again. Against the backdrop of the Spirit Light Festival, Tess will need to find the strength to speak out if she is to have any chance of ending a silent cycle of abuse in Hawthorne.

These Deadly Prophecies

Author: Andrea Tang

Publication date: January 30, 2024

Genre: fantasy, mystery

Recommended for: Grades 9-12

Themes: murder, sorcerers, magic, falsely accused, prophecies, apprenticeships, detectives, clearing one’s own name, trust

Protagonist: female teen, Chinese American

Starred reviews: no starred reviews

Pages: 256

See it on Amazon


Being an apprentice to one of the world’s most famous sorcerers has its challenges; Tabatha Zeng just didn’t think they would include solving crime. But when her boss, the infamous fortuneteller Sorcerer Solomon, predicts his own brutal death—and worse, it comes true—Tabatha finds herself caught in the crosshairs.

The police have their sights set on her and Callum Solomon, her murdered boss’s youngest son. With suspicion swirling around them, the two decide to team up to find the real killer and clear their own names once and for all.

But solving a murder isn’t as easy as it seems, especially when the suspect list is mostly the rich, connected, and magical members of Sorcerer Solomon’s family. And Tabatha can’t quite escape the nagging voice in her head asking: just how much can she really trust Callum Solomon?

Nothing is as it seems in this quick-witted and fantastical murder mystery.






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.

Each week, school librarian Leigh Collazo compiles the New Release Spotlight using a combination of Follett’s Titlewave, Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes and Noble. Recommended grade levels represent the range of grade levels recommended by professional book reviewers. See the full selection criteria here.

Inevitably, there are far more books that meet my criteria than can make it on the Spotlight. When I have to make the tough decisions on what to include, I just use my “librarian judgment.” Would I buy this book for my own library? Would my students want to read this book? Is the cover appealing? Does it fill a need?

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