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New Release Spotlight – YA Books – Week of February 6, 2024

All three of this week’s New Release Spotlights are larger-than-normal!

My top YA pick this week is Out of Body by Nia Davenport.

This book is a thriller-twist on Freaky Friday. We have two teen friends, Megan and LC, but one of them is not what she seems. When Megan wakes up in someone else’s body, she discovers her friend LC has been keeping lot of secrets. Now, Megan has to track down LC and find out her motives in order to get back inside her own body…or be stuck as “Jade” forever.

Links to the Google Slides presentation, printable list, Ginormous Book List, and the Middle Grade and Picture Book Spotlights for this week are all at the bottom of this post.

Novel in Verse
Bright Red Fruit

Author: Safia Elhillo

Publication date: February 6, 2024

Genre: realistic fiction, novel in verse

Setting: Washington, DC

Recommended for: Grades 7-12

Themes: poetry, writers, rumors, gossip, online communities, dating, keeping inappropriate secrets, grooming, sex shaming, online sexual predators, reputation, Hades and Persephone myth

Protagonist: female, age 16, Black, Sudanese American

Starred reviews: Kirkus, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly

Pages: 384



See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

Bad girl. No matter how hard Samira tries, she can’t shake her reputation. She’s never gotten the benefit of the doubt—not from her mother or the aunties who watch her like a hawk.

Samira is determined to have a perfect summer filled with fun parties, exploring DC, and growing as a poet—until a scandalous rumor has her grounded and unable to leave her house. When Samira turns to a poetry forum for solace, she catches the eye of an older, charismatic poet named Horus.

For the first time, Samira feels wanted. But soon she’s keeping a bigger secret than ever before—one that that could prove her reputation and jeopardize her place in her community.

In this gripping coming-of-age novel from the critically acclaimed author Safia Elhillo, a young woman searches to find the balance between honoring her family, her artistry, and her authentic self.

Memoir
Bless the Blood

Author: Walela Nehanda

Publication Date: February 6, 2024

Genre: memoir, poetry and essays

Setting: Los Angeles, California, USA; 2017-2020

Recommended for: Grades 9-12

Themes: cancer, US medical system, abuse, generational trauma, mental health, self-harm, stem cell transplants, COVID pandemic, medical racism, fatphobia, ableism, terminal illness

Protagonist: nonbinary cancer patient, age 23, African American, disabled, queer, fat

Starred reviews: Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Booklist

Pages: 400


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

When Walela is diagnosed at twenty-three with advanced stage blood cancer, they’re suddenly thrust into the unsympathetic world of tubes and pills, doctors who don’t use their correct pronouns, and hordes of “well-meaning” but patronizing people offering unsolicited advice as they navigate rocky personal relationships and share their story online.

But this experience also deepens their relationship to their ancestors, providing added support from another realm. Walela’s diagnosis becomes a catalyst for their self-realization.

As they fill out forms in the insurance office in downtown Los Angeles or travel to therapy in wealthier neighborhoods, they begin to understand that cancer is where all forms of their oppression intersect: Disabled. Fat. Black. Queer. Nonbinary.

In Bless the Blood: A Cancer Memoir, the author details a galvanizing account of their survival despite the U.S. medical system, and of the struggle to face death unafraid.

Romance
Even If It Breaks Your Heart

Author: Erin Hahn

Publication Date: February 6, 2024

Genre: romance

Setting: family horse ranch in the Texas Panhandle

Recommended for: Grades 8-12

Themes: horse riding, bull riding, rodeo, family problems, grief, death of a best friend, privilege, negligent parents

Protagonist: male - age 19, white, cowboy; female - age 18, white

Starred reviews: Publishers Weekly, Kirkus

Pages: 320


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

The only thing keeping nineteen-year-old Case Michaels together after the death of his best friend, Walker, is a list Walker left behind of things he wants Case to accomplish in his absence.

So far, though, Case hasn’t even been able to continue riding bulls in the rodeo circuit, something he’s done his entire life, balking at the thought of competing without Walker by his side. But the list? Case is determined to follow it to the letter– and he follows it all the way to Winnie Sutton.

Eighteen-year-old Winnie Sutton just wants to keep her family together.

She graduated high school early to work long shifts at the Michaels family ranch so she can support her younger siblings and a father who’s more than happy to let Winnie fill the responsible parent role.

If she sometimes sneaks out to ride the horses herself and forget about life for a while– well, that’s no one else’s business– until the day she crashes headfirst into Case Michaels. Case sees her riding skills and immediately ropes her into competing for the ranch and becoming his friend.

Winnie and Case couldn’t be more different, but Case can’t help but be inspired by Winnie’s badly-hidden passion for riding and competition. And there’s something about Case that makes Winnie want to try grasping onto a dream for herself, whether that’s a shot at a rodeo trophy, the annoyingly handsome rancher’s son who won’t leave her alone, or maybe both.

Infinity Alchemist

Author: Kacen Callender

Publication Date: February 6, 2024

Genre: fantasy

Setting: New Anglia

Recommended for: Grades 8-12

Themes: forbidden magic, secret magic, sacred texts, poverty, systemic inequality, privilege, LGBT+

Protagonist: trans male, age 18, brown skin; love interest is 19 and has shifting genders and pronouns

Starred reviews: Publishers Weekly and Booklist

Pages: 400

Notes: Booklist notes some “sexual situations” and recommends Grades 10+.


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

For Ash Woods, practicing alchemy is a crime.

Only an elite few are legally permitted to study the science of magic―so when Ash is rejected by Lancaster College of Alchemic Science, he takes a job as the school’s groundskeeper instead, forced to learn alchemy in secret.

When he’s discovered by the condescending and brilliant apprentice Ramsay Thorne, Ash is sure he’s about to be arrested―but instead of calling the reds, Ramsay surprises Ash by making him an offer: Ramsay will keep Ash’s secret if he helps her find the legendary Book of Source, a sacred text that gives its reader extraordinary power.

As Ash and Ramsay work together and their feelings for each other grow, Ash discovers their mission is more dangerous than he imagined, pitting them against influential and powerful alchemists―Ash’s estranged father included. Ash’s journey takes him through the cities and wilds across New Anglia, forcing him to discover his own definition of true power and how far he and other alchemists will go to seize it.

Magical Realism
The Girl, the Ring, & the Baseball Bat

Author: Camille Gomera-Tavarez

Publication date: February 6, 2024

Genre: magical realism

Setting: New Jersey, USA

Recommended for: Grades 7-12

Themes: magical talismans, magical objects, friendship, alternating perspectives, Latin American culture, intergenerational trauma

Protagonist: alternates among 3 teens from New Jersey; two are female and sisters, both Dominican American; one is male, Jamaican, queer

Starred reviews: Booklist

Pages: 408


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

Rosie: Capricorn. Does great in class. Wants nothing more than to get into the prestigious Innovation Technical Institute and kiss this awful school goodbye. Her talisman: a magical jacket from her mother’s past that gets people to do whatever she says.

Caro: Leo. Rosie’s older sister. Always been closer to their estranged father – and always butted heads more with their strict mother. A trip to Dominican Republic for her father’s wedding leads her deep into family history that clears up any illusions about her parents she’s ever had. Her talisman: a baseball bat that fixes whatever it breaks. 

Zeke: Certified Triple Pisces. Up in cold-ass Jersey City living with his aunt after his grandmother dies and his father moves to London to take care of his mother. He crushes on EVERYone – he knows he’ll find happiness in love, and maybe a way out of this depression. His talisman: a manifestation stone that will make anyone fall in love with him.  

Rosie, Caro, and Zeke – and their talismans – find themselves intertwined in a magical, hilarious, and whip-smart Outsiders for the modern day, written by Camille Gomera-Tavarez, a 2022 Publishers Weekly Flying Start.

Fantasy
The Absinthe Underground

Author: Jamie Pacton

Publication Date: February 6, 2024

Genre: fantasy, historical fiction 

Setting: Belle Époque-inspired city of Severon

Recommended for: Grades 8-12

Themes: runaways, riches to rags, fae, magic, heists, secrets, LGBT+, thieves

Protagonist: female, age 17, white

Starred reviews: Publishers Weekly

Pages: 304


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

After running away from home, Sybil Clarion is eager to embrace all the freedom the Belle Époque city of Severon has to offer. Instead, she’s traded high-society soirées for empty pockets. At least she has Esme, the girl who offered Sybil a home, and if either of them dared, something more.

While Esme would rather spend the night tinkering with her clocks and snuggling her cats, Sybil craves excitement and needs money. She plans to get both by stealing the rare posters that crop up around town. But when she’s caught selling a poster by none other than its subject, Maeve, the glamorous girl invites Sybil and Esme to The Absinthe Underground, the exclusive club she co-owns, and reveals herself to be a Green Faerie, trapped in this world.

Maeve wants to hire thieves for a daring heist in Fae and is willing to pay enough that Sybil and Esme never have to worry about money again. It’s too good of an offer to pass up, even if Maeve’s tragic story doesn’t quite add up, and the secrets could jeopardize everything the girls have so carefully built.

Thriller
Out of Body

Author: Nia Davenport

Publication date: February 6, 2024

Genre: thriller, science fiction

Setting: Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Recommended for: Grades 9-12

Themes: high school, betrayal, identity, identity theft, fitting in, body swapping, self-confidence

Protagonist: female, age 17, African American

Starred reviews: Kirkus

Pages: 272


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

Seventeen-year-old Megan Allen has been jumping from friend group to friend group in her high school, trying on identities like outfits. Nothing ever seems to fit—until she meets LC, the adventurous, charismatic girl who appears at her favorite coffee shop one day like magic.

Finally, Megan feels like she’s becoming the person she’s meant to be: someone like LC.

On the night of their friendiversary, what was supposed to be a bonding experience ends in a waking nightmare. Suddenly, Megan is no longer herself. Too late, she realizes that LC has secrets—dangerous ones.

Betrayed by her best friend, thrust into another girl’s life, and targeted by LC’s enemies, she must claim what makes Megan Megan to get her life back…or die trying.

Memoir in Verse
How the Boogeyman Became a Poet

Author: Tony Keith, Jr.

Publication Date: February 6, 2024

Genre: free verse, memoir

Setting: Washington, DC, USA

Recommended for: Grades 9-12

Themes: poetry, closeted sexuality, identity, hip hop, slam poetry, family pressure, societal expectations  

Protagonist: male, African American, gay (closeted)

Starred reviews: Booklist

Pages: 352

Notes: Includes photos, handwritten poems, instant message chats


See it on Amazon

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY

Poet, writer, and hip-hop educator Tony Keith Jr. makes his debut with a powerful YA memoir in verse, tracing his journey from being a closeted gay Black teen battling poverty, racism, and homophobia to becoming an openly gay first-generation college student who finds freedom in poetry. Perfect for fans of Elizabeth Acevedo, George M. Johnson, and Jacqueline Woodson.

Tony dreams about life after high school, where his poetic voice can find freedom on the stage and page. But the Boogeyman has been following Tony since he was six years old.

First, the Boogeyman was after his Blackness, but Tony has learned It knows more than that: Tony wants to be the first in his family to attend college, but there’s no path to follow.

He also has feelings for boys, desires that don’t align with the script he thinks is set for him and his girlfriend, Blu.

Despite a supportive network of family and friends, Tony doesn’t breathe a word to anyone about his feelings. As he grapples with his sexuality and moves from high school to college, he struggles with loneliness while finding solace in gay chat rooms and writing poetry.

But how do you find your poetic voice when you are hiding the most important parts of yourself? And how do you escape the Boogeyman when it’s lurking inside you?

THE LINKS YOU’LL NEED FOR FEBRUARY

 

MORE FEBRUARY 2024 NEW RELEASE SPOTLIGHTS

      

ABOUT THE SPOTLIGHT

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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