What's Up in YA

A Secret Superhero, Upcoming Disability YA, and More YA Book Talk: March 20, 2023

Hey YA Readers!

No fancy introduction this week. Let’s get right into the good stuff: new YA books hitting shelves this week and a look at some 2023 YA books that explore disability.

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Bookish Goods

book fair baddie candle

Book Fair Baddie Candle by booksandreverie

Does this candle give you waves of nostalgia like it does me? I get my daughter’s Scholastic Book Fair fliers from school and this candle makes me think of my own times at the Scholastic. This candle smells like strawberry lemonade. Yum!


New Releases

It’s a fun week of new releases, so picking two to highlight was not an easy task.

You can grab the entire roundup of new books hitting shelves this week over here. The next edition of the YA book release guide for spring 2023 will be hitting the site very soon.

the witch and the vampire book cover

The Witch and the Vampire by Francesca Flores

It’s the queer Repunzel retelling you didn’t know you needed, featuring a vampire and a witch.

Kaye and Ava were always best friends. But after vampires broke down the barriers protecting their community two years ago, Kaye lost her mother and Ava was turned into a vampire. The thing is, despite being stuck in her house, Ava still does have some of her witch powers and her mother needs to take them. Because her mother is also a vampire and taking her daughter’s remaining powers will keep this a secret. Ava does not want to give her powers up and she certainly does not want her mother to destroy their town, so she needs to escape.

Meanwhile, Kaye has been training to be a Flame witch and she’s just about ready to put her skills protecting her town to the test. She’ll be able to vanquish vampires, including her former best friend, to ensure peace. So when Ava escapes her confinement and Kaye finds her, they make an agreement: they’ll travel together through the forest for safety. Ava doesn’t know Kaye’s secret plan is to turn her in, though. And Kaye doesn’t know Ava hopes to reignite their friendship and the feelings that may have been more than friendship between them.

As they travel deeper into the dangerous forest, both of their motivations and desires are put to question…and to the test. Do they destroy each other because they have to? Do they put their differences aside for safety and protection…or more?

while you were dreaming book cover

While You Were Dreaming by Alisha Rai

You might recognize the author from her work in the capital-R romance genre, and now she’s taking her skills to YA (with, of course, plenty of romance, too!).

Sonia Patil hopes she’ll be able to catch the attention of her crush at the local comic-con. But in a weird twist of fate, Sonia ends up saving her crush after he faints into a canal. No one knows it was her though, since she was dressed up, and now, everyone wants to know who the masked heroine was.

Problem? Sonia’s sister is undocumented and her mother was deported; they’ve been trying to stay under the radar. So as people work to uncover the do-gooder, Sonia worries that all of the positive attention might lend to some very negative consequences for her, for her family, and for her future with her crush.

For a more comprehensive list, check out our New Books newsletter.

Riot Recommendations

This week’s feminist theme is disability, and I thought it’d be worthwhile to do a preview of a handful of upcoming YA books where the main character is disabled and/or disability is a key theme throughout. I’ve stuck to fiction here, and while I cannot ensure every one of these is written by an author with the lived experience told in the story — no one is ever obligated to divulge this — I’ve done my best to note when they do.

absolutely normal book cover

(Ab)solutely Normal edited by Nora Shalaway Carpenter and Rocky Callen (April 11)

Looking for a short story collection featuring main characters who have some kind of mental health challenge? You’ll enjoy this one, which features stories across genres and formats, including prose, verse, and even comics. These stories come from authors who have lived these experiences.

It’s a great contributor list, too: Mercedes Acosta * Karen Jialu Bao * James Bird * Rocky Callen * Nora Shalaway Carpenter * Alechia Dow * Patrick Downes * Anna Drury * Nikki Grimes * Val Howlett * Jonathan Lenore Kastin * Sonia Patel * Marcella Pixley * Isabel Quintero * Ebony Stewart * Francisco X. Stork

every time you go away book cover

Every Time You Go Away by Abigail Johnson (December 5)

There are at least two YA books this year with wheelchair users depicted on the cover, which is well past due. Johnson is herself a wheelchair user, and I think her work has been slept on for a bit too long.

When they were younger, Ethan and Rebecca met and became quick friends. They shared secrets and kisses until Ethan’s mom took him away. He’s able to visit periodically, and when he does, he leaves a flower on Rebecca’s windowsill.

Four years later, Ethan is gone for good. He’s now responsible for taking care of his mom, who struggles with substance use.

Two years ago, Rebecca and her father were in a terrible car accident which left him dead. She became a wheelchair user.

Now, Ethan and Rebecca are reconnecting. But can they find common ground in their grief and trauma? Or are they forever pulled apart?

give me a sign book cover

Give Me a Sign by Anna Sortino (July 11)

Deaf pride is at the heart of this one, which follows Lilah, who always feels she’s not “enough.” She’s not deaf enough to be part of the Deaf community, but she has hearing loss.

She decides to spend the summer as a camp counselor at a place for those who are Deaf and/or blind. Here, she finally finds a world where she not only fits in, but where she can thrive…and fall head over heels for some of the cute campers. Along the way, she’s able to learn ASL, too.

Lilah might be falling hard for a Deaf counselor, which was never on her agenda. And yet, he might be just who she needs to help her become fully who she wants to be.

Sortino is a Deaf author.

hungry ghost book cover

Hungry Ghost by Victoria Ying (April 25)

No one knows Valerie Chu struggles with an eating disorder. She’s quiet and studious and mostly keeps to herself. But when she experiences tragedy, she knows she needs to reexamine everything about her life…and that might mean getting as far away from home and her family as possible.

This is a hauntingly gorgeous graphic novel about disordered eating and the road to recovery.

the making of yolanda la bruja book cover

The Making of Yolanda la Bruja by Lorrine Avila (April 11)

Please to note the use of an assistive hearing device on the cover model — it might not be super obvious here (or, frankly, in the publisher’s copy text) that the main character has hearing loss.

Yolanda Alvarez is at the top of her game, feeling confident and happy in her Bronx high school. She’s hoping this year she can catch the attention of a boy and be given the tools to be inducted into her family’s bruja traditions.

But it’s a white boy — the new kid at her school — which threatens it all. Yolanda is having visions of this boy threatening and acting on violence in the school. But how can she warn people? She’s not the right color, first, and second, the visions part might not land with anyone who has power to intervene.

She’ll need to listen to the wisdom of Brujas Diosas, her ancestors and guides. And that indeed might be key to her not only being heard but following through on what she knows she needs to do.

one for all book cover

One For All by Lillie Lainoff (available now)

Tania de Batz is disabled, and she feels wholly herself, fierce and powerful, while she has a sword in her hand. She wants to be like her father, who was a Musketeer and who has always been supportive of Tania, despite her near-constant dizziness.

When her father is murdered, his final wish is for her to attend a finishing school. But it’s not any finishing school. It’s where young women are trained to be proper on the outside but fiery Musketeers beneath the surface.

Now connected with a collection of fellow female fighters, Tania is ready to exact revenge for her father’s death.

If you want a gender bent retelling of The Three Musketeers with a main character living with POTS, here you go!

the secret summer promise book cover

The Secret Summer Promise by Keah Brown (June 6)

Brown’s memoir The Pretty One is a must-read, and it’s one that will resonate with many YA readers. I’m super thrilled she’s bringing her skills to the YA fiction table with this debut.

Andrea spent most of last summer laid up following surgeries for her cerebral palsy. This year will be different. She’s got a list of things to do, and she’s eager to have the kinds of friends who are as game as her.

The problem is her best friend Hailee. Andrea has had a crush on her, and she knows if Hailee knew that, things would change. So Andrea’s bucket list not only includes fun items like a Lizzo concert and paintball and thrifting. It also includes finding a way to fall out of love with Hailee.

Brown lives with and writes widely about cerebral palsy.

where you see yourself book cover

Where You See Yourself by Claire Forrest (May 2)

Effie Galanos dreams of working in digital media. It’s her senior year, and she’s been preparing for college admissions for years — she uses a wheelchair, so there are so many more considerations about her future to take into account. Effie thinks she’s found the perfect place to go to school. It’s in New York City, has the degree she wants, and she knows it’ll be the kind of change from her home in Minneapolis to really put her outside of her comfort zone in the way she desires. Oh, and the cute boy she’s had a crush on is applying there, too. That’s a bonus.

But as her senior year unfolds, Effie experiences tons of things she didn’t anticipate. And maybe her plans are going to go sideways…or upside down…or somewhere all together different. She’ll have to decide whether to stay with the plan or roll with the potential other options opening in front of her.

The author uses a wheelchair herself and lives with cerebral palsy. Also, look at that cover!

As always, thanks for hanging out. We’ll see you later this week with your YA book news and paperback releases.

Until then, happy reading!

— Kelly Jensen, currently obsessing over how good the Paris Hilton memoir, Paris, is, and she has zero shame for her love of maligned celebs like her.