What's Up in YA

Space Opera, Camp Horror, and More YA Book Talk: July 10, 2023

Hey YA Readers!

We’re finally past the air being smoky — and I do love how the air quality being deemed “acceptable” still feels a little like an insult — and it is less than 500% humidity. It’s the small stretch of summer here in the Midwest that feels especially good. Maybe, just maybe, that hammock will be hung this week. There are so many books I’m reading and would like to do so outside, dang it.

Psst: What do S.A. Cosby, Khaled Hosseini, Sarah Bakewell, and Yahdon Israel have in common? They’ve been guests on Book Riot’s newest podcast, First Edition where co-founder Jeff O’Neal explores the wide bookish world. Subscribe to hear them and stay to hear Book Riot’s editors pick the “it” book of the month.

Bookish Goods

book lover mug

Book Lover Mug by KnockoutFinery

It is a truth universally acknowledged that you can never have too many mugs. Whether you use them for your beverages or not, a good mug has many a use. I am feeling this sweet book lover option. $13.

New Releases

Happy July, and what used to be a quieter season for YA releases is anything but. We’ve got so many good books hitting shelves this month and next. Let’s dive into what this week has to offer. As always, you can catch the entire list of summer 2023 YA releases over yonder.

send me a sign book cover

Give Me a Sign by Anna Sortino

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.

a song of salvation book cover

A Song of Salvation by Alechia Dow

YA does not have a whole lot of space operas and certainly does not have many featuring characters of color. If you’ve felt that hole, well, this is going to be on you want to TBR ASAP.

Zaira Citlali is the reborn god Indigo and is supposed to die. Why? Because Indigo’s song managed to create the universe AND encourage people to connect with one another in order to banish Ozvios, who is the god of destruction. Zaira has failed to really step into her power as Indigo reborn and now the Ilori Emperor is set to sacrifice her in Ozvios’s honor.

The only way out is for Zaira to find Wesley, the prophet meant to destroy Ozvios and his supporting empire.

Wesley doesn’t want to be the chosen one. He’s working as a smuggler, helping transport people across the universe for cash. Now he’s taking a celebrity to a place called Earth. So when he and Zaira cross paths…he’s not exactly thrilled to be pulled into a massive intergalactic war. The thing is, now he is, and he, Zaira, and the celebrity are going to fight and work to make their way to Earth to unleash the biggest powers.

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

Camp Horror

Last year, I found myself falling deep into a hole of summer camp in YA books and this week’s new releases bring us another excellent read set at camp. But if you’re more of a “scare my pants off” reader or want a more, errr, bloody or thrilling camp experience, have I got some recommendations for you.

Of note: while there has been some fantastic growth in horror by authors of color in YA — long past due and extremely welcome — the camp horror niche within that is still predominantly white. This should not be entirely surprising, given that summer camp for teens in general reaches those who have more financial ability to attend or work in those environments. I hope we’ll see more soon, as there is plenty of fodder for great thrills at summer camp

the lake house book cover

The Lake House by Sarah Beth Durst

Claire is the person who is always prepared, always on top of things, always ready for the worst. But she couldn’t even be prepared for what happens when she makes her way to an off-the-grid summer camp, where she’s greeted with a burned-down lodge and no survivors except for her, Reyva, and Mariana — the former two being late arrivals to the camp.

Imagine their surprise then when they also discover a dead body in the woods.

This is not what they signed up for, and now, they’re going to have to not only figure out what is going on but also ensure they make it out alive.

the last girls standing book cover

The Last Girls Standing by Jennifer Dugan (August 15)

Sloan and Cherry are inseparable. They’d met only a few days before the start of their summer as camp counselors and have bound close. It makes sense: they were the only two to survive a massacre at the camp, wherein masked men with machetes took out everything they could.

But as new insight comes from the situation, Sloan begins to wonder if Cherry — now her girlfriend — is not the good person she seems to be. Could Cherry have been part of the murder plot?

primal animals book cover

Primal Animals by Julia Lynn Rubin

Arlee Gold has the perfect mother and feels the pressure to live up to her mom’s too-high standards. She can’t, though, so her mother enrolls her as a legacy in Camp Rockaway, a college prep experience in the wilderness. Arlee dreads it all, until she realizes it might be the kind of queer sanctuary she did not know she needed.

But Arlee becomes weirder and weirder, even as she gets closer to her roommate Winnie. Arlee seems to be a person people avoid, and everything she worried about at home seems to be following her here.

Arlee then gets an invitation to take part in a secret society at camp. Wanting to curb her loneliness and paranoia, she joins. But much as she needs the community, she might be putting Winnie — and herself — in grave danger.

you're not supposed to die tonight book cover

You’re Not Supposed To Die Tonight by Kalynn Bayron

I really enjoyed this one, and I’m excited to share it again for those who haven’t picked it up.

Charity is spending the summer playing the role of the final girl at Camp Mirror Lake, a facility that is set up to be a game of terror. Guests come in and see if they can survive the night.

Things take a turn during the last weekend though, as several of the actors have stopped showing up. So when one of them does show up dead, Charity no longer thinks her role as Final Girl is just pretend.

This is a fast-paced horror that hits all of the beats of a classic bloody summer camp story. It is a cast of characters of color, and it features a secret society, a sapphic romance, and a lot of creepy owls.

I’m breaking out the marshmallows, the chocolate, and the graham crackers now for a little read around the (backyard) campfire.

Here’s to a great week, and we’ll see you again on Thursday for your paperback releases and your YA book news.

Until then, happy reading!

–Kelly Jensen