New Releases: Siblings Stories, Shabbat Dinners, and the High Seas

It’s the last weekend of summer, and we’re every bit as prepped for autumn as the weather outside! We’ve got the return of some of your favorite pirates, a collection that makes for the perfect read as Rosh HaShana approaches, and books that are packed with the power of grief, connection, and survival.

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them, by Junauda Petrus
Mabel is a sixteen-year-old girl living in Minneapolis, confused about her ex-boyfriend and the feelings she has for a girl. Then Mabel’s father makes an announcement that’s about to rock her world: his best friend and said friend’s daughter, who’s been living in Trinidad until now, are coming for dinner. The daughter in question is Audre, who’s been shipped off to live with her dad since her religious mother caught her with the pastor’s daughter, who happens to have been her secret girlfriend. While she’s hopeful that her grandmother’s right that Audre won’t lose her roots, even in Minnesota, she has no idea what she’s in for in her new home. And neither of them is prepared for how strongly they feel about each other, or the trials they’re about to face together.

It’s a Whole Spiel: Love, Latkes, and Other Jewish Stories, ed. by by Katherine Locke and Laura Silverman
While most Americans think of December as the holiday season, September is the Jewish Big Time, and what better way to usher in the new year than wish this collection of contemporary Jewish stories, all by Jewish authors? Covering the familiar and unfamiliar territory of summer camp, college orientation, high school, services, Shabbat dinner, flights to and trips in Israel, and more, this collection is a much-needed break from the tragedy-heavy nature of Jewish fiction, and a great introduction to some of the authors comprising its present and future.

Suggested Reading, by Dave Connis
From the author of The Temptation of Adam comes a brand-new clever contemporary about a girl named Clara who decides to fight back when she learns her high school principal has a banned book list that forces the school to remain free and clear of whatever he deems inappropriate. She starts her own underground library, making sure that all titles are available to get into the hands that need them. But then unexpected tragedy strikes, and when it’s linked to one of her favorite books, Clara has a lot to think about the power of stories and the role she’s set herself up to play in disseminating them.

The Survival List, by Courtney Sheinmel
When Talley dies by suicide, her sister, Sloane, is racked with grief, but also with confusion. Why would someone as happy and popular as Talley take her own life? All Sloane has to go on is a puzzle Talley left behind, one full of seemingly random names and places that eventually leads her to Adam, who lives in California and claims not to even know Talley. As the two of them search for answers, they grow closer, all while Sloane’s sure Adam isn’t quite telling her everything. But then, maybe she isn’t quite ready to uncover the secrets that might answer all her questions.

Steel Tide, by Natalie C. Parker
Missing your favorite all-female pirate crew from Seafire? Well, you won’t have to pine for long before Caledonia comes back, sans her crew but with a whole new gang in the form of Blades, i.e. former Bullets who’ve escaped Aric Athair and live like nomads. While she appreciates their nursing her back to health, she isn’t interested in living their lifestyle; she wants to find her friends and to defeat Aric for good. To do that, she’ll need to convince the Blades to join her, find the crew from Mors Navis, and reclaim the seas.

Juliet Takes a Breath, by Gabby Rivera
This feminist coming-of-age lesbian YA may have been published by a smaller press, but that didn’t stop it from getting some major word of mouth, thanks to, ya know, being exceptionally good and deeply needed. Now it’s being rereleased with a bit of a face lift (and an editorial lift, too), and I for one am so thrilled that it’s getting a bigger audience. It stars Juliet, a Puerto Rican lesbian from the Bronx who comes out to her family right before spending the summer across the country in Portland. There, she’ll be interning with a queer feminist author, and she can’t wait for the guidance she’s sure it’ll bring. But it turns out that having a privileged white mentor doesn’t provide the voice or advice she needs, and in fact, she’s the one in the position to do some educating. Thankfully, there are other people around who make sure she has a summer to remember, and that she can head home confident in exactly who she is.

City of Beasts, by Corrie Wang
The Dystopian explores a world seventeen years after the formation of a women’s-only colony that protects “fees” from “beasts,” their male counterparts. The post-nuclear town is the safest spot in the world for Glori and her family to be, except that they harbor a secret: there’s a Beast in their midst, in the form of Glori’s little brother. When her brother, who’s only five years old, is kidnapped in a raid, Glori and her best friend risk everything to sneak into the City of Beasts and bring him home. But there, another Beast who joins up to help them proves quite compelling, and starts to change Glori’s entire view of the world and its divisions.

The Babysitter’s Coven, by Kate M. Williams
That title! That cover! This is clearly not the Babysitters Club that I grew up with, but that’s just perfect, especially as the witching season is upon us. It does start as a babysitters club, though, run by seventeen-year-old Esme, who does not expect a girl like Cassandra Heaven to join up. But Cassandra’s following a note from her mother that instructs her to “find the babysitters,” and when she and Esme pair up, they learn a lot about what it really means to be a babysitter…one who has powers, does magic rituals, and just in general keeps the world in order, whether or not the snacks in the pantry are up to snuff.

The Liars of Mariposa Island, by Jennifer Mathieu
This historical follows siblings Elena and Joaquin Finney to their summer on Mariposa Island in 1986, as both of them are desperate to escape from under their mother’s controlling thumb. For Elena, the best escape she can ask for comes in the form of new boy J.C., and their budding romance that sets her soul on fire. For Joaquin, Mariposa Island doesn’t hold half the magic moving in with his father in California would. But both are missing vital pieces of their mother’s history, which are shown through flashbacks to her own teenage years, spent fleeing the Cuban revolution.

Becoming Beatriz, by Tami Charles
Speaking of recent historicals, Beatriz’s story is set in Newark in 1984, a companion to Charles’s middle grade novel Like Vanessa. In it, Beatriz is finally making progress toward her dream career as a dancer, and she won’t let anything, including her gang life among the Diablos, hold her back. Then her brother is killed in a turf war, and it throws everything into upheaval. How is she supposed to dance when she’s flooded by memories of her brother and the grief of her mother? How can she look toward a future when her brother no longer has one? And even if she manages to pull herself out, will the Diablos let her?

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