I attended ALA Lib Learn X in January and had a great time at the virtual sessions I was able to attend. I learned about mindfulness-based storytimes, passive library programming, international games week, and much more. I also took some time to look around at the virtual exhibitor booths and signed up for a few giveaways which I then promptly forgot about.
Until last week that is, when I got home from work and had a box full of ARCS from Simon and Schuster sitting on my doorstep. I’ve only read one of these books (which I devoured this weekend), and I thought it might be fun to share some first impressions (alphabetically by author’s last name like my little librarian heart demands) because I am so excited about some of these books!
Charlie Hernandez & The Golden Dooms by Ryan Calejo
My First Impression: Honestly, I probably won’t read this one just because it’s the third book in a series and I’ve not read the other two. I’ll offer it to my coworkers at the library and I’m sure someone who has read the others will snap it up.
blaine for The Win by Robbie Couch
My First Impression: I am absolutely here for the drama of high school student government elections. This book feels like it will hit a lot of tropes I’m interested in and I really hope that there’ll be some great banter. Also solid cover design!
Hazard by Frances O’Roark Dowell
My First Impression: Between the cover and the book description this book feels like YA that would have been written in the early 2000s and that I would have read in middle school when I was starting to read YA and feeling edgy about it (though the Goodreads description linked above calls this middle grade). I think it’s really something about the red and black color scheme that makes me think of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Twisted or Chris Crutcher’s Whale Talk. It’s short (and in verse with some epistolary bits) so I’ll definitely pick a time to just sit down and read this one and see how it compares to my initial assesment.
Rima’s Rebellion by Margarita Engle
My First Impression: Sometimes I feel like a bad librarian because I’ve not read anything by certain authors, Margarita Engle is one of those authors. However, I love historical fiction and I’m really interested in reading more about 1920s Cuba. I also didn’t realize until I flipped through this that it was a verse novel (perhaps I should have known) and I adore verse novels. The cover art is so gorgeous and this one is high on my list.
LumberJackula by Mat Heagerty and Sam Owen
My First Impression: Hands down the cutest book in this box of ARCS. I’m obsessed with the bonkers vibes that I get just from the cover. It also has a vaguely Smurf-like aesthetic to me. I’ll probably take this to work, read it on my lunch break, and immediately pass it around to every librarian and library assistant in a 5-foot radius. It feels like something we’re all going to read, fall in love with, and recommend to kids constantly.
The Code breaker by Walter Isaacson
My First Impression: This will likely be one of the last books that I get to out of these ARCS just because I don’t read a ton of non-fiction let along non-fiction adapted for young readers. I am interested in the subject matter of this book, so I will definitely still try not to let it languish long past its April publication date.
Love Radio by Ebony LaDelle
My First Impression: I learned a lot about book design when I took History of Children’s Literature Publishing with Anita Silvey and let me tell you, this cover has such a good font. The gold foil embossed cover (even on the ARC!!) is just such a standout against the bright pinks and purples. I recently read The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon (more on that later in this post) and really enjoyed the radio based content. I’m really interested in the radio host and writer identity overlaps. Although, I did roll my eyes just a bit at the cliche of “high school writer wants to move to NYC to become a famous author” (even though I too was that high schooler).
Once Upon another Time by James Riley
My First Impression: I’d actually heard about this one because someone shared the cover for it in our work Slack. I’m certainly intrigued by the comp to Fablehaven which I loved in middle school and I’m interested in the theme of identity that seems like it’ll emerge from the middle grade fantasy. I’ve also never read anything by James Riley before.
Turning by Joy L. Smith
My First Impression: I’m not a huge ballet book fan, but I am increasingly interested in representations of disability in children’s and young adult literature after taking a class with Abbye Meyer last semester (who recently wrote a book about disability in young adult narratives). I do feel like YA ballet books often involve a lot of trauma and often don’t end well, so I’ll be curious to see where this one goes.
See You Yesterday by Rachel Lynn Solomon
My First Impression: Remember how I mentioned The Ex Talk earlier? Well I knew about this book from reading a roundup of YA to look forward to in 2022, and I knew Rachel Lynn Solomon wrote YA along with romance, but I literally didn’t put two and two together until I read the author bio on the back of this book. After I got that all straightened out, this book quickly moved right on up near the top of my TBR list. I also am a sucker for YA about college and I can’t wait for the Groundhog’s Day style exploration of such an important time in life. And it’s a romance?? Count me in!
Skandar and the Unicorn Thief by A.F. Steadman
My First Impression: Honestly, my first though was “ehhh unicorns” but then I read the description and it honestly made me think of The Priory of the Orange Tree which I absolutely adored due to the intrigue, mythical creatures, and rumors of a shadowy villain amassing an army. This is middle grade fantasy, so there probably won’t be a satisfying romance element like The Priory of the Orange Tree had but I’ll survive.
CatalinA Incognito by Jennifer Torres
My First Impression: This book goes falls under the category of “book I am most likely to immediately purchase for the library.” I’m all here for an intermediate chapter book with a POC main character, a little bit of magic, and a little bit of sewing. The comp to Mindy Kim works well for me, because Mindy Kim goes out a lot at my library.
Osmo Unknown and the Eightpenny Woods by Catherynne M. Valente
My First Impression: Its got a half-badger, half-wombat, its got a pangolin girl, its got a beautiful cover. This might be the book that I’m most intrigued by based solely on cover and description. Despite my best intentions over the years, I never got around to reading The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making so this will be an introduction to Valente for me.
New From Here by Kelly Yang
My First Impression: I literally gasped out loud when I saw this book. It’s easily the title I was most excited to read an ARC of, and hence I read it in just three days. I’ve left a full review on my Goodreads account, but I’ll add a few things here. While I think it stumbled in a few places, this is such an ambitious book for all the tough subjects it handled and I’m overall so impressed. While I didn’t like it as much as the Front Desk trilogy, I still really appreciated Kelly Yang’s writing.
Lia Park and the Missing Jewel by Jenna Yoon
My First Impression: I love the colors on the cover and how they (at least to me) hint at both heist and magic. I also get some Spy Kids vibes from the whole “evil diviner spirit kidnaps her parents” part of the story. I’m looking forward to seeing if those vibes hold up throughout the book.