Click here to see all of the current Best Fiction for Young Adults nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
Forward Me Back to You by Mitali Perkins
Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Macmillan
Publication Date: April 2, 2019
Robin Thornton was adopted from an orphanage in India when he was three. As he is about to turn eighteen, an opportunity to join a mission trip to India gives Robin the change to build a connection to his home country and find his birth mother. Kat was assaulted at her school and her side of the story is not believed, but the pain and terror she feels still haunts her dreams. When her mother sends her to Boston to finish the school year, she joins Robin’s youth group, and decides to go on that same mission trip to India. Both Robin and Kat have a lot to work through, but will this trip be enough to help them through it all?
Kat and Robin are such authentic and real characters. Both are dealing with particularly specialized circumstances, but teen readers will be able to see a lot of themselves in each of them. Religion and faith also play a huge role in the story without coming off as preachy or disingenuous. As the setting goes from the US to India, the issue of human trafficking becomes a main focus around the two teens’ personal issues. Overall this is an excellent look at growth and finding your voice, while also opening your eyes to the world around you.
Fans of Mitali Perkins’ other book, You Bring the Distant near will enjoy the strong character development and culture featured in both books.
Voices: the Final Hours of Joan of Arc by David Elliott
HMH Books for Young Readers / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: March 26, 2019
Is she mad or is she really hearing the Voice of God? In 1431, hearing voices is not a recipe for survival–especially if you are a woman. That makes Jeannette the Maid’s (now known as Joan of Arc) action upon her visions all the more compelling. History tells us the outcome: France is liberated, Joan is burned at the stake for heresy, hindsight renders her a hero and the Catholic church canonizes her. So what makes this such a fitting entry for Best Fiction for Young Adults?
David Elliott of Bull (an urban retelling of the Minotaur myth) applies his talents to Joan’s life through the use of historical poetry forms and excerpts from both Joan’s initial trial and the Trial of Nullification. Commonplace objects like a needle, flame, and sword provide a variety of perspectives and the blended use of concrete poetry with those historical formats make the story interesting. The sparse verse elicits a visceral response in readers while Joan is portrayed as an empowered individual despite her youth.
Voices has the flavor of Julie Berry’s The Passion of Dolssa as well as the effective use of verse employed by Stephanie Hemphill in Hideous Love and will appeal to readers who appreciate the historical and mystical properties of Robin LaFever’s Grave Mercies series.