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.
This is What it Feels Like by Rebecca Barrow
HarperTeen / HarperCollins
Publication Date: November 6, 2018
Hanna, Jules, and Dia, three estranged friends graduating from high school, reunite to make their punk rock dreams reality. While following their passion, they grapple with balancing family, love and loss.
This is What it Feels Like explores the fears, confusion, and excitement that comes with being an older teen on the cusp of entering adulthood. This story depicts the “after”, or fallout that many teens experience, but is rarely described in many situations. The authentic LGBTQA+ representation without the coming out story and the depiction of an older teen having had a child years before and is now trying to make ends meet are well developed. Many teens struggle with drugs and drinking, but often in Teen Fiction readers aren’t given the experience of the life of a sober teen, doing the best they can with the resources that they have.
With the punk rock plot line, teen readers will be pulled into the stories of teen pregnancy, addiction, and loss of a loved one. Teens who enjoy character driven fiction will find this story relatable and will value the authentically realistic and strong character development.
Readers that loved the vulnerability and tone of We Are Okay by Nina LaCour will enjoy the depth of the characters and raw emotion in the story. Those that loved The Bright Siders by Jen Wilde will appreciate the flawed and relatable experiences of the characters.
A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer
Bloomsbury YA / Bloomsbury Publishing Inc.
Publication Date: January 29, 2019
Rhen, a prince ruling over the fairy tale world of Emberfell, has been cursed to relive the same year for over three centuries, transforming into a violent monster each time. The curse can only be broken if he falls in love, so every year his first in command searches for a girl from the modern world to fall in love with, but every time he fails. With one year remaining to break the curse and save himself and his kingdom, his guard accidentally kidnaps the strong-willed Harper, who is not a typical girl.
While Beauty and the Beast has been reimagined numerous times, Brigid Kemmerer’s A Curse So Dark and Lonely is fresh and unique, particularly with the characterization of Harper and the detailed world-building. Harper is brave, quick-thinking, and stubborn, refusing to surrender even when unarmed or outmatched. She has cerebral palsy, which causes her to have a limp, but that does not deter her even as others underestimate her. The first-person narration alternates between Harper and Rhen, illustrating how their romantic feelings evolve as Harper grows more trusting of Rhen and Rhen becomes less distant with Harper. The secondary characters are complex, especially Rhen’s guard commander, Grey, and the villain, a wicked enchantress named Lilith, is believably dangerous and powerful. The ending provides closure, but leaves room for a sequel through a couple surprising twists and hints of a love triangle..
Featuring well-developed romance, intricate world-building, and a strong, ability diverse female lead, hand to early teens who are not yet ready for Sarah J. Maas’s Court of Thorns and Roses or who otherwise enjoyed fairytale retellings such as C.J. Redwine’s Ravenspire series or Liz Braswell’s Twisted Tales series, fantasy and romance manga with Beauty and the Beast themes like Natsuki Takaya’s Fruits Basket, or the Disney’s live-action film Beauty and the Beast.
–Laura Giunta and Jodeana Kruse