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.
You Must Not Miss by Katrina Leno
Little, Brown / Hachette
Publication Date: April 23, 2019
In order to escape her broken home life and her ostracization at school by her ex-best friend Allison and Allison’s boyfriend Brandon, Magpie writes in her yellow notebook about a perfect world called Near. But when she discovers she has the ability to make Near real, Magpie uses Near to get revenge on those who wronged her, including her family, Allison, and Brandon.
Unsettling, eerie, and unique, You Must Not Miss offers a nefarious spin on magical realism. While Magpie and the other characters aren’t particularly likable, they are compelling and fascinating to read about, depicting a darker, more unpleasant side of human nature. Magpie is a layered, flawed character who readers will feel both revulsion and empathy toward, as her actions are often disturbing and sinister, but the reasons behind them are heartbreaking. The concept of Near, and Magpie’s ability to create a world to escape the terrible reality she herself in, is both creative and creepy. While Near is supposed to be a “perfect” and “happy” world, there is something off-kilter and hostile about it, as if a reflection of Magpie. There is no cookie-cutter conclusion as Magpie exacts vengeance with ruthlessness, and readers are left to ponder philosophical questions on morality, justice, and revenge as well as reality versus escapism.
While this strange, surreal book might not be for all readers, it offers a twisted, shrewd view into the uglier parts of humanity. Hand to fans of Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand, Tsugumi Ohba’s Death Note manga/anime series, or the television series, The Twilight Zone.
–Laura Giunta and Molly Dettmann
Wicked Saints by Emily Duncan
Macmillan / Wednesday Books
Publication Date: April 2, 2019
Who’s the hero and who’s the villain: Serefin, a prince commanding an invading army, Nadya, a cleric who communes with the gods, or Malachiasz, a magician with secrets? This fantasy world is steeped in questions of faith, drenched in blood and magic, and colored in shades of moral grey.
In this fantasy, a Holy War has raged on for generations, each side cast by the other as heathens or heretics. Nadya has been raised in isolation and protected, as she is the last of her people to have a connection with the gods. When her home is attacked and she must flee, she’s on her own and not sure who to trust, and eventually comes to question her faith and her role in the world, as she comes to understand her own power. Though we initially meet Prince Serefin, the other point-of-view character, when he is leading the army against Nadya’s people, the reader quickly sympathizes with him as someone who is weary of war and his role in it. The third character, Malachiasz, is also compelling as a charismatic villain. The strong attraction between Nadya and Malachiasz despite her distrust of him never overwhelms the story, while creating a delicious thread of tension through the twists and turns of the plot.
The mix of religious iconography and magic lends the world a dark and enchanting gothic feel with strong Eastern European influences. The plot, layered with equal parts politics and magic, will appeal to fans of Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy or Robin LaFever’s His Dark Assassin series, and will find fans with readers who love being seduced by a monster who doesn’t disguise himself.
— Molly Wetta