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.
White Rose by Kip Wilson
Versify / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: April 2, 2019
Based on a true story, Sophie Scholl, a young girl growing up in Germany under the Nazi regime during World War II, joins the White Rose, a resistance group that secretly distributes pamphlets opposing Hitler and the Nazi party – until she is caught and arrested by the Gestapo.
Alternating between Sophie’s experiences coming-of-age in Germany during the war, including her time in the White Rose, and the aftermath of her arrest, White Rose paints a vivid, haunting portrayal of a brave young woman living in a bleak, oppressive time. Because the novel is told in verse, each word is significant. Sophie’s characterization is complex, as she fears for her loved ones fighting in a war she doesn’t believe in, feels indignation when she is forced to be silent when she wants to speak out, and struggles with her identity as a German, coming to despise a country she once loved because of Hitler and the Nazi regime. The interrogation and trial portions of the novel are chilling as is the conclusion. The helplessness and hopelessness of Sophie’s situation makes her determination and refusal to cower even more admirable and heartbreaking.
Emotional and powerful, White Rose is a meaningful and tragic depiction of resistance, courage, and sacrifice. Historical fiction read-alikes with a World War II setting and a similarly serious, moving tone include the novel-in-verse Paper Hearts by Meg Wiviott, prose fiction such as The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti and The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen, and the biographical graphic novel The Faithful Spy by John Hendrix.
–Laura Giunta and Jodeana Kruse
Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay
Kokila / Penguin
Publication Date: June 18, 2019
Jay Reguero, a seventeen-year-old high school senior, is in his last semester and ready to coast through until he starts college in the fall, until he receives news about his cousin, Jun. Jay and Jun were best friends and used to write letters to each other, but as Jay entered high school he stopped writing. Now Jun is dead at the hands of President Duterte’s War on Drugs, but after an anonymous Instagram account contacts him, Jay heads to the Philippines for his spring break to uncover the truth, while also finding out more about his family, culture, and himself.
Patron Saints of Nothing is a powerful look at privilege and the meaning of family, addressing issues such as prejudice within one’s race, being a child of an immigrant, and understanding life in another culture that is also your own. All of these and more are written in poignant, not didactic ways that address these important aspects of Jay’s life. President Duterte’s War on Drugs in the Philippines might not be familiar to most, making its inclusion, woven into the story in a rich and seamless way, an eye-opener for readers. The writing is impeccable and readers will grieve and grow along with Jay as he goes along on his journey.
Give this book to fans of powerful coming-of-age stories like I’m Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez and Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram.
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