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.
Birthday by Meredith Russo
Flatiron Books / Macmillan
Publication Date: May 21, 2019
Best friends Eric and Morgan have a tradition ever since they’ve been kids – to check in with each other on their shared birthday, even if they are moving apart a little bit. Eric struggles with his relationship with his family, football, and feelings for his friend Morgan, while Morgan struggles with the death of her mother as well as making the decision to live as her true self.
The unique format of this story let readers really see Eric and Morgan grow into fully developed characters and the ways they struggle and grow within their friendship and feelings is beautifully written. Morgan, being transgender, struggles with so much and her story of trying to find her voice and tell the people she loves who she really is a heartbreaking standout within the novel. On the flip-side, Eric’s story features a powerful compliment to Morgan’s story, with him slowly standing up to his father as he grows confident in himself and in his feelings for Morgan. The ending was so satisfying and hopeful. Overall Birthday is a nice balance of a story featuring real life issues that transgender teens face, mixed with the hope, love, and understanding of others.
Fans of the movie Boyhood and books I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver and We Are Okay by Nina Lacour will enjoy Birthday.
–Molly Dettmann and Mike Flemming
Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams
Atheneum / Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: January 15, 2019
Genesis is the title character who moves into a new home, though this is as unstable as her last one. With her father struggling with alcoholism, her mother tries to create stability but the shelter insecurities combined bullying at school has Genesis making a list of things she hates about herself. It isn’t until a music teacher sees her talent and encourages her that she begins to believe in herself.
This character-driven story of a thirteen year old growing up among adversity provides an empathetic lens. When Genesis doesn’t root for herself, the readers are rooting for her. The connection to Genesis’ experiences create a meaningful connection while also recognizing the importance of the relationships she has with others as she transforms. Learning about her family history then changes the lens through which she sees her parents’ relationship and racism of which she is a target. These interactions expand her worldview and enriches the three-dimensionality of the secondary characters.In total, the book is a neatly-presented package of character, story, and heart.
Williams’ freshman novel reads like an updated version of Sharon Flake’s The Skin I’m In but also sits alongside contemporaries like Like Vanessa by Tami Charles and The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson that will be warmly received.