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.
The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis
Tor Teen / Macmillan
Publication Date: October 1, 2019
Clementine’s first time working at the welcome house leads to a murder. Knowing what would be in store her older sister, Aster, along with three other girls decide to make their escape which might be certain death because all of the girls who work in welcome houses are branded and used for only one thing. Escape is not an option. As they band together to journey out of Arketta, a treacherous road lies ahead.
The first in a planned duology or series, the pacing is action-packed, especially once the girls get out of the welcome house and into the wider world/ A world they haven’t seen since being sold by their families where they are educated to become prostitutes on their sixteenth birthday. The imaginative world that becomes more fantastical as they trek farther into the country and run into deadly forces seeking to stop them because their markings make them targets. Breathless, readers want justice for girls who haven’t had any. Their scrappy teamwork (and in-fighting) build tension with sharp dialogue. And the tightly-woven plot resolves comfortably yet lays the groundwork for a second book.
Cover twins with Dread Nation by Ireland featuring resilient black females in speculative fiction is also reminiscent of Devils Unto Dust by Berquist with its Western vibes.
— Alicia Abdul
Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill
Blink / HarperCollins Christian
Publication Date: March 5, 2019
Taichi’s Japanese heritage and Evalina’s Italian descent pose a problem for their budding relationship. After World War II begins, Taichi’s family is relocated to an internment camp, but Evalina will not be silent even with the pressure from others to ignore the roundup and living conditions. If the two want to be together, they must join the fight together: Taichi from inside the Manzanar Relocation Camp and Evalina from the outside world.
The dual narrative provides the perspective of both characters’ motivations, fears, and their romance.Taichi is watching his life unravel inside the camp while battling Japanese gangs that are forming. Evalina is willing to fight for her romance, but is equally determined to fight against injustice even if it means being unpopular. Teen activism is central to this story set in 1941.The strength of the characters’ amidst struggle propels the story especially as tensions rise for both but their romance deepens. Readers want to find out what will happen in the end based on Morrill’s adept storytelling.
Stories focused on contemporary and historical Asian American experiences like Frankly in Love by Yoon, This Time Will Be Different by Suguira, The Downstairs Girl by Lee, and I Love You So Mochi by Kuhn are gaining an audience while riding the popularity of Crazy Rich Asians in book and movie formats.
How to Be Remy Cameron by Julian Winters
Duet / Interlude Press
Publication Date: September 10, 2019
Remy Cameron has always been assigned labels. He is gay, he is black, he is a brother, he is a friend, he is adopted. What happens if these labels don’t feel right to Remy? What if they aren’t enough? Through an introspective narrative, Remy slowly finds himself.
This novel’s exploration of identity is both genuine and unapologetic. Winters’ use of wit, humor, and sensitivity draws you in to love Remy Cameron and his entire network. Searching and exploring identity is the key to the teenage years, and this book shows that even though we get labels assigned to us, we get to choose which labels stick and which labels get thrown in the garbage. It’s through his supportive adopted family that meeting his half sister blends serious with the sweet. This novel helps us realize the multiple meanings of family and what it takes to be one.
If you liked Winter’s humor, check out The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe, The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli, and Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton.
–Isaiah West and Alicia Abdul
If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann
Swoon Reads / Macmillan Publishers
Publication Date: June 4, 2019
Winnie spends every summer in Misty Haven, working at her grandmother’s diner and spending time with her ungirlfriend. When she becomes the town’s unwilling Summer Queen, she has to navigate her fears and her desires—all while spending time with Dallas, the boy she loves to hate. Will she be able to get everything she wants, or will it all come down around her?
In Winnie, Claire Kann has created an unapologetic and joyous Black, fat, queer, anxious character. With Winnie’s effervescence, pansexual characters in loving polyamorous relationships get their chance to shine. The supporting cast includes a diverse and inclusive group of characters, including Kara, Winnie’s asexual ungirlfriend. Winnie drives this novel, and the plot circles around the things that matter most to her—her family, her relationships, her work at the diner—while also touching on tough topics, including fat shaming, mental illness, and identity. This is a book that does inclusion well and shows how romance novels can, and often do, deal with a host of meaningful issues while leaving readers with a happy ending.
Teens who loved Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno, The Summer of Jordi Perez by Amy Spalding, and Love, Simon (and the book it’s based on, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli) will enjoy Winnie’s story.
Last Bus to Everland by Sophie Cameron
Roaring Brook Press / Macmillan
Publication Date: June 18, 2019
Brody’s brother is an overachiever, his sister is a star, his best friend is popular, and he feels like a side character in his own life. That is until a cute boy named Nico befriends him and introduces him to “Everland.” Everland is a hidden land that shows its doorway every Thursday night at 11:21pm and opens up a world that makes Brody feel like he belongs. But as Everland’s doorways disappear, Brody must decide if he would rather live in the real world or in a fantasy.
Cameron’s twist on “Peter Pan” shows us that sometimes all it takes to heal our souls is a place of understanding and friends that understand you. Her use of vivid imagery, unexplained magic, and unique dialogue keeps this plot propelling toward an ending that will both break and rebuild you.
Fans of this retelling should check out A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer, Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly, and Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore.