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.
Michigan vs. The Boys by Carrie S. Allen
Kids Can Press / Hachette
Publication Date: October 1, 2019
Michigan loves hockey and is looking forward to playing this upcoming year as co-captain for her high school’s women’s hockey team. She is a strong and dedicated teammate and is devastated once she learns her school’s hockey team is being eliminated due to funding issues within her school district. With the girls’ team being disbanded and her friends and old teammates scattering, she elects to try out for the boys’ team instead.
While Michigan makes the team, her new teammates are less than thrilled by the idea of having a girl on their team. The coach is not helpful either, having her get dressed in a broom closet instead of a true locker room. She is also put through the real ritual of hazing on an athletic team, which is still prevalent in high schools (and colleges) across the country.
This is not a lighthearted sports novel about a girl learning she can keep up with the boys. Instead, this story pulls at your heart strings, frustrates you when you do not agree with decisions made, and then has you cheering Michigan on at different points throughout. Readers will relate to Michigan as she fights to overcome what feels like insurmountable odds, and decides when to keep quiet and when the tipping point is reached requiring her to speak up not only for herself, but also for the good of the team. Trigger warning notes for hazing, abuse, harassment, drinking, and being drugged.
Give this to readers who appreciated Mathieu’s Moxie and those who are empowered to take down the patriarchy and toxic masculinity in society.
Start Here by Trish Doller
Simon Pulse / Simon & Schuster
Publication date: August 13, 2019
Willa and Taylor were supposed to spend the summer after high school graduation sailing from Ohio to Key West with their best friend, Finley. But when Finley dies of leukemia, they must figure out how to take the trip without her, despite their estrangement.
This fresh take on a traditional road trip novel follows the pair as they sail from the Great Lakes around to the coast and finally to Key West the summer before going off to college. Prickly Willa and Taylor were only really ever friends because of Finley, and there’s actually a lot of baggage and resentment between them. But they both promised Finley shortly before she died that they’d still take the trip without her, and follow her “clues” for experiences along the way. The story packs an emotional punch, and their stops along their journey and mini-adventures as they sail keeps the story moving along at a nice pace.
This tale of complicated friendship and personal journeys will resonate with fans of Sarah Dessen or Gayle Forman.
— Molly Wetta
My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich by Ibi Zoboi
Dutton Books for Young Readers / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: August 27, 2019
Ever since she was a child, Ebony-Grace has loved space, a love nurtured by her grandfather, one of the first Black engineers to integrate NASA in the 1960s. But 12-year-old Ebony-Grace finds herself out of her element when she moves from Huntsville, Alabama, to Harlem in the summer of 1984 to stay with her father. Can she remain true to herself while making friends with the neighborhood kids, or will she spend the entire summer lost in her imagination?
Zoboi’s Ebony-Grace is a quirky, off-beat character whose struggles to fit in are relatable. The neighborhood kids are different than the protagonist, but they are written with humor and compassion—even when Ebony-Grace herself doesn’t feel so charitable toward them. The writing is beautiful and evocative, and Harlem shines, as vibrant a character as any conjured by Ebony-Grace’s imagination. The prose is interspersed with graphic novel pages detailing the elaborate fantasies she creates in her mind.
Readers who enjoyed Sunny by Jason Reynolds, Tight by Torrey Maldonado, and Some Places More Than Others by Renee Watson will find a lot to love in Zoboi’s middle-grade debut.
— Ness Shortley
The Grace Year by Kim Liggett
Wednesday Books / Macmillan Publishers
Published: October 8, 2019
In this dystopian thriller where women are tightly controlled and misogyny reigns, when young women turn 16, they embark on a “grace year” segregated from the community in order to release their magic, thought to be a powerful aphrodisiac and the essence of youth contained in their skin. Hunted by killers and turning against one another to survive, those girls that survive the year will return to their community to become wives and mothers.
The writing and world-building are so compelling this was impossible to put down. The suspense about what happens during a grace year is well done and the secrets of the community are fascinating (if disturbing) to unravel. Tierney lives in a community where women are controlled absolutely. When they turn 16, they are selected as brides if they are lucky, condemned to a life working in the fields (or worse, banished) if they are not.
This dark thriller is not for the faint of heart but will definitely appeal to readers who like horror with thoughtful moral quandaries.This novel invites questions about power and control, group dynamics and clandestine resistance making it a great read for young adults that would generate a lot of discussion. Perfect for fans of The Hunger Games, The Handmaid’s Tale, or Lord of the Flies.
— Molly Wetta
The Infinite Noise by Lauren Shippen
Tor Teen / Macmillan
Publication Date: September 24, 2019
“What if the X-Men, instead of becoming superheroes, decided to spend some time in therapy?”
Caleb Michaels thinks he is your average high school football player, but when his mood swings take over and end in a fight at school, his parents sent him to therapy with Dr. Bright. Here he finds out that he is an empath, who feels the emotions of others. Adam Hayes is lonely, and some mornings he can barely get out of bed because of his depression. When Caleb feels Adam’s emotions, these two become linked in a way that might make both of them look at the world differently.
Based on the author’s popular podcast The Bright Sessions, this novel is told in dual narrative with insights into Caleb’s ability and Adam’s emotions. The authors use of imagery and language draws you into Caleb’s world of emotions and chaos. By enriching the story with a well-developed setting, the author has created an atypical world that feels beyond realistic.
Fans of this novel should check out The Dysasters by P.C. & Kristin Cast or the podcast The Bright Sessions.