Click hereto see all of the current Best Fiction for Young Adults nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
Black Girl Unlimited: The Remarkable Story of a Teenage Wizard by Echo Brown
Henry Holt and Co. Books for Young Readers / Macmillan
Publication Date: January 14, 2020
Echo Brown is a teenage wizard in Cleveland, Ohio. Part of being a wizard means she can stop time to manage challenging situations, secrets from the past, and the dark veil that hangs over herself and others. Her mother’s addiction means she has had to grow up quickly and develop coping mechanisms for some disturbing and emotionally intense situations.
Inspired by her own life, author Echo Brown sprinkles some magical realism into biographical fiction. The cast of characters is diverse via cultures, LGBTQ+, and abilities. The dialect-filled, slang-heavy writing style immediately grabs attention and engages readers with Echo’s stream of consciousness in a candid, gritty manner. Content warnings for the N-word, LGBTQ+ slurs, sexual violence, racism, poverty, overdose, and depression with suicidal thoughts.
Although some of the content is heavy, Echo’s journey will inspire readers who have either been through some of her challenges or are rooting for her or someone else they know. Readers who enjoy books like Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson or As I Crawl Through It by A.S. King will find common ground with this novel. Additionally, multiple mentions of The Matrix will appeal to fans of the movie.
Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
In Maggie Stiefvater’s latest series opener, Ronan Lynch and Jordan Hennessy are dreamers, having the unique ability to pull objects from their dreams into reality. When a prophecy reveals that a dreamer will cause the apocalypse, Carmen Farooq-Lane, whose brother had been a dreamer, and other government agents begin to hunt dreamers like Ronan and Jordan down in order to try to stop it.
With a gripping, unique concept and rich prose, Stiefvater delivers an imaginative, complex, and haunting urban fantasy. The world-building is expansive and intricate, with clever details involving the dreamers and their powers. The government agents hunting the dreamers, partnered with visionaries with prophetic abilities, are similarly detailed, adding further layers to the world-building. The novel features multiple perspectives and many characters, all of whom are multidimensional and fascinating. The writing style is thoughtful and lyrical, with ornate figurative language throughout. The pacing is steady and the storylines for each character are deftly woven together, creating a strong, cohesive plot that builds and grows as the narrative progresses. The conclusion is satisfying, but leaves the overarching storyline of the trilogy unresolved, which will have readers anxiously awaiting the sequel.
An unusual and thought-provoking fantasy with dynamic characters, hand this to fans of Maggie Stiefvater’s previous work, such as The Raven Cycle series. Other read-alikes include Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer and Daughter of Smoke and Bone series as well as Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children series.
Jane Anonymous by Laurie Faria Stolarz
Wednesday Books / Macmillan
Publication Date: January 7, 2020
Jane spent seven months being held captive by an unknown man, finding comfort in Mason, another kidnapped teen. After escaping captivity, Jane returns home to her family, friends, and life. But while everyone, including a string of therapists, encourages her to heal and move on with her life, Jane finds it difficult to get back to “normal.” Jane begins her own form of therapy by piecing together the truth of what happened during those seven months and learning to heal from her trauma.
Jane’s story is one of resilience and strength, both in the flashbacks to her time in captivity and as she attempts to heal and move on in the present. The story jumps back and forth between the present and the time she spent with her kidnapper, creating a compelling mystery for readers. This fast-paced story explores themes of loss, trauma, and healing.
Fans of psychological thrillers will find themselves captivated by Jane Anonymous. Readers who enjoyed Courtney Summer’s Sadie, Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow, and Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson will be right at home with Jane Anonymous. It is a perfect fit for fans of true crime documentaries like Abducted in Plain Sight.