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 New David Espinoza by Fred Aceves
HarperTeen / HarperCollins
Publication Date: February 11, 2020
Self-proclaimed stickman David is repeatedly bullied. After he is “b*tch slapped” by a classmate in a humiliating moment that goes viral, he decides to change his physique over the summer break. He severely modifies his diet and joins a gym, but the lure of quick results tempts him to begin using anabolic steroids to bulk up.
This issue-oriented story intensifies quickly, as David’s need for “gear” quickly escalates into an addiction. His family and girlfriend notice marked changes in his personality, as his behavior is portrayed candidly with the raw grittiness the topic deserves. His bodybuilding buddies at the gym enable him and each other, eventually resulting in a tragic situation. Content warnings for bullying, eating disorders, body dysmorphia, addiction, “roid rage”, and death. The author’s note in the back of the book informs readers about the author’s struggle with similar matters as a teen himself. He also provides useful resources to find help for issues addressed in the book’s content.
The New David Espinoza shares common ground regarding steroid use with Carl Deuker’s Gym Candy and Boost by Kathy MacKel. Additionally, selections such as Matt de la Pena’s Ball Don’t Lie (sports/Latinx), Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls (eating disorder), and Kami Garcia’s Broken Beautiful Hearts (abusive relationship resulting from steroid use) pair well with Aceves’ novel.
We Unleash the Merciless Storm by Tehlor Kay Mejia
Katherine Tegen Books / HarperCollins
Publication date: February 25, 2020
In Medio, where girls are trained to be either first wives (all business) or second wives (all pleasure) to wealthy high-status men, Carmen Santos has just blown her cover as Segunda to the son of the most powerful man in the land. Her years-long spy mission for a resistance group of poor and impoverished rebels is at an end–and just when Carmen has fallen head over heels in love with her husband’s first wife, a girl named Dano who also has connections to the resistance. Plunged back into her old rough-and-tumble life at the rebel camp, Carmen finds herself under suspicion when rumors of her romance with Dani threaten her perceived devotion to the cause. Now Carmen must choose between the girl she loves and the freedom fighters who raised her. Can she have both–and change the world?
This conclusion to We Set the Dark on Fire picks up where the first book, continuing the high-drama, high-stakes romance of Carmen and Dani and their resistance movement. With a Latinx cast, a queer romance, and a timely challenge to a corrupt government, readers will be clamoring for this story about finding home, purpose, and family–and taking down a patriarchal dictatorship along the way.
Readers should start with We Set the Dark on Fire; this duology is most effective when read back-to-back at breakneck speed. Pair with other female-centered right-the-world’s-wrongs sagas like Children of Blood and Bone, A Great and Terrible Beauty, Girls of Paper and Fire, An Ember in the Ashes, The Belles, and The Grace Year.