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.
We Are Not Free by Traci Chee
HMH Books for Young Readers / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: June 9, 2020
During World War II, the lives of thousands of American teens were upended when they and their families were sent to prison camps intended for people of Japanese descent. Chee follows the lives of fourteen different teens during this time period, all American citizens who were punished and hated simply because of the color of their skin.
Based on some of the experiences of Chee’s own family, the fourteen different narratives overlap at times and then diverge as each teen shares their story. Chee differentiates between these narratives through very distinct voices and the varied experiences of teens that differ in age, gender, and sexual orientation. Two different camps are featured: the Topaz Relocation Center in southern Utah, and the even more dire Tule Lake Camp in California, where those who refused to pledge their loyalty to the United States were sent. Other teens ended up fighting for the country that imprisoned them, and their experiences in training and on the battlefront are haunting.
Chee’s story is unique in that it provides such a broad and diverse range of voices about the Japanese American experience during World War II, and is perfect for fans of Ruta Sepetys and Sherri L. Smith.
Refraction by Naomi Hughes
Page Street Kids / Page Street Publishing
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Alien ships have come to Earth and the world is surrounded by a frightening fog. The beings in the fog can use mirrors to materialize near humans so all reflective surfaces have been banned. Marty is struggling to manage his Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and survive in this terrifying new world. When Marty is caught selling black market mirrors to the mayor’s son, he thinks he may have caught a break. Instead, both boys are banished to the fog. Struggling to contain his OCD and work with his enemy to survive, Marty discovers frightening new details about the fog and what controls it.
Refraction is a compelling read that incorporates many different elements of science fiction into something completely new and exciting. Readers will love Marty, a teen who struggles daily with his mental illness and is determined to do whatever it takes to get back to his brother. The slow realization from Marty of what the different components of the invasion mean is masterfully written. Hughes takes readers through the experience of coping with OCD using Marty’s interactions with the Alien race. She melds science fiction with a mental health novel to create an intense and riveting read.
Give this book to fans of Skyward by Brandon Sanderson, Insignia by S.J. Kincaid, The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey and to readers who enjoy classic sci-fi like The Mist by Stephen King and movies like Inception and The Matrix.