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.
Girl, Unframed by Deb Caletti
Simon Pulse / Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: June 23, 2020
Sydney can feel IT coming – the only problem is that she doesn’t know what IT is yet, only that it’s something big and she wants to be ready. She was already apprehensive about spending the summer with her movie star mother Lila Shore in San Francisco, but her discomfort intensifies when she realizes that Jake, her mother’s latest boyfriend and a creep who happens to be a dealer of stolen art, will be living with them. As things between Jake and Lila go from bad to worse, Sydney finds herself caught up in a situation that goes from unsettling to downright dangerous.
This story is riveting, mysterious, and utterly engrossing. Each chapter heading contains the title of a piece of evidence that foreshadows the conclusion without giving away who is responsible for what crime. Caletti maintains a razor-sharp focus on Sydney’s interactions with the people in her life, both familiar and strangers, and uses these interactions to draw a fierce, unflinching portrait of the experience of living through the teenage years in a female-presenting body that often feels like it belongs more to the people who see it than to the person who inhabits it.
This book is a perfect companion to mysterious stories about ferocious girls, such as Sadie by Courtney Summers or Mindy McGinnis’s Female of the Species, and twisty stories by authors Stephanie Kuehn, Karen McManus, and Lauren Oliver.
— Allie Stevens
A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow
Tor Teen / Macmillan
Publication Date: June 2, 2020
Tavia is a siren who must hide her powers from society. Her sister friend, Effie, is trying to identify her own abilities after a childhood game ends with her friends turned into statues. To top it all off, a gargoyle is living on their roof. Black Girl Magic combined with social justice themes submerge the reader into Tavia and Effie’s world.
Morrow uses fantasy/magical realism not only as an escape for her audience, but as an instrument for confronting injustices like racism and xenophobia in thought-provoking ways. As the sisters navigate trying to mask their hidden magic, everything changes after a siren murder trial heightens tensions. When Tavia is stopped by the police, she is unable to restrain her siren song and fears this will have dire consequences when one of the officers is aware of what happened. The strength of the sisterhood between these dear friends is evident as Black women who lift each other up, especially in times of serious need. As Effie’s powers continue to develop, things take a different turn than expected, and the gargoyle is put to the test as mythological magic emerges.
This compelling story is an easy sell to those who enjoy fantasy, magical realism, mythology, or Black Girl Magic. Hand to those who cherish books including fellow #BFYA2021 nominee A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown, Children of Blood and Bone and Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi, and The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton.
The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski
Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers / Macmillan
Publication Date: March 3, 2020
Nirrim is Half-Kith, which means that she spends her life in the Ward following strict societal rules that deny her the luxuries given to the High Kith. Nirrim doesn’t mind following the rules. They keep her safe from the tithes lawbreakers are subject to — tithes that take your hair or your blood if you’re lucky, and if you’re unlucky might take your eye.
When Nirrim breaks the law and finds herself in prison, she meets a mysterious stranger named Sid. A traveler from a foreign land, Sid claims that there is magic to be found outside of the Ward and she intends to find it. When Nirrim agrees to help this stranger, she learns that there is more to her city, and to herself, than she ever thought possible.
Rutkoski’s newest fantasy features complex world-building that mixes magic and science, slow burn LGBTQ romance, and a genuinely unique story. Nirrim is a rare protagonist for a YA fantasy because she starts as this very meek girl who possesses quiet bravery. She isn’t secretly looking to overthrow her oppressors; instead she’s content to live in her place in society, claiming “it is as it is.” Her growth throughout the novel feels natural as she learns to believe that she deserves more than the emotional abuse that defined her childhood.
The Midnight Lie is perfect for fans of the intricate and opulent world-building of The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton and Caraval by Stephanie Garber.
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