#BFYA2019 Nominees Round Up, August 3 Edition

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
Balzer & Bray/HarperTeen
Publication Date: April 3, 2018
ISBN: 9780062570604

Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to rise at Gettysburg and ended the war- not due to one side’s victory, but instead due to both sides’ fear.  The compromise that ended the Civil War abolished slavery in the South, but introduced the Negro and Native Reeducation Act, which allows former slaves, and their children, two options- either fight shamblers on the frontier, or attend special combat schools, in training to protect the lives of right white Southerners. Even though she’s the daughter of a white plantation owner and former slave, Jane can’t escape the future that has been preordained for her—she has spent her entire life learning the arts of combat and Southern society in order to take up the mantle as an Attendant. As Jane’s education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore nears its end, and her future looms closer, a close friend asks Jane to search for his lost sister as entire families also begin to go missing. Jane, along with another Attendant who also straddles both worlds, ends up in the West, where they must battle both the undead—and the living—for their very existence.

Ireland is a master world-builder- the introduction of the Negro and Native Reeducation Act, Attendants and other aspects of Jane’s world all seem completely logical, given the premise that Ireland introduces. Jane is a strong, no-nonsense, and compelling if reluctant heroine who straddles both African American and white societies. Ireland tackles racism and prejudice and slavery, and the scenarios that she has imagined in this alternate history feel eerily familiar today. Dread Nation is exciting and scary, and Ireland’s ability to merge zombies and alternate history and race and feminism is truly remarkable- readers will finish Dread Nation afraid of zombies, but more afraid of the living who are in control of Jane’s world. Dread Nation will be popular for fans of horror, historical fiction and strong feminist characters- especially recommend it to fans of other mash-ups like Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and Lyndsay Ely’s Gunslinger Girl, and readers of diverse speculative fiction like Heidi Heilig’s The Girl From Everywhere, and Dhonielle Clayton’s The Belles.

—Cate Merlin


Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli
Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins
Publication Date: April 24, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-06-264380-3

When it comes to music, Leah Burke’s life is completely on-beat. But, when it comes to other parts of her life, that’s where the rhythm falters. Leah is bisexual but hasn’t quite figured out how to tell her best friend. She’s an expert at drawing but constantly questions her talent. Add to the mixture a dash of friend troubles, a sprinkle of boy problems, crushing on the person she least expects and then combine all those with college hunting and prom. What on earth is a complicated teen girl to do?

Leah on the Offbeat is a funny, warm, down-to-earth story about marching to the beat of your own drum while trying to figure out the exact rhythm. Readers will relate to Leah’s quirky, sarcastic sense of humor and the all-too-common issues she wrestles with, including body insecurity, sexual identity, and the intricate complexities of friendship, family, and senior year. The side characters are well developed, fresh and diverse, with their own set of problems and issues. And Leah herself is a flawed, sometimes frustrating, but definitely appealing, heroine who the reader will instinctively root for.

This is a perfect read for those who like their romance with a dash of fluff, angst, sarcasm, and humor. It is also an excellent addition to the growing canon of LGBTQ teen literature. Leah on the Offbeat will appeal to fans of Love, Simon, The Upside of Unrequited, Ramona Blue and Queens of Geek.

—Cate Merlin


Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson
Harper Teen / HarperCollins
Publication Date: May 22, 2018
ISBN: 9780-062422675 

After Claudia returns from a summer away the first person she wants to see is her best friend Monday, but Monday is nowhere to be found and nobody has been looking very hard for her. Once school starts and Monday still hasn’t turned up, Claudia desperately begins investigating what happened to her friend while Monday’s mother gives Claudia the run around and school officials are less than helpful. As Claudia delves deeper into the mystery, secrets are uncovered and horrifying truths revealed, but will Monday be found among them… alive?

Monday’s Not Coming is absolutely spellbinding. The story line weaves back and forth between the past and present with the tension mounting until its shocking conclusion. Claudia’s confusion, frustration, and fear is felt with such emotion. Jackson does an excellent job of not only creating such a compelling mystery, but also incorporating relatable teen fears and family drama that most teens will connect with and race through to see how it all plays out.

Fans of gripping teen thrillers such as Jackson’s first novel Allegedly and Little Monsters by Kara Thomas, and dark teen-focused dramas such as The CW’s Riverdale and Netflix’s Thirteen Reasons Why will be equally enthralled by Monday’s Not Coming.

—Molly Dettmann