#BFYA2019 Nominees Round Up, August 31 Edition

Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen
Viking Books for Young Readers / Penguin
Publication Date: March 20, 2018
ISBN: 978-0451478733 

Readers who enjoy a little intrigue and action with their historical fiction will devour this gripping tale of a 15 year-old spy, set against the backdrop of Austria during WWII.

After her mother’s death, Jewish teen, Sarah, avoids capture by the SS thanks to a British spy named Captain Jeremy Floyd. Captain Floyd obtains a false identity for Sarah and convinces her to join help him infiltrate the home of one of Hitler’s nuclear scientists, Hans Schafer, by befriending Schäfer’s daughter. To do so, Sarah must enroll in a Nazi boarding school, where surviving and fitting in is tougher than Sarah could have imagine.

This is a tightly-plotted suspense story, with realistically-complex characters and a premise that sets it apart from many other WWII novels. With writing to satisfy a discerning reader, and enough action to hold the attention of teens looking for more thrills in their novels, this book would be a good choice for fans of Code Name Verity as well as readers of more action-packed spy stories such as the Henderson’s Boys series, Stormbreaker and the Young Bond Novels. It also includes thoughtful notes from the author on inspiration and sources.

–Celeste Rhoads


The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik by David Arnold
Viking / Penguin
Publication Date: May 22, 2018
ISBN: 978-0425288863 

Noah Oakman knows that Val and Alan Rosa-Haas are his two best friends, he wears the same outfit every day, and he has a few random things in his life that fascinate him. With post-high school looming ahead, Noah seems lost. To take his mind off of everything, Noah is dragged to a party by his friends, but something strange happens to him that night. Noah is hypnotised and wakes up to find his world is subtly and not-so-subtly different. From Alan’s switch from DC fan to Marvel fan, to an unexplained scar on his mother’s face, Noah must navigate his new life while still dealing with problems from his old one.

With witty and snarky dialogue, fully fleshed out secondary characters, and a focus on friendship and finding yourself, readers will not want to put down this weird twist on a coming of age story. As readers follow Noah as he uncovers more meaning from his seemingly random fascinations that link the life he knew from this new one post-hypnosis, he also must deal with on and off tension with his two best friends and with a hilarious cast of characters, the focus on more than just his post-hypnosis life, leave something for everyone to enjoy.

Fans John Green and surrealistic, yet still realistic authors such as Adam Silvera, John Corey Whaley, and Shaun David Hutchinson will be utterly fascinated by this trip of a book.

–Molly Dettmann


We’ll Fly Away by Bryan Bliss
Greenwillow Books / HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: May 8, 2018
ISBN: 978-0062494276 

From death row, Luke writes hopeless letters to his best friend Toby as he reflects on the circumstances that lead him to an inevitable fate. Throughout their lifelong friendship, Luke and Toby protect each other from their unstable homes of neglect and abuse while dreaming of an escape. As kids, their fantasies revolve around flying away in the rusty crop-dusting plane they discover. In high school, their plan hinges on Toby following Luke who is bound for an Iowa college on a wrestling scholarship. However, senior year brings cracks in their once solid friendship as both boys’ love interests and Toby’s slide into his father’s world intervene.

This compelling and emotional look at male friendship and loyalty naturally unfolds through Luke’s letters and third person flashbacks from both boys’ points of view. With authentic teen voices and spare, controlled language, Luke and Toby skirt around their emotional issues and fears with male bravado and sarcastic humor. In contrast, Luke’s first person letters cry out with heartbreaking rawness. Luke is a complex and flawed character that is neither a saint or a sinner, and his sentence is never the question. However with a nuanced and compassionate touch, Bliss delves into the injustice of circumstances that rule the lives of the marginalized and a criminal justice system that is often stacked against them while raising thought-provoking questions about the death penalty and the worth of the inmates it condemns.

This will appeal to those who enjoy realistic and strong male friendships such as those by Jason Reynolds. Hand this to fans of The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner and Ultimatum by K. M. Walton.

–Carol Maples