#BFYA2019 Nominees Round Up, November 16 Edition

Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
ISBN: 978-1481481960 

What would happen if you turned the handle on your sink and no water came out? How would the world react if there was no more usable water? The people of California are about to find out.

Don’t water your lawn, don’t take long showers, don’t fill up your pool. These are just some of the rules in place to help conserve water during the drought. When the water in the tap runs dry, Southern California is forced into a state of emergency. Neighbors turn on one another, and suburbia is a hot zone for “water-zombies.” When Alyssa’s parents go missing, she must do whatever it takes in order for her and her brother Garrett to survive the Tap-Out. She is forced to partner with her doomsday prepping neighbor despite his unrequited love for her to find her parents, and to find enough water to keep them, and those that join their journey, alive.

Neal Shusterman excels at creating realistic, and somewhat scary, “what-if” scenarios. Dry is a story about what it takes to survive in the face of crisis and disaster. The slow change in society from citizen to basic animalistic instincts is unsettling and will blur the line of what is real and what is fiction for readers. This is a well crafted and timely examination of what humanity looks like when society falls apart. Fans of survival tales and Shusterman’s brand of speculative fiction will feel right at home with Dry.

Shelbie Marks and Kimmie DePinto


Learning to Breathe by Janice Lynn Mather
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: June 26, 2018
ISBN: 978-1534406018 

Indira has grown up with her grandmother, but that doesn’t stop everyone around her from comparing her to her no-good mother – so much so that everyone in her hometown in their small village in the Bahamas call her “Doubles.” Indira is sent away from home to live with relatives in the city so that she doesn’t fall into the same lifestyle as her mother, but trouble finds her despite her best intentions to keep out of the way. After being torn away from the one adult she trusted (her grandmother), Indira doesn’t know who to reach out to when she is faced with abuse in her new home. With the support of a group of new friends, she learns to find her voice and to carve out a future for herself without letting her past and the choices of others dictate who she will be.

Set in the Caribbean, Indira’s story is a nuanced tale of hope and survival told in beautiful, lyrical language. Readers will relate to Indira’s need to find a way to center herself in times of stress, and might be inspired by way breathing through yoga offers this main character comfort and relief. While the book would have benefitted from the addition of support resources for readers, this is a strong debut that will resonate with teen readers. With true-to-life dialog and rich imagery, this powerful novel tackles issues of teen pregnancy and abuse with sensitivity.

Give this to fans of Ibi Zoboi’s American Street and Isabel Quintero’s Gabi, A Girl in Pieces.

Celeste Rhoads and Molly Dettmann


Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton
Publication Date: June 5, 2018
ISBN: 978-1484790625  

Aaron is the star of Happy Valley High School (which sucks, btw), until he suffers a concussion after a boating accident, or receives a visit from God, depending on who you believe. God gives him a to-do list to make Happy Valley High suck less, and tells him he will need the help of Cliff Hubbard (a.k.a. Neanderthal) to get it done. While neither Cliff nor readers will be entirely convinced of the I-saw-God scenario initially, they’ll gladly join Aaron as he tackles his to-do list, because he’s just that convincing.

Through snarky dialog and an entertaining, fast-paced plot, Preston examines and explores YA tropes under a new light in this oddball comedy with heart. Told from the perspective of the observant and self-effacing teen outcast Cliff, this novel is packed with a compelling cast of characters and perennially relevant topics, from bullying and high school cliques to depression and suicide.

Readers will laugh, and they’ll cry as they devour this coming-of-age tale. Give this to teens who enjoyed Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Libba Bray’s Going Bovine, or Andrew Smith’s Winger.

Celeste Rhoads and Jenny Zbrizher