#BFYA2019 Nominees Round Up, December 10 Edition

The House of One Thousand Eyes by Michelle Barker
Annick Press
Publication Date: September 11, 2018
ISBN: 978-1773210711

When Lena’s subversive uncle disappears without a trace in Communist East Berlin, she risks everything to find out what happened to him.

Following her confinement in a mental institution due to her breakdown over the tragic death of her parents in a factory accident, Lena is released to live with her stern auntie in East Berlin. Because everyone thinks Lena is simple, she is allowed to work night shifts as a cleaning girl at the State Security Service’s headquarters; she lives a regimented, routine life and looks forward to Sunday afternoons spent with her beloved uncle Erich, a writer with subversive ideas and a loose regard for authority. One night following one of their Sunday outings, Erich disappears. Lena mounts a frantic search for him, one which leads her to dead ends everywhere she looks: his books vanished from the shelves of libraries and bookstores and all records of him purged from official files; it is as if he never existed. Desperate to discover what happened to him, Lena begins a quiet but dangerous investigation, snooping around Stasi offices in the dead of night, despite the watchful eyes of her coworker Jutta, her strict aunt at home, and who knows whom else. What she uncovers shakes up everything she thought she knew, casting new light on her parents’ deaths and making her question everything she had been told about the “Better Germany.”

This is a quietly intense historical thriller that explores a dark corner of world history not often featured in YA novels. The foreboding setting is chillingly rendered in immersive period detail, contributing to the mounting sense of suspense as Lena treads closer and closer to the truth. Lena is a complex character who must struggle against traumas past and present, including an insidious storyline dealing with sexual abuse at the hands of a Party official. Ideal for fans of historical fiction, slow-burn thrillers, and dystopias in the vein of 1984, this sophisticated story is bound to grip its readers and not let go.

–Jenny Zbrizher


Troublemakers by Catherine Barter
Carolrhoda Lab
Publication Date: April 1, 2018
ISBN: 978-1512475494

When Alena was three years old, her activist mother died and left her to be raised by her 22-year-old brother Danny and his partner, Nick. Now 15, Lena starts to question why she can’t remember anything about her mother from her infancy; yet every time she tries to broach the subject with Danny, he shuts down and avoids her questions, his grief mixed with unresolved tensions regarding their mother that Lena cannot begin to grasp.

Meanwhile, a lone terrorist is targeting their East London neighborhood with homemade bombs left in supermarkets. Amid this fraught political landscape, Danny takes a job working on a conservative politician’s mayoral campaign, causing tensions at home to flare between him and Nick, who owns a progressively minded coffee shop where Lena and her friends like to hang out. As Lena doggedly digs around into her mother’s past, she stirs up more trouble than she anticipates within her close-knit family unit, culminating in a heartrending and cathartic moment of truth between herself and Danny as they confront the truth behind their shared past.

Troublemakers is at its heart a poignant family drama featuring a non-traditional family, which beautifully captures the universal highs and lows inherent in family dynamics in all of their frustrating, moving complexity. Rich character development and an impressive ear for authentic dialogue blend with timely political issues (domestic terrorism, reactionary politics) that are as relevant to teens in America as they are to teens the world over. Alena is a genuine teen voice who struggles with timeless questions of who she is and where she comes from, ultimately leading to her own political awakening. Hand this to readers who like their novels character-driven and emotionally complex, served with a warm cup of tea to truly evoke that London setting.

–Jenny Zbrizher and Carol Maples


What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
HarperTeen / HarperCollins
Publication Date: October 9, 2018
ISBN: 978-0062795250 

Arthur is in New York City only for the summer, when the universe brings him and Ben together outside the post office. When neither make a move, both leave wondering if they had missed their chance at love. In Arthur’s quest to find the adorable boy from that day, he leaves a “missed connection” poster inside Bens favorite coffee shop, and this time when Ben contacts him, they take their chance on living out their Broadway-worthy love story.

We all have “What If” moments. What if we had gotten that stranger’s number? What if we had said yes to the dance? Albertalli and Silvera answer that question in this romantic, feel good story about two boys who defy the odds and choose to jump headfirst into finding love. Teens will immediately be drawn in by the cultural diversity and authentic voice that both authors bring to their characters and will see themselves in the realistic everyday issues both Ben and Arthur face. Teens will identify with the intensity of a summer romance, the messiness of friends who fall in love thus changing a group’s dynamics, and the realism of relationships and friendships that suffer from distance or from the move from high school to college. This well-crafted story about love, loss, and friendship, elegantly depicts how healthy relationships can come in all shapes and sizes, and that sometimes “happily ever after” doesn’t always happen the way we want it to.

Fans of the movie Love, Simon will find themselves gushing over Ben and Arthur’s awkward love story just like they did with Simon and Blue and those that loved Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills will be drawn to the theatrical romance, and the relatable but imperfect characters.

Kimmie DePinto and Cathy Rettberg


Pride by Ibi Zoboi
Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: September 18, 2018
ISBN: 978-0062564047 

In this retelling of Austen’s classic, Zuri Benitez meets the handsome Darius Darcy, the rich boy who moved in across the street on her tight-knit Bushwick block. Despite their good looks, Zuri sees the Darcy family as a threat to her way of life and her beloved Bushwick.

Zuri is proud of her neighborhood; she loves the culture and the way of life that has thrived in Bushwick her whole life. But when a new rich family moves in across the street she sees it as the beginning of the end for Bushwick. Zuri has no love for the Darcy’s two teenage sons Ainsley and Darius, and as her older sister Janae starts to have feelings for Ainsley, she finds herself at her wits end. But as Zuri spends more time with Darius she finds that they have more in common than she ever thought.

This book did a wonderful job of taking a well-known story and making it into something new and refreshing. Zoboi captured the essence of Pride and Prejudice and made it relatable to a new generation, while still capturing the universal themes of love, culture, and identity.

Shelbie Marks