Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2020) Nominees Round Up, May 3 Edition

Someday We Will Fly by Rachel DeWoskin
Viking / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: January 22, 2019
ISBN: 978-0670014965 

Fifteen-year-old Lillia is forced to leave her mother behind and escape Warsaw, Poland with her father and baby sister during World War II. As Jewish refugees, they come to live in Shanghai, China, which is occupied by Japan, and struggle to survive with little money and tensions and dangers rising as war rages on.

Heartrending and compelling, Someday We Will Fly examines grief, loss, poverty, and survival during wartime and depicts an often unhighlighted part of World War II: the Jewish refugee experience in China and the parallels of that experience with those of the Chinese, who at the time were under the oppressive rule of Japan. Lillia is a dynamic, complex protagonist, forced to mature quickly and make ethically questionable decisions in order to ensure her and her family’s survival. Her subsequent feelings of despair and guilt as she grapples with grief and morality are both understandable and tragic, making her a character with whom readers will easily empathize. Likewise, secondary characters, regardless of their nationality or background, are nuanced and layered. The historical setting is detailed, with an included bibliography and author’s note to provide further insight. Despite the hardships Lillia faces, the conclusion is one of hope and perseverance, as Lillia has formed a makeshift family with the Jewish refugees and Chinese, whom she has befriended and shared her experience with.

A solid choice for teen readers who enjoyed Alan Gratz’s Refugee and are now looking for a work aimed at a slightly older audience or for fans of historical fiction set in World War II, such as Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys or Almost Autumn by Marianne Kaurin.

–Laura Giunta and Molly Dettmann


Lovely War by Julie Berry
Viking Books for Young Readers / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: March 5, 2019
ISBN: 978-0451469939

What is the connection between love and war? Berry explores this idea through a frame story that draws on both mythology and history. When Hephaestus, husband to Aphrodite, goddess of love, catches his wife in an affair with Ares, god of war, he demands an explanation, and Love and War are on trial. Through the stories of two couples she has drawn together, Aphrodite explains how she helped romance blossom against the backdrop of World War I. Through her story, she makes the case that Love and War are always intertwined.

Both the drama of the gods and the romance of the young lovers are equally compelling, and Berry uses beautiful language, well-drawn characters, and meticulously researched history to weave a tale for the ages. Sentences sparkle, and the prose is lyrical without being inaccessible. The book explores serious issues, from the trauma of war, to women’s rights, to racism, and yet romance triumphs.

This moving and layered historical novel layered with classical Greek mythology will appeal to fans of the historical novels of Ruta Sepetys or love stories set against the horrors of war, like The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutowski.

—Molly Wetta