Click here to see all of the current Best Fiction for Young Adults nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
Tin Heart by Shivaun Plozza
Flatiron Books / Macmillan Publishers
Publication Date: March 12, 2019
After receiving a heart transplant, Marlowe struggles to adjust to her second chance at life. While dealing with the tribulations of being a teenager, including school, her unconventional vegan family, and a budding romance with the son of a butcher, she begins searching for her heart donor’s family, hoping it will help her move past her identity as the girl with the heart transplant, and secretly befriending her donor’s sister, Carmen.
Tin Heart is a poignant and droll coming-of-age story about a likeable, flawed teen trying to find her identity outside of her illness. The first person narration feels authentic, capturing the voice of a shy and quirky teen, and creatively implements figurative language to effectively – and often humorously – express Marlowe’s feelings. The humor, particularly from Marlowe’s narration and dialogue, contains a hint of awkwardness so Marlowe never feels overly witty where it becomes unbelievable or out-of-character. Marlowe’s eccentric mother and brother add further levity to a story that could have otherwise been very dreary. Marlowe’s relationships with the other characters, who are dynamic and multi-faceted, believably evolve over the course of the novel. The theme of grief is explored as Marlowe struggles with her survivor’s guilt and Carmen has a difficult time admitting her brother is dead. The ending, while satisfying, never feels too neat or convenient.
A solid choice for teens who enjoy offbeat realistic fiction that handles difficult topics with levity and humor, such as Things Jolie Needs to Do Before She Bites It by Kerry Winfrey, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews, and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.
–Laura Giunta and Molly Dettmann
We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia
Katherine Tegen Books / HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: February 26, 2019
Daniela Varga has a secret, one that could take down the privileged life she has sacrificed so much for—including her family and her own identity. On the eve of her graduation from the Medio School for Girls, where she trained to become a politician’s wife, Dani discovers that her secret isn’t as safe as she thought. When a stranger forces her to open her eyes to the privilege, oppressiveness, and excess of the ruling class, she will have to decide whether to live forever in a gilded cage or make a stand.
We Set the Dark on Fire is a novel that takes the dystopian tropes fans of the subgenre are accustomed to and turns them on their head. People of color populate Mejia’s fantasy world, and their portrayal is nuanced: They get to be heroes, villains, and everything in between. The novel also includes a queer romance. Though it ends on a cliffhanger, the book is a self-contained story that will leave readers feeling hopeful that the world can be better. It only takes a spark.
Readers of Mackenzi Lee’s Montague Siblings duology (The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue and The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy), The Handmaid’s Tale (both the Hulu show and the novel by Margaret Atwood), Reign the Earth by A.C. Gaughen, Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan, and the video game Mirror’s Edge will enjoy this surprisingly hopeful Latinx dystopia.