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.
Girls on the Verge by Sharon Biggs Waller
Henry Holt & Company / Macmillan
Publication Date: April 9, 2019
This book confronts a controversial topic in a highly readable narrative, while not leaping into preaching or teaching mode. With the Roe v. Wade court decision under attack and more states passing aggressive anti-abortion laws, this book offers up pathways for discussion for teens to think about how they would handle the situation, as well as how they would handle it if a friend finds themselves in the same place as Camille. The emphasis is on friendship and supporting one another, while also tackling the leaps that women have to proceed through to exercise their right to choose what happens to their body.
This book’s strength lies in the reading about the stigma Camille is forced to confront at each step proceeding the journey, as well as how others are quick to make assumptions and judge, specifically in case of her best friend Bea. Across hundreds of miles, from Texas, Mexico, and New Mexico – Camille’s story unfolds across their journey, and delves into the crisis centers, doctor offices, family court, and more in a relatively short book of only 228 pages.
To balance out the story, factual information is introduced through the judicial timeline before the story begins and the author’s note at the end gives readers background information Texas’ abortion law history, Biggs Waller’s own personal connection to the story, and resources for additional help and information. Give this title to teens you know appreciate a hard-hitting story or to a teen exploring social justice or sociopolitical themes, or consider pairing this with Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale for a contemporary novel delving into a woman’s right to control her own body.
With the Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo
HarperTeen / HarperCollins
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
Emoni is entering her senior year of high school and balancing responsibilities to her daughter and grandmother. She also starts a new culinary class that showcases her cooking skills and leads to an opportunity to travel to Spain. Making the money to go is one thing, but family obligations are another. How will she know unless she tries?
Emoni Santiago is a heroine that readers root for in this character-driven novel much like Acevedo’s first. Family pressure is relatable and Emoni balances this expertly through the rich relationships with women in her life. Then, when a new love interest enters the picture, romance stirs up new ambitions for her future. With all the dedication to school, home, and life, Emoni’s voice is unmistakable in power and hunger to get what she wants from the things she already has.
Spicing up the story is Emoni’s culinary prowess that can be matched with graphic novels like Bloom by Kevin Panetta and Savanna Ganucheau or books featuring characters working on food trucks like The Music of What Happens by Konigsberg, Geekerella by Poston, or The Way You Make Me Feel by Goo. But Acevedo’s sophomore book could also be read with one of the multitude of cooking shows in the background to heat things up.