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.
We Rule the Night by Claire Eliza Bartlett
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers / Hachette
Publication Date: April 2, 2019
Inspired by Russian history and the Night Witches of World War II, We Rule the Night centers on Linne, the daughter of a general, and Revna, the daughter of a traitor, who become reluctant partners when they join the Union’s first all-female flight unit, using illegal magic to fly aircrafts on dangerous missions during wartime.
With excellent world-building and strong characterization, Bartlett creates a vivid and riveting military fantasy. The magic is unique, particularly in how it’s used to operate planes. Antagonists, such as the Union’s supernatural military informants called the Skarov, are complex, adding further depth. The Union is written with its own set of laws and principles, and the military aspects are similarly thorough and detailed.
Linne and Revna are distinct and multifaceted. The evolution of their relationship from contemptuous adversaries forced to work together to loyal comrades willing to sacrifice themselves for the other is masterfully done, showing how the bond between soldiers at war grows, strengthens, and intensifies over time.
Feminist themes are prevalent as Linne, Revna, and the other female pilots receive little respect and shoddier equipment compared to their male counterparts, but demonstrate that they are just as capable. Moreover, while often dismissed because of her disability, Revna proves she is a skilled pilot. Despite their society’s misogynistic and ableist views, Linne and Revna know their own worth and act heroically, which is impactful.
Hand this to fans of Evelyn Skye’s Russian-inspired fantasy series The Crown’s Game, Kathryn Lasky’s historical fiction novel The Night Witches, or Michael Grant’s alternative history series Front Lines.
–Laura Giunta and Jodi Kruse
Sorry For Your Loss by Jessie Ann Foley
HarperTeen / HarperCollins
Publication Date: June 4, 2019
Pup, the youngest of eight children in a close knit, boisterous family, is rarely noticed and doesn’t seem to mind. His unexpected success at a photography assignment leads him to look at his friendships, his family, and the tragic death of his brother, in a whole new light.
The novel tackles heavy subjects – grief and alcoholism – without coming off as preachy or melodramatic. Pup hasn’t been able to process the grief after his closest brother dies unexpectedly at college, until he discovers a talent for photography. His art allows him to explore his unique point of view, his feelings, and his identity as he begins the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Peppered with humor, this poignant novel will speak to anyone struggling with grief or to find their place in the world. The characters are well drawn and we get to know them through their actions and words. Foley has a beautiful way with words – descriptions of the setting, in particular, are vivid enough that the Chicago neighborhood feels like a character in its own right.
Tender and warm-hearted, fans of realistic fiction like I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson or The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner will find a new favorite.