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.
Here There Are Monsters by Amelinda Bérubé
Sourcebooks Fire / Sourcebooks
Publication Date: August 6, 2019
Skye’s sister, Deirdre, is just a little socially awkward with her imaginary kingdoms and insistence that Skye continue to play along as the Queen of Swords. Deirdre’s mysterious disappearance coupled with the arrival of monsters that promise to reunite the sisters unleashes events that Skye spill over onto Skye’s new friends in ways that can no longer remain hidden
Teen readers will relate to Skye’s desire to make new friends and distance herself from Deirdre whose constant neediness is exhausting. The dynamic between the sisters is realistic, and the budding romance between Skye and William provides the foil against which Skye must sacrifice her own desires for the safe return of her sister. Beyond that, Bérubé creates a deliciously horrific world of monsters that are wily and bloodthirsty. The accidents that befall Skye’s new friends all serve to build the tension and keep readers guessing whether Skye is an unreliable narrator or a true victim.
While the world building is reminiscent of Zoraida Cordova’s Brooklyn Brujas series, while the monsters will appeal to readers of Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand and the older title The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff. Any fans of creepy horror movies set in the woods would also find appeal with this title.
The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys
Philomel / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: October 1, 2019
Four characters’ lives intersect in Madrid, Spain centering around Daniel, an American son of an oil baron and Spanish-born mother. He meets and falls in love with Ana who is helping him find answers to questions his photographs are unearthing about the regime of General Francisco Franco. How and why their lives will intertwine is the mystery of both the time period and the hidden history of a prolific political reign.
A sweeping romance couched in the dark history of the Spanish Civil War explores a more contemporary global history for thoughtful readers. The cast of four main characters ensures that a fully-fleshed history is revealed and their intersecting experiences unlock a bevy of human emotions about the past and those who dare look toward the future that was largely silenced. Sepetys augments the story by transporting readers with luscious descriptions of Madrid and the Castellana Hilton juxtaposed by the poorer municipality of Vallecas in an immersive experience. And because the book chronicles multiple perspectives, the pacing is brisk but profound.
The depth of research involved in Sepetys’s historical title is similar to Julie Berry’s The Lovely War and Stacey Lee’s The Downstairs Girl in constructing a rich narrative with memorable characters set against a poignant backdrop published this year.
Where I End and You Begin by Preston Norton
Disney-Hyperion / Hachette
Publication Date: June 4, 2019
Ezra Selvin has had a crush on Imogen since they played Romeo and Juliet in a 4th grade production of the Shakespearean tragedy (which ended with Ezra forgetting his lines and never speaking to Imogen again). Now in high school he is finally about to ask Imogen to prom, but is thwarted by Imogen’s intense and blue-haired best friend, Wynonna. When attempting to make his move as they all view an impending solar eclipse, things take a turn as Ezra and Wynonna switch bodies, leaving them both attempting to understand each other, and still get the prom date of their dreams, when they realize they aren’t switching back anytime soon.
Hilarious, heartfelt, and honest, Where I End and You Begin takes the body switching trope and breathes fresh life into it. Ezra’s view of his world and the people in it is sharp and funny. While there are many serious issues woven into this wacky story such as addiction, absentee parents, and revenge porn, the overall tone of the book isn’t heavy handed and handles these touchy topics in a very thoughtful way. There is also a poignant look at identity (both sexual and gender) that comes about from the body switching, but is spun in a way that captures what a lot of teens are going through when there are all these labels, but yet, it’s still hard to pinpoint exactly who you are.
This is a great title that will appeal to fans of The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe and Norton’s first novel Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe.
Color Me In by Natasha Diaz
Delacorte Press / Random House Children’s Books
Publication Date: August 20, 2019
Neveah Levitz is caught between the worlds of her African American mother and her Jewish father who are battling through a nasty divorce. Her light skin means she is immune to many of the indignities inflicted on the darker-skinned relatives with whom she lives. As she finds herself identifying more with her Jamaican heritage, her father is pressuring her to also embrace her Jewishness.
Neveah’s story provides a provocative look at the challenges of being a member of two cultures. As the plot progresses, Neveah’s character is challenged and shaped by the perspectives of her extended family as well as Rabbi Sarah. Diaz addresses both skin color and economic privilege via a plot that will engage teen readers through the common experience of divorce, parental depression, and change.
Though the tone contains less humor than Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime and is a more contemporary setting than Malla Nunn’s When the Ground is Hard, the issues raised in this book will appeal to a similar audience.