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.
Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Knopf Books for Young Readers / Random House
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
In 2380, Tyler Jones, graduating cadet of Aurora Academy, rescues Aurora, a girl who has been in cryo-sleep for over 200 years and wakes with new, mysterious powers. Along with a squad of misfits from Aurora Academy, they go on a mission to uncover the truth about Aurora and what happened to Octavia, the colony Aurora had been heading to over 200 years ago.
With a multitude of characters, a lively pace, and plenty of humor and action, this series starter will quickly hook readers. The story is told in multiple points of view, with seven different narrators, each with a unique voice and personality. Interesting and likeable, the characters are all weaved into the plot so that they each get a chance to shine. The world-building is solid, with distinct and fully-realized alien races and cultures. While there are somber moments, they are countered with exciting action and the levity of the characters, so the tone never becomes too dour. The mysteries surrounding Aurora and Octavia are intriguing, and, although the conclusion doesn’t answer every question readers will have, the ending is still satisfying and will have readers eager to read the next book in the series. Readers looking to be immersed in a new, character-driven space adventure will not be disappointed.
Fans of Guardians of the Galaxy will enjoy this as well as those who gravitate toward books featuring ragtag teams and multiple perspectives, such as Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo and The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi. Additional read-alikes include science-fiction novels The Disasters by M.K. England, Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine, and Across the Universe by Beth Revis.
–Laura Giunta and Jodi Kruse
Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett
Knopf Books for Young Readers / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: October 29, 2019
Simone Garcia-Hampton is HIV positive. While she’s not ashamed of it, very few people know her status so when threatening notes appear in her locker threatening to share the information, she is nervous specifically because she has just started dating Miles.
Camryn Garrett’s debut tackles race, ableism, discrimination, and sexuality through Simone, her dads, her friends, and the people in her life. The reality of Simone’s HIV is both straightforward and sex positive. In addition, close friends Lydia and Claudia discuss their sexuality openly as an example of close-knit friendships that represent the diversity of experiences. This is also played up with Simone’s two fathers’, one who is black and the other who is Latinx who are supportive parents in Simone’s endeavors like theater that focuses the story and paces it out. Garrett creates a moving novel full of heart about sharing your truth and telling your own story supported by the author’s note and inclusion of a suggested reading list for those who want to learn more about living with HIV/AIDS.
Readers who enjoyed Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, and Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli will enjoy Garrett’s debut.
–Ness Shortley and Alicia Abdul
It’s a Whole Spiel: Love, Latkes, and Other Jewish Stories edited by Katherine Locke and Laura Silverman
Knopf Books for Young Readers / Random House
Publication Date: September 17, 2019
Fourteen Jewish young adult authors create a collection of short stories that show there is no one way to be Jewish and that being Jewish doesn’t just mean one thing. The teens in these stories deal with the ups and downs of adolescence—crushes and college and uncertainty and friendship—while also navigating their religious beliefs and their identity.
This short story anthology features engaging and beautifully written #OwnVoices stories by Jewish writers that show that being Jewish isn’t a monolith. Characters are Jewish and disabled, Jewish and queer, secular, religious, and more. Standout stories include “Neilah” by Hannah Moskowitz, about a queer teen with an eating disorder who begins going to services with her girlfriend; “Some Days You’re the Sidekick; Some Days You’re the Superhero” by Katherine Locke, about a teen boy who writes fanfic and how his actions drove a wedge between him and his in-real-life best friend; and “Be Brave and All” by Laura Silverman about a girl with debilitating anxiety who is able to stand up for what she believes.
Fans of the authors’ novels will find a lot to love in this anthology, especially You Asked for Perfect by Laura Silverman and Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan, as will readers who enjoy short story collections written by multiple authors such as Take the Mic: Fictional Stories of Everyday Resistance edited by Bethany C. Morrow.
The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah
Disney-Hyperion / Hachette Books
Publication Date: October 29, 2019
At the end of the 21st century, humans live beneath the water. Leyla McQueen gets picked to participate in an obstacle course with 99 other people. If she wins, she can pick any prize—and free her father, who has been jailed on false charges. But when the government refuses to release him, Leyla finds herself thrown together with a boy she barely knows and can’t stand to track him down—whatever the cost.
Shah’s YA debut features a Muslim teen fighting to keep her family together and running afoul of a corrupt government in the process. This book is Waterworld meets The Hunger Games with a British Muslim lead. The world-building is stunning, and Shah tackles a whole host of timely topics while delivering an engaging dystopian world. The story combines well-written characters with a plot full of twists and turns. Though the book ends on a cliffhanger, it is a complete story.
The Light at the Bottom of the World is great for fans of Internment by Samira Ahmed, Legend by Marie Lu, and Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi.
Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers / Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
“God, this country. It’s so predatory.”
Pablo is a college dropout working in a 24 hour bodega trying to plan his next move. Leanna is a child star trying to find a little escape from the limelight. After a chance encounter, the two instantly connect and begin an off the books tryst. However, nothing stays a secret forever, and these two get thrown into the spotlight right toward disaster.
This crossover YA novel is so heartfelt and realistic that it will be an eye opener to all teens heading to college. Pablo’s accumulated debt is a rarely broached subject that both fills the reader with dread as well as drives this plot into the realm of reality. Though both characters come from different worlds, the theme of societal pressure is the same, which will resonate easily with today’s teens.
Fans of this novel should check out Somewhere Only We Know by Maureen Goo, Frankly in Love by David Yoon, and American Panda by Gloria Chao.
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
Make Me a World / Random House Children’s Books
Publication Date: September 10, 2019
Pet lives in a perfect world. A world without monsters, or so she thinks. When a monster shows itself to her, Pet must work to uncover the secrets her world has been hiding and protect people that she loves.
This utopia/dystopia novel dives into a world that separates itself from the real world while at the same time mirroring the hardships that teens, especially those belonging to minority groups, struggle with daily. With its beautiful language and powerful words, this books carries weight that will make teens think as well as empower them to ask the bigger questions about justice and equity.
Fans of this novel should check out The Infinite Noise by Lauren Shippen and the Runaways series by Rainbow Rowell.