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.
Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi
Henry Holt and Co. Books for Young Readers / Macmillan
Publication Date: December 3, 2019
Zélie, Amari, and Tzain are back with a vengeance in part two of the Legacy of Orïsha series. Now that magic has been unleashed again inOrïsha, Queen Nehanda has found a way to defy laws of magic and draw from the powers of the tîtáns to form her own legion of guards. With the rightful heir at her side, the pace intensifies as the twisted Nehanda instigates chaos and commands attention at any cost.
The descriptive writing style engages the reader with Zélie as she grieves over the loss of her father. While summoning the courage to continue fighting for the resistance, her brother, Tzain, remains her trusted ally. However, Zélie begins to question Amari’s loyalty in their battle against Amari’s own mother, Queen Nehanda. Amidst the angst-filled atmosphere, there are also brief hints at romance between certain characters. Emotionally intense and suspenseful with just enough hope sprinkled in, Adeyemi’s sequel will leave readers clamoring for book 3 in the series. Orïsha waits for no one.
Although Children of Virtue and Vengeance has broad appeal for many types of readers, those who enjoyed Akata Witch and Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor or The Ember in the Ashes series by Sabaa Tahir will devour this book.
Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland
Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins
Publication date: February 4, 2020
The Civil War ended when the dead rose from the battlefields. Years later, teenage Jane McKeene has been trained, like all other people of color conscripted under the Native and Negro Education Act, to protect rich white folk from the zombie hoards. But after the collapse of the town of Summerland, Jane and her fellow trainee Katherine Deveraux are on their own. Making for the village of Nicodemus with a small group of survivors, Jane and Katherine hope to find safety. But Nicodemus is a town fraught with new secrets and old enemies, and in a world this dangerous there’s little hope for girls like Jane and Katherine–unless they’re willing to sacrifice everything to make it for themselves.
This is a strong sequel to Dread Nation, continuing the story of biracial teen girls surviving in a zombie-infested post-Civil War United States. Justina Ireland uses the zombie threat to shed light on (among other things) the history of medical experimentation on people of color, which is a fascinating and unusual topic for YA sci-fi to tackle. Deathless Divide restores the black experience to the Old West and deftly explores issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, power, enslavement, and exploitation–all while delivering a rollicking zombie adventure.
Readers should be familiar with the first volume before picking up this title. Dread Nation and Deathless Divide will also appeal to fans of TV shows like “West World” and “The Walking Dead;” to readers of Sarah Gailey’s queer vision of the American West (American Hippo, Upright Women Wanted) and P. Djèlí Clark’s Alex Award-winning The Black God’s Drums; and to readers of other fantasy / science fiction books starring queer girls or girls of color like Children of Blood and Bone, War Girls, and Once & Future.
Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry
Algonquin Books for Young Readers / Workman Publishing
Publication Date: March 24, 2020
When eldest sister Ana falls to her death from her bedroom window, the remaining three Torres sisters’ dreams of escaping evaporate, leaving them to continue shouldering the burden of their widowed father’s suffocating neediness. As Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa work begin to work through their grief in their own ways and come to terms with being stuck in Southtown, mysterious things begin to happen in their house. Someone is trying to tell them something that will change everything.
The atmospheric and emotional story of the Torres sisters unfolds slowly, shifting between Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa’s points of view with small vignettes from the perspective of the group of boys who watch them from a neighbor’s window. Each girl’s unique voice lends structure to this complex narrative, and the suspense continues to build as the answer to what really happened to Ana is revealed bit by bit.
This book will be thoroughly engrossing to teens who are fans of character-driven magical realism stories, such as Mabry’s debut title All the Wind in the World, Anna-Marie McLemore’s haunting Blanca and Roja, Maggie Stiefvater’s All the Crooked Saints, and Laura Ruby’s mysterious Bone Gap.