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.
The How and the Why by Cynthia Hand
HarperTeen / HarperCollins
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Senior Cass McMurtrey loves her life with her adoptive parents. As she nears her 18th birthday and contemplates her dreams for the future, she wonders about her birth parents. With encouragement from her parents, Cass begins the journey to find her birth parents. Cass’s story is interwoven with letters from S, a 16 year old who is searching for the perfect parents for her unborn baby. As the two stories blend together, readers connect with both Cass and S and become invested in their journeys to discover who they are and how they arrived at the decisions they made.
Intricately plotted, The How and the Why is full of rich, dynamic characters that have distinct voices. As Cass experiences the highs and lows of a typical senior year of high school, she also deals with her critically ill mother and her search for her biological parents. Hand expertly builds a likeable character with Cass and readers will be compelled to follow her on her quest for answers. Interspersed between Cass’s chapters are the letters S is writing to her unborn child, re-telling her story and coming to terms with her own decisions. S’s letters are full of snark but balanced with the real issues and emotions S experienced. Honest and drawn from the author’s own adoptive experience, The How and the Why is a realistic fiction title that deals with identity, family, and teen pregnancy in a richly detailed and refreshing way.
Recommend this title to fans of Far From the Tree by Robin Benway, If Only by Jennifer Gilmore and How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr.
Bent Heavens by Daniel Kraus
Henry Holt and Co. Books for Young Readers / Macmillan
Publication Date: February 25, 2020
Everyone knows Liv’s father, Lee, couldn’t possibly have been abducted by aliens, despite his reputation as a dedicated teacher. The experience left an indelible mark that has been passed to Liv and the one kid at school who believed Lee’s accounts. Following Lee’s instructions, Liv and Doug maintain a series of traps and an arsenal designed to snare and protect against the aliens who kidnapped and experimented on Lee Fleming. The surprising capture of an alien puts their resolve to the test as Liv questions the use of the military torture handbook Doug discovered online.
This is a gorgeously written book with characters who are fully fleshed out, but put in intensely challenging positions. Kraus masterfully builds suspense and horror while bringing up issues of humanity. The sheer creepiness and horrific ending, qualities we expect from Daniel Kraus, do not disappoint.
This is a great title for fans of the older, but still popular, In the After by Demitria Lunetta (2013) or Nemesis series by Brendan Reichs (2017).