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.
Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed
Soho Teen / Soho Press
Publication Date: April 7, 2020
Khayyam is an American, French, Indian Muslim teen on vacation with her family in Paris. When she meets Alexandre Dumas IV, they investigate Dumas family letters and artwork that may change the course of both of their lives.
The plot-driven storyline is a genre-blending mix of historical fiction, romance, contemporary, and mystery, inspired by real events. While Khayyam is searching for the real Leila and a chance at a career in art history, Dumas IV is trying to save his family’s legacy. Khayyam is a strong, snarky, likeable main character, and the mystery unfolds in an engaging way, with suspense and romance woven in. The enigma from the past sparks a need in Khayyam to fight the patriarchy and amplify Leila’s true voice, which had been silenced for so many years. Although the plot addresses historical information about Dumas, Lord Byron, and Delacroix, it unfolds in an accessible way so readers do not need to have prior knowledge about them to become fully immersed in the story.
Readers who enjoy art history combined with other genres, such as in Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough, City of Glass by Cassandra Clare, The Shadowshaper Cypher series by Daniel Jose Older, The Gallery by Laura Marx Fitzgerald and The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown are ideal readers for Ahmed’s latest novel.
Hood by Jenny Elder Moke
Disney-Hyperion / Disney Publishing
Publication Date: June 9, 2020
The legend of Robin Hood gets an update in this historical novel that features the next generation of Sherwood Forest outlaws. For sixteen years, the only life Isabelle has known is in the Kirklees priory, where her mother, Marien, is prioress. But a run-in with one of King John’s soldiers sets off a chain of events that puts her parents’ mortal enemy, the Wolf, on her trail.
Adventures and intrigue abound in this swashbuckling tale of outlaw justice. Although readers familiar with the Robin Hood legend will appreciate the references sprinkled throughout the narrative, this is Isabelle’s story, not her famous parents’, and in fact, Isabelle must learn to separate the legendary hero from the flawed reality of her father. Medieval England is fairly romanticized–Isabelle and other female characters probably have much more power than most women of their time–but overall the depiction of tensions between the nobility and the throne that eventually led to the historic Magna Carta give authenticity and historic relevance to the legend. Isabelle and her fellow thieves are well-developed characters, and their camaraderie may appeal to fans of other books and movies featuring a group of teens banding together to tackle a dangerous problem, like The Goonies or Stranger Things.
Give this to readers of Gaughen’s Scarlet series for another female led version of Robin Hood. Though there’s no magic, fans of Netflix’s Merlin series may be interested in a different English legend.