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.
Break the Fall by Jennifer Iacopelli
Razorbill / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: February 18, 2020
Break the Fall follows the Olympic aspirations of Audrey Lee, a gymnast who has worked hard to get back to elite status after injuring her back. A scandal erupts and the team must cope with a cascade of change mere weeks before the Games. Can Audrey keep her eyes on Olympic gold without allowing scandals, team conflicts–and a romance with the coach’s son–to derail her dreams?
This thought-provoking story pulls readers into the life of an elite athlete. The realistic workouts, visualizations, and competition provide a backdrop to the ups and downs of team dynamics. Although the details of sexual assault are kept off-page, the impact of the situation tears the team apart as they divide along lines as to who they believe. Readers will applaud Audrey’s drive to win and desire to be a supportive teammate, while empathizing with her uncertainty about life after gymnastics. And Audrey’s budding romance offers her a distraction from the pressure to excel.
Teens interested in gymnastics, or any highly competitive sport, will enjoy learning how a team can come together while competing against one another. Fans of Aly Raisman’s Fierce or Netflix’s documentary Cheer will enjoy this compelling story.
What Unbreakable Looks Like by Kate McLaughlin
Wednesday Books / Macmillan
Publication Date: June 23, 2020
Lex followed a man who seemed to care about her, who bought her nice things, and now she is installed in a seedy motel as a sex-trafficked prostitute working under the name Poppy. When she is rescued after a raid on the motel, it seems like things are looking up. She moves in with an aunt, and begins attending school – though her past follows her there too. Getting away from her previous life is going to take more than just physical distance and safety seems as far away as ever.
Sex-trafficking is all around us. Studies say there are tens of thousands of girls trafficked into the US each year, and the average age they enter the sex trade is 12-14 years old. Lex/Poppy’s experience is recounted mostly through flashbacks, but the dangers to her, even after she is out, are very real. Her thoughts and struggles with self-worth are the strongest part of the book. Family relationships are not a positive for Lex, but her aunt that takes her in is a beautiful person and this hope shines through the book.
Fans of Rowell’s Eleanor and Park or Norton’s Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe will find comparisons here to a character we care about coming out of a horrible childhood, with parents who damage and compromise their children instead of helping them.