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 Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert
Publication Date: July 7, 2020
As eighteen-year-old Marva exits the polling place where she just cast her first-ever ballot, she notices another Black teen having some kind of problem at the entrance. Because she is passionate about voting and civic involvement, she goes over to see what the issue is. Apparently, Duke–who is also trying to vote for the first time–isn’t listed on the registration roll, possibly because he lived at a different address when he first registered. Rationalizing that getting the vote out is more important than her first-period class, Marva volunteers to drive Duke to the correct location. Neither realizes that helping Duke get his vote in will turn into a day-long process that will include surprising insights, subtle (and not so subtle) racism, an adorable Internet cat, and even a little romance.
Featuring a racially and culturally diverse cast of characters, this book confronts weighty issues like the disenfranchisement of Black voters while maintaining a lighthearted, romantic tone. The narrative alternates between Marva and Duke, giving readers a more nuanced look at teen activism, as each of these characters express their interest in civic responsibility very differently.
This is an excellent choice for students gearing up for the 2020 elections, along with other election and politics rom-coms like Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed or Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. Viewers of Netflix’s Dear White People may appreciate another look at systemic bias in American culture.
Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power
Delacorte Press / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: July 7, 2020
For her whole life, Margot has only had one person – her mother, who left her hometown when she got pregnant at eighteen and cut ties with everyone she knew there. Margot and her mother’s strained and antagonistic relationship is increasingly difficult to live with, so when Margot accidentally uncovers the identity and location of her grandmother, she runs away to try to learn the truth of who she is and find the one thing she wants most of all – a family. Once she finds Gram and begins to uncover her past, though, she realizes that the answers to her questions may be more complicated than she ever imagined and solving the mystery of where she comes from may cost her her life.
The relationship between Margot and her emotionally absent, mentally unstable mother in the beginning of the book serves as a catalyst for all the events to follow. Much like the author’s first book, Wilder Girls, this title is a slow-burn mystery with readers strung along by carefully revealed pieces of information that don’t really add up until the stunning conclusion. The story goes from sad to strange to utterly horrific so smoothly the reader almost won’t notice that it’s happening, and the conclusion does not wrap up particularly neatly, adding to the eerie and unsettling nature of this story.
Readers who enjoyed Power’s Wilder Girls will relish this creepy book, along with fans of Claire Legrand’s Sawkill Girls and the deeply disturbing Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall. Hand this one to viewers of sci-fi horror shows like Black Mirror, The Twilight Zone, or HBO’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Outsider.