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 Best Laid Plans by Cameron Lund
Razorbill / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: April 7, 2020
There are no secrets in Keely’s small hometown or in her even smaller graduating high school class. So everyone knows that Keely is still a virgin. Literally everyone else in her class has found someone to lose it to, but Keely has a hard time seeing any of her classmates as possible romantic interests when she’s known them all since they were picking their noses and eating glue in kindergarten. So when Keely gets a job at the local video store with cute college guy Dean, she’s determined to have sex before she goes to college. And who better to make her seem like an experienced, worldly seductress (instead of the clueless virgin that she is) than her player BFF Andrew? But even the best-laid plans go awry, and Keely’s whole plan depends on staying JUST FRIENDS with Andrew–which is suddenly much, much harder than it’s ever been before…
This romantic comedy uses the conventions of the genre (the fake boyfriend, the mean girl, the quirky BFF) to explore timely issues of double-standards for boys and girls, society’s conditioning of girls to compete with each other for the attention of men, and the pressure to conform in order to avoid rejection or humiliation. Remarkably sex-positive (although not without issues–the book presumes that all teenagers want to, and usually do, have sex during their high school years), The Best Laid Plans explores the sex lives of teenagers and the peer pressures they face with humor, affection, and enthusiasm.
Pair with new YA novel The Feminist Agenda of Jemima Kincaid and the Netflix show “Sex Education.”
The Enigma Game by Elizabeth Wein
Publication Date: May 26, 2020
Fifteen-year-old Louisa, whose English mother and Jamaican father were both killed by German bombs within a single month, knows she can’t rely on the kindness of her landlord forever. She needs to find employment soon, but also knows that will be a challenge, given her youth and biracial heritage in 1940’s England. So when a Scottish tavern owner agrees to hire her, sight unseen, to work as a caretaker for her elderly aunt, a retired German opera singer by the name of Johanna von Arnim, she jumps at the chance. To her surprise, she discovers a kinship with the octogenarian, a relationship that grows even stronger when the two get involved in a tangled plot–along with a young Scottish pilot by the name of James Beaufort-Stuart–regarding a German coding device known as the Enigma machine.
Wein poignantly illustrates the precarious risks faced by British pilots like Jamie and his squadron during World War II, making it easy to see why the ability to break German code was so sought after. In addition to the nail-biting intrigue, the book also features a lovely intergenerational friendship between Louisa and Johanna, two outsiders who come to trust and depend on each other when many around them do not.
Sandwiched in time between the author’s The Pearl Fisher and Code Name Verity, this book provides another glimpse at the lives of some favorite characters. Give to readers who enjoy reading about World War II, especially ones that focus on the intrigue of spies and resistance movements, like The Girl in the Blue Coat or The Alice Network.