Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2021) Nominees Round Up, September 18 Edition

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.

Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson
Katherine Tegen Books / HarperCollins
Publication Date: September 15, 2020
ISBN:  978-0062840356

Enchanted feels as if she is in a dream when music star Korey Fields mentors her singing career, but the dream quickly turns into an obsessive, violent nightmare. This book addresses the pattern of grown men abusing their power and being excused for their misogynistic behaviors, while young girls are blamed.

This attention-grabbing novel will grip readers immediately when Enchanted wakes with blood on her hands in the  dramatic opening scene. Inspired by a real-life case of girls manipulated by someone who should have known better, readers will sympathize with Enchanted as she quickly discovers Korey’s controlling and abusive side. Though flawed, Enchanted is a likeable and authentic character, who just wants to pursue her dream, without being taken advantage of in the process. As readers follow Enchanted’s journey, Tiffany D. Jackson’s signature twist will drop jaws to the floor. Content warnings are advised for mentions of sexual abuse, rape, assault, child abuse, kidnapping, and addiction to opioids.

Grown has broad audience appeal, and readers will find some similar themes in books such as Spin by Lamar Giles, On the Come Up by Angie Thomas, The Opposite of Innocent by Sonya Sones, and The Belles series by Dhonielle Clayton.

Lisa Krok

Again Again by E. Lockhart
Delacorte Press / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: June 2, 2020
ISBN: 978-0385744799

After a rough year–her little brother’s opioid addiction, her own academic underachievement, and a messy romance–Adelaide is spending the summer walking dogs for vacationing professors at her prep school.  She’s working on a set design project so she doesn’t fail all her classes, and she just might be falling in love with a boy named Jack.  Every action (or inaction) leads to new options, pathways, and possibilities, and the reader follows Adelaide’s second chances, missed opportunities, and new connections through alternate timelines and multiverses.  Sometimes Adelaide and Jack make things work and sometimes they don’t; sometimes Adelaide gets an A on her project and sometimes she doesn’t.  But the constant in her life is her brother Toby and the grief, betrayal, and anger she feels after his addiction tears her family apart.  If Adelaide and Toby can reconnect, maybe all the disparate pieces of her life will fall neatly into place again.  Taking a chance is inevitable, and the possibilities are endless.

Resembling a high-concept choose-your-own-adventure story, Again Again is accessible, intriguing, and original.  There are some lovely touches that readers will particularly appreciate, like the thoughts of the goodnatured dogs that Adelaide walks and the creative line breaks that suddenly turn prose into poetry whenever Adelaide’s emotions are heightened.  Author E. Lockhart has done it again with the deceptively simple story that allows the reader to ruminate on the nature of life, love, art, and connection.

Pair with other cleverly-constructed stories like E. Lockhart’s own Genuine Fraud, Every Day by David Leviathan, If I Stay by Gayle Forman, or Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver.

–Kali Olson

Charming as a Verb by Ben Philippe
Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins
Publication Date: September 8, 2020
ISBN: 978-0062824141

Henry Haltiwanger has a pretty good thing going. He’s charming and popular, his dog-walking business is booming, and his Columbia application is looking promising. When his neighbor, Corinne Troy, discovers the secret behind his business she threatens to unmask him, blackmailing him into helping her change her image at school.

Henry is such a well-crafted protagonist. From his charm and wit to his poor decision making, readers will find him incredibly relatable. Henry is a classic over-committed teen who is dealing with school, extra curriculars, work, and upcoming college decisions. He’s also the son of Haitian-immigrants who is feeling the pressure to succeed. All of the pressure leads him to make some pretty drastic, yet realistic and life-altering decisions that will affect him far into the future. The true strength of this book is the message that one poor decision has the ability to change your life but it doesn’t have to completely ruin your future.

Readers who enjoy the witty dialogue and cute back-and-forth of Tweet Cute by Emma Lord and The Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds will enjoy Philippe’s newest book.

Shelbie Marks