Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2021) Nominees Round Up, October 16 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.

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers / Hachette
Publication Date: September 1, 2020
ISBN: 978-1368052405

When broke teen Avery Grambs suddenly inherits billions from a complete stranger, she’s shocked–and immediately thrust into the world of the incredibly wealthy Hawthorne family.  Now Avery has one year to win her new fortune, and one year to contend with furious disinherited heirs (including four hot, angsty grandsons) and a mansion full of games, codes, puzzles, and deadly secrets.

Like a combination of the hit movie “Knives Out” and a tricked-out game of CLUE!, this new young adult mystery novel lets the reader play detective right along with the main characters, solving codes and puzzles on the page.  With a smart, steely, snarky heroine and loads of delightfully melodramatic teen angst, this mystery is all fun and games.     

A sure thing for Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle readers, fans of Maureen Johnson’s Truly Devious trilogy, and teens ready to graduate from middle grade puzzle mysteries like The Mysterious Benedict Society series and the classic The Westing Game.  

–Kali Olson

You Know I’m No Good by Jessie Ann Foley
Quill Tree Books / HarperCollins
Publication Date: October 13, 2020
ISBN: 978-0062957085

At 3 a.m. Mia finds herself forcibly taken from her home and shipped to Red Oaks Academy in the hopes that she will rethink her self-destructive behavior. Skeptical of anything that seems like therapy, Mia begins to work through the loss of her mother and the experience of a rape. When Mia discovers that her murdered mother’s life insurance policy is funding the involuntary commitment fueled by the stepmother she attacked, she does the unthinkable–she runs.

Foley knows how to craft a story of love and loss. Each of the female residents at Red Oaks is thoughtfully created and provides a backdrop for Mia’s journey. Mia’s pain is palpable and her relationships are complex. The way Mia processes her behaviors and relationships raises some valuable discussion opportunities. 

This is a gritty realistic fiction that will appeal to teens who are trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be. Recommend this to readers who liked Sorry for Your Loss (also by Jessie Ann Foley), A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti, What Unbreakable Looks Like by Kate MacLaughlin, and Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis.

Jodi Kruse

The Loop by Ben Oliver
Chicken House / Scholastic Press
Publication Date: April 7, 2020
ISBN: 978-1338589306 

On his seventeenth birthday, Luka Kane has spent 737 days in the Loop, a sophisticated prison for juveniles run almost entirely by artificial intelligence, for a crime he didn’t commit. But shortly after his birthday, strange anomalies appear—the rain that falls every night doesn’t, the daily message from the area president is late—breaks in a pattern that has never altered before. Then rumors of chaos and possible war on the outside become more than rumors and the young prisoners realize if they want to survive they will have to figure out a way to escape their prison. 

Oliver’s dystopian warning against the dangers of technology is full of heart-stopping action and plot twists. Readers will be on the edge of their seat as Luka and his fellow prisoners fight against fellow criminals, a zombie-like epidemic, weather manipulation, and a genetically modified army led by A.I. Although the focus is on the plot, the diverse cast of characters are likeable and interesting, especially Luka, whose fierce loyalty to those he cares for will endear him to readers.

Fans of science-gone-wrong dystopias like James Dashner’s The Maze Runner and the film series The Matrix will find much to love in this futuristic thriller. The Loop’s creepy A.I. interface, Happy, is eerily reminiscent of HAL from 2010: A Space Odyssey. 

Heather Christensen

This Is All Your Fault by Aminah Mae Safi
Feiwel & Friends / Macmillan
Publication Date: October 13, 2020
ISBN: 978-1250242341

Daniella (angry secret poet), Rinn (forcibly cheery book blogger), and Imogen (just trying to get through the day) don’t have much in common–except their undying love for the indie bookstore where they work. So when they discover that Wild Nights Bookstore and Emporium is about to be sold out from under them, they have one day to rally the other employees and their put-upon manager Jo. But saving the bookstore means that Daniella, Rinn, and Imogen will have to put their hearts on the line and trust in each other–and themselves–just when they are at their most vulnerable. Can this motley crew of teenage misfits stick it to the man and save the day?

This Is All Your Fault features three teen girls who are relatable, authentic, flawed, and vulnerable.  Daniella, Rinn, and Imogen have to get out of their own heads, learn to see the world through each other’s eyes, and stop making snap judgments that rely on preconceived notions.  This Is All Your Fault is an ode to bookstores, communities, artists, and truth-tellers.  Readers have to redefine success and failure side-by-side with the main characters–and learn a bit about intellectual property law along the way.  What more could a YA audience ask for?  

Let’s be honest–this is a young adult bookstore version of the cult classic 1995 film “Empire Records,” and you might have to hand out the movie along with every copy of This Is All Your Fault that you recommend.  Teens who love workplace romances like “The Office” will be fans of this book, which also pairs well with other YA odes to bookstores like Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley and Recommended for You by Laura Silverman.   

–Kali Olson

Ghost Wood Song by Erica Waters
HarperTeen / HarperCollins
Publication Date: July 14, 2020
ISBN: 978-0062894229

Shady Grove can summon the ghosts of the dead with a simple song from her daddy’s fiddle. While she knows the fiddle brings nothing but darkness, Shady can’t help but be drawn to its strange magic.

After her father’s death, all Shady really wanted was to explore the chemistry between herself and her best friend Sarah, and play folk music with her band. But when her brother gets accused of murder, she must call on the fiddle’s magic to find out the truth.

Ghost Wood Song is an atmospheric murder mystery with an LGBTQ+ love triangle. Shady is bisexual and has a complicated romantic history with her best friend while harboring some new feelings for a fellow musician named Cedar. She has a haunted family history, filled with secrets and heartbreak. While her relationship with her family is tense, this story is ultimately about forgiveness and healing. The murder mystery plotline is engaging, but the true draw of this book is the haunting magical realism and provenance of her father’s fiddle.

Perfect for fans of atmospheric, paranormal, magical realism books like The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater, Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry, and Bone Gap by Laura Ruby.

Shelbie Marks