Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2025) Featured Review: Aya: Claws Come Out by Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie

  • Aya: Claws Come Out
  • by Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie
  • Drawn and Quarterly
  • Publication Date: February 6, 2024
  • ISBN-13: 9781770467019

It’s been more than a decade since the first volumes of Marguerite Abouet and Clément

Oubrerie’s sprawling historical novels centered the extended families of the famously independent title character and her two best friends in Yop City, a working class area of Abidjan, the largest city in the Ivory Coast. As this volume opens with the election of Mitterand, Aya, “the most sensible one in the neighborhood,” is at college for law. After the disco and neighborhood dramas of the 1970s incarnations, Claws Come Out has Reagan-era energy, maintained with the throughline of workplace farce as Aya seeks a corporate internship and Bonaventure takes Gregoire under his wing at his conglomerate, Solibra. A parallel storyline 3700 miles away, in Paris, finds Inno arrested after intervening in police harassment. He negotiates whether to push his asylum claim or return home with his French partner Seb, and his experiences are contrasted with those of his former flame Albert, as they are both forced into relationships of convenience.

Darker than the original series, but nonetheless maintaining an overt soap opera sensibility, Claws Come Out has an emphasis on mass media that provides timely commentary on fame and empathy as Bintou’s notoriety, found through role as a homewrecker, is her undoing. In the climactic sequence, Bintou’s televised interview is interrupted by breaking news from the University where the blameless Aya is arrested at a campus protest, a scene that could be ripped from the headlines today.

While earlier volumes were lighter in tone, with appeal to shojo and Austen readers alike, the cast of characters from Yopougon are now older, more serious, and more political, and as result it reads more like the work of Marjane Sartrapi or Zeina Abirachad. Characters negotiate arrest, deportation and systemic barriers to documentation in France, and the disenfranchisement of Cambodian students in the Ivory Coast is also emphasized, evoking gems like Hostage by Guy Delisle or Anthony Del Cole and Fahmida Azim’s I Survived a Chinese Internment Camp. This is a thoughtful series for teens with interest in global history and culture.

–Wendy Stephens

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: May 7, 2024
Release Date: October 24, 2023 

Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2025) Feature Review: Lunar New Year Love Story by Gene Luen Yang and illustrated by LeUyen Pham

When she was younger, Valentina Tran’s favorite holiday was her namesake, Valentine’s Day. But then her father tells her to stop making cards and a classmate named Jae trashes the one she gave him. Now that she’s older and has learned that her father lied to her about mother’s supposed death, she no longer believes in love; in fact, she thinks her family is romantically cursed. Complicating matters is the ghostly presence of St. Valentine, offering to spare her heartbreak if she gives up her heart to him. But then she meets a pair of lion dancers at a Tết (Lunar New Year) celebration – one of whom is Jae – and decides to try to learn the dance herself. She falls in love with it, and also begins dating her dancing partner and Jae’s cousin, a cute boy named Leslie who won’t define what they have together. Val has to grapple with her relationship with her father, the mother she believed abandoned her, her undefined relationship with Leslie, and her growing feelings for Jae before St. Valentine comes for her answer.

The art and storytelling weave together to tell a beautiful story, one of Val’s personal growth as well as a love story. Humorous touches keep the story engaging, as well as the vibrant art. Lion dancing especially shines, the movements seeming to leap off the page as well as show how different Asian cultures have different depictions of the lion and ways of dancing.

Graphic novel and romance enthusiasts will both enjoy this book. For readers who enjoy a sweet romance with a touch of magic, try Crumbs by Danie Stirling. Belle of the Ball by Mari Costa is another title featuring a gentle romance complicated by a love triangle and differing expectations. Fans of author David Yoon’s YA romances should also enjoy this book.

Leanna C.

Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2025) Featured Review: This Day Changes Everything by Edward Underhill

Abby Akerman, a clarinet player from small town Missouri, eagerly anticipates her high school band’s performance at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, where she plans to confess her love for her best friend Kat. Simultaneously, Leo Brewer, a trans boy from North Carolina, is on a similar trip. His fears of being outed to his conservative Southern family over live television overshadow any excitement about the parade or sightseeing. The universe intervenes when Abby and Leo meet on the wrong subway train, leading to them getting lost and Leo accidentally losing Abby’s carefully prepared gift of her favorite romance novel for Kat. The two, though slow to warm, embark on a whirlwind mission to find souvenirs from locations mentioned in the lost book gift. As they journey from Chinatown to Grand Central Station to the Empire State Building, they realize that this day might hold the potential to change everything for them both. 

Underhill beautifully portrays the confusion and wonder of coming of age as a queer teenager amid the enchanting winter atmosphere of New York City. Embracing familiar romance tropes with charm, this novel has it all from marching bands, grumpy/sunshine, and a 24-hour romance. Through alternating narratives that are separate and distinct, Abby and Leo undergo profound growth, both individually and in their relationships. 

This will appeal to teens who love a grumpy/sunshine trope and a slow burn romance.  Hand to teens who want more marching band content like in Full Flight by Ashley Schumacher. This title also has a similar whirlwind vibe to Take Me Home Tonight by Morgan Matson.

-Alicia Kalan

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.
The Best Fiction for Young Adults Committee appreciates teen feedback as members evaluate the nominated titles. Teen librarians are encouraged to share the List of Potential Nominees under consideration with their patrons and solicit feedback using the link: https://bit.ly/BFYA25TeenFB

Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2025) Featured Review: Hockey Girl Loves Drama Boy by Faith Erin Hicks

  • Hockey Girl Loves Drama Boy
  • by Faith Erin Hicks
  • First Second
  • Publication Date: October 3, 2023
  • ISBN-13: 9781250838728

When hockey player Alix can no longer handle her team captain Lindsay’s constant insults, she loses her temper and punches Lindsay, at which point their coach threatens to pull her recommendation for Alix to attend a hockey camp over the summer. Realizing she needs help controlling her temper, she appeals to drama guy Ezra, who she notices is always cool in the face of homophobic bullying. In the ensuing friendship and budding romance (Ezra eschews labels but says he is “attracted to lots of different people, not just guys”), the two realize that they’re both more complicated than the stereotypes other people see them as, and that perhaps they like that about each other.

Faith Erin Hicks’ artwork excels in portraying both quiet, emotional moments and zippy action on the hockey ice. The limited pale blue palette of the illustrations lends an emotional resonance that wouldn’t be conveyed in the same way by full color. The story itself also manages to deftly pack in a number of common high school issues, including parental disapproval (and in fact, teens’ disapproval of their parents’ choices—the parents in this book are far from perfect!), bullying and homophobia, the decision to label one’s sexuality (or not), and how to decide if your dreams are worth fighting for.

Hockey Girl will appeal to fans of other LGBTQ sports romances like Kelly Quindlen’s She Drives Me Crazy and Jennifer Dugan’s Some Girls. It is a perfect next choice for fans of Check, Please who want to stay on the ice but are ready for a more complicated story. Readers of Heartstopper by Alice Oseman will also appreciate that Hockey Girl’s fluffy rom com surface belies a similarly surprising emotional depth.

Lee Stokes

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: March 5, 2024
Release Date: March 21, 2024

Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2025) Featured Review: The Diablo’s Curse by Gabe Cole Novoa

  • The Diablo’s Curse
  • by Gabe Cole Novoa 
  • Narrated by Vico Ortiz
  • Imprint / Listening Library
  • Publication Date: February 20, 2024
  • ISBN: 9780593795033

After living most of their existence as the apprentice of a Diablo, Dami finally gets the opportunity to change from demon to human. They only have to cancel every deal they’ve made…in less than a year. This leads them on the path of adventure as they find a lost treasure, and nullify a deadly curse. 

Sometimes the best way to experience a story is to hear it being read to you. Adventures can be among the most exciting to listen to as an audiobook. The Diablo’s Curse is a very humorous adventure that is reminiscent of an old fairy tale. On top of that, this story features a character that is nonbinary. Something that many teens will not only relate to, but also enjoy reading about. It also is an aspect that is unfortunately rarely seen in a majority of literature. 

The narration for this book was phenomenal. Vico Ortiz’s Spanish accent and pronunciations were flawless. Their reading and accurate portrayal of the characters’ voices just added another level to the story, bringing it to life. 
Anyone who loves a good treasure and The Curse of Oak Island, will find similar aspects as they follow Dami and Silas on their hunt for the cursed treasure. This book also shares the similar plot-line of a demon wishing to leave that line of service and wishing to enjoy life among humans, as the television show Lucifer.

– L.B. Ferguson

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: January 9, 2024
Release Date: February 27, 2024
September 5, 2023

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.

Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2025) Featured Review: Bright Red Fruit by Safia Elhillo

  • Bright Red Fruit
  • by Safia Elhillo
  • Publisher: Make Me a World
  • Release date: February 6, 2024
  • ISBN: 9780593381229

Samira just wants to hang out with her friends like a normal teen, but her overprotective Sudanese immigrant mother is more concerned about her reputation. After being grounded, again, Samira takes refuge in an online poetry community where she meets Horus. Even though he’s much older than her, she’s delighted to have the attention of a handsome older poet. But when she ignores her friends’ warnings about him, there’s more at risk than just her reputation, risks her mom didn’t prepare her for.

Samira’s vulnerability and distinct poetic voice make her a compelling narrator, walking readers through a tense mother-daughter relationship that will be familiar to many. In addition to exploring themes of shame culture and predatory men, Elhillo adds depth to the narrative by drawing connections to the Persephone myth. In Samira’s version of the myth, there are opportunities for Persephone to find both personal healing and reconciliation with her mother despite all odds.

Bright Red Fruit is for young poets and anyone who’s ever felt stifled by an overprotective parent. It’s perfect for fans of The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo and All the Fighting Parts by Hannah V. Sawyerr.

-Yona Yurwit

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.
The Best Fiction for Young Adults Committee appreciates teen feedback as members evaluate the nominated titles. Teen librarians are encouraged to share the List of Potential Nominees under consideration with their patrons and solicit feedback using the link: https://bit.ly/BFYA25TeenFB

Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2025) Featured Review: SWARN by Jennifer D. Lyle

  • SWARM by Jennifer D. Lyle
  • Narrated by Krystal Hammond
  • Blackstone Publishing
  • Release date: November 7, 2023
  • ASIN: B0CCSVDLPP
  • ISBN: 978-1728270913

A super intense story of survival. 

Thanks to climate change the world has warmed and a swarm which has laid dormant for centuries has resurfaced and they are hungry! 

This plot driven story begins as an average school day for 16 year old Shur and her classmates, until she notices an unusually large butterfly outside of her classroom window. Soon after her discovery, cell phones begin buzzing with a flood of emergency reports that these butterfly-like monsters have invaded all 7 continents and people should stay indoors or shelter in place.

As the confusion and tension mounts, Shur, her twin brother Keene, and their 2 best friends, Jennifer and Nathan, flee the high school parking lot in an attempt to make it to their respective homes, but first they must pick up Shur’s brother Sean, aka “Little” from daycare. Terrified, they finally make it to Shur’s suburban home unscathed, only to find this will be their last stop. The Swarm is rapidly increasing and the teens must hole up alone and are forced to fend for themselves.  Shur, the protagonist, is riddled with extreme anxiety and panicked thoughts resulting from the death of her father a few years earlier. What the teens don’t  know is that the butterflies are only the beginning; the next onslaught will be deadlier, and even closer to home.

Krystal Hammond’s narration captures all the fear, anxiety and resolve of each character’s voice. Shur’s coping skills are strained to the max, and yet she is not as fragile as the others think. Hammond’s believable performance conveys Shur’s inner thoughts showcasing her unique perspective on how to navigate this apocalyptic setting to keep them all safe. The angst-filled narration propels the plot forward causing listeners to anticipate what could possibly happen next and to wonder if the world could actually survive such a swarm.

Jennifer D. Lyle has written a vivid portrayal of terror made all the more exhilarating by Krystal Hammond’s narration. Part apocalyptic science-fiction, part horror survival story with a sprinkle of teen crush, makes SWARM an audiobook with a little something for everyone.

Recommend for ages 13 & up.

-Ellen E. McTyre

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.

Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2025) Feature Review: Gwen and Art Are Not in Love by Lex Croucher

Gwendoline, princess of England in Medieval times, hates Arthur, descendant of the legendary King Arthur, to whom she is betrothed. The feeling is mostly mutual as the now teen royalty have grown up at odds with each other. During the summer knight tournament, the two learn secrets about the other that shows how much they actually have in common: Gwen and Art are both queer. As they attempt to live up to their parents’ expectations while also exploring other romantic interests, Gwen and Art grow closer together, even as tensions in the kingdom swell around them. Croucher avoids using modern words to identify the characters’ sexuality, but Gwen reads as demisexual and sapphic while Art reads as gay. Some homophobia exists in the text, but is appropriately vilified.

Although the action takes a while to start, readers will be hooked by both of the point-of-view characters’ snarky narrations. The Medieval setting is not stuffy, as some historical fiction can be, matching the cute and light cover art. The dialogue is full of banter, and the fake dating trope is unique in that the characters remain un-attracted to each other throughout the scheme. The book is a rare historical romance in its engaging characterization even without a plot-heavy first half.
Readers who enjoyed Mackenzi Lee’s The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue or books in the Remixed Classics series, like Caleb Roehrig’s Teach the Torches to Burn, will love this book.

Dakota Hall

Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2025) Featured Review: Under This Red Rock by Mindy McGinnis

  • Under This Red Rock
  • by Mindy McGinnis
  • Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
  • Release date: March 19, 2024
  • ISBN: 9780063230415

Neely knows the voices she hears are hallucinations, but she’s afraid to burden her family by telling them about her schizophrenia, especially in the aftermath of her brother’s suicide. She finds comfort and stability in the local cavern attraction and is even lucky enough to get a job there as a guide. However, her stability upends after she tries drugs at a party and her coworker and crush, Mila, is found brutally murdered in the caverns. Neely can’t shake the fear that she was the one who did it. 

Under this Red Rock isn’t just a mind-bending psychological thriller. It’s also an open-ended invitation for the reader to reflect on their biases about mental illness, as well as a reminder that it’s okay to ask for help. Hypnotic and harrowing, this book will stay with you long after you put it down.

This book is for teens who like twisty mysteries that remain grounded in realism. Give it to fans of Courtney Summers and Kathleen Glasgow, but note that the story contains depictions of drug use and violent imagery, including a graphic description of a suicide.

-Yona Yurwit

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.
The Best Fiction for Young Adults Committee appreciates teen feedback as members evaluate the nominated titles. Teen librarians are encouraged to share the List of Potential Nominees under consideration with their patrons and solicit feedback using the link: https://bit.ly/BFYA25TeenFB

Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2025) Featured Review: Gachiakuta, vol. 1 by Kei Urana (story) and Hideyoshi Andou (graffiti design)

  • Gachiakuta, vol. 1
  • by Kei Urana (story) and Hideyoshi Andou (graffiti design)
  • Kodansha Comics
  • Publication Date: January 16, 2024
  • ISBN-13: 979-8888770207

Rampant consumerism is encouraged in a particular floating town, and affluent citizens discard valuable items instead of repairing them. Rudo lives in the slums and sees use in what gets thrown away. Exiled into the Pit when he is wrongly accused and convicted of murder, Rudo finds more than garbage in this eerie wasteland. The careless wastefulness of the townspeople has created literal monsters that the Cleaners battle. Rudo must join them to discover the truth and fight for freedom.

Kei Urana’s dystopian world-building is impressive, painting a vivid picture of a society that values trash more than people. Hideyoshi Andou’s design brings this world to life; from the towering megacities to the barren wastelands below, every aspect of the world feels meticulously crafted and brimming with detail, inviting readers to lose themselves in the bold art style that captures the kinetic energy of the multiple conflicts. Beyond its immersive world-building, this story tackles weighty themes with intelligence and nuance. Questions of ethics, morality, and the nature of humanity weave into a compelling narrative.Fans of Chainsaw Man will see Rudo as a similarly flawed hero who must fight a rigged system to free himself from subjugation. Urana’s dynamic battle scenes will delight readers of Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama. Readers can find similar stories and themes in Battle Angel Alita by Yukito Kishiro and Chris Gooch’s Under-Earth. Volume 2 will be released on April 30, 2024.

Patricia Jimenez

Other Nominated Titles