Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2025) Featured Review: What the River Knows by Isabel Ibañez

  • What the River Knows
  • by Isabel Ibañez
  • Publisher: Wednesday Books
  • Release date: 10/31, 2023
  • ISBN: 9781250803375

Inez, an Argentinian society young woman, heads to Egypt to find out what happened to her missing (presumed dead) parents, who were on an archeological dig. Her uncle, now her guardian, is a secretive man who appears to be selling Egyptian artifacts–in other words a tomb robber–assisted by an English military deserter who goes by the moniker, “Whit.” When Inez dares to defy societal convention and her uncle by boarding a ship to Egypt to conduct her own search for her parents, she encounters scoundrels, thieves, and murderers who are willing to do anything to get their hands on Cleopatra’s wealth and are happy to sacrifice Inez and all she holds dear to acquire it.

This compelling enemies to lovers trope takes place against a very evocative 1880’s Egyptian backdrop. Chocolate éclairs consumed on linen couches in a hotel lobby next to fez-topped effendi, while tomb-robbing is discussed in clipped British tones is enough of a draw for adventure fans. When you add revolvers, secret doors, and missing/dead parents along with a touch of real, old magic, there is the basis of a solid story. 

This historical fantasy setting, with a little magic, and a lot of slow-burn romance will set historical fiction fans’ hearts aflutter.  This is a high-school themed version of The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan with more romance and less teaching of mythology.  For historical romance fans hand this to fans of Erin Beaty’s Traitor’s Kiss series, Mary Pearson’s Dance of Thieves series, or Stephanie Garber’s Caraval series. Fans who like the down and dirty reality of being on a trip without all the benefits of civilization, but with magical abilities informing the storyline, will also like Rae Carson’s Walk on Earth a Stranger series.

-Michael Fleming

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

10 Questions with Jamie Pacton! (Part Two)

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4) How long does it take you on average to write a novel? 

This really depends on whether the book is under contract or not and where I’m at with my teaching work and life things. Overall, I’d say an average timeline from really digging into an idea, to planning, to drafting, and then revising is a 2-4 month process. With that said, sometimes it’s much quicker and sometimes I linger in a story or end up writing something else along the way. Over the years, I’ve definitely gotten faster with drafting novels and so much of that comes down to the time and detail I put into the planning stages.

5) Have you done any formal or informal training, such as writer’s workshops or creative writing programs? 

I have both a BA and MA in English LIterature, and I teach writing at the college level for my day job, so I have had lots of training as a writer and writing teacher. However, many of the writing workshops I took in college just crushed me. Really, they were brutal. So much of what I’ve learned about writing novels has come from reading widely, including non-fiction books and craft books, taking workshops offered by authors at conferences or online, and just writing and revising my own books. 

6) What advice would you give to a teen that wants to write? 

Go for it! Don’t let fear of failure stop you from writing, just get some words on the page. Then, put some more words on there, and then do it again. You’ll be surprised by how a small amount of consistency in a writing practice– even 20 minutes a day– can build to great things. 

I’d also recommend reading the book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, as a wonderful, encouraging guide to a creative life. 

And lastly, I’d say don’t be afraid to plan, outline, write a messy draft, and then revise it extensively. The more time you put into these stages, the more time and heartache you’ll save yourself in drafting and revisions. 

7) There’s been a lot of buzz recently about #booktok’s impact on the publishing industry, especially when it comes to YA. Has #booktok’s influence changed your personal experience with publishing?  Have there been noticeable changes with your new works compared to when Kit was published?

I love BookTok so much! At first I was very intimidated by making videos about my books, but over the last year, it’s really grown to be one of my favorite social media platforms. It offers a fun way to talk about lots of things within my books– I’ve made videos about The Absinthe Underground’s historical inspirations, how its cover came to be, what kinds of cats are in the book, and so much more. There’s such a vibrant, active community of diverse readers on TikTok, and I love being there to not only interact with them about my books, but also to talk about some books I love too. It allows me space to be both a reader and author, which is so nice. 

I’m not sure what impact of BookTok will have on my publishing journey– I’d love to have a book go viral there, but that’s such a longshot thing. I will say that I think a lot more people are hearing about my books from BookTok, as opposed to 2020 when Kit came out. At the time of writing this, more than two weeks away from the launch of The Absinthe Underground, the hashtag #theabsintheunderground has had over 200,000 views, which is incredible and so exciting! 

8) Let’s talk launch parties!  Kit came out in 2020 and you had an at-home launch. Vermilion you had your first in-person launch party at Boswell Books in Milwaukee. Did it feel more real having an in-person launch party? Did it feel real the first time you sold out your advance? Sold foreign language rights? Received a physical, finished copy?  What made you say, “Whoa, I finally made it?”

Hooray for launch parties! I’ve always treated a book launching as an excuse for a party, and I’m so excited for the launch of The Absinthe Underground! With the help of my local indie, A Room of One’s Own in Madison, WI and the Queer Joy Book Club there, we are having quite a party. There will even be a costume contest sponsored by the head of the book club, who’s coming to the event in a green fairy costume like the one on my book cover. 

To the other questions- it doesn’t necessarily feel more real to have an in-person launch, and I’m so grateful I got to celebrate Kit with my family at home in 2020 and do so many virtual events that year. With that said, I am grateful to have had an in-person launch for The Vermilion Emporium and The Absinthe Underground. Although I’m still very Covid cautious, I love meeting readers, answering questions about my books, and generally nerding out about books with like-minded people. 

And I’m not sure I’ll ever feel like I really made it as an author, but I’m just delighted to be on this journey and see what each new book brings. 

9) I get the impression that the writing community is very supportive of each other and I often recognize a lot of the names listed in acknowledgements. How do authors find their cohorts? 

I love my author friends so much, and many of them have become dear friends in all areas of my life, which is such a gift. I met one of my best friends, historical author Noelle Salazar at a conference back in 2013, when I sat down next to her and we bonded over bagels, being new writers, and our nervousness at meeting agents and editors. Many of my other author friends came from the amazing Pitch Wars community that I was a mentee for in 2015 and then a co-mentor with my dear friend MK England in 2016, 2017, and 2018. Beyond that, I currently play D&D with a bunch of other authors, which is so fun. 

To the question about how to find author cohorts:  I think there are many ways to do so including online events, conferences, book events, just chatting with people online who seem bookish and share your writing/author aspirations. We’re so lucky to have online avenues for communication and I think this helps make the author journey so much less lonely. 

10) What’s left on your author bucket list? 

Oh gosh, it’s an ever-moving line, right? I’ve hit so many author bucket list items– some of which I still can’t talk about publicly– but others which have been wildly unexpected, like selling lots of foreign rights in many countries; seeing fan art and costumes from my books; winning awards for my writing; earning out advances; and, getting to write some of the books that I’ve had in my head for a long, long time. 

With that said, these are a few things still on my author bucket list: hitting a bestseller list someday; having a few of my MG books published (fun fact– I started my publishing journey in Pitch Wars 2015 with a MG book that got me my first agent, but ultimately didn’t sell); seeing one of my books made into a TV show or film; and, getting one of my books into one of the big book boxes or Reese’s book club…

But, with all that said, I’m also very delighted by where my career has taken me and I can’t wait to see what the future holds! :-)

10 Questions with Jamie Pacton! (Part One)

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We chatted with Wisconsin author, Jamie Pacton, ahead of her latest YA fantasy release, The Absinthe Underground. Jamie’s previous novels include The Vermilion Emporium and two contemporary YA novels, The Life and Medieval Times of Kit Sweetly and Lucky Girl. She has a forthcoming YA romance, Furious, written with Rebecca Podos, due out summer 2024.

1) Jamie, let’s chat about your books as a whole. You’ve written in a few different genres–contemporary, fantasy, romance–which is your favorite? Do you find it difficult to write across genres or do the stories kind of tell themselves?

I feel so lucky to have published across many genres (and there are more new and exciting things in different genres and age ranges in my publishing pipeline!). I don’t find it difficult to write in different genres– a story is a story and characters are characters be they in worlds with dragons or worlds with cell phones– and I think if you keep that in mind, it’s very possible to move among genres as a writer as the stories and your own interest takes you. I love all my books, but fantasy is forever and always my first love. All of the new projects I’m working on are fantasy ones, and I just thrive on creating new worlds, magic systems, and figuring out how it all works together and then plopping characters into those worlds and seeing what happens. 

2) What was your favorite book as a teen? 

I read a lot of very serious adult books as a literary-minded teen– (I remember devouring Anna Karenina by the ocean one summer, for goodness sake, lol.) But I also absolutely loved romance novels and some of the early YA-ish books that were publishing in the late 90s. Things like Homecoming by Cythia Vogit and all of Mercedes Lackey’s fantasy books. My absolute favorite book as a teen was By the Sword by Mercedes Lackey, which is about a fierce, sword-wielding woman in a magical world, and if you’re read my debut, The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweety, you can see why this book was entirely my jam as a teen. 

3) What makes Absinthe Underground so special to you? 

The Absinthe Underground is a story that’s particularly close to my heart. Here are 10 reasons why:

*I carried this story for more than a decade— from when I first got the hint of an idea at an art exhibit in 2012 to now. I carried this story for more than a decade—

*It’s a cozy, tender novel about two best friends who are (secretly) in love with each other and will do anything— even go to Fae— to protect the girl they love. 

*It’s full of cats. Really, there are so many cats! (7 in one apartment alone!)

*It’s a love letter to all the queer people in history who have had to love each other secretly, and it’s a story of hope for queer kids now that’s full of joy and possibility. 

*It’s the “The Were Roommates…” trope writ large with a hearty dose of magic, danger, dragons, Fae queens, and much more. 

*It’s about overcoming fear and the freedom that’s waiting on the other side of that journey. 

*It’s full of Fae magic and a portal fantasy about a lush Fae world!  

*It’s got a decadent, Belle Époque night club like the Moulin Rogue, which is full of artists, writers, and dancers, and many other people drawn from history. 

*It’s also got a green fairy who’s hanging out in our world, who is terrifying and beautiful in equal measure. 

*It’s an absolute romp of a book with poster and museum thefts, a heist in Fae, magical traps, and much more. 

#ICYMI: 8 Books You Might Have Missed

It’s almost the end of 2023 and time to submit your last carts for the year!  If you find yourself with extra funds, here are some titles from the last two years that you might have missed. Some are from debut authors that snuck under the radar, while others are old favorites with new projects.

    • There’s No Way I’d Die First
    • By Lisa Springer
    • Delacorte Press: 2023
    • ISBN: 9780593643174

    This debut is for the horror-obsessed teen and pulls out all the tropes in what ends up being a campy, gory romp. If the tropes aren’t enough of a tell, each chapter starts with a quote from a horror movie and gives a hint to upcoming events. This is an homage to all the greats, with references to Stephen King, Scream, a killer clown with superhuman strength that rivals Michael Myers, and a heavy dose of teen drama. It also tries to tie in some political and social commentary and a hint of romance. Does this require suspension of belief? Yes. That’s the point. Hand to your older teens or your horror movie buffs.

    • Holly Horror
    • by Michelle Jabé Corpora
    • Penguin Workshop, 2023
    • ISBN: 9780593386217

    A scary take on our patchwork-clad, bonnet-wearing gal, Holly Hobbie. After her parents split, Evie’s mom moves the family back to her hometown and into the Horror House, so named because Holly vanished from it decades before. As Evie pokes around in the attic and discovers more of Holly’s story, weird things start to happen to her. The book ends on a cliff-hanger and readers will eagerly await book two. For younger teens that are more into supernatural mysteries, rather than slasher stories.

    • 16 & Pregnant
    • by LaLa Thomas
    • MTV Books, 2023
    • ISBN: 9781665917278

    If you are a millennial, you probably remember when this show first aired back in 2009. The show followed teens that found themselves pregnant and documented how their lives were impacted, eventually leading to the spin-off series, Teen Mom. Two teens find themselves dealing with a surprise pregnancy that derails their life plans. All options are discussed and the book does not shy away from health challenges that can accompany a pregnancy. This is an empowering story about friendship and parenthood. This is a great option for those looking for relatable stories about teen pregnancy, as well as viewers of the MTV show. This would also be a great option for parents and teens to read and discuss together.

    • Hotel Magnifique
    • by Emily J. Taylor
    • Razorbill, 2022
    • ISBN: 978059340515

    This 2022 debut is Caraval meets Howl’s Moving Castle and my favorite cover of 2022. This dark fantasy features a magical hotel that moves to a new place every night. Employees of the hotel are magically bound to service and although the hotel is gorgeous and luxurious, it’s a gilded prison. Franco-philes and fans of lush, character-driven fantasy will devour this. Additionally, the stunning cover makes this an easy book to hand-sell.

    • A Million to One
    • by Adiba Jaigirdar
    • Harperteen, 2022
    • ISBN: 978006291632

    Published right before the end of 2022, I think this one snuck past a lot of people. Take a diverse group of teens, put them on the Titanic and add in a heist. Jaigirdar’s previous YA novels have been sapphic romances–here she moves more into action and historical fiction territory. This reads quickly and is a nice option for younger teens that enjoy heists or books about the Titanic. 

    • Something More
    • by Jackie Khalileh
    • Tundra Books, 2023
    • ISBN: 9781774882139

    This romance is about a Palestinian-Canadian teen, newly diagnosed as autistic. She makes a list of all the things she wants to accomplish in high school before she graduates. She quickly learns there is no guidebook for matters of the heart when she finds herself caught between two guys. This is a refreshing take on the classic coming of age story.

    • The Grimoire of Grave Fates
    • by Hanna Alkaf and Margaret Owen, et al.
    • Delacorte Press, 2023
    • ISBN: 9780593427453

    If you have teens looking for a Harry Potter-esque story, hand them this one. It checks all the boxes: a magical boarding school that flies around à la Howl’s Moving Castle or the aforementioned Hotel Magnifique, an evil professor, a murder mystery, and magical beasts. This isn’t really a short story collection, nor is it a traditional novel. Each chapter is by a different YA author and features a different character that propels the plot forward. Some stories are stronger than others–I need a whole book about Diego, please! This collaborative effort has something for everyone and is a great option for younger teens.

    • A Heavy Dose of Allison Tandy
    • by Jeff Bishop
    • Putnam, 2022
    • ISBN: 9781984812940

    Don’t be fooled by the cotton candy cover!  This book is a lot of things–technically it’s speculative fiction. You could also consider it a romantic comedy. It should be about a boy having the best time of his life, the summer after his senior year. But ultimately, it’s about a boy that suffers a torn ACL, leaving him stuck on the couch recovering from surgery, while dealing with a really bad breakup with his girlfriend, who happens to be in a coma from a car accident, which makes it pretty weird that Cam can see and talk to her while on his sofa. Tandy is chaotic and will have you laughing and weeping, reminiscent of the John Hughes movies referenced throughout. This was my favorite debut of 2022 and one of my favorites of the year. Hand to your older teens– especially your broken-hearted high school seniors

    -Megan Nigh

    Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2024) Featured Review: Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim

    • Spice Road
    • by Maiya Ibrahim
    • Narrated by Krupa Pattani
    • Books on Tape | Listening Library
    • Publication Date: January 24, 2023
    • ISBN: 9780593667859

    Misra tea has the power to awaken magic hidden within. However, the Council closely guards its use and severely punishes those who violate its rules. Misra misuse can lead to magical obsession and death if the Council doesn’t get to you first. Imani shows her loyalty to the Council by strictly following their Misra rules. She is determined to prove her worth as a Shield and is different from her deceased Misra-obsessed older brother. When Imani uncovers evidence that her brother may still be alive and using Misra, she takes the opportunity to prove her loyalty by returning him to the Council. Imani and a group of Council-selected Shields embark on the expansive journey to find her brother. The farther Imani gets from home, the more she learns about her world and Misra, which calls into question everything she thought was true. 


    This sweeping journey draws readers into a new sandswept world filled with ghouls and snarky djinns. There is something for every reader in this adventurous romantic fantasy.  Pattani’s narration takes this gorgeous story to new heights. She successfully helps readers navigate this new world and compels them forward. It is an audiobook that will hold listeners attention for just one more minute, followed by one more. Spice Road is perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Roshani Chokshi.

    -Sarah Carpenter

    Other Nominated Titles

    Release Date: November 22, 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 (#BFYA2024) Featured Review: Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross

    • Divine Rivals
    • by Rebecca Ross
    • Publisher: Wednesday Books
    • Release date: April 4, 2023
    • ISBN: 9781250857439

    After centuries of slumber, the gods have woken and they are angry, launching the country into a brutal war that forces mortals to choose sides. Iris and Roman are in a fierce competition to become the new newspaper columnist for the prestigious Oath Gazette, both with their own reasons for competing. Iris has struggled to pay the bills ever since her brother joined the war and her mother became consumed by grief and her alcohol addiction. Roman comes from a wealthy family, but wants to carve a life for himself out from under his father’s shadow. While Iris continues to fight for the better paying job and can’t stop worrying about her brother, she finds comfort in writing letters and slipping them into her wardrobe where they vanish – into the hands of Roman, her rival at the paper, who decides to anonymously write her back. 

    Divine Rivals is a historical fantasy romance with a focus on the power of family and love in a time of war. The magical letter writing is romantic and fun. The two main characters, Iris and Roman, are delightful to read about as they face different obstacles from different backgrounds, and the supporting characters are just as powerful and interesting. While some readers may think the pacing starts off slow, the second half takes off at such a rapid pace it’s hard to put down and is utterly captivating as the setting of the story shifts to the war front.
    This is a strong choice for teens who are a fan of rivals-to-romance fantasy titles and don’t mind a cliffhanger. Readers who enjoyed The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski or Lovely War by Julie Berry should give Divine Rivals a try.

    -Allison Riggs

    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/BFYA24TeenFB

    Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2024) Featured Review: This Dark Descent by Kalyn Josephson

    • This Dark Descent
    • by Kalyn Josephson
    • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
    • Release date: September 26, 2023
    • ISBN: 9781250812360

    Mikira Rusel’s family was once famous for breeding enchanted horses, but their ranch has fallen on hard times thanks to the spite of the Kelbras family, one of the Great Houses of Veradell. When Mikira’s father is discovered to be an unlicensed enchanter and arrested, Mikira makes a dangerous bargain with Rezek Kelbras: if she wins the Illinir, an infamously lucrative, but dangerous, horse race using an unenchanted horse, her father will be freed. To do this impossible task, she partners with an upstart nobleman, Damien, and a practitioner of forbidden magic, Arielle, who have their own reasons to hate the Kelbras. Yet Mikira wonders if, in pursuit of their own revenge, her allies will eventually become enemies as well.

    This Dark Descent is compelling, fast-paced, and intricately plotted. Dual narrators Mikira and Arielle are strong, sympathetic characters, two women who are tired of being powerless in an unequal society, but who come to have vastly different, conflicting ideals when wresting power for themselves. The dynamics among this group of secret rebels is fascinating, as Mikira, Arielle, and Damien all have something precious to lose that brings them together while also putting them at cross-purposes. Josephson expertly balances each character’s desires, motives, secrets, and moral codes to craft a taut thriller filled with bargains, betrayals, sacrifices, and revenge. The four horse races that make up the Illinir are packed with action and danger, while the introspective character moments make it clear what is at stake. The enchantment-based magic system is unique and steeped heavily in Jewish lore of the golem. Josephson also includes bisexual and demiromantic characters and references other queer couples in the story to make a queer-inclusive fantasy world.

    Teens who love morally gray characters, twisty political intrigue, and dark magics will find much to love here. Readers of other dark fantasies with epic stakes like A Door in the Dark by Scott Reintgen, The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, and The Young Elites by Marie Lu will appreciate the worldbuilding and political intrigue. Those who enjoy the racing aspect may also enjoy The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater and Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin.

    -Krista Hutley

    Other Nominated Titles

    Release Date: January 24, 2023
    Release Date: April 11, 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.
    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/BFYA24TeenFB

    Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2024) Featured Review:The Spirit Bares Its Teeth by Andrew Joseph White

    • The Spirit Bares Its Teeth
    • by Andrew Joseph White
    • Publisher: Peachtree Teen
    • Release date: September 5, 2023
    • ISBN: 9781682636114

    Silas Bell has ambitions of being a doctor and has some training on anatomy and surgical technique. However, Silas, a trans boy, has been tutored into submission to hide his autism and will likely be forced to marry as a doting housewife. He is sent away to a school for girls to cure their “Veil Sickness,” a claimed madness that afflicts violet-eyed people who can speak with the dead. Several girls go missing, and their ghosts begin to speak to Silas, launching him into a violent and twisted quest for the truth. 

    This is a complex and compelling horror, mixing paranormal and psychological elements that will enchant readers. An exploration of the harm done to those that are “other” by society, with biting critique and deep compassion, White’s story set in the Victorian era feels eerily current.  Silas offers a well-developed protagonist, alongside a powerful cast of secondary characters. 

    Teens seeking gory historical horror, with a deeper examination of various forms of oppression will find this a must read.  Readers who loved White’s Hell Followed with Us will definitely want to check out this title. Additionally, this would be a good pick for fans of The Honeys or The Wilder Girls.  

    -Kaitlin Malixi

    Other Nominated Titles

    Release Date: January 24, 2023
    Release Date: April 18, 2023
    Release Date: March 14, 2023
    Release Date: May 2, 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.
    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/BFYA24TeenFB

    Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2024) Featured Review: The Buried and the Bound by Rochelle Hassan

    • The Buried and the Bound
    • by Rochelle Hassan
    • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
    • Release date: January 24, 2023
    • ISBN: 9781250822208

    Aziza is the only hedgewitch in her Massachusetts hometown and is the only one who can protect the town from the fairyland that exists in the woods. When the barrier between her town and the fairyland in the woods starts thinning, Aziza teams up with Leo, a local boy who is desperate to solve the curse that has caused him to forget his true love. Together, Aziza and Leo will have to work with a mysterious necromancer, Tristian, and other fairyland creatures to save their hometown from the force that is causing the barrier to thin.

    This fast-paced contemporary fantasy features strong familial bonds, found family, and interesting characters. Hassan draws on mythology to form the basis of her world, using creatures that are familiar and some that may be new to teen readers. Aziza, Leo, and Tristian all have their own unique points of view which aid the story in moving along quickly. Each of the  three main characters occupy different places in society and teen readers are sure to see themselves in at least one character. While there is a solid conclusion to the ending, the novel sets up book number twice quite nicely and leaves the reader looking forward to more.

    Teens who like a queer-positive, diverse, and fast-paced story will enjoy this book. This book is great for readers who enjoyed Legendborn by Tracy Deonn, The Witchery by S. Isabelle, and These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling. 

    -Zoe Smolen

    Other Nominated Titles

    Release Date: April 25, 2023
    Release Date: April 11, 2023
    Release Date: June 6, 2023
    July 25, 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.
    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/BFYA24TeenFB

    Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2024) Featured Review: Miles Morales: Suspended by Jason Reynolds

    • Miles Morales Suspended: A Spider-Man Novel
    • by Jason Reynolds
    • Narrated by Guy Lockard and Nile Bullock
    • Simon and Schuster Audio
    • Publication Date: May 2, 2023
    • ISBN: 9781797145600

    Miles must serve a day of in-school suspension as a result of the events in the previous book, where he took down The Wardens and pushed back against his racist history teacher. It seems that his spidey sense is on the fritz again, but Miles is having trouble dodging his detention teacher and figuring out what is happening. Using his powers and sleuthing, Miles determines that super termites have begun attacking the school, specifically the history books with black and brown histories. While these evil termites must be stopped, Miles is going to need to find a way to do that without extending his suspension.

    Yet again, Jason Reynolds’s mastery elevates this superhero storyline and plays with the setting by reducing the timeline of events to one day. Narrators Lockard and Bullock expertly match Reynolds’s prowess by providing a layered audio reading of this story. The audible “bzzzs” and “whams” add to the superhero world and Miles’s voice shows how this story matters even beyond the Spiderverse. Even if bugs make you squeamish, this audiobook has so much more to offer. Both fans of superhero comics and Jason Reynolds’s other works will find something awesome in this title.

    -Sarah Carpenter

    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.