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

Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2025) Featured Review: What the River Knows by Isabel Ibañez

After the mysterious death of her parents, Inez Olivera sets out from her home in Argentina to visit the place they lived and lost their lives, Egypt. There she meets her new guardian and his handsome assistant who try to send her back home to Buenos Aires. Instead, she sneaks onto a ship headed to the archaeological site where her parents were last seen in the hopes that she might uncover the truth behind their disappearance. Along the way the magic she is using to guide her search ends up leading her to uncover more than just the truth about her parents’ death.

What the River Knows is a historical fantasy set in Egypt in the 1880s. It is full of adventure, mystery, magic, and intrigue. The immersive setting, engaging plot, and strong characters come together to create a world that will draw readers in and keep them engaged with twists and turns. The narration of Hamad and Osorio does an excellent job expressing the emotions and tension of the characters and situations in the book. The narrators have a strong grasp of proper pronunciation of words in multiple languages in the book.The use of music and multiple narrators was also a nice addition to the overall production.

Readers who enjoyed Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross or books by Chloe Gong or R.F. Kuang would enjoy this story. It would also be a perfect read for fans of The Mummy. Additionally, readers who enjoy mythology based stories like the Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan would find elements of this book appealing.

-Haley Shaw

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: February 27, 2024
Release Date: September 26, 2023
Release Date: November 7, 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: Gwen and Art are Not in Love by Lex Croucher

  • Gwen and Art are Not in Love
  • by Lex Croucher
  • Publisher: Wednesday Books
  • Release date: November 28, 2023
  • ISBN: 9781250847218

The marriage Gwen and Arthur’s parents have arranged will finally cement the alliance between their families, except for two problems. One: they hate each other. Two: they’re both gay. Things go from weird to worse when Arthur discovers a sinister plot against Camelot that puts all of their lives in danger. Their only chance for survival is to work together–if they can only stop arguing long enough.

This book is the perfect blend of funny and heartfelt. The story may take place in the Arthurian era, but the charming banter and the tender exploration of coming out to your family–and an entire kingdom–makes it relevant for teens today.
Gwen and Art Are Not in Love is the book for teens who want multiple kinds of queer relationships in one sitting, plus a wholesome friendship. Give this book to readers of So This is Ever After by F.T. Lukens and These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling.

– Yona Yurwit

Other Nominated Titles

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: Ink Girls by Marieke Nijkamp and Sylvia Bi

  • Ink Girls
  • by Marieke Nijkamp and Sylvia Bi
  • Greenwillow Books 
  • Publication Date: November 21, 2023
  • ISBN-13: 9780063027107

Maestra Aronne is already 11-year-old Printer Apprentice Cinzia’s hero when she gets imprisoned for publishing a story about corruption their city’s government doesn’t want told. Cinzia’s determination to free her maestra is bolstered by the companionship of the other young folks she meets while trying to evade the authorities. Together they hunt down the citizens who can clear Aronne’s name and bring the city towards the justice it deserves.

The color palette is vivid and the illustration style is expressive; both add immensely to the feel of the adventure and intrigue that unfold through the book. Nijkamp and Bi both have a firm grip on the necessity of a fictional world still offering an accurate reflection of the real world in terms of representation. Visible and invisible disabilities play a part in the narrative, variation in gender expression and sexuality are normal parts of life, all sorts of bodies are present, and a variety of ways to feel and build family are depicted throughout the suspenseful twists and turns. Ink Girls will appeal to a wide breadth of readers—intrigue and mystery abound, harrowing escapes are frequent and sometimes hilarious, making it a lovely offering for folks that enjoy a serious plot accompanied by some levity. Fans of Dog Knight and Cardboard Kingdom are sure to enjoy this cross of adventure, friendship, and the power of stories to bend the world towards justice.

-M’issa Fleming

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: October 10, 2023
Release Date: November 14, 2023

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

Suggested Read: The Bodygaurd Unit: The Bodyguard Unit: Edith Garrud, Women’s Suffrage, and Jujitsu by Clément Xavier

  • The Bodygaurd Unit: Edith Gurrud, Women’s Suffrage, and Jujitsu
  • by Clément Xavier
  • Graphics Universe
  • Publication Date: August 1, 2023
  • ISBN: 9798765607473

This graphic novel illustrates the women’s suffrage movement in the UK telling a story you may not have learned before. Edith Garrud was a Jujitsu instructor who used her practice to protest for women’s rights and teach other women self-defense. 

One of the outstanding aspects of this book is the use of historical images alongside illustrations. This graphic novel brings new life to these historic events! 

If you would like to learn more about women’s rights, early 20th century England, Jujitsu, or just enjoy graphic novels, you are sure to enjoy this book!

-Erin Soutar

Thank you to our guest blogger, for more reviews find her on Instagram and Facebook!

10 Questions with Jamie Pacton! (Part One)

Follow Jamie Pacton

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. 

Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2024) Featured Review: Pride and Prejudice and Pittsburgh by Rachel Lippencott

  • Pride and Prejudice and Pittsburgh
  • by Rachel Lippencott
  • Narrated by Natalie Naudus and Shakira Shute
  • Simon & Schuster Audiobooks | Simon & Schuster Audio
  • Publication Date: August 29, 2023
  • ISBN: 9781797161617

A spin on a regency romance, Pride and Prejudice and Pittsburgh is a Sapphic time travel story about finding yourself. The main characters, Audrey and Lucy, are brought together when a toss of a coin transports Audrey from 2023 Pittsburgh to 1812 England. Through the course of the story Audrey and Lucy each embark on journeys of personal discovery; Audrey needs to find herself to find her way back home and Lucy needs to find a new place where she can be herself.

The narrators do an excellent job bringing these characters and their emotional journey to life. Natalie Naudus’ rich tone gives voice to Audrey beautifully and Shakira Shute’s expert portrayal of the raw emotion of Lucy’s story makes listening to the audiobook very immersive.

This title is perfect for readers who enjoy Casey McQuiston, Ashley Poston, and Mackenzi Lee. It is also great for fans of Bridgerton and Outlander.

-Haley Shaw

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: April 4, 2023
Release Date: November 7, 2023
Release Date: January 31, 2023
Release Date: May 16, 2023
Release Date: June 13, 2023
Release Date: March 21, 2023
Release Date: January 31, 2023
Release Date: January 17, 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: Stateless by Elizabeth Wein

  • Stateless
  • by Elizabeth Wein
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Release date: March 14, 2023
  • ISBN: 9780316591249

What starts out as an air race between young pilots to promote peace across Europe quickly turns into a murder mystery when one plane seemingly purposefully attacks another.  As the only female pilot in the race, Stella North feels unsure of her place amidst the intrigue and competition, yet she cannot help but be drawn into a search for the truth.

This book had gripping suspense and richly researched historical details.  The dramatic irony comes as the reader realizes that many of these current allies in the novel will soon be pitted against each other as WWII looms ahead. A burgeoning romance between Stella and an arch-rival adds yet another layer as she battles for her right to be taken seriously as a pilot while trying to determine whether he is a ruthless killer.


This book will be well liked by fans of suspenseful historical fiction who enjoyed Wein’s previous work as well as fans of Ruta Sepetys and Monica Hesse.  Readers who loved the high stakes racing scenes of Kalyn Josephson’s This Dark Descent will also find plenty to appreciate in this title.

-Marie LeJeune

Other Nominated Titles

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: For Lamb by Lesa Cline-Ransome

  • For Lamb
  • by Lesa Cline-Ransome
  • Publisher: Holiday House
  • Release date: January 10, 2023
  • ISBN: 9780823450152

Lamb Clark doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about all the things she cannot change in Jackson, Mississippi. Her mom, Marion, does, though.  All her life, Lamb has heard her mother demanding strength of Lamb and her older brother, Simeon.  Hardship and keeping out of the way of white folks is just a way of life, and keeping one’s head down when white mobs go on a lynching rampage is a matter of life and death for the Clarks. That’s why Lamb’s forbidden friendship with Dr. Tremper’s daughter, Marny, is dangerous. Lamb and Marny share a love of reading, a parent who is not in the picture, and older brothers who try to parent the girls. Their difference is that while Lamb’s brother, Simeon, could be accused of and lynched for taking liberties with a white woman, Marny’s brother, George, can assault Lamb and then bring a mob calling for “justice” when Simeon retaliates. 

Cline-Ransome uses multiple perspectives–each with a unique voice–to bring readers into the violence of 1940s Mississippi. Like Emmett Till’s mother who insisted on an open casket, Cline-Ransome lays bare the brutal ugliness of a time period of history in which citizens of our country were treated with savage indifference and gross injustice. The plot is compelling. Lamb’s fears of what others will think of her, her aggravation with a mother who doesn’t seem to understand her, and the longing for a relationship with her father are universally recognizable, making the terror with which she lives daily all the more palpable. The conclusion is breathtakingly painful, and yet Cline-Ransome manages to end the story on a note of hope.


This is a book for teens who connect with characters empathetically. It will be especially appreciated by those who want to understand how historical traumas inform current events. Readers who connected with Liselle Sambury’s Delicious Monsters, Angeline Boulley’s Warrior Girl Unearthed, or Ruchira Gupta’s I Kick and I Fly will also find this an unforgettable story.

-Jodi Kruse

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: September 26, 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.