Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2025) Featured Review: For Girls Who Walk Through Fire by Kim DeRose

  • For Girls Who Walk Through Fire
  • by Kim DeRose
  • Narrated by Mia Hutchinson-Shaw
  • Dreamscape Media
  • Publication Date: October 3, 2023
  • ISBN: 9781666647594

Armed with a spell book from her late mother, Elliott creates a coven of witches with her sexual assault survivor support group. This group of young women plans to exact revenge on their attackers and find the justice they are lacking. While the book warns of blowback, these magical vigilantes are ready to stop their assailants by any means necessary. As the coven gets closer and the stakes get higher, Elliott and her friends will need to decide what justice truly means. 

The magic elements of this story explore the implications of sexual assault in unique ways and open up discussion about individual journeys of healing. The grotesque scenes of revenge give this story a horrific tone, which pairs nicely with its magical realism. Hutchinson-Shaw’s narration ensured that each survivor’s voice was distinct and helped listeners easily distinguish the difference between them. This audiobook’s magic take on real-world issues will compel listeners to continue the conversation on the state of survivorship in our society. 

Readers who are looking for more after finishing All the Fighting Parts by Hannah V Sawyerr and don’t mind a bit of fantasy will find a great follow-up in this audiobook. DeRose’s story is also perfect for readers who enjoyed Girls with Sharp Sticks. This novel is a wonderful callback to movies like The Craft and television shows like The Secret Circle.

-Sarah Carpenter

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: January 9, 2024
Release Date: February 27, 2024
Release Date: 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 (#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: In Nightfall by Suzanne Young

  • In Nightfall
  • by Suzanne Young
  • Narrated by Elena Rey
  • Books on Tape | Listening Library
  • Publication Date: March 28, 2023
  • ISBN: 9780593667934

After their parents’ divorce, Theo and her brother Marco are packed into a car to spend the summer in their father’s hometown of Nightfall, Oregon. The rainy little town is cute in a touristy way, but Theo still misses her friends, the sunshine of Arizona and her mother- even if they aren’t speaking. When the siblings meet their strange, antisocial grandmother she says she has only one rule: be home by dark. On that first day, Marco and Theo meet a group of beautiful, fun girls. Minnow and the other girls seem to take a liking to the siblings and at first, it seems like it won’t be a completely boring summer. But soon, Theo discovers that her grandmother’s warnings weren’t just superstition: the streets of town and its residents change once darkness falls. And when Marco gets pulled into the glamour of their new friends, Theo realizes that she’ll have to be the one to keep her family safe. 

Young’s vampire story is full of an eerie ambiance. Readers who enjoy spooky tales and vampires will be pulled into the story. Rey’s narration keeps the reader engaged, enhances the chilling atmosphere and portrays a realistic teen point of view. Great for readers who enjoyed The Fell of Dark by Caleb Roehrig, The River Has Teeth by Erica Waters and the classic vampire film The Lost Boys.

–Natalie LaRocque

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 Pick for Reluctant Readers (#QP2024) Feature Review: Funeral Girl by Emma Ohland

  • Funeral Girl
  • by Emma Ohland
  • Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab
  • Imprint: Lerner Publishing Group
  • Release date: September 6, 2022
  • ISBN: 9781728458007

Georgia’s parents run a funeral home so she is surrounded by the dead. It seems only natural that she can also communicate with ghosts by simply touching a corpse.

Initially this ability seems to give Georgia purpose as she can honor one last request from the dead before they cross over. But eventually, one of Georgia’s classmates dies unexpectedly and enters the funeral home. She is torn over if she should reach out to this body and risk learning the truth. What would readers do if confronted with the same situation?

Readers who are curious about life-after-death and interested in ghosts and ghost hunting will find this title appealing. Additional recommendations include Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson, Horror Hotel by Victoria Fulton and Faith McClaren, and Invisible Ghosts by Robyn Schneider.

– Jessica Lorentz Smith

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: November 8, 2022
Release Date: January 24, 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.

Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2024) Featured Review: Unfamiliar, Vol. 1 by Haley Newsome

  • Unfamiliar, Vol. 1
  • by Haley Newsome
  • Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
  • Publication Date: December 6, 2022
  • ISBN-13: 9781524876838

Unfamiliar by Haley Newsome, based on her webcomic of the same title, follows plucky kitchen witch Planchette as she and her rabbit familiar, Winston, move to a witchy town in search of like-minded friends. Unfortunately, her new abode has raised the wrong kind of spirits–ghosts to be exact. Using her predicament as an opportunity to meet new friends, Planchette pulls together an unlikely group of witches and familiars to solve her problem. 

Newsome’s cute, expressive illustrations present characters that all feel unique and likable in a warm, dusky color palette. Upbeat, fast-paced storytelling packed with easy humor, feel-good vibes, and a sprinkle of queer romance make difficult subjects like loneliness, death, and anxiety go down easy. Magic is largely non-violent and used as a fun support, like an umbrella that functions as a personal rain cloud for a character who is feeling extra sad and wants everyone else to know it. 

This comic’s group of underdogs will appeal to teens who enjoy witchy stories of friendship like the Witch Hat Atelier series by Kamome Shirahama or the Netflix series Little Witch Academia. The easy yet quirky comedy is also a good fit for fans of Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe and the Bee and PuppyCat comics and animated series.

—Adam Wheeler

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: September 27, 2022
Release Date: February 21, 2023
Release Date: March 14, 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.

Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers (#QP2024) Feature Review: Spells for Lost Things by Jenna Evans Welch

  • Spells for Lost Things
  • by Jenna Evans Welch
  • Publisher: Simon and Schuster BFYR
  • Release Date: September 27, 2022
  • ISBN: 9781534448872

White-coded teenagers Willow and Mason meet during their first days in Salem, MA. Willow is there to help her mother tend to a relative’s death; Mason is there to join a new foster family. When Willow learns that her mother has been hiding details of her past, Mason jumps at the chance to help Willow find answers. In turn, Willow wants to help Mason find his birth mother. The two have instant chemistry, a charming first relationship, and a ton of humor. Weaving Willow and Mason’s mysteries throughout the novel leaves readers rooting for the pair. Dual narration audiobook.

This title is a good candidate for QPRR because many different readers can enjoy this novel given that it is a blend of genres (romance, cultural lore, paranormal, mystery, fairytale). Welch’s class critique that financial stability does not circumvent anyone from feeling neglected by their family is powerful. Set during the summer, the tiny seaside town adds to both the romance and intrigue of the story, and Welch names actual locations in Salem creating a travel guide of the town. Both of the protagonists and many of the secondary characters are developed sufficiently to leave readers wanting more, while the three plot lines contribute to a robust story building. 


The teen reader who would appreciate this title is someone who likes adventures and/ or cozy mysteries. This novel incorporates light fantasy elements perfect for people who enjoy Sabrina the Teenage Witch; Jackpot by Nic Stone (2019); The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout (2016)

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.

Genre Guide: Paranormal Romances for Teens

Source

Definition

Paranormal Romance is a sub-genre of Romance. For a novel to be a Paranormal Romance, a simple thing must occur: love must begin between a human and a supernatural being (whether wholly supernatural or partially, just as long as there are supernatural elements present). However, this can be a broad interpretation. Usually, the protagonist (often the human) in these novels is put in some kind of danger, where they come to realize they can overcome this danger either on their own or with the help of the supernatural love interest.

Authors to Know

Characteristics
Main characters include both humans and supernatural beings. The supernatural being can be wholly supernatural or partly, and include but are not limited by the following “types”: vampire, werewolf, fairy, magician, mermaid, zombie, psychic, ghost, demon hunter, demon, angel, shapeshifter, dragon, and gods or goddesses.  Additionally, the human in Paranormal Romances can have a touch of the paranormal as well.  An example is the teen psychic that can see the ghost. Quite often, when it comes to paranormal romances written for teens, a love triangle is involved.  There could be more than one human, or more than one supernatural being in the triangle. Continue reading Genre Guide: Paranormal Romances for Teens

Booklist: Back to (Magic) School

It’s back to school season, which elicits excitement from some, but groans from others. When I first went back to library school, as much as I enjoyed my classes, I sort of wished they were more from the Rupert Giles school of Library Science, with a syllabus that looks something like this.

Suffice to say: I sympathize with teens who may be more excited to get lost in a fantasy world than dig into algebra homework (not that algebra isn’t important. It is). So for those study breaks when one just needs to escape, here are some fantasy and paranormal novels in school settings.

Back to (Magic) School Booklist | YALSA's The Hub

Continue reading Booklist: Back to (Magic) School

Is This Just Fantasy?: It’s A White, White World–And That’s Got To Change.

Just Fantasy PoC fantasyAs a life-long devotee of fantasy fiction, I’ve frequently defended the value of stories that feature dragons, magically gifted heroines, or angst-ridden werewolves.  And while I’ve often stated that fantasy fiction isn’t necessarily an escape from reality simply because it includes magic or ghosts, even the most committed fan must acknowledge that the genre is incredibly disconnected from reality in fatal ways.  For one, fantasy fiction remains an overwhelmingly white world–an area of literature where you might find vampires or psychic detectives but rarely characters of color.

This lack of diversity is a widespread problem in young adult literature and the larger publishing industry but speculative fiction is especially guilty of inequitable representation within its stories and industry.  Just last week, The Guardian published an article by speculative fiction author & essayist Daniel José Older  discussing the insidious ways that systemic racism and white privilege has permeated the science fiction and fantasy publishing & fan communities.  At last month’s YALSA Young Adult Literature Symposium, there was an entire panel titled “Where Are The Heroes of Color in Fantasy & Sci-Fi?”, which Hub blogger Hannah Gómez recapped with great accuracy & insight.

So, how do we, as readers, fans, & promoters of these genres, demand & nurture fiction with imaginary worlds as diverse as the one we live in?  To start, we need to read, buy, promote, and request titles by and about people of color.  Accordingly, I pulled together some authors and titles to check out, focusing on fiction that falls on the fantasy side of speculative fiction.  This list is far from comprehensive; for more titles, I recommend checking out Lee & Low’s genre-specific Pinterest board, Diversity in YA, and We Need Diverse Books.

High Fantasy

2004 Edwards Award winnerearthsea Ursula K. Le Guin has long been considered one of the best and most beloved high fantasy writers; she’s also consistently written stories with people of color as protagonists–although film adaptions & book covers have often blatantly ignored this, white-washing characters like Ged, the brown-skinned protagonist of A Wizard of Earthsea.  The 2013 Edwards Award winner Tamora Pierce also includes characters of color in her novels; her Emelan books feature both black & multiracial protagonists.

silver phoenixFans of thrilling adventures & complex heroines should try novels by Cindy Pon, Ellen Oh, or Malinda Lo for rich high fantasy tales rooted in a variety of East Asian cultures.  Cindy Pon’s lush & exciting Silver Phoenix and its sequel, The Fury of the Phoenix follow young Ai Ling as she discovers her unique abilities and battles an ancient evil based in the royal palace. Ellen Oh’s Dragon King Chronicles (beginning with Prophecy) also focuses on a powerful young woman struggling to embrace her destiny–the yellow-eyed demon slayer Kira who might be the key to saving the Seven Kingdoms from destruction.  Malinda Lo’s Ash (2010 Morris Award finalist, 2014 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults and Huntress (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2012 Rainbow List, 2012 Amelia Bloomer List) are richly imagined, romantic novels I recommend to all fantasy readers! Continue reading Is This Just Fantasy?: It’s A White, White World–And That’s Got To Change.

Gothic, Horror, and Mysteries: YA Fiction for Fans of Edgar Allan Poe

It’s the time of year where readers start asking for creepy and the supernatural, and teens flock to stories of gothic horror and murder mysteries. There’s no shortage of young adult fiction in these genres and there’s even quite the list of Poe-inspired works. This is a list to satisfy those with an appetite for the macabre or mysterious!

young adult fiction for fans of edgar allan poe | YALSA's The Hub

Continue reading Gothic, Horror, and Mysteries: YA Fiction for Fans of Edgar Allan Poe