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 

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

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

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

Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2025) Featured Review: Mall Goth by Kate Leth

  • Mall Goth
  • by Kate Leth
  • Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
  • Publication Date: September 26, 2023
  • ISBN-13: 9781534476943

Malls make a comeback in this early 2000s-inspired book about a teen looking for community and a place to be herself. Liv Holme is a high school student who moves to a new town while her parents struggle in their marriage, and she discovers the mall as solace. Trying to find her place at school, Liv slowly befriends two classmates who share similar interests and aesthetics and captures the attention of one of her teachers. Little does she know that the new-found validation from an authority figure at school may devolve into something sinister. 

Mall Goth explores the intricacies of being a teen in a new school and trying to find one’s place. The book presents common scenarios teens struggle with, particularly the possibility of falling victim to predators. The characters are authentic, relatable and likable. They are representative of different body sizes, and even if there isn’t much cultural diversity present, it feels like it channels a small town’s energy. The art is compelling, and the color palette fits the story’s mood and the characters’ quirkiness. 

People interested in Mariko Tamaki will find it enjoyable, as it has similar vibes to I Am Not Starfire and Skim, as well as those that loved Netflix’s Wednesday. As a bonus, for those who loved or enjoyed the 2000’s rock music scene, a recommended playlist for the book would definitely include Linkin Park, Evanescence, Korn and Deftones.

–Verónica Muñiz-Soto

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: September 5, 2023
Release Date: November 4, 2022

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: The Space Between Here and Now by Sarah Suk

  • The Space Between Here & Now
  • by Sarah Suk
  • Publisher: Quill Tree Books
  • Release date: October 31, 2023
  • ISBN: 9780063255135

Korean-Canadian teen Aimee has been diagnosed with Sensory Time Warp Syndrome, a condition that teleports her into her own memories when she encounters specific smells. Although her single dad insists she’ll eventually grow out of her STWS, she no longer feels in control, disappearing more frequently and for longer stretches of time. When one of her memories suggests there might be more to her mother’s disappearance than she first realized, Aimee travels to Korea to search for the truth before she loses her grip on the present completely.

The Space Between Here & Now uses magical realism to explore mental health, chronic illness, and the intergenerational trauma that comes with being the child of immigrants. The rich, sensory descriptions turn Aimee’s internal mental health journey into a landscape we can navigate with her. Her thoughtful narration will prompt readers to reflect on the ways we talk about disability and their relationships to their own pasts.

Aimee’s struggles will be relatable to teens with a variety of invisible disabilities. This story is a great follow-up to titles like The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan and Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi.

– 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: Bunt!: Striking Out on Financial Aid by Ngozi Ukazu and Mad Rupert

  • Bunt!: Striking Out on Financial Aid
  • by Ngozi Ukazu and Mad Rupert
  • First Second
  • Publication Date: 2/13/2024
  • ISBN-13: 9781250193513

Molly Bauer is thrilled to be starting freshman year at PICA, the (expensive) art school that dominates her hometown of Peachtree, Georgia. But when she shows up for the first day of orientation, she finds her full-ride scholarship has vanished due to a bureaucratic mix-up. Desperate to fix the issue without letting her moms find out, Molly stumbles upon the perfect solution – a little-known athletic scholarship that will pay for a full year of tuition. The only requirement? She’ll need to assemble a rag-tag group of softball players and win a single game. 

Bunt! is a charming and laugh-out-loud funny mix of sports and romance, as well as an acknowledgement of the complexities of navigating scholarships, student debt, and institutions of higher education. Mad Rupert’s art style is bold and vibrantly colorful, contributing to the fun and fast-paced energy of the story. Characters display a wide range of skin tones and body types, and multiple queer identities are represented. 

Fans of Ngozi Ukazu’s previous series Check, Please! will be sure to enjoy the similar mix of energetic humor, college sports, and queer romance. Readers looking for more of the quirky group dynamics and unlikely-sports-team-made-up-of-art-kids antics of The Avant Guards will find much to enjoy in Bunt!. Bunt! will also appeal to watchers of the TV series A League of Their Own who enjoy sapphic romance and queer characters and are willing to make the jump from baseball to softball. 

-–Meg Bowie

Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2025) Featured Review: Rez Ball by Byron Graves

  • Rez Ball
  • by Byron Graves
  • Publisher: Heartdrum
  • Release date: September 12, 2023
  • ISBN: 9780063160378

Tre Brun’s dream is to make it to the NBA, and the first step on that path is making varsity at Red Lake Reservation High School. Tre is ready to prove himself as a great player, but it’s hard to stand on his own when everyone just compares him to his older brother Jaxon who died in a car accident. When Jaxon played, Red Lake nearly made it to state, and Tre is determined to see them make it all the way this time.

This is a fast-paced coming of age novel that balances the grieving process with lighthearted comic book references and great friendships. While the focus of the book is basketball, the author does an excellent job of weaving in the importance of Indigenous identity and the racism Tre and his friends face outside the reservation. 

This is a great book for teens who love sports and features engaging, tense scenes of game play. It’s also a good choice for teens looking for indigenous representation. Rez Ball is a great pick for teens who resonated with the handling of grief and trauma in Saints of the Household by Ari Tison, and for teens who can’t get enough of basketball-focused reads like Here to Stay by Sara Farizan.

-Kameron Morton

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