2016 Finalists: Young Adult Speculative Fiction

by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Maria Gianferrari

ILLUMINAE is a space thriller told in a creative format suitable for the future, containing intership communications, ships’ logs, schematics, and the apparently insane ramblings of artificial intelligence controlling a ship. The book begins with interview transcripts as Kady Grant and Ezra Mason are debriefed after their mining colony was attacked by a rival corporation – the day after they broke up. But escaping the colony didn’t necessarily mean escaping with their lives, and the novel is about the evacuation ships trying to get to safety, with Kady and Ezra on separate ships trying to piece together what’s going on. Obstacles include corporate greed, a zombie-creating virus on an enclosed space ship, military types incompetently trying to keep secrets, artificial intelligence damaged yet gaining power, and an enemy space ship quickly approaching to blow them out of the sky. Mystery, imminent danger, and a touch of romance all come to a satisfying conclusion that will still leave you anxious to read Book Two.

Sondy Eklund, Sonderbooks

Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas)
by Zoraida Cordova
Sourcebooks Fire
Nominated by: Cecilia Cackley

Alex wants nothing more than to be normal. Too bad normal was never in the cards for her, considering she comes from a long line of powerful brujas.

This YA Urban Fantasy never falters in capturing the core struggle of identity, the power of family, or losing its voice for the youth.

Labyrinth Lost takes a teenage Latinx heroine preparing for her Deathday–a fictional coming of age ceremony to come into power–and blends the backdrop of Brooklyn, NY without ever losing its strong cultural influences.

Exploring culture, race and gender would’ve been a difficult task for any other book except Labyrinth Lost.

Guinevere Thomas, Twinja Book Reviews

Still Life with Tornado
by A.S. King
Dutton Books for Young Readers
Publisher/ Author Submission

Sixteen-year-old Sarah is searching for answers about how to live a meaningful, artistic life when nothing original ever happens. No one in her family communicates with each other, and she stops going to school. Eventually, with the help of a ten-year-old version of herself, Sarah discovers that she is a survivor of her family’s dark secrets. Swirling bits of information surrealistically combine to reveal Sarah’s past as readers simultaneously experience a literary tornado. A. S. King’s STILL LIFE WITH TORNADO provides the powerful realization that even though life may throw incomprehensible difficulties at us, we can find ways to cope and understand if we act courageously and think artistically.

Gary Anderson, What’s Not Wrong?

The Door at the Crossroads
by Zetta Elliott
Rosetta Press
Nominated by: Sheila Ruth

With elements of time travel and magic realism framing strong historical and contemporary narratives, The Door at the Crossroads is a compelling story sure to appeal to a wide variety of readers. Through interesting and well-written characters, it provides a much-needed mirror and window book on contemporary African-American and Afro-Latinx stories, while also depicting the history of slavery that still impacts our society today. Although the harsh reality of slavery is unflinchingly shown, the 19th Century free black community of Weeksville, in Brooklyn, is also vividly and lovingly depicted, showing a depth, resilience, and sense of community that has helped black people to survive centuries of violence. Post-9/11 New York is also depicted, including touching on Islamophobia.

Sheila Ruth, Wands and Worlds

The Keeper of the Mist
by Rachel Neumeier
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Charlotte

Rachel Neumeier’s KEEPER OF THE MIST brings together a land which chooses its own ruler, a woefully unprepared baker, and an abruptly imperiled kingdom to create a fairytale with a classic-yet-fresh feel. Neumeier avoids characterization stereotypes as the narrative places responsibility for saving the day with those typically considered unsuitable – the flighty young, the working class, the loutish grumps, and the odd and elderly. No superheroes here, the kingdom is saved by the hard work and sheer luck. The novel has the additional bonus of an understated romantic attraction which doesn’t overwhelm the plot. Especially right now, novels with themes of Ragtag Band Defeats Incredible Odds By Sticking Together And Combining Their Strengths are incredibly uplifting. If you’re looking for a little guidance for how to go on once your kingdom has been exposed to power-hungry predators, KEEPER OF THE MIST might be right up your alley.

Tanita Davis, Finding Wonderland

This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity)
by Victoria Schwab
Greenwillow Books
Nominated by: Whinkz

In a moment of violence, a monster is born. Now monsters proliferate the Earth just as much as humans. An uneasy treaty exists between two towns, but a girl named Kate and a monster named August may be pawns to bring that treaty to an end. Filled with beautiful prose and delightfully horrific moments, Schwab asks readers to ponder who the real monsters are in this exquisitely captivating look at what it means to be a monster and what it means to be human.

Karen Jensen, Teen Librarian Toolbox

When the Moon was Ours: A Novel
by Anna-Marie McLemore
Thomas Dunne Books
Nominated by: Kelly Jensen

Once there was a girl who fell from the sky and a boy who painted the moon for her. Since then Miel, who’s Latina, and Sam, who’s Pakistani, have been best friends. But their town is also full of secrets, as dangerous as the rose thorns that grow from Miel’s wrist. When the secrets of Miel’s mysterious past and Sam’s identity as a trans boy are threatened, how will they find a way to remain themselves? Anna-Marie McLemore’s WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS is full of descriptions that are both lush and vividly sharp. The story of identity, family, and love shows the weight of past generations and the complex characters will resonate deeply.

Maureen Eichner, By Singing Light