2017 Young Adult Speculative Fiction Finalists

Scythe (Arc of a Scythe)
by Neal Shusterman
Simon & Schuster
Nominated by: Amy

Scythe takes readers into a world in which all of our human needs are met, where we go about our years with no worries or fears. With immortality, Scythes are tasked with gleaning the population to be a manageable size. Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to be one of the next Scythes. Throughout their training, Shusterman has readers questioning their own expectations of life and death, good versus evil, and right from wrong. Expertly paced, this novel is an excellent example of a novel designed to make a reader think, but not with such a heavy hand that even reluctant readers will latch onto the story until the very end. For fans of dystopian worlds, readers will find a shining example of speculative fiction in Scythe.

Stephanie Charlefour, Love. Life. Read.

Song of the Current
by Sarah Tolcser
Bloomsbury USA
Nominated by: Miss Print

When Caroline Oresteia’s father, captain of their river wherry, is arrested, Caroline agrees to deliver a mysterious cargo – a single box – in order to save him. Song of the Current is a rich waterborne fantasy filled with magic, ancient gods, dragons, pirates, and the creak of wind in sails. The story takes a comfortable shape, like a pair of old jeans that fits just right, yet there are enough unexpected twists to keep it from being cliché. We loved the vibrant characters, especially Caro, who is feisty, loyal, brave, and stubborn, but willing to change when people turn out differently than she expects. Sexual encounters are depicted in a sex-positive way that’s refreshing and fun. Song of the Current is a solid and engaging nautical fantasy sure to appeal to fantasy loving teens.

Sheila Ruth, Wands and Worlds

The Hearts We Sold
by Emily Lloyd-Jones
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Brittney

The Hearts We Sold starts with Dee Moreno finding a demon knitting in the smoking area outside the hospital where she volunteers. Most demons might trade an arm for wealth, a leg for beauty, but this demon deals in hearts. And once Dee gives up heart, she finds herself pulled into a world more strange and frightening than she could have imagined.

We all have wishes…my life would be so much better if only…and this story lets us confront them. Would you give a body part for your wish? The speculative world Emily Lloyd-Jones builds behind her demons is fascinating. The characters so well developed that you can believe they’d give up pieces of themselves for what they need. And twists and turns keep the plot moving in interesting and unexpected directions.

Rebecca Smith-Allen, The Winged Pen

The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths & Magic
by F.T. Lukens
Nominated by: chowske

Hungry to inhabit his true self, Bridger Whitt will do anything to find a job to help him attend college out of state. He’s desperate enough to ignore any… little oddities about his job interview, his magically-everywhere boss, and the disembodied voices he sometimes hears around the office. Despite discovering his boss’s true identity, regardless of learning that his crush may just crush on him back, Bridger still can’t find a reason to stay in home. After all, there’s nowhere to grow in his provincial, conservative small town. Real life can only be magical elsewhere… right? F.T. Lukens brings a joyfully charming innocence into this endearing adventure of a snarky, fearful boy who thinks he is fleeing toward the big, real world — when THE RULES AND REGULATIONS FOR MEDIATING MYTHS & MAGIC reveal that there is more wonder, magic, love, — and terrifying unicorns — in the known world he knows than he could have ever imagined.

Tanita Davis, Finding Wonderland

They Both Die at the End
by Adam Silvera
Nominated by: Jen Petro-Roy

After receiving a call that today would be their last day on Earth, Rufus and Mateo embark on an adventure to live as much as they can before they die. Silvera doesn’t pull punches in THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END. The ethical question of whether knowing you will die vs. being left in the dark. The concept of whether death really is a pre-ordained event, so no matter what you do it will still happen. How you want to be remembered – or if you will be. With so much to consider, it would be easy for the characters to be neglected, but Rufus and Mateo shine, as different in their lives as they are united in their goal to have one last Adventure with no regrets. There will be tears throughout, but in the end Silvera’s honest look at what it means to live to the fullest will have you questioning what you would want if you got the call.

Lexie Cenni, For the Sake of Reading

Wonder Woman: Warbringer
by Leigh Bardugo
Random House Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Jennifer Schultz

When Diana decides to rescue a teenage girl who washes up on the shores of Themyscira instead of leaving her to die as Amazon rules demand, she sets off a chain reaction of events that could threaten the whole world. Bardugo tackles the Wonder Woman mythos in a sophisticated, relevant way that will engage teens. She draws parallels between Amazon Diana and half-Black American, half-Greek Alia, who both feel like outsiders in different ways. The contrast between Alia’s cosmopolitan experience and world view and Diana’s sheltered life add humor to the story, which is action-packed and full of characters teens will want to befriend. This is a media tie-in that’s truly Wonder-ful.

Kimberly Francisco, Stacked