#CYBILS2023 The Ones That Got Away – a FRI-YA Edition

Surprise! We’re changing up our FRI-YA review collection with one of our fan favorites:

The Ones That Got Away!

Laura Fineberg Cooper, who blogs at Writers’ Rumpus was a Round 1 judge in the YA Fiction category; and Sarah Miller, who writes the Can We Read? newsletter at Substack, was a Round 1 judge in Poetry.

Summaries excerpted from Goodreads.
Click the book cover to read the full summary, other reviews, and add the title to your TBR.


Laura – The sensitive, elegant narration of 16-year-old Sam (Samantha) Sakamoto, who observes life on Linley Island with a keen photographer‘s eye, and the horrifying treatment of the Japanese Americans so heartbreakingly revealed, make this WWI-era historical novel one I will never forget. I stayed up way past my bedtime feverishly turning pages, increasingly worried about Sam, her family, and her Japantown neighbors as bullies turn into racist thugs, emboldened by the U.S. Government’s declaration that all Japanese are enemies, regardless of whether they were born in the United States or not. Deeply intimate and poignant, this historical novel is based upon debut author Emily Inouye Huey’s family history.

Laura – Madeline Hathaway travels from Ren Faire to Ren Faire with her dad and does online schoolwork whenever the mood strikes – but tallying up experiences in her journal is a crutch to help her deal with her mother’s loss a year earlier. Madeline’s grief is palpable, as is her poor body image from being a plus-size teen and having limited interaction with teens her age. Setting up their tent in the Stormsworth Ren Faire in Oklahoma, the last faire her mother attended before she died, is supposed to be a solemn trip down memory lane. But new ownership brings huge (and humorous) changes, notably being wrangled by goofy, effervescent Arthur into being Princess Gwen for the summer season. Fun? Check! Body positivity? Check! Grief? Check! Awkward first romance? Check! Check!

Laura -16-year-old Aisha is an incredibly talented ballet dancer whose dark skin keeps her from getting the opportunities she deserves at her elite Canadian ballet academy. She thought the switch to a public school for the arts would be different. But they’re not. So much is happening that Aisha has dissociative episodes that recall past trauma. Her connection with Ollie, who experienced trauma of his own, provides a balm to her soul. Opening yourself up, trusting others, and letting go of perfectionist expectations is scary for any performance artist, but what Aisha must do to heal. The characters in this book are so raw and real, they will pirouette off the pages and into your heart.

Poetry – Novel In Verse

Sarah – A Long Time Coming is an incredibly well-done and powerful read. None of the people Shepard wrote about — Ona Judge, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, Martin Luther King Jr., and Barack Obama — were new to me, but he managed to take their stories, weave them into powerful nonfiction in verse, and reveal their lives to me anew in a way that was so moving, I cried. Highly recommend.