#CYBILS2023 Book Review: YA Fiction Finalists

ICYMI – This year’s slate of Young Adult Fiction finalists includes two debut authors. In fact, the award-winning book is the debut novel of Jas Hammonds.

The stories are contemporary, compelling, heart-tugging, and heart-wrenching. Things you’d expect in coming-of-age stories. There’s drama, intense storytelling, mystery, family, and … well, let’s turn it over to our judges to tell you more.

Just don’t skim. You might miss the references to recommendations for reluctant readers.


We Deserve Monuments
Hammonds, Jas
Roaring Brook Press
Nominated by: Kristen

Gina @ Goodreads – Coming of age books… they always have such potential, ya know. Not all of them get there in the end, but this one did for sure. It’s just one of those stories where you watch the main character grow, and watch her friendships and family relationships ebb and flow, and it also has really good writing. And that last chapter……. yeah, there’s a lot to think about once you finish this one 🙂
Even if my summary doesn’t make it sound very EXCITING, as far as like, thrills and entertainment go, please let me tell you it’s worth it, and you’ll be sucked in just like I was.

Lauren @ Goodreads – Beautifully written. Avery, Simone, and Jade have one of my favorite friendships of all time. Seemed to drag a bit, but ultimately a special story about change and friendship. Audiobook was phenomenal.

NextGen Librarian @ Goodreads – First off: how gorgeous is this cover? Secondly, how is this a YA debut? Jas Hammonds is a new voice in young adult literature and I’m so excited to see what they do next. This book does an amazing job of portraying the intricacies of familial relationships, the racism that’s still alive in the South and sharing a Black queer main character that was beautiful in her complexity. It was a fantastic audiobook as well. CW: racism, death, murder, cancer, alcohol, drug use, homophobia, Black hate-crime, police brutality, alcoholism, trauma, vomit, COVID, car accident, coming out themes

Deborah @ Goodreads – Dysfunctional families, racism, murder mystery and first love. This YA debut has it all. I love the way the author delved into the complexities of family. I really liked how the friendship between Avery Jade & Simone grew, fell apart and grew back together. Mama Letty had me laughing out loud. The bit of a twist at the end had my jaw dropping. I would love if the author revisited these characters again down the road.


Ander & Santi Were Here: A Novel
Garza Villa, Jonny
Wednesday Books
Nominated by: Linh

Hilary @ Writers’ Rumpus – The writing is authentic and full of heart, and highlights the importance of discovering and pursuing your passions, no matter the obstacles.

Give Me a Sign
Sortino, Anna
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Susan (Blogginbout Books)

Gina @ Goodreads – I think Give Me a Sign is providing really fresh representation in the YA space and I had so much fun reading it! I just love the inclusivity of this story and the emphasis it puts on the importance of community. Lilah becomes so much more confident, not only in her ASL and with her new Deaf friends, but also gains the courage to advocate for herself with the hearing people in her life that may have never maliciously refused to accommodate her, but never took the time to consider ways that they could make life easier for her. I think it’s a super great debut and will be very excited to read more from the author.

Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction – A heartfelt YA contemporary about what it really means to be part of a community. This Own Voices story highlights those feelings of otherness and loneliness that are prevalent for many teens, but it also shows a perspective that will be new to a lot of readers. With a swoony romance, burgeoning friendships, and a fun summer camp vibe, it’s sure to win over both contemporary readers who are looking for a read that will widen their understanding of the world and readers who just love a sweet YA romance! In this sweet and swoony debut, Anna Sortino delivers a poignant coming-of-age story and a revelatory exploration of Deaf culture, its vastness, and its beautiful complexities.

Jessica @ Goodreads – Author Anna Sortino — who is Deaf herself — does an excellent job diving into the varying degrees of hearing loss and their associated challenges. Her exploration of how those with hearing loss integrate into the “hearing” world is not only fascinating but eye-opening as to how frustrating things can be. Most readers will be surprised at the varying levels and will gain a greater empathy and understanding for the Deaf community at large. These parts of the book are authentic and moving. The summer camp stuff, though, doesn’t have the same oomph to it.

Invisible Son
Johnson, Kim
Random House Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Reshama

Gina @ Goodreads – OOF this actually brought back a LOT of early 2020 bad feelings. There’s just a lot to think about in this book, and being a little removed from the early days of the pandemic, it’s interesting to have a way to look back at it all from a teen’s perspective. I teared up a few times just because it’s actually been kind of easy to block out how scary and uncertain things were back then. Seeing what teens were feeling as their school schedules were disrupted and their loved ones were threatened and, for Black teens, their worth as humans was debated and tokenized… yeah, I’d say this was a very grounding book for sure. I also think since it’s fairly recent subject matter, and from a relative point of view, that this is a great suggestion for reluctant readers, especially boys.

Laura @ Writers’ Rumpus – This well written and gripping novel covers many intense themes – including the negative effects of gentrification, the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the disproportionate number of black and brown people affected by COVID.

Deborah @ Goodreads – A powerful novel about a young man caught at the wrong place at the wrong time, dealing with the effects of a devastating pandemic all while trying to prove his innocence and coping with the loss of his beloved grandfather. An intense novel, exploring the impact the protests across the country during a time that every American lived through, all told through the eyes of teen. This book will resonate with teens and adults alike.

Plan A
Caletti, Deb
Labyrinth Road
Nominated by: BecAsh

Gina @ gsreadingspree – Choice. There’s so many emotions and even, now, legislature tied up in one little word. Plan A is a BEAUTIFUL exploration of one girl’s choice to terminate her unwanted pregnancy. 😭 The book is pretty stream of consciousness, and we get all of Ivy’s thoughts, appreciative to apocalyptic to intrusive. The love and sisterhood meant so much to me in this story, even as the unfairness of it all made me feel gut punched. I teared up, laughed out loud, and am leaving this book more grateful than I went into it. It’s so incredibly special 😭 and Ivy is an amazing and realistic character.

Rez Ball
Graves, Byron
Publisher/ Author Submission

Deborah @ Goodreads – A non-stop run of emotions from the moment Tre steps onto the basketball court. The basketball game scenes had me rooting for Tre and the rest of the Warriors. Not only does Tre have to cope with the loss of his brother, but also peer pressure when it comes to drinking and the heartbreak of first love. This is definitely a book that any teen would devour!

The Next New Syrian Girl
Shukairy, Ream
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Jacob C.