BookLife Prize in Fiction
- by Jane Alvey Harris
In Harris's vividly realized novel, Dallas teenager and frustrated insomniac Emily's life is a mess, but a fantasy world in which she is the heroine offers courage and answers to navigating life in the real world. Harris's prose is carefully crafted, and she paints fantastical imagery of the elves (both good and bad) and other characters, symbols, and scenery populating Emily's universe. She also delves deeply into her heroine's somewhat battered psyche. Ultimately, the novel promotes a message of empowerment and obtaining emotional truth -- both for Emily and the young readers this impressive novel is aiming to educate and entertain.
- by Tiana Warner
This thrilling, imaginative adventure follows Meela, a native resident of the island of Eriana Kwai, as she trains for battle and sets sail with a group of 20 girls to battle the mermaids besieging the Pacific Ocean. Interspersed with flashbacks showing her friendship with the mermaid Lysi, this tale grips readers from the beginning, drawing them into the struggles Meela faces as she fights to save her home. Warner’s masterful characterizations, beautifully described settings, and gripping climax will leave readers breathlessly waiting for the sequel.
- by Laura Levin
Levin's novel -- in which a young man named Evan believes he caused his father to die and now has to die himself -- will hook readers from the start. Throughout, Evan's voice is strong and convincing, urging the readers to stay with him and the story. And while the plot is somewhat familiar, Levin gives it a new spin, with fully realized characters, crisp dialogue, excellent pacing, and a satisfying conclusion.
- by Diana A. Hicks
In this futuristic novel that takes place on Mars after Earth, the Old Planet, is left behind, Catita Johns must find out why her twin sister, Ry Johns, was killed and discover the secrets of her family. Told from alternating perspectives between Tek, a partisan, and Catita, an immortal soldier, Hicks has created a fast-paced, adventure that will hook readers. Despite the complicated plotline and setting, Hicks ties it all together with ease and leaves room for a sequel.
- by Brittany Shannon Lemmon
Shannon's compellingly realized historical novel features plucky Kaya Lucan, a cynical, misanthropic wine aficionado, struggling to live in the war-torn Avoca region of Canaan in 1406 BC. The novel's strengths lie in both its taut suspense and its vividly drawn characterization; both Kaya and her childhood friend Travin are lavishly brought to life. This is crisply written and consistently engaging.
- by EK Dobbins
This impressive work of fantasy follows Milea Sirus, a powerful sorceress in the Bri'al world who is urgently rushing to the Temple of Light by boat across the Boiling Seas to tend to her imperiled twin sister. Milea is a strong, resilient central character and readers will cheer her on through every lightning bolt and fantastical wonderment that the author has thrown in her path. The first in a projected series, Dobbins writes with a slow, careful hand sure to relate all the exacting details of her characters' exploits and has laid the supernatural groundwork for future installments in a solid chronicle of epic proportions.
- by Art Collins
In this creatively structured, wildly inventive inaugural entry in the Archibald and Jockabeb YA series, Collins introduces two boys with restless spirits who explore a serpentine path of excitement during the 1980s. A secret cave draws the curious boys inside and the adventure begins with creatures big and small, kind and antagonistic. There are universal lessons embedded into this story and much can be learned about friendship and family. Finely embellished with charcoal illustrations, this short book is a potent and addictive introductory volume with great promise.
- by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban
In this vivid, lively YA novel, Ferreiro-Esteban combines themes of forbidden love, devotion, an unborn progeny carrying hope for the future, and the turbulent history of a land awash in battle. The author's prose is fluid, engaging, and effortlessly romantic transporting readers to an ancient time and place courtesy of a pair of resilient, determined, and devoted lovers. This is smart, original, historical fiction.
- by Gary Schwartz
This delightful, pun-filled allegory tells the story of a neglected boy who is convinced that he has no worth. Inspired to become the King of Average, he undertakes a journey to a fantasy land filled with interesting characters that have strong personalities despite also being archetypes. Inspired by The Phantom Tollbooth -- but not derivative -- the book is fast-moving and funny, with a touch of sadness. It will appeal to adults as much as YA readers, reminding all that average is not easy since everyone is special in his or her own way.
- by Teymour Shahabi
A wealthy magnate vanishes in his private jet, yet the beneficiary of his vast fortune becomes the most intriguing riddle in Shahabi's addictive young adult mystery. A unknown man named Lucian Baker is to receive the monetary windfall from Spring Forge billionaire Lyndon Surway's estate -- and his mysterious legacy becomes the obsession of high school freshman Andrew Day. As a protagonist, Andrew is engaging, relateable, clever, and affable as he works to solve the Surway mystery. Friends Cameron and Olivia are drawn equally well. All three make for an insatiably curious sleuthing trio in a winning adventure that will satisfy both mystery, suspense, and fantasy readers
- by Lance Conrad
An unnamed historian tells the story of army captain Simeon, who -- with the help of his brother Joseph and mercenary -- kidnap an ineffective king to teach him how to be an effective ruler. The characters are fully developed, have depth, and keep the plot moving at a quick pace. The dialogue is unique and consistent for each character, helping to give them distinct personalities.
- by Devon Michael
Full of intricate details that spill off the page like spun gold, this whimsical tale will delight any reader with an interest in craft or magic. The story follows a wooden doll who braves the outside world only to learn how terrifying reality can be. The characters and plot work together to create a complex and spooky story that will leave readers wanting more.
- by Donna Compositor
In this vividly imagined and deftly plotted dark fantasy, 16-year-old Sabina lives in New York City with her parents and little sister until a mysterious stranger arrives and Sabina’s father is forced to reveal the truth: Sabina’s family comes from another world entirely—a world filled with dark magic where she is the last Diamond Crier. The tension of this book would be increased were the author to spend a bit more time developing Sabi’s relationships in New York—that way the reader would understand exactly what Sabi has left behind when she is forcibly taken back to her world. Still, the main character is well-crafted, and the reader will care what happens to her as she wrestles with the reality of her new life and her role in it.
- by Bill Gourgey
Gourgey's smart mystery-thriller is a well-constructed game of wits. In it, 13-year-old Boot, after becoming homeless, secretly holes up in a chamber below the Capital building, hacking into the Capitol's private network, ultimately uncovering a senator's nefarious scheme with the help of a kind ally. A strong and original plot and well-wrought prose, and believable, well-developed characters, make this a very satisfying read.
- by Claire Luana
Kai, a 17-year-old moonburner who can absorb moonlight to create magic, is sentenced to death when her powers are discovered. Found by fellow moonburners, Kai stumbles on a secret plan to destroy their enemies -- the sunburners -- that will also wipe out the moonburners. This is a captivating story that will hook readers from start to finish. The characters were extremely well developed, with Kai as the hero with enough flaws to make her likeable. The dialogue is well crafted without using excessive explanations to describe unfamiliar terms in this fantasy world.
- by David Kudler
Named for a squirrel and her affinity for climbing tall trees in her native Japan, Risuko (born Kano Murasaki) is swept away with a palanquin of Lady Chiyome after being sold by her mother. Her province of Serenity is under attack as part of a century-long war and Risuko may be a source of hope and defense. Vividly portrayed, flush with cultural detail, and smoothly written, Kudler's novel avoids over-embellished prose and sticks to a flowing storyline with language that is accessible and a plot that is compellingly action-packed without resorting to excessive violence. Risuko is a resilient, exciting, and fearless character that readers will enjoy following through this and the story's next installments. Maps, a glossary, character profiles, and a sneak preview into the next chapter in this unique historical YA series adds brightness and a vivid sense of place to an already impressive, adventuresome, coming-of-age story.