Young Adult Fiction
by S.J. Lomas
Plot: Although the novel is well plotted, well paced, and sustains reader interest, it doesn't read like YA despite the age of the protagonist.
Prose: Lomas’s prose is solid and boasts excellent descriptions. However, the dual perspectives read as though they are written in the same voice.
Originality: Certain aspects of this novel's premise have appeared in other books, but they haven’t appeared all together as they do here. And the combination works, making this feel new and fresh.
Character Development: While Gabriel is well developed, Christine is inconsistent . She frequently reacts to what is happening—instead of making things happen herself. At times she feels like a heroine, but at others seems quite naive. And while the two aren't mutually exclusive, the way they are juxtaposed here can be distracting.
by C. F. Reynolds
Plot: This novel into a fast-moving, action-packed, solidly constructed space opera that will appeal to fans of the genre.
Prose: Though the storyline is promising, the prose is marred by tense shifts and grammatical errors, which take readers out of the story. Additionally, the elevated language and extremely fast pace may appeal more to adults than young readers.
Originality: Reynolds’s ideas are unique and refreshing, with mysteries constantly surrounding the identities of each character and creature. The underlying issue in this plot takes a while to be revealed, but is interesting and thought-provoking.
Character Development: Reynolds characters are relatable everymen and everywomen who live in a strange world and encounter the creatures who inhabit the surrounding galaxy. Extraterrestrials are painted as individual beings or entities that constantly interact with and affect the lives of humans.
Plot: Boyah effectively handles his complex, nonlinear timeline, keeping the reader involved in the story and providing sufficient resolution. But the final turn toward the mystical is somewhat abrupt, and its connection to earlier events could be more clearly foreshadowed.
Prose: Boyah's prose is generally solid. He displays a good ear for dialogue, and his characters' speech patterns are authentic and distinct.
Originality: While the premise here is nothing new, Boyah lends a fresh and authentic flavor to his characters and setting.
Character Development: Boyah attempts to flesh out his characters' backgrounds and personalities. He is more successful protagonist June than with the supporting cast.
by Farah Oomerbhoy
Plot: This plot-driven novel is well-suited for the young adult market. However, at times, the narrative can be difficult to follow. And while the plotting is fairly rote, the author manages to keep things moving and exciting.
Prose: The prose is workmanlike, except when the author writes about magic. Those scenes are crisp, descriptive, and compelling. While the prose never quite becomes florid or purple, during romantic moments it comes pretty close.
Originality: This is not a particularly original novel in terms of setting or plot. But the author's handling of magic and the behavior of those at the fae court, while not exactly unique, seemed fresh. The romantic component, on the other hand, had a paint-by-numbers quality.
Character Development: Although the characters sometimes come across as genre types, readers do get to know them pretty well. Additionally, character archetypes are less of a problem in a plot-driven novel like this.
by C. L. Lynch
Plot: Staging her story under the guise of a conventional paranormal romance, Lynch cleverly and dramatically subverts expectations, delivering a fast-moving and very fun zombie blood-fest that challenges ideas about femininity and teenage love.
Prose: Lynch's work is overflowing with wit and refreshing commentary on the horror genre. Lynch has wonderfully shifted the YA romance-horror stereotype, peppering her work with enjoyably cringe-worthy jokes that are by no means PG-13.
Originality: Lynch's satirizing of vampire romance is on-point, if heavy-handed. The dismissal of familiar tropes in favor of creating more empowered, distinctive female protagonists, is admirable and executed with flair.
Character Development: Stella graces the text as an unlikely heroine with her melodramatic, yet relatable teenage angst and desires. As the novel progresses, she gratifyingly develops from a fearful, self-conscious girl to a confident, chainsaw-wielding zombie hunter, all the while retaining her signature sense of humor.
by Warren Walter
Plot: Walter's novel is fast-paced and energetic. The author provides readers with a roller coaster ride of emotions and a variety of gripping adventures.
Prose: Walter's prose includes modern slang that will appeal to YA readers. And, the author skillfully depicts the angst and turbulence of teenage emotions. However, some typos and formatting errors detract from the prose.
Originality: Walter's novel, beginning with its hand-drawn and lettered map and closing with a tale chock full of twists that readers won't expect, is a rapidly-moving and exciting addition to the genre.
Character Development: Walter is concise and to-the-point in his characterizations, providing readers with quick but vivid snapshots. The author also goes to lengths to paint a picture of the community in which Sam resides.
by Anma Natsu
Plot: Solid plotting and pacing. Natsu upturns notions about romantic love triangles.
Prose: Natsu offers consistent and solid narration with prose that works primarily in service of the storyline, and which includes explicit sex that may not be suitable for YA readers.
Originality: Natsu puts a novel spin on the love triangle narrative, creating a loving, equally affirming relationship shared between three individuals and in an international setting.
Characterization: Natsu's characters are defined by their individual circumstances, namely the traumas that Miho, who has scars from an accident, and Shinji, who is being abused by his parents, bring to the story. The sexual and romantic relationship of the three represents the apex of their individual development, allowing them to be fully themselves while being equal players in their unique relationship.
Blurb: Natsu's second novel in the Hakodate Hearts series offers a sincere portrayal of a complicated young love that perseveres despite defying the conventions of Japanese society and family expectations.
by Kadian Thomas
Plot: While featuring a highly inventive and original concept, this novel suffers from several clunky transitions. Readers will find it difficult to suspend disbelief and dive into what has the potential to be an excellent story, when inconsistencies in the worldbuilding arise—particularly relating to the upbringing of the two main characters.
Prose: The flow of the book is frequently interrupted by the use of esoteric language that doesn’t quite mesh with the voices of the teenage protagonists. The action scenes, however, are where the writing shines. They’re clearly written with passion and paint a clear and believable picture.
Originality: The entire concept of the novel is wonderfully original and ripe with potential. The idea that two highly dissimilar young women living in one dimension have the abilities and heart needed to save another (and their own) has a fresh feel that will appeal to readers. The execution of that vision needs a little tweaking to make the transitions between viewpoints smoother.
Character Development: Readers will enjoy the way each young woman’s strengths and weaknesses are highlighted. However, both of them came across as curiously flat in affect—perhaps because of their excessive inner monologues. There were also times when believability was stretched to the breaking point—particularly when it came to Anorvia’s upbringing.
by Teresa Williams Irvin
Plot: This novel about the Battle of the Monongahela and Josh’s coming of age features a decently constructed plot that moves forward at a good pace.
Prose: Irvin’s prose is clear, accessible, and likely to appeal to reluctant young readers. However, the writing fails to truly distinguish itself or become memorable, while occasional anachronistic phrasing can be jarring.
Originality: Although the Battle of the Monongahela is an uncommon subject for a YA novel, Josh’s coming-of-age tale feels familiar. In the end, the book has the potential to chart new territory, but falls short of the mark.
Character Development: Josh is well drawn, and his growth feels natural and realistic, as do his friendships and relationships with other characters. However, the rest of the cast needs further development, particularly the book's Native American characters.
by Joel Mendonca
Entry disqualified due to word count over 100,000.