A Wish in the Dark (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Christina Soontornvat
Nominated by: Deb Nance at Readerbuzz
In this mix of magic and Thai culture, with inspiration from Les Miserables, orphaned Pong escapes the prison where he was born with the help of his friend Somkit, who doesn’t make it out. Pong is now a fugitive from the government, marked as a criminal forever by his prison tattoo. The Governor who promised order and goodness has become a dictator, providing magical orbs of colored light only to those who faithfully follow his ever-increasing number of rules. Pong is a boy version of Jean Valjean as he finds himself condemned to be always on the run. Eventually he learns the lesson: “You can’t run away from darkness. It’s everywhere. The only way to see through it is to shine a light.” And that is just what he does. This exciting story with an unusual setting and a positive message about light that conquers darkness and change that is difficult and costly but always possible will win readers’ hearts!
Curse of the Night Witch (Emblem Island) (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Alex Aster
Sourcebooks Young Readers
Nominated by: Katy Kramp
On Tor’s island, most kids bear the physical marks of their destiny. When Tor wishes his leadership emblem gone, he wakes to find a curse in its place, and his lifeline shortened to almost nothing. Two other kids quickly become contaminated by the curse. To save their lives, they must find the legendary Night Witch. Their only guide is the stories told about her, and the journey takes them through fearsome dangers from magical creatures and treacherous terrain. The stories of the Night Witch are rooted in tales told to the author by her Columbian grandmother, which makes the book even more appealing. Readers will love the wildly extravagant world-building, the solid friendships between the kids and their bravery. On top of that, there’s thought-provoking considerations of destiny, and a powerful and nuanced final confrontation.
Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Julie Abe
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Kristen
Eva Evergreen has set off on her own to take on her first station as a witch in the town of Auteri to prove herself on her Novice quest. While she does her best, she only seems to have a small pinch of magic and often overdoes it without achieving the result she hoped for. When a magical storm heads towards the town, Eva must use ingenuity and find a way to protect her town and the friends she has made in it. A charming and serendipitous tale, Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch will capture your heart, make you laugh and have you cheering for her to accomplish her goal of becoming a Novice Witch. She proves that just a pinch of magic mixed with hard work and a little creativity can go a long way.
In the Red (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Christopher Swiedler
Nominated by: Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction
Michael dreams of joining the Rescue Service, which protects the public from the many dangers of living on Mars. But those dreams are dashed when he suffers a panic attack during his first test on the surface and keeps having them whenever he dons a spacesuit. He and his best friend sneak out to the surface in an attempt to prove he can overcome his anxiety, but it goes very wrong when a solar flare strands them out in the middle of nowhere with limited resources. The dangers of Mars are very real, and Michael worries another panic attack might doom them. Both the physical and the emotional stakes of this story are incredibly high as Michael uses his scientific smarts to conquer the dangers of Mars’ surface while struggling to understand and deal with his anxiety. It’s a high-octane survival story packed with peril that keeps the reader frantically turning the pages!
Mulan: Before the Sword (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Grace Lin
Nominated by: Heidi G.
When Mulan’s sister is bitten by a deadly nine-legged spider, Mulan joins forces with a healer who turns out to be the immortal Jade Rabbit to gather the ingredients for a healing potion. Then the evil White Fox intervenes to stop Mulan and Rabbit, and a prophecy about a member of the Hua family saving the emperor turns out to be at the heart of it all. Enormous challenges face Mulan and Rabbit; will they be able to make the antidote in time or will the White Fox prevail? Though she doubts herself, Mulan faces many challenges without immortal help, allowing her strengths and courage to shine through. As she did in her Where the Mountain Meets the Moon series, Lin integrates Chinese folktales beautifully into the story, each placed carefully to move the story forward to its fitting conclusion, and the end result is a joyous fantasy full of heart.
Rival Magic (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Deva Fagan
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Anne Nesbet
Antonia dreams of being a great wizard, even if her wizarding skills aren’t so great, and she gets her chance when Master Betrys takes her on as an apprentice. Then Moppe, the young new scullery maid, arrives with secrets and powerful budding wizard abilities of her own, earning her a place as another apprentice. When Master Betrys is arrested, these two wildly different, yet equally fierce and determined girls must put their jealousy and arrogance aside to find a magical relic that may help them save their teacher and home. Rival Magic takes readers on a fun adventure, rife with magic and mayhem, and full of unexpected twists, fantastical elements, and a lot of heart. The two smart, capable female leads will delight, the unique take on wizardry will captivate, and readers will walk away from Rival Magic inspired to follow their hearts and forge their own paths.
Thirteens (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Kate Alice Marshall
Viking Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Jennifer Naughton
Eleanor has come to live with her aunt in an old, illogical mansion on the edge of the perfectly picturesque town of Eden Eld, a place her mother told her never, ever to go. She knows not to talk about the things she sees and hears that no one else can – but when she meets two kids at school who see them too, including a flame-eyed dog, a bone crow, and a cat of ashes, she finds out that they share more than just a birthday. All three are turning 13 on Halloween, and in this perfect town, this means they only have a few days to save themselves from the horrible bargain that’s at the heart of the town’s perfection, a bargain in which they are slated to die. The suspense mounts as, in true fairytale fashion, the kids have to figure out how to bend the rules in order to make it through to an ending that is both hard won and deliciously uncertain. It’s perfect for those who like brave friends confronting old and twisted magic in the real world!
Loved seeing the list. I'm excited Julie Abe made the list. She's a follower of my blog. Happy New Year!
I always love when the list finally comes out and this one looks to be wonderful.
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