3 Cybils YA Speculative Fiction Finalists

I have now read all* of the 2022 young adult speculative fiction Cybils finalists – it’s been getting me in the mood to read more teen books than I have been the past few years. Read on, and let me know if you’ve read any of these or if they’re on your tbr list.

*okay, all of them except the Weight of Blood, because I have a hard time with true horror, so I don’t plan to read that one. But if you, dear reader, are a horror reader, I trust the Cybils judges to have picked out an excellent one.

Covers of the #Cybils2022 Young Adult Spec Fiction finalists - From Dust a Flame, The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea, How to Succeed in Witchcraft, Little Thieves, See you Yesterday, Snake Falls to Earth, and the Weight of Blood.

From Dust, a Flame by Rebecca Podos. Read by Hope Newhouse. Balzer + Bray, 2022. ISBN 978-0062699060. Listened to the audiobook on Libby. 

Hannah wakes up on the morning of her 17th birthday with a huge surprise: snake eyes.  Every day that follows, she has a new mutation, each more difficult to hide than the last.  She and her older brother Gabe are left alone as her mother leaves to find help, promising to be back soon.  But as weeks turn into months, they grow increasingly worried.  When a note arrives inviting them to the funeral of their grandmother Yitzka – whom they’ve never met – they decide they must travel to the old family farm in search of answers. They’ve grown up traveling from place to place, a strange contrast to the tiny town their mother turns out to be from.

This journey back to the place their mother fled is full of discovery.  Hannah and Gabe never knew their mother was Jewish, and they begin to explore this heritage with help from Ari, the daughter of their mother’s former best friend, the same age as Hannah, and the friendly local rabbi.  Spending time with Ari leads Hannah to other discoveries about herself as well, like why holding hands with boys always felt so unappealing.  But the answer to Hannah’s problem turns out to be deeply rooted in her family’s past and in Jewish mythology, so that while the story is mostly Hannah’s, we also spend time with teenage Yitzka in 1943 as she is forced to leave her family and sweetheart behind in Prague to flee to safety, and with Hannah’s mother as a teen in 1992 as she chafes against the restrictions of an overly-protective family.  This story includes sweet romance, a golem, a demon, and lots of family secrets, and I was thrilled that it won the Cybils award for teen speculative fiction this year. 

See You Yesterday by Rachel Lynn Solomon. Read by Emily Lawrence. Simon & Schuster, 2022. ASIN B09SK2HRQ5. Listened to the audiobook on Libby. 

Barrett’s longed-for first day of college turns out to be a nightmare rather than the escape from high school she was hoping for.  Her former best friend turned enemy wakes her up by moving in, there’s a truly annoying boy, Miles, sitting next to her in physics class, she bombs her interview for the school newspaper. Oh, and she accidentally burns a frat house down.  It doesn’t seem like things can get any worse – until she wakes up to the same horror of a day happening again.  The only person she can talk to is Miles, who’s been reliving the same day even longer.  As weeks turn into months, Barrett digs into her past looking for things to improve even as their forced companionship blossoms into romance even as they grow increasingly desperate to escape.  Barrett is especially heartbroken that she’ll miss her single mom’s girlfriend proposal, planned for two days after this one repeating day.  

Overall, I loved Barrett and Miles.  I’d say Jewish fantasy romances aren’t that common, but here’s the second one in a single post.  I also appreciated that Miles is Japanese-Jewish.  Barrett also works on improving her relationship with her former best friend.  There is a lot of cringe in this book, too, so how much you like it will probably depend on how much you’re able to laugh at public embarrassment.  The high school past that Barrett is running from involved being ostracized by the school and some horrific sexual bullying.  This was really hard for me to listen to and felt at odds with the sweetness of the cover.  Still, I know that I’m extra-sensitive and this might not be as big of a deal for other readers.  Based on how long I had to wait for it, and how many people were on the list after me, this is a book that’s resonating with lots of readers.

How to Succeed in Witchcraft by Aislinn Brophy. Read by Tashi Thomas. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2022. ISBN 9780593354520 Listened to the audiobook on Libby. 

Shayna Johnson is a junior with a passion for potion-making at the elite T.K. Anderson high school in Florida.  In Shayna’s world, having magic isn’t enough – you also have to be accepted to a highly competitive licensing college to be able to get a job where you can use it.  Shayna’s best friend Lex, an adopted Filipina, already graduated but hasn’t yet been accepted to a college. Her biggest hope is to win the prestigious Brockton scholarship offered at her school, which comes with a nearly guaranteed acceptance at one of the very best licensing colleges in the country.  There are just two things standing in her way: one, Ana, her archrival at school, and two: the drama teacher Mr. B, short for Brockton, who’s on the scholarship selection committee and wants stage-shy Shayna to star in the school musical. 

Being at school without Lex and entering the new world of drama people lead to big changes in Shayna’s life.  She has to re-evaluate so many things she thought she was sure of, from her goals in life to her relationship with Ana.  Shayna has to deal with entrenched racism, tacitly approved abuse – while also navigating first love and friendship changes.  I appreciated this and the magic system, which while bleak was more well-thought out than that at most magical schools.  (How many employees does the Ministry of Magic really need?)  There was enough joy, humor, and good trouble to keep me going through the book. 

If you’re interested in more of the Cybils Teen finalists, but are finding them all checked out as I did, may I suggest some of the 2021 finalists? Or these two great 2020 finalists?

About Katy K.

I'm a librarian and book worm who believes that children and adults deserve great books to read.
This entry was posted in Audiobook, Books, Fantasy, Reviews, Teen/Young Adult and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to 3 Cybils YA Speculative Fiction Finalists

  1. I really enjoyed From Dust, A Flame too. How to Succeed in Witchcraft sounds good.

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