I struggled to get this list down to five–the random magic number I have chosen for each of these lists. I couldn’t bear to remove any of them, though, so here are the six.
The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman
Published by Viking Books for Young Readers
There’s a lot to this book, and it’s probably not for every reader, but those who love historical fiction and strong girl characters will take Valentina and Oksana to heart as they form an unlikely friendship in the aftermath of Chernobyl.
The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Another outstanding friendship story featuring Alberta and Edie who are navigating mean girls, seventh grade, and a mystery that reveals the racism in their town’s history that has persisted to the present day.
96 Miles by J. L. Esplin
Published by Starscape
I do not typically use the expression “holy cow” in a book review, but I did indeed do that when reviewing this gripping survival story that I read practically in one sitting.
The Boys in the Back Row by Mike Jung
Published by Levine Querido
This book struck just the right balance between funny middle school story and touching friendship story and made me realize how rare it is to find a middle-grade novel that celebrates boys’ friendships. As the cherry on top, it’s a love letter to marching band geeks like myself.
The Mystwick School of Musicraft by Jessica Khoury
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers
I always feel a bit guilty that I don’t review more fantasy books; I’ll admit it’s not my favorite genre. Once in awhile, though, I find a great one. I spent a few pleasant weeks this spring listening to Amelia Jones’s adventures at Mystwick on Audible and doing jigsaw puzzles. Despite 2020’s reputation, it has not been without its happy moments.
Brother’s Keeper by Julie Lee
Published by Holiday House
I would not have predicted that a survival story featuring a brother and sister escaping from 1950 North Korea would have made it on to my list of favorite 2020 books, but look, here it is.