So every year I get all excited and make lists of books that I think should win awards from the ALA. My lists are so long this year! And I am having a hard time whittling them down. So I figured I would blog here, and see what y'all think. Since I mostly read YA this year, I won't be able to cover all the categories, but I hope you're inspired to take a look at the books I do mention in today's post. YAY!
For the Michael L. Printz Award:
The Printz award is for young adult books, and unlike many of the other award categories, the author does not have to be a US-ian to win. So that makes my life even more difficult when trying to narrow things down. Here are the books I picked:
SEA (Putnam, 2010) by Heidi R. Kling
This story of love, of travel, and of loss is so jarring, so heartbreaking, so beautiful that I practically read it in one sitting with one eye open deep into the wee hours of the morning. It transported me overseas, introduced me to victims of the 2004 Tsunami, and enchanted me with elegant writing and wonderful characters. SEA is totally Printz-worthy. (my review)
THE LESS-DEAD (Delacorte, 2010) by April Lurie
Exploring tough topics like Evangelism, hate crime, and homeless teens, THE LESS-DEAD is one of the most compelling books I read this year. Following the son of a pastor-slash-talk-radio-host in Austin, THE LESS-DEAD is a solid mystery novel (would be a great candidate for the Edgars later this year, too) with a serial killer targeting gay teens. It is an ambitious book, and it delivers.
SAVING MADDIE (Delacorte, 2010) by Varian Johnson
I don't know what's not to like about SAVING MADDIE. The small-town Carolina setting, the story of friendship growing into first love, the poetic language and humor with which Varian Johnson tells this story -- it's all wonderful. I love the idea that this book captures: the way we change as teens, the way the things that happen to us shape us forever, and how we can still be ourselves despite this.
YOU ARE NOT HERE (Scholastic Push, 2010) by Samantha Schutz
This haunting novel-in-verse is told from the point of view of a young girl who lives way too close to a graveyard. And when her sort-of-boyfriend (that her mom didn't know about and whom her friends didn't like) dies suddenly, well, Annaleah is a mess. This story of coping, of growing, of saving oneself despite the grief is compelling and beautiful from page one. I'd love to see a Printz for the brilliant Samantha Schutz.
THE EXTRAORDINARY SECRETS OF APRIL, MAY & JUNE (Razorbill, 2010) by Robin Benway
This tale of sisterly love, companionship, and sometimes loathing is so true to life. And yet, so not. I'd hate to give away too much of the plot, but I just loved the characters in THE EXTRAORDINARY SECRETS, and the writing was so beautiful. Robin Benway totally deserves a nod! (my review)
ALIEN INVASION & OTHER INCONVENIENCES (Candlewick, 2010) by Brian Yansky
One of the most literary YA sci-fis I've ever read, I just can't gush enough about my love for ALIEN INVASION. Focusing on what happens after the ten second conquering of Earth by Sanginians, the book is genius, funny, heartbreaking, scary, smart, and wonderful in every way. The Printz committee has definitely been open to some weird books in the past, so I hope they'll continue to give weird a chance with Brian Yansky's latest. (my review, my interview with the author)
For the John Newbery Medal
This award is given to a book by an American author. It is usually middle grade, though I have seen some YAs slip in. I'm pretty sure we're all familiar with the Newbery, as it filled a lot of our required reading in school, back in the day.
BAMBOO PEOPLE (Charlesbridge, 2010) by Mitali Perkins
This heartbreaking tale of child soldiers in modern-day Burma, told from perspectives on both sides of the war, is one of my favorite books of the year. Political stories are no stranger to the Newbery award, so I do think this book has a serious chance. Plus, with Perkins' beautiful narrative, it's not hard to be won over by this amazing book. (my review)
MODERN FAIRIES, DWARVES, GOBLINS, AND OTHER NASTIES (Knopf, 2010) by Lesley M.M. Blume
This cleverly-written collection of short stories combined with a field guide and gorgeous illustrations is both artful and delightful. Fantasy doesn't often get the nod from the Newbery committee, but I'd love to Blume's book in the ranks this year. (my review)
BRAINS FOR LUNCH (Roaring Brook/Neal Porter, 2010) by K.A. Holt
I've never read a funnier, cleverer, more awesome book written in haiku. And the way this book tackles tough issues like race, segregation, cliques, and conformity? Yeah, brilliant. So maybe it's a stretch to think that the Newbery committee will give an award to a zombie book. Who cares? I WANT THEM TO. (Shhhh, I know K.A. Holt is totally a fellow YA-5-er, but that doesn't make her book any less awesome.) (my review)
For the Alex Award:
The Alex award is given to adult books of literary merit that the ALA thinks would be of interest to teens. I didn't read that many grown-up books this year, but of those that I did pick up, these two are major stand-outs.
THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS by Michele Young-Stone
Poetically written in two voices, this novel covers the lives of two young people affected by lightning. Their story is compelling, relateable, and perfectly narrated. It's one of my favorite books of the year, for sure, and one from which both adults and teens can take a lot. (my review and interview with the author)
THE REAPERS ARE THE ANGELS (Holt Paperbacks, 2010) by Alden Bell Honestly, I think this is a shoo-in. Not only is this zombie-infested pseudo-road-trip novel already being marketed at both adults and teens by the publisher, but the heroine of the novel is so wonderful to read. Plus, this book is so artfully written, so perfectly constructed, I'd love to see a jillion awards hanging around its proverbial neck. (my review and interview with the author)
For the Schneider Family Book Award:
This award goes to a book for young people that highlights a character's experience with disability. I picked out two books for this award -- two books that could easily win other awards, too, honestly.
THE STRANGE CASE OF ORIGAMI YODA (Amulet, 2010) by Tom Angleberger
Oh how I love this book! What I love most about it is that the point of view character and the subject of the story are both struggling with a disability, but it is never labeled in the book. It merely illustrates the differences that kids face in a classroom, all with a sense of humor and awesome illustrations. Plus, the story is just fabulous. I mean, come on. Origami Yoda? Yes, please! (my interview with the author)
THE HALF-LIFE OF PLANETS (Hyperion, 2010) by Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin
This story of music and first love and promises and challenges is just plain fun to read. But there's something very different about one of the protagonists. And the other can't figure it out. When she does, her reaction is so human, even if its one that makes us temporarily loathe her. This becomes a story of coping and understanding and love all over again. (my review)
For the William C. Morris Award:
This award is given to a debut YA author each year. I read a lot of YA this year so I really had to narrow down my favorites. Here they are:
THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE (Dial, 2010) by Jandy Nelson
This story of love and loss and grief is so heartbreaking, so beautifully written, that I wouldn't be surprised if it won both the Morris Award and the Printz. If you haven't read it yet, go find it. Like now.
THE DUFF (Poppy, 2010) by Kody Keplinger
So THE DUFF is commercial fiction. And we don't always give awards to commercial fiction. But guess what? THE DUFF is awesome. It is funny and bold and groundbreaking. It looks at teen relationships in a way that many of us would rather not see. But it works. It's a brilliant debut and I'd love to see Miss Kody honored for it. (my review, my interview with the author)
DECEPTION: A HAUNTING EMMA NOVEL (Bloomsbury, 2010) by Lee Nichols
This paranormal mystery/romance is a whole new kind of ghost story. It has the creepy boarding school, the mysteriously out-of-the-picture parents, and the unexplainable childhood memories. But it also has beautiful prose and a striking new mythology that I've never seen before. I cannot wait to get my hands on the sequel! The lovely Lee Nichols has written adult novels before, but this is her first YA, so I'm pretty sure she qualifies! (my review)
THE SPACE BETWEEN TREES (Chronicle, 2010) by Katie Williams
Wow, this work of literary YA blew me away. The character has a naivete that is sort of rare in YA, and a quirkiness that I immediately fell in love with. Williams' prose is poetic and the story just sucks you in from page one. This is another one I would feel comfortable putting down for The Printz. (my review, my interview with the author)
For The Coretta Scott King Award:
This award is given to books by African-American authors and/or illustrators on the topics concerning African American culture. There are actually several awards under this umbrella, and because I didn't read very many picture books or much nonfiction this year, I'm not going to break it down. I'm just going to tell you my two favorites for this award.
SHE LOVED BASEBALL: THE EFFA MANLEY STORY (HarperCollins 2010) by Audrey Vernick and illustrated by Don Tate
Baseball fans and history buffs alike can't help but adore this beautiful picture book biography of Effa Manley, an entrepreneur and activist most well-known for her involvement in Negro League baseball. Seriously, if this book doesn't get a gold sticker, I will eat my hat. Several hats, actually.
YUMMY (Lee & Low Books, 2010) by G. Neri and illustrated by Randy DuBurke
This graphic novel could easily snag a Printz award as well. It's a semi-biographical story of the young killer Yummy, an eleven-year-old famous for becoming involved with the Black Disciples Nation, a gang that was prevalent in the South Side neighborhood in Chicago in the 1990's. After being involved in the accidental shooting of a young girl, Yummy's name made headlines, becoming the posterchild for youth violence. Neri's story, told from the point of view of a non-gang-member, Roger, is eloquent, important, and covers all sides of this difficult topic. Randy DuBurke's illustrations are a perfect complement. (my review)
Okay. I think I'm done predicting the future for now. What are your predictions? Tell me! Leave all your award-y thoughts in the comments!