The library community eagerly awaits the upcoming announcement of the winners of various Youth Media Awards at the Mid-Winter convention of the American Library Association, held this year in San Diego January 7-11. On January 10, authors and readers alike will gather for the awards presentation. Of the sixteen different categories recognized, fans of young adult literature will pay particular interest to the results for the Michael Printz award: the national award that recognizes excellence in young adult literature. Although a complete list of nominees for this award is not publicly available, the following titles have garnered enough attention and positive reviews to be considered possible winners for the prestigious Printz. Will one of these new YA fiction novels receive this year’s award?
Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony.
Another entry in the popular YA genre of dystopian literature, this novel opens in the year 2041, ten years after the Great Collapse of 2031. The world’s oil is depleted, and the border between Canada and the USA no longer open, but heroine Molly McClure must get to Washington to check on her grandparents and bring them “home.” The strong female character - resourceful and courageous -- makes this a great pick for teenage girls.
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi.
Again, this novel is set in a post-oil world, where the few rich sail on enormous hydrofoil ships, and the many poor scavenge old ships and buildings for whatever they can sell. Nailer is a light crew scavenger tearing up old hulks of ships, living day to day, until a rich girl and her gleaming ship run ashore in a storm on the beach and his life gets more dangerous. Both this and the previous novel address our world's dependence on oil, and the possible future repercussions of that. No matter how adults feel about this issue, there is no denying that it is an important one for teens.
Star Crossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce .
By 2010 William A Morris YA Debut award-winner Elizabeth Bunce comes a novel in the tradition of high fantasy. In a glamorous castle full of Llyvraneth's elite, Celyn Contrare serves as a lady-in-waiting to shy young Merista Nemair. Her days are spent dressing in velvet, attending Lady Merista, navigating court gossip, and charming noblemen over lavish feasts. And at night, she picks locks, steals jewels, forges documents, and collects secrets. Because Celyn isn't really a lady-in-waiting; she's not even really Celyn Contrare. She’s Digger, a thief on the run from the King’s Inquisition. Bunce won the Morris award for A Curse Dark as Gold, her version of the Rumplestiltskin fairy tale -- an excellent retelling.
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.
Few other YA series have generated as much attention in recent years as Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy. In this third and final installment of the riveting series, Katniss becomes the symbol for the rebellion against the capitol. Although she is focused on assassinating the president, she fights personal turmoil in her feelings for Gale and Peeta, and in her role in the revolution. I've already blogged about this entire trilogy; though it's not typical for a third installment in any series to win awards, any mention of excellence in YA literature should include Collins' work.
Revolution by Jennifer Donnelley.
Haunted by the death of her brother, Andi is taken to Paris by her estranged father where an encounter with a mysterious diary may bring her back from the edge. Author Jennifer Donnelley won a Printz honor in 2003 for her debut novel, A Northern Light; in Revolution, she artfully weaves the stories of two girls and two centuries in another potentially award-winning historic fiction novel. I have not yet read Revolution; however, Donnelley's characterizations in A Northern Light were masterful, and I look forward to this second novel.
Incarceron by Catherine Fisher.
Trapped in the massive prison world of Incarceron, Finn searches for his true identity; outside, Claudia searches for the truth about Incarceron and its warden, her father. Then Finn finds a crystal key that allows him to communicate with Claudia. Finn is determined to escape the prison, and Claudia believes she can help him. But they don't realize that there is more to Incarceron than meets the eye. Escape will take their greatest courage and cost more than they know. If this story about a prison that actually lives and watches people isn't creepy, I don't know what is!
Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta.
Marchetta won the 2009 Printz award for Jellicoe Road, her tightly-woven novel about three groups of teenagers growing up in Australia. She now attempts a different genre in this fantasy. Finnikin and his fellow exiles from Lumatere wish to return to their cursed homeland. Finnikin must go on an epic journey with a mute novice named Evanjalin to return home.
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver.
Sam’s seemingly perfect life has ended in a terrible crash. But, it turns out she has to relive the last day of her life seven times to get it right. As Samantha lives through multiple Fridays, desperate to prevent her death, she is struck by how even the most insignificant acts, like running late for school instead of being on time, can change everything. Suddenly she is noticing uncomfortable things about her friends, about herself she has never noticed before. In the tradition of Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why, this novel stimulates readers to think about the way they treat others, and the potential impacts of their actions.
The Cardturner by Louis Sachar.
By the author of the immensely popular Young Adult novels Holes and Small Steps comes another winner. In this novel we meet a boy named Alton, who has just been dumped by his girlfriend and faces a summer of boredom. His pushy mother, however, has other ideas, and finds him an unusual summer job -- turning cards at bridge games for his blind great-uncle Trapp. Alton ends up learning much more than how to play bridge as a result. This novel won the approval of my second daughter, who prefers "boy books" to the more girly dramas; and you really can't go wrong with Louis Sachar.
Grace by Elizabeth Scott.
In yet another dystopian novel, the heroine, Grace, lives in a war-torn society where two sides fight for equally extremist causes. Grace has been raised to be an Angel of Death, a suicide bomber for her father’s cause. Yet, when the time comes for Grace to complete her mission, she finds herself questioning everything she has been taught. Compelling, thought-provoking, very short novel for our times.
The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork.
Though the police say that his sister, Rosa, died of natural causes, 17-year-old Pancho Sanchez is convinced she was murdered, and he is looking to exact revenge. With no surviving family, Pancho is placed in an orphanage in Las Cruces, where he meets D.Q., a boy who is dying from a rare form of brain cancer. D.Q. is not just determined to find a cure, he's also equally set on training Pancho to become what he calls a Death Warrior. Together, the unlikely companions embark on a quest to Albuquerque, and though they travel for their own reasons, once arrived, each will have to come to terms with what it might actually mean to be a Death Warrior. Stork has won a previous ALA Youth Media award, the 2010 Schneider Family Book Award, for his first novel, Marcelo in the Real World, an engrossing exploration of a 17-year-old boy's struggles with Asperger's syndrome.