The Children and Young Adult Blogger Literary Awards (Cybils) aim to recognize the children’s and young adult authors and illustrators whose books combine the highest literary merit and popular appeal. And I’m impressed—out of 80 Cybils finalists this year, 30 of them feature characters or are by authors from diverse backgrounds. In the graphic novel category alone, diversity accounts for nearly half of this year’s finalists in the children’s and young adult age groups. I’ve annotated the titles on the YA finalist lists below—as always, your comments are appreciated!
Nonfiction for Young Adults
COE, Alexis. Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis. Zest Books. Oct. 2014. 208p. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781936976607.
Gr 9 Up—This is a captivating account, and readers will quickly become absorbed in the suspense surrounding Freda’s murder. Including sociocultural themes on LGBTQ society, gender and femininity, this title packs a punch.
THOMPSON, Laurie Ann. Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters. S. & S./Beyond Words. 240p. Sept. 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781582704654.
Visit Thompson’s website and fall in love. She walks the talk, and is inspiring teens everywhere with this title.
KUKLIN, Susan. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out. Candlewick. Feb. 2014. 192p. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9780763656119.
Gr 9 Up—Check out Luann Toth’s great interview and discussion of the title with Kuklin, who interviewed, photographed, and then created individual profiles of six transgender or gender-neutral young adults for the book.
VAN WAGENEN, Maya. Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek. Dutton. 272p. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780525426813.
Gr 7 Up—Maya commits to following author Betty Cornell’s advice from her 1950s Teen-Age Popularity Guide during her eighth grade school year. Rag rollers, posture lessons, and pearls for the school picture all make an appearance. A delightful memoir from a very fresh voice, Van Wagenen contrasts the mundane (and content) family life she has with the fact that she lives in Brownsville, TX, a border town with Mexico that is notorious for gang warfare, drug dealing, and its poverty. A great addition to this year’s award lists.
FLEMING, Candace. The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia. Random/Schwartz and Wade. July 2014. 304p.Tr $16. ISBN 9780375867828.
Gr 7 up—This book is getting the buzz from all quarters—a sweeping family epic that is geopolitical, dramatic, and incredibly well-researched and written. What‘s not to like?
MITCHELL, Don. The Freedom Summer Murders. Scholastic. Apr. 2014. 256p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780545477253.
Gr 6-9—SLJ reviewer John Peters call’s Mitchell’s book “A timely, essential account, illustrated with contemporary photos and capped with extensive endnotes and source notes.”
SHEINKIN, Steve. The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights. Roaring Brook. Jan. 2014. 208p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781596437968.
Gr 7 Up—Not only a favorite in print format, the audio version of this Sheinkin title is getting rave reviews.
Graphic Novels for Young Adults
DOCTOROW, Cory. In Real Life. First Second. Oct. 2014. 282p. pap. $15. ISBN 9781596436589.
Gr 9 Up—SLJ’s Good Comics for Kids had this to say: “The art comes courtesy of Jen Wang, whose previous graphic novel was Koko Be Good, also from First Second. Wang’s art is an extreme treat… .“ It’s great to see a title from First Second on the list.
GILL, Joel Christian and Henry Louis Gates Jr. Strange Fruit, Volume I: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History. Fulcrum. June 2014. 106p. Tr $23.95. ISBN 9781938486296.
I think this review from Brain Pickings says it all.
BROOKS, Max. The Harlem Hellfighters. illus.by Canaan White. Broadway. Apr. 2014. 272p. Tr $25. ISBN 9780307464972.
Gr 8 Up–The Harlem Hellfighters is a fictional account of the 369th infantry regiment’s deployment to France in World War I. White’s illustrations are phenomenal, truly bringing each character and pivotal scene into sharp focus.
YANG, Gene Luen. The Shadow Hero. First Second. July 2014. 176p. Tr $26. ISBN 9781596436978.
Gr 7 Up—Just check out Mahnaz Dar’s terrific interview with Yang for the drive for diverse characters, the origin of the Green Turtle, and his own favorite superheroes.
CARROLL, Emily. Through the Woods. S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry Bks. July 2014. 208p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781442465961.
Gr 7 Up—In a particularly strong year for graphic novels, Carroll’s collection of fairy tale twists is thought to be a Printz contender.
KOYCZAN, Shane. To This Day: For the Bullied and Beautiful. Annick Pr. Sept. 2014. 72p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781554516391.
Gr 6 Up— Emma Weiler from “No Flying. No Tights” sums it up beautifully—“With spare words and text, Koyczan conveys exactly how cruel words make us all feel and also how we are not alone and that we can survive.”
Speculative Fiction for Young Adults
CYPESS, Leah. Death Sworn. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Mar. 2014. 352p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780062221216.
Gr 9 Up—Fans of Kristin Cashore’s Graceling (Houghton Harcourt) and George R.R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones” series (Bantam) will delight in this twisty turny tale that is full of magic and romance.
KING, A.S. Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future. Little, Brown. Oct. 2014. 320p. Tr $17. ISBN 9780316222723.
Gr 9 Up—King’s has a legion of followers, and once again, she delights readers with this otherworldly yet contemporary coming-of-age story.
WHALEY, John Corey. Noggin. S. & S./Atheneum. Apr. 2014. 352p. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781442458727.
Gr 9 Up—Karen Jensen, “Teen Librarian Toolbox,” calls Noggin “brilliant speculative concept that combines biting humor with the perfect amount of angst and sorrow.”
DUNCAN, Alexandra. Salvage. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Apr. 2014. 528p. Tr $17. ISBN 9780062220141.
Gr 9 Up–Booklist describes Duncan’s debut novel as “part science fiction, part horror story, and a less than subtle, but oh-so-effective object lesson for today’s YA readers about their possible futures.” Though the page count might be daunting, strong characters and fine pacing will drive readers through.
DE LA PEÑA, Matt. The Living. Delacorte. 2013. 320p. Tr $15. ISBN 9780385741200.
Gr 9-12—Featuring diverse characters and de la Peña’s signature wit, The Living rivets readers with catastrophic events, disease, and survival against all odds.
RUTKOSKI, Marie. The Winner’s Curse. Farrar. Mar. 2014. 368p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374384678.
Gr 7 Up—A straightforward plot with a Regency romance overlay, fans of series fiction are already hungry for the next title.
HEALEY, Karen. While We Run. Little, Brown. May 2014. 336p. Tr $15. ISBN 9780316233828.
Gr 9 Up—Healey hit it out of the park with When We Wake, the prequel toWhile We Run, so I had no doubt that the writing would continue to be just as beautiful, the plot as gripping, the story as thrilling.
Young Adult Fiction
QUINTERO, Isabel. Gabi, a Girl in Pieces. Cinco Puntos. Oct. 2014. 208p. Tr $17. ISBN
Gr 9 Up—In an interview with School Library Journal, Quintero says “I will be the first to admit that Gabi is a lot like me. She is, however, braver than I ever was.” Critics are loving this achingly bittersweet tale of one struggling teen’s senior year of high school.
GILES, Gail. Girls Like Us. Candlewick. May 2014. 224p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763662677.
Gr 8 Up—While writing Girls Like Us, Giles was warned by a publisher “that I would be ‘flayed’ if I attempted this” story about two young adults with cognitive impairment. Biddy and Quincy show the world and themselves that they deserve respect and love, not pity and hatred.
NELSON, Jandy. I’ll Give You the Sun. Dial. Sept. 2014. 384p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780803734968.
Gr 9 Up—The twin trope abounds in YA lit, but Nelson brings a whole new story to readers with the alternating voices of Jude and Noah, once inseparable but now in fierce competition for virtually everything—recognition for their artistic talent, the affection of their parents, and the love of a boy.
COLBERT, Brandy. Pointe. Putnam. Apr. 2014. 333p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399160349.
Gr 9 Up—SLJ’s Joy Piedmont calls Pointe “a strong Morris contender. Really strong.” Dealing with heavy issues such as anorexia and racism, Colbert’s compelling story barely holds back a call to activism.
REYNOLDS, Jason. When I Was the Greatest. S. & S./Atheneum. Jan. 2014. 240p. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781442459472.
Gr 7-10—Blogger Melissa Wiley, “Here in the Bonny Glen,” writes, “When I Was the Greatest is a novel with extraordinary heart, with a cast of characters so real and flawed and complex they feel like family.” With a cover that draws readers in from across the room, Reynolds’s story will transfix teens.