Best YA Books for Teens
What are the National Book Awards?
On March 16, 1950, publishers, editors, writers, and critics gathered at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City to celebrate the first annual National Book Awards, an award given to writers by writers. The American Book Publisher’s Council, The Book Manufacturers’ Institute, and The American Booksellers’ Association jointly sponsored the Awards, bringing together the American literary community for the first time to honor the year’s best work in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. As the Boston Herald reported the following day, “literary history was indeed in the making.”
Now, over a half-century since its inception, the National Book Awards continues to recognize the best of American literature, raising the cultural appreciation of great writing in the country while advancing the careers of both established and emerging writers like Richard Powers, Jonathan Franzen, and Lily Tuck.
National Book Awards 2011: Young People’s Literature
Franny Billingsley, Chime
“Part mystery, part fantasy, this beautifully-written page-turner explores guilt, mercy, and love.” -Holly Black, New York Times bestselling author of Tithe and Ironside
My name is not easy. My name is hard like ocean ice grinding at the shore . . . Luke knows his IÃ±upiaq name is full of sounds white people can t say. So he leaves it behind when he and his brothers are sent to boarding school hundreds of miles away from their Arctic village. At Sacred Heart School, students Eskimo, Indian, White line up on different sides of the cafeteria like there s some kind of war going on. Here, speaking IÃ±upiaq or any native language is forbidden. And Father Mullen, whose fury is like a force of nature, is ready to slap down those who disobey. Luke struggles to survive at Sacred Heart. But he s not the only one. There s smart-aleck Amiq, a daring leader if he doesn’t self-destruct; Chickie, blond and freckled, a different kind of outsider; and small, quiet Junior, noticing everything and writing it all down. They each have their own story to tell. But once their separate stories come together, things at Sacred Heart School and the wider world will never be the same.
Thanhha Lai, Inside Out and Back Again
“Based on Lai’s personal experience, this first novel captures a child–refugee’s struggle with rare honesty. Written in accessible, short free-verse poems, Hà’s immediate narrative describes her mistakes—both humorous and heartbreaking; and readers will be moved by Hà’s sorrow as they recognize the anguish of being the outcast.” (Booklist (starred review) )
“American and Vietnamese characters alike leap to life through the voice and eyes of a ten–year–old girl—a protagonist so strong, loving, and vivid I longed to hand her a wedge of freshly cut papaya.” (Mitali Perkins, author of Bamboo People )
Lauren Myracle, Shine
When her best guy friend falls victim to a vicious hate crime, sixteen-year-old Cat sets out to discover who in her small town did it. Richly atmospheric, this daring mystery mines the secrets of a tightly knit Southern community and examines the strength of will it takes to go against everyone you know in the name of justice.
Against a backdrop of poverty, clannishness, drugs, and intolerance, Myracle has crafted a harrowing coming-of-age tale couched in a deeply intelligent mystery. Smart, fearless, and compassionate, this is an unforgettable work from a beloved author.
“Reproductions of Audubon plates introduce each chapter in this stealthily powerful, unexpectedly affirming story of discovering and rescuing one’s best self, despite family pressure to do otherwise.”—Booklist, starred review
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