“I just don’t understand,” my teenage patron Dillon sighs, “why they haven’t made a big-budget Hollywood action movie about Benedict Arnold.”
Her best friend Desi nods. “Imagine that scene where he races into the hail of bullets,” she supplies.
“You know,” I say cautiously, “most people think Arnold is the greatest traitor in American history…” I trail off.
Desi frowns as Dillon tsk-tsks with disapproval. “But that’s just not the whole story,” Desi cuts me off.
Dillon holds out the book she had clutched to her chest. “If they’d just read this book,” she says confidently, “they’d understand.”
Often I think that Desi’s insistent “That’s not the whole story!” and Dillon’s sigh “If they’d just read this book, they’d understand!” should be the rallying cry for teen nonfiction. This burgeoning genre is full of stories as exciting and revelatory as the one Sheinkin creates in the 2012 winner of YALSA’s Excellence in Non-Fiction for Young Adults Award, The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism, and Treachery — yet too often the genre is either ignored or pigeonholed as being full of stuffy, starchy, textbook-like material. But the best teen nonfiction opens the world up to a reader, gives them new understandings, and prompts them to look for the whole story.
It was the desire to see more of that kind of teen nonfiction published that prompted YALSA to establish the Excellence in Non-Fiction for Young Adults Award. The titles selected as the five finalists epitomize the best in contemporary non-fiction for young adults and, hopefully, encourage more librarians and teachers to share this work with young adults.
The award honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults (ages 12-18) in a given year (November 1â€“October 31). Anyone may suggest a title to the committee for consideration, and if a committee member seconds the title, it becomes an official nominee. Nominees are announced after the award winners at the Youth Media Awards during ALA’s Midwinter meeting in January.
As a member of the 2013 committee, I have been lucky enough to spend the year reading and discussing great non-fiction, but, of course, our committee wants to make sure we have truly looked at all of the best the genre has to offer, so we are asking for field suggestions from members of the public. Yes, you might be nominating a book we have already discussed, but you might also be bringing a new, relevant title to our attention.
Have you read a non-fiction book published for young adults between November 1, 2011 and October 31, 2012 that made you sigh with delight? Then suggest the title to the committee.
After all, we want to hear the whole story.
— Angie Manfredi has been active in YALSA for 6 years and is currently serving on the 2013 Excellence in Non-Fiction for Young Adults committee, and she can’t wait to present at the 2012 YALSA YA Lit Symposium. You can find her on Twitter (@misskubelik). She is currently reading 34 Pieces of You by Carmen Rodrigues.
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