What to Do After Your Debut? Keep Writing, Of Course!

The 2021 Morris Award Finalists (shown above) were announced in December, and the winner will be revealed at the ALA Youth Media Awards on January 25. First granted in 2009, the William C. Morris YA Debut Award recognizes the most impressive debut published in Young Adult Literature each year.

With more than a decade of winners to look back on, let’s see which of our former debuts are still impressing readers today.

2010’s Morris Award went to L. K. Madigan’s Flash Burnout. Tragically, the author passed away just a year after receiving the award. The rest of the finalists from that year, however, have continued to contribute to YA in significant ways, perhaps none more notably that Nina LaCour, who went on to win the 2018 Printz Award for We Are Okay. LaCour’s latest novel, Watch Over Me, has been nominated for the 2021 Best Fiction for Young Adults Selected List.

In fact, several names on the 2021 BFYA nominations list were originally finalists for the Morris Award, including 2015’s Jessie Ann Foley, 2016’s Anna-Marie McLemore, 2018’s Nic Stone, and David Yoon in 2020.

Last year’s winner, Ben Phillippe, has been nominated. Both the winner of the 2019 Morris Award and one of its finalists have companion books that were nominated — Adib Khorram with Darius the Great Deserves Better and Tomi Adeyemi with Children of Virtue and Vengeance. And Becky Albertalli, the winner in 2016, is enjoying praise this year for Yes No Maybe So, cowritten with Aisha Saeed.

What about books out in 2021? Morris Award recipients have those, too!

Just released is Concrete Rose, 2018 Morris Award winner Angie Thomas’s follow up to The Hate U Give.

And out in August is In the Wild Light from 2017 Morris Award winner Jeff Zentner.

In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner

The moral of the story is this: no matter which finalist is chosen in 2021, we will look forward to reading them for years to come.

2021 Morris Award Finalists Announced

YALSA has selected five books as finalists for the 2021 William C. Morris Award, which honors the year’s best books written for young adults by a previously unpublished author. YALSA will name the 2021 award winner virtually at the Youth Media Awards on January 25, 2021 during the American Library Association’s virtual Midwinter Meeting. Registration is open now through January 15, 2021.

The 2021 finalists are:

  • Black Girl Unlimited: The Remarkable Story of a Teenage Wizard, written by Echo Brown, published by Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt and Co. Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group. 9781250309853.
  • The Black Kids, written by Christina Hammonds Reed, published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing. 9781534462724. 
  • If These Wings Could Fly, written by Kyrie McCauley, published by Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins. 9780062885029.
  • It Sounded Better in My Head, written by Nina Kenwood, published by Flatiron Books, Macmillan Publishers. 9781250219268.
  • Woven in Moonlight, written by Isabel Ibañez, published by Page Street Publishing. 9781624148019.

Annotations and more information on the finalists and the award can be found on the Morris Award page. Finalist seals are available for purchase by publishers and library staff to place on the finalist titles. Individuals can watch the Youth Media Awards live on January 25th at 8am CT online. For more information on YALSA’s William C. Morris Award and other ALA Youth Media Awards, please visit the Youth Media Awards web page.

Congrats to all the finalists and thank you to the 2021 Morris Award Committee for all the hard work, effort, and time they put into reading all submitted titles and selecting the finalists.

Members of the 2021 William C. Morris Award Committee are: chair Melissa Malanuk, Queens Borough Public Library, Jamaica, New York; Meaghan Darling, Sparta Public Library, Sparta, New Jersey; Laura Erwin, Bossard Memorial Library, Gallipolis, Ohio; Megan Garrett, Mid-Continent Public Library, Lee’s Summit, Missouri; Jamie M. Gregory, Christ Church Episcopal School, Moore, South Carolina; Lindsey Helfrich, Sacramento Public Library, Sacramento, California; Alicia Kalan, The Northwest School, Seattle, Washington; Carol Maples, Central High School, Pollok, Texas; and Ann Pechacek, Worthington Libraries, Worthington, Ohio.