Celebrating Black Voices

Though we champion Black voices all year long, February is Black History Month, and YALSA member Annierra Matthews has pulled together a list to commemorate and elevate this celebration. Annierra is a Research Services Library at Mercer University in Douglasville, Georgia, and has a passion for YA!


Black History Month (BHM) is quite prominent in most Black households across the United States. Founded in 1924 by Carter G. Woodson, the accomplishments of Black leaders, musicians, writers, athletes, etc., are celebrated throughout February. For teens searching for ways to celebrate Black History Month, there are plenty of options: viewing online exhibitions and archives, binging documentaries and films, streaming special programs and recitals, and even supporting black-owned businesses.

For those who prefer to cuddle up with a book, here’s a list of compelling fiction written by Black authors and featuring Black characters. 

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown

Malik must save his sister from a sinister spirit, and in order to do so, he must kill Crown Princess Karina. Karina, on the other hand, must offer a king’s heart to revive her mother. When Malik and Karina face-off in the Solstasia competition, they contend with falling in love and completing their goal.  

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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.

Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2020) Nominees Round Up, December 2 Edition

Click here to see all of the current Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.

cover artUNpregnant  by Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplan
Harper Teen / Harper Collins Publisher
Publication Date: September 10, 2019
ISBN: 9780062876249

Veronica has everything: a great boyfriend, popularity, Ivy League college acceptance. She finds out she’s pregnant after her boyfriend poked holes in a condom without her knowledge. She decides to have an abortion, and must travel nearly 1000 miles from Missouri to New Mexico for the procedure. With her besties away for a study weekend, and her boyfriend/stalker now an unreliable option, Veronica asks former friend Bailey to drive her and nothing goes as planned. 

This is a quick read, moving along with short chapters, comedic dialogue, and absurd adventures. The story focuses not so much on Veronica’s decision, which she is firm in, (though the details of her research, decision-making, and visit to Planned Parenthood will likely be eye-opening for young adult readers) but the challenges she faces along the way. Veronica and Bailey’s friendship rekindles, and hopefully readers will relate to having someone in their own lives who will support them during difficult times. The insane stalker boyfriend adds humor to a heavy topic.

Aftercare Instructions: A Novel by Bonnie Pipkin, As Many Nows As I Can Get by Shana Youngdahl and Belly Up by Eve Darrows are similar in topic, featuring female teenage protagonists facing decisions about unexpected pregnancy. Readers interested in viewing how the issue of abortion is portrayed in film and television can use the online database from the program Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health.

 –Aimee Haslam Continue reading Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2020) Nominees Round Up, December 2 Edition

Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2020) Nominees Round Up, March 27 Edition

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas; Narrated by Bahni Turpin
Harper Collins
Publication Date: February 5, 2019
ISBN: 9780062840691

Bri’s life has not been easy – her dad was shot when she was young, her brother made it out of the neighborhood and went to college, but is now working for minimum wage at a pizza place, and her mom just lost her job. Bri dreams of becoming a famous rapper as an answer to their troubles. She is trying to be her own person – more than the younger sister who can’t live up to her brother’s grades and more than the daughter following in her rapper father’s footsteps. She wants to be known as a rapper based on her own skills and not those of her father. In Bri’s quest to become a rapper, she must decide who and what she is willing to compromise.

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Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2020) Nominees Round Up, March 22 Edition

The Disasters by M. K. England
HarperTeen / HarperCollins
Publication Date: December 18, 2018
ISBN: 978-0062657671 

Nax and three other students are returning to Earth after being kicked out of Ellis Station Academy when a terrorist group attacks the school. Framed for the crime, the four must work together to discover who is really behind the attack, uncovering a conspiracy that threatens the lives of all those in the space colonies.

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#ALAAC18 Recap: Printz Award Reception

On Friday, June 22, the Printz and Printz honor winners, announced in February at Midwinter, formally accepted their prizes.

As a fan of YA literature, one of the most exciting things about the Printz reception is how many authors (not just the year’s honorees!) are in attendance. Sitting in the audience and recognizing folks from their book jacket photos like Rebecca Stead, Tahereh Mafi, and Ransom Riggs truly made me feel like I was at the book world’s [much cozier] version of the Emmys and transformed a regular hotel conference room into something much greater.

After opening remarks from YALSA president Sandra Hughes-Hassell and 2018 Printz Committee Chair Angela Carstensen, each honoree spoke about their work and writing careers. Below is a brief recap of each speech from this special night. For more information about the Printz award and past winners, see the YALSA website and the Teen Book Finder App.

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2018 Best Fiction for Young Adults List

Have you heard? The Best Fiction for Young Adults list has been released! Check out the top ten below!

  • Arnold, Elana. What Girls Are Made Of. Lerner/Carolrhoda Lab. 2017. Sixteen-year-old Nina experiences sex, betrayal, loss, and a dysfunctional home life, all while trying to understand what it means to be female in the world and whether love can ever be truly unconditional.
  • Bardugo, Leigh. The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic. Illus. by Sara Kipin. Macmillan/Imprint. 2017. Traditional fairy tales are refreshingly twisted, re-created, and wrapped in gorgeous illustrations in this stand-alone collection of six short stories. The world-building will be familiar to Bardugo’s fans, and readers new to her Grishaverse have the pleasure of knowing they can take further excursions into this world.
  • Lee, Mackenzi. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. 2017. Montague, the son of a British nobleman, embarks on a European tour with his best friend (and secret crush) Percy and his sister Felicity. Along the way, they encounter adventure and conflict that leads them to a very different destiny than the one awaiting their return to England.
  • Moon, Sarah. Sparrow. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine. 2017. Sparrow has a secret: her closest friends are birds. When she feels anxious, she goes to the roof and flies. One day, this practice lands her in the hospital, facing questions from the adults in her life. Slowly, she recovers, finds her voice, and makes new friends along the way.
  • Reynolds, Jason. Long Way Down. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum. 2017. Will’s brother has been shot. In this free-verse novel, Will steps into an elevator ready to head downstairs and to follow the rules he’s been taught and avenge his brother’s death, when he encounters the ghosts of victims of a chain reaction caused by a shooting.

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