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.

Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2021) Nominees Round Up, December 4 Edition

Click here to see all of the current Best Fiction for Young Adults nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger Book Cover
Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger, illustrated by Rovina Cai
Levine Querido 
Publication Date: August 25, 2020
ISBN: 978-1646140053

Lipan Apache teenager Elatsoe “Ellie” Bride lives in an alternate modern world populated by ghosts and vampires and fairy rings. Ellie has inherited the power to call on animal spirits, and she is content to explore her abilities slowly and quietly. But then her cousin Trevor dies in a violent car accident, and his ghost appears in a dream to warn Ellie that he’s been murdered, begging her to protect his family. Now Ellie must tread carefully to track a killer in a seemingly perfect small town, helped by her overly-enthusiastic best friend, her ghost dog Kirby, and the stories she’s learned about the abuses suffered and powers wielded by her powerful sixth-great-grandmother.

Continue reading Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2021) Nominees Round Up, December 4 Edition

Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2021) Nominees Round Up, November 24 Edition

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

Lux: The New Girl by Ashley Woodfolk Book Cover
Lux: The New Girl by Ashley Woodfolk

Lux: The New Girl by Ashley Woodfolk
Workshop / Penguin
Publication Date: September 1, 2020
ISBN: 978-0593096017

When Lux is kicked out of yet another school for fighting, she has one more chance to fit in and make things work at a local high school. At Harlem’s Augusta Savage School of Arts, she meets a group of students known as the Flyy Girls. Being a good friend and leaving her old life behind is hard, even with the best of intentions.

This book is less than 150 pages and is smaller in size than a regular hardcover YA novel, with straightforward text and short chapters that include diary entries and lots of dialogue. The simple but real plot is not overly complicated and readers will end up caring about and relating to Lux’s success, stress over social media, family dynamics, and everyday obstacles. 

Continue reading Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2021) Nominees Round Up, November 24 Edition

Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2021) Nominees Round Up, November 11 Edition

Click here to see all of the current Amazing Audiobooks nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.

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The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune; narrated by Daniel Henning
Macmillan Audio
Release date: 03-17-20
ISBN: 9781250264299

Linus Baker takes his job as overseer of magical children’s orphanages very seriously.  His by-the-book approach to visits and reports gets him noticed by Extremely Upper Management. They select him for a special job visiting a house at what seems like the end of the world to report on a particularly special group of kids.  But while there, he finds that there might be more to life than filling out forms and boxes, and in this case, the children and their enigmatic master are teaching him more than he expected to find.

Continue reading Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2021) Nominees Round Up, November 11 Edition

Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2021) Nominees Round Up, September 23 Edition

Click here to see all of the current Amazing Audiobooks nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.

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Sigh, Gone: A Misfit’s Memoir of Great Books, Punk Rock, and the Fight to Fit In by Phuc Tran; narrated by Phuc Tran
Macmillan Audio
Publication Date: April 21, 2020
ISBN: 978-1250194718  

Tran often felt like an outsider as the only Asian student in his school growing up in Carlisle, PA. Tran’s memoir spans from his early childhood coming to the U.S. as a refugee from Vietnam in 1975 after the fall of Saigon through his highschool graduation, where he finds his “wolf-pack” of punk skaters in middle school, and shows that no one is just “one thing.” Each chapter is told through the lens of a “classic” title from his must-read list like Crime and Punishment and The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and shows what that book meant to him, and how it framed his life.

Continue reading Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2021) Nominees Round Up, September 23 Edition

Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2021) Nominees Round Up, July 14 Edition

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

Shuri: A Black Panther Novel  by Nic Stone
Scholastic Inc.
Publication Date: May 5, 2020
ISBN: 978-1338585476

Princess Shuri must race to figure out what is happening to the Heart Shaped Herb, (the source for the Black Panther’s powers), before her brother’s rule as the Black Panther and Wakanda itself are threatened.

Continue reading Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2021) Nominees Round Up, July 14 Edition

Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2021) Nominees Round Up, May 13 Edition

Click here to see all of the current Amazing Audiobooks nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.

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All-American Muslim Girl by Nadine Jolie Courtney; Narrated by Priya Ayyar
Dreamscape Media, LLC
Publication Date: November 12, 2019
ISBN: 978-1974959310 

Allie carries more of her white mother’s genes than her Circassian Jordanian father’s, and because of this, has been witness to the racism and Islamophobia of some of her peers. She has also had a complicated relationship with her Muslim faith, as her mother was a convert upon marrying her father, and her father is no longer practicing, and she seeks what it means to be Muslim for her. At her new school in Providence, Georgia she starts dating Wells Henderson, son of one of the country’s biggest Islamophobic radio personalities. 

Continue reading Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2021) Nominees Round Up, May 13 Edition

Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2021) Nominees Round Up, May 6 Edition

The New David Espinoza by Fred Aceves; narrated by Christian Barillas
HarperAudio
Release date: 02-11-20
ISBN: 978-1094114224

When caught on video being punched by a kid in the locker room, David’s embarrassment goes viral. Feeling that the only way to save face is to beef up, he starts following a famous action star’s fitness program, with promises of incredible muscle gains in the three months of summer.  He plans to go back to school as a new man.  Discovering that the kinds of gains he is looking for are only possible with chemical help, he turns to steroids with the help of the owner of his gym.  Further disillusioned when he finds out that the ill gotten gains will be lost if he stops taking the drugs, he starts spiraling down a road of steroid abuse.

Continue reading Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2021) Nominees Round Up, May 6 Edition

Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2021) Nominees Round Up, March 17 Edition

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

Free Lunch by Rex Ogle
Norton Young Readers / W.W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: September 10, 2019
ISBN: 978-1324003601

Rex’s sixth grade year is characterized by the poverty he’s grown up in, as well as the abuse he suffers at the hands of his parents. The young adolescent narrating the story observes stark contrasts in adults’ expectations and their actual treatment of him. In addition to the trauma he buries at home, he faces trying to fit in like any teenager would, deciding what to hide or reveal to his peers about his personal life.

Continue reading Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2021) Nominees Round Up, March 17 Edition

Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2020) Nominees Round Up, December 10 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 artJackpot by Nic Stone
Crown Books for Young Readers / Random House Children’s Books
Publication Date: October 15, 2019
ISBN: 978-1984829627

Seventeen-year-old Rico works long hours at the Gas ‘n’ Go to help support her mother and younger brother. When no one comes forward to claim a multi-million-dollar lottery prize, she teams up with Zan, whose wealthy family seems the opposite of hers in every way, in order to find the winning ticket.  

This is a sweet coming of age story featuring a interracial romance. Stone’s writing is very engaging, and the short chapters make this a compelling read. Told mostly from Rico’s point of view, the story includes some quirky chapters narrated by inanimate objects, like the winning lottery ticket.  Rico is a sympathetic and humorous character, and the book is manages to be somewhat lighthearted, even when tackling tough subjects like poverty and illness. 

An excellent choice for readers who enjoy the family-oriented themes in the works of Angie Thomas and Brandy Colbert. This selection will also appeal to fans of “opposites attract” romances, like those by Sandhya Menon, or Nicola Yoon’s The Sun is Also a Star. 

–Kathleen J. Barker Continue reading Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2020) Nominees Round Up, December 10 Edition