Today the American Library Association announced this year’s award-winning books for children and young adults. The ALA held a very exciting ceremony for writers and librarians, and I followed along with them on Twitter and watched the podcast of the event while occasionally drifting into pleasant daydreams where I get that call in the morning (someday in the future when I actually have a published book) from the ALA committee. You may have heard of these awards: the Caldecott Medal, for the most distinguished picture book; the Newbery for the best children’s book (which is typically defined as a book written for readers aged 8 to 12); and the Printz, for the best novel written for young adults. Because I write for young adults and love to read books written for young adults, the Printz is the award I’m most interested in.
While I was waiting for the winner to be announced (and/or falling into lala, coveted-medal-on-my-book-cover, fantasy land) I started making a list of the awards I’d give if anyone at the ALA ever asked me for my opinion.
So here it is, without further ado, the first annual Jody-intz Awards (and at the end, I’ll tell you which book actually won the Printz.):
- Best Page-Turner. This award goes to the book I read in one long sitting/walking from room to room with it because I could not bear to put it down for one second and then stayed up half the night to finish it. Drum Roll. Ashes by Ilsa Bick, the addictive and heart-stopping tale of an allegedly dying girl who goes on a camping trip when an electromagnetic pulse pulses the world, kills most of humanity, and turns the remainder into flesh-eating zombies. This book is also a runner up for the Biggest Cliff-hanger/Oh Crud, Now I Have to Wait for the Sequel Award. Also receives an honorable mention for Book That Most Inspires You To Hoard Canned Goods. Warning: Clear out your schedule before turning to the first page.
- Coolest Premise. The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler. Two teens living in the olden days of 1995 log online and discover their Facebook pages fifteen years in the future. What else is there to say about that? A very cool idea that I wish I’d thought of. (P.S. The book lives up to the hype too.)
- Most Original Voice. I read a ton of YA books so it’s surprising when I come across a voice I’ve never heard before. The winner in this category is Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Brezenoff. The main character is a kid called Kid who tells the story of a warehouse fire in Brooklyn and the growing relationship with a kid named Scout. Oh, and by the way, the reader never learns the genders of either Kid or Scout.
- Best Teen Love Story—A three-way tie between Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins, Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard, and If I Stay by Gayle Forman. If you love love stories and either hated Twilight and crave an alternative or loved Twilight and crave an alternative, read any of these. Or all of these. Sigh.
- Best World I’d Love to Fall Into. Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. This book could be a runner up in the Best Love Story category too, now that I think about it. The setting is a remote island where every year killer horses rise up out of the sea and the townspeople risk their lives to race them. This is one of those old-fashioned books that takes its time, developing the cast of complicated and quirky characters and building the intricate plot. When I knew I was coming to the end, I read slower so I could stay in the fully realized, luscious world just a little bit longer.
- I guess I should follow up this award with one for World I Wouldn’t Want to Fall Into. And this honor easily goes to Ashfall, by Mike Mullin. Yeah, let’s just say it’s a bleak landscape after the super volcano hidden under Yellowstone erupts and destroys most of the country. (Runner up in the page turners and canned good categories too.)
- New Writer to Watch. This is a tie between Jennifer Castle, author of the beautifully written novel The Beginning of After, about a girl coping in the year after her parents die (note: it is NOT as dark as it sounds), and Emily M. Danforth, author of The Miseducation of Cameron Post, about a girl coping with her realization that she is a lesbian (note: it is not as dark as it sounds). Because both writers know how to tell a really good story and I can't wait to see what books they write next.
- Awesome Series. There are so many to pick from in this category because, if you’ve spent any time perusing the YA section in your local bookstore (which I hope you do), series are very big these days. The award goes to Ally Condie’s Matched series, a thought-provoking, dystopian story of a girl growing up in what seems to be a perfect world. The sequel, Crossed, accomplishes what all writers of successful series dream of: it ups the ante while at the same time carrying through everything loyal readers of the first book loved.
- Writer I Wish I Could Be. Another tie. First, Sara Zarr, author of this year’s moving and brilliant How To Save a Life (and for her entire body of work –Story of a Girl and Sweethearts and Once Was Lost—all I can say is I bow down to her talent. Ditto to Lauren Myracle for her moving and brilliant novel (that should have won a National Book Award!) Shine. (Love her other novels too, especially Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks and had the great honor of meeting Lauren at a book signing. Full disclosure: a picture of the two of us is my screen-saver on my cellphone.)
- Novel That Changed the Way I View the World. Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley. The story of a boy in a small dying town whose brother goes missing, and a disturbed kid obsessed with the Book of Enoch, and the appearance of the thought to be extinct Lazarus bird. You might just discover the meaning of life in this one.
And maybe that’s what the ALA committee was thinking when they awarded it this year’s Printz Award.