This week the National Book Awards were announced, and now we’ve got about a million hours of reading ahead of us. But we wanted to share the 10 longlisted finalists in Young People’s Literature, from nearly 300 that were submitted, should your teens — and hey, even you — want to read some seriously fine new titles. This isn’t light reading, nor is it for the majority of younger kids, even if they read at a high school level; the topics range from coming out, to the Vietnam War, to mental illness, to a brutally honest memoir about Malcolm X by his daughter.
I will say, there’s quite a few on the list that I’m jonesing to read myself. What a fantastic range. And I especially like that the list includes three debut authors. As a writer, I find it reassuring that there’s always room for great new voices in publishing, and always something new to discover.
CMP is an Amazon affiliate or find them at your local indie bookseller. Because you can’t judge a book by its cover, descriptions are edited from the publisher synopses.
Becky Albertalli, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
A very funny and poignant coming-of-age story from a first-time novelist, about a 16 year old boy forced to come out before his sexuality is exposed.
The true story of the Siege of Leningrad, and the surprising role played by the Leningrad Symphony.
Ali Benjamin, The Thing About Jellyfish
A poignant novel revolving around a middle school girl’s emotional journey after the sudden death of her best friend.
Rae Carson, Walk on Earth a Stranger
From the author of The Girl of Fire and Thorns series, this is the first novel in her new trilogy about a young woman during the Gold Rush era America, with the magical ability to sense the presence of gold.
Gary Paulsen, This Side of Wild: Mutts, Mares, and Laughing Dinosaurs
This book features surprising true stories about the Newbery Honor-winning author and extreme adventurer’s own relationship with animals and how they taught him to be a better person.
Laura Ruby, Bone Gap
For teens and up, this is a story for fans of magical realism, about an imperfect hero in a small town and a girl who’s disappeared.
Ilyasah Shabazz, with Kekla Magoon, X: A Novel
From the Malcolm X’s middle daughter, this gritty, pull-no-punches novel details her father’s early life honestly from childhood until 20, including criminal behavior, alcohol abuse, and the beginning of his rise from adversity.
For non-fiction history buffs, this is the story of Ellsberg’s transformation from no-name government analyst into “the most dangerous man in America” who revealed the existence of the Pentagon Papers and the secret history of the Vietnam War, forever changing the relationship between Americans and our politicians.
Neal Shusterman, Challenger Deep
This highly lauded novel about mental illness features an obsessive-compulsive, schizophrenic, but highly sympathetic high school student who alternates between his real life and his fantasy world until they slowly start to merge.
Noelle Stevenson, Nimona
This graphic novel debut is based on the author’s beloved, subversive web comic, featuring dragons, science, supervillains, and a young female shapeshifter “with a knack for villainy.” Ooh.