Watching the ALA Youth Media Awards always makes my little, bookish heart incredibly happy. Every year, so many amazing and diverse titles are honored and recognized and I always end up adding many books to my TBR. I do find that, due to the limited number of honors and awards, I always find myself sad that certain books I loved didn’t make it. I wanted to share with you guys a few of the books I would personally nominate if these awards had a few more honors spots!
I haven’t personally read all of these books because I am a huge backlist reader. However, I selected these based on how important and impactful they have been to the book community. These books have meant so much to the people who have read them and I wanted to take a moment to give them all a shout out! (Okay, and a few of them are just personal favorites.)
The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan
This book did win
This book made waves when it debuted and it has been on the top of my TBR ever since. Through gorgeous and lyric writing, Emily X.R. Pan tackles themes of mental health and illness, grief, family history, Asian and biracial identity, and culture. The author uses a lens of magical realism to tell this story and it has made a huge impact on everyone I know who has read it.
I would nominate this book for the William C. Morris Award.
The Spy with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke
One of my personal favorites of the year, this book is a WWII story told through the stories of two Jewish and queer teenagers. It beautifully integrated the tragedy of the era with an empowering story that let often-silenced voices tell their own truth. This book is a WWII story about Jewish characters that isn’t about the tragedy of the holocaust and instead gives the character’s the agency and drive to work towards what they believe is right. The companion book, The Girl with the Red Balloon, was a Sydney Taylor honoree last year and I think this book deserves the same honor.
I would nominate this book for the Sydney Taylor Book Award.
Mirage by Somaiya Daud
I have heard so many amazing things about this Moroccan-inspired sci-fi. Not only does it represent a culture that is seldom written about in young adult literature, but it beautifully blends genres to bring the culture into a science fiction story with the trappings of fantasy. It is a haunting story about agency in the midst of cultural erasure that is both necessary and relevant.
I would nominate this book for the William C. Morris Award.
Unbroken edited by Marieke Nijkamp
This book was one that I was honestly devastated to not see honored onstage. This book represents so many different disabled experiences and does so with care and knowledge. From physical disabilities to mental illnesses, both invisible and visible, there was something for so many disabled teens to relate to in these pages. The intersectionality and representation was unparalleled and the stories shared a wide range of emotions and styles.
I would nominate this book for the Schneider Family Book Award.
A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman
Drawing from fairytales, myths and folklore, this collection reimagines the classic tales of both East and South Asian stories. The collection of writers in this anthology is a wonderful display of both veteran and new authors which is an awesome way for readers to experience new storytellers. I’ve seen so many people love and be deeply impacted by the beautiful stories in this anthology and it is one of many anthologies that I think deserve so much recognition.
I would nominate this book for the APALA Young Adult Literature Award.
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
Trail of Lightning is an adult dystopian and urban fantasy novel that I think would make an excellent nominee for the Alex Awards. It is a story where the gods, heroes, and monsters of Native American legends have come to life. We don’t get enough Native American stories in YA literature and I’ve seen a lot of YA readers love this book so I think it holds a lot of appeal for readers of many ages.
I would nominate this book for the Alex Awards.
Someday by David Levithan
Sequels probably don’t get nominated for these awards but I had to include this title. I listened to the audiobook of Someday and, not only did I love it even more than Every Day, I thought the audio production was incredible. David Levithan completely revisited the discussion of gender from multiple perspectives and added beautiful commentary on how different everyone’s view of the world is. There were different narrators for every POV in this book and I thought each one was performed to perfection.
I would nominate this audiobook for the Odyssey Award.
Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Another book that handles a lot of themes with both grace and beauty, Summer Bird Blue touches on topics of grief, abandonment, family, questioning identities, and aromantic and asexual orientations. This book has a cast that is mostly people of color, many of whom are biracial, with a multiracial Asian protagonist. It gives a voice to under-represented identities and isn’t afraid to show characters unpacking more than one emotional beat at a time.
I would nominate this book for the Stonewall Book Award and the APALA Young Adult Literature Award.
Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore
I discovered Anna-Marie McLemore’s books for the first time this year and I fell immediately in love. While I haven’t had the chance to read this book yet, her stories are always filled with beautiful and lyrical magical realism, compelling and lovable characters, underrepresented queer identities, Latinx characters, and complex topics of generational pain and marginalization. I have heard nothing but amazing things about Blanca & Roja and I fully believe anything this author puts her pen to will turn to gold.
I would nominate this book for the Pure Belpré Author Award.
Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
The first book in a Malaysian-inspired fantasy duology, Girls of Paper and Fire takes on the topic of rape culture through a fantasy lens. This story shows queer women of color surviving trauma and finding their own strength again. It’s an incredibly relevant and diverse story that has left an impact on so many of those who have read it. The book features a f/f romance, strong world building, and an important story.
I would nominate this book for the APALA Young Adult Literature Award and the Stonewall Book Award.
The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta
This book is not like anything I’ve ever read before. It’s an Italian-inspired fantasy world where the daughter of a mafia don is trying to navigate her way through the gender roles of her society. The world building is immersive and unique and the characters all have a dark charm to them. This book features a genderqueer love interest who expresses their gender through their magical transformations and a main character who also questions her own gender identity throughout the story. I’ve never read a fantasy book that so overtly discusses gender identity and I thought it was both brilliant and groundbreaking.
I would nominate this book for the Stonewall Book Award.
Let me know in the comments which books you would nominate for these awards! I’m so happy for all of the books that won this year and I cannot wait to read some of the ones that I didn’t get to in 2018.