Best Young Adult Books: 2015 Printz, Morris, and Alex Awards

From the greatest runner in Nairobi, to the first person to walk on Mars, and a powerful memoir from the son of a terrorist, the books selected for the 2015 YALSA awards tell a variety of stories and reflect the changing landscape of young adult literature. Besides simply telling engaging stories, many of these books deal with the universal themes of adolescence and coming-of-age, while others spark conversations about some of the more sensitive issues that modern young people face.

The awards, including the Alex Awards, Morris, and Printz awards, are presented by the Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association. They are given each year to the best books for teens and young adults and include awards for fiction, non-fiction, audiobooks, and other categories.

2015 Alex Award Winners

The Alex Awards are perhaps the best known of the YALSA awards and are given each year to ten books “written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18.” This year’s authors come from a range of ethnicities and backgrounds. From John Darnielle, an indie rock songwriter-turned novelist who won for Wolf in White Van, to Zak Ebrahim, the son of the man who planned the 1993 World Trade Center bombing who was honored for his book, The Terrorist’s Son: A Story of Choice, the 2015 Alex Award winners are a diverse group spanning a variety of genres—fiction, memoir, science fiction, and thrillers, to name just a few.

2015 Edwards Award Winner

The Margaret A. Edwards Award honors an author “for significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature…. It recognizes an author’s work in helping adolescents become aware of themselves and addressing questions about their role and importance in relationships, society, and in the world.” This year’s Edwards Award was presented to Sharon M. Draper for her books Tears of a Tiger, Forged by Fire, and Darkness Before Dawn from her “Hazelwood” series and The Battle of Jericho and November Blues from her “Jericho” trilogy which spark conversations about issues many teens face, from hazing and teen pregnancy, to drunk driving, addiction, and abuse. She was also honored for her book, Copper Sunwhich tells the story of a 15-year-old girl abducted into slavery in the 18th century and brought to America.

2015 Printz AwardPrintz Award Winner

The Michael L. Printz Award honors a book that “exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature.” The 2015 Printz award was presented to I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson which tells the story of twin brothers struggling to cope after a family tragedy.

Printz finalists included And We Stay, by Jenny Hubbard; The Carnival at Bray, by Jessie Ann Foley; Grasshopper Jungle, by Andrew Smith; and This One Summer, by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki, which also received a Caldecott Honor, the first ever graphic novel to be honored with the prestigious award.

2015 Morris AwardGabi, a Girl in Pieces | 2015 YALSA Award

The William C. Morris YA Debut Award celebrates new voices in young adult literature and is given annually to the debut book of a first-time author writing for teens. This year’s award went to Gabi, a Girl in Pieces written by Isabel Quintero which chronicles the difficult senior year of a young aspiring poet as she prepares for graduation and college.

Other finalists include The Carnival at Brayby Jessie Ann Foley; The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim, by E.K. Johnston; The Scar Boys, by Len Vlahos; and The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. by Leslye Walton.

2015 YALSA Award for Excellence in NonfictionPopular | 2015 YALSA Award

Honoring the best nonfiction book published for young adults, ages 12-18, the 2015 nonfiction award was presented to Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek written by Maya Van Wagenen. This unique memoir details the author’s experience in eighth grade using a 1950s popularity guidebook to take on her school’s social hierarchy.

Other finalists for the 2015 award included Laughing at My Nightmare, by Shane Burcaw; The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia, by Candace Fleming; Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business—and Won! by Emily Arnold McCully; and The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights, by Steve Sheinkin.

2015 Odyssey Award2015 Odyssey Award Winner

Given to the producer of the best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults, H.O.R.S.E. A Game of Basketball and Imagination received the 2015 Odyssey Award. Written by Christopher Myers and narrated by Dion Graham and Christopher Myersthis fun audiobook follows an imaginative basketball game between two kids, complete with sound effects and music.

Honor Recordings included Five, Six, Seven, Nate! written and narrated by Tim FederleThe Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place written by Julie Berry, narrated by Jayne Entwistle; and A Snicker of Magic, written by Natalie Lloyd, narrated by Cassandra Morris.

These award-winning books join the ranks of other great books for teens, from classics like To Kill A Mockingbird, to newer favorites like The Giver and The Fault in Our Stars. 

For more great books for kids, see Learning Liftoff’s coverage of the Caldecott and Newbery awards for children’s literature, and visit YALSA‘s site to find recommended reading lists for teens, including best fiction, graphic novels, great books for college-bound teens, and book recommendations for reluctant readers.

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