Every year the Young Adult Librarian Association (YALSA) awards the William C. Morris YA Debut Award for the best novel by a first-time author writing for teens and celebrating impressive new voices in young adult literature. It is named for William Morris, a legend in children's and teen publishing who worked tirelessly promoting children's and teen literature and the importance of libraries.
The award honors books that have compelling or high quality writing, that have proven or potential appeal to teen readers and the integrity of the book as a whole. This past year I was honored to serve on the 2013 committee. It was a tough decision choosing a winner and four honor books but eventually we made our choices.
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
When the death of a royal prince threatens the fragile peace between humans and dragons in Goredd, court musician Seraphina is drawn into the murder investigation. But even as she aids Prince Lucian in his mission to uncover the murderer, Seraphina conceals a dangerous secret of her own—her half-human, half-dragon heritage.
"Hartman's vivid descriptions and clever wordplay immerse readers in Seraphina's world," said Morris Award Chair Joy Kim.
Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby
Stories come easily to motherless Portia, and a good thing, too. They sustain her when her father leaves her and when her aunt abandons her to the ghastly McGreavey Home for Wayward Girls. When she escapes, they win her a place with Mosco's Traveling Wonder Show, where she hopes to find her father again somehow, where "freak," "normal" and "family" mean something altogether different—and where Portia begins to take charge of her own story.
Gorgeously written with sumptuous language and heartbreaking storytelling make this novel unforgettable.
Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo
Amelia meets Chris when he trains her for her brand-new job at the local supermarket. Smart and witty, they are perfect for each other. She is smitten, but he, on the rebound from his first, lost love, is preoccupied with the pursuit of booze and sex—and his college degree on the side. More importantly, she is 15, and he is 22. It just can't happen, can it?
An uncommon non-romance, romance with two characters that jump off the page and make you ponder all of life's possibilities.
After the Snow by S. D. Crockett
In a future where winter lasts nearly all year, Willo returns from hunting to discover his family has been kidnapped. Skilled at surviving in the wild, he sets off from their remote farm, determined to locate them. But when his journey brings him to a corrupt city, full of strange and unfamiliar perils, Willo is swept up by events he doesn't fully understand.
Willo's strongly accented dialogue and unique world view make this dystopian novel stand out from the crowd.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth
On the same day that 12-year-old Cameron kisses her best friend, Irene, her parents are killed in a car accident. Nearly crushed with guilt, Cameron spends the next several years in self-imposed gay-movie therapy with her VCR or drinking and smoking pot with her track- and swim-team friends, gradually coming to terms with her sexuality. It's not easy being gay in rural 1990s Montana, and it's harder still when your aunt drags you to an evangelical church every weekend—where you meet the girl of your dreams.
A beautifully written story with a strong sense of time and place and filled with realistic characters that bring Cameron's 1990 world into full focus and perfectly capture the teenage experience.