Cinco Puntos Press
Nominated by: Svale
“Every time I go out with a guy, my mom says, ‘Ojos abiertos, piernas cerradas.’ Eyes open, legs closed” – advice Gabi’s mom didn’t exactly follow. Mom also wants her to lose weight, but in Gabi’s tough life, food is comfort and she wants to be comfortable with who she is – a gordita who discovers her voice in poetry and in standing tall for her friends. And that voice…it’s funny, sardonic, passionate, honest, sad, wise beyond Gabi’s 16 years but also achingly real. When it comes to boys, Gabi’s eyes are wide open, but she’s vulnerable, too, with a heart the size of California and Mexico combined. Follow this journal of Gabi’s unforgettable senior year and she will become your best book friend forever.
Nominated by: Jennifer Schultz
This is a poignant and painful story of two special ed girls (“speddies”) whose strengths and weaknesses are well-matched in ways that neither of them expect. Biddy and Quincy describe their own lives as well as each other, so we get a clear picture of these girls and we see the fears and the secrets they hide from other people and even from themselves. The girls spend much of this story challenging their own expectations and sense of self-worth. Do they deserve good things from people who care about them? Do they deserve insults and abuse from people who don’t? Do they deserve to be social outcasts? The obstacles that Biddy and Quincy have to overcome are gut-wrenching, and they will have a profound impact on readers. Many teens (and adults) will be moved to tears by this book.
Nominated by: Sarah Potvin
I’ll Give You the Sun is a compelling story of twins Jude and Noah, both talented artists competing for admission to an elite art school and their mother’s affection. The alternating voices and shifts in time give the reader a different perspective of not only the dynamics of this shattered family, but also the twins themselves. Through her nuanced writing, Nelson tackles some big issues – sibling relationships, sexuality, and grief – in a way that both teens and adults can relate; this all adds up to an unforgettable read.
Nominated by: Kelly Jensen
Despite the difficulty of the last four years—which included her best friend’s disappearance and an ongoing struggle with anorexia—17-year-old Theo has pulled her life together and is on track to break into professional ballet. Now, with her best friend’s return, the turmoil returns, and old memories suddenly take on new meaning. Pointe deals with heavy issues with nuance and grace, and introduces a voice that walks the unusual line between deliberate self-delusion and utter honesty. It tells the story of a romance in which neither player is on solid moral ground, but both are entirely empathetic; and it shows how friendship can be a solid foundation for healing, understanding and trust. But it is Theo’s journey towards an understanding of her own self-worth that makes Pointe so special: as she works through the events in her past, she realizes how much more she deserves from her present and her future.
Nominated by: Liza Wiemer
Ali’s mother—the wise and fearsome Doris Brooks—warns him that a time may come when his best pal Noodles lets him down once too often, but Ali never imagines it will happen in the middle of a savage beat-down. When Noodles’s brother, Needles (nicknamed for the knitting habit that helps him cope with his Tourette’s syndrome) accidentally jabs a brawny partygoer with a knitting needle, Noodles turns to limp spaghetti and it’s up to Ali to dive in, fists swinging, to save his friend. Set in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, When I Was the Greatest is a novel with extraordinary heart, with a cast of characters so real and flawed and complex they feel like family. And family, Ali will be the first to tell you, is the most important thing there is. In a voice both wry and wrenching, this fast-moving tale explores the complicated ramifications of small choices and the magic of second chances.