2013 Finalists: Young Adult Fiction

Evan Roskos
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

Nominated by: Jessica @ herlifewithbooks

Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets hits a seldom-found sweet spot between
artful prose and an honest, authentic teen voice. James struggles with
depression, anxiety, and abusive parents. With his sister Jorie, one of
his few confidants, out of the house, he turns to the fictional Dr. Bird
and the poetry of Walt Whitman for solace. Like most teens, James is very
self-aware about some things, like his need for therapy, and totally
oblivious to others. Well-developed characters, each with clear motivations
of their own, populate James’ search for real human connections and the
professional help he needs. Excerpts from Whitman are well integrated into
the text and passages where James adopts Whitman’s style are particularly

–Beth Saxton, Beth Reads

Rainbow Rowell
St. Martin’s Griffin
Nominated by: Linda Baie

You don’t have to be a child of the ’80s to appreciate Rainbow Rowell’s young adult romance Eleanor & Park, set in Omaha in 1986. Even if a mixtape is as foreign to you as the krone as a unit of currency, you should still devour this book. You just have to be alive; alive to the awkwardness of first love and the potential for such love to overcome the isolation of growing up poor or different. Rowell’s choice to write in third person, switching perspectives between Eleanor and Park, works wonders. Eleanor & Park is not a mushy, feel-good romance. It is wrenching in its sadness, its honesty, and its admission that broken is not so easily fixed.

–William Polking, Guys Lit Wire

Ruta Sepetys
Nominated by: Flowering Minds

Ruta Sepetys transports readers to 1950 New Orleans with a cast of colorful characters, vibrant historical details, and an intriguing and suspenseful plot. A survivor relevant today, Josie is the daughter of a prostitute who longs for college and a better life – and she isn’t going to let a murder investigation full of twists stop her. It will take her intelligence, her New Orleans family, and her street smarts to get her there. You’ll root for her the whole way.

— Lucy Tonkin, The Reading Date

Elizabeth Wein
Disney Hyperion
Nominated by: Brandy Painter

When she is captured and sent to the Ravensbrueck concentration camp, young American pilot Rose Justice sees the worst that humans can do to each other. With the help of friends she makes in her cell block, Rose struggles to survive, and to find a way to bear witness. Rose’s poetic background gives her narrative a resonance that makes her description of camp life all the more shocking. Full of quiet courage and heartbreak, Rose Under Fire is a powerful testament to the strength of the human spirit, making World War II real in a way that will haunt its readers and make them, too, want to tell the world.

— Maureen Eichner, By Singing Light

Carrie Mesrobian
Carolrhoda Books
Nominated by: Liz B

Evan has always been good at getting girls, getting down, and getting out. When he picks the wrong girl, the results are violent, and he has to deal with the very real consequences. His father whisks him away to a quiet Minnesota town on a lake, where Evan is forced to confront his callous views on sex and girls as he also learns to let people in, form real relationships, and recognize that his father might actually be a real person. Evan’s first-person narration is startlingly authentic, and his intense and sometimes uncomfortably frank inner-monologue will compel readers. Mesrobian’s excellent novel raises very real questions about becoming a man and owning one’s actions., in a way that is authentic, compelling, and unafraid to show the ugly side of life.

–Madeline Rudawski, Early Nerd Special

Meg Medina
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Madelyn Rosenberg

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass explores the frustration and complexity of bullying and racial tension in a fresh and realistic way. Tenth grader Piddy Sanchez is dealing with a lot of “new” in her life. She’s still getting used to the new curves of her body, her new school, and its racial cliques. When she learns that an indomitable girl at her new school named Yaqui Delgado doesn’t like Piddy solely because of the way Piddy’s hips swivel, she’ll have even more to deal with. Piddy doesn’t know who Yaqui is, but soon the bullying begins and Piddy learns that the options of fight or flight are too simple for the horrible reality she now faces. Piddy’s emotional journey is not only believable, but one that demands attention. This first person narrative brings not only Piddy, but also her friends, and Queens itself to life. A must read, and not just because it has the word “ass” in the title.

–Michelle Castleman, The Hungry Readers