Some people get excited about the Oscars, or the Grammys, or the Tonys. Sports fans may look forward to the Super Bowl, the World Cup, or March Madness. For me, it’s all about the book awards, and my favorites are the YMAs.
For me, a few of the highlights from this year’s Youth Media Awards include: a graphic novel winning a Printz Honor, one of my favorite books winning the Printz Award, and a book on my to-read list that won both a Printz Honor and a Morris Honor. (Can you tell I’m a little obsessed with the Printz Award?) For those unfamiliar with these prizes, the Michael L. Printz Award “honors the best book written for teens, based entirely on its literary merit,” and the William C. Morris YA Debut Award “honors a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens and celebrating impressive new voices in young adult literature.” As a YA reader and writer, I pay close attention to these winners for great prose and authors to look out for in the future. If I’m ever unsure what to read next (Ha!), I look to the YMA winners.
I’ll admit, I haven’t read Printz Honor winner This One Summer yet, but I’m thrilled that the honor went to a graphic novel. While I’m not a big reader of graphic novels, I think they too often get a bad rap as being considered “lesser” works. I find this incredibly frustrating, because there are so many stories that can be told so much better with pictures, and I’ve read graphic novels that I think have incredible literary and artistic merit. A recent (and admittedly not the best) example from my own reading is Shawn David Hutchinson’s The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley. Yes, this is a novel, but there are pages of the Patient F comic Andrew draws throughout the book, and those comics do a lot to enhance the story of both Patient F and Andrew Brawley. The images are powerful, and do so much more for the story than a prose description of them would. When people — especially parents of reluctant readers who enjoy graphic novels — look down on the format, they’re doing a disservice to the artists, authors, and readers of these works. So when a graphic novel wins a Printz Honor, even though it’s not my format of choice, I celebrate.
The second happy moment for me was seeing Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun win the Printz Award. For me, this was one of those books that I picked up almost on a whim. I’d heard good things about it, but it wasn’t at the top of my to-read list. But the audiobook was checked in when I needed a new one, so I picked it up. And I was completely blown away. The prose is absolutely gorgeous, and the characters have some of the most authentic, well-developed voices I’ve ever read. And the plotting, wow. Seriously, I couldn’t wait to get in my car and listed to more of this book just to spend a few more minutes in Noah’s head. The way he views the world is fascinating. When one of my favorite books wins my favorite award, it makes my whole week.
Finally, the yesterday’s YMAs ensured that an author who was already on my radar jumped up my to-read list. I’ve been planning to read Jessie Ann Foley’s The Carnival at Bray because it was nominated for a Morris Award, and because our new teen librarian mentioned possibly inviting her to speak here next year. Now that The Carnival at Bray won a Printz Honor, this book is going from the “maybe I’ll read this someday” section of my to-read list to “definitely check this out.” Plus, it’s set in Ireland, and I don’t read nearly enough books set in Ireland.
So, those are my highlights from the YMAs. What are your thoughts on the winners? Any that surprised you? Any books you wish had won that didn’t? Please share in the comments!
For a full list of the Youth Media Award winners, check out YALSA’s book blog, The Hub.