Photo Credit: Isabel Quintero/Jessie Ann Foley/Len Vlahos
Need a good new book (or several) for 2015? You could dive into one of these five recently recognized young adult stories.
With the wild success of books-turned-movies like The Fault in Our Stars, Hunger Games and Beautiful Creatures, readers of all ages can’t get enough of young adult novels.
The William C. Morris YA Award has been recognizing the best young adult fiction writers for the past seven years. The award not only provides exposure for talented writers, but it also exposes teens, parents, and educators to fresh, diverse content.
Here are this year’s five Morris Award finalists along with some background on their groundbreaking adult fiction novels.
Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
Isabel Quintero’s book, told in the form of a young girl’s diary entries, documents the journey of high school senior Gabi to self discovery and a successful future. Quintero, a community college teacher from Southern California, penned this semi-autobiographical novel to empower young women to break gender roles and choose for themselves.
"There is not just one true experience for everyone -- not as an American, not as a woman, not as a Mexican-American, and I felt like this was a story that needed to be told," said Quintero.
Whether she’s lamenting about her father’s struggle to break his heroin addiction or discussing the sex lives of her best friends, Gabi’s honest and humorous recollection is sure to entertain and enlighten any reader.
The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley
Foley drew on her personal experience for her novel about a girl who was uprooted from her hometown Chicago to a small town called Bray in Ireland. With Nirvana providing for a grungy ‘90s soundtrack, our main character finds love and loss almost all at once.
"Teens can relate to the way the characters connect through music," said Angie Manfredi, former Morris Award committee member and head of youth services for the Los Alamos County Library System in New Mexico.
The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos
Music also plays an important role in Vlahos’ tale of a bullied youth who was struck by lightning and permanently scarred. After making friends during his teen years, he forms a punk rock band, goes on tour, and is finally noticed for something other than his scars.
"That idea, of a teenage punk band touring America in a dysfunctional van, was a story I always wanted to tell," Vlahos said. "The book is really about the complexity of friendships, and the power of music to heal all."
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
Like most 16-year-olds, Ava Lavender feels like an outcast and has quite a few hurdles to overcome. However, unlike Ava Lavender, most teens aren’t cursed with a toxic family tree or a pair of wings. The author strived for her main character to be seen as a unique beauty rather than a freak of nature.
Walton’s novel documents Ava’s journey through life, love, and living with a rare physical feature. Walton confessed to keeping a journal of oddities that she encounters on a daily basis, which no doubt helped her pen this unique work of fiction.
The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E.K. Johnston
Johnson, a forensic archaeologist, wanted to come up with a story “as Canadian as possible” about a dragon slayer and a musician. Judging by her nomination, it’s clear that she succeeded. After his world renowned dragon-slayer aunt retires, the protagonist Owen learns the family trade with his musician sidekick, Siobhan.
"There is so much wonderful humor here, balanced with a lot of action," said Teri Lesesne, a professor and former Morris Award chairperson. "It's a fresh take on heroism and what it means to be a hero. That book is pulled off so beautifully."