Normal Public Library Teens

William C. Morris Award

The William C. Morris YA Debut Award, first awarded in 2009, celebrates the achievement of a previously unpublished author, or authors, who have made a strong literary debut in writing for young adult readers.

2011 Winner

The Freak Observer by Blythe Woolston

For eight years, Loa Sollilja’s world ran like one of those mechanical models of the solar system, with her baby sister, Asta, as the sun. Asta suffered from a genetic disorder that left her a permanent infant, and caring for her was Loa’s life. Everything spun neatly and regularly as the whole family orbited around Asta. But now Asta’s dead, and 16-year-old Loa’s clockwork galaxy has collapsed. As Loa spins off on her own, her mind ambushes her with vivid nightmares and sadistic flashbacks – a textbook case of PTSD. But there are no textbook fixes for Loa’s short-circuiting brain. She must find her own way to pry her world from the clutches of death. (S)

2011 Finalists

Hush by Eishes Chayil

Inside the closed community of Borough Park, where most Chassidim live, the rules of life are very clear, determined by an ancient script written thousands of years before down to the last detail—and abuse has never been a part of it. But when thirteen-year-old Gittel learns of the abuse her best friend has suffered at the hands of her own family member, the adults in her community try to persuade Gittel, and themselves, that nothing happened. Forced to remain silent, Gittel begins to question everything she was raised to believe. (S)

Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey

Ellie Spencer is just like any other teenager at her boarding school. She hangs out with her best friend Kevin, she obsesses over Mark, a cute and mysterious bad boy, and her biggest worry is her paper deadline. But then everything changes. The news headlines are all abuzz about a local string of serial killings that all share the same morbid trademark: the victims were discovered with their eyes missing. Then a beautiful yet eerie woman enters Ellie’s circle of friends and develops an unhealthy fascination with Kevin, and a crazed old man grabs Ellie in a public square and shoves a tattered Bible into her hands, exclaiming, “You need it. It will save your soul.” Soon, Ellie finds herself plunged into a haunting world of vengeful fairies, Maori mythology, romance, betrayal, and an epic battle for immortality. (S)

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride

Sam leads a pretty normal life. He may not have the most exciting job in the world, but he’s doing all right—until a fast food prank brings him to the attention of Douglas, a creepy guy with an intense violent streak. Turns out Douglas is a necromancer who raises the dead for cash and sees potential in Sam. Then Sam discovers he’s a necromancer too, but with strangely latent powers. And his worst nightmare wants to join forces…or else. With only a week to figure things out, Sam needs all the help he can get. Luckily he lives in Seattle, which has nearly as many paranormal types as it does coffee places. But even with newfound friends, will Sam be able to save his skin? (S)

Crossing the Tracks by Barbara Stuber

At fifteen, Iris is a hobo of sorts – no home, no family, no direction. After her mother’s early death, Iris’s father focuses on big plans for his new shoe stores and his latest girlfriend, and has no time for his daughter. Unbeknownst to her, he hires Iris out as housekeeper and companion for a country doctor’s elderly mother. Suddenly Iris is alone, stuck in gritty rural Missouri. Iris is buoyed by the warmth and understanding the doctor and his mother show her, but just as she starts to break out of her shell, tragedy strikes. Iris must find the guts and cunning to take aim at the devil incarnate and discover if she is really as helpless—or as hopeless—as she once believed. (M, S)

2010 Winner

Flash Burnout by KL Madigan

Fifteen-year-old Blake has a girlfriend and a friend who’s a girl. One of them loves him; the other one needs him. When he snapped a picture of a street person for his photography homework, Blake never dreamed that the woman in the photo was his friend Marissa’s long-lost meth addicted mom. Blake’s participation in the ensuing drama opens up a world of trouble, both for him and for Marissa. He spends the next few months trying to reconcile the conflicting roles of Boyfriend and Friend.  In a tangle of life and death, love and loyalty, Blake will emerge with a more sharply defined snapshot of himself. (S)

2010 Finalists

Ash by Melinda Lo

In the wake of her father’s death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted. The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash’s capacity for love – and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love. (M, S)

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever. Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them. (S)

The Everafter by Amy Huntley
 

Madison Stanton doesn’t know where she is or how she got there. But she does know this—she is dead. And alone, in a vast, dark space. The only company she has in this place are luminescent objects that turn out to be all the things Maddy lost while she was alive. And soon she discovers that with these artifacts, she can reexperience—and sometimes even change—moments from her life.  Her first kiss. A trip to Disney World.  Her sister’s wedding.  In reliving these moments, Maddy learns illuminating and sometimes frightening truths about her life—and death. (S)

Hold Still by Nina LaCour
 

Devastating, hopeful, hopeless, playful…in words and illustrations, Ingrid left behind a painful farewell in her journal for Caitlin. Now Caitlin is left alone, by loss and by choice, struggling to find renewed hope in the wake of her best friend’s suicide. With the help of family and newfound friends, Caitlin will encounter first love, broaden her horizons, and start to realize that true friendship didn’t die with Ingrid. And the journal which once seemed only to chronicle Ingrid’s descent into depression, becomes the tool by which Caitlin once again reaches out to all those who loved Ingrid (S)

2009 Winner

A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce

The gold thread promises Charlotte Miller a chance to save her family’s beloved woolen mill. It promises a future for her sister, jobs for her townsfolk, security against her grasping uncle – maybe even true love. To get the thread, Charlotte must strike a bargain with its maker, the mysterious Jack Spinner.  But the gleam of gold conjures a shadowy past – secrets ensnaring generations of Millers.  And Charlotte’s mill, her family, her love – what do those matter to a stranger who can spin straw into gold? (M, S)

2009 Finalists

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug. When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change. She never expects to become Po’s friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away…a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone. (S)

Absolute Brightness by James Lecesne

When Phoebe’s flamboyant, effeminate cousin, Leonard, moves to her New Jersey town, he brings a confusing mix of beauty and irritation as he inserts himself into the day-to-day running of her mother’s beauty parlor business and Phoebe’s life at school. When Leonard disappears, seemingly without a trace, Phoebe embarks on a mission to uncover the truth, and confronts first-hand the price Leonard paid for being different. (S)

Madapple by Christina Meldrum

Fifteen-year-old Aslaug was raised in isolation by a mother who was both strange and ill. Her mother’s death brings an onslaught of new experiences as Aslaug must learn to cope with the unwanted attention of the police, relatives she never knew she had, and multiple charges of murder. (S)

Me, the Missing, and the Dead by Jenny Valentine
 

Sixteen-year-old Londoner Lucas Swain, on a whim, decides to take a cab home and happens upon an urn with the ashes of Violet Park in the taxi office. He feels the spirit of Violet leading him through a maze of layered clues, as he bit by bit solves the puzzle of his father’s disappearance more than five years ago. (S)

 
 

Grade Level Interest
M Middle School (defined as grades 6-8).
S Senior High (defined as grades 9-12).
A/YA Adult-marketed book recommended for teens.

 
 
Back to Award Winners
 

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