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American Library Association Award Winners: Teen Edition

young woman reading at a table in a library

January 27, 2021

This is the time of year that every librarian, book seller and youth educator waits for. Will their favorite book be picked for an award by the American Library Association? What winning books flew under their radar this year? For teens, this year brings a new crop of awesome young adult literature, showing the continued growth of teen books. 


Starting with the Michael L. Printz Award for literary excellence in young adult literature, the winner this year is Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayen. Daniel’s story reaches across decades and miles to help his classmates understand who he is and where he came from. This book would definitely entertain younger teens as well as older teens struggling to find their place in the world. 

The runners-up in this category include:

Apple: Skin to Core by Eric Gansworth

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang

Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh  

We Are Not Free by Traci Chee   


For those of you who enjoy nonfiction, the winner this year was The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh by Candice Fleming. Lindbergh has great name recognition, with his feats of flying, and occasionally for the kidnapping of his son, but what about his continued involvement on the world stage? While Lindbergh never publicly admitted to being a Nazi sympathizer, his many comments on Jews and his noninterventionist stance made him a figure of public scrutiny. 

The honor books include: 

All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat

The Cat I Never Named: A True Story of Love, War and Survival by Amra Sabic-El-Rayess

How We Got to the Moon: The People, the Technology, and Daring Feats of Science Behind Humanities Greatest Adventure by John Rocco

You Call This Democracy? How to Fix our Democracy and Deliver Power to the People by Elizabeth Rusch


The William C. Morris Award honors a young adult book by a first-time author.  If These Wings Could Fly by Kyrie McCauley tells the story of Leighton Barnes. While thousands of crows descend on her Pennsylvania town, Leighton must struggle with her father’s rage while applying for colleges, keeping her grades up and dating. 

The honor books in this category include:

Black Girl Unlimited: The Remarkable Story of A Teenage Wizard by Echo Brown  

The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds  

It Sounded Better in My Head by Nina Kenwood  

Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibanez


The Odyssey Award honors outstanding audiobooks. This year the winner was Kent State by Deborah Wiles (currently, only the physical book is available in our system, but hopefully the audiobook will be soon!) Kent State was just a quiet Ohio college, when Army National Guard soldiers fired on antiwar protestors causing a riot that killed four and wounded nine in the spring of 1970. This audiobook would be awesome when paired with Derf Backderf’s Alex Award winning graphic novel, Kent State

Other runners-up include:

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi  

When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed   (only the physical book is currently available in our system, but hopefully the audiobook will be soon!)


The Schneider Family Award celebrates a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience. This year’s selected winner is This is My Brain in Love by I. W. Gregorio. The story of a struggling Chinese restaurant, and how the owner’s daughter, Jocelyn Wu (not to be confused with Peggy Chang, the other Chinese girl in her class) saved it. This novel has a little of everything, including romance, school struggles and family issues.


The Stonewall Award honors books that show exceptional merit relating to the LGBT community. Three of the honor books are perfect for teens:

Darius the Great Deserves Better by Adib Khorram 

Felix Every After by Kacen Callender  

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson  


The Alex Awards are for “adult” books with teen appeal.  These books are written for adults, although the subject matter might be interesting to or about teens. 

This year's Alex Awards selections are:

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune  

Impossible First: From Fire to Ice—Crossing the Antarctic Alone by Colin O’Brady  

Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio by Derf Backderf  

The Kids are Gonna Ask by Gretchen Anthony

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Jones

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily Danforth

Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi

Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh

We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry


For a complete list of all of the Youth Media Award winners - for both children and young adult - visit the ALA website.



Authors Awards Books Reading Recommendations Teens Youth Media Awards

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