On Tuesday morning, the National Book Foundation narrowed its longlist down to five finalists for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature: Akwaeke Emezi for Pet; Jason Reynolds for Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks; Randy Ribay for Patron Saints of Nothing; Laura Ruby for Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All; and Martin W. Sandler for 1919: The Year That Changed America.
Local middle and high school students will have the opportunity to hear the finalists read from their works, and to take part in a live q&a at the Teen Press Conference, which will be held on November 19 at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, as part of National Book Awards week. The winners will be announced during the NBA’s 70th annual awards dinner on November 20.
Read on for PW’s reviews of the books by all five finalists.
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi (Random House/Make Me a World)
“Emezi’s direct but tacit story of injustice, unconditional acceptance, and the evil perpetuated by humankind forms a compelling, nuanced tale that fans of speculative horror will quickly devour.”
Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds, illus. by Alexander Nabaum (Atheneum/Dlouhy)
“Reynolds packs the 10 blocks surrounding multiple schools with 10 relatable slice-of-life stories that start after school ends.... In [his] signature style, each story rings with emotional authenticity and empathy, and not a small amount of rib-tickling humor offsets the sometimes bittersweet realities of the characters’ lives.”
Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay (Penguin/Kokila)
“Passionately and fearlessly, Ribay delves into matters of justice, grief, and identity in this glimpse into the life and death of a fictional victim of President Duterte’s war on drugs in the Philippines.”
Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All by Laura Ruby (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray)
“This evocative tale entwines the lives of two young women—one living, one dead—in Chicago on the cusp of WWII…. The women’s resonant journeys, marked by desire and betrayal, thoughtfully illuminate the deep harm that women and girls suffer at the hands of a patriarchal society as well as the importance of living fully.”
1919: The Year That Changed America by Martin W. Sandler (Bloomsbury)
“In six lucid chapters, Sandler details headline-dominating events from 1919, ‘one of the most momentous years in the nation’s history’.... Sandler’s narrative skill and eye for detail, and the abundant archival photos throughout, make for an engrossing resource.”