The National Book Foundation has revealed the five finalists for the 2023 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature: Kenneth M. Cadow for Gather (Candlewick); Huda Fahmy for Huda F Cares? (Dial); Vashti Harrison for Big (Little, Brown); Katherine Marsh for The Lost Year: A Survival Story of the Ukrainian Famine (Roaring Brook); and Dan Santat for A First Time for Everything (First Second). All of this year’s finalists are NBA first-timers. They were drawn from a longlist that was announced on September 13.
The annual National Book Awards Finalists Reading, in which the finalists will read from their work, will be held in-person at NYU Skirball and online on the evening of November 14; this event will be free and open to the public. The annual National Book Awards Teen Press Conference for middle and high school students, hosted by Dhonielle Clayton, will take place that morning in partnership with 92NY.
The winners will be announced on Wednesday, November 15, at the NBA’s invitation-only 74th awards ceremony at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City; the awards will also be broadcast live.
Read on for PW’s reviews of the books by all five finalists:
Gather by Kenneth M. Cadow
“Ever since 10th grader Ian Gray and his mother were abandoned by Ian’s father, things at home in rural Vermont have been difficult for the family. After Ian’s mother hurts her back at work, she loses her job and becomes dependent on prescription opioids to cope with the pain. When she’s hospitalized, Ian is forced to rely on his own skills to care for their home. Ian’s genuine first-person narration—enriched by his penchant for pithy metaphors and similes—unveils a protagonist whose innate sense of justice and tentatively hopeful perspective buoy Cadow’s sober debut.”
Huda F Cares?, sequel to Huda F Are You?, by Huda Fahmy
“After their parents move Egyptian American Huda and her four sisters to largely Muslim Dearborn, Mich., Huda plans to ‘hang out with the other hijabis’ as a way to make friends. But realizing that ‘wearing hijab is not a personality trait,’ she finds that she doesn’t necessarily fit in with her new school’s communities of hijabi athletes, gamers, and fashionistas.... In this entertaining, frequently wry fictionalized memoir about an important subject, Fahmy is forthright in her dialogues and depictions.”
Big by Vashti Harrison
“This ode to big self-love from Harrison begins with a smiling, brown-skinned baby girl who has ‘a big laugh and a big heart/ and very big dreams’.... Full of important truths about adultification and anti-fat bias, Harrison’s deceptively simple telling tenderly offers the self-affirming beliefs that kids are kids in any body and that it’s okay to take up space.” The book received a starred review from PW.
The Lost Year: A Survival Story of the Ukrainian Famine by Katherine Marsh
“Captivating first-person POV chapters—which alternate between Matthew in 2020 N.J. and Helen, Nadiya, and Mila in 1930s Brooklyn and Kyiv—vividly render the suffering caused by Stalin’s imposed famine, Holodomor; the event’s perception around the world; and the aftereffects that ripple into Matthew’s present. Helen and Matthew’s growing understanding of the tenets of responsible journalism link their stories as each seeks to uncover the truth and report on their discoveries.”
A First Time for Everything by Dan Santat
“Conveying milestones that include first Fanta, first kiss, and first disco, this emotionally perceptive graphic novel memoir from Caldecott Medalist Santat follows a teen’s arc from invisible to invincible. As Santat finds friends and a way of being himself, what slowly emerges is one person’s hope in and relief at experiencing the world as a bigger place, finding a space in it, and realizing that both adults and peers are rooting for him. The book received a starred review from PW.