Thumbs Up, but it is an award given by the Michigan Library Association to the most outstanding teen book of the year. The MLA also gives out the Mitten and YouPer Awards for the best picture book and juvenile chapter book of the year. Obviously, Michigan librarians are really into super corny state puns. What sets the Thumbs Up apart (besides being for teens) is that the targeted audience actually gets to vote. Rather than outright choosing the winner the committee selects a top ten and then teens are encouraged to read those books and vote for their favorites. Personally, I think that this is awesome because what is the point of giving an award to a teen book that no teens will actually read. I think that too often with literary awards librarians, teachers, parents, etc. choose winners that they think kids should be reading rather than what they would actually enjoy. That being said the committee still strives to select a top ten that exhibits quality story telling with exceptional setting, characters, style, and plot.
I have to confess that reading books for the Thumbs Up was not always easy. Sexual assault, homophobia, gang violence, suicide, eating disorders, drug abuse, racism and that was just in the first five books I read. Throw in a whole lot of angsty, hormonal, and often whiny teen protagonists and there were days that I wanted to scream "Can I just read something happy????" All joking aside, I really did enjoy being on the Thumbs Up committee and it forced me to read some spectacular books that I probably never would have picked up on my own. Here (in no particular order) are the top ten nominations for the 2018 Thumbs Up Award.
1. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
I absolutely adore Jason Reynolds!!! Seriously, I had the privilege of hearing him speak last year and he is just a phenomenal human being and such an amazing ambassador for writing, reading, and children. I have blogged about a few of his other books so please check out Long Way Down and also some of his other books (his track series for middle grade readers is awesome and he even wrote the new Miles Morales Spiderman book!). I couldn't help but including a couple of videos. The first is an excerpt of Long Way Down read by Reynolds with stunning illustrations by Chris Priestly and the second is an episode of Meet the Author in which Reynolds is interviewed by a librarian and a group of middle school kids.
2. One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus
3. Who Killed Christopher Goodman? by Allan Wolf
4. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
5. Bull by David Elliott
6. Solo by Kwame Alexander
7. Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
8. The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
9. Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson
10. Warcross by Marie Lu
Wildcard, to come out next September (why do authors have to take so long between books in a series????).
For those of you interested the teen vote for the 2018 Thumbs Up will continue through May 31st. I know that it is not a lot of time but whether you vote or not be sure to check out some of the exceptional books on this list. I really feel like the committee chose a great variety of books from science fiction and realistic drama to fantasy and mystery.