YALSA Announces Finalists for 2024 Award for Excellence in Nonfiction

The winner of the award, which honors the best YA nonfiction title, will be announced during the Youth Media Awards ceremony on January 22.

5 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction shortlist titles

YALSA announced the shortlist of finalists for its 2024 Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, which annually honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults between November 1 and October 31. The winner will be announced annually at the ALA Youth Media Awards,

The finalists, which all received a starred review from SLJ, are:

Accountable: The True Story of a Racist Social Media Account and the Teenagers Whose Lives It Changed by Dashka Slater. Farrar.
Gr 9 Up–Journalist and author Slater once again achieves another level of introspection about society through the lens of teen behavior. While The 57 Bus dealt with hate crimes and the juvenile justice system, her newest nonfiction deals with social media and school districts. In 2017, a racist social media account was outed in a small school district in Albany, CA. Followed by a handful of students, it targeted Black girls in the school and posted race-based memes for what was described as “edgy humor.” What followed was a multi-year interrogation of prejudice, teen behavior, school response, and punishment that ended with adjudication in the courts. Wanting to tell a balanced story, Slater sought to interview as many involved families as possible and while not all of them sat for interviews, the book includes court documents, statistics, testimony, and more, which are included in the back matter. The book is an honest accounting of the event couched in a societal reckoning of free speech versus hate speech. Its length accounts for a full chronology with one flaw in its approach: sectioned into 15 parts with prose chapters titled, rather than numbered, and several unexpected poems, it creates unnecessary breaks in the intense narrative. The shocking reality that Albany could be any town is what sustains the rabid interest in seeing how the story plays out since it touches on many aspects of contemporary culture. VERDICT This is a well-timed page-turner due to Slater’s investigative reporting and must be read, shared, and discussed. Make this a priority purchase.

America Redux: Visual Stories from Our Dynamic History by Ariel Aberg-Riger. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray.
Gr 8 Up–Aberg-Riger makes American history come alive in this powerful and innovative book. With vivid illustrations and unconventional text formatting, the book covers a wide variety of topics in 21 chapters. Some subjects will be familiar, such as the Japanese-American incarceration camps and racism in early Major League Baseball. Many are lesser-known topics, such as the travels of Mustafa Al-Azemmouri, an enslaved man forced to explore the Southwest for the Spanish in the early 1500s. Another chapter chronicles how American businessmen conspired to overthrow the kingdom of Hawaii and annex their lands. Aberg-Riger frequently and skillfully demonstrates how these events have long-lasting consequences that we are still dealing with today. The chapter about the outlawing of boarding houses and SROs in the mid-20th century and its correlation to the current housing crisis and homelessness is particularly enlightening. Whether a new topic to readers or well-known, each chapter is informative and compelling. What really makes this work outstanding is the imaginative use of colorful images on every page, incorporating bold, handwritten text into the pictures. This dramatic and captivating format keeps the pages turning quickly and will engage the most reluctant readers. Perhaps equally important as the history brought to life is that Aberg-Riger includes several stories of social activism against the injustice, bringing a sense of empowerment to the narrative. An excellent resource for kicking off classroom discussions. The work is well documented with extensive source notes leading the curious to additional resources.  VERDICT Truly remarkable! A must for every library.

Family Style: Memories of an American from Vietnam by Thien Pham. First Second.
Gr 9 Up–In this graphic memoir, Pham shares with readers memories of his family’s immigration to the U.S. and their efforts to achieve “the American Dream.” Each chapter is framed around a specific food that is central to his memory of critical points in his life. Starting with his first memory at five years old, Pham relates his family’s experience of fleeing Vietnam by boat and being given rice and fish by a passing ship. Other chapters focus on the family finally making it to the U.S. (celebratory meal of steak and potatoes), Pham attending an English-speaking school for the first time (cafeteria-served Salisbury steak), and reconnecting with his Vietnamese heritage through a friend (shared meal of Cơm tấm đặc biệt). Throughout, Pham’s mother shines as the hero of the story, even if his younger self was not fully aware at the time of everything she did to protect his childhood. This can be seen in small moments, such as her treating Pham and his brother to expensive potato chips and in more extreme situations like the powerful scene in which she shields his vision and calmly talks him through a horrendous and brutal pirate attack. Pham’s detailed artwork and expert use of the graphic novel format will doubtlessly transport readers into each compelling memory. VERDICT A delicious series of memories full of hope and human connections despite the hardships of immigrating to a new home.

From Here by Luma Mufleh. Nancy Paulsen.
Gr 9 Up–This is a must-add to any high school biography/memoir section. Mufleh’s story is one of strength and courage and shines light on the injustices in our world. She says it best in her epilogue: “But now I know that it’s the untold stories that hurt the most.” Though the story initially begins in real-time as Mufleh interacts with her daughter and a strained phone call with her father, she quickly takes readers back to the beginning, in Jordan. The detailed ways she describes her 1980s childhood home, the food, and the people she was around transports readers and makes them want more for Mufleh. In 30 chapters, Mufleh grows up and becomes the woman she knows she was meant to be, but not without struggle. She adeptly balances the luxury of her experience in Jordan with the conflict she often felt as a gay Muslim woman. It weaves together experiences from Muslim faith, being gay and not accepted by family, immigration, and the Middle East. There are minor references to binge drinking and intimate encounters. VERDICT You need to put this one on your high school shelf now, but it won’t stay there long.

Nearer My Freedom: The Interesting Life of Olaudah Equiano by Himself by Monica Edinger and Lesley Younge. Zest Books.
Gr 7 Up–Olaudah Equiano, born in West Africa in 1745, was captured and enslaved as a preteen and forced to work at sea. He was afforded unique opportunities while enslaved, taught to read, and able to earn wages. At 21, Equiano bought his freedom. After this, he often swore off working at sea only to find he had no other way to support himself. The authors don’t shy away from Equiano’s complicated relationship with slavery; he often had to work on ships carrying enslaved Africans. In 1789, he published his autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, which became very popular and is still in print today. With this success, he was finally able to support himself and family away from the sea. He went on to become one of the most influential antislavery activists in England. Using text found in his autobiography, Edinger and Younge recreate Equiano’s life story as a found verse narrative. In this form, the story makes for compelling reading that moves quickly. The story is broken up with useful sidebars giving background information. It is well documented with a timeline, glossary, source notes, bibliography, and further reading. VERDICT This important and unique work introduces this pivotal man to a new audience and will make for interesting classroom discussions. Strongly recommended.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing