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  • Finalist

    The Beauty of a Spiral

    by Beth Maddaleni

    Rating: 9.75

    Plot/Idea: With a heartwarming story and charming characters, this sparkling YA novel has it all: an adorable romance, elite sports action, and authentic life events that get in the way of these perfect plans. 

    Prose: Maddaleni balances the serious nature of the content with natural and warmly engaging prose. 

    Originality: Maddaleni successfully combines a large variety of story elements into a cohesive and moving page-turner about love, loss, and understanding others.  

    Character/Execution: Madz is a compelling character dealing with unique, genuine issues in a realistic way. The choices she makes throughout the novel, although frustrating at times, remain believable and true. Notably, Maddaleni also writes convincingly and engagingly about the coach and athlete relationship.

    Blurb: A bubbly and shining story that encompasses the best of what the YA genre has to offer. Quickly paced and beautifully executed, The Beauty of a Spiral will excite and engage readers of all ages.

  • Semi Finalist

    Back in the USSR

    by Patrick D. Joyce

    Rating: 10.00

    Plot/Idea: Back in the USSR is a YA thriller infused with mystery and tension. Readers will be easily sucked into Harrison’s life while on Christmas break visiting his diplomat parents based in Moscow during the Cold War.  Joyce displays masterful control over the narrative, beautifully weaving in a thread connected to the Beatles' White Album.

    Prose: Joyce capably evokes a noir atmosphere, while bringing the Moscow setting vividly to life. The prose is clear, sharp, and expertly paced.

    Originality: The story of a diplomat’s son could have taken a very familiar turn, but this novel remains fresh, poised, and multilayered from beginning to end. 

    Character/Execution: The author fills the story with interesting, complex characters. Fourteen-year-old Harrison George, the son of diplomats, is mature and independent, yet relatable. His friend Prudence is a spunky and lively girl who serves as a sidekick but a full character in her own right. Character development fluidly blends with a riveting storyline, never disappointing readers.

  • Semi Finalist

    Broken Promises

    by Anita Perez Ferguson

    Rating: 10.00

    Plot/Idea: Throughout this touching story following 15-year-old Sparrow, readers witness her initial struggles that eventually build to a deeper confidence as her painful family history is revealed. Ferguson masterfully depicts the root causes of family problems while artfully portraying Sparrow's culture.

    Prose: Ferguson clinches the opening with a poignant and inspiring exploration of Sparrow's purpose. The prose is authentic and enlightening, gently pressing the plot forward.

    Originality: Broken Promises celebrates the beauty and diversity of Sparrow's culture, and it is infused with empathy and care for voiceless young girls like Sparrow.

    Character/Execution: Sparrow grapples with many important life changes throughout the story, and Ferguson skillfully develops her character as she matures, gifting her with strength, commitment, and dedication.


  • Semi Finalist

    Knight Without Ceremony: Insurrection

    by Ari Magnusson

    Rating: 9.75

    Plot/Idea: Knight Without Ceremony is an extraordinary novel, brimming with electrifying twists and turns while maintaining all the lovable tropes and engaging elements of the genre. With both exciting action and thought-provoking politics, there is something for all readers hidden within this tale.

    Prose: Through a variety of character perspectives and engaging action scenes, Magnusson breathes life into this perfectly paced page turner.

    Originality: Magnusson's storyline follows a traditional hero's tale, though it never feels canned or overdone. The relatable yet epic nature of the book make it gripping, and readers will be absorbed into the novel's fantasy world.

    Character/Execution: A compelling hero with a luscious backstory, Ettan is more than just a prototype. His strong development and quick thinking drive his story in a phenomenal way. With a quality cast of diverse characters—not only in their identities, but also in their passions, motivations, and growth—Magnusson crafts exceptionally captivating characters.

    Blurb: An electrifying fantasy that will captivate fans of epic hero tales.

  • Semi Finalist

    Making Friends With Monsters

    by Sandra L Rostirolla

    Rating: 9.50

    Plot/Idea: Rostirolla’s novel takes readers into the intimate storytelling of a child processing trauma within a bigger adult theme of coping mechanisms. Evenly paced and meticulously plotted, her storyline captivates the reader's heart from the first line to the last.

    Prose: Rostirolla’s prose is clear, direct, and eloquently self-reflective. Told in the first person, Rostirolla’s voice is wonderfully authentic, vulnerable, and honest.

    Originality: Readers will find all the elements of a classic YA in Rostirolla’s work, but the emotional depth and understanding of the world revealed in the main character's narration adds a unique layer to the treatment of common themes.

    Character/Execution: The characters in Sandra L Rostirolla’s Making Friends With Monsters are memorable and convincing. Readers will find themselves relating to and rooting for the book’s protagonist, Sam, who is sensitive, observant, and empathetic. Secondary characters serve to enhance the story and bring essential layers to the broader narrative.

  • Quarter Finalist

    The Word Dancer

    by Maxine Rose Schur

    Rating: 9.75

    Plot/Idea: Schur's fantasy is masterfully plotted, depicting the tale of 12-year-old Wynnfrith in the court of King Goodliwink. The setting is glittering with intrigue and mystique, and readers will be enthralled by Wynnfrith's transformation.

    Prose: The prose shimmers, and Schur deftly fences with wordplay and imagery that perfectly match the story's tone.

    Originality: The Word Dancer is lyrical and propulsive, brimming with amusing and innovative ideas.

    Character/Execution: Though the characters somewhat adhere to archetypes, Wynnfrith glistens with relatable unrest and a deep desire to uncover her hidden strength. At times, her charisma is eclipsed by the Word Dancer—an enigmatic, fascinating character spinning across the pages.

  • Quarter Finalist

    Welcome to Washington Fina Mendoza

    by Kitty Felde

    Rating: 9.50

    Plot/Idea: In this delightful, age-appropriate tale of overcoming challenges, the mystery of a demon cat and a wholly charming young protagonist will pull readers in.

    Prose: The prose is clear and smooth; the author has a knack for catchy descriptions and captures Fina's experiences in a relatable way.

    Originality: The subtle layering of family traditions, growing pains, loss, and mystery -- set in the heart of DC -- makes for a fun, absorbing, and original story.

    Character/Execution: Portrayed in a way that will be relatable to young readers, Felde lets readers into Fina's mind and shows her fears, challenges, and growth in a compelling manner. The book is filled with other characters who light up the story and make it come to life.

    Blurb: As if losing her mother and having to move across the country weren't bad enough, things get worse for Fina Mendoza when she has a mysterious encounter in the Capitol Crypt of the US Capitol building. Was it really the famed Demon Cat of Capitol Hill? Young readers will enjoy solving the mystery along with Fina in Welcome to Washington Fina Mendoza.

  • Quarter Finalist

    Born Torn: Kiara Noir Mother Nature Series

    by Suz Eglington

    Rating: 9.50

    Plot/Idea: Even though Kiara's mother has made it clear that she is not allowed to leave the reservation, Kiara dreams of a faraway journey to pursue her passion for photography. The engaging story offers compelling promises of adventure and discovery beyond the familiar, though it comes with great risk to Kiara and her mother.

    Prose: Eglington is a skillful writer, able to craft dialogue that flows naturally while establishing a solid sense of place that will transport readers into Kiara's world.

    Originality: Themes of preserving land, sovereignty, and culture abound in this engrossing story, and Eglington's fresh perspective on a popular premise will resonate with readers.

    Character/Execution: Eglington's characters are multilayered and allow readers to discover the complexities of their darker feelings, while uncovering buried secrets that give the story an almost feverish intensity.

  • Quarter Finalist

    Chasing the Moon

    by Melanie Hooyenga

    Rating: 9.50

    Plot/Idea: Chasing the Moon is a heartwarming story populated with strong, self-aware young women who share a solid bond. Their story is part adventure, part awakening, and part transformation. The plot is fun, engaging, and light.

    Prose: The author is an accomplished writer with a knack for reaching a young adult audience. The writing is concise and expressive, providing readers with an intimate perspective on the characters' thoughts, emotions, fears, and motivations.

    Originality: Hooyenga offers a cozy and engaging setup for her lead characters. While the story successfully engages the friends-to-lovers trope, the book's true focus is on the dynamics of female friendship; the authenticity of the circumstances and characters leads to a memorable reading experience. 

    Character/Execution: The author does a superb job with characterization. All three young women are self-aware, open and accepting. The author cleverly utilizes a rotating point of view as a tool to gain insight into how the girls think and what motivates them.

  • Quarter Finalist

    The Accidental Boyfriend: A YA Romance

    by Lori Freeland

    Rating: 9.50

    Plot/Idea: Freeland's novel is a well-crafted love story with pacing that serves the characters and their journeys well. One of the highlights of the storytelling is the way that new information, specifically pertinent backstory, is revealed when it needs to be and not a moment sooner.

    Prose: Freeland's use of quotes from Elizabeth Thorne's diary at the beginning of Jess's chapters and from Meredith Wade on 'Raising Ryder' at the beginning of Gabe's chapters was a very impactful way of setting the tone. Freeland also does a great job of distinguishing character voices from one another and describing both physical and emotional moments well.

    Originality: Freeland puts a fresh spin on the fake relationship trope his by making both of her main character's personal stories outside of each other strong and unique.

    Character/Execution: Jess and Gabe's journeys from physical attraction to fake dating to actually being genuinely interested in each other are well thought out. It is also notable how they both endure family rifts revolving around an absent mother, albeit for *very* different reasons, and seeing how resolutions were sought. Additionally, readers will be pleased with Jess and Gabe's career journeys as well.

  • Quarter Finalist


    by S.G. Browne

    Rating: 9.50

    Plot/Idea: Sixteen-year-old Starbucks, a junior at Dunkin’ Donuts High school, is plagued by all the normal teenage problems: he’s got a crush on Kellogg’s, but she’s already dating Subway; despite his corporate sponsor (and namesake) Starbucks, he’s not allowed to drink coffee; and he’s struggling to go along with the social bullying that’s supposed to be an accepted part of his world. 

    Prose: The prose is witty and entertaining, full of sociocultural references and contemporary slang that will resonate with young adult readers.

    Originality: Browne has constructed an immersive world where kids are named after their corporate sponsor and spend the better part of their childhood promoting that sponsor’s products—and judging their peers’ sponsorships at the same time.

    Character/Execution: The author crafts believable characters, particularly the first-person narrator, Starbucks, who plays a perfect sarcastic, relatable teenager struggling to navigate his way through typical high school problems—romantic affairs, friendship hassles, and the internal anxiety that comes from existing in a world that’s based on an unrelenting pressure to fit in.

  • Quarter Finalist

    The Momentum Sales Model

    by Tim Castle

    Rating: 9.25

    Plot/Idea: Castle offers readers functional sales strategies aimed at producing a financially stable business model. The advice is geared towards building future business success as well, using Castle’s distinctive Momentum Sales Model as the basis for sales growth. 

    Prose: The prose is convincing and eloquent; Castle writes in an easy-to-follow style that makes the information understandable and charismatic. 

    Originality: This is a well-rounded, user-friendly guide that pulls from real life examples. The book’s structure adds to its originality, as Castle provides readers his uniquely developed sales model paired with a myriad of engaging ideas.

    Character/Execution: Castle offers hands-on examples throughout, combined with down-to-earth guidance that readers will find easy to understand and apply. He includes several visuals as well that add to the guide’s appeal.

  • Thrown to the Wind

    by Amanda M. Cetas

    Rating: 9.25

    Plot/Idea: Cetas has masterfully used her own ancestral background and history to create a fast paced adventure that will engage middle grade readers. Strong life lessons are sprinkled throughout the narrative, including the importance of choosing the correct path in life, giving the plot depth and substance.  

    Prose: Thrown to the Wind is well-written, with vivid imagery that brings the time period and landscape to life. Readers will experience the perilous journey alongside the main character—and understand his indecision in plotting the course of his life.

    Originality: Thrown to the Wind is elevated by its exciting events as well as the story's strong themes that capture crucial life lessons. Cetas draws from her own ancestry, blending a time period that was unyielding in social structure and fraught with religious persecution into a breakneck adventure that is both entertaining and intriguing. 

    Character/Execution: The main character exhibits strength and boldness, gaining confidence throughout the novel.  His coming-of-age journey is deeply meaningful and absorbing—young readers will want to meet him.  

  • Little Mountain, Big Trouble

    by Chris Norbury

    Rating: 9.25

    Plot/Idea: Little Mountain, Big Trouble sheds a positive light on the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, while offering plenty of adventure and peril at the same time.  The ending will warm hearts, as will the story's relatable characters and relevant situations that are perfect for middle grade readers.

    Prose: Norbury captures tension exceptionally well, and the crisp prose sparkles with just the right intensity.

    Originality: The novel's spotlight on mentoring through Big Brothers Big Sisters make it stand out among others, and Norbury's obvious experience with the organization lends the story authenticity.

    Character/Execution: EJ is determined and gains confidence throughout the story, even when it seems the odds are stacked against him. He is a likable character who knows where to turn for help, and middle grade readers will easily relate to his situation.

  • Hidden Truths

    by Tammera Mart

    Rating: 9.25

    Plot/Idea: Mart integrates Native American lore as a backstory to develop a twisty and intriguing story of a teen's search for Bigfoot. In addition to encounters with the beasts, Mart meaningfully explores the complexity of family dynamics and examines how uncovered truths can help mend relationships. 

    Prose: Mart capably mixes lore, mystery, and romance with ease. Each chapter draws the reader closer to the truth and concludes on a wholly satisfying note. 

    Originality: A mix of Native American lore, Bigfoot, and mystery will surely engage inquisitive young adult readers. Readers will find themselves researching included topics to learn more.

    Character/Execution: Likable and curious characters take the reader on an adventure full of mystery and hidden truths. Relationships between the characters are relatable. The main character is astute, and readers will cheer for her to be successful in her quest.

    Blurb: Mart's multilayered Bigfoot story reminds readers of the power for truth to mend broken relationships.


  • Chymist: The Coelacanth Project Book II

    by Sarah Newland

    Rating: 9.25

    Plot/Idea: Newland's novel is fast paced and action packed. Riding on the heels of Book 1 of the Coelacanth Project, the engaging storyline doesn't hesitate to cut to the chase. The Coelacanth gang wants to find their parents and they quickly have a plan. While readers can expect plot twists, they're also in store for a surprising amount of heart as Natalie and her friends battle grief.

    Prose: Newland's prose serves the reader well. The detailed descriptions provide a clear picture of actions and settings, and each character's dialogue is marked by a distinct voice.

    Originality: The narrative offers a fresh and refined mix of genres, including sci-fi, dystopian, and fantasy. While the novel blends familiar elements, the result is entirely fresh and new. 

    Character/Execution: Newland does an excellent job of giving numerous characters notable arcs in this novel, which makes for thoroughly captivating relationships that uplift the fine storytelling.