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AWARD WINNERS: Morris Award Winners and Finalists

The William C. Morris YA Debut Award is a list created by YALSA (the Young Adult Library Services Association), a division of the American Library Association.

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Gabi, a girl in pieces

Quintero, Isabel.


Aspiring poet Gabi Hernandez is having a complicated senior year: One of her best friends is pregnant, and the other just came out. Even as her mother worries that she will become a "bad” girl, Gabi adds romance and the quest for college to her already full plate.

2015 Winner

The Scar Boys : a novel

Vlahos, Len.


In a college admission essay, Harry Jones reveals the physical and psychological scars of his childhood and the solace and self-confidence he found in friendship and punk music.

2015 Finalist

The strange & beautiful sorrows of Ava Lavender

Walton, Leslye J. (Leslye Jo Anne), author.


Born with a pair of wings, sixteen-year-old Ava Lavender inherits a rich family history and a legacy of heartbreak. After a young man becomes convinced she is an angel, can Ava survive his obsession intact?

2015 Finalist

The Carnival at Bray

Foley, Jessie Ann


In 1993, the grunge movement is at its height and Maggie Lynch is living comfortably in Chicago, near Nanny Ei and Uncle Kevin, her musical guru. After her impulsive mother marries and moves the family to a tiny Irish village, Maggie struggles to adjust to the changing world around her.

2015 Finalist

The story of Owen : dragon slayer of Trondheim

Johnston, E. K., author.


Owen is training to be a dragon slayer, a crucial job in a world where dragons bring death and destruction. With help from their friends and family, Owen and his bard Siobhan seek the source of a growing dragon threat.

2015 Finalist

Charm & strange

Kuehn, Stephanie.


Drew, also known as “Win,” has been isolated in a New Hampshire boarding school since he was 12. Though he excels at both academics and athletics, he is concealing a horrific secret that has driven him to the brink of madness. With the help of his friends, can Win confront the beast within him before it’s too late?

2014 Winner

Dr. Bird's advice for sad poets

Roskos, Evan.


James has a lot on his plate: strained relationships, a fractured family, and an all-consuming anxiety. He deals with depression by hugging trees, "yawp"-ing at the world like his idol Walt Whitman, and conversing with his imaginary therapist—a pigeon named Dr. Bird.

2014 Finalist

In the shadow of blackbirds : a novel

Winters, Cat.


At the height of the Spanish flu pandemic, WWI, and the Spiritualism movement, outspoken Mary Shelley Black is adrift in a fear-ravaged San Diego. While her childhood friend Stephen challenges her heart, his antagonistic spirit-photographer brother, Julius, represents everything her scientific mind abhors. When the unthinkable happens, how will Mary Shelley endure the unbearable losses, not to mention the evolution of her supernatural abilities?

2014 Finalist

Belle epoque

Ross, Elizabeth (Elizabeth Anne)


When Maude Pichon moved to Paris, she never dreamed she would end up working for the Durandeau Agency as a “repoussoir”—a foil for society’s elite who believe a plain face alongside them makes them look more beautiful. A countess hires Maude as a companion for her daughter, Isabelle, but as the girls’ friendship grows, Maude finds herself torn between her integrity and her livelihood.

2014 Finalist

Seraphina : a novel

Hartman, Rachel.


When the death of a royal prince threatens the fragile peace between humans and dragons in Goredd, court musician Seraphina is drawn into the murder investigation. But even as she aids Prince Lucian in his mission to uncover the murderer, Seraphina conceals a dangerous secret of her own—her half-human, half-dragon heritage.

2013 Winner

After the snow

Crockett, S. D. (Sophie D.)


In a future where winter lasts nearly all year, Willo returns from hunting to discover his family has been kidnapped. Skilled at surviving in the wild, he sets off from their remote farm, determined to locate them. But when his journey brings him to a corrupt city, full of strange and unfamiliar perils, Willo is swept up by events he doesn’t fully understand.

2013 Finalist

Wonder show

Barnaby, Hannah Rodgers.


Stories come easily to motherless Portia, and a good thing, too. They sustain her when her father leaves her and when her aunt abandons her to the ghastly McGreavey Home for Wayward Girls. When she escapes, they win her a place with Mosco’s Traveling Wonder Show, where she hopes to find her father again somehow, where “freak,” “normal” and “family” mean something altogether different—and where Portia begins to take charge of her own story.

2013 Finalist

The miseducation of Cameron Post

Danforth, Emily M.


On the same day that 12-year-old Cameron kisses her best friend, Irene, her parents are killed in a car accident. Nearly crushed with guilt, Cameron spends the next several years in self-imposed gay-movie therapy with her VCR or drinking and smoking pot with her track- and swim-team friends, gradually coming to terms with her sexuality. It’s not easy being gay in rural 1990s Montana, and it’s harder still when your aunt drags you to an evangelical church every weekend—where you meet the girl of your dreams.

2013 Finalist

Where things come back : a novel

Whaley, John Corey.


Lily, Arkansas, seems like a sleepy town where it would be unlikely for anything of note to the outside world to happen. But Cullen’s seventeenth summer is marked by the overdose death of a relative, his brother’s disappearance, and the discovery of a woodpecker thought to be extinct. These seemingly disconnected events collide in this novel which demonstrates that nothing is random. Whaley’s story will absorb readers as they follow Cullen on his journey through an unforgettable summer.

2012 Winner

Under the mesquite

McCall, Guadalupe Garcia.


This novel in verse tells the story of Lupita, the oldest of eight children. When Lupita’s mother is diagnosed with cancer, it is up to Lupita to step into a role she never considered taking in her drama class: surrogate parent. McCall’s chapters are exquisite poems with language that sings and stings. Finding hope amidst despair, finding the chance to laugh, and finding the incredible power of family make this a memorable reading experience.

2012 Finalist.

Between shades of gray

Sepetys, Ruta.


In lyrical prose, Sepetys introduces readers to 15 year old Lina and her family as they are evicted from their home in Lithuania and transported to Siberia as prisoners during Stalin’s reign of terror in the 1940s. The journey is perilous; not all will survive. Lina is determined to document it all in her art and her journal. Sepetys shines a light on a corner of history not often seen in YA literature. The juxtaposition of lyricism in the midst of the horror underscores Lina’s indomitable spirit.

2012 Finalist

Paper covers rock

Hubbard, Jenny.


Alex, a junior at an exclusive boarding school, uses his journal (neatly hidden inside a copy of Moby Dick) to relate the disturbing events that led to the drowning of a classmate. Hubbard’s literary references, her creation of Alex’s poems and journal entries, and her storytelling skills combine in a story about the code of silence that often compromises the code of honor.

2012 Finalist

The girl of fire and thorns

Carson, Rae.


Elisa bears the Godstone. She is a chosen one. What she is chosen to do is unclear, but perhaps her journey to marry the king of a neighboring country in the midst of war will provide some of the answers. Carson weaves together religion, politics, prophecy, and more in this fast-paced fantasy that brings Elisa to a destiny no one could have anticipated.

2012 Finalist

The Freak Observer

Woolston, Blythe.


Loa, a strong, intelligent, hardworking sixteen-year-old girl experiences a year of loss. While trying to take care of her family and make it through school, she ponders the laws of physics as she tries to understand what can never make sense.

2011 Winner


Chayil, Eishes.


Growing up in her insular Chassidic Jewish community has always made Gittel feel secure and given her a sense of belonging. But when her best friend, Devory, hangs herself after being sexually abused, her faith in the group is challenged and only gradually does she find ways to express her desire for the community to deal with the issue.

2011 Finalist

Crossing the tracks

Stuber, Barbara, 1951-


In the 1920s, Iris' emotionally distant father sends her to rural Missouri to act as a companion to an elderly woman while he heads to Kansas City with his fiance. Iris' mother died when she was five, and it takes her some time to learn to care for Mrs. Nesbitt and see her own future with optimism.

2011 Finalist

Guardian of the dead

Healey, Karen.


Seventeen-year-old Ellie Spencer is just trying to make it through her last year of high school, but a chance interaction with the school's weirdo, Mark Nolan, puts her on a very different path filled with Maori legends come to life.

2011 Finalist

Hold me closer, necromancer

McBride, Lish.


Sam thinks his life working in a fast food restaurant is awful. But when he's confronted by a powerful necromancer, he learns that everything he thought was true about his life — isn't.

2011 Finalist

Flash burnout : a novel

Madigan, L. K.


Blake’s life is way too complicated. He’s a sophomore in high school with a girlfriend and a friend who is a girl. One of them loves him. One of them needs him. Can he please them both?

2010 Winner


Lo, Malinda.


Consumed with grief after the death of her father, Ash's only escape from her harsh life and cruel stepmother comes from re-reading the fairy tales that her mother once told her and hoping against hope that the fairies will appear to her. When the fairy Sidhean appears, Ash hopes that he will steal her away to his enchanted world; but when she meets the King's Huntress, Kaisa, she realizes that staying in her own realm can also lead to beauty, romance, and perhaps even love.

2010 Finalist

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