Every year, the Michael L. Printz Award honors the best book written for teens, based on its literary merit.
In addition, the Printz Committee names honor books, which also represent the best writing in young adult literature. The award’s namesake was a school librarian in Topeka, Kansas with a passion for books and reading. He also appreciated the authors who wrote books for young adults and demonstrated this by initiating an author-in-residence program at his high school. The award is sponsored by Booklist, a publication of the American Library Association.
The 2021 Michael L. Printz Award was given to Everything Sad Is Untrue (A True Story) by Daniel Nayeri.
Honor awards went to Apple (Skin to the Core) by Eric Gansworth, Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang, Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh, and We Are Not Free by Traci Chee.
Everything Sad Is Untrue (A True Story) by Daniel Nayeri
At the front of a middle school classroom in Oklahoma, a boy named Khosrou (whom everyone calls “Daniel”) stands, trying to tell a story. His story. But no one believes a word he says. To them he is a dark-skinned, hairy-armed boy with a big butt whose lunch smells funny; who makes things up and talks about poop too much.
But Khosrou’s stories, stretching back years, and decades, and centuries, are beautiful, and terrifying, from the moment his family fled Iran in the middle of the night with the secret police moments behind them, back to the sad, cement refugee camps of Italy…and further back to the fields near the river Aras, where rain-soaked flowers bled red like the yolk of sunset burst over everything, and further back still to the Jasmine-scented city of Isfahan.
Apple (Skin to the Core) by Eric Gansworth
The term Apple is a slur in Native communities across the country. It’s for someone supposedly red on the outside, white on the inside. Eric Gansworth is telling his story in Apple (Skin to the Core). The story of his family, of Onondaga among Tuscaroras, of Native folks everywhere. From the horrible legacy of the government boarding schools, to a boy watching his siblings leave and return and leave again, to a young man fighting to be an artist who balances multiple worlds.
Eric shatters that slur and reclaims it in verse and prose and imagery that truly lives up to the word heartbreaking.
Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang
Gene understands stories—comic book stories, in particular. Big action. Bigger thrills. And the hero always wins.
But Gene doesn’t get sports. As a kid, his friends called him “Stick” and every basketball game he played ended in pain. He lost interest in basketball long ago, but at the high school where he now teaches, it’s all anyone can talk about. The men’s varsity team, the Dragons, is having a phenomenal season that’s been decades in the making. Each victory brings them closer to their ultimate goal: the California State Championships.
Once Gene gets to know these young all-stars, he realizes that their story is just as thrilling as anything he’s seen on a comic book page. He knows he has to follow this epic to its end. What he doesn’t know yet is that this season is not only going to change the Dragons’ lives, but his own life as well.
Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh
When Ada leaves home for her freshman year at a Historically Black College, it’s the first time she’s ever been so far from her family—and the first time that she’s been able to make her own choices and to seek her place in this new world. As she stumbles deeper into the world of dance and explores her sexuality, she also begins to wrestle with her past—her mother’s struggle with addiction, her Nigerian father’s attempts to make a home for her. Ultimately, Ada discovers she needs to brush off the destiny others have chosen for her and claim full ownership of her body and her future.
We Are Not Free by Traci Chee
Fourteen teens who have grown up together in Japantown, San Francisco. Fourteen teens who form a community and a family, as interconnected as they are conflicted. Fourteen teens whose lives are turned upside down when over 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry are removed from their homes and forced into desolate incarceration camps.
In a world that seems determined to hate them, these young Nisei must rally together as racism and injustice threaten to pull them apart.