2021 Illinois Teen Choice Award

These 20 books are nominated for a statewide readers' choice award. High school students across Illinois will read the books, then vote for their favorites in February.

The LMC has 5 print copies of each title, plus ebook and audiobook copies available on Overdrive.

Color brochure available in the LMC.

Cover image of The 57 BusAll the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars. At the heart of this place you will find the Soria family, who all have the ability to perform unusual miracles. And at the heart of this family are three cousins longing to change its future: Beatriz, the girl without feelings, who wants only to be free to examine her thoughts; Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, who performs miracles for everyone but himself; and Joaquin, who spends his nights running a renegade radio station under the name Diablo Diablo. They are all looking for a miracle. But the miracles of Bicho Raro are never quite what you expect.
 

Cover image of The Astonishing Color of AfterBlack Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America edited by Ibi Zoboi

In this groundbreaking anthology, seventeen acclaimed, black YA authors depict some of the countless ways to be young and black in America today. "Black is ..." sisters navigating their relationship at summer camp in Portland, Oregon, as written by Renée Watson. "Black is ..." three friends walking back from the community pool talking about nothing and everything, in a story by Jason Reynolds. "Black is ..." Nic Stone's bougie debutante dating a boy her momma would never approve of. "Black is ..." two girls kissing in Justina Ireland's story set in Maryland. "Black is ..." urban and rural, wealthy and poor, mixed race, immigrants, and more - because there are countless ways to be black enough.

Cover image of Children of Blood and BoneDarius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He's a Fractional Persian; half on his mom's side; and his first-ever trip to Iran is about to change his life. Darius has never really fit in at home, and he's sure things are going to be the same in Iran. His clinical depression doesn't exactly help matters, and trying to explain his medication to his grandparents only makes things harder. Then Darius meets Sohrab, the boy next door, and everything changes. Soon, they're spending their days together, playing soccer, eating faludeh, and talking for hours on a secret rooftop overlooking the city's skyline. Sohrab calls him Darioush; the original Persian version of his name; and Darius has never felt more like himself.
 

Cover image of Dear MartinDevils Within by S. F. Henson

A teenage boy with a background in white supremacy and extreme violence gets a new start at a new school under a false name and struggles to forge a new life while trying to learn how to navigate a world where people of different races interact.

 

 

Cover image of Don't Get CaughtDress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney Stevens

As the tomboy daughter of the town's preacher, Billie McCaffrey has always struggled with fitting the mold of what everyone says she should be. She'd rather wear sweats, build furniture, and get into trouble with her solid group of friends: Woods, Mash, Davey, Fifty, and Janie Lee. But when Janie Lee confesses to Billie that she's in love with Woods, Billie's filled with a nagging sadness as she realizes that she is also in love with Woods -- and maybe with Janie Lee, too. Always considered "one of the guys," Billie doesn't want anyone slapping a label on her sexuality before she can understand it herself. So she keeps her conflicting feelings to herself, for fear of ruining the group dynamic. Except it's not just about keeping the peace, it's about understanding love on her terms--this thing that has always been defined as a boy and a girl falling in love and living happily ever after. For Billie--a box-defying dynamo--it's not that simple.

 

Cover image of Far From the TreeDry by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman

A lengthy California drought escalates to catastrophic proportions, turning Alyssa's quiet suburban street into a warzone, and she is forced to make impossible choices if she and her brother are to survive.

 

 

Cover image of The Female of the SpeciesEvery Falling Star: The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea by Sungju Lee and Susan Elizabeth McClelland

The first book to portray contemporary North Korea to a young audience, ths is the intense memoir of a North Korean boy named Sungju who is forced at age twelve to live on the streets and fend for himself. To survive, Sungju creates a gang and lives by thieving, fighting, begging, and stealing rides on cargo trains. Sungju richly re-creates his scabrous story, depicting what it was like for a boy alone to create a new family with his gang, his 'brothers'; to be hungry and to fear arrest, imprisonment, and even execution. This riveting memoir allows young readers to learn about other cultures where freedoms they take for granted do not exist.

 

Cover image of HooperA Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti

When everything has been taken from you, what else is there to do but run? So that’s what Annabelle does—she runs from Seattle to Washington, DC, through mountain passes and suburban landscapes, from long lonely roads to college towns. She’s not ready to think about the why yet, just the how—muscles burning, heart pumping, feet pounding the earth. But no matter how hard she tries, she can’t outrun the tragedy from the past year, or the person—The Taker—that haunts her. Followed by Grandpa Ed in his RV and backed by her brother and two friends (her self-appointed publicity team), Annabelle becomes a reluctant activist as people connect her journey to the trauma from her past. Her cross-country run gains media attention and she is cheered on as she crosses state borders, and is even thrown a block party and given gifts. The support would be nice, if Annabelle could escape the guilt and the shame from what happened back home. They say it isn’t her fault, but she can’t feel the truth of that. Through welcome and unwelcome distractions, she just keeps running, to the destination that awaits her. There, she’ll finally face what lies behind her—the miles and love and loss…and what is to come.

 

Cover image of How Dare the Sun RiseHeroine by Mindy McGinnis

When a car crash sidelines Mickey just before softball season, she has to find a way to hold on to her spot as the catcher for a team expected to make a historic tournament run. Behind the plate is the only place she's ever felt comfortable, and the painkillers she's been prescribed can help her get there. The pills do more than take away pain; they make her feel good. With a new circle of friends--fellow injured athletes, others with just time to kill--Mickey finds peaceful acceptance, and people with whom words come easily, even if it is just the pills loosening her tongue. But as the pressure to be Mickey Catalan heightens, her need increases, and it becomes less about pain and more about want, something that could send her spiraling out of control

 

Cover image of I am not Your Perfect Mexican DaughterHey Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

In kindergarten, Jarrett Krosoczka's teacher asks him to draw his family, with a mommy and a daddy. But Jarrett's family is much more complicated than that. His mom is an addict, in and out of rehab, and in and out of Jarrett's life. His father is a mystery -- Jarrett doesn't know where to find him, or even what his name is. Jarrett lives with his grandparents: two very loud, very loving, very opinionated people who had thought they were through with raising children until Jarrett came along. Jarrett goes through his childhood trying to make his non-normal life as normal as possible, finding a way to express himself through drawing even as so little is being said to him about what's going on. Only as a teenager can Jarrett begin to piece together the truth of his family, reckoning with his mother and tracking down his father. Hey, Kiddo is a profoundly important memoir about growing up in a family grappling with addiction, and finding the art that helps you survive.

 

Cover image of Long Way DownInternment by Samira Ahmed

It's been one year since the census landed seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her family on the registry. Five months since the attorney general argued that Korematsu v. United States established precedent for relocation of citizens during times of war. And one month since the president declared that "Muslims are a threat to America." And now, Layla and her parents are suddenly taken from their home and forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens. With the help of new friends also trapped within the detention center, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp's Director and his guards.

 

The Nickel Boys by Colson WhiteheadCover image of Monday's Not Coming

As the Civil Rights movement begins to reach the black enclave of Frenchtown in segregated Tallahassee, Elwood Curtis takes the words of Dr. Martin Luther King to heart: He is “as good as anyone.” Abandoned by his parents, but kept on the straight and narrow by his grandmother, Elwood is a high school senior about to start classes at a local college. But for a black boy in the Jim Crow South of the early 1960s, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy the future. Elwood is sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy, whose mission statement says it provides “physical, intellectual and moral training” so the delinquent boys in their charge can become “honorable and honest men.” In reality, the Nickel Academy is a grotesque chamber of horrors where the sadistic staff beats and sexually abuses the students, corrupt officials and locals steal food and supplies, and any boy who resists is likely to disappear “out back.”

 

Cover image of NyxiaObsessed: A Memoir of My Life with OCD by Allison Britz 

A brave teen recounts her debilitating struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder--and brings readers through every painful step as she finds her way to the other side--in this powerful and inspiring memoir.

 

 

 

Cover image of Only ChildPatron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay

When seventeen-year-old Jay Reguero learns his Filipino cousin and former best friend, Jun, was murdered as part of President Duterte's war on drugs, he flies to the Philippines to learn more.

 

 

 

Cover image of The Poet XPrice of Duty by Todd Strasser

Jake Liddell is a hero. At least, that’s what everyone says he is. The military is even awarding him a Silver Star for his heroic achievements—a huge honor for the son of a military family. Now he’s home, recovering from an injury, but it seems the war has followed him back. He needs pills to get any sleep, a young woman is trying to persuade him into speaking out against military recruitment tactics, and his grandfather is already urging him back onto the battlefield. He doesn’t know what to do; nothing makes sense anymore. There is only one thing that Jake knows for certain: he is no hero.

 

Slay by Brittney MorrisCover image of Sadie

By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and one of the only Black kids at Jefferson Academy. But at home, she joins hundreds of thousands of Black gamers who duel worldwide as Nubian personas in the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. No one knows Kiera is the game developer, not her friends, her family, not even her boyfriend, Malcolm, who believes video games are partially responsible for the "downfall of the Black man." But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, news of the game reaches mainstream media, and SLAY is labeled a racist, exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals. Even worse, an anonymous troll infiltrates the game, threatening to sue Kiera for "anti-white discrimination." Driven to save the only world in which she can be herself, Kiera must preserve her secret identity and harness what it means to be unapologetically Black in a world intimidated by Blackness. But can she protect her game without losing herself in the process?

 

Cover image of The Sun is Also a StarThey Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott and Harmony Becker 

George Takei has captured hearts and minds worldwide with his captivating stage presence and outspoken commitment to equal rights. But long before he braved new frontiers in Star Trek, he woke up as a four-year-old boy to find his own birth country at war with his father's -- and their entire family forced from their home into an uncertain future. In a stunning graphic memoir, Takei revisits his haunting childhood in American concentration camps, as one of over 100,000 Japanese Americans imprisoned by the U.S. government during World War II. Experience the forces that shaped an American icon -- and America itself -- in this gripping tale of courage, country, loyalty, and love.

 

 

Cover image of They Both Die at the EndTruly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. "A place," he said, "where learning is a game." Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym "Truly, Devious." It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history. True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder.

 

Cover image of Turtles All the Way DownA Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

It's 2002, a year after 9/11. It's an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who's tired of being stereotyped. Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. She's tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments--even the physical violence--she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. So she's built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons break-dancing with her brother. But then she meets Ocean James. He's the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her--they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds--and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she's not sure she'll ever be able to let it down

 

Cover image of Words in Deep BlueWe'll Fly Away by Bryan Bliss

Toby and Luke are best friends, bound by a goal of leaving their hometown for Luke's wrestling scholarship, but a series of events during their senior year will test their resolve.