We are excited to announce the finalists in the first two categories of the 2016 Association for Mormon Letters awards, Middle Grade Novel and Young Adult Novel. We will be announcing the other category finalists over the coming week. Those categories include Comics, Creative Non-Fiction, Drama, Film, Middle Grade Novel, Novel, Picture Book, Poetry, Religious Non-Fiction, Short Fiction, and Video Series. There also will be an award for Criticism, although not a group of finalists for that category. The final awards will be announced and presented at the AML Conference at Utah Valley University on April 22. The finalist announcements include blurbs about each of the books and author biographies, as provided by the publishers and authors.
Middle Grade Novel
Dave Butler. The Kidnap Plot: The Incredible Adventures of Clockwork Charlie. Knopf
Meet Charlie. He lives a quiet life with his protective father, an inventor and clockmaker. When Charlie s father is suddenly and mysteriously kidnapped by a shadowy group called the Anti-Human League, it s up to Charlie to save him. Before long, he has assembled a motley crew to help. From the terrifying but well-meaning troll Grim Grumblesson to the high-flying young aeronauts Bob and Sir Oliver, this team will follow the trail anywhere. But the league’s plan is much more sinister than Charlie could have imagined. And as he unravels the secrets of the league, he also uncovers his father s own secrets about his family, the league, and even himself…
Can Charlie and his gang rescue his father from the dastardly villains who have kidnapped him? And will Charlie be able to come to terms with who he really is? The journey begins here!”
D.J. Butler (Dave) is a novelist living in the Rocky Mountain west. His training is in law, and he worked as a securities lawyer at a major international firm and inhouse at two multinational semiconductor manufacturers before taking up writing fiction. He is a lover of language and languages, a guitarist and self-recorder, and a serious reader. He is married to a powerful and clever novelist and together they have three devious children.
Ally Condie. Summerlost. Dutton
It’s the first real summer since the devastating accident that killed Cedar’s father and younger brother, Ben. But now Cedar and what’s left of her family are returning to the town of Iron Creek for the summer. They’re just settling into their new house when a boy named Leo, dressed in costume, rides by on his bike. Intrigued, Cedar follows him to the renowned Summerlost theatre festival. Soon, she not only has a new friend in Leo and a job working concessions at the festival, she finds herself surrounded by mystery. The mystery of the tragic, too-short life of the Hollywood actress who haunts the halls of Summerlost. And the mystery of the strange gifts that keep appearing for Cedar.
Ally Condie is a former high school English teacher who lives with her husband, three sons and one daughter outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. She loves reading, running, eating, and listening to her husband play guitar.
Tess Hilmo. Cinnamon Moon. Farrar, Straus and Giroux
On the same day as the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, 250 miles away in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, there was an even more devastating fire. Twelve-year-old Ailis and her younger brother, Quinn, survive, but their family does not. Ailis and Quinn are taken by a family acquaintance to live in a boarding house in Chicago, where they meet six-year-old Nettie, an orphan displaced by Chicago’s fire. But the woman who runs the boarding house makes their lives miserable, and Ailis vows to find a way for the three of them to leave. Ailis finds a job at a millinery shop and Quinn plays his fiddle on the streets so they can save money. Then Nettie disappears, and Ailis and Quinn discover she’s been kidnapped by a group that forces children to work in the sewers killing rats. Can they find a way to rescue her?
Tess Hilmo grew up in Southern California and graduated from BYU with a degree in communications. She started writing when she was pregnant with her second child, and her first book was published 12 years later. That book, With a Name Like Love, earned a Kirkus starred review and other honors. Tess is now the mother of three children.
Liesl Shurtliff. Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood. Knopf
Red is not afraid of the big bad wolf. She’s not afraid of anything . . . except magic. But when Red’s granny falls ill, it seems that only magic can save her, and fearless Red is forced to confront her one weakness. With the help of a blond, porridge-sampling nuisance called Goldie, Red goes on a quest to cure Granny. Her journey takes her through dwarves’ caverns to a haunted well and a beast’s castle. All the while, Red and Goldie are followed by a wolf and a huntsman—two mortal enemies who seek the girls’ help to defeat each other. And one of them just might have the magical solution Red is looking for. . . .
Liesl Shurtliff grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah. Before she became a writer, Liesl graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in music, dance, and theater. Her first three books, Rump, Jack, and Red are all New York Times bestsellers, and Rump was named to over two dozen state award lists and won an ILA Children’s Book Award. She lives in Chicago with her family, where she continues to spin fairy tales.
Young Adult Novel
Julie Berry. The Passion of Dolssa. Viking
Dolssa is a young gentlewoman with uncanny gifts, on the run from an obsessed friar determined to burn her as a heretic for the passion she refuses to tame. Botille is a wily and charismatic peasant, a matchmaker running a tavern with her two sisters in a tiny seaside town. The year is 1241; the place, Provensa, what we now call Provence, France—a land still reeling from the bloody crusades waged there by the Catholic Church and its northern French armies. When the matchmaker finds the mystic near death by a riverside, Botille takes Dolssa in and discovers the girl’s extraordinary healing power. But as the vengeful Friar Lucien hunts down his heretic, the two girls find themselves putting an entire village at the mercy of murderers.
Julie Berry grew up in western New York. She holds a BS from Rensselaer in communication and an MFA from Vermont College in writing for children and young adults. She now lives in southern California with her husband and four sons.
Kiersten White. And I Darken. Delacorte Press
No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets. Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion. But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.
Kiersten White is the New York Times bestselling author of the Paranormalcy trilogy; the dark thrillers Mind Games and Perfect Lies; The Chaos of Stars; and Illusions of Fate. She also coauthored In the Shadows with Jim Di Bartolo. She lives with her family near the ocean in San Diego, which, in spite of its perfection, spurs her to dream of faraway places and even further away times.
Jeff Zentner. The Serpent King. Crown Books
Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace. The only antidote to all this venom is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia. But as they are starting their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. Dill’s only escapes are his music and his secret feelings for Lydia, neither of which he is brave enough to share. Graduation feels more like an ending to Dill than a beginning. But even before then, he must cope with another ending- one that will rock his life to the core.
Jeff Zentner lives in Nashville, Tennessee. He came to writing through music, starting his creative life as a guitarist and eventually becoming a songwriter. He’s released five albums and appeared on recordings with Iggy Pop, Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Thurston Moore, Debbie Harry, Mark Lanegan, and Lydia Lunch, among others. Now he writes novels for young adults. He became interested in writing for young adults after volunteering at the Tennessee Teen Rock Camp and Southern Girls Rock Camp. As a kid, his parents would take him to the library and drop him off, where he would read until closing time. He worked at various bookstores through high school and college. He speaks fluent Portuguese, having lived in the Amazon region of Brazil for two years.