Alex Awards

Funded by the Margaret Alexander Edwards Trust, the first Alex Awards honor the Top Ten Adult Books for Young Adults published during 1997. The awards, cosponsored by Booklist and the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) of the American Library Association (ALA), recognize the work of Margaret Edwards, called "Alex" by her friends. A pioneer in young adult services, whose accomplishments at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore have guided and inspired young adult librarians for several decades, Edwards was committed to using adult books with teenagers and incorporated them into the readers' advisory training programs she instituted.

Bodanis, David. The Secret Family: Twenty-four Hours inside the Mysterious Worlds of Our Minds and Bodies. Simon & Schuster, $27.50 (0-684-81019-0).
With surprises and information on every page, Bodanis' book peels back the layers of our minds and bodies to reveal a churning world of tiny, invisible components, living and inanimate, in ourselves and in our surroundings, that silently and secretly affect us. By following the activities of a family—mom, dad, baby, young son, and teenage daughter—through a typical day, from breakfast to bedtime, Bodanis makes readers active partners in a mysterious and fascinating science adventure. If teens are shocked to discover that there's embalming fluid on postage stamps, just wait till they find out what's floating around the local mall.

Bragg, Rick. All Over but the Shoutin'. Pantheon, $25 (0-679-44258-8).
Bragg, a Pulitzer Prize–winning correspondent, didn't start out to be a writer. In fact, he sort of fell into it. He recalls this personal journey in a rags-to-riches memoir, which begins in 1959 in Alabama, where "white people had it hard and black people had it harder than that, because what are the table scraps of nothing?" In vivid prose, by turns comic and affecting, he recalls growing up white and poor in the South, his difficult relationship with his abusive, alcoholic father, and his love for his courageous mother, who raised him and taught him what really mattered.

Carroll, Rebecca. Sugar in the Raw: Voices of Young Black Girls in America. Crown, paper, $12 (0-517-88497-6).
Carroll captures the voices of the next generation of African American women in this collection of interviews. Teenagers will hear themselves plainly and powerfully echoed in the honest, unfiltered words of fifteen young black women, who range in age from eleven to twenty. From a variety of backgrounds and in very different ways, they speak candidly about their personal lives, their race, their gender, and their future as black women. A paperback format and a winning cover adds to the YA appeal.

Cook, Karin. What Girls Learn. Pantheon, $23 (0-679-44828-4); Vintage, paper, $13 (0-679-76944-7).
This poignant, honest novel calls up themes that teenagers will easily recognize from reading young-adult books—family relationships, sibling rivalry, the death of a parent. In fact, this reads as if it were written just for teens. With a fine ear for dialogue and a firm grasp on the concerns of adolescent girls, Cook tells the story of two sisters—Tilden, quiet and good; Elizabeth, the family rebel—and their relationship with their beloved mother, Frances. When Frances marries Nick, the girls must adjust; when Frances is diagnosed with breast cancer, the girls' lives change in ways they never expected.

Hamill, Pete. Snow in August. Little, Brown, $23.95 (0-316-34094-4).
A piece of history comes to life for young adults in a vivid novel about prejudice, love, courage, and miracles. Eleven-year-old Michael Devlin lives with his widowed mother in a working-class neighborhood in 1940s Brooklyn, in the shadow of Ebbets Field. The last thing he expects to find is a friend in Rabbi Judah Hirsch, a refugee from Prague, who trades wonderful stories from Jewish folklore for lessons in English and American culture, especially the sport of baseball. When religious prejudice rears its ugly head, Michael's real world and Hirsch's fantastical one fold together in a powerful, unexpected way.

Junger, Sebastian. The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men against the Sea. Norton, $25 (0-303-04016-X).
In 1991, as Halloween nears, a cold front moves south from Canada, a hurricane swirls over Bermuda, and an intense storm builds over the Great Lakes. These forces converge to create the cruelest holiday trick of all, a 100-year tempest that catches the North Atlantic fishing fleet off guard and unprotected. Readers weigh anchor with sailors struggling against the elements; they follow meteorologists, who watch helplessly as the storm builds; and, by helicopter and boat, they navigate 100-foot seas and 120-mph winds to attempt rescue against harrowing odds.

Krakauer, Jon. Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster. 1997. Villard, $24 (0-679-45752-6).
Only a handful of people have stood atop Everest. Krakauer is one of them, but the story he tells here is not of glorious triumph. Rather, it is a true account of survival and death that will grab YA readers from the very first page. Krakauer had a front-row seat to the headline-making 1996 climbing disaster that resulted in the deaths of five people, and his account of the unfolding tragedy, filled with keenly observed details, is not only a transfixing drama but also an inquiry into survivor guilt and the outer limits of human strength and responsibility.

Thomas, Velma Maia. Lest We Forget: The Passage from Africa to Slavery and Emancipation. Crown, $29.95 (0-609-60030-3).
In a cleverly designed interactive book, the creator of the Black Holocaust Exhibit relates "the pain of my people." Her simple yet descriptive words tell the story of slavery and the struggle for freedom—from the African villages to the boats, from the plantations to the end of the Civil War and Jubilee, the day of freedom. Letters and newspaper clippings personalize the story, and reproductions of documents, meant to be pulled from envelopes and pouches attached to the pages, bring the past directly into the present.

Trice, Dawn Turner. Only Twice I've Wished for Heaven. 1997. Crown, $23 (0-517-70428-5).
Eleven-year-old Tempest doesn't like her new home in Lakeland, a planned community for African Americans. Most of her school classmates are boring, and their prissy airs anger and puzzle her. What saves her is a friendship with troubled Valerie, an outsider like herself, and the secret trips she makes each day to Miss Jonetta's liquor store on fascinating Thirty-fifth Street, where she discovers great courage and caring—and terrible secrets about the world of grown-ups and about her best friend.

Willis, Connie. To Say Nothing of the Dog; or, How We Found the Bishop's Bird Stump at Last. Bantam, $23.95 (0-553-09995-7).
Part time travel, part mystery, part comedy of errors, this clever fantasy has lots to offer YAs, not the least of which is a chance to sink deeply into a piece of history they won't know much about. The year is 2057, and rich Lady Schrapnell has promised to finance Oxford University's time-travel project if she's assisted in her endeavors to rebuild Coventry Cathedral, which was destroyed by the Nazis in 1940. The grueling search for church artifacts has given time-traveler Ned Henry an advanced case of time lag. But it isn't rest he gets when he's sent back to the year 1888; it's another time-traveler's mistake, which he must help correct before it alters the entire course of history.