For immediate release | December 2, 2020

YALSA announces 2021 Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award finalists

CHICAGO — The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), selected five books as finalists for the 2021 Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award, which honors the best nonfiction books written for young adults between November 1, 2019 and October 31, 2020. YALSA will name the 2021 award winner virtually at the Youth Media Awards on January 25, 2021 during the American Library Association’s virtual Midwinter Meeting. Registration is open now through January 15, 2021.

The 2021 finalists are:

  • All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys' Soccer Team, written by Christina Soontornvat and published by Candlewick Press. 9781536209457.
  • The Cat I Never Named: A True Story of Love, War, and Survival, written by Amra Sabic-El-Rayess with Laura L. Sullivan and published by Bloomsbury YA. 9781547604531.
  • How We Got To the Moon: The People, Technology, and Daring Feats of Science Behind Humanity's Greatest Adventure, written and illustrated by John Rocco and published by Crown Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House. 9780525647416.
  • The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh, written by Candace Fleming and published by Schwartz and Wade, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House. 9780525646549.
  • You Call This Democracy?: How to Fix Our Democracy and Deliver Power to the People, written by Elizabeth Rusch and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, a division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 9780358387428.

“This has been a challenging year for all of us,” said Committee Chair Adrienne Gillespie. “The committee has selected finalists that represent the complexity of the human experience, both collective – as in All Thirteen, How We Got to the Moon, and You Call This Democracy?, – or individual – as in The Cat I Never Named and The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh. Each of these five books includes a wide range of voices, impeccable research, compelling prose, and appealing book design. We feel that these five finalists will inspire young adults to make sense of issues facing them now and help them navigate those they encounter in the future”.

Annotations and more information on the finalists and the award can be found on the Nonfiction Award page. Finalist seals are available for purchase by publishers and library staff to place on the finalist titles. Individuals can watch the Youth Media Awards live on January 25th at 8am CT online. For more information on YALSA’s Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award and other ALA Youth Media Awards, please visit the Youth Media Awards web page.

Learn more about YALSA’s portfolio of book and media awards, which helps strengthen library services for and with teens by identifying quality, age appropriate resources for librarians and library workers to share with the teens in their communities.

Members of the 2021 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award Committee are: Chair Adrienne Gillespie, Beaverton School District, Portland, Oregon; Danielle Rae Dreger-Babbitt, Sno-Isle Regional Library, Mill Creek Library, Mill Creek, Washington; Jennifer Longee, Durham Academy, Durham, North Carolina; Jill Bellomy, Highland Park Middle School, Dallas, Texas; Lisa Goldstein, Brooklyn Public Library, New York; Katie Richert, Bloomingdale Public Library, Bloomingdale, Illinois; Joel Shoemaker, Illinois Prairie District Public Library, Metamora, Illinois; Kerry Townsend, Columbia Public Schools , Columbia, Missouri; and Dr. Terrell A. Young, Bringham Young University, Provo, Utah.

The mission of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) is to support library staff in alleviating the challenges teens face, and in putting all teens ‒ especially those with the greatest needs ‒ on the path to successful and fulfilling lives. For more information about YALSA or to access national guidelines and other resources go to, or contact the YALSA office by phone, 800-545-2433, ext. 4390; or e-mail:


Anna Lam


Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)