Annal: 2003 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Fiction

Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 2003.

Book:A Northern Light

A Northern Light

Jennifer Donnelly

Mattie Gokey has a word for everything. She collects words, stores them up as a way of fending off the hard truths of her life, the truths that she can’t write down in stories.

The fresh pain of her mother’s death. The burden of raising her sisters while her father struggles over his brokeback farm. The mad welter of feelings Mattie has for handsome but dull Royal Loomis, who says he wants to marry her. And the secret dreams that keep her going—visions of finishing high school, going to college in New York City, becoming a writer.

Yet when the drowned body of a young woman turns up at the hotel where Mattie works, all her words are useless. But in the dead woman’s letters, Mattie again finds her voice, and a determination to live her own life.

Set in 1906 against the backdrop of the murder that inspired Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, this coming-of-age novel effortlessly weaves romance, history, and a murder mystery into something moving, and real, and wholly original.

Book:After (Francine Prose)

After

Francine Prose

The shootings in Pleasant Valley were fifty miles away, but at Central High a grief and crisis counselor is hired, security is increased, and privileges are being taken away. If you break the new rules, the punishment is severe. And the rules keep changing every day. It’s for their protection, yet fifteen-year-old Tom Bishop and his friends learn that things are far more sinister than they seem. Students and teachers begin disappearing.

And there’s no way to stop it.

From nationally best-selling and critically acclaimed author Francine Prose comes After—a haunting novel about what happens when protection goes too far, and what it means to have freedom extinguished in the name of safety.

Book:Olive's Ocean

Olive's Ocean

Kevin Henkes

“Olive Barstow was dead. She’d been hit by a car on Monroe Street while riding her bicycle weeks ago. That was about all Martha knew.”

Martha Boyle and Olive Barstow could have been friends. But they weren’t—and now all that is left are eerie connections between two girls who were in the same grade at school and who both kept the same secret without knowing it.

Now Martha can’t stop thinking about Olive. A family summer on Cape Cod should help banish those thoughts; instead, they seep in everywhere.

And this year Martha’s routine at her beloved grandmother’s beachside house is complicated by the Manning boys. Jimmy, Tate, Todd, Luke, and Leo. But especially Jimmy. What if, what if, what if, what if? The world can change in a minute.

Book:The River Between Us

The River Between Us

Richard Peck

Richard Peck is a master of stories about people in transition, but perhaps never before has he told a tale of such dramatic change as this one, set during the first year of the Civil War. The whole country is changing in 1861-even the folks from a muddy little Illinois settlement on the banks of the Mississippi. Here, fifteen-year-old Tilly Pruitt frets over the fact that her brother is dreaming of being a soldier and that her sister is prone to supernatural visions. A boy named Curry could possibly become a distraction.

Then a steamboat whistle splits the air. The Rob Roy from New Orleans docks at the landing, and off the boat step two remarkable figures: a vibrant, commanding young lady in a rustling hoop skirt and a darker, silent woman in a plain cloak, with a bandanna wrapped around her head. Who are these two fascinating strangers? And is the darker woman a slave, standing now on the free…[more]

Book:True Confessions of a Heartless Girl

True Confessions of a Heartless Girl

Martha Brooks

In the midst of a heaven-rattling summer storm a young stranger blows into a small prairie town. On the run after taking her latest boyfriend’s truck, with a pocketful of stolen money and a heart full of pain, seventeen-year-old Noreen Stall seems to invite trouble. And trouble comes soon enough as Noreen’s new mistakes trigger calamities that shake the lives of the residents of Pembina Lake: Lynda Bradley, a divorced mother and owner of a failing café who’s given up on life and love; Dolores Harper, the village elder who, in spite of her signature sweatshirt that says MEDDLING FOR JESUS, has lost her enthusiasm for helping others; and Del Armstrong, a middle-aged bachelor farmer who is still paying for the tragic events of his own seventeenth summer.

Set against the vast skies of a prairie landscape, with a rich cast of unforgettable characters and an unlikely heroine as endearing as she is tough, this affecting novel reminds readers that it’s never too late for forgiveness—and that sometimes the most unlikely messenger can deliver a small miracle.

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