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Arkansas Teen Book Award: 2022-2023

2023 Award Winners

2022 Level 1 (Grades 7-9) Winner: Starfish by Lisa Fipps

Penguin Young Readers Group, March 2021

Told in verse, this affirming representation of fatness stars Ellie Montgomery-Hofstein, 11, who, to avoid the bullying she’s endured since the age of five, lives by the Fat Girl Rules—the unspoken rules one learns “when you break them—/ and suffer/ the consequences.” Finding solace from taunts and judgment in her fenced-in backyard’s pool, Ellie enjoys sprawling in the water like a starfish, weightless and free. When her best friend Viv moves away, Ellie feels alone at her Dallas, Tex., school, but she soon forms a tentative bond with her new neighbor, Catalina Rodriguez, whose boisterous, loving Mexican family makes her feel accepted for who she is. With support from new friends, her father, and a therapist who acknowledges her feelings and helps her find her voice, Ellie finds the strength to stand up to her bullies.

2022 Level 1 (Grades 7-9) Honor Book: Amari and the Night Brothers by B. B. Alston

HarperCollins Publishers, January 2021

Amari Peters has never stopped believing her missing brother, Quinton, is alive. Not even when the police told her otherwise, or when she got in trouble for standing up to bullies who said he was gone for good. So when she finds a ticking briefcase in his closet, containing a nomination for a summer tryout at the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, she’s certain the secretive organization holds the key to locating Quinton—if only she can wrap her head around the idea of magicians, fairies, aliens, and other supernatural creatures all being real. Now she must compete for a spot against kids who’ve known about magic their whole lives. Amari has never felt more alone. But if she doesn’t stick it out and pass the tryouts, she may never find out what happened to Quinton.

2022 Level 2 (Grades 10-12) Winner: Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

HarperCollins Publishers, January 2021

If there’s one thing seventeen-year-old Maverick Carter knows, it’s that a real man takes care of his family. As the son of a former gang legend, Mav does that the only way he knows how: dealing for the King Lords. With this money he can help his mom, who works two jobs while his dad’s in prison. Life’s not perfect, but with a fly girlfriend and a cousin who always has his back, Mav’s got everything under control. Until, that is, Maverick finds out he’s a father. Suddenly he has a baby, Seven, who depends on him for everything. When he’s offered the chance to go straight, he takes it. In a world where he’s expected to amount to nothing, maybe Mav can prove he’s different. When King Lord blood runs through your veins, though, you can’t just walk away. He’ll have to figure out for himself what it really means to be a man.

2022 Level 2 (Grades 10-12) Honor Book: In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner

Random House Children’s Books, August 2021

Life in a small Appalachian town is not easy. Cash lost his mother to an opioid addiction and his Papaw is dying slowly from emphysema. Dodging drug dealers and watching out for his best friend, Delaney, is second nature. He’s been spending his summer mowing lawns while she works at Dairy Queen. But when Delaney manages to secure both of them full rides to an elite prep school in Connecticut, Cash will have to grapple with his need to protect and love Delaney, and his love for the grandparents who saved him and the town he has to leave behind.

2023 Winners

Level 1 — Rich background or light background for printing

Level 2 — Rich background or light background for printing

2023 Nominees

Find more information about current and past titles, visit the Arkansas Teen Book Award website

The views expressed in titles nominated for the Arkansas Teen Book Award not necessarily reflect the views or official policies of the State of Arkansas, the Arkansas Department of Education, or the Arkansas State Library.