SLJ’s Reviews of the 2022 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature Finalists

The finalists for 2022 National Book Award for Young People's Literature have been announced. Here are their reviews from SLJ.

The National Book Foundation announced its five finalists for the 2022 National Book Awards for Young People’s Literature today. They were selected by a distinguished panel of literary experts, and were advanced from the Longlists announced in September.


The Ogress and the Orphans by Kelly Barnhill. Algonquin. ISBN 9781643750743.
A new instant-classic fantasy about the power of generosity and love, and how a community suffers when they disappear, by Kelly Barnhill, winner of the Newbery Medal for The Girl Who Drank the Moon, a New York Times bestseller. Review to come.

The Lesbiana's Guide to Catholic School by Sonora Reyes. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. ISBN 9780063060234.
Gr 8 Up–Yamilet Flores and her brother, Cesar, are set to start the school year at Slayton Catholic, both leaving behind unhappy pasts at Rover High. Cesar has a habit of getting into fights at school for reasons Yamilet can’t figure out, and Yamilet is struggling with a betrayal by ex-best friend Bianca, who revealed to others Yamilet is gay. Hoping to avoid a similar situation at Slayton, Yamilet pretends to be straight as she navigates the school. Soon she falls in with a good group of friends that includes Bo, a Chinese American girl who is kind, intelligent, confident, and out. Working hard to make money in case she is kicked out of home when her truth is revealed, Yami doesn’t always pay attention to what’s happening with Cesar. Yamilet is refreshing and genuine, starting off as someone who does not always stand up for herself and evolving into someone fiercely protective of her family, her friends, and herself. Yami and Cesar, who both struggle with a sense of shame, deal with their feelings differently while also providing each other with love and support. Yami glows with pride for her Mexican and Indigenous ancestry, and although she stands out in Slayton, where most of the student body is white, she finds support from many kind and considerate classmates. Difficult topics, such as suicide, are explored. VERDICT Filled with humor and love, this fast-paced novel will have readers immersed in Yamilet’s world, rooting for her and her loved ones all the way.–Selenia Paz

 Victory. Stand!: Raising My Fist for Justice by Tommie Smith, Derrick Barnes, and Dawud Anyabwile. Norton. ISBN 9781324003908.
Gr 8 Up–Smith’s life story, centered around the historic raising of his fist at the 1968 Olympic games, is also a portrait of resistance against inequality in America. The narrative alternates between a chronological recounting of Smith’s life, beginning with his humble roots working on a farm in Texas, and one of the most significant races of his athletic career. As a Black athlete, Smith experiences racism on multiple levels from childhood up through college and adulthood, and these life experiences inform his worldviews and reflections on his community’s treatment based on race. Throughout, the determination and joy he derives from his family and Christian faith keep him focused on the high road in any conflict, and the narrative highlights various coaches, politicians, educators, activists, and fellow athletes who made an impression on Smith as well as on America. The balance between the personal and the broader historical perspectives makes this book as accessible as it is educational. For example, Smith’s titular stand is given full context regarding the preparation, execution, and aftermath, including fallout. Anyabwile’s black-and-white illustrations achieve the same balance and then some as they portray Smith’s tumultuous periods as well as his hard-fought triumphs. There is nothing saccharine about this view into the past, but there is plenty worth remembering and considering. VERDICT An illuminating example of the power of a moral stance, no matter when it occurs in one’s life.–Thomas Maluck

 All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir. Razorbill. ISBN 9780593202340.
Gr 9 Up–In a genre flip from fantasy, Tahir has created a contemporary novel that spans both time and place. In past Pakistan, Misbah weds Toufiq in an arranged marriage that results in a move to California after upheaval at home. Now they run a small hotel in the Mojave Desert. Their son Salahudin and dear family friend Noor hold a connection bound by their history and the challenges they face due to Islamophobia, racism, and more. When his mother’s health fails and his father battles alcoholism as he grieves, the financial and maintenance aspects of the hotel fall to Sal, who takes drastic measures to save the hotel his mother loved so very much. Simultaneously, Noor is striving to leave her uncle’s grasp by planning to go away to college, but finds herself caught up by Sal’s choices. Tahir’s lyrical prose unpacks both the beautiful and the brutal. She deftly captures the layers of grief, rage, family, examination of faith, and forgiveness, while managing to inject levity into dire situations and provide a semblance of hope. Music aficionados will revel in the songs referenced throughout various scenes in the book. VERDICT This deep dive into the complex ferocity of emotions within families is a love letter to Pakistani culture and revelations from the past that test the boundaries of survival. Put this book at the top of your list.–Lisa Krok

 Maizy Chen’s Last Chance by Lisa Yee. Random. ISBN 9781984830258.
Gr 4 Up–When 11-year-old Maizy’s grandfather falls ill, she and her mother visit her grandparents in Minnesota for the first time. While helping run their Chinese restaurant, Maizy learns about her family history with enduring roots in the town since the 1880s. As Maizy discovers her ancestors’ struggles against racism, she also confronts issues that still plague the town. In connecting with her grandparents, Maizy learns not only about past generations, but also about family dynamics of living up to your parents’ expectations and strained familial relationships. This fast-paced, humorous, heartwarming tale of family and history is likely to appeal to readers of all ages. VERDICT Recommended first purchase for all collections. This contemporary fiction tale has mystery, friendship, and family packed into an enthralling read.–Monisha Blair

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