The purpose of the award is to recognize and promote an outstanding contribution to teen literature that has both literary quality and teen appeal for those 13 to 18 years of age. The Thumbs Up! Award was established in 1986 by the Teen Services Division of the Michigan Library Association. Since 2001, the selection process has also included a teen vote.

Thumbs Up! Award Guidelines (pdf)
Thumbs Up! Award Nomination Form (pdf)

2018 Thumbs Up! Award

We are pleased to announce the top ten titles (PDF) for the 2018 Thumbs Up! Award. A group of youth and teen librarians worked throughout the year to read from a list of more than 150 titles to identify the top selections using the following criteria: story, setting, theme, voice, accuracy, style, characters and design. The winner of the Thumbs Up! Award and honor books will be announced at the MLA 2018 Annual Conference in Novi this October.


Bull by David Elliott Book Cover

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia Book Cover


Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson book cover

Long Way Down  by Jason Reynolds book cover


One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus book cover


Solo  by Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess book cover


The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue #1 by Mackenzi Lee book cover


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas book cover

Warcross (Warcross #1) by Marie Lu book cover

Who Killed Christopher Goodman? by Allan Wolf book cover


2017 Thumbs Up! Award Winner – The Serpent King

The Serpent King by Jeff ZentnerThe Michigan Library Association (MLA) is pleased to announce that The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner, published in 2016 by Tundra Books, is the winner of the 2017 MLA Thumbs Up! Award.

In The Serpent King, Dill isn't the most popular kid at his rural Tennessee high school. After his father fell from grace in a public scandal that reverberated throughout their small town, Dill became a target. Fortunately, his two fellow misfits and best friends, Travis and Lydia, have his back. But as they begin their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. His only escapes are music and his secret feelings for Lydia--neither of which he is brave enough to share. Graduation feels more like an ending to Dill than a beginning. But even before then, he must cope with another ending--one that will rock his life to the core.

Jeff Zentner is a singer-songwriter and guitarist who has recorded with Iggy Pop, Nick Cave and Debbie Harry. In addition to writing and recording his own music, Zentner works with young musicians at Tennessee Teen Rock Camp, which inspired him to write a novel for young adults. He lives in Nashville with his wife and son. You can follow Zentner on Facebook, Instagram, and on Twitter at @jeffzentner.

The Serpent King is Zentner’s debut novel has been named to ten best of the year lists and selected as a William C. Morris Award Winner.

2017 Top Ten Titles:

  • Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
  • March Book 3 by John Lewis
  • The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters
  • Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
  • Scythe by Neal Shusterman
  • Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley
  • The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
  • Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin
  • Draw the Line by Laurent Linn
  • If I Was Your Girl by Russo, Meredith

Past Thumbs Up! Award Winners and Honor Books

2013 | 2014 | 201520162017

Thumbs Up! Award Winners and Honor Books