2018 Finalists

HALSEY STREET by Naima  Coster
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Jan. 1, 2018

"Absorbing and alive, the kind of novel that swallows you whole."
A quiet gut-punch of a debut, Coster's novel is a family saga set against the landscape of gentrifying Brooklyn. Read full book review >
FLORIDA by Lauren Groff
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: June 5, 2018

"A literary tour de force of precariousness set in a blistering place, a state shaped like a gun."
In 11 electric short stories, the gifted Groff (Fates and Furies, 2015, etc.) unpacks the "dread and heat" of her home state. Read full book review >
MOURNING by Eduardo Halfon
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: May 8, 2018

"In this follow-up to The Polish Boxer (2012) and Monastery (2014), Halfon constructs a kind of postmodern memorial to his grandfathers, who outlived the horrors of the Holocaust but not its searing emotional aftereffects."
In his latest autobiographical novel to be translated into English, Guatemalan native Halfon's same-named alter ego continues his far-flung travels to probe hidden family truths dating back to Nazi concentration camps. Read full book review >
SEVERANCE by Ling Ma
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Aug. 14, 2018

"Smart, funny, humane, and superbly well-written."
A post-apocalyptic—and pre-apocalyptic—debut. Read full book review >
HEADS OF THE COLORED PEOPLE by Nafissa Thompson-Spires
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: April 10, 2018

"In an era when writers of color are broadening the space in which class and culture as well as race are examined, Thompson-Spires' auspicious beginnings augur a bright future in which she could set new standards for the short story."
A bold new voice, at once insolently sardonic and incisively compassionate, asserts itself amid a surging wave of young African-American fiction writers. Read full book review >
TELL THE MACHINE GOODNIGHT by Katie Williams
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: June 19, 2018

"With its clever, compelling vision of the future, deeply human characters, and delightfully unpredictable story, this novel is itself a recipe for contentment."
In her first book for adults, Williams imagines a not-too-distant future in which people find happiness with the help of machines. Read full book review >
AMERICAN PRISON by Shane Bauer
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Sept. 18, 2018

"A potent, necessary broadside against incarceration in the U.S., which 'imprisons a higher portion of its population than any country in the world.'"
A penetrating exposé on the cruelty and mind-bending corruption of privately run prisons across the United States, with a focus on the Winn facility in Louisiana. Read full book review >
HEAVY by Kiese Laymon
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Oct. 16, 2018

"A dynamic memoir that is unsettling in all the best ways."
A challenging memoir about black-white relations, income inequality, mother-son dynamics, Mississippi byways, lack of personal self-control, education from kindergarten through graduate school, and so much more. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 7, 2018

"An urgent, eye-opening look at a problem that promises to grow much worse in the face of inaction and indifference.
"
Harrowing travels through the land of the hypermedicated, courtesy of hopelessness, poverty, and large pharmaceutical companies. Read full book review >
HEARTLAND by Sarah Smarsh
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Sept. 18, 2018

"A potent social and economic message embedded within an affecting memoir."
Journalist Smarsh explores socio-economic class and poverty through an account of her low-income, rural Kansas-based extended family. Read full book review >
THE ROAD TO UNFREEDOM by Timothy Snyder
Released: April 3, 2018

"A highly distressing, urgent alarm to awaken Americans to the peril of authoritarianism."
How Russia's campaign to undermine democracies threatens the European Union and the United States. Read full book review >
CALL THEM BY THEIR TRUE NAMES by Rebecca Solnit
ESSAYS & ANTHOLOGIES
Released: Sept. 4, 2018

"Solnit is careful with her words (she always is) but never so much that she mutes the infuriated spirit that drives these essays."
For those heartsick at Trumpism, essayist and Harper's contributing editor Solnit (The Mother of All Questions, 2017, etc.) offers context and support. Optimism? You're on your own. Read full book review >
MERCI SUÁREZ CHANGES GEARS by Meg Medina
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 11, 2018

"Medina delivers another stellar and deeply moving story. (author's note) (Fiction. 9-13)"
Merci navigates the challenges of being a scholarship kid at a posh South Florida private school and the expectations of and responsibilities to her intergenerational family. Read full book review >
CROWN by Derrick Barnes
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 10, 2017

"One of the best reads for young black boys in years, it should be in every library, media center, and, yes, barbershop. (Picture book. 5-12)"
Safe to say, there's nothing like the feeling of the fresh cut. You feel so extra visible with a fresh new cut, and this book built from that experience translates it in a way never before brought to the children's bookshelf. Read full book review >
DREAMERS by Yuyi Morales
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 4, 2018

"A resplendent masterpiece. (author's note) (Picture book. 4-8)"
Based on her experience of leaving Mexico for the United States, Morales' latest offers an immigrant's tale steeped in hope, dreams, and love. Read full book review >
HARBOR ME by Jacqueline Woodson
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 28, 2018

"An extraordinary and timely piece of writing. (Fiction. 10-14)"
Just before she begins seventh grade, Haley tells the story of the previous school year, when she and five other students from an experimental classroom were brought together. Read full book review >
THE POET X by Elizabeth Acevedo
YOUNG ADULT
Released: March 6, 2018

"Poignant and real, beautiful and intense, this story of a girl struggling to define herself is as powerful as Xiomara's name: 'one who is ready for war.' (Verse fiction. 14-18)"
Poetry helps first-generation Dominican-American teen Xiomara Batista come into her own. Read full book review >
CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE by Tomi Adeyemi
SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY
Released: March 6, 2018

"Powerful, captivating, and raw—Adeyemi is a talent to watch. Exceptional. (Fantasy. 14-adult)"
Seventeen-year-old Zélie and companions journey to a mythic island seeking a chance to bring back magic to the land of Orïsha, in a fantasy world infused with the textures of West Africa. Read full book review >

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ABOUT THE KIRKUS PRIZE

The Kirkus Prize is one of the richest literary awards in the world, with a prize of $50,000 bestowed annually to authors of fiction, nonfiction and young readers’ literature. It was created to celebrate the 85 years of discerning, thoughtful criticism Kirkus Reviews has contributed to both the publishing industry and readers at large. Books that earn the Kirkus Star with publication dates between Nov. 1, 2017 to Oct. 31, 2018 (see FAQ for exceptions), are automatically nominated for the 2018 Kirkus Prize. Six finalists in each of three categories will be announced on Tuesday, September 25, 2018. The Kirkus Prize judges will select three winners on Thursday, October 25, 2018.