The bestselling graphic novel, released in September by WW Norton & Co., recounts Small's experience as a young teen who hadn't been told he had cancer and was expected to die.
Stitches is the second graphic novel to be nominated in the young people's literature category; Gene Luen Yang's American Born Chinese was a finalist in 2006.
Established in 1950, the National Book Awards are presented annually to American authors for works published the previous year. The winners, announced in November, each receive $10,000 and a bronze sculpture. Finalists each receive $1,000, a medal and a citation.