2011 Great Graphic Novels for Teens is list of “recommended graphic novels and illustrated nonfiction.” My place of work doesn’t carry graphic novels, and I’ve read only one of the books on the list: Yummy by G. Neri, illustrated by Randy DuBurke.
The Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production is for “the producer of the best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults, available in English in the United.” One interesting thing about audiobook awards is that it’s based on when the audiobook was made, so sometimes older titles appear on these lists.
For teen books, there is also the Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults. Another interesting thing; both of these awards are about the audiobooks. ALSC’s Notable Recordings for Children has a requirement that the Odyssey and Amazing Audiobooks does not: for Notables, the book must be in “audiotape and/or compact disc.”
The Odyssey Award for 2011 is for “Listening Library, an imprint of Random House Audio Publishing Group, producer of the audiobook, The True Meaning of Smekday, written by Adam Rex and narrated by Bahni Turpin.”
Four Honor Books were named:
Alchemy and Meggy Swann, written by Karen Cushman, narrated by Katherine Kellgren and produced by Listening Library, an imprint of the Random House Audio Publishing Group.
The Knife of Never Letting Go, written by Patrick Ness, narrated by Nick Podehl and produced by Candlewick on Brilliance Audio, an imprint of Brilliance Audio.
Revolution, written by Jennifer Donnelly, narrated by Emily Janice Card and Emma Bering and produced by Listening Library, an imprint of the Random House Audio Publishing Group.
will grayson, will grayson, written by John Green and David Levithan, narrated by MacLeod Andrews and Nick Podehl and produced by Brilliance Audio.
Because I’ve listened to so few of these books, I’ll just point out the overlaps:
The Amazing Audiobook list has both a Top Ten list and a full list of titles. Both The Knife of Never Letting Go and will grayson, will grayson appear on the Top Ten. Alchemy and Meggy Swan, Revolution and The True Meaning of Smekday appears on the full Amazing Audiobook list.
Alchemy and Meggy Swan and The True Meaning of Smekday also appear on the Notable Children’s Recordings list.
Also, One Crazy Summer appears on both the Amazing Audiobooks and Notable lists.
The Sydney Taylor Book Award was announced January 2011.
The award is presented to “outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience.” It is presented by the Association of Jewish Libraries and “encourages the publication and widespread use of quality Judaic literature.”
Gold medals are presented in three categories: Younger Readers, Older Readers, and Teen Readers. Honor Books are awarded silver medals, and Notable Books are named in each category.
Here is the video:
For Teen Readers, the Book Award Winner is The Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt, Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books. Tomorrow I will post my review of The Things a Brother Knows; and, on Wednesday, I will have an interview with Reinhardt. The interview will be part of a blog tour featuring interviews with winning authors and illustrators. The full blog tour schedule will appear on the Association of Jewish Libraries’ blog “People of the Books.”
The Teen Readers, the Honor Award Winners are: Hush by Eishes Chayil, Walker & Company, a division of Bloomsbury Publishing (my review), Once by Morris Gleitzman (Henry Holt and Company), and Life, After by Sarah Darer Littman, Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc.
For Older Readers, the Book Award Winner is Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch, Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams.
For Younger Readers, the Book Award Winner is Gathering Sparks by Howard Schwartz with illustrations by Kristina Swarner, Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.
Check out the full List of all 2011 Award, Honor, and Notable Books.
There will be a Blog Tour of the winning authors and illustrators from February 6 to February 11. I’ll post more details closer to the tour; but in the meanwhile, a full list of dates, blogs, authors and illustrators is at the AJL Blog, People of the Book. Tea Cozy will be a stop on the tour, with Dana Reinhardt, author of the Book Award for Teen Readers Award!
The Plot: The Latte Rebellion doesn’t start as a rebellion. Yes, Asha and her friend Carey got annoyed at a classmate’s casual comments about Asha being a “towel head” and being “Miss Barely Asian.” In a caffeine induced bout of creativity, they come up with the “Latte Rebellion,” for “the cause of brown people everywhere.” In rebellion against what? Against both racism and the insistence of putting people into specific boxes. Asha’s mother is Indian, her father is Mexican-Irish, so what box should she check on her college applications?
What really drives Asha and Carey to create and market a “Latte Rebellion” T-shirts is the desire to make money for a post-High School vacation. A Mexican cruise? New York City? London? Asha’s dream destination changes as more shirts are sold.
Along the way, Asha is surprised how people are impacted and inspired by her Latte Rebellion and it slowly becomes real, an actual club whose purpose is to raise awareness of mixed-race peoples.
The Good: The capitalist part of me adores that the Latte Rebellion starts as a way to raise money. AWESOME. And practically no one blinks an eye at Asha’s and Carey’s use of social awareness and concerns to make money for a vacation. They talk about marketing and budgets and how this can be spun for college applications and everyone agrees. It’s not just Asha; when she meets hot guy Thad, a college student who wants to help create community clinics in poor and rural areas, he says “I just think people really need this kind of thing, and Greg and I have some good ideas. We think we could manage to make a living off it.” I am dead serious when I say how much I love this combination of idealism and practicality, of wanting to do good but knowing one still has to pay the rent.
I also love how Asha doesn’t intend to do anything big or raise society’s awareness. Part of the story is Asha’s own awareness being raised as the book goes along, of putting words to her emotions and realizing the need for action. I like this because too many times in teen books, it starts with the main character already having Strongly Held Ideals and Acting On Them. Here, we get to see Asha’s growth and progression done in a very natural, realistic way. Towards the end of the book, Asha reflects “I didn’t know what I was trying to say.” The Latte Rebellion is about Asha figuring out what she wants to say, what she thinks, how to say it.
Readers who like books with strong, positive parents will like Asha’s parents. They share warm moments (dinners, watching movies) and also push her to achieve.
The friendship of Asha and Carey fascinates me, in part because of what the reader observes and what Asha doesn’t understand. High school seniors, Asha sees the two of them as sharing everything and agreeing with each other about everything. Asha sometimes acts before consulting with Carey, assuming that Carey shares her beliefs. When Carey rejects some of Asha’s positions or goals (for example, what type of involvement to have in the expanding Latte Rebellion movement), Asha takes it as a personal rejection rather than realizing that Carey is an individual with her own interests and goals.
Disclaimer: Sarah blogs at Finding Wonderland. We’ve worked together online on such things as the Summer & Winter Blog Blast Tours. In person, we shared a room at KidlitCon 10.
I love historical fiction. The book that made me fall for it was A Proud Taste for Scarlett and Miniver by E. L. Konigsburg; the same book that started a lifelong love of English history and a fascination with the Plantagenets. The Tudors are so new money next to them! OK, topic. This bias means that I really don’t get it when people say kids or teens don’t read historical fiction. They do! Individual books may not have huge fandoms, but it is read. My theory is that when historical fiction began to be used to teach history in schools, the perception of some kids changed to view it as “homework” not “fun.”
Anyway, I was so excited about Melissa’s presentation! The Program Description says it best: “Historical fiction reflects the past successes and failures of all countries and cultures. Your library’s collection probably has a lot of historical fiction, yet those novels don’t always reflect the true historical diversity of your teen patrons. How often does it seem that all African-American history is limited to Civil War or Jewish history is mostly about the Holocaust? In this presentation, a variety of novels will be highlighted which give a new perspective on well-known events or shed a light on lesser-known times.” The authors and their work represented this diversity. Gonzalez’s book The Red Umbrella (Random House, 2010), is about Operation Pedro Pan in the 1960s; Sepetys’s novel, Between Shades of Gray (Philomel, an imprint of Penguin, 2011), is about the Lithuanian internment by the Soviets during World War II.
Melissa began with defining historical fiction for the purposes of her presentation (titles set before the 1980s) and addressed the slow improvement in the range of explored cultures in fiction. She then provided a phenomenal slideshow of booklists. I love a good booklist in a presentation; as I’ve said before, I use them as both a measuring stick for my own knowledge as well as a source of new books. Melissa has the list available (see links below) so I won’t repeat it here.
A couple titles I cannot wait to read: Puppet by Eva Wiseman, about the last blood libel trial in Europe in the late nineteenth century; Alligator Bayou by Donna Jo Napoli, about Italian immigrants in turn of the century Louisiana; and Blood Ninja by Nick Lake, about ninjas who are vampires.
Gonzalez and Sepetys spoke about their books and answered questions. Both books are based on family stories. Part of the fascinating discussion was about taking the family stories of relatives and turning them into novels.
Melissa’s book, Historical Fiction for Teens: A Genre Guide (Libraries Unlimited, 2010)
Again, thanks to RIF for helping to make it possible attend the YA Lit Symposium!
The Plot: Sixteen year old Gemma is kidnapped by Ty and brought to the isolated Australian desert.
The Good: “You saw me before I saw you. In the airport, that day in August, you had that look in your eyes, as though you wanted something from me, as though you’d wanted something for a long time. No one had ever looked at me like that before, with that kind of intensity. It unsettled me, surprised me, I guess. Those blue, blue yes, icy blue, looking back at me as if I could warm them up.” So begins Stolen, Gemma’s letter to Ty (“you”), telling us what will happen over the course of the book. Ty’s obsession with a hint of history; Gemma not sure how to handle being the subject of such strong emotions; and an attraction to blue eyes with her own projections of what Ty may be thinking.
Stolen, told in first person, creates an unsettling tone of immediacy, of urgency, bringing the reader along with every tortured moment of Gemma’s captivity. It is not an easy journey, for either Gemma or the reader.
Christopher creates a sense of place that brings the reader right into the hotness, the dirt, the isolation of the Sandy Desert in Australia. Also conveyed is the beauty. Gemma herself begins to see the beauty in her surroundings.
Why a Printz Honor? Three things — writing, setting, characterization. Both Gemma and Ty are very real, in both their strengths and weaknesses.
Ty has kidnapped Gemma. I’ve read, and discussed, many things about Ty, and Ty and Gemma, about what Ty does and why. What follows is my interpretation, so there will be spoilers. If you don’t want spoilers, stop reading now. Part of what makes this book Award worthy is the discussions that will result. So let’s start!
Ty is a broken person. Over the course of Stolen, the reader observes Ty breaking Gemma, as surely as he breaks a camel: “Once she trusts me, and she’s accepted me, she’ll like it better this way. Camels work in herds, you know. She’ll feel safer once she’s got someone to follow, a leader. The she doesn’t have to worry about being scared anymore.” Ty’s words are about a camel but could easily be about Gemma. And this is where Ty is disturbed. Not because he kidnapped Gemma — of course, that is a monstrous act. But because he never sees Gemma as an individual apart from himself. From the time he first encounters Gemma at age ten, she is a fantasy, a person he projects his own needs and fears on, a mirror for him to see himself and save himself.
Except, of course, Gemma is not a mirror, a blank slate, a doll to be manipulated. She is a person with her own thoughts and needs, desires, at an age — sixteen — where she is trying to figuring out her own place in the world. At that moment and place in her time, in her emotional development, Ty takes her and tries to break her, to shape her into who he wants her to be. The heartbreak of Stolen is the degree to which he succeeds.
Ty sets up a situation where he, literally, is Gemma’s world. There is no one else, nothing else. The bed she sleeps in, the house she lives in, the clothes she wears, the water she drinks, all of this is built by or supplied by Ty. Who can withstand the constant assault of his words and beliefs? Who can hold out from beginning to think what he says isn’t sickness but truth?
Ty’s obsession is shown repeatedly by his words to Gemma, his belief that he knows all her thoughts and needs and desires, along with his desire to shape her to be who he wants her to be. “Give in, Gemma.” “I’ll never let you go.” “You’re going to like this.” “It’s better like this, just you and me. It’s the only way it could work.” “I’ve saved you from all that.” Ty believes that his need and love are all that should matter to Gemma: “This land wants you here. I want you here. Don’t you care about that at all?”
What Ty never comprehends is Ty wanting Gemma doesn’t matter, no more so than my, say, wanting Robert Downey Jr. here in my room is something he should care about. That Ty is cute and hot and Gemma has some physical attraction may confuse her own feelings but it doesn’t change that Ty is about possession and owning. Not love. That Ty does not physically hurt her is immaterial (and almost a cop out, given that kidnappers do physically hurt their captives. Plus, he is the direct cause of all her injuries in Australia, from third degree sunburn to snake bite.)
As for love, his own emotional needs are reflected in the definition he gives Gemma: “People should love what needs be loving. That way they can save it.” Ty is all about that “should”– he has created his own world in the desert and so now believes he has the right to control all, including his designated companion to keep him from being alone, Gemma. Who needs loving? He thinks it is Gemma and his love will save her, but this is about Ty and what Ty needs. He needs love, he needs saving, so people — Gemma — should love him.
That’s not the way love works. Ty’s “love” is not love.
By the end, away from Ty, Gemma is trying to figure out her own thoughts about what happened. Hence her letter to Ty. Much like Natascha Kampusch, the Austrian woman held captive from ages 8 to 19, she doesn’t see Ty as a monster, she has some pity and compassion and can see some good. Gemma manages to have some balance, in that she realizes and wants “to make you [Ty] realize what you did wasn’t fair, wasn’t right.” She is even beginning to realize that Ty’s view of things is not “right” and need not be her view. Whether she can really escape him, whether she will remain, mentally, “stolen” from who she was before the abduction and who she was meant to be if Ty had not interfered, remains unknown.
On the other hand, some share my viewpoint: Teen Reads (with the great line I almost want to steal: “But that is part of the challenge of the book: Ty, no matter how he looked or what he said, is a dangerous and abusive figure. Readers must be wary of falling prey to the deception of the predator.”)
Also, check out the Q&A with the author from the publisher’s website.
2011 marks the first Best Fiction for Young Adults list from YALSA.
BFYA is a restructuring of BBYA, removing from the list all nonfiction, graphic novels, and adult books. Readers looking for “best” titles in those areas can go to the final nominations list for the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young People, the Best Graphic Novels for Teens list, and the Alex Award and vetted nominated list for the Alex Award. (The criteria isn’t exactly the same for each of these lists and awards, but I’ll save that comparison and analysis for someone else to do.)
The BFYA list represents “significant fiction books . . . published for young adults.” The calendar year is from September 1 of the prior year to December 31 of the current year, creating an overlap of time that allows books published later in the year but not available to read a chance. Of course, double dipping isn’t allowed.
If I read that (and the final nomination list) correctly, that means both Zombies v Unicorns, edited by Holly Black & Justine Larbalestier (pub date September 2010) and Bartimeaus: The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud (pub date November 2010) are both still contenders for the 2012 BFYA list. If I’m wrong, please correct me & I’ll edit this to reflect what is accurate. I’m also assuming anthologies of fiction short stories are BFYA eligible, even though it’s my understanding that historically short story anthologies, while BBYA eligible, haven’t made the BBYA list.
EDITED TO ADD: Thanks to Summer Hayes’s comment, I went through the 1996 to 2010 BBYA lists. I only looked at fiction titles & counted items based on titles or indication of an editor. So, historically speaking, in two years (1998 and 2002) there were three fiction anthologies / short story collection in BBYA; in two years (2003 and 2007), two anthologies; in seven years (1996, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008) one title; and four years where there were none (1997, 2001, 2009, and 2010).
One of my personal favorites, All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab, didn’t make the final list. I am crushed by this. It is a wonderful book, beautifully written, a great murder mystery, and please, please, read it. (Here’s my review to further convince you.)
On the plus side, another of my personal favorites, Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, not only is on the BFYA list, it’s a top ten! A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner is also on the BFYA list and I’m so pleased that it didn’t fall to the genre series curse, also known as the infamous “does it stand alone” debate.
Under “surprises” are books that got a lot of buzz but are not here: You by Charles Benoit, or other awards and not here: The Freak Observer by Blythe Woolston (the winner of the Morris Award), Hush by Eishes Chayil (Morris Award Honor book). Chayil’s Hush was not on the nominations, and it has a September publication date, so maybe this may be on next year’s list.
Ninety nine books made the BFYA list. I have read seventeen of the titles and reviewed sixteen. Of those seventeen I read, six are BFYA Top Ten titles. What I read is listed below, with reviews. The full list of all ninety nine books is at the YALSA site; along with annotations for the titles.
What else? If you’re thinking “ninety nine titles is a lot”, BFYA does not have a maximum number of titles, but I recall part of the decision to make this all-fiction was to reduce the number of books read and books on the list. Which, well, didn’t happen. It just may be one of those things where something expands to the size allotted. Perhaps no matter what limitations are imposed on the types of books read (fiction, nonfiction, only authors whose last name starts with B), the list and nomination list will be long unless there is tweaking done on how books are nominated and get onto the final list. I know at the time BBYA was changed to BFYA there were suggestions about this. Over at the Heavy Medal blog, in the ALSC Notables List, there is some talk on the number of books in this list. Roger Sutton at Read Roger asks “what did they do, flip a coin” since about half of the nominated titles made the list.
A big thank you and congratulations to the hard working BFYA committee members: Terri Snethen, chair, Blue Valley North High School, Overland Park, Kan.; Martha Baden, Alice Boucher World Languages Academy, Lafayette, La.; Jennifer Barnes, Gleason Library, Carlisle, Mass. and Concord- Carlisle (Mass.) High School; Louise Brueggemann, Naperville (Ill.) Public Library; Debbie Fisher, Central Falls (R.I.) High School; Michael Fleming, Pacific Cascade Middle School, Issaquah, Wash.; Janet Hilbun, University of North Texas DLIS, Denton; Alissa Lauzon, Haverhill (Mass.) Public Library; Shelly McNerney, Blue Valley West High School, Overland Park, Kan.; Shilo Pearson, Chicago Public Library; Dr. Judith Rodgers, Wayzata Central Middle School, Plymouth, Minn.; Dr. Ann Sloan, McLennan Community College, Waco, Texas; Patti Tjomsland, Mark Morris High School, Longview, Wash.; Brooke Young, Salt Lake City (Utah) Public Library; Shauna Yusko, Evergreen Junior High, Redmond, Wash.; Gillian Engberg, Booklist consultant, Chicago; and, Crissy Claiborne, administrative assistant, Las Vegas-Clark County (Nev.) Library.
Again, this is just the list of BFYA books I’ve read:
*Bacigalupi, Paolo. Ship Breaker. Little, Brown, & Co., 2010. A BFYA Top Ten. 2011 Printz Winner. National Book Award finalist. My review.
*Donnelley, Jennifer. Revolution. Random House Children’s Publishing/Delacorte, 2010. A BFYA Top Ten. My review.
Erskine, Kathryn. Mockingbird. Penguin Group (USA)/Philomel, 2010. National Book Award winner. My review.
Fisher, Catherine. Incarceron. Penguin Group (USA)/Dial, 2010. My review.
Funke, Cornelia. Reckless. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2010. My review.
Henry, April. Girl, Stolen. Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group/Henry Holt/Christy Ottaviano Books, 2010. Read it, didn’t review it.
*Marchetta, Melina. Finnikin of the Rock. Candlewick, 2010. A BFYA Top Ten. My review.
*McBride, Lish. Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. Macmillan Children’s Book Group/Henry Holt, 2010. A BFYA Top Ten. My review.
Myers, Walter Dean. Lockdown. HarperCollins/Amistad, 2010. My review. National Book Award finalist.
Oliver, Lauren. Before I Fall. HarperCollins/Harper, 2010. My review.
*Perkins, Mitali. Bamboo People. Charlesbridge, 2010. A BFYA Top Ten. My review.
*Sedgwick, Marcus. Revolver. Roaring Brook Press, 2010. A BFYA Top Ten. 2011 Printz Honor. My review.
Stork, Francisco X. The Last Summer of the Death Warriors. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Books, 2010. My review.
Turner, Megan Whalen. A Conspiracy of Kings. HarperCollins/Greenwillow Books, 2010. My review.
Whitney, Daisy. The Mockingbirds. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2010. My review.
Yancey, Rick. The Curse of the Wendigo. Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing, 2010. My review.
Yovanoff, Brenna. Replacement. Penguin Group (USA), 2010. My review.
The Plot: 1910. Giron, the Arctic Circle. Sig, 14, is alone in his family’s cabin except for the dead body of his father, Einar. A stranger knocks on the door — a stranger who says he knows Sig, knows his father, and has been hunting them for ten years. The stranger says he is owed something by Einar. The stranger has a revolver. What the stranger does not suspect is that Sig also has a revolver.
The Good: It’s easy to see why this earned a Printz Honor. Terrifically sparse writing, full characters, a tight plot, setting so real you put on another sweater.
The solitariness and isolation of the Arctic Circle at the turn of the century is mirrored in the book itself. Only a handful of characters appear or are talked about; Sig’s whole existence is not just in remote Arctic cabins but also involves only his parents and his older sister. This confinement makes the appearance of the threatening stranger all the more disturbing.
Revolver tells two stories, one in 1910 where Einar lies dead from a fall through ice in subzero temperatures and one in 1899, when Einar was a young man with a wife, two small children, and a thirst to find gold in Nome, Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush. The past explains that Wolff knows Einar but it doesn’t explain why he has tracked this small family for so many years.
Sedgwick’s writing is tight: no words are wasted. It is deceptive in its simplicity, because while it makes this book a “quick read” there are layers with much being conveyed in a few words. Every word matters, much like every movement, every bite of food, every moment matters in 1910 and 1899.
The first sentence — “Even the dead tell stories” — is at first an introduction to Einar’s death but also becomes literal as the dead — Einar — tells his 1899 story.
Because of the writing style, the reader is told just enough about the historical aspects of the story to create the flavor of the past. Details are only given for things that matter to the story: the process of testing the quality of the gold found in Nome, the mechanics of how the revolver works.
Historical fiction, yes. It is also a mystery: what does Wolff want? Did Einar do something to warrant Wolff’s obsessive ten year search? Finally, it is a thriller: what will Sig do, especially when Wolff’s threats of violence and murder escalate to include Sig’s sister Anna?
What drives the book is the question about what young Sig will do — will he pull out the revolver and shoot Wolff? Sig’s mother viewed the gun with distaste (“You mustn’t let him touch it. You mustn’t. Guns are evil.”) while Einar’s father saw it as an amazing machine (“The boy must learn respect for it while he’s young.” “The Colt is the finest machine I have ever seen in my life. It does one thing, and it does it superbly well.”) As Sig struggles with his decision about using the gun (shoot Wolff or don’t shoot Wolff) he is also struggling with the two different ways he’s been taught.
Because I want to discuss Wolff’s motivation as well as Sig’s choice. And even now, I’m trying not to be too spoilery… This is the type of book that demands discussion. How can it be discussed without, well, talking about what happens and doesn’t happen?
First, Wolff. As the story in 1899/1900 unfolds, the reader learns about the connection between Wolff and Einar. What Einar did and did not do, what Wolff did or did not do, is both surprising and shocking. As is Sig’s response. There is much here to talk about, in terms of responsibility and consequences. If you’ve read Revolver, what do you think about why Wolff chased Einar and Einar’s own actions?
Second, Sig’s choice at the end. As he explains, “There’s always a third choice in life. Even if you think you’re stuck between two impossible choices, there’s always a third way.” Seriously, stop reading now if you don’t like spoilers.
Sig’s choice as he sees it: Shoot Wolff. Don’t shoot Wolff. The “third choice” involves Sig using what his father has taught him about how the revolver works to create a situation that injures Wolff. So, yes, strictly speaking Sig has two options (shoot / don’t shoot) and chooses a third that is neither of those. Viewed more broadly, aren’t his options really inflicting harm or not inflicting harm on Wolff? His decision to inflict harm in a manner other than shooting Wolf does so much damage to Wolff that, arguably, it ultimately leads to Wolff’s death years later. This book will make for fascinating discussion on that aspect alone — is this really a third choice? Is what Sig did “better” than shooting Wolff?
The Alex Awards (and it’s an Award, not a list) are given to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18. The award is sponsored by the Margaret A. Edwards Trust; Edwards’ nickname was “Alex.” (I am now pondering what I want the Liz Award to be….)
My comments are in italics; I’ve only read one of the ten winners:
The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To by DC Pierson, published by Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc. Coming of age with science fiction? Including that the main characters like science fiction? Nice.
Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard by Liz Murray, published by Hyperion. Hey, I watched the made for TV movie, does that count? Seriously, my sister has a copy so I may be reading this one.
Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok, published by Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. I enjoy immigration stories: the uniqueness they offer, with the commonality. I’m really intrigued by this Hong Kong to NYC journey.
The House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni, published by Amy Einhorn Books, an imprint of G.P. Putnam’s Sons, a division of the Penguin Group. I’m intrigued by the Publishers Weekly review that says “The boys here don’t come of age.”
The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton, published by Thomas Dunne Books for Minotaur Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press. True fact: I have always wanted to learn how to pick a lock. Or a safe. Or even just hot wire a car. It’s on my bucket list. (I don’t really have a bucket list. It’s just an expression.)
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A Novel by Aimee Bender, published by Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. This has been on my TBR pile forever. Time to move it up!
The Radleys by Matt Haig, published by Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Vampires? Yes, I want to read.
The Reapers Are the Angels: A Novel by Alden Bell, published by Holt Paperbacks, a division of Henry Holt and Company, LLC I originally misheard this as “Reavers” and thought Firefly! Awesome! But, no. Reapers. Still, zombies!
Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue, published by Little, Brown and Company a division of Hatchette Book Group, Inc. From my review: “Room is also about the bonds between parent and child and how love can both save and smother. Ma and Jack spend every hour of every day together. Jack is Ma’s whole life. What child wouldn’t want to be the center of his parent’s existence? This love saved Ma and saves Jack, but what happens to it Outside in a world where people don’t share one small room 24/7? Jack, like any child, has to learn to be his own person, not an extension of his mother.”
The Vanishing of Katharina Linden: A Novel by Helen Grant, published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, division of Random House, Inc. Horror! Age old mystery of missing girls! I’m beginning to think this really is the “Books Liz Will Like Award” not the “Alex Award.”
A big “thanks” to the hardworking committee: Chair Beth Gallaway, Haverhill (Mass.) Public Library; Lana Adlawan, Sacramento Public Library, Elk Grove, Calif.; Hope Baugh, Carmel Clay (Ind.) Public Library; Meghan Cirrito, Queens Borough Public Library, Jamaica, N.Y.; Crystal Faris, Kansas City (Mo.) Public Library; Karen Keys, Queens Borough Public Library, Jamaica, N.Y.; Ann Perrigo, Allegan (Mich.) District Library; Jessi Snow, Boston Public Library; Ellen Wathen, Walnut Hills High School, Cincinnati, Ohio; Scott Rader, administrative assistant, Hays (Kan.) Public Library; and Ian Chipman, Booklist consultant, Chicago.
The Plot: Evie, sixteen, works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, helping contain paranormals such as faeries, vampires and werewolves. It’s her version of normalcy until a captured shape-shifter makes her rethink everything she knows about paranormals, the IPCA, and herself.
The Good: I read Paranormalcy on the plane out to ALA Midwinter; it was one I’d been meaning to read but hadn’t yet, and there was a chance of meeting the author at ALA so I decided perfect plane reading! Which it was, except for the jealousy-inducing method by which Evie travels the world — faerie paths that are practically instantaneous.
The bad thing about bringing a good book to Midwinter is that you end up saying how much you enjoyed it to someone whose response is, “oh, I’d like to read it.” And there goes your copy, which makes writing a review a bit more challenging. In other words, no quotes! And those quotes would have been me showing (not telling) that Paranormalcy delivers what I like in supernatural books: humor mixed with seriousness. I want to laugh and be scared at the same time. But, really, the cover shows you all that and more, with the play on the words “paranormal” and “normalcy” which, well, are quite the opposites, aren’t they? It also has a beautiful girl who is not smiling. Who looks kinda dangerous. Yet who is wearing a fancy dress. That expression and that dress, like the words “paranormal” and “normalcy,” appear to be opposites.
What is “normal”? For Evie, her normal is being a human who hunts paranormal creatures because she has a talent, a gift for seeing under the “glamour” the paranormals wear to pretend they are human. It’s having a best friend who is a mermaid who can only “talk” to her through a computer generated voice and a faerie for an ex-boyfriend who (still) makes her feel all warm and golden inside (literally). It’s loving teen soap operas and pretty clothes but only being able to watch teens on TV or buy clothes online.
The normal Evie wants is the normal she sees on TV: a normal of high schools and lockers, human family and friends, boyfriends and proms. Evie may get the “normal” she wants, and it comes from an unexpected source, a shape-shifter who breaks into the IPCA. This new paranormal creature raises questions that Evie didn’t know she had, and forces her to re-examine just what is meant by “paranormal” and “normal”. See, this is part of why I love supernatural stories: it’s not about the vampires or the faeries or whatever. Here, it seems like it’s about a paranormal hunting girl raised by a government agency who begins to wonder if paranormals are all evil and the IPCA is all good. What it is really about is a teenager who begins to realize that she can make choices in her life, including the choice between the way she was raised and the way she wants to live. The whole idea of what is “normal” — is it your family? Is it what you see on the TV? Is it something else? — is also applicable to just about anyone.
OK, it is also about the faeries and are they good or bad and what about that hot shape shifter named Lend and how, exactly, can a shape shifter be hot?
What else did I enjoy? That a story about vampires addresses the fact that a vampire is a corpse and rotting flesh is not sexy. Also, who is right and who is wrong and what is right and what is wrong is not necessarily what Evie or the reader thinks. A simple “bag and tag” plot turns out to have dangerous shades of gray, and that it makes sense that it takes time for Evie to begin to realize that and that she wouldn’t have figured it out earlier.
By the end of the book, questions are answered but in answering, more are raised. Which means: Sequel! The sequel, Supernaturally, is coming out August/September 2011.