Review: In The Woods

In the Woods by Tana French. Viking. 2007. Library copy. Holiday reads — a grown up book to read over the holidays.

The Plot: 1984, a summer day, a Dublin suburb. Three twelve year olds, Germaine (Jamie), Peter, and Adam, go in the woods to play. They don’t come home. Adam alone is found; slash marks on his back, blood in his sneakers, no memories of what happened.

Twenty years later, the body of Katy Devlin, twelve, is found, near the woods where the children disappeared years ago. Police detectives Rob Ryan and Cassie Maddox investigate. By Katy’s body they find a clue: an old barrette. Jamie’s, the missing girl from decades before. It’s not the only link to the earlier crime.

Rob Ryan is Adam. Grown up, change of name, even a change of accent from the schools his parents sent him to to keep him out of the public eye. Rob Ryan, who despite his lack of memories of that fateful day is determined to not just solve the crime of Katy’s murder but also that of his missing friends.

The Good: A deliciously good, ice-chilling mystery. This is Rob’s story, and he is a storyteller, knowing just what to tell us and when. “What I warn you to remember is that I am a detective. Our relationship with truth is fundamental but cracked, refracting confusingly like fragmented glass. It is the core of our careers, the endgame of every move we make, and we pursue it with strategies painstakingly constructed of lies and concealment and every variation on deception.” The reader is warned, but there are surprises to be had.

The setting is Dublin; and I’m a mystery lover who likes mysteries set in other countries. Having visited Ireland more than once, some descriptions of towns and landmarks were familiar, which is an added bonus for me.

I loved the multiple mysteries going on here: the present one, the murder of young Katy; and past one, the disappearances of the twelve year olds. There is added twist that Adam/Rob is the narrator, someone who should have the most information to share yet who suffers amnesia for the time he and his friends went missing. Rob also has incomplete remembrances of his childhood before that time, so he’s lost not just his two friends but the friendship they shared as well. When thoughts of that time period are shared, I was reminded of Stephen King and when he writes about childhood friendship: the magic, the fierceness, the loyalty. Some of this is then oddly mirrored in the working dynamics in the present between Rob, Cassie, and a third police colleague working on the case.

Rob is also not always honest with himself or the reader; he reveals information in dribs and drabs. By the end of the book, I wasn’t quite sure what to think about him, except that I felt sorry for him, both the child Adam and the adult Rob. The mystery of In The Woods is as much about who Rob is and why as it is about the dead and missing children.

For the Katy mystery, I made some correct guesses about what had happened to her. For me, mysteries work for different reasons, and while sometimes I read to be surprised by whodoneit other times I read a book as if it’s a puzzle, to see if I can figure it out with or before the investigators. So, that I made some correct deductions meant that the book worked and I felt smart. Where I was surprised in the story? By what happened to the grownup characters, Cassie and Rob. For the Jamie, Peter, and Adam mystery, I’ll reserve my thoughts for the comments. That way those who don’t want to be spoiled, won’t, but those who need to discuss it, can.

I read this using my phone as an ereader. It’s not a way I’d want to read all my books, but it was nice to have a book on my phone for when I wanted a book to read and  hadn’t brought one.


Review: Paper Covers Rock

Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard. Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House. 2011. Library copy. Morris Award Short List.

The Plot: Sixteen year old Alex’s journal covers a few short months, the time following the accidental drowning of his friend Thomas. What happened to Thomas? What caused the accident? Does anyone suspect that the story Alex, Glenn and Clay tell may be leaving things out? One person may suspect, the young, pretty English teacher Miss Dovecott. What will Thomas do to protect his secrets?

The Good: Paper Covers Rock takes place at a private boys boarding school in a remote area of North Carolina in the 1980s.  Alex’s world is narrow and insular because of all these things; the physical isolation of the school, the isolated community of all boys and men with a handful of women, like young Miss Dovecott, with the outside world accessed only by mail or public telephones.

Alex is smart; and he writes with a certain self awareness of himself and the story he tells, complete with allusions to Herman Melville and Moby Dick: “My apologies to Herman Melville, from whom I may have to steal a few words to tell the story that is about to be told, that is in the middle of being told, that will never stop being told. Such is the nature of guilt; such is the nature of truth. But it is also the nature of guilt to sideline the truth.” Truthfully, yes, I believed Alex to be the type of boy to not just write like this but to think that he is impressing the reader with it. I agree with Someday My Printz Will Come that Alex’s language make him and his grief suspect; but, for me, that meant that I doubted much of what he said, despite insisting that “I am big on verbatim because I am big on truth. Truth: as important and essential as rain.”

Alex has a secret about the day Thomas died; he, along with the others, were drinking. It’s a violation of the honor code and if it’s found out, he’ll be expelled. It appears, because it is what Alex tells us, that Alex and Glenn are driven by this secret in what they later do and don’t do. This is what they think Miss Dovecott knows. Alex tells the reader how and when he fell in love with his teacher; but before that he observes her interactions with students: “it is the thing that draws me out of myself, the thing that calms me down: the realization that a teacher could be more scared than the students — and scared of the students.”

Secrets, lies, half truths, manipulations: that is the story behind Paper Covers Rock, the story leading up to the death of Thomas and what happens after. What type of story that is depends on whether or not you believe Alex. Whatever you believe about him,  there is also much about sex and power; while Miss Dovecott is a teacher, a person to be respected, she is female and young and pretty and the students find ways to make her uncomfortable. As for each other, “there was no worse label at an all-boys school than “gay.” What would someone do to avoid that?

Review: Where Things Come Back

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley. Atheneum Books for Younger Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. 2011. Library copy. Morris Award Short List.

The Plot: Some things don’t come back; like Cullen’s cousin Oslo, dead from an overdose. Some things may come back, like the woodpecker that people believed was extinct until one self-important and pr-savvy professor came to town. In the town of Lily, Arkansas, eager, dream filled teens leave town, sure of bigger and better things that await them, and return because of heart break or sick parents or accidents. Lily, where things come back . . . . sometimes.

Will Cullen’s missing younger brother be one of those things that come back?

The Good: I confess; despite the many good things I’d heard about this books, from people like Kelly Jensen and Jen Hubert Swan, I didn’t put it on my to be read list because — and I cannot believe I’m admitting to this evidence of shallowness —  I didn’t like the cover.

First things first. How much did I love this book? It made me totally rearrange my scheduled blog posts, shifting a bunch of posts, in order to post this book in 2011 so I could call this a Favorite Book Read in 2011 (oops, spoilers, sweetie!) and then go revise my blog posts about my favorite books to add Where Things Come Back and finally to shift those favorite posts from the last week of 2011 to the first week of 2012. I know Sondy understands, that a favorite list isn’t done until the last day of the year happens so I shouldn’t have even tried to post them in 2011.

Where Things Come Back starts in a morgue, with seventeen year old Cullen identifying the body of his older cousin, Oslo. Cullen’s family and friends are introduced, a small circle of people in a small town. This is, at first, what Where Things Come Back seems to be about: small town boy coming of age. Strangely, another story is introduced, about a young man, Benton Sage, on a mission in Ethiopia a story that seems to have nothing to do with Cullen. On page 55, Where Things Come Back shifts: Cullen’s younger brother, Gabriel, disappears. It becomes a story of the loss of Gabriel, the search for him, but is also the story of how Cullen’s life goes on, because that is what happens. It is not just that the clocks don’t stop; it is that life is not so uncluttered that all else fades away and disappears along with the lost one. This is the first reason I love this book: Cullen’s life is full and messy and complicated. His reactions, his parents, are jagged and not linear.

Cullen’s brother is missing. And this is the second reason that I love this book: the mystery of Gabriel’s disappearance. That it isn’t introduced until over fifty pages in, and at only 228 pages, that means that almost a quarter of the book has gone by. An interesting choice; and one that allows the reader to know Cullen “before.” Or, rather, “during.” Cullen is another reason why Where Things Come Back is a favorite book read: Cullen, with his close relationships with a handful of people, his girlfriend issues, his anger that the town spends more time looking for the lost woodpecker than his lost brother.

When and why this story is being told is another strength of this book: just enough for the reader to know it’s not “now.” There is Dr. Webb, who says such things as “most people see the world in bubbles.” Who is he, when is Cullen talking about him? When is this taking place — the clues of this being in the past are few and far between, such as “the president can’t pronounce ‘nuclear’“. “I was still trying to figure out who I was back then.”

Zombies. At certain times, Cullen imagines life as a zombie movie. “His mind begins to wander and think about zombies.” At first, it’s simple day dreaming, making himself the hero in a zombie movie. Later, as he fears the worst, that Gabriel is dead because Gabriel wouldn’t run away, zombies become less about escapism and more about fears and nightmares.

Remember Benton Sage? How and why Benton matters to Cullen is ultimately revealed, and I gasped out loud when I realized the link between the two stories. No, really — I had been making a few guesses as the story progressed and Benton’s saga took some turns, but where it went . . . I didn’t see it coming.

Because of how much I enjoyed this book; because of the complexity of Cullen’s loss and grieving; because I’ve reread the ending a half dozen times; and because I’ve been searching for other reviews, looking for insights and analysis; this is a Favorite Book Read in 2011.

Review: Bobby Singer’s Guide to Hunting

Supernatural: Bobby Singer’s Guide to Hunting by David Reed. 2011. It Books, an imprint of Harper Collins. Review copy from publisher. A tie in to the CW TV show, Supernatural. Holiday reads. Here at Tea Cozy, holiday reads aren’t books about holidays; they’re grown up books for grown up readers to indulge in over the holidays.

The Plot: Bobby Singer’s brain is leaking memories. He has some blanks in his memory, and he doesn’t think it’s alcohol related. Things aren’t were they are usually kept, like the grenade launcher. And he just cannot remember how he got home from Ashland. Where are the car keys? Where is the car?

If Bobby was anyone else, well, there would be a medical explanation. Bobby is a hunter, hunting all those things that go bump in the night that are real: vampires, demons, werewolves, ghosts, well, you get the picture. Before Bobby loses all his memories, he wants to pass down some of his knowledge to Sam and Dean Winchester. Welcome to Bobby Singer’s Guide to Hunting.

The Good: Yes, this is a tie in with the TV show Supernatural. My love of the pretty, pretty Winchester boys is well documented. And I still they they would be awesome on a READ poster. Honestly, if you don’t watch Supernatural, this book is not for you. If you don’t watch the show, and do like horror and supernatural delivered in a way that is serious and scary and sometimes funny, give the show a try. Because there are season long story arcs, I’d recommend going all the way back and starting with Season 1; Bloody Mary, the fifth episode, is the one where this show really grabs you and says, watch this show. It’s more than two pretty, pretty boys and a terrific car.

If you watch Supernatural, Bobby Singer’s Guide to Hunting is a lot of fun. Who doesn’t love Bobby? And here is a whole book from Bobby’s point of view, as Bobby shares some of his past hunting stories. There is more on how he started hunting after his wife died; an explanation for Bobby’s fluency in Japanese; and what Bobby really thinks about John Winchester. It’s a series of short horror stories, with Bobby — well, he may not always win but he always survives. Up until his last case, in Ashland, and that frustrating lack of memories. It’s that tale that wraps it all together, sort of like how one story arc covers a season of Supernatural while there are monster of the week episodes as well.

Review: A Need So Beautiful

A Need So Beautiful by Suzanne Young. Balzer & Bray, an imprint of Harper Collins. 2011. Reviewed from ARC from publisher.

The Plot: Charlotte appears to be a typical teen. She goes to school; has a best friend, Sarah; a boyfriend, Harlin; volunteers at the free clinic; has a family who loves her.

Charlotte has a problem. Harlin thinks she has asthma, because she has attacks and carriers an inhaler. It’s not asthma; the inhaler is a prop. Sarah believes Charlotte is psychic, because she’s observed Charlotte’s odd actions and interactions with others. Charlotte isn’t psychic.

It’s not asthma; it’s not psychic power. It’s the Need. A physical need, an ache, that drives Charlotte to go into buildings, across town, walk up to strangers, and in that moment, and not until that moment, to know, suddenly, everything about that person: past and present, to look into their soul, to see their future, to tell them what they need to do to help themselves. Find a lost child. Go to the doctor. Always, the people she touches believe her and do what she says. They may be dazed, or confused, but the Need is quieted — until next time.

Next time is getting more and more frequent. The Need is getting worse, getting more demanding, taking control of Charlotte’s life. Her relationships are suffering.

What if she could control the Need? Fight it? Stop it? What if she could be normal and lead a normal life?

The Good: Are you thinking the “a” word? Let’s see, Charlotte approaches strangers in their time of need, knows all about them, sees their pain and their possible bad futures, and steers them onto the right path. Sounds simple, right? Except that the Need makes her go places, makes her take risks, so that her family thinks she is accident prone because of the bruises and broken bones while Harlin’s love is tested by Charlotte’s frequent, sudden disappearances. Even Sarah is beginning to get annoyed at Charlotte’s being late or missing lunch dates. Charlotte may be doing good but the price she’s paying is high. Annoyance at how the Need interferes with her life turns to fear when she learns more about the Need, discovering she is not the first and finding out what has happened to the others who had the Need.

Charlotte learns that there is a way to fight the Need. I’m reluctant to share what she discovers, but I’ll say this: Young’s take on angels (if, indeed, that is what Charlotte is) is refreshing and unique. Also good? Young’s treatment of choice. Charlotte may think she has a compulsion — the Need — but it turns out she has choices. Is the Need her destiny? How can the Need bring something good to other’s lives but be so damaging to her own? Is it so wrong to not want to be made to do things?

Harlin, Harlin, Harlin. I have to say, Harlin snuck up on me. At first he was just The Boyfriend, there to make Charlotte normal, there to give Charlotte a dream of a future. Harlin turns out to be so much more than just The Boyfriend, and I love that the truth of him and his character slowly made itself known.

My last words: That last chapter?!? Really!?! So. unfair. What does it mean? When is the sequel?

Review: Between Shades of Gray

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. Philomel Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group. 2011. Reviewed from ARC from publisher.

The Plot: 1941. Lithuania. Lina Vilkas is fifteen when the Soviet secret police come to her home, giving Lina, her mother, and her younger brother twenty minutes to pack their bags.

Twenty minutes.

They are put on a train, and, along with other men, women and children, sent to Siberia. The cattle cars are labelled “thieves and prostitutes.” The people are a collection of university professors (like Lina’s father), military officers, teachers, and others viewed as “criminals” by the Soviets. It includes the relatives of the criminals, like Lina and her mother and brother Jonas.

Lina goes from sheltered daughter and art student to someone who huddled in a cold shack, foraging for scraps of food, wondering when, and if, she will be able to survive.

The Good: The first chapters have some stunning sentences that, in a handful of words, shows the horrors that Lina will be living through: “They took me in my nightgown.” “It was the last time I would look into a real mirror for more than a decade.” “Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother’s was worth a pocket watch.”

Lina is plunged into a strange new world, and while the reader can anticipate, a little, just how bad it will get, Lina is teenager in 1941. She doesn’t know; she is protected by her age, protected by her parents, and protected by living in 1941 and not knowing, as the reader may, that Stalin’s occupation of the Baltic states (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia) will result in massive deportations. She does not know that they will be sent to Siberia, to the Gulag; that Stalin will be responsible for the deaths of twenty million people. So, if at times Lina takes risks or is thoughtless in what she says — she doesn’t know. As for how much the reader knows? I had a vague, general idea. After all, I’m a child of the time when the USSR still existed. I knew, vaguely, generally. I did not know the details; like, for instance, that people like Lina and her family would be sentenced for twenty-five years. That when the prisoners are dumped in Trofimovsk, the North Pole, after 440 days of travel and forced labor, that they would have to make their own shelters with scavenged materials, while the Soviet military live in buildings and eat food sent by the Americans.

I did not know the details; and that is what Between Shades of Gray provides, the details of living, of dying, of survival. Of finding love and beauty and hope in bleakness. Part of what gives Lina hope is her age: she is young, young enough to have just enough rebellion in her heart to keep going day after day. Part of what gives Lina hope is her art: seeing things as an artist, and also being an artist. Making a record of what she sees and how she sees it.

Between Shades of Gray made me cry, over and over. It also left me wanting to know more; it covers over a year in Lina’s life, but, as is shown in an epilogue, Lina and the other deportees that managed to survive would not return home until the mid 1950s. I want to know more, about Lina, her family, her friends; but I also want to learn more about this time and place. Between Shades of Gray is a Morris finalist; and it’s beautiful writing, a heartbreaking story. Yes, this is one of my Favorite Books Read in 2011. I’ve now read two of the five Morris finalists, enjoyed both, but am holding off with guessing what the winner will be until I’ve read all five.

Review: Why We Broke Up

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, illustrated by Maira Kalman. Little, Brown. 2011. Reviewed from ARC and final copy from publisher. My teaser.

The Plot: Min Green and Ed Slaterton have broken up. She gives him a box: a box, full of objects from the time they dated, from October 5 to November 12. The arty girl (no, don’t call her that) and the jock. Along with the box is a letter, Min’s letter to Ed, explaining — why we broke up. Explaining to Ed, explaining to herself, why they got together and why they broke up.

The Good: This is Min’s story, her long, glorious, honest letter to Ed about how and why they got together, and fell in love, despite — or maybe because of — being so different. Ed, a jock, popular; Min, who loves old films and coffee with friends.

Min sends a box of objects to Ed; and I love that Min does this, that she is the girl who holds onto these items and then sends them Ed and I wonder — will Ed read the letter? Will he go through the box and match the things to the letter, remember as she remembers? Or will the box go into the closet, under the stairs, in the trash?

Each object, each bottle cap and note, is illustrated in full color by Maira Kalman. (More on the book design and the ARC at my teaser). The final copy is gorgeous; the paper, thick and fine and smooth, deserving of Kalman’s illustrations. The attention to detail is stunning –under the jacket, the book cover is scattered rose petals. The endpapers (front and back both unique) are the beginning and end of the story. I first read this in advance review copy; my second time was the final book. Having all the artwork, and all the artwork in color, didn’t just make the book prettier. It also added an element of wonder, of guessing, of wondering just what is the significance of the item shown. Some have great meaning; others do not; and that is part of the reality of life and love and adds to the depth of the book. Sometimes a protractor is just a protractor.

Why did Ed and Min break up? Like the films Min loves, on one level, the reason is surprising and unexpected. On another, the romance is doomed from the start, with all the clues and reasons laid out from the beginning, making one wonder not why they broke up but why they managed to stay together for as long as they did.

Min and Ed are in two different cliques and two different worlds. Since Min is telling the story, it is always her point of view, and Ed’s world of basketball and bonfires and beer seems almost a cliche at times. Min cannot help revealing clues to show that Ed’s life is as three dimensional as her own; because, really, otherwise would she ever have given him a second look? And is her old films and coffee clique any less cliche? But back to Ed —  Min goes to a couple of basketball practices, playing the role of good, supportive girlfriend, and Min tells it to the reader and Ed to say, look what I did, I went to your boring practice, for you I was almost one of those girls who go to practice just to watch their boyfriends. While this is never a book about Min learning to appreciate basketball, the reader sees just how much Ed’s life and identity revolves around basketball, that it takes time and effort and work for him to be co-captain, and the reader wonders, even though Min never does, if a team gives Ed the support and family he doesn’t have at home. Handler gives the reader enough so they can see things Min does not. Or, rather, that Min cannot, because she is both trying to figure out who she is and also working through the hurt of her breakup.

And Min — oh, Min. Min, with her love of movies, not just any movies but old movies. Don’t bother IMDB’ing the films and stars she mentions, because they are films just for the book, vaguely familiar, but not quite. Min loves films and sees her world through them, views life, sometimes, as a film, creating events and parties as if it were a scene. (Ruby Oliver would approve.) It is clear that, even though Min may not realize it, that she watches the films in part to be The  Girl Who Watches Old Films. Refreshingly, Min is no mini expert, has yet to learn terms like avant garde because until a friend lends her a book, she hasn’t read about or studied film. I like how even though this is about how Min and Ed broke up, it’s also about Min growing as a person as shown by her learning more about movies.

I confess, after reading Why We Broke Up and put it back on the shelf, I think about Min and Ed as if it were real. What crazy party scheme is Min thinking up now? Doe Ed still drink his coffee the same way Min does? And because of that — because I care both about Min and Ed — this is a Favorite Book Read in 2011.

Add Them Up

Who doesn’t love a list, especially an end of year best/favorite books booklist?

If your answer is “not me,” then this post is not for you.

I confess; I keep an eye on the stars (stars from review journals, that is); I appreciate those who compile those starred lists of which book got how many stars; and I print out (yes, I’m an old, I print things out) the end of year lists and use them in trying to determine my constantly rotating to-be-read pile (which, by the way, just got bigger because at the time of the Morris finalist announcement, I had read one of the five titles).

I know I’m not the only one who loves lists; over at YALSA’s The Hub, Kelly Jensen takes a look at the current “best of” ya lists in “Best of” Lists by the numbers. I love this type of thing and am so glad that I don’t have to do it now, because Kelly did! Kelly looks at the gender of the author, when the book was published, and genre, among other things. She also notes what appeared on multiple lists: “A total of four books–Chime, Anya’s Ghost, The Scorpio Races, and Blink and Caution–made all four of the “best of” lists. Three books–A Monster Calls, Between Shades of Gray, and Daughter of Smoke and Bone–made three lists. Thirteen titles made two of the lists. The majority made one list.” I haven’t read Anya’s Ghost yet, but that is going on the ever growing TBR pile. Kelly has also made the spreadsheet she used used public; the live link is her blog post at The Hub.

Meanwhile, I am rather, well, literal in my approach to my favorite books of the year. It’s still mid December! There’s still books being read! So it’s just impossible for me to post my lists until the end of the month.

Review: A Monster Calls

 A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. Illustrated by Jim Kay. Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd. Candlewick Press. 2011. Reviewed from ARC from publisher.

The Plot:The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.” One night, a monster visits thirteen year old Conor O’Malley. He will make three more visits to Conor, then demand something in return. The next morning, Conor is not sure whether the visit of the monster yew tree was real or a dream. Real life is nightmare enough. His mother is ill. His father is in America with his new family and rarely visits. His grandmother is formal and distant. At school, he’s the boy whose mother is ill. At best, he’s whispered about. At worst, he’s the target of bullies.

And now the monster visits nightly at 12:07. Demanding what Conor cannot give.

The Good: This is a heartbreaking look at how one teenager copies with the terminal illness of his mother.

The monster yew tree who visits Conor nightly tells him stories. Stories without happy endings, stories with uncomfortable truths. “There is not always a good guy. Nor is there always a bad guy. Most people are somewhere in between.” Stories pushing Conor to admit to the truth he hides even from himself. It’s not the truth you’d think.

Conor’s alienation, his anger, his hurt, crushed me. I’d be just another adult in his life saying, “poor Conor.”

A Monster Calls doesn’t hide the anger and ugliness of a parent dying. From past entries, readers know I’m not a fan of stories where tragic backstory creates friendships, but that’s because it’s the story in A Monster Calls that rings more true to me than those “feel sorry for me and like me” tales. Conor’s sick mother results in varying reactions from Conor’s peers, friends, and family: ostracism, bullying, and being ignored among them. It does not result in friendship and love.

The adult reader cannot read this without thinking of Siobhan Dowd. Dowd, whose original story idea this was. Dowd, who died from cancer. While Ness had her “characters, a premise, and a beginning,” one wonders just how much of this story (about a woman dying from cancer and how her family reacts) was inspired by Dowd. How much was Dowd trying to give meaning and narrative structure to her own struggle? And while some may say it’s the story that matters, not Dowd’s illness and Ness taking on a story idea first dreamt up by someone he never met, the information is on the ARC and in an author’s note. As people discuss this book and bibliotherapy and audience are brought up (see, for example, the Heavy Medal discussions), I wonder — if a person was reading A Monster Calls with no knowledge of its origins, would it change how they read it?

I don’t think most children or teen readers will care about Dowd. To them, it’s a story about family and friends, with all their flaws. It’s a story about one’s worst nightmare come true. It’s a story about a monster, a story that confirms what the reader may have begun to suspect on their own: life isn’t fair, life is complex, sometimes you cannot trust the sun to rise in the east and gravity to work and the earth to be below your feet.

YALSA Announces Morris Award Finalists

From the YALSA website and The Hub blog:

YALSA selected five books as finalists for the 2012 William C. Morris Award, which honors a book written for young adults by a previously unpublished author. YALSA will name the 2012 award winner at the Youth Media Awards at 7:45 a.m. on Jan. 23 as part of the Youth Media Awards during the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting in Dallas.

The 2012 finalists are:

  • “The Girl of Fire and Thorns” written by Rae Carson, published by Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
  • “Paper Covers Rock” written by Jenny Hubbard, published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books.
  • “Under the Mesquite” written by Guadalupe Garcia McCall, published by Lee and Low Books.
  • “Between Shades of Gray” written by Ruta Sepetys, published by Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group USA.
  • “Where Things Come Back” by John Corey Whaley, published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.

“What an incredible wealth of debut books the 2012 Morris Committee had the honor of reading this year,” said Teri Lesesne, chair of the Morris Award committee. “Our shortlist includes realistic fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction. These authors have pushed the envelope of their respective genres and we welcome their new voices and look forward with great anticipation to many more books to come.”

More information on the finalists and the award can be found at YALSA sells finalist seals to librarians and publishers to place on books at YALSA will host a reception honoring the finalists and the winner, as well as YALSA’s Nonfiction Award finalists and winner, at a free reception from 10:30 a.m. to noon on Jan. 23, in Omni Hotel in the Dallas E room.

The award is named for William C. Morris, an influential innovator in the publishing world and an advocate for marketing books for children and young adults. William “Bill” Morris left an impressive mark on the field of children’s and young adult literature. He was beloved in the publishing field and the library profession for his generosity and marvelous enthusiasm for promoting literature for children and teens.

Members of the 2012 William C. Morris Award are: Chair Teri Lesesne, Department of Library Science, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas; ; Adrienne Butler, Oklahoma Department of Libraries, Oklahoma City; Sarah English, Omaha, Neb.; Krista Hutley, Englewood (Colo.) Public Library; Angela Leeper, University of Richmond (Va.) Curriculum Materials Center; Rachel McDonald, King County Library System, Issaquah, Wash.; Amanda L. S. Murphy, Warren-Trumbull County Public Library, Warren, Ohio; Sarah Okner, Three Rivers Public Library District, Channahon, Ill.; Ed Spicer, Michigan Reading Journal, Allegan, Mich.; Betsy Levine, administrative assistant, San Francisco Public Library; and Gillian Engberg, Booklist magazine, Chicago

A big congratulations and “thank you” to the committee! So far, I’ve read two of the finalists (The Girl of Fire and Thorns, and Between Shades of Gray (review coming soon)), am about to begin Under the Mesquite, and have Paper Covers Rock and Where Things Come Back on hold at the library.