Thursday, January 1, 2009

Post-Cybils, uh, post

So, the shortlists have been posted! I hope y'all enjoy the books on the YA Fiction shortlist and I wish the best of luck to the next round of judges who have a hard task in front of them. Each of these books is excellent.

The YA Fiction nominating panel was made up of a fantastic group of bloggers. Hard-working, even when balancing personal commitments and upheaval, all six of my fellow panelists are just awesome.

Of course, there were some compromises made. Put seven bloggers in a chat room and ask them what their favorite book of the year was and, chances are, you'll get seven different answers. I think our list is fantastic, but there are a few other books that I'd like to give honorable mention to. I think these books are worthy of buzz and I hope you'll pick up the ones that sound interesting to you.

The Last Exit to Normal by Michael Harmon is a funny, touching book about a boy who moves to a small town in Montana with his dad and his dad's husband. Life for gay fathers and their son in a small town isn't exactly what Ben expects and as he gets acclimated he deals with the residual anger he's been feeling towards his father. I thought Ben was a very realistic protagonist and I appreciated the fact that his problems with his dad didn't magically disappear overnight. They had to work at their relationship. And Ben's spunky grandmother is one of the best supporting characters I've read in a long time.

The Squad: Perfect Cover by Jennifer Lynn Barnes is about cheerleading spies. C'mon. That should be enough to make you want to pick it up. If it's not, consider the fact that it's unputdownable and smartly funny.

How to Build a House by Dana Reinhardt is a thoughtful novel about a girl traveling across the country to find something she doesn't know she's looking for. As she builds houses for tornado victims, she'll rebuild her own self-confidence.

Good Enough by Paula Yoo made me laugh and laugh. Patti Yoon is a goal-oriented high school senior... until she meets dreamy musician Ben and her priorities start to change. Filled with heart and laugh-out-loud funny, this is the perfect book to cheer you up when you're having a bad day. (Or to read in general on any day.)

Girl, Hero by Carrie Jones is a little atypical, but it's a story that really stuck with me. Liliana has a lot of problems she she de-stresses by writing letters to John Wayne. Yeah, John Wayne the dead actor to whom she is in no way related. She sees him as the perfect father figure, a guy who's not afraid to step up and defend the little guy. And as the story progresses, Liliana will figure out how to step up and be her own hero. The story's told through Liliana's letters and maybe not everyone will dig that. But for those who do, you'll find a true and brave protagonist in Liliana.

Looks by Madeleine George is told in a cinematic style that makes it seem like the story is unfolding before your very eyes. Two very different girls will come together to get revenge on the girl who hurt them both. The writing is gorgeous and I was totally engrossed in this book.

This was my first time serving on a Cybils committee and, although it was definitely a lot of work, it was so, so fun and definitely rewarding.