This Wednesday evening, the National Book Award winners will be announced in a grand ceremony at Cipriani in New York City. I went to the NBA site to refresh myself on just how the awards work.“The National Book Award is an American literary prize given to writers by writers and administered by the National Book Foundation.” I like the fact that the judges are listed right along with the finalists in each category.
Now, down to AB4T business. From the list of fiction and nonfiction finalists, we have recommended three out of ten for young adult readers. In the fiction category, The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers and Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain, and in the nonfiction category, Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo.
Today we publish the review of a fourth. Louise Erdrich is perhaps best known for Love Medicine, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1984. In The Round House she portrays a most difficult coming of age.
The NBA also has a Young People’s Literature category, which includes both fiction and nonfiction. This year’s nominees are here (scroll down), and past winners can be found here. I know I’ll be following the tweets on Wednesday evening — @nationalbook.
ERDRICH, Louise. The Round House. 336p. HarperCollins/Harper. Oct. 2012. Tr $27.99. ISBN 978-0-06-206524-7. LC 2012005381.
Adult/High School–Nothing will be the same in the life of 13-year-old Native American Joe Coutts after his mother barely survives a brutal sexual assault on tribal land. Traumatized and depressed, she spends days in her room lost in vacant stares and silence while Joe and his father, a tribal judge, try to piece together clues to identify the attacker. They both know that laws on tribal lands are difficult to enforce, since white men cannot be prosecuted for crimes committed on the reservation. Joe, frustrated with his father’s increasing emotional distance and lack of progress on his mother’s case, determines to find the attacker on his own. His search for evidence yields clues and deeper mysteries at the ceremonial round house where the attack occurred. Before long he has identified the attacker, who will likely never be prosecuted. With simmering anger and abysmal innocence Joe patiently plots a murderous revenge that he hopes will restore normalcy to his family but might, in fact, destroy it. He comes of age grappling with timeless issues of betrayal, greed, love, friendship, destiny, and death. This novel of layered mystery will appeal to teens who appreciate literary fiction or have an interest in contemporary Native American culture. Teachers looking for a novel that will stimulate thoughtful discussions about justice and morality similar to To Kill a Mockingbird will discover a contemporary classic in Round House.–John Sexton, Greenburgh Public Library, NY