Not those games, although every other conversation I had today was about the Hunger Games trailer.
No, I mean the annual best books game. The lists! The awards! The moments of truth! And (my favorite), the Monday morning quarterbacking.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. We’re just at the very beginning of the process.
Here’s the scoop thus far: Library Journal’s Librarian’s Best has already appeared. Kirkus has released the adult list, but nothing yet for teen. School Library Journal and sister publication The Horn Book are mum so far, but that goes hand in glove with the general trend of children’s and teen’s best lists appearing a bit later than their adult counterparts (which I’ve always found funny, since we always have ARCs and F&Gs months in advance).
The two exceptions to this trend are the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books, about which I care very little (but if you do, check out Calling Caldecott, where there’s been some discussion of that list and also some discussion of specific books on the list) and the Publisher’s Weekly “Children’s Fiction” (which ranges from upper middle grade to upper YA). So let’s take a look at PW’s list. With commentary, because otherwise you’d just look at it again over on their site.
I’m going to skip the obviously middle grade titles, except to note that I wish Small Persons with Wings by Ellen Booraem were YA, because I really very much want to read it!
From the YA end, we’ve got:
The Future of Us (Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler) – Really? I love both Mackler and Asher as solo artists, but this felt indulgent and 30-something and I just don’t get it.
Chime, by Franny Billingsley – I’ve already said it all. Likewise A Monster Calls, which Sarah covered. They also cited Blink and Caution, about which I was somewhat tepid but which many of you loved, and Roth’s Divergent, which I think deserves a place on a best of the year list while not being a Printz contender.
Beauty Queens (Libba Bray) – If I ever wrest a copy out of the hands of my students (3 copies, all out), I’ll write something coherent, but I read it ages ago and didn’t take very good notes. Not sure it totally pulls itself off, but I think it’s satirical and smart and no one else dares go the places Libba Bray goes.
Where She Went (Gayle Forman) – Can I confess that I keep putting this at the bottom of the list? The first one just about killed me, and images from it haunt me still, so while I want to read this, I’m a little scared I’ll be a basket case again.
Legend (Marie Lu) – props for the best package of the year (that two colored printing is beautiful, and if you haven’t seen a final copy, get your hands on one). The story was good, but struck me as a little too much like the rest of what’s out there.
The Apothecary (Maile Meloy) – This really is middle grade, I think; everything I didn’t like stopped bothering me when I considered it as a children’s book, but as a YA title it’s full of flaws. So I should have skipped it, but I know it’s getting some YA love and wanted to clarify where I stand.
Between Shades of Gray (Ruta Sepetys) – I’m going to lump this with the also-listed Where Things Come Back, by John Corey Whaley. I have started both multiple times and am just not feeling them. However. Loving a book and recognizing its greatness from a literary perspective are NOT the same. I just need to find a day or two when I have more than 15 minutes at once to read to push past the not-feeling-it feeling and get down to the nitty gritty analysis end of things.
The Scorpio Races (Maggie Stiefvater) – Stiefvater is on my list of people I’d like to be when I grow up (I think I’m older than her, though, which complicates things). Have you seen those trailers she made for the Mercy Falls trilogy? Amazing. Also, she’s given a TED talk. Could she be more awesome? Oh, but I’m supposed to talk about the books. Right. My finished copy of The Scorpio Races just arrived today, so it’s on the near horizon.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Laini Taylor) – This is the post I meant to finish for today, but didn’t. But rather than blow my next post by saying any more here, I’ll let you wait until later this week.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Boat of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente – I do think this is YA. I also think the title is entirely too long, but the book is entirely delicious.
Variant (Robison Wells) – Uh oh, I had this in ARC and let a student take it. Time to reel it back in.
How to Save a Life (Sara Zarr) – No one mentioned this back when we listed the contenders and solicited more titles, but the last few weeks I feel like I’m bumping into shout outs and love for it everywhere. Time to add it to the pile?
So that’s the list, and it increased what I need to look at by a few titles. I’m suddenly terrified of the rest of the lists that will be coming soon! There’s just no time for the number of fabulous books being published this year.
Oh! And let’s not forget that tomorrow will bring us the second award of the year (The Boston Globe – Horn Book awards were the first). Today, the National Book Award Teen Press Conference took place in New York City. And tomorrow, the winners (not JUST for the Young People’s category) will be announced. Can’t be there? No worries: this year, for the first time ever, they’ll be streaming the event so we can all tune in at 8 pm Eastern Standard Time to see who wins.
So, what did you think of the PW list? Which books do you think will show up on everyone’s lists, and which ones are outliers? How many have you read? Did I relegate anything to the middle grade pile that should be in the YA/contender pile?