On Monday, Kirkus Reviews posted the Best Teen Books of 2011, and it was FULL of surprises. Surprises in the whoops, I missed that book entirely category, so color me chagrined (I imagine it a sort of blush color, to suit the physical manifestation of the emotion).
I’m consoling myself with the repeated mantra of “Best and Printz are not the same.” They’re not mutually exclusive, but the overlap can be slim depending on how best is defined and given that the Printz Award goes to one book and an honor goes to no more than four books; whereas we can have hundreds of books defined as best in a list (although usually not more than 100 on any single list).
And then, on Thursday, we finally got the full School Library Journal list! Which was happily less full of surprises.
Kirkus recognized 42 teen books and SLJ’s list has 18 fiction titles that are definitely YA; an additional 8 are in that nebulous area where they are recommended for an age bracket whose upper end covers lower YA (usually grades 5-8, which means ages 10-13, roughly). I’m going to say that those are too young, because if I were on the committee, I’d be ruling them out (unread) for that same reason. The SLJ nonfiction list has an additional five or so titles with potential YA appeal, although only one is exclusively and explicitly YA per the age recs: Bootleg, which is also on the Kirkus list.
It really hasn’t been a good year for nonfiction.
No surprise, the fiction books that made both lists were also on our list of contendas (proof that my scientific method works!). The consensus titles: Anya’sGhost ; Between Shades of Gray; Blink and Caution; Bootleg; Chime; Daughter of Smoke and Bone; A Monster Calls; The Scorpio Races; Stay With Me; and White Crow; additionally, Kirkus has Okay for Now on their children’s list, while SLJ puts it for grades 6-9, which makes it just scrape into more YA than children’s territory.
And as long as we’re talking numbers, we also have a few discrepancies between these two lists that are corroborated by the previously discussed PW list: Beauty Queens was recognized by Kirkus and PW, as was The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Boat of Her Own Making, while How to Save a Life did not make the Kirkus list but did make SLJ and PW’s lists.
But really, whatever about the consensus stuff.
What about all those dark horses? Books that we missed but that showed up on one of these lists? What about crossover with the BFYA nominations?
All of the SLJ-exclusive picks that weren’t on our radar and/or hadn’t made our contenda list were on the BFYA nomination list (Flip; My Name is Not Easy; Why We Broke Up; Glow). Of those four, Why We Broke Up might yet make our contenda list; I started it in ARC and liked what I read, but given the illustration component really felt I needed to experience the finished version give this its full due consideration. The other three slipped by us unregarded.
The Kirkus list, though, had ten titles that hadn’t made the BFYA nominations, making them dark horses indeed! (Although, in all fairness, five of them are Sept-Dec pubs, so they are eligible for BFYA next year too.)
The dark horses: Finding Somewhere; Isle of Blood; Mangaman; Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers; If I Could Fly; Island’s End; Misfit; Tighter; and Tilt.
I read Tighter, and I thought it was really solid, but not knockout. Isle of Blood has been suggested a few times in comments and real life conversation and there’s a copy on Sarah’s coffee table even as I type. Any love for any of the others?
What about the two nonfiction titles other than Bootleg, I.M Pei and Black and White?
And finally, what about all the Kirkus best books that did make BFYA but that we ignored? Lots of them seem really commercial, so I suspect that they fall into the zone between great reads and great writing. But there are a few I haven’t gotten to that I’m wondering about now: Under the Mesquite; Virtuosity; Winter Town; and This Thing Called the Future.
So, what surprised you? What’s missing from all of these lists that you want to champion? I’m lamenting the lack of recognition for The Returning, Welcome to Bordertown, The Piper’s Son, and Steampunk.