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I Coulda Been a Contenda
That pile? That’s what it looks like when you are on a committee. Every day.
(I still reflexively check every package that arrives at school, conditioned by years of book committees. I think I got hooked on the rush. The packages are rarely for me anymore, but somehow, two years later, I still live in a constant state of anticipation.)
But with so much great material flowing in, plus even more out there waiting to be discovered, how on earth does one ever decide what to read?
Well, you can be a passive committee member and just wait for feedback from the rest of the committee. Or you can read whatever you want to read and just hope something great pops up. Or you can apply the super scientific method (there’s lots of science in this post!) and create spreadsheets and lists and notebooks, oh my.
So here is the (ok, my) scientific method (which nets pretty good results, especially when everyone is employing it):
- Keep an eye on major review sources (SLJ, The Horn Book, Kirkus, BCCB, PW, Booklist, etc.) and note what titles are netting multiple stars. You definitely need to read those.
- Know your history, and when a previous winner or honoree for the Printz or another award, or someone who always shows up on best of the year lists, has a new book, put that on top of your pile.
- Try to carve out time for the occasional adult or middle grade title to cleanse your palate, otherwise all books will start to be bad books because you are suffering YA literature burnout (an actual disease; symptoms include muttering and a burning desire to never read a YA book again; fortunately, the cure is simply a varied reading diet).
- Communicate, communicate, communicate: with your fellow committee members, who will help you rule things out (really, it’s an elimination game in many ways); also with your colleagues who are on other committees, or who blog, read, or breathe. There have been plenty of dark horse titles in the final five* and you never know where you’ll find those books.
- Stagger your reading between the books you need to read and the ones you need to read that you also want to read, otherwise your pace begins to drag and you might lose momentum.
We’ve employed the scientific method (sans communication with other committee members) to come up with a working list. The following is a by-no-means-comprehensive list of books we are currently planning to write about, with links to publisher sites for additional pub details and cover images and such.
We reserve the right to knock titles off the list and add titles to it. We’d love some assistance with that. We’ve read many of these, but not yet all of them, so there might be clunkers in here—please warn us! And we’re bound to have missed something, so let us know what.
Oh! And you might notice something (mostly) missing: Nonfiction. We haven’t seen or heard about much, but we are also not nonfiction readers by inclination. So we especially want to hear what we’re missing there. Comments are open: fire away!
So now that all the caveats, etc., are out of the way, here’s our list of books:
Chime, Franny Billingsley
Anya’s Ghost, Vera Brosgol
Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys
Imaginary Girls, Nova Ren Suma
Jasper Jones, Craig Silvey
Pick-up Game, ed. Marc Aronson and Charles R. Smith Jr.
I am J, Cris Beam
Strings Attached, Judy Blundell
Paper Covers Rock, Jenny Hubbard
Karma, Cathy Ostlere
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Boat of Her Own Making, Catherynne M. Valente
The Queen of Water, Laura Resau
The Berlin Boxing Club, Robert Sharenow
Blink & Caution, Tim Wynne-Jones
Brooklyn, Burning, Steve Brezenoff
Flesh and Blood So Cheap, Albert Marrin
Steampunk! ed. Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant******
The great buzz*** pile:
Beauty Queens, Libba Bray
Recovery Road, Blake Nelson
This Dark Endeavor, Kenneth Oppel
Across the Universe, Beth Revis
A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness
Welcome to Bordertown, ed. Holly Black and Ellen Kushner
The everyone**** we know is talking about these books pile:
Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor
You Against Me, Jenny Downham
Every You, Every Me, David Levithan
The Piper’s Son, Melina Marchetta
White Crow, Marcus Sedgwick
The Returning, Christine Hinwood
The Scorpio Races, Maggie Stiefvater
Stay With Me, Paul Griffin
*Or final four, if we’re talking about a year when not every potential honor slot was filled. But “final five” references “Battlestar Galactica” while “final four” is a basketball reference. So I’m going to use the phrase “final five” whenever possible, because I like me some genre TV.
**”lots” being the extremely scientific (see? Science!) term for three or more stars as of September 1, to the best of our knowledge.
***buzz, of course, is another scientific term, here meaning general chatter on various public forums, plus a star or two in many cases.
****Ok, make that someone: at least one colleague, librarian, or blogger (ourselves included!) has mentioned these titles in terms that have us interested. We recognize that some of these might yet pick up a pile of stars but at the moment of this writing that’s not their primary contender pile.
*****Footnotes in honor of Terry Pratchett’s new book, Snuff, out tomorrow. It’s not YA, but it will cleanse my palate nicely.
******Added after initial posting.
About Karyn Silverman
Karyn Silverman is the High School Librarian and Educational Technology Department Chair at LREI, Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School (say that ten times fast!). Karyn has served on YALSA’s Quick Picks and Best Books committees and was a member of the 2009 Printz committee. She has reviewed for Kirkus and School Library Journal. She has a lot of opinions about almost everything, as long as all the things are books. Said opinions do not reflect the attitudes or opinions of SLJ, LREI, YALSA or any other institutions with which she is affiliated. Find her on Twitter @InfoWitch or e-mail her at karynsilverman at gmail dot com.
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