February 13, 2016

Us and Books: We Ship It...A CYBILS WINNER UPDATE!

And now for THE WINNERS of the 2015 Cybils Awards! We listed Speculative Fiction books from both age categories, since they are of particular interest to us, and then the YA categories:

MG Speculative Fiction

The Fog Diver
by Joel Ross
Nominated by: PLCarpenter
The Fog Diver is a fun, exciting adventure set in a dystopian future where remnants of humanity live on the highest mountaintops and in airships above a deadly fog of microscopic robots covering the planet. The nannites were created to clean up Earth’s pollution, but got out of control and the fog they created killed billions of humans. A boy named Chess is lowered into the fog each day by his crewmates on a salvage ship flying above the clouds to scavenge on the earth’s surface. He is the best fog diver there is—the fog mysteriously energizes him. The secrets behind his fog-diving ability put a target on his back and will impact the survival of his family, and the fate of humankind.
The strong cast of multi-cultural, under-privileged kids who make up the salvage crew are fiercely loyal to each other, and to the one adult who’s cared about them, Mrs. E. But Mrs. E is dying from fogsickness, and the kids set off on a dangerous quest to save her, while struggling to keep Chess and his secret safe.
The Fog Diver is filled with action, drama, and mystery (with bonus steampunk air pirates). The author addresses the exploitation of others, poverty, the conflict between the haves and have-nots, and the dangers of messing with technology and Mother Nature. The tension created by the conflict in the plot is lightened by the author’s use of word play, as characters try to make sense of stories they’ve heard about the past. “May the horse be with you,” a constellation called Oprah, and a red-caped hero named Superbowl are a few mixed-up historical references. In this culture, cash is worthless except when used as toilet paper. The book moves with brisk assurance toward a thrilling conclusion, with plenty of intrigue left for the future.

Young Adult Fiction

Every Last Word
by Tamara Ireland Stone
Nominated by: Jennifer Donovan
Samantha McAllister, a “normal” teen in almost every way, hides a secret from her closest friends: she lives with Purely-Obsessional OCD. For better and for worse, Tamara Ireland Stone asks us to step into the shoes of our leading lady, navigating through the murky waters of high school cliques, bullying, weekly therapy sessions, and a new passion that she has to keep secret from her friends. When Sam’s new friend, Caroline, introduces her to the clandestine meeting of Poet’s Corner, her life changes forever.
Every Last Word stands out because of its honest, moving portrayal of mental illness. But it also stands out because of Sam’s hard-earned character growth. After being a bully just to fit in with her toxic friends, becoming a member of Poet’s Corner allows her to right some past wrongs and learn that finding your unique voice is more important than blending in with your friends. Along the way, we experience the highs and lows of high school cliques, show how there are always ways to redeem yourself even if they aren’t easy, and feel the emotions of all involved from every angle. The poetry included helps break the ice on what can be a difficult topic, making it more accessible, while the “feels” you succumb to will make and break your heart. It’s not always pretty, but it’s real and fair, making it a story that Young Adult readers can connect with on many levels.

Graphic Novels

by Noelle Stevenson
Nominated by: Liviania
Nimona is the snarky, shape-shifting sidekick to a supervillain. Her unwilling employer, Lord Ballister Blackheart, plays his part promoting evil and clashing against the hero Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin. Pulling Blackheart along with her overenthusiasm for wrongdoing, Nimona forces everyone to look deeply into questions of good and evil. She reopens old wounds between villain and hero, and tears into her own enemies with a vengeance, regardless of the consequences. But she also foils a nefarious government plot and is a fierce protector. Who is good? Who is evil? And who decides, anyway? In NIMONA, the answers keep shifting, and the results are awesome. We loved the way Noelle Stevenson created complex, sympathetic characters who subvert traditional understandings of beauty, power, and morality. And NIMONA is riotously funny to boot!


Using historical data and interviews, Sheinkin sets a vivid, you-are-there scene, allowing readers to see Daniel Ellsberg move from enthusiastic Department of Defense political analyst to anti-war activist as he realizes that the President would continue sending American soldiers into this unwinnable war. Although Ellsberg is the title character, Most Dangerous is much more than a biography. It covers nearly three decades of US defense and political history, giving readers a front-row seat into the complexity of national security and decision making.  
Compelling, thought-provoking and timeless, Most Dangerous delivers readers not only an historical account of a time period in our history often confusing, but offers readers a critical eye towards the future as well.

Speculative Fiction

The Walls Around Us
by Nova Ren Suma
Algonquin Young Readers
Nominated by: Esther Braithwaite

Maybe, long ago, we used to be good. Maybe all little girls are good in the beginning.”

The concept of good came up frequently among the judges in the Cybils Speculative Fiction list, as the Round One crew offered up seven novels which were very good indeed, and left to the Finalist judges the struggle to elevate one above the shining host. Intriguingly, the concept of “good” and “good enough,”  repeated within the narratives as well. Whether any of the protagonists in SLASHER GIRLS & MONSTER BOYS, edited by April Genevieve Tucholke, can be considered “good” is debatable unless you’re a fan of horror, as many of our judges are. Ultimate good is at issue in THE SIX by Mark Alpert, as characters sacrificed their bodies to become mechanized weapons.

And then, there was “good enough;” Hallie struggled to be good enough to be loved by her sister in AN INHERITANCE OF ASHES by Leah Bobet; In MORTAL HEART by Robin LaFevers, Annith longed to be good enough to leave the convent of St. Mortain to do real work. Sierra Santiago must fight monsters AND patriarchy to prove she’s good enough to own her own magical heritage in SHADOWSHAPER, by Daniel José Older. In the novel by Laura Ruby, Finn O’Sullivan has to fight the belief of the town of BONE GAP that he and his brother aren’t good enough for the people they love not to just leave. There were a lot of “good” reasons to choose any one of these books, because they all have skillful writing and teen appeal. But, eventually, we realized that few books could be more appealing than what some of us referred to as “the killer ballerina book.”

Ballerinas, normally the artistic apex of beauty and grace, were shown as something violent and unfamiliar, underscoring themes of innocence and its loss.  Nova Ren Suma’s THE WALLS AROUND US provides an unhinged look into the competitive, obsessive world through the eyes of Amber and Violet, two girls with vastly different futures: one in a Juvenile Detention Center; the other on her way to a promising career at Julliard. A challenging narrative with definite speculative, creepy supernatural elements, the novel’s shadowy, edgy setting with its distinctive voices, together with the atmospheric beauty of the writing convinced even the dubious to embrace this psychological thriller. We cordially invite you to weigh the good in these selected books, and do the same.

May you have a lovely, lazy Sunday with the beau of your choice: a book, or a friend.
 Visit the Cybils website to read about the winners in Poetry, Picture Books, and more.

1 comment:

Sarah Stevenson said...

YAY! Thanks for posting this. I'm in SoCal this weekend, and my schedule was thrown off for various other reasons.

I'm excited about the big reveal!! Of course, as the co-blog-editor I have insider information, but it's still exciting. :)