MG Speculative Fiction
Young Adult Fiction
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.
by Steve Sheinkin
Roaring Brook Press
Nominated by: Benji Martin
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.