Saturday, November 29, 2008

SLJ Best Books of 2008

The School Library Journal has just released its Best Books of 2008. As they say: "It was an amazingly strong year for YA novels, several with hard-hitting, powerful themes." So, for your convenience and mine, here they are, the 15 YA novels on the list:

What I Saw and How I Lied, Judy Blundell
Graceling, Kristin Cashore
The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
Little Brother, Cory Doctorow
Paper Towns, John Green
Tender Morsels, Margo Lanagan
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, E. Lockhart
Princess Ben, Cathering Gilbert Murdock
The Door of No Return, Sarah Mussi
Sunrise Over Fallujah, Walter Dean Myers
The Adoration of Jenna Fox, Mary. E. Pearson
Nation, Terry Pratchett
Here Lies Arthur, Philip Reeve
Becoming Billie Holiday, Carole Boston Weatherford
Impossible, Nancy Werlin
***Don't click this link if you're an actual teen!***
It's YA's own Sherman Alexie making an appearance on Savage Love to answer the age-old question: Where can I find Native-American porn?

YA in the Papers

An Interview with 'Weetzie Bat' Author Francesca Lia Block
Oh my god, she's writing a Weetzie prequel! The Weetzie Bat books haven't aged so well for me, but I know how amazing I used to think Witch Baby was, how I read it about eight hundred times and cried every single time. You know how she roller-skates around town snapping magical photographs and broods poetically and plays drums in the dark and shaves her head? I once gave a copy of it to a boy I liked because I thought if he read it he would totally get me, but I'm pretty sure he never even opened it. (Or returned it.) Jerk.

M.T. Anderson Gives Young Adults What They Want: Complex Epic Tales They Can Get Lost In
Fawning. The usual.

Post-Apocalypic YA Novels
Is there any better sub-genre? John Green writes about Hunger Games and The Dead and the Gone.

Plus a troubling fact: Did you know if you go to and try to set up a feed of articles on "Young Adult Books," every single article it returns is related to Harry Potter?

Friday, November 28, 2008

So the New York Times has just published their Notable Children's Books of 2008, and there's some solid YA in the mix. Unsurprisingly, Octavian Nothing II is listed, plus The Hunger Games (which I can't believe I haven't read yet, but I believe everyone else in the world who is raving about it), Sunrise over Fallujah, Little Brother, and Disreputable History. Not bad.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

If you have nothing better to do...

Even I'm not this into it, but the National Book Awards Ceremony will be aired on C-SPAN's BookTV on Sunday (Nov. 23), at 10 p.m. eastern. See Laurie Halse Anderson's fab dress! Get choked up watching Judy Blundell accept her award!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


National Book has spoken, and all I have to say is that I am going to have to go read this one again. It would absolutely have been my last choice from the finalists—not that it's not a good book, but it's just sort of blandly meh good, not good good. Or so I think after just one reading. I'm totally ready to stand corrected. I'll read it again tomorrow.

You know, last year, when Story of a Girl became a finalist I was kind of shocked because I had read it several months earlier very very quickly and was so bored I totally skimmed through the second half. But then I read it again more carefully and realized I was wrong and it's actually quite good and not at all what it seems it is on the surface. Not my-personal-favorite-book-of-the-year good, but solidly good.

So, ok. I'm going to go now, cry a little, then try to come to terms with the fact that Disreputable History (which I've now re-read thrice and love more each time) didn't win. Why am I always wrong about these things?? Ack!


Ostrich Boys, Keith Gray
The Carbon Diaries, Saci Lloyd
Just Henry, Michelle Magorian
Broken Soup, Jenny Valentine

Way to keep all books for actual child-aged children off the shortlist in the children's book category, Costa [Whitbread] Book Awards! If only all mixed-age awards committees were so devoted to the YA.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness just won the 2008 Booktrust Teenage Prize!

I think this one's just pretty good, but I didn't read all the books on the shortlist yet, so I can't judge. And who cares? Literary sci-fi/fantasy/speculative fiction has been getting loads of attention lately, and that is never a bad thing.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Everyone who knows me knows that I’m a big fan of so-called conspiracy theories and similar wacky ideas, and they just don’t show up enough in YA books. You can imagine how pleased I was when last year’s Printz went to The White Darkness, by Geraldine McCaughrean, a pretty good book about a man obsessed with proving that the earth is hollow and the naïve girl who semi-unwittingly gets dragged along on his treacherous journey to the Antartic to find the truth.

Yes, “Uncle” Victor is presented as a dangerous kook—and is—but I really appreciate that he’s never specifically proven wrong. When he falls down the hole that he hopes is an opening to the inner earth, it’s never quite stated that he falls to his death, only that as he loses his grip his face reveals that he suddenly realizes the truth. What if the truth is not that he was wrong all along, but that he’s found what he hoped for? Unlikely, of course, but it doesn’t matter. The point is, I love reading about weird stuff.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

"It may be hard to conceive of making the claim about a young adult book, but I believe “Octavian Nothing” will someday be recognized as a novel of the first rank..."
–Sez Jerry Griswold in a piece for the New York Times' Children’s Books Fall Special Issue.

Well, duh.

I can't personally vouch for Volume II since I'm only halfway through, and my hardback copy is heavy enough that my shoulders hurt from lugging it around so I've had to do most of my reading in the bathtub. But the first volume of Octavian Nothing is—according to my rigorous calculations—the award-winningest YA book ever, easily beating the previous record-holder (Monster, by Walter Dean Myers).

And is it really still so hard to imagine that YA fiction can hold its own among literature in general? Still?? Perhaps part of the problem is that this kind of serious literature often gets relegated to the children's section of the paper. This article, for instance, happens to be sandwiched between a review of Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears and one covering new trends in alphabet books.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


And now, the day after the election, I take a break from my many, many posts about YA lit to just say: th*nk f***ing g*d. Really. I caught myself getting a little misty-eyed in the voting booth, and I’m still (inwardly) shrieking with delight right this second. This is a big deal.

(I stole the pic of one of NYC’s antique and totally awesome voting machines from Maureen’s post over on YA for Obama.)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Booktrust Teenage Prize

The shortlist was announced back in September (I'm trying to catch up on things here, since I only just started this little blog.) I haven't read any of these yet, so I've got a lot to do before the winner is announced November 18th.

The Red Necklace, Sally Gardner
Snakehead, Anthony Horowitz
Apache, Tanya Landman
The Knife That Killed Me
, Anthony McGowan
The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick Ness
Creature of the Night, Kate Thompson

Booktrust is just for UK books, if you didn't know. And by the way, Booktrust's children's book award—the horrifically named "Nestlé Smartie's Book Prize"—was discontinued this year. So that's one less thing to keep on top of.

I can't believe I didn't know about this before.

It's social networking for YA-ers who are into Obama, started by rad award-winning author Maureen Johnson. Judy Blume is there, for pete's sake.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Speaking of the National Book Awards

Last year’s winner, Sherman Alexie, was on the Colbert Report last week, still (sort-of) promoting my second-favorite 2007 nominee The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

Incidentally, while looking up the Amazon link for the book, I see that someone is trying to sell a signed first edition for 200 bucks. Really?? It's only a year old! He must have signed about a billion of them. Even I have one.

It begins...

It’s the best time of year—YA awards season!
Over the next few months hundreds of new books are going to be added to my database of award-winning young adult literature. And for the first time, I’m going to be totally on top of it if it kills me. Every year, I have the best intentions, but there are just so many to keep track of.

First up, one of the highest profile awards:
The National Book Award for Young People’s Literature

Five finalists were announced last month.
Chains, Laurie Halse Anderson
The Underneath, Kathi Appelt
What I Saw and How I Lied, Judy Blundell,
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, E. Lockhart,
The Spectacular Now, Tim Tharp

The awards ceremony is November 19th, but I’m tentatively ready to predict the winner now (I haven’t read The Spectacular Now yet, since it hadn’t been released when the nominees were announced, so I may have to change my mind after I read it this week.) For whatever it’s worth, I’ve never picked the right winner, not once--but I keep trying.

I think this one will win:
The Underneath

Sure it's a tear-jerker about abandoned kittens and a blues-singing hound (among other things), but it’s also exactly as magical and poetic and haunting and rare as the reviewers say it is.

But I hope this one does:*
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
It’s hard to believe that someone could pull off such a smart, readable, inspiring and funny book featuring a bunch of entitled prep school kids and a plot that revolves around Frankie’s fascination with the Panopticon, feminism and the old boys’ club, plus P.G. Wodehouse and grammar hijinks. It’s a bit like John Green, only more so.

*I hold out hope because like I said, I'm always wrong, and also Frankie’s a little precocious-y and the NBAs have leaned that way before.

And now we wait.