As you have probably noted, the Cybils finalists have been announced! I served on the first round of judges for the Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction category and let me tell you it was a ton of work. My eyes still glaze over a little bit when I think about it. But I had a great time and most of that was the fact that I got to work with six other amazing panelists: Sheila, Gwenda, Steve, Nettle, Sami, and Tanita. Our final discussion chat was an absolute hoot, as well as being a stimulating and challenging discussion on the merits of each and every one of the nominated titles this year. I found myself wishing I knew these people in person and could meet up in coffeehouses and chat with them on a regular basis. They're that smart and that funny and that into reading. It was a rocking good time and I feel like we narrowed the long list down to seven absolutely solid books. And here they are, complete with blurbs written by one of us seven judges:
Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction
Oscar Banks has fooled the town of Candor, Florida, into thinking he's the perfect son. Even his father, the town's founder, believes that the subliminal messages he invented and that are carried by ever-present music, have brainwashed Oscar into becoming one more "good kid" among many. Oscar, though, knows about the messages and has trained himself to resist.
First-time author Pam Bachorz has created a book that perfectly snares what every teen both fears -- to lose his/her identity and be part of the bland crowd. Oscar may be selfish, but his motivations are sincere and natural based on the tragedies that have happened to his family. Good science-fiction for young adults is scarce--SF is more than spaceships and lasers, it is how technology could be used to help or harm humanity--and Barchorz's book will linger long in the minds of readers. They'll wonder what they would do if they ever found themselves in Candor.
Brothers Nick and Alan have been living on the run for years, hunted by magicians trying to take back their mother. But while the brothers' relationship is front and center, the story truly belongs to Nick, the ultimate bad boy barely managed his whole life by his nicer brother. Nick should be unsympathetic, but instead Sarah Rees Brennan manages to make his lack of self-awareness achingly riveting. And in doing so she gives us one of the most memorable, fully realized characters in YA contemporary fantasy--and then she surrounds him with a slew of other memorable characters in an equally intriguing and unforgettable world. The jury simply couldn't put this book down, not until we reached its satisfying and surprising ending. A thrilling read--this debut novel goes off like fireworks.
It's starts with the death of Emer Morrisey, famed female pirate, who is cursed to live the life of 100 dogs. When Emer is reborn as Saffron Adams, completely aware of her past lives, all Saffron can think is how fast she can get to Jamaica to rightfully reclaim her buried treasure. Dust is a novel that interweaves not one but three storylines that work to create one amazing story. King's ability to tell a story in three distinctive and controversial voices is what truly makes Dusta novel that will push the boundaries of what YA fiction can accomplish.
Fire is a human monster and the last of her kind. With the ability to control the minds of those around them, monsters inspire an uncomfortable (at times deadly) mixture of fear, hatred, and absolute longing in the people of the Dells. When her service is requested on behalf of the young King Nash, Fire is thrust into a mounting war and forced to reconcile her questionable abilities with her own demanding conscience. A first-rate high fantasy, Fire is at once subtle, thoughtful and throbbing with genuine emotion. The novel is peopled with a breathtakingly real cast of characters who wrestle with the thorny issues of gender, power, race, friendship, violence and family. Kristin Cashore’s gorgeous, understated writing weaves a complex, vivid world around them and the reader, making Fire an intensely gripping and nuanced read and one of the year’s finest.
In Lips Touch, Laini Taylor takes on that most daunting of tasks reinventing the fairy tale--and succeeds brilliantly. Each story feels like a fresh new tale, and yet still holds the timeless haunting enchantment and wonder of all the best fairy tales. Every story is a self-contained gem, and centers around the danger, power and wonder of that most magical moment--the kiss. These stories are complemented by Jim Di Bartolo’s luminous art, adding another vivid dimension to the magic of the book. In Goblin Fruit, Kizzy is so consumed by longing that she is drawn into a kiss whose price may be more than she can afford to pay. In Spicy Little CursesSuch as These, Anamique, cursed at birth to kill with the sound of her voice, must decide if love is worth risking everything for. And inHatchling, Esme learns the shocking secret of her mother’s past and her own true identity. Taylor’s language is beautiful, lush and rich, and demands to be read slowly so that every word can be savored. Lips Touch is like goblin fruit, tantalizing and delicious, each taste leaving the reader desperately hungry for more.
As with its predecessor, Skin Hunger, Sacred Scars tells two stories, separated by many years and yet linked together. The story of the founding of the Limori Academy of magic--and a tragic yet resilient young woman named Sadima--connects in surprising ways with the parallel story of Hahp and his fellow students at the Academy generations later. The attention to detail is amazing, and the characters real and poignant. Sacred Scars is deep, dark and intense, and immersive in a way that lingers in the mind long after turning the final page.
Set in the 1900’s, Tiger Moon is a lyrical South Asian fairytale which invites readers to a front row seat with a masterful storyteller. Colonial history, Hindu religion and mythology all play their part in this sweeping tale narrated by Raka, a new bride who is waiting for her execution at the hands of her husband. Like the Arabian Nights tales, Raka’s sweeping epic is told to pass the time, and includes elements of the fantastic and the realistic, relying on a talking tiger, a 16-year-old thief "with a conscience" and the kidnapped daughter of the god, Krishna, to explore themes of fate, change and free will. Translated from German, and described as both "playful" and "magical" by our panelists, Tiger Moon offers readers a chance to indulge in the richness of a different culture and go beyond the boundaries of the ordinary.
--Tanita S. Davis
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