I'm not a winter person, but I love winter for one reason: the Cybils awards. Each year for the last six years, I've assisted with this blogger-selected award for children's and YA literature. Although I wear several hats for the Cybils, my favorite one is both organizer and panelist for Fantasy and Science Fiction. The Cybils finalists were announced on January 1, and I'm especially proud of the SFF Teen shortlist, which I helped to select. This is a great group of books, and every one of them is worth reading, recommending, and adding to a library collection.
Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days, Book 1)
by Susan Ee
Nominated by: Lydia Dawson
Angels have attacked the world, killing billions. Humans have gone savage in order to survive. There’s a seventeen-year-old girl in the middle of it all trying to keep her family together and find a place amid the madness where she can eke out some kind of existence. When angels take Penryn's sister from her and that small hope is stolen, she makes a deal with the enemy. If the injured angel Raffe helps her save her sister, she will help him reach the ones who cut his wings. There is nothing easy or predictable about Penryn and Raffe’s story. Their partnership is tenuous, based on survival and a need so powerful they are willing to do what they would otherwise never consider and that makes the few moments of compassion and the threat of intimacy that much more genuine and valuable. Angelfall was a terrific surprise to all of us as a genuinely unique and gripping story of horror and faith, humanity and destruction. We loved the believability of Penryn’s strength and independence born from her troubled relationship with her schizophrenic mother and disabled baby sister. These strong themes and beautiful writing made Angelfall an easy favorite.
Anna Dressed in Blood
by Kendare Blake
Nominated by: Kelly
Seventeen-year-old Cas Lowood is a ghost hunter. For the past three years, he’s sharpened his skills of killing the dead, and is almost ready to take on the ghost who murdered his father. When Cas hears about the legendary ghost named Anna Dressed in Blood who eviscerates her victims, he’s hooked. And when Anna spares his life, Cas finds himself unraveling a mystery that comes back to haunt him. Anna Dressed in Blood is an excellent choice for older teens looking for a clever, action-filled read. Debut author Kendare Blake blends humor, pop culture references, colorful descriptions and compelling characters with plenty of horror and vengeance to make Anna the perfect edge-of-the-seat read.
Blood Red Road
by Moira Young
Margaret K. McElderry
Nominated by: Leila Roy
Dystopias are so much the rage in young adult fiction. It seems the world barely has time to breathe before dying anew. What sets a book apart in this genre is the protagonist and the language, not the dire conditions. In these two regards debut author Moira Young has excelled with Blood Red Road. Her heroine, Saba, embarks on a desperate quest through a barren, post-apocalyptic world to save her brother and finds herself tested again and again. Don't let the patois dissuade you; though language has degraded with this version of the end of the world, the adventure still comes through clearly.
by Jon Skovron
Nominated by: Jason Walters
Half-demon Jael Thompson may be hunted by all the demons from Hell, but she’s tired of running, and just wants to settle down and live the life of an ordinary high school girl. But to do that, Jael must take a stand, not only against the demons hunting her, but against the wishes of her father, who is bent on protecting her at all costs even if it means moving again and ripping her away from the life she is building. Misfit was a delightful surprise; it’s so much more than your average demon paranormal. The writing is excellent; spare where it needs to be to keep the plot moving, but with beautiful descriptions in places, particularly where Jael is exploring the world through her newfound demon senses. Rich relationship-building plays a central role here: with Jael’s best friend, her potential boyfriend, and her newly discovered demon uncle, but most especially with her flawed father, a former demon hunter broken by the loss of his beloved, Jael’s mother.
Red Glove (Curse Workers, Book 2)
by Holly Black
Margaret K. McElderry
Nominated by: Sarah Wendorf
Cassel Sharpe's summer of scamming hasn't helped him forget his recent run-in with the Zacharov family, nor has it taken his mind off Lila Zacharov, the magical mob daughter he thought he killed in Holly Black's White Cat (the first book in the Curse Workers series). By the time he goes back to school in Red Glove, Lila is cursed to love him against her will, the Zacharovs think he would make a fabulous evil underling, and the government is after him. Discrimination against people who work magic is primetime news, and Cassel's entire family, and some of his friends, are suspect just for existing. Out of options, Cassel must decide who gets protected and who gets conned--and the odds are good that someone he loves is going to get hurt. Red Glove stands on its own, but series readers will appreciate how it builds upon and intensifies themes from White Cat. No counterfeiting here: Red Glove's singular magical system and noir feel combined with a clever plot is the real deal. With intense family relationships, romance, shifting friendships, and a mysterious murder, there's a little vice for every reader. It would be a crime to miss this one.
The Girl of Fire and Thorns
by Rae Carson
Nominated by: Hallie Tibbetts
The panel loved this story of a princess chosen by God. We identified with the shy and overweight girl, who suffers terribly from doubt about what God really wants from her. We rooted for her as she slowly but surely comes into her own as the secret queen of a war-torn country. We commiserated as she suffers loss and the knowledge that being chosen doesn’t mean you get a happy ending. We loved that her world was not the standard UK-influenced fantasy land, and that faith was a powerful, organic force in the story. We licked our lips over the descriptions of her meals. We cheered for the strong, courageous woman that she becomes in the end. Elisa, we decided, absolutely had to go onto Round 2. Also, we totally have to find a recipe for those pastries with crushed pistachios. Yum!
by Karen Healey
Nominated by: Beth Mitcham
She’s rehearsed what she’ll say for her parent’s eulogies, if they both get hit by a car, has worked out her escape route if she’s ever kidnapped, and has her go-bag stocked in case of emergencies. Keri is over-prepared for everything life can throw at her - except her older brother’s suicide. Hailed by "Publishers Weekly" as an “intense and powerful novel,” The Shattering combines sharp dialogue, brilliant characterization and subtle cultural shading to explore familial love, the bonds of friendship, and the lengths to which we’ll go to keep what we love safe.
This year, for the first time, we accepted nominations of "born digital" ebooks, those books published only in ebook form and not in a corresponding print edition. One of those books, Angelfall, made the shortlist!
A big shoutout to my fellow panelists Sommer Leigh, Vivian Mahoney, Steve Berman, Hallie Tibbetts, Maureen Kearney, and Tanita Davis. You are all amazing, and I had a great time working with you!
The Cybils kept me pretty busy, and I haven't posted in months. Now that Round 1 is over, my role is reduced and I should have more time to post. I plan to start by reviewing some of the great books I've been reading!
View all the 2011 Cybils finalists