Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Third Annual Jody-intz Awards (My Take on the Best Young Adult Books)

This year I almost didn't make a list of my favorite books. This year I'VE got a book out and I thought it might be weird to judge the um, competition.

But it doesn't feel weird. Maybe because I don't view other books as competition.

There's room for lots of good books out there. When I read a really good book, I'm thankful for it, inspired by it, grateful that I live in a world where good books are floating around. Now, with my own book floating around, the grateful feeling is exponentially amped up. I walk into a bookstore or a library, and I see my little book on a shelf next to books by writers I admire. (And I must say here that the shelf real estate in the C section is particularly fine. Rae Carson!! Kristin Cashore!! Jennifer Castle!!) I don't think I will ever get used to the idea that something I've written is parked next to books by these authors. And if I ever do, someone, please, slap me.)

Now without further ado--here are the books that I loved last year--the ones that got me thinking and feeling and swooning and sighing and crying--

1. In the nail biter/page turner category The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey. Yikes is all I can say about this one. Aliens have taken over the world and gone all Invasion of the Body Snatchers on us. This book's got action and heart. Warning: clear your calendar. Once you open the first page, you will not be able to put the thing down until you reach the end.

2. Best Beginning of a Series. Tie between Divergent by Veronica Roth and The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. Okay, first--Divergent. (Yes, I have come late to this party. The book was released several years ago but for whatever reason it was not on my radar. If you haven't heard of it, you will soon. The movie's coming out in March.) The Raven Boys. Oh, Maggie Stiefvater, how I adore you and everything you have written. Just got back from a long car trip and listened to the second book in the series, The Dream Thieves. Adored that one too. For the uninitiated, this series has action and lush writing and moments that will stop your heart. I was hooked from the very first line: "Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she'd been told that she would kill her true love."

3. Best END to a Series. Hands down winner The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson. This trilogy blew me away. I'm not a fantasy fan, typically, but the strong female lead Elisa drew me in and the complex and non-stereotypical love interest Hector KEPT me in.

4. The Writer-I-Just-Discovered-and-Read-Every-Book-She-Wrote-in-a-Row Award goes to Courtney Summers. JEEZ is the word that sums up Summers. The woman knows how to worm her way into the mind of a tormented and tormenting teen girl. I've read criticism of Summers' books--that the female leads are unlikeable. Maybe. But oh man, you will be viscerally pulled into these girls' stories. My favorite was Some Girls Are. I stayed up half the night reading about how the tables are turned on a "mean" girl.

5.  The Double Punch of Brilliance and Heart Award is a three way tie between September Girls by Bennett Madison, 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma, and Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos. These books made me FEEL and THINK and had the added bonus of making me forget I am a writer, by letting me simply fall into their stories.

6. I was going to mention Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell in that last category but I think it deserves a category all of its own. I rarely cry while reading books, but this one got me tearing up after reading the Dedication Page. (I'd write the line that made me cry, but if I did, I'd start crying again. So, sorry. You will have to pick this book up yourself and see what all the fuss is about.)

7. Best Twist: What I Was by Meg Rosoff. This book was written several years ago but seems to have fallen off the radar. The main character's a troubled boy at a remote boarding school who develops an intense friendship with another boy, an orphan who lives alone. Things--and people--are not what they seem.  I must mention here that Meg Rosoff's newest book Picture Me Gone is on my TBR stack and I keep hesitating to pick it up--not because I don't want to read it, but because I like knowing that I've got a Meg Rosoff book still to be opened and treasured.

8. Book That Flew Under the Radar and Deserves Wider Readership. The award goes to Jennifer Castle's You Look Different in Real Life, which also wins the coolest premise award. Here's the blurb I wrote on Goodreads:
"Five teens chosen to appear in a documentary film every five years... but it's the voice of the main character, Justine, that pushes this novel into what will surely be readers' Top Ten of the Year lists. Justine is insightful and brilliantly observant--mixed with a bit of biting snark. What's it like to grow up on film? To have your childhood memories edited and manipulated? Is it ethical to portray people's most intimate and heartbreaking moments for an audience's entertainment? Absorbing read that you'll be thinking about long after you finish."

9. And finally, last but not least, in the category of Book I Wish Existed When I Was a Kid Award: Gary D. Schmidt's Okay for Now. This book came out in 2011 and was one of the runners up for the National Book Award--deservedly so. Main character Doug's just moved to a new town, a dump, he thinks, and he's far from thrilled. He's far from thrilled about most things. His crappy family life. School. What looks like a dead end future. The narrative voice is funny, though, so all of this isn't too unbearable. Slowly, readers are sucked into Doug's new life in his new dumpy town, and slowly, he (and we) see that maybe the place isn't such a dump after all, and maybe too, it's how we view ourselves and others that makes all the difference.

PS: Yesterday the American Library Association gave out the official Printz Award for Best Young Adult book of the year to a book I haven't read yet but undoubtedly will:

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick


  1. Couldn't agree more about The 5th Wave. I'm hoping to finally read Divergent next month before the movie comes out! I was waiting until the series was finished.

    1. I'm looking forward to that movie. Previews look good.

  2. Great list! I preferred Shadow and Bone to Divergent -- just thought it was better written -- but haven't read the Raven Boys. It's on my list. Loved Okay For Now!!

    1. I liked Shadow and Bone too. Which reminds me, I need to pick up the sequel!