Saturday, October 1, 2011

Best Of: One Year Ago

Last October, I had already started plowing through the approximately 150 young adult science fiction and fantasy books nominated for the Cybils awards. I was afraid that if I waited for the nominations period to close, I wouldn't get through everything! Luckily, I only sidetracked into a couple of books that ended up not being eligible or that were moved to other categories.

From there, the first couple of books were the hardest. If you're a teacher, or someone who works for an educational testing company, you might go through a norming process--you might, in a small group, read and score essays, and then compare each individual's score. Through discussion, and through more scoring and comparing, the idea is that you train the group to align each individual's idea about what deserves a 5 out of 5, or a 4 out of 5, or whatever. Even if you have a scoring rubric, it can take a while to get to the point where you're mostly agreeing on scores. (From there, you still might drop a high or low score, or one that's out of line with the rest of the group.) Anyway, that's what I was doing with myself: trying to get to a place where I could say that a book I was reading was a good as or better than other books I'd read, and often, trying to understand what other judges saw in books that they admired and I didn't, or trying to get to a place where I could explain why I really loved a book and everyone else should too.

Dark Goddess (A Devil's Kiss Novel)So, October is almost impossible to think about now. I think the honorable mention has to go to Plain Kate for stretching the boundaries of its genre-mates--I think it really told the story of a secondary character, for example, and the structure of the story wasn't as neat as is usually found at the border of YA and MG. Fade to Blue is one of those books that is so weird, a lot of readers won't get it, and even if they think they do, it's worthy of heated discussion. I loved Evanjalin in Finnikin of the Rock, was baffled by Hanna in Bleeding Violet, and so on, but I have to say that I especially admired Billi in Dark Goddess for breaking the fantasy heroine mold, taking on Baba Yaga, and keeping me interested when I hadn't read the first book in the series!

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