The next round: A selection of quick blurbs about some titles starting with the letter G-M. (Note that some titles starting with "The" will come up under T, I think.) Books marked with a * are my favorites in this list. My favorites don't necessarily reflect any discussions or preferences of the other first round Cybils judges--nor do they represent any opinions but my own.
For the curious: Cybils by the numbers. There ended up being something like 170-180ish books nominated in the YA SF/F category that were ultimately deemed to be in the right spot and eligible. I reviewed 144 (I think), which includes everything I could borrow, everything I could buy (not part of the judging expectations, but I can buy some books, so I do), and everything I received as a review copy from publishers by the time we went to judging panel. I was reading right up until the day we made the first round shortlist. But, also, and I am sorry to say it, and I'm sure it was exacerbated this year by when the holidays fell, I know there are probably eligible books that got shipped out too late that will show up in mid-January, and I will be sad.
It's not at all easy to make the first round shortlist, either. I mean, it was easier for me because I got to be a first round judge last year, and I expected that the shortlist would reflect a group decision--that some of my favorites wouldn't be on that final list. I think every one of us in the first round group would have made a different shortlist, if it were just an individual thing; there would have been some overlap, but we would have recognized a wider range of books. What that should tell you, though, is that YA SF/F is a really, really strong category full of good reads.
*Glow (Sky Chasers)
Amy Kathleen Ryan
St. Martin's Griffin
At first glance, this looks like it's another of the many, many books this year that gets very personal about teens and fertility. A colony ship headed out to a new planet catches up with the advance team, and the colony ship is attacked, its fertile teens captured, ovum harvested. This is icky all on its own--and not treated lightly--but for me, the really interesting part of this book was the underlying theme of power/abuse of it, particularly when there's a charismatic religious leader involved. Also, I like self-rescuing people, of all sorts.
Despite so many recommendations, I haven't found time to get into this steampunk series yet. Goliath made me want to go back and read the rest (and not just because I was missing a chunk of context).
How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend
This is one of the quirkier nominations this year. Firmly rooted in classic SF, it takes the alien Amazon woman stories of the past and brings them into today. By that, I mean that those stories where sexual, warrior-like women from another planet gets re-imagined in today's world, not that this solves all of the problems of those sorts of stories. Still, on the whole, I found it funny, and appreciated the nods to the past and to SF culture (Tor and Baen get shout-outs, for example). I suspect that adult readers will appreciate this as much, if not more, than teens.
I like it when girls get swords and have adventures. Huntress, set in the same world as Ash, rewinds back in time to the story of Kaede and Taisin, two girls who are part of a prince's expedition to meet with a fairy queen and resolve the environmental disaster plaguing the kingdom. Fate, destiny, love (not just Kaede and Taisin's, but mother-daughter, father-daughter, etc.), power, and magic are all important themes.
Nova Ren Suma
Imaginary Girls is a eerie, dreamy tale of two sisters whose relationship is hard to unravel. Chloe thinks--the whole town thinks--that her older sister Ruby is the compelling one, the one who leads all the adventures and spurs all of the misadventures. After spending time apart, Chloe finds that Ruby cares about her more than she expected, with disturbing results for reality.
Matched is probably the most well known of the "government intrudes in teen love and lust" books of the past year, and rightly so. When Cassia is Matched with her best friend Xander, it looks like she's going to have a happy future--and when she finds out that he might not have been her true Match, she starts to wonder what else the government is wrong about. My high school ran some sort of computer-matchup program as a fundraiser, and you know we're all curious if there's a perfect ONE.
*Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Ransom Riggs (GO 'SC)
Ransom Riggs' cinematic, photo-inclusive story of children in a timepocket in Wales has been slated to be a Tim Burton movie, and if you've seen even the cover of this book, you have an idea why. Jacob is seeing things, just like his grandfather. Now he wants to find out about his grandfather's childhood, about the monsters that go bump in the night, and, whether he likes it or not, about the children in the pictures.
My Favorite Band Does Not Exist
Robert T. Jeschonek
I think this alternate-or-is-it-alternate-reality, weird book is a perfect read for fans of Fade to Blue. I'm not sure how to describe it (or, really, Fade to Blue), but if you liked one, try the other.