The American Booksellers Association has announced the finalists for their 2016 Indies Choice and the E.B. White Read-Aloud Awards. Booksellers at ABA member stores vote to select the winners through April 6th.
Here are the youth categories:
YOUNG ADULT FINALISTS
Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit
Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Symphony for the City of the Dead by M. T. Anderson
E.B. WHITE READ-ALOUD – MIDDLE READER FINALISTS
The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands
Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate
George by Alex Gino
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones
E.B. WHITE READ-ALOUD – PICTURE BOOK FINALISTS
Leo: A Ghost Story by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Christian Robinson
Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins
The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton
Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall
Toys Meet Snow by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
Waiting by Kevin Henkes
The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters
Hanalee has always stood out in her hometown in Oregon in the 1920s. She is half African-American and so has very few rights under the law. Her father died a year ago, hit by a drunk driver. A neighbor has told Hanalee that her father is now a “haint,” a ghost traveling the road where he died. Hanalee also discovers that Joe, the boy found guilty for her father’s death is out of jail and back in town, hiding from everyone. The community is also ruled by the KKK, which is certainly not safe for someone like Hanalee. As Hanalee starts to piece together how her father may have died in a different way than a car accident, she also takes a tonic to see her father’s ghost. Joe also tells Hanalee his own secret, why his family has refused him shelter and why the KKK is after him as well.
Winters writes a gripping novel in this reworking of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Set in a time period that is often forgotten, this is a novel of Prohibition, the Klan and the lack of civil rights for people of color. Winters also ties in the loss of rights for LGBT people and how they also lived in the shadows and in desperate fear of being discovered. There is an additional layer of fear as eugenics was being done at the time, a danger for both people of color and LGBT people. With that level of societal pressure and fear, this novel soars and unlikely truces are made in a search for the truth.
Winters’ writing is piercing and honest. She allows Hanalee to figure out the various dangers in her life and somehow at the same time Hanalee is brave enough to not go into hiding or run away but to continue in her search for the truth. Hanalee is an amazing character, filled with love for her best friend, caring for Joe and an adoration of her dead father. Meanwhile she has to handle the dangers around her, and even face them head on with her simple presence in the community.
Brilliantly written, this is a stunning historical novel filled with ghosts and also a firm truth about the risks of the time. Appropriate for ages 14-17.
Reviewed from ARC received from Abrams.
Summerlost by Ally Condie (InfoSoup)
Cedar’s family is much smaller than it once was. Her father and brother were killed in a car accident and now Cedar, her mother and her other brother are returning to the small town of Iron Creek for the summer where they have purchased a new house. Cedar soon notices a boy riding his bike past their house dressed in costume. Cedar follows him to Summerlost, a local and renowned theater festival. There, Cedar meets the boy on the bike, Leo and finds herself a summer job too. Leo and Cedar have soon created a tour together about a famous local actress who performed at Summerlost and died in Iron Creek. Cedar’s summer is filled with small mysteries like who is putting items on her windowsill that her dead brother would have loved that help distract her from the loss she has so recently experienced, until she can’t ignore it any longer.
Condie, author of the Matched series, has created a beautiful middle grade novel here that rings with honesty. She manages to keep both the reader and Cedar aware of the loss that was experienced but also moving forward and towards other things. The book is haunted with those deaths, appearing out of nowhere in the middle of beautiful summer days, but also hiding at times and almost disappearing with the busyness of work. It’s an intelligent balance written very cleverly.
Condie’s writing is superb throughout the novel. In Summerlost, she creates an entire world of theater that is intoxicating and memorable. Early in the novel, Condie through Cedar’s voice explains what it is like to have a family shrunk by tragedy:
Sometimes I thought of the three of us as pencils with the erasers scrubbed down to the end, and the next swipe across the paper would tear through the page and make a scree sound across the desk.
This approachable and yet deep writing runs throughout the novel, exposing grief in unexpected and tangible ways.
A strong and outstanding novel for middle grades, this book takes a courageous look at grief and the resilience it takes to continue to live. Appropriate for ages 10-13.
Reviewed from ARC received from Dutton Books for Young Readers.