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NBA Comments November 12, 2012

Posted by ccbooks in Analysis.
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It has taken awhile, but I have now read at least some of all five finalists for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. At least enough to give me a taste of each story and to make me feel that I can comment at least a little on all the titles. I’ve said this about the ALA Media Awards before, but I really like it when books are shortlisted for (or win!) an award and I have never heard of them, because it means new stories for me to discover. Of the five books on this shortlist, I had read one, heard of one other and the other three were completely new. My general thoughts on each of them, before the winner is announced very soon…

Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick

Much of the conversation about this title focused on the voice, as it is told in the first person. McCormick based her story on the journey and recollections of Arn, and the sentences are very much in the voice of a non-native English speaker. For some readers, this was jarring, but I found that it didn’t really bother me. Any book about genocide and war is going to be hard to read in parts and McCormick certainly pulls no punches. While not my favorite on the list, there is no denying that this book tells an important story, one that not enough people are familiar with, and I hope it reaches a wide audience.

Out of Reach by Carrie Arcos

This one was a quick read for me and while I thought it was pretty good, it didn’t strike me as brilliant. My main problem with this story was the jumping back and forth in time, as main character Rachel gives the reader background on her brother Micah and his slip into drug addiction. Each story from the past ties in to a stop on Rachel’s trip with her brother’s friend to find Micah. Rachel and the people she meets were all (for the most part) believable, but the time shifts were hard to follow and it would take a few paragraphs to get me back to where she was on the road, which had a tendency to push me out of the story.

Goblin Secrets by William Alexander

I was very intrigued by the description of this title, which features goblins, masks, theater and a vaguely steampunk setting. I liked the premise and found the main character appealing but in the end, his story wasn’t compelling enough to really stick with me. Great world building, though.

Endangered by Eliot Schrefer

I’m not usually an animal book person. So when I find one that I do like (such as Gill Lewis’ Wild Wings), I tend to recommend it over and over again. We haven’t yet gotten Endangered in at our bookstore, but when we do, I have a feeling I will be pulling it out for every customer who asks for an animal book, a nature book or a book with a strong female lead. Dense without being overwhelming, it’s a fantastic portrait of the challenges facing the Congo, and people who care about animals like the bonobos. A wonderful book.

Bomb by Steve Sheinkin

There’s been some interesting discussion about this title over at Heavy Medal, but my opinion is still that this is one of the most distinguished non-fiction titles of the year, and Publishers Weekly was crazy for leaving it off their Best of 2012 list. More specifics in my review here.

An interesting group this year, from the National Book Award judges! I’m looking forward to seeing their final selection and hearing more about why they made that choice.

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