Hello, and welcome to a special WEDNESDAY edition of my column!
I thought we had at least another week to wait, but according to the YALSA Twitter feed, the shortlist for the 2016 Morris Award is going to be released tomorrow! The Printz, the Newbery, and the Caldecott all get far more attention—and many more lists of predictions—but I’ve always found the Morris, which focuses on debut authors, a more interesting award.
So, without further ado, here are some of the books that I can imagine making the cut:
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli
I’ve talked about my love for this one at LENGTH. It’s adorable and sweet, yes, and as I said in my review, it’s a hug in a book. Even now, as I’m writing about it, I had to take a pause to spin around in my chair due to the pure joy that came from thinking about it. But beyond that, it’s also a book that stands up to multiple reads, that is layered and nuanced, with secondary characters and storylines that shine—it’s such a stellar example of a book that proves that stories don’t have to be dark or emotionally gutting in order to be honest, thoughtful, thought-provoking, and enduring.
Conviction, by Kelly Loy Gilbert
THIS BOOK. It’s more of a sleeper than Simon—I haven’t seen it on many end-of-year lists, at any rate—but it’s another one that really stood out for me this year. It’s about as dark as Simon is heart-warming—Gilbert deals with loyalty and guilt, the emotional confusion that the recipients of abuse deal with, and she creates an abusive character who is as three-dimensional as everyone else in the book—and like Simon, it’s truthful and thoughtful and beautifully written and lasting.
And now we come to the possibles that I haven’t read yet:
Under the Painted Sky, by Stacey Lee
I talked about this one recently, though I still haven’t gotten to it—maybe tonight?—and I haven’t seen anything but glowing response to it, in terms of story, character, prose, representation. Historical Westerns seem to be on the upswing—or, well, I’ve seen more in the last few years than previously—and are often divisive. Not this one.
The Weight of Feathers, by Anna-Marie McLemore
Of all the fantasy debuts this year, this one seems the most…award-y. THAT’S A TECHNICAL TERM, I SWEAR.
The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly, by Stephanie Oakes
We’ve seen a lot of cult books in the last few years, too, and fairy-tale retellings are ALWAYS in fashion! This one, though, pulls from “The Handless Maiden,” which is dark even by Grimm standards. Starred reviews from Booklist and Publishers Weekly, praise for incorporating fantasy and gritty realism, for exploring sexism and female anger, and a storyline that deals with a curious girl who wants to learn—and that last facet is always, always an award panel pleaser.
More Happy Than Not, by Adam Silvera
Starred reviews from the big four: Kirkus, Booklist, PW, and SLJ. A science-fiction novel that is diverse in terms of culture, ethnicity, and sexuality; that deals with suicide and memory and emotion and ethics; that asks questions about the nature of happiness and self-awareness and knowledge and control. Sounds like a possible pick to me!
What do you think? What are your personal contenders?
In addition to running a library in rural Maine, Leila Roy blogs at Bookshelves of Doom, is a contributor at Book Riot, hangs out on Twitter a lot—possibly too much—and watches a shocking amount of television. Her cat is a murderer.