The Cybils process is grueling. As a Round 1 panelist, you read and read and read for two months and along the way you fall in love with books. You make your list and then you talk to you fellow panelists. Horror of horrors, they don’t see the same gems that you do! The end result is an amazing conversation (ok, many conversations) where the final shortlist is decided. You learn from your fellow panelists and it’s an amazing experience. I’m thrilled with our shortlist, but of course there are books I wish we could have added to the list. Thus, my personal Cybils list was born. Below I have highlighted some of the books I absolutely loved in the YA category this year and I hope you love them too!
- Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick-Based on the true story of Arn Chorn-Pond, who survived the Pol Pot Regime in Cambodia as a child, McCormick’s tale weaves fiction and nonfiction into a raw and heartbreaking tale of childhood lost. Arn loses his family and eventually is moved to the very center of the Killing Fields, where he is forced to make decisions that no child should ever be forced to consider. This is a tissue book, but it’s an important one for teens to read.
- Guy Langman, Crime Scene Procrastinator by Josh Berk- This is definitely not a tissue book! Guy is forced to join the Forensics Club at school when his friend Anoop drags him there in the hopes of meeting girls. Guy had me laughing throughout the book, even when he was thinking about his recently-deceased father. Nothing is sacred to Guy and he will have you laughing on every page. The snark is perfect and Guy reminds me of some of my friends in high school. Perfect for high school readers looking for a book not full of love or tears.
- The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab- Be warned- this one weighs in at over 400 pages. But unlike many YA books that seem to drag on when they reach page 350, this one kept me intrigued. It deals with a lot of issues that don’t crop up in a lot of YA and I appreciated that. Caro’s older sister joined the convent when Caro was only 8 years old, so they never really knew each other. For a long time, it was easier to lie about her sister’s whereabouts rather than explain her vocation, which only upsets Caro’s parents. But when Hannah quits the convent and moves back up, Caro’s whole life is turned upside down. A great addition to any high school classroom library. (I also appreciated that the parents in this one were actually decent people who were struggling with how to help both of their daughters).
- The Fault in Our Stars by John Green- Do I really need to say anything else about this one? I have 8 copies in circulation in my classroom library and they are all being held hostage by students. Easily the most popular book in my classroom.
- Ladies in Waiting by Laura L. Sullivan- This one is just plain fun! Three girls named Elizabeth, from very different classes, are brought together in in England’s scandal-filled court. It’s a very bawdy time period and Sullivan doesn’t shy away from that! But don’t assume this is just Gossip Girl set in the seventeenth-century. It’s intelligent and full of detail about the time period. Probably more on the upper-end of YA, but I would have read it as a teen and loved it!
- Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls by Mary Downing Hahn- When I taught 6th grade, Hahn’s books were extraordinarily popular. When this book was nominated for the Cybils I picked it up immediately. I wasn’t sure that Hahn’s writing would hold up in YA but boy oh boy, does it! Based on Hahn’s true-life experience growing up in the shadow of a local murder, this story will haunt you. Perfect for true-crime addicts!
- Four Secrets by Margaret Willey- This one creeped me out, in a good way. A great mystery that also deals with the ramifications of bullying, it will keep you on the edge of your seat. The story is told from four perspectives, and it actually works!
- Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie- Matt’s brother, TJ, was killed in Iraq and ever since then Matt’s world has changed. Their father is distant and cruel and Matt is pushing away his friends. But when TJ’s belongings finally arrive from Iraq, Matt sets out on an impromptu road trip to deliver his brother’s unsent letter. But did he really know Matt at all? Kokie pulls no punches and the story moves quickly and without reservation. Highly recommended.
- You Are My Only by Beth Kephart- Two tales woven together to complete a single story, Kephart’s prose is really poetry and it’s compulsively readable. I read this one straight through and I imagine many teens will, too. I won’t spoil it, but know that the stories of two women are told- Emmy, who is abused and neglected by her husband and Sophie, a 14-year-old who is homeschooled and hidden away from the outside world. Both stories are heartbreaking yet the story is full of hope. Gorgeous!
- The Cybils are Here! The Cybils are Here! (thereadingzone.wordpress.com)
- Cybils Round One Fun (sonderbooks.com)
- Cybils Awards 2013 Book App Finalists – my opinionated opinions (pinkme.typepad.com)